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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The Deceptive Pick and Drafting

There is a phenomena going around the professional circuit that I like to call the “deceptive pick.”  This can be a powerful strategy to throwing off team compositions, lane matchups and mindsets.  They also allow your team to wriggle out of counter picks in lane, as long as you can coordinate properly.  So what exactly is a deceptive pick and how can it benefit you and your team?

Pick Order and You

Picking order in League of Legends is one of the most interesting dynamics in the game. Through having first pick or first ban, your team is able to convey strategy and pace.  There are “safe” first picks such as the support as well as the hasty first picks, grabbing a character that will do well and isn’t banned.  This can sometimes fall apart when the other team has last pick, however, because they have opportunity to see what you’re doing and counter. 

After seeing this happen, some of the pro teams decided to shake things up. This cat and mouse game of countering had a wrench thrown into it – the deceptive pick. A deceptive pick is choosing a character that can play many roles, however typically is found in one role.  What this accomplishes is having the enemy choose a laner to respond to that pick when, in fact, that character won’t be where they think.  It isn’t as simple as “pick a character that does top or jungle and pray they respond,” your jungler and top need to be versatile enough to switch in the event it does happen.

Professional Examples

There are a ton of characters that are versatile, however in the professional scene only a small pool is actually played.  The main perpetrators of the deceptive picks are Shen, Malphite, Alistar and Lee Sin. These characters are almost always picked or banned in the recent tournaments and solo queue and it’s not entirely because they’re “overpowered.”  They provide a challenge in forming a team composition on the fly as well as unique challenges to the lane they are entering.

Evolution and Adaptation

While the deceptive pick is an old bag at this point, it still continues to influence the team compositions and character selections.  The reason this tactic arose was the creation of counters to lanes and dodging hard matchups, taking advantage of the knee-jerk champion selection and pick order.  Now what we see in most picking is team compositions that can play well off of each other and work despite the counter picks. Pro teams are back to selecting what champions fit into their grand strategy instead of picking a lane to win and countering it.  This has diverged from the solo queue roots and to into the hearts of team synergy.

Using it in Solo Queue

Trying to implement this strategy in solo queue can be a challenge and is best accomplished with a partner.  You will then be able to pick a top laner and switch out if they counterpick that person. I recently did this when my friend picked Cho’Gath and was counter picked on top lane.  I was able to use my last pick to switch around their expectations and jungle Cho with ease. You can accomplish this in solo queue as long as you have competency in your characters and have their team counterpicking you.

So next time you’re queueing up, take a look at the picks and pick order. Through picking versatile champions, you can set other lanes up for failure or success.  Approach the champion select wisely and you will see a flexibility in your games that can give you the edge you need to win a game.

Inevitability

                There is an important concept that is lost on many people in the fields of justice, and that is one of inevitability.  By definition, inevitability means something that impossible to avoid or prevent.  How does this boil down into character selection and League of Legends, you ask?  Well, choosing characters with this trait can often times win you more games than with other champions.  The breakdown of characters tends towards this for me:

Early Game Hero

This is a champion who has a fantastic early game.  They will have great base stats on their skills as well as skills that outclass anyone else for their level.  Champions that are geared towards the early game usually have bad scaling on their abilities, which prevents them from having a good late game.  Starting base stats play heavily into the early game hero status and the amount of value out of single ranks of a skill as well.

An example of this type of champion would be Pantheon.  He has one of the highest damage combos throughout the early game and is a menace in this respect.  His ability to have a targeted, ranged stun as well as targeted, ranged nuke gives him a good early game when people cannot punish his proximity. 

Mid Game Hero

Midgame heroes are characters that are highly impacted by levels into their abilities.  While the level 6 ability isn’t always the deciding factor, most times the level 6 or 9 mark is a major turning point.  A good amount of farm on these types combined with a higher level of their champion will yield an extremely strong level 6-15 powerhouse.  Most mid game heroes are also strong in the late game.

Jax is a good example of a midgame hero.  After he picks up his ultimate, his tankiness skyrockets and his damage also starts to become a real threat. Aside from his ultimate, his Empower cooldown is severely reduced by leveling, making not only level 6 but level 9+ very strong for his damage output.

Late Game Hero

These champions are usually item dependent.  This means that they will have great scaling abilities that allow for the item builds to put them over the top.  Ranged carries are almost exclusively late game heroes, though some are able to do well all game.  The late game hero always has a way to deal a lot of damage, even against beefed up late game champions.

The inevitable champions land near the late game on this scale.  However, most of the inevitable champions lose to the early and strong mid game characters.  This makes them less desirable a pick in solo queue, however they are always present in professional play.  If you look at the picks and bans you will see a lot of Kennen, Vladimir, Irelia, Karthus and many others.  These characters have been and always will remain in that circuit because of inevitability.

