With the conclusion of another season of the world championship in League of Legends I can’t help but feel that a certain pattern was starting to become quite apparent. Aside from the Korean hype train that’s existed since the season 3 world championship I found that I was beginning to realize that there was a distinct advantage to being on blue side and having first pick.
The reason for this is because looking at the champion stats there are four champions with an absurd pick/ban rates, all having above 95%. These four being Gangplank, Mordekaiser, Lulu, and Elise. This seems to be something that happens every worlds where teams figure out what are the apex champions for each role and these champions define the meta of that tournament. Now the problem with this, especially this worlds was that this favors the side with first pick because of how league ban system works. The reason I say this is because once gragas got disabled the strongest junglers in the game become Elise and rek sai. Now from a first pick perspective this was great because teams on red side were already banning Mordekaiser or Gangplank if not both and now they have to ban Elise as well because it was very clear that elise was much more potent then rek sai when it came to securing kills and objectives. This was a problem because it limited the number of target bans they had, the majority if not all of their bans are used on Gangplank, Mordekaiser and Elise. (expect for game 4 between skt and koo in the finals Elise was banned only on red side once gragas got disabled) Now this opens an advantage for blue side because they can either get lulu which was a very in demand champion for her utility, or elise/ rek sai who were both very aggressive junglers depending on what red side bans, securing themselves a useful scaling utility control mage or a good early game jungler or in the Korean case getting Tahm Kench which most probably one of if not the highest priority picks for the Korean teams.
One of the reason this is a problem is that league still uses the same format for drafting from season 1 while greatly increasing their champion selection since then. In caparison dota 2 has 110 heroes all based the original 112 from the original dota all-stars on Warcraft and in the five years since dota 2 has been in beta to its release they still have not released all 112 original characters. (the latest being winter wyvern in February of 2015) League since its 2009 launch with its original 40 champions have released 88 champions the latest being Illaoi. Not including the reworks to champions every few patches, League is a game where there is a constant variety of champions to choose from. Now in my opinion, this is a good thing because there is always change, there is always more choices in champions and that lets teams create their own strategy and build unique compositions that tailor to their strengths, but when one side has to use most if not all their bans on general bans it becomes a huge problem because how are is a team going to focus on their strengths when they can not ban out their weaknesses, when some champions are just so effective in pretty much every situation that they can not give them up. This leads to a stagnation in strategies because teams begin to copy each other instead of creating their own unique ideas for how they want to play. An comparison can be made between this world’s and the previous; in season 4 worlds 57 champions were picked with 18* champions having more 50% or above that were picked more then five times, in season 5 worlds there were 74 champions picked and 22** champions were picked with 50%-win rate or above that were picked five or more times. Now if one considers everyone of these champions to be viable as they have a 50% or higher win rate then the percent of viable champions in relation to their pool has decreased.
While there are in game mechanical reasons for why teams drafted the way they did these mechanics change with patches and seasons but the drafting system has stayed the same. I’m not suggesting a constant flow of patches to the way teams draft but perhaps an update is due considering the fact that the number of champions that are released is ever increasing and changes should be made on the competitive end so that teams can better adapt to it. While I can not suggest a new method of drafting there are many things Riot can look at in terms of picks and bans, changing the order of picks, changing bans to be in between picks, or even just adding more bans these subtle changes can greatly affect the competitive aspect of league as it will allow teams to better deal with the increasing variety of champions and draft in a way that enhances their individual team strengths rather then just banning certain champions so blue side does not first pick it.
While I know that league is a very hard game to balance from a competitive stand point I think it was very abruptly clear at this world championship that there was a clear blue side advantage when it came to picks and bans because their not banning the same two or three champions every game. While I can not come up with a better drafting system I can see that certain aspects of the current drafting system can be changed and perhaps should be. The bans system I believe was made to do two things, one was to target ban out specific champions that the enemy team could play, and the other was to ban out champions that were good against the team composition your team was going to try to draft. While teams can ban the same thing no matter which side their on, they should not be forced to ban the same thing because of the side their on.
*Alistar, Braum, Corki, Irelia, Janna, Jayce, Kassidan, Lee Sin, Lucian, Maokai, Morgana, Orianna, Rengar, Rumble, Ryze, Thresh, Twitch, Yasuo, Zilean
**Shen, Ryze, Rumble, Jarvan IV, Tahm Kench, Azir, Kassidan, Elise, Renekton, Anivia, Caitlyn, Twisted fate, Fiora, Ashe, LeBlanc, Jinx, Darius, Alistar, Lulu, Lee Sin, Kennen, Riven
http://lol.gamepedia.com/2015_World_Championship/Champion_Statistics (season 5 worlds)