Blue/Red Side Analysis: A Look at What Compositional Foci Are Best Suited For Each Side.
There are many things to consider when it comes to drafting in LoL, but this article is going to solely look at what the implications are of each side in a neutral Meta. We are going to go far down the rabbit hole here and while these points may not be of huge importance compared to the scope of what is currently powerful, they can be a useful framework to begin from and then have the current meta applied to in order to create a complete picture. They are general things to keep in mind rather than strict rules to follow, and my belief is that by starting with these things in mind you can shift the odds a percentage or two in your favor each draft by naturally decreasing the odds your composition can be significantly mitigated.
On Red side, the first thing to consider is what lane is most likely to get the most advantage out of last picking. Usually this is Mid lane, as it’s the only lane that always gets an even laning phase, in addition to providing the most pressure on the map when ahead due to their central position. As such, it is generally suboptimal to need to take a Mid laner early as a power pick. This should be considered in bans, as if you create a situation of trading 1 for 1 power picks with each sides first pick, it is more advantageous that yours is not whatever lane gets the most use out of counterpicking last. This can further be abused by making Blue’s first pick be a solo laner, as you now get to counter pick both lanes. Red will also generally have a preference for 2v1 lanes, as Blue will usually have the Top lane counterpick.
Given that you will generally want to last pick Mid, your compositional strategy should ideally be ambiguous to the Mid lane. Simply drafting a composition around pure champion power and matchups is certainly a viable strategy, but assuming you want to have a compositional focus, lets consider what other positions are going to dictate this if the Mid isn’t. The two other positions that can often be the determining focus of a composition are Top and ADC. Therefore, if you are going to have a focused compositional strategy (Juggermaw, poke comp, split push etc.) while still planning to last pick Mid, it should usually be created with the catalyst of a Top/ADC pick in mind. The general strategies that these two positions would be the catalyst for are as follows:
(Top) – Split Push, Teamfight/Neutral Objective Control, Mid game, Pick, rarely Kiting or Poke/Siege.
(ADC) – Hypercarry, Poke/Siege, Teamfight/Neutral Objective Control, Mid game, Pick.
Now given these factors, lets examine which of these strategies is the most flexibile in terms of the role the Mid lane champion provides (so as to allow maximum opportunity to counter pick). I’ll list them from worst to best in my opinion, strictly in terms of how good of a job each compositional strategy does of allowing Mid lane the flexibility to counterpick. Keep in mind that this is assuming a neutral meta and not taking into account each strategies individual strength.
Poke comps rely heavily on the Mid to bring a large majority of the poke, and can only really be run with a non poking Mid if they have Nidalee Jungle or Jayce Top. Furthermore, poke champions Mid are often safe farming laners, and unlikely to heavily benefit from a counter pick. They are also only powerful when ahead, increasing the risk should the Mid take a champion with a weak early game. Siege compositions can be less restrictive as they may only require the Mid to bring peel or zone control, but these face the same issues of being mostly control mages and needing to bring early game power. This is the worst of these compositional foci to benefit Mid lane, placing heavy restrictions on the type of champion picked.
Kiting compositions and Hypercarry compositions have generally the same goal – just with a different spread of damage responsibility throughout the lanes – so I will group them together for this line of thinking. The goal for a Mid laner in either composition is firstly to provide peel and secondly to provide sustained dps. These are fairly strict requirements, essentially limiting Mid lane to AP control Mages or AD Carry champions should the rest of the composition have sufficient peel. Some of these champions such as Syndra and Cassiopeia are capable of taking advantage of strong lane matchups, but the archetype in general is slightly below average at doing so. Given these restrictions and lack of upside, these are still suboptimal compositonal foci for Mid lane.
Teamfighting/Neutral Objective Control compositions are a very linear strategy that relies upon taking strong teamfighting Champions and grouping to abuse this strength once all the important cogs have hit their most important power spikes. This is a pretty unimposing strategy on the Mid lane, as there are a wide range of champions capable of heavily impacting teamfights, and they span many different archetypes. Furthermore if Red side is securing this composition they will have already picked a strong teamfight in at least one of the other carry roles, so the Mid may not be burdened with needing to have this strength specifically to secure the compositional advantage. That being said, a decent chunk of the time the Mid indeed will need to either pick a strong teamfighter, or pick a champion that specifically enhances his team or counters the opposing team in teamfights. This is because he is of course the last pick in this scenario, and as such is the only time where you can be 100% sure you are securing the teamfighting advantage. The restrictions this implies will be different each draft, but they are there, and as such this is a solid but unspectacular method for securing a counterpick.
