Evolution of Picks and Bans at Worlds 2015
Last week the 2015 League of Legends World Championship has come to an end. In a four game final series it was SKT who claimed their second World Champions title in Berlin.
However the team comps of both SKT and their opponents were vastly different from what used to be seen during the opening weeks of Worlds. In this Article we will take a look at the rise and fall of a couple of champions over the course of October.
Here are some of the most hyped Champions coming into Worlds who were highly contested early on but fell out of favor further into the tournament.
The Juggernaut rework made Darius a very strong Champion and naturally he was seen as one of the go-to top laners for Worlds. Teams used to blind pick him into almost any match up and while the results were quite mixed he had very high impact in some games during group stages, like Balls’ Pentakill against Fnatic in the first week.
However Darius is not the most flashy champion and highly mechanical skilled players are often able to outplay him with Champions like Riven or Fiora. When the number of remaining teams thinned out teams opted to stop picking him up completely. Marin, Smeb, Soaz and Huni, the last four remaining top laners were not afraid to give up Darius because they had prepared counter play against him. Therefore he was neither picked or banned in both semi finals and finals.
Azir is the next Champion that fits in the same category as Darius. Even though Mid lane had a wide diversity of picks Azir was one of the most contested picks there. He was picked or banned in over 40 percent of games up until the semi finals.
However Azir was not even picked or banned once during the finals. The explanation here is quite simple. Both Faker and KurO are not known to be great Azir players. If SKT had chosen to field Easyhoon the situation would have been different most likely. Azir himself is a Champion that should not be considered figured out like Darius but instead it’s just a coincidence that both mid laners are valuing other champions higher than Azir.
Braum had been the dominant Support all over the World during summer and it was only expected that he would continue to be a very strong pick at Worlds. While that proved true in the Group Stage, especially in Week 1, he saw almost no play afterwards.
Braum had always been very good at protecting squishy team members and allowing them to deal a lot of damage while staying alive in a fight. However with Worlds’ Meta being more focussed around top lane and less about controll mages or AD Carries it became a bit redundant to focus on protecting carries instead of enabling those top laners to wreck havoc in the enemy backline. The bigger reason however is the rise of Tahm Kench. He is better at defending against a single thread like a top laner and while weaker against AOE or AD Carries he prevailed where Braum fell short and therefore made Braum somewhat superfluous later in the Tournament.
Thresh has always been the most complete support who can do everything at least decently. Thresh can always fit into any team comp without any adaptation needed. He has been a Support that was often picked or banned ever since his release. At this year’s Worlds Thresh started as the most picked or banned support but lost that state later in the competition.
Thresh never fell out of the meta at worlds completely and probably would have stayed at around 20% pick and ban rate if the tournament was to continue. The reason why his popularity declined is that teams begin to figure out how strong other supports like Tahm Kench or Alistar were. Thresh stayed a solid allrounder but other Supports surpassed him at the most important aspects like protecting carries.
These Champions came in strong and continued to be a power house throughout the whole Tournament.
Gangplank is the only Champion to achieve 100 percent pick and ban ratio throughout the whole tournament. He and Mordakaiser also avoided to lose a single game despite being so popular champions.
There is not much more to be said about Gangplank. He is able to deal a crazy amount of damage in fights to multiple enemies at once while still being a very strong split pusher and able to duel most enemies who want to stop him. While he is somewhat susceptible to Champions like Riven or Fiora who can kill him in the early game and snowball the game from there teams were not willing to take the risk of Gangplank making it to late game. It is important to note that Gangplank was banned in 69 of 73 games at worlds and only played in four.
Elise was predicted by many people to be the number one jungler at worlds which proved to be true. She rose to being picked or banned in all games quickly and stayed the most contested jungle pick for all tournament.
Elise is not vulnerable to early counter jungling and has maybe the best early game for both ganking and dueling among all junglers. Her cocoon offers a lot of kill pressure if she hits it on enemies. She is also very strong at tower diving due to her ability to reset turret aggro.
Rek’sai and Gragas fought hard over the spot as the second Tier 1 jungler and Rek’sai seemed to get the better of it. After Gragas was disabled in the Semi Finals and Finals Rek’sai was picked or banned every game. Thereby she seemed to be the only Champion who could keep up with the pressure of Elise in the early game.
That said Rek’sai and Elise were mostly either both banned or both picked since most teams did not want to risk giving up a Tier 1 jungler without getting the other themselves.
Kalista used to be the most contested AD Carry pick during the end of Spring and whole summer. Even though it seemed to have changed at the start of Worlds, Kalista quickly recovered her state as the most important AD Carry.
Kalista’s most eminent weakness has always been killing tanks. With the meta shifting away from tanks and towards fighter top laners however Kalista is probably stronger than ever. That and her persistent strengths at controlling objectives and insane mobility helped her to maintain her high value.
Just like Gangplank Mordekaiser’s Ban Rate greatly exceeds his pick rate with 68 bans versus 4 picks. Also just like the pirate Mordekaiser stayed undefeated throughout the whole Championship. He was only neither picked nor banned in one game during Group Stage between KT and LGD.
With his new ability to control a dragon ghost and his great wave clear Mordekaiser can push very fast in the mid game and win the game from there. He can be abused in the late game because his team ist most times lacking a ranged marksman who can melt towers later in the game. That might be best equalized with a marksman top. However we have not seen anything like that at worlds. But that could be the next step heading into 2016 and off season tournaments.
Lulu was banned very often at the start of the tournament but continued to see more and more play towards the end. Her win rate is not all that great and her impact seemed to be below average.
However Lulu stayed a highly contested pick for now. She was played both mid and top lane and had good games in both roles. She was often paired with the likes of Tahm Kench for the ultimate protect comp.
In this category we have Champions that gained popularity over the course of the tournament. Some of them were considered strong before but some of them came in as a surprise to many people.
Fiora was reworked before worlds and saw some play in the Asian regionals in both Korea and China. Many people expected her to be as popular as Gangplank. However it was not until playoffs began that Fiora really rose towards being a very strong pick.
Fiora’s kit offers a lot of outplay potential. In the right hands she can win any lane against any opponent while in the wrong hand she can also lose any lane. Once players figured out how strong she could be against the likes of Darius or tanks in gerenal Fiora quickly rose in popularity and had a great impact at worlds.
Many experts had already dug a grave for Sivir after her nerfs not long before Worlds began. And for the Group Stages and Quarter Finals it seemed like they were right. Sivir was not picked often and if teams went for her she often failed to have an impact on the game.
However in the Semi Finals people saw the resurrection of Sivir. Rising in both popularity and win ratio she did what she always used to do. She pushed the waves and used her Ultimate in team fights to buff her team. As marksmen went more and more into utility role further into the tournament Sivir stood above them all with the great things she offered to her team.
Initially only Support number three behind Thresh and Braum Alistar managed to surpass them both at the later stages of the tournament. Even though he did not become the most contested support he was still very highly valued especially at the end of Worlds.
Alistar’s disruptive power is unmatched and his crowd control cannot be cleansed or reduced by tenacity. Furthermore he is a very tanky beast without much gold and can use his spells both offensively or defensively. His ability to dive turrets after level 6 is phenomenal since he takes almost no damage from them.
When talking about rising Champions this year, almost no Champion has been as impressive as Tahm Kench. While he was overlooked most of the time during group stages, teams in playoffs realized how strong he is and how to use him effectively.
First not really considered a very strong pick it became apparent very quickly that he is by far the best Support at keeping priority targets alive. Tahm Kench does exceptionally well with a low mobility carry like Jinx as he can quickly swallow her and reposition to a safer place. Moreover he offers a lot of roaming potential with his Ultimate and can appear together with a teammate anywhere on the map out of nowhere.
Kennen is the only Champion to be played in three different roles during the whole Tournament. First he was mainly considered a Support Champion but he also used to be played as AD Carry and Top Laner. His success in all three roles was rather high and even though he only fits into a relatively small niche he has seen a lot of play at Worlds.
Kennen has always been mainly about his Ultimate and about his ability to damage and stun a lot of enemies at the same time in a large area. Especially as an AD Carry he provides relatively low damage but high utility, even more than Champions like Ashe. With the meta benefiting teams with carry top laners and utility marksmen Kennen did fit in perfectly.
Shen is kind of in a similar position as Kennen. Not only are both of them swift ninjas, both of them also can be played both as a Support or as a Top laner. Shen benefited from the lack of strong lane bullies in the bot lane who would be able to abuse his weak laning phase.
Shen is very strong at offering global presence and turning the tide of any fight by assisting with his Ultimate Stand United. While it is mostly best to attack the lane Shen is at the focus around top lane somewhat removed that counter play from Shen’s opponents. Even if they focus on bottom to shut down Shen, his team can meanwhile help the top lane and get the more important lane ahead.
The most interesting thing about Worlds this year to me is the insight that even on a stable patch the meta will shift over time. Teams figure out how to deal with certain Champions and will find new ways to make things work. While some picks remained strong and powerful, many others have changed during the course of the competition.
It remains to be seen how the meta could continue to grow if Riot decided to reduce the frequency of patches and many experts and players demanded a more stable environment in which the meta can grow itself. While I do not expect such changes to happen anytime soon the observations made in the last month show that it would be possible to follow different approaches than Riot does today and still get exciting matches and exciting changes.