So, this can seem a little confusing.  What makes Irelia inevitable and other top laners not?  Well go back to my definition of a late game hero:  “always has a way to deal a lot of damage.”  Well, Irelia does a ton of damage with a Trinity Force and even without it, her late game includes a significant amount of true damage on her auto-attacks.  This means that she’ll always be doing damage to anything, no matter how far behind she is.  Inevitable can often be confused with snowball champions, but when thinking of who will always have a great late game, look towards characters that do well even when you’re behind.  Let’s look over some champions I consider inevitable:

Irelia – Will do true damage and high damage no matter how far behind once items are purchased.

Karthus – He has an ultimate that will do damage to the entire enemy team and his defile will always be doing a lot of damage in teamfights.  Unless you build 0 AP on Karthus, he can never be a bad late game hero as even death will secure thousands of damage onto their team.

Kennen – Once Kennen has some items, his ultimate becomes a real threat.  He can be really far behind and turn the tide of a fight simply with his massive damage output and CC onto the enemy team.

Rumble – A well placed ultimate from him will do a lot of damage and slow no matter what.  Throw that on top of having a shield, an unforgiving slow and a lot of damage no matter what on his flamethrower and you have a strong champion as long as you’re competent.

Ryze – This guy is possibly the best late game mage in the game.  You build him full tank and watch things melt in front of you.  Even with a few items he becomes a serious threat and if the game goes on long enough he will be good.

Skarner – This guy has a guaranteed late game with amazing base stats and amazing ultimate plus a bucket of utility.  He also will do a lot of damage in the late game because of how often his slow and auto attacks can be applied.

Vladimir – An AoE ultimate that amplifies damage dealt to their team will always be useful.

Warwick – He becomes over the top tanky with his swipe giving him a ton of life and damage to tanks and squishies alike.

Putting It All Together

Putting everything together, playing a champion that has a strong late game no matter what can help you improve your game and ELO, as long as you are competent with that character. While a strong early/mid laner such as Riven or Pantheon will certainly win games outright, picking an inevitable character will mean that you can win even if you lose the lane. You won’t obliterate most lanes with these champions, however they provide such a guaranteed late game that often times you can win through dragging the game out.  Try to add some inevitability into your character choices and you’ll find that bad teammates just means you have to do more work to win.

Addressing Variance

In a previous article I discussed the phenomena of variance and how it can impact your team and decisions in a game.  After receiving a few comments about the article, I decided to write a follow up article on how to address variance, when it can be beneficial and how to bring about consistency in your life.

Variance can be reduced by developing a better understanding of how it comes about.  There are a few aspects of anything you do that I feel sum up why anyone would have variance.  Mastering these aspects can lead you to have virtually no variance, although being 100% consistent is impossible.

Emotion

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Control over your emotions is critical in controlling your consistency.  A lot of people are very strong in the other aspects and are really lacking in emotional control.  The ability to control your emotion will stop you from tilting, making poor choices due to current mood and keep your body’s chemicals in check.  This particular aspect has many different ugly heads to prevent you from achieving your potential, so I am going to break them down more closely.

Tilting

You will see this one more often than anything else.  It ties in closely with the next issue and acts as a catalyst (the spark that lights that fire).  What happens here is not everything goes as it should and instead of taking a step back and realizing that it could work out, you get angry, sad or upset.  Tilting is the beginning of an emotional issue and is the easiest thing to do on this list.  Trying to avoid and recognize when you’re tilting is a science, but knowing that it exists, taking a breather and addressing it goes a long way towards stopping tilt.

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Tilt is only cool here

Bringing Your Issues to the Situation           

This is definitely the major contributor to your emotional control.  Did you have a bad day today?  Did you get stuck in traffic on the way home and are really stressed out?  Big deadline coming up?  Relationship or lack thereof issues?  Bringing a loaded mind into a situation where focus and control is required is a bad idea.  I’m certainly guilty of this coming off a long, rough day and “unwinding” to some League of Legends only to find it actually frustrates me even more.  On top of that, I begin to dredge up all of those negative emotions that I had during the day and things just get ugly.

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I didn’t have a fight, just a loud conversation

In order to stop this trend, find another outlet or get it out of your system before you sit down to do something.  Bringing a loaded mind ready to snap already to a stressful situation is setting yourself up for failure.  If you had a rough day sit down and relax, diffuse your situation and regain control of yourself.

Defeatism and Pessimism

These two things are going to really damp your consistency.  If you are the type that gives up after your team gives first blood, you really should reconsider your outlook.  People performing badly on your team in any situation always have a chance to redeem themselves.  While that bot lane Fiddle has been feeding all game, he might also land a great ultimate that helps you carry the team one time.  Being very pessimistic and defeatist about your team is really just defining your path and then fulfilling it.

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My life is a third full!

The way to solve this is to break the cycle.  If you’re saying “Oh, this is lost, nothing I can do” then you have already lost.  Go into things and say instead “We can still do this” and then rather than being right and losing, you can be wrong and either win or lose.  One option realistically always leads to failure while the other at least takes victory into consideration.

Fundamentals

The second huge path on the way to more consistent play is knowledge of the fundamentals.  If you are unaware of the basics of what you’re doing, trying to complete advanced things as well as replicating normal results is impossible.  Whether you’re trying to design a building that doesn’t fall down and don’t know your physics equations and moment diagrams or playing a game of League of Legends and don’t know how to play your role, fundamentals are essential.

Posted ImageMost gold in the game through last hits, despite 9 less KDA.

This is the easiest issue to address, but also takes the most practice and time.  Emotional control is really hard to do, but is just a matter of changing your approach to life.  Fundamentals, however, require a grind, practice and repetition.  If you’re trying to become a better League player, find the funadmentals of your position and get them down.  You see someone like Reginald able to play and AP carry in the game because he knows very well how to play his role.  Chaox also can play any AD because the aspects of positioning, last hitting and game progression are very similar.  Work on your basics before you delve into finer points like optimizing your jungling path.

Mental State

This one is the easiest to recognize, but often ties in with emotion and is typically not solvable at the time.  Mental state issues are things like being drunk, stoned, tired or just stressed out.  You can’t really “solve” being drunk when playing, other than to not drink.  If you’re playing ranked when wasted, you can’t really expect good results.  This is the same for stress and tiredness levels.  You can’t really just snap your fingers and relieve yourself of those issues as well, the best way to fix this issue is to address it before you begin playing.

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You can’t just snap out of tiger blood either.

Conclusion

So this article can be interpreted a few ways, and one of them is: “Don’t play League of Legends or do anything unless you’re 100% perfect emotionally, mentally and know the fundamentals!”  That is hardly the case, however, because while those things matter you can’t only do something when those things are perfect.  If I were to only play when I had a good day and wasn’t angry about something in my life, I would never play a game ever.  You also have to play a lot in order to get your fundamentals down and mechanics worked out.

The main point of this advice is to recognize it.  When you come home from an awful day and do bad in a game, don’t flip out and start questioning whether your life choices are valid.  Yes, that does happen to people and was an issue I struggled with a lot.  Instead, take a deep breath, evaluate what problems you’re having and address them.  Are you bringing too much to the table, struggling with fundamentals or simply too tired to perform right now?  Find those realizations and work towards a solution in order to make yourself a consistency machine.

GL HF,
Hahano

Ride the Wave

One thing that is a common feeling amongst players is wanting to always have a good game.  However, the idea that you should be on top every time is a farce and should be ignored.    The dynamic of losing not only keeps the game fresh and interesting, but is necessary in order to enjoy the game.  This mentality is summed up by a quote I found by Thomas Nys that states:
 


This quote goes to say that simply having an option of not succeeding automatically puts worth into anything you’re doing.  Think of it this way:  how fun would League of Legends be if you could never be killed?  How fun would watching an American football game be if a running back was unable to be tackled?  The ability to fail is what makes anything exciting and worthwhile.

So how does this apply to League of Legends?  Well, in your games you will need to realize that losing is part of “the wave” and should not induce tilt.  For those not familiar with the term “tilt”, which comes from both pinball and poker, it is a way to say making bad decisions out of aggression or anger.  In League of Legends, tilting means you make get caught out of position, underestimate your opponents or don’t take into consideration things such as summoner spells or item builds.

Avoiding tilt is crucial to your improvement in this game and in any game.  If you begin to tilt, you will have bad games repeatedly until you’re either finished playing or done being tilted.  Knowing whether you’re tilted or not is hard to determine, but one easy way to try and avoid it is to look at a loss like a necessary component of success.  If you get angry and emotional on every loss in ranked, you will end up doing worse.  The important part about riding the wave is that over time, you are improving.  Below is a smoothed out and shaded graph of a friend’s rating over time.

 

Rating Over Time

You can see that it goes up and down pretty wildly over the course of a few months.  However, the prevailing trend is upward.  He continued to play and battle through whatever slumps and triumphs he had until he had gotten to a higher rating.  This is one thing many people lack until it is demonstrated, and that is scope.  Finding the scope and perspective on your play is difficult without seeing the date in front of you, so I have made that part easier.  One segment I would like to highlight in particular is from around the middle of July to the middle of August.

I broke the graph to save space vertically, but he makes a huge peak and is going well on top of his game.  Then there is a big crash over the course of several days, about a week in total.  This is the point where a lot of people would become tilted.  A day or two of bad games isn’t as hard to deal with instead of a week straight.  However, by riding the wave and realizing that your averages are what matters, he was able to power through this slump and get back to where he was.  This cycle of hitting a bad streak, learning, improving and going on a good streak is necessary for progress to happen and happiness to be worthwhile.

When you are out on the fields of justice, remember that you have to lose sometimes in order to appreciate winning.  While nobody likes to lose, take a game that you’ve lost in stride and realize that it has to exist.

GL HF,
Hahano