Split Pushing is a composition that usually revolves around getting the Top laner ahead and turning him into a threat no single opponent can deal with. Before diving into the Split Push details, it should be noted that there is some inherent antisynergy between the strategy and the premise of last picking Mid lane. Obviously if a strategy is heavily reliant on a single position to win (in this case Top), that lane becomes the most important position to get an advantageous lane matchup. The very premise of this line of thinking is of course that we are NOT giving priority to Top lanes matchup, and as such the Top laner you are planning on building the composition around must be carefully considered in the scope of the Metagame, so they are at minimal risk of getting hard countered. Furthermore, as I have previously mentioned due to Top Lane not getting to counterpick Red side is more likely to want to 2v1 rather than take standard lanes, this of course slows the growth of both Top laners, and as such makes it harder for your Split Pusher to reach unstoppable status within the overall game.
There are many variations on split push setups however, they generally are: 1/4 Top split, 1/4 Mid split, 1/3/1 Mid and Top Split, and 1/3/1 Top and Jungle split. The 1/4 Mid split strategy is rather rare and far more specific as it wants a Mid to run teleport and of course to be a split pushing champion. This obviously heavily limits the type of champion we can pick, lessening the ability to counterpick, so this is subpar for our purposes. 1/3/1 Top and Jungle split is fairly unrestrictive on the Mid, as it only requires the Mid or ADC to provide wave clear to hold off the opposing team. That being said it is quite a rare strategy due to the lack of viable options at Jungle. It is almost entirely tied to the power of Rek’Sai and Nocturne as champions (and perhaps now Kindred and Quinn). Should these champions be powerful this is a good use of Red sides last pick advantage as a focus.
1/3/1 Mid and Top split has the same issues with restricting Mid’s pool as 1/4 Mid split did, but is more suitable for reasons I will discuss now when going over the best Split Push strategy for our purposes: 1/4 Top split. This is of course the most common split pushing strategy, as it benefits from Top laners frequently running teleport, and being generally less of a necessary presence than Mid laners in teamfights. It further benefits our purposes because all it strictly requires is the Top laner to be self sufficient, allowing near maximum counterpick potential for Mid lane with only wave clear being something that must be considered (it is not as strong of a consideration as it was for 1/3/1 Top and Jungle split because you have the extra defender to clear and deter dives). The ideal Mid lane picks to complement this strategy do one of two things: Provide wave clear, or provide pressure on Top to help the Top laner secure the lead he needs to take over the game through roams or globals. Pressure can of course be afforded to Top through early Jungle presence as well, so even this is not strictly necessary to the composition. So all this composition really requires is a Top laner capable of split pushing! This can easily be secured early on the in the draft, and in general the only picks the Mid laner would have to avoid to support the 1/4 strategy here is to not pick their own Split Pusher. But they can pick a Split Pusher! As all that does is opt them into the aforementioned 1/3/1 Mid and Top split strat, which was only suffering from the issue of restricting Mid’s champion pool. As such, the optimal Split Pushing strategy for maximizing Red Side’s Mid lane counterpick ability is to draft for 1/4 Top Split with the option to flex into a 1/3/1 Top and Mid Split. This imposes extremely minor compositional responsibilities on Mid lane, crucially leaving the role that generally gets the most advantage from a counterpick (Assassins) as a viable option.
Pick compositions rely upon CC and burst damage to catch an opponent out and kill them quickly, and to continue to maximize this threat through vision control allowing you to eventually control the entire map, thereby allowing you to secure a large enough lead to end the game. Pick compositions have a wide range of options, and are generally more reliant on one or two specific champions then the composition itself. It is very easy to have a Pick comp mixed with another compositional focus, as you can easily open the option of playing in this manner simply by having one or two of these champions within your composition. Champions like Lissandra, Leblanc, Lee Sin, Ahri, Thresh, and Morgana are some of the most common examples that fit in a variety of compositions, but can allow you this alternative win condition within it. A fairly large percentage of the champions that contribute to creating a Pick composition are Mid laners, so if you went into the draft with the strategy specifically in mind it could be very restrictive should the other lanes fail to secure their requisite picks. As such this is a rather vague category to consider in terms of Mid lane counterpicking, but nonetheless a relevant win condition to keep in mind. Given there are viable options that provide pick potential in the positions outside of Mid, this can be the most flexibile strategy of all at allowing Mid lane the freedom to counterpick should you commit to other lanes bringing the pick potential early.
