Aurelion Sol has inconvenienced the World Championship from the first day when he was disabled, to the upsets that followed when Riot diligently determined the cause of the bug. Though he was only played seven times, accumulating a 4-3 record, all four wins Sol contributed to were crucial games, and three of which can undoubtedly be consider as upsets. In addition, Sol was banned twice the amount of times he was picked, earning himself the position as the fifth most banned champion at the tournament with 15 bans. What causes the galactic dragon to be seen as such a threat despite a low pick-rate, and what makes him a pivotal champion in manufacturing upset victories?
The Star Forger is a completely unique champion which requires a player to be consummate with his kit in order to succeed, but if they’re able to master him, the rewards are astronomical. Aurelion Sol’s kit has the potential to be the best champion at pressuring mid as well as pressure the map with roams. An expert player can siphon this power despite a skill gap that may exist between him and his opponent(s) because of the oppressive strength of Sol’s kit. There are three factors that contribute to this, the first being how his kit is designed and the runes/item path that it enables him to take. The following two factors are derivative of how his kit operates within the meta, because it allows him to excel at pressuring mid, which leads to him aiding his jungler in the early game and also makes him free to roam to other lanes. The illuminating dragon’s proficient kit begins with his passive and develops from there.
Equipped to Succeed
The cornerstone of Aurelion Sol’s champion layout is his passive, Center of the Universe, a completely unique passive to the game.
No other champions passive matches the lane pressure of Sol’s passive, both when trading and when shoving the minion wave. While the player focuses on micro managing their positioning and harasses the enemy, the passive pushes the wave on it’s own, requiring minimal attention from the player. Though the passive is manageable for Sol’s opponent on it’s own, when augmented by his W, it becomes oppressive.
Celestial Expansion increases Aurelion’s passive range and damage by 50% when activated for a small expenditure of 40 initial mana and 22/24/26/28/30 per additional second. Having the option to double the capacity of an already excellent passive at level one is unbelievably beneficial, especially when you consider most champions rely on auto-attack to push the first few wave.
With a range of 650, Sol’s W gives him an unmatched range (in respect to mid laners at early levels) to a) push the minion wave b) harass the opponent c) zone the opponent if they succumb to your pressure. An adept Aurelion Sol player can accomplish multiple of these feats at a time during the early game, which opens him up to skirmish in the river and side lanes. The indigo dragon isn’t the only champion who can roam or skirmish in the early game, but his E is what gives him an unparalleled ability to do so.
Comet of Legend seems underwhelming at first glance, but in reality is the ability that really ties the bow on Aurelion’s kit.
Having such a high cooldown ability on a non-ultimate is almost always detrimental and often causes said ability to not be leveled up until absolutely necessary, but for Sol it’s a different case. Hidden beneath the sluggish active is an essential passive that can be overlooked. This passive gives Aurelion incremental move-speed up to a maximum bonus of 25/30/25/40/45% which acts as a powerful unifier between his unique kit and playstyle. As a result, it’s essential to level up E at level three because it enables easier kiting in lane, additional survivability to early ganks (an effective tactic to shut down Sol) and also fully unlocks his roam potential.
These three abilities in addition to the crowd control on his Q and ultimate respectively, create for the perfect champion to shove in his opposing laner. This creates pressure mid lane, which he can then transfer to aiding his junglers early game, as well as sabotaging the opposing jungler’s. These two tactics are vital to winning a League of Legends game in the current meta game, and I’ll explain why.
A Causal Relationship: Mid and Jungle Pressure
As the 6.15 meta has evolved and teams have adapted to the new standard lane style, it’s quickly become apparent that the Jungler has the onus of making a team’s early game more impactful. In the opening moves of a game, a jungler must assert his presence at some point in either the opposing lanes or the enemy’s jungle, and to do this he needs access to the river.
The 3:10 mark is when junglers will typically take their first foray into the river, looking to take the scuttle crab to secure vision and advance forward or skirmish with the enemy jungler. During these early movements, a mid laner must be ready to accompany his jungler and ensure he succeeds in whatever his initial play is. Whether he needs help securing scuttle crab, killing the enemy jungler, or countering the enemy jungle while being contested, it’s essentially the mid laner can assist him.
