Meta Musings: The 2v1 Top and Bottom and Why it Works

There is an old trick that has become a new trend in the professional scene, and that is the 2v1 top and bottom.  This used to be a niche tactic from long ago to counter strong champions on top such as Nasus.  It was then buried for a while until early aggression and pushing teams such as M5 and Azubu Blaze brought it back as standard play.  Now it is something that every top laner needs to be prepared to deal with in any given game.  Why the change and what advantages does this new shift in laning provide?

Dictates Champions

The amount of champions on top lane are automatically reduced by using this strategy.  In reducing the number of tops, the need for bans on strong laners and flavor of the month tops is gone.  On top of that, a team can add pressure by banning sustained laners good at handling a 1v2 situation.  There are not many champions that can handle a 1v2 well enough to come out even with the opposing top laner.  This is because the team that is initiating the 2v1 is aware they are doing that strategy and can choose champs in advance.

Hi, I autolose to 1v2!

Implementation of this strategy cuts down the top lane pool to approximately: Cho’Gath, Malphite, Rumble, Shen, Yorick and Vladimir.  While other champions can handle it, such as Gangplank and Urgot, they aren’t as prominent or flexible in the pro scene.  Having this pool to choose from can make a ban on someone such as Malphite, Shen or Vladimir much more potent because you’re not only removing a strong top laner, but a laner that can handle a 1v2 situation.

Counter to amazing laning snowballers

Quick, who counters Riven in lane?  How about Darius?  Well sure, these counters exist, however the lane is still extremely volatile.  You can pick the best hard counter to Darius or Riven and they’ll still pull ahead if given a gank or early advantage.  Lane counters have an ebb and flow of importance where in the early levels player skill dictates how well you do, in the mid levels the counters are effective and at the high level the game itself matters more than lane counters.  Countering a top ELO Riven player is less about counter picking and more about having a team that understands the situation is still fragile.  The Riven on the other team at that point is well beyond competent and can snowball off of a slight mistake you’ve made or roaming to pick up a kill on your jungler. 

Better hope I don’t get a kill!

So, what does the new meta do for this?  It automatically filters out who can sustain and farm in a 1v2 situation.  Riven and Darius both cannot handle a 1v2 very well at the high ELO level.  While I’m sure a bad ADC and Support player will fall prey to a lonely Riven, a properly played duo will hopelessly annihilate a lot of the top lane snowball characters.  In order to 1v2 you need to have a lot of sustainability, a ranged farm mechanism, a strong escape mechanism and relavence to a teamfight without a lot of farm.  Every single character listed above has these in spades and Riven not so much.

Amplifies the jungler and his matchups

Switching around the top and bottom lane gives both lanes a lot more safety early on.  A common issue with top is being pushed up, however against a duo that issue doesn’t exist most times.  You’ll often be hugging your tower and being harassed, which is fine for a competent player.  This alleviates the need for early wards on a solo top and adds wards to the duo, making it safe for both parties.  This gives the jungler a lot more room to do one of two things: counter jungle or gank mid.

I will eat your jungler alive.

You can see by the selection of jungler what the team’s strategy will be in choosing someone like Maokai vs. a jungler such as Shyvana. The Maokai is much more open to gank middle and his strong early ganks can provide an edge to his solo lane. Shyvana also becomes a lot more relavent because the need for ganks isn’t as high.  This allows her to roam around killing the other jungler. The switch makes counter junglers have a lot more presence and weeds out the ganking junglers to the cream of the crop.

Makes support much more influencial

The support player in a 2v1 situation has a lot more influence on the match.  They are responsible for setting the pace and aggression of a normal bottom lane. When in an advantaged situation, however, they become even more powerful in their abillity to do so.  Zoning, harassing and denying an enemy solo top is the primary objective and they often have kits available to do this. A Blitzcrank grab or Alistar pulverize becomes far more relavent when there’s only one other person you’re targetting.

Less emphasis on early dragon control

Since most teams are wanting to do dragon as a 5 in the professional circuit, having the duo bottom has become less of a priority.  The team with the duo still has a slight advantage, but in order to swing a dragon they have to take out an extremely strong laner on bottom and mid. Basically, the jungler and ADC for the team with a duo bottom is often times not strong enough in the early levels to do dragon outright.  A top lane that is 2v1 will be able to push down the tower on top quickly and then objectives and roaming can be accomplished.  A shift away from early dragon and towards towers has been happening, and this just solidifies that sentiment.

Wrapping up

So is this the new big thing?  Will solo queue start seeing this?  It’s likely to happen every once in a while and with smarter top laners that can handle a 2v1.  However, due to the points I listed above, most of the potency of this comes from professional, coordinated play.  It is an attempt to shut down extremely strong top laners, take towers early in the game and amplify the jungler’s presence.  It has succeeded so far in accomplishing this, so I can’t see it dying quickly in the pro scene, but I also wouldn’t be forcing it in your solo queue games either.

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