The Evolution of the 2v1 Lane Swap in Professional League of Legends
A majority of the fans watching competitive League of Legends are quite accustomed to seeing a 2v1 lane swap occur , which is when the bot lane moves to the top side in order to remove either the bottom lane or top lane from a disadvantaged match-up, but few understand the complexity and strategical aspect of performing a proper lane swap to gain a tactical advantage. In the early stages a lane swap was primitive and primarily used to place a disadvantaged bottom lane into a 2v1 lane where they could farm up their ad carry in order to transition smoothly to the late game, while simultaneously limiting the impact of the enemy top laner by denying experience and farm. Although the primary reasoning behind issuing a lane swap has not changed the strategies invoked have changed drastically over the course of the game. I would like to shed some light into the evolution of the 2v1 meta, and ultimately go into depth regarding the current most complex state of the 2v1.
Tower Diving, 4v0 Fast Push, Double Jungle and "Bouncing the wave"
As the game matured and teams gained more experience playing in 2v1 lanes teams began noticing that a substantial advantage could be gained by pushing down early towers, which provided not only global gold but a tactical map advantage. China took this one step further with their relentless aggression and would perform a 3v1 tower dive onto the enemy top laner. Strong teams would be able to properly slow push a wave, while denying the enemy top laner, amassing a giant wave crashing into a tower with a level 1 enemy top laner defending making it easy to dive and kill the top laner, or if they adapted and played passively, deny a massive amount of experience.
In order to counter this teams would often send their junglers to join their top laner right as the wave was about to hit the turret. This wasn't the only solution, however, as Riot continued to release new patches teams needed to adapt and invent new strategies. Thus the "4v0" meta was born when Riot decided to change trinket wards to be used only after the 2 minute mark creating a lack of vision in the early game and causing invades to be extremely punishing if teams were not grouped. In this meta it became a necessity for teams to group up and invade in order to secure a two buff start, and since you're already grouped on one side of the map the only available option was to just group up as four and push down the inner and outer turret in a lane.
There were obvious weaknesses to the "4v0" strategy, however, as the top laner and jungler had to clear camps together and finally after 3 camps would hit level two, but after teams had pushed the towers down there would be a frozen wave deep into the lane the top laner could use to farm up with. Certain teams noticed this and learned to counter it with better wave mechanics. Instead of pushing down the tower as quick as possible they would let the minions die perfectly to the tower before killing the turret denying the entire wave of experience and resetting the minion wave, which later would be called "bouncing the wave". This along with a few changes to turrets led to laners learning to freeze waves off the bat. With no where to go in the early game top laners needed to find a new venue to gain exp, thus "double jungle" was created. Teams were already clearing out the first few initial camps together why not just continue. Now at this point the game becomes interesting as there are a variety of choices that can be made to gain advantages and even hesitating for a few seconds may provide the enemy team with a huge advantage and your chances of winning to a zero.
The Current State of Lane Swaps
This brings us to the present of Season 5 and teams playing on patch 5.9 and beyond. With the new jungle changes and trinkets being reverted back to having a 1:20 second cooldown along with the strong teams gaining more experience and proper support staff there are a vast amount of different strategies that can be used regarding lane swaps all with their own merits and disadvantages. With the addition of Gromp red side bot lanes no longer were at an exp disadvantage coming to lane due to the enemy blue side bot lane being able to start the game off doing double golems. Along with the trinket change back to 1:20 teams could invade and ward up the enemy lane and jungle in order to determine what lanes players would be going to and provide vital information as to which side the enemy jungler would begin. This is usually done with one team invading with a numbers advantage into the opposing side enemies' jungle and placing a ward in the lane in-between the inhibitor turret and inner turret, while the proper response of the opposing team is to drop an uncontested ward on the opposite side of the map in the same location.
There is currently a multitude of factors you have to consider during a lane swap and which choices would provide you with the greatest chance of winning. All of which change depending on what team composition you have and what you are attempting to accomplish moving forward into the game. The most important question a team has to ask itself when starting the game is "what are my win conditions" and "how can I strategically maneuver myself to get there", which then leads to the more refined question of should we make a lane swap, and if not how do I prevent the enemy team from lane swapping on me. Next the team needs to decide on what side of the map the jungler will start on and whether or not it will be solo or double jungle, what camp to start on, and what is the next best course of action to take after the initial camp. Third the team needs to decide on how they want to play out the lane such as whether or not to freeze, and finally after the first few minutes of the game how the team plans to maneuver around the map in order to set itself up to win the game.
1) Factors in determining when to make a lane swap. "Is that Cassiopeia , am I about to get ######?"
Let's take a look back at the TSM vs FNC game at MSI where TSM would make a fatal error in not lane swapping Dyrus out of the 2v1 match-up between Cassiopeia and Gnar that would ultimately cost them the game. Besides the obvious that Cassiopeia counters Gnar in a 1v1 matchup lets look more in-depth into why TSM should've clearly made a lane swap in this situation.
If you look at the bans both teams made in the image above you will notice the common theme between both teams, Ban out the top laner. The strategy behind the two teams are similar, however, the level of preparation for both teams is quite different. After watching through TSM's playoff games it becomes quite evident that TSM leaves Dyrus to fend for himself a majority of the early part of the game and FNC was looking to attack that weakness. FNC looked to ban out Dyrus's champion pool and place him on an uncomfortable pick where Huni could dominate him and win the game from the top side. TSM looked to adapt the same strategy by banning out three more top laners in order to hamper Huni's ability to carry the game, which would later prove to be ineffective. While banning out three champions from one player can be a viable strategy it needs to serve a greater purpose than simply offsetting one player it needs to be able to attack a team's dynamic.
Well look at what we have here if you compare Dyrus's most played champions for the spring lcs playoffs and FNC's bans they are exactly the same. While preparation is an important part of the pick/ban phase being quick on your feet and adapting to the information your opponents are giving away is also a key aspect of playing out pick and bans. FNC's first pick on blue side was Urgot, which on paper seems to be a fine first pick it was a strong pick in the meta and had the flexibility of being able to be played in both mid and adc, however, for FNC Urgot was much more. With FNC first picking Urgot TSM should be asking the question "with all these top lane bans and Gnar still open, why did FNC not go for it". Urgot played two important roles being first picked. Not only did FNC take Urgot away from Bjergesen , but Urgot was a strong pick against TSM's botlane oriented playstyle evident from game two of TSM vs TiP in the LCS Spring Playoffs. These series of events should have set off an alarm in TSM's head and have them begin thinking about a lane swap. In the end TSM picks Gnar and FNC counters with picking Cassiopeia and Gragas. At this point it seems obvious for TSM to make a lane swap for a multitude of reasons.
1) Gnar gets countered by Cassiopeia in lane.
2) Gnar is safer in the 2v1 lane, and requires less farm to be effective.
3) Cassiopeia is unable to free farm severely hampering her ability to scale into the late game allowing TSM to get the upper hand in the mid game.
4) TSM is a team that excelled at lane swapping and during the Spring Playoffs opted to make a lane swap almost every game during the playoffs.
Looking back at the game neither team makes an effort into setting up deep vision to check if teams would make a lane swap. In the end TSM went with regular lanes which ended up with Dyrus getting dove and a sad gnar.
2) Deciding on which side of the map to start Jungling when in a 2v1 "Alright who's going to leash for me now".
2v1 lane swaps cause the map to be unbalanced causing both teams to have a weak and strong side of the map depending on which half their bot lane is situated, which brings a new dimension to jungling. It is important for teams to decide which side of the map the team decides to start and plan a path after the initial camp, which is largely based off what team composition you're running and it's win conditions. Starting with the initial camp teams can decide to either start on the strong side of the map with a low risk clear or start on the weak side to secure the buff, but risk the enemy team invading.
Weak Side Start:
- Starting on the weak side allows for teams to secure a relatively low risk two buff start avoiding the late invade if starting on the strong side.
- Teams have the option of double jungling and having the top laner walk back into lane to catch the wave without having to use teleport.
- Transition into the strong side of the map where the team can choose to group up and take an early tower , and/or dive/deny the enemy top laner.
- Have the possibility of taking an early dragon if transitioning into dragon side.
- Invading into weak side of enemy jungle to set up deep vision control or look to deny jungle experience.
- Risk of being unable to defend against an early invade by the enemy team.
Strong Side Start:
- Starting on the strong side allows for a team to secure the first buff with no risk and open up a few choices for the team.
- The team can look to disrupt the enemy team's early clear by invading into the enemy jungle, while having the support invade early in order to scout and gain vision.
- If starting on dragon side the team can possibly look to take an early dragon.
- If transitioning into the weak side allows the jungler to join the top laner in order to defend the outer turret and prevent a possible dive.
- Risk of getting your second buff denied due to the enemy setting up for a late invade into your weak side jungle while the wave is pushed to the turret forcing the top laner to stay in lane.
The video above, G1 between KT vs CJ, is a good example of how a team can capitalize on starting out on the strong side of the map and punishing a poor decision from the enemy who decided to start on the weaker side. KT notices that CJ sent Gnar to the top lane early leading to an early invade by Nautilus. CJ gets punished for their decision to start Gromp instead of Blue on the weak side of the map. Nautilus almost kills Rek'Sai and delays his clear setting up his team for the next play.
Knowing that Rek'Sai can no longer contest his blue buff KT goes in for a 2 man invade and find Rek'Sai getting first blood. This snowballs into KT getting a three buff start and an early dragon.
3) Deciding on whether to freeze or push the lane to take the turret. "Can I just stay down here and farm forever?"
Now moving onto the main attraction of the lane swap coming to a decision on how the team wants to play out the lane. Teams will often look to freeze the lane, and is done by waiting in the top brush of the lane and gathering the minions together by having them aggro onto you and walking into the bush causing them to group in a way where the enemy minions will focus onto one of your minions killing it faster slowly pushing the wave towards your side of the map.
This is where the team needs to decide if they want to continue the freeze or begin pushing the wave into the turret to make a play on the tower. By freezing the wave it allows for your ADC to safely farm near the turret and opens up your support to roam and aid other parts of the map. This plays two important functions by choosing to freeze the wave and having the support roam it allows the ADC to gain solo experience and the support can look to help the top laner who is in a 2v1, and if the enemy team decides to send their top laner down into the 1v1 the ADC will have amassed a favorable lead where they have the advantage in lane.
If the team decides to go for a push instead they can look to gain an early gold advantage and map control through taking the turret, and it opens up the possibility of a dive or aggressive roam into the enemy jungle. If the enemy team decides to freeze the lane it opens you up to having the option of having a numbers advantage in the opposite lane for a more aggressive approach. Although by taking the enemy turret it allows for the enemy team to freeze the wave deep into their side of the map making it risky to farm in the lane. In order to make the most appropriate decision teams need to have a thorough understanding of what both team's strengths/weaknesses are (ie. power spike timings), composition differences, win conditions, and the ability to react to the enemies actions.
To further illustrate the stylistic difference of the two different play styles we will be taking a look at game 2 of KT vs CJ. CJ picked a team composition that consisted of three scaling late game champions Maokai, Cassiopeia, and Vayne, while KT Rolster followed up with a strong late game composition of their own with Lulu, Orianna, and Jinx. KT Rolster did an exceptional job of responding to the early Vayne pick by CJ Entus by drafting up a composition that has a variety of options available. KT is capable of playing out the 2v2 and they have the choice of going for a fast tower push with Jinx.
KT opt for the lane swap and choose to go with a fast push, while CJ choose to freeze the lane to give Vayne free farm, while taking an early dragon. Both teams have late game scaling ad carries, but Jinx has the option to push towers down much quicker with her mini gun and if needed the increased range with the rockets. In light of this CJ decide to continue to freeze the lane to provide Vayne a safe way to get that crucial early game farm. This opens up MadLife on Nautilus to roam the map and allow for Vayne to gain solo experience and get to the point where she can comfortably 1v1 Lulu if KT choose to send her down to defend. Also by choosing to freeze the wave and foregoing an early tower it continues to provide a safe lane for Vayne to farm in, while also providing Maokai the option to freeze the wave at his inner turret at top lane with teleport available giving Maokai the opportunity to farm up and scale into the late game .
In this situation KT has two choices they either can send Lulu down and lane against Vayne, or set up a trap in the top side by sending multiple members into the top lane and punish CJ for not being in a favorable position to respond due to Vayne freezing the wave near her turret at bottom. Let's take a look at KT's composition they have Lulu, Jinx, Alistar, and Rek'Sai. In combination these champions are great at setting up traps for opponents during rotations as well as being able to turret dive while getting out safely. These champions have cc, shields, mobility, and when Jinx secures a kill on a turret or champion she gets a speed bonus safely getting her out of a dive or pick.
In the clip above KT set up a four man trap to catch out Nautilus rotating to top side to help Maokai lane against Jinx and Alistar and knowing that there is no vision on top side they catch Nautilus off guard and pincer him getting first blood. Since Vayne is freezing the wave at bottom CJ can't respond to the four man pressure at top side by pushing the wave and taking the bottom lane turret. To punish CJ even further KT fake a back and then trap Maokai under his turret at top side and get an easy kill while he tries to escape. KT pushes the wave into the turret while Alistar and Rek'Sai seal off his exit and as Jinx takes the turret her "get excited" procs giving her move speed to easily catch up to the Maokai who's trying escape and they secure another easy kill. During this whole time CJ was unable to respond as they continued to freeze the wave at bottom making CJ unable to pressure the bot lane turret leading KT completely dominating the early game.
Another good game to watch that shows the impact of a properly planned out lane swap strategy is W3D1 Origen vs Unicorns of Love.
Origen choose to lane swap and send Sivir/Nautilus up top as Unicorns of Love stick with standard lanes and send Kalista/Thresh bot side. Both teams choose to start on the weak side of the jungle and path towards their duo lanes side of the map. Now at first glance it might not seem like an advantage, but due to the difference in wave clear and jungle clearing speeds of both teams Origen is able to get the top lane turret, while being able to get back in time to defend the dragon. Something I believe is extremely important but often over looked is considering duo jungle clear speeds in 2v1's in the pick/ban phase when considering team compositions. Although I'm not sure if Origen had it in mind when they did picks, but in this game you can see the clear advantages of having a superior jungle speed. Sivir, before Kalista is able to get hurricane, is much quicker in clearing the wave, while Fizz has significantly more damage in helping clear jungle camps with his W than Ryze who has significantly less damage due to low damage auto attacks as well as having limited access to spells at low levels coupled with high cooldowns and a small mana pool. These two factors together lead Origen to arrive at the turret much faster than Unicorns of Love allowing Origen to dictate the pace of the game. In the clip below you can clearly see the difference as Gragas/Fizz arrive at the tower to assist with the push Rek'Sai/Ryze are still coming down from the river with zero damage being dealt to the bot lane turret. This allows for Origen to begin pushing the tower much earlier allowing them to back to get items and head towards bottom removing the disadvantage of giving up dragon control from being top side and opening the opportunity to gain vision of the enemy jungle as the enemy has to back at a later time.
Origen send Nautilus back first to head towards bottom to defend as the rest of the team stays and finishes off the tower, since Origen was able to push down their turret first they can get to bottom lane in time to prevent UOL from getting dragon.
UOL actually make a crucial mistake and fail to finish off the bottom turret this game before Origen arrive to defend placing UOL at a gold disadvantage going into the game.
Nautilus arrives in time to defend the bottom lane turret and forces Kalista to back allowing Origen to invade blue side jungle and gain vision.
Although these are only a few examples of strategies involving lane swaps I hope I was able to provide some insight and further your understanding of the 2v1. There are numerous ways to create advantages and many more that we have yet to see as the meta changes with each patch as teams try to find new ways to create advantages or counter strategies. In order to be a dominate team in the current state of League of Legends its crucial that the team has a complete understanding of how to play lane swaps, and drafting a team composition that is able to carry out the strategy.
Cassiopeia Art Work by Nihilu : http://www.pixiv.net/member_illust.php?mode=medium&illust_id=33862810
Gnar Art Work by ClutchDizzy : http://www.redbubble.com/people/clutchdizzy/works/12397077-gnar-league-of-legends?grid_pos=1&p=sticker