Without having the support of your mid laner, any of these aggressive movement in the river or enemy jungle to create an advantage for your team is extremely risky. Subsequently, whichever mid laner gets the inside-track and assists his jungler first will cause his team to win out the early portion of the game.
The component that determines which mid laner can be there for his jungler is the amount of pressure they have in their lane — be it where the minion wave is positioned or the amount of experience/health/mana they have over their opponent. As was aforementioned, Aurelion Sol is leaps and bounds ahead of any other mid lane champion at succeeding in these tactics during the opening ten minutes of the game. So much so, that even though an elite player will often be able to build an advantage in pressure, experience, health and mana, when facing Sol, it becomes essentially impossible.
In the early game, an expert Aurelion player can force their opponent to concede pressure no matter the skill deficit when they’re to their opponent is. Positioning himself on the side of the first wave, Sol can active his W and zone the enemy mid laner at 650 range, while also hitting all six minions, completing a shove by 1:47. From there, the player piloting Aurelion can begin to transition his pressure into making early, aggressive movements for his team on the map.
Executing the 1:47 shove on the first wave is crucial to ensuring Aurelion Sol a powerful pick as it gives you a versatile amount of early game openings. Because Sol clear the first wave at the same time junglers finish their first camp, one option option is to steal the opposing junglers small raptor. Stealing a single small raptor will result in most junglers to not reach either level three or level four by a sliver of exp in most standard jungle paths.
A small denial of experience can give your jungler an early level advantage for an invade, and in every case, sets the enemy jungler behind on their route. In addition, you can manipulate fog of war when counter jungling the raptors, because of the lack of vision teams have between 1:30 and aapproximately 3:15 due to trinket cooldowns. Vision manipulation is something that CLG’s Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun put on display in their upset of the ROX Tigers, completing the shove and then bluffing that he’d take a small raptor, roamed to the bottom lane for first blood.
Though this was the most impressive use of Sol’s immediate early pressure, a standard deviation shown by FW’s Haung “Maple” Yi-Tang is just as useful. Stealing the raptor and moving back shove the second wave mid in noticeably accomplishes two things: 1) it forces Blank to clear raptors and then back-track to take the top side scuttle rather than skirmishes over the one in the bottom river because of his xp disadvantage and 2) frees Maple up to grab a 3 minute blue buff without losing CS for it. Every Aurelion Sol victory followed a pattern that set him and his jungler up for cascading movements that apply pressure to the map.
In games like Royal Never Give Up against TSM, these movements came to fruition a bit deeper into the early game, where at 6:45, RNG’s mid-jungle duo pushed off Svenskeren and collapsed on TSM’s bottom lane before they could react. Li “xiaohu” Yung-hao isn’t a player you’d expect to be shoving in and out-rotating Western star Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, but on Aurelion Sol it’s entirely possible.
In every game Sol was picked, it was clearly evident the player piloting him had an advantage when it came to pressuring minion waves and roaming to assist his team. Even in losses this held true, which is displayed by the fact that Aurelion has the highest kill participation of any mid lane champion at 78.7%. His aptitude for kill participation also denotes why he is a champion that excels in upsets, because it shows he’s most consistently involved in his team’s play making. Applying universal pressure to the map is not something many champions can do without distinct drawbacks, and finding a counter to Sol or one that can match his pressure is almost futile.
Slaying the Dragon
Finding a way to defeat the galactic dragon on paper is almost impossible, other than perpetually banning the champion out against players who are skilled with him. Teams whose mid laner doesn’t practice Aurelion Sol will have to find an answer to the amount of pressure he puts out unless they want to expend a ban on it every game. Two champions which I think have the greatest likelihood of being prepared over this week to beat Sol are Lissandra and Twisted Fate (Ryze is a possibility as well, though we saw Bjerg fail in that match-up).
Lissandra is the best of the two in my opinion, as she has the option to run teleport and can match with a long range wave clear ability at level one with Q. In addition she has the crowd-control and engage to match Sol. Twisted Fate is less likely, as he is already extremely prone to being shoved in pre-level 6 and doesn’t have the skirmish or roam potential to match Sol in the first five levels.
Aurelion Sol is bound to continue looming over the 2016 World Championship, but the real question is if teams will prepare a strategy to stop the champion in it’s tracks or if they’ll simply have to permanently ban him from entering the Rift.
Photo credits: Riot Games and lolesports