Mid game compositions are quite straightforward, they attempt to abuse a similarly timed powerspike across multiple members of the composition to secure a mid game lead. This lead is then used to dominate objective control and grow the lead large enough that they can end the game before they are outscaled. This strategy fell off some after Season 4 due to Dragon no longer giving gold, significantly lessening the ability of the team with such an advantage to widen their gold advantage. In terms of what it imposes upon the Mid lane, it is fairly little. A large majority of Mid lane champions are powerful during the mid game, and it is far from a detriment to a Mid game composition to have one champion as their late game scaling insurance should they fail to capitalize on their primary goal. As such the only real restriction placed on Mid with this strategy is that they do not take a weak early game champion that jeopardizes the teams ability to secure a lead in the first place. Overall this is probably the safest strategy to secure a counterpick.
One last thing to consider for Red side is that most compositions will already have been shown with your first four picks. The compositional foci that can remain ambiguos until the final pick get a decided edge here, as the Blue team is forced to take both solo laners in the dark rather than with direct knowledge of your focus.
Strategies that get dinged for this: Poke/Siege, Kite/Hypercarry, Split push.
Pick compositions can be exceptionally ambiguous prior to your last pick, so they will get a positive mark here.
On Blue side, it is ideal to to draft your Mid-Top with your 4-5 pick. This is so that Red side must take one of the lanes before you, allowing you to get the counter pick in at least one lane. Given that Red will usually use this to last pick mid, Blue should in general have a higher desire to have standard lanes, as they should generally have an advantageous top matchup.
When estimating what compositional foci are favorable for Blue side, there are two important things to consider. One is how early on you must reveal your compositional strategy in order to secure it, the other is again the last pick potential for Red side, and how counterable it is with this last pick alone. Red will always have the last say in terms of tilting the compositional matchup, and as such it is crucial for Blue that their compositions advantage can’t be negated by a single counterpick. It is of course even worse if your compositional focus must be revealed prior to your last two picks, because now Red has 3 picks to potentially counter it instead of just 1. Given that Red’s last pick will usually be Mid, lets examine how vulnerable each compositional focus is to being shut down by a Mid laner.
Mid laners are relied upon primarily to bring two things to their composition: general fighting power and waveclear. Nearly every Mid laner is going to bring significant fighting power to the table, and it’s going to affect every game in some way whether it be laning, skirmish, or teamfighting. The importance of waveclear however can vacillate hugely depending on the opposing team composition, so this will be the biggest factor in determining which Blue side strategies are particularly vulnerable to being negated by the last pick Mid. There are of course other things Mid Laners can potentially bring to the table that are more specific to a smaller range of champions, and I’ll go over these as we look at each compositional focus.
Poke/Siege compositions are countered by 2 things: waveclear and hard engage. Waveclear as mentioned above is a very frequent quality brought to the table by Mid’s and as such planning a Blue side Poke/Siege composition that is not capable of winning through opposing waveclear via diving or taking baron is an easily countered proposition. Hard engage is not something many Mid’s possess, with Twisted Fate and Lissandra being the only current meta picks that really offer it. As such this is a fine weakness to potentially have, and you can potentially mitigate this counterpick by picking a Mid with an advantageous matchup against these two champions within your Poke/Siege composition. As such the optimal Poke/Siege comp to plan on Blue side is one with dive potential or baron control, as well as a favorable Jungle/Mid matchup against hard engage Mid lane champions. Generic variations that simply fold to waveclear are ill-advised. Combining objective control/dive with siege potential is not an easy feat as there is little champion overlap, making Poke/Siege a generally unfavorable strategy for Blue side unless you can secure one of the champions that do overlap while they are powerful in the meta. Corki/Caitlyn/Graves/Kindred would be examples of this currently, but this meta is extremely favorable for this strategy as the influx of ADC’s in other positions has created far more champion overlap than normal between these two foci. In a normal meta this is hard to pull off, so Poke/Siege gets negative marks as a Blue side strategy overall.
Kite/Hypercarry compositons are generally countered by 3 things: hard engage, hard CC, and AOE CC/damage. The word countered should be considered more loosely here however, as the presence of these things on the opposing team doesn’t necessarily negate your advantage in the same way it would for other compositions. It is very possible to have a Kite/Hypercarry composition so powerful that your opponent can have a composition with abundant amounts of AOE or easy to lane CC on your hypercarry, and they still can’t kill them or win the teamfights. Assassination is also a potential threat to these compositions but they usually have ways to counter Assassin’s so it’s not often a viable means of attack. All in all these compositions are generally much more dependant on the entire compositions of both teams to determine who has the edge, and as such one counterpick Mid lane is unlikely to turn the tides drastically. This means the validity of this strategy is more dependent on the entire draft then the Mid-laner and as such is a strong Blue side strategy assuming you don’t reveal it until your 4-5 picks. The fact that the opposing Mid likely can’t single-handedly counter your strategy does potentially free him up to counterpick the lane specifically, but this is a small price to pay for a difficult to negate compositional edge. Positive marks for this strategy for Blue side.
Teamfighting/Neutral Objective Control compositions have no strict counters. They are again reliant upon the overall scope of each composition to determine who has the edge in this regard, and as such the same positive points that applied to Kite comps apply here as well. Positive marks again.
Split push compositions are countered by 4 things: a counter splitter who can hold the lane, globals, hard engage, and dive. While this may be a long list of potential counters, they are all rarely brought specifically by the Mid lane, making this a difficult strategy for Red side to scrape together a defense against. A counter splitter or global are both brought pretty much exclusively by Twisted Fate, and as mentioned above the Mid’s bringing Hard engage are very few as well. Similarly only a few Mids like Zilean/Lulu/Gangplank significantly increase dive potential. Given the dearth of options to counter this strategy from the Mid lane and the likelihood that only a few are viable in a given meta, it should be fairly easy to set up a situation where the relevant counters are banned or have a disadvantageous matchup into your Mid. This strategy gets extremely high marks for Red having very few options to drastically impact the situation, and it’s further bolstered by Blue normally counter picking Top lane, as well as Blue sides desire for standard lanes being shared by this strategy in order to get the Top laner ahead of the rest of the map.
Pick compositions are countered by three things: early/mid game power, vision, and protective abilities such as Thresh Lantern or Tahm W. Pick compositions rely on vision control or raw power to create situations where the enemy must be in close enough proximity to allow you to land a CC and quickly eliminate them, and falling behind early will negate both of these avenues of victory. Vision abilites are few and far between, and Mid laners bring almost none of them. Protective abilites are less rare but still uncommon, but there are a few picks such as Lulu/Orianna/Zilean who can provide this from the Mid lane. Given that having a lead is so important for these compositions – especially in the Mid lane due to their influence on vision control – they are quite susceptible to Mid counterpicks in general as the likelihood of a poor matchup greatly hinders their ability to snowball. This is largely counteracted by the rare nature of the vision/protective methods to counter it combined with early/mid game power being more of a compositional factor than strictly a Mid lane one, so overall this strategy is fairly neutral to Blue side.
Mid game compositions are only really countered by stalling the game out via waveclear. This is a weakness that most Mid game compositions are able to negate through having enough raw power to force Baron or dive potential to force fights with their lead through the waveclear. As such there really aren’t many relevant last pick counters to this strategy, you are either going to successfully snowball your mid game spike or not and that isn’t hugely reliant on the opposing Mid laner. As such this gets the same positive marks that Kite/Teamfight compositions did, assuming you have a viable answer to waveclear.
Late game compositions are obviously somewhat countered by any strategy that is capable of effectively snowballing and ending the game before it reaches late game. This is again much more of a compositional thing than something the opposing Mid lane can specifically do, so the same positive marks apply here. It is however more important here to make sure you don’t allow a huge counterpick from Red side that could single-handedly snowball the game and increase the chances your composition doesn’t get off the ground.
Summarizing the Pros and Cons of Each Side
That was quite a lot to consider off really one line of thinking, and while there are definitely still aspects of each side I didn’t cover, this will have to do for now. To try and roll it all into a cohesive viewpoint, here’s a table that summarizes the overall preferences for each side covered in this article.
So based on this logic, the optimal strategy in a neutral meta for Blue side is:
Standard Lanes, Split push composition, if trading power picks leave Mid laner for Red.
For Red side it would be:
Lane swap, Pick/Mid game composition, if trading power picks setup Blue to first pick a Solo laner.
Thank you for reading.