A must-read for high-ELO Top-laners and Junglers.

Heading into 2016 Worlds, we’re looking at a decidedly more interesting top lane. Gone are the endless wet noodle fights, the potato tank Maokai vs Poppy vs Trundle picks. Gnar, Irelia, Fiora return to do more than absorb damage; they want to take over games.  Renekton. Taliyah. A desperation comfort Riven. Kha’zix.

esporks-khazix-mistakes-were-made
Should have dodged.

But with great power comes great responsibility.  So given the snowball propensity that can come from winning lane on a carry top, is it ever worth picking into a losing lane for the team?  

Any LCS stream will say no.

Or if you did ‘win’ the draft, how hard is it worth pushing your match up to get fed, given that you’re probably most likely to be able to handle a 1v2? Knowing that the other team is depending on their top laner being relevant in team fights, do you want to punish them as hard as you possibly can to get huge?  Do you deny them safely, so you scale normally, but they’re irrelevant?  Or, push them just hard enough so that you draw jungle pressure, freeing up your jungler to get work done mid and bot?  In other words:

Just how right IS twitch chat when they spam about losing the game in the draft?

Like most things in League, the answer is “it depends”, and for every losing match-up, there’s a trade-off and a context within which it occurs.

Consider the following ‘losing lane’ top picks: Shen, Maokai, and Gangplank.  All three achieve different goals, and a losing match-up is only as good as the other roles it empowers.

Shen, Maokai, Gangplank.
On the train to pain in lane.

Gangplank provides huge late-game damage, and his ult enables split-pushing, dives, and counter-dives.  Shen can provide global protection for his engage comp, or team up with Twitch for the infamous “Shen Delivery Service” combo.  Maokai sacrifices his own stats for the team, providing hard CC and AoE damage reduction, locking down assassins and disrupting the back line.

These things can be incredibly powerful in the hands of a co-ordinated team, but they actually need two distinct plans to make it work:

  1.       How the pick will complement the team’s strengths & win conditions, and;
  2.       How to bridge the weak top lane into the mid-game without being torn to shreds.

So the answer to “did we screw up when we let them pick Irelia into our Shen?” is not really about a winning lane, so much as it is about whether your plan is top or bot-side focused.

 

Froskurinn Is Carry
Or if your team is Froskurinn focused.

 

On one hand, you have a team like KT who want to play towards top lane strength, and prefer their power resting on a teleport.

On the other hand, you have a team like EDG who’ll play towards bot lane strength, and want to group.

But what about when we see these carry tops go head to head?  Assuming our carry draft went well, and you’ve got Irelia into Gnar, Irelia can probably ruin his day. You’re in control of the lane, so there are a few options for how you can play the matchup.  Should you ruin him so hard that the lane becomes so unsalvageable the jungler and mid won’t waste time intervening?  Or get ahead and deny farm, making their top laner irrelevant?

The answer is going to be different for every team, and what the plan is.  ‘Win lane, win game’ doesn’t apply in competitive, but ‘feed your ass off lose game’ does tend to be true pretty much everywhere. It’s not enough to say “well I got a good match up, I should go off”.  And this is where it gets weird. If you’re a bottom-focused team, it may actually make sense to NOT play the match-up as hard as you can, and instead, only go hard enough to bait jungle/mid pressure to allow your other lanes to get ahead.

The diversity of the world stage means every team thinks of comfort differently. There will be teams that always want to pick good matchups. They’ll go hard to pick Ekko into Gangplank, and leave him alone for the team to focus elsewhere while Ekko wails on GP.  This is a mistake, because a good GP will concede CS to sustain through the pain, and ultimately come out fine late game, and their bottom lane’s impact will be stronger.

Watch the top teams closely; if they do end up with the Irelia into Gnar, or Gangplank, they’ll pick a jungler to complement 2v2 strength, so that Irelia’s only job will be to carve off tiny pieces, one by one until they’re divable.  Then, post-7 minutes when towers are weaker, the team will swoop in to deal with the enemy laner’s vulnerability.

Regardless of a selfless pick or a counter-pick, the team with the losing lane will be doing their best to divert attention to the bot lane as far away from the losing lane as possible.

Divert pressure away from weak lanes by applying Arrows to Summoner's Rift.
Divert pressure away from weak lanes by applying Arrows to Summoner’s Rift.

That said, with the changes to 6.15 to avoid endless compulsory lane-swaps, it’s now much more important to have a good top matchup, since you can’t hide your weakness behind a tower-exchange, and another element of the game becomes more enjoyable for the viewer.

So rather than raging at your jungler for not coming to gank your losing lane, look at what they’re doing instead; playing towards their winning lanes while you gracefully lose lane without feeding.  That pressure should be focused enough elsewhere to dissuade the enemy from rotating to dive you.

If you, as a team, force the enemy jungler to realize that the cost of pushing their top lead is too high, since his bot lane will go collapse in a crumbling heap, you now have control of the tempo.

That’s what tempo is. Forcing enemy team to utilize their time to stop you and defend, rather than pushing their own goals.

Jhin. Thresh. Twisted Fate. Elise. Picking these four champs screams to you in champ select that they’re going to dive bot tower. If you, as an enemy team, do not force their TF in a poor position and dissuade him from looking bot (for example, ganking him repeatedly with an assassin), that team will then focus on keeping TF upright in his lane instead of helping him dive your bot lane. But if he can defend properly up until level 6, then that bottom lane dive can and will happen every time.

It all comes down to a team’s primary focus, and what they require for that focus to control the tempo, create a lead, and ultimately secure a victory.

If your team lacks that primary focus, THAT’s when they’ve lost the game in the draft.

And then you can make fun of them in twitch chat.

Spawn smiles cheesily.
Kappa.

Special thanks to Razleplasm for his input on this article.

For more analysis, memes and Esporks, you can follow chhopsky on Twitter. He occasionally streams ridiculous Gnar plays and photoshop on Twitch.