Analyzing LoL's new Pick and Ban system

Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games/lolesports / NA LCS Spring 2016 / Riot Games

Riot has introduced a new pick and ban system for the 2017 competitive season, shaking up staff and making good on their promise to do so in the past (a good omen for Riot in 2017, perhaps?)

Lots of critics have observed the current state of drafting in competitive play as stale, with only 57 champions chosen at 2016 Worlds of the 123 available. The hope is, from professional players, staff and viewers, that the new format will shake up champion and strategic diversity. However, some have also criticized the format, calling for a setup similar to the one seen in Dota 2.

There are lots of problems with the conception that adapting another big MOBA's pick-ban system is automatically the correct option, so I've looked into a simple comparative between other MOBAs in order to draw out a distinction that disqualifies the Dota 2 format as a necessary addition to the LoL competitive ecosystem.

A comparison of MOBA Contemporaries

One thing to note immediately is that a pick and ban system is meant to be another factor in competitive balance; one side will inherently have an advantage in the draft no matter what, purely based on game systems and the metagame that develops in competitive play. Understanding why Riot adopted a pick and ban phase that wasn’t Dota’s has everything to do with the unique aspects of these two MOBAs and their associated quirks.

Champions (or Heroes) aside, one of the bigger functional differences between Dota and LoL is the difference in the way the maps are laid out. Dota is more unique in its map’s asymmetry, and as such carves out specific advantages for one side over another. In the past, Dire had an advantage because of its proximity and easier ability to reach Roshan, but Radiant has had an advantage as well at certain points in time. Radiant has an easier time stacking their ancient camp (imagine if you could cause dozens of Krugs to spawn in one camp, then put them all on gold/exp. steroids), and has an easier time pulling creeps into the jungle to create experience discrepancies.

Conversely, the cartography of Smite is unique as well. But one thing remains consistent when compared with LoL: the maps are fairly symmetrical in their composition. This means that there are theoretically no inherent advantages for one side of the map because both teams operate with the same quadrants and the same architecture. However, other factors may determine the differences in map winrates.

For red side in League of Legends, the oft-cited reasons for its lower overall win rate involve the camera angle being more awkward for players to lane on the red side (an issue not seen in the third-person perspective that Smite uses), as well as the limited ways to enter and engage or disengage Baron Nashor in more balanced mid and late game situations. As well, LoL's high number of power and flex picks in recent metas tends to neutralize the counterpicking power that red side holds in the draft stage.

From maps to metagames

But it can’t be as simple as just asymmetry, can it? Dota's draft system and associated meta has often shifted the power balance in the other direction to compensate for the fact that Dire side gets two picks in a row during the first rotation. For example, at the Boston Major, Radiant still outperformed Dire 151-134 (52.9%) even though Dire has the advantage in draft. The new Dota map is unclear data-wise as to who has the inherent side advantage, but its asymmetry is still particular to that MOBA.

However, LoL is dealing with a different kind of asymmetry. One of the other big ways in which competitive play is balanced is the meta, and how many champions are considered priority picks at a given moment. A glut of power picks potentially gives a slight edge to whichever side has more opportunities to get what they want or need, and lane assignments can shift the ways in which we conceive of the priority roles or champions in a draft. This is all more theoretical than the asymmetry mentioned, but worth considering as the game actively changes.

The system that LoL has adopted is most comparable to Smite, in so far as it is the exact same pick and ban phase, probably for all the aforementioned tangible reasons. The symmetrical maps lend the corrections to side advantage to be minimal based on the draft format. As such we see something fundamentally different to the Dota draft: a reduction of phases. Dota 2 has six phases total, while LoL now has four.

This simplifies the process, and allows for less strategic diversity than Dota 2. This is because Dota's final phase, as shown below, has each team banning and then picking their last choices, completely revealing a good portion of their team composition and opening up a last chance at securing vital counterpicks or the finishing pieces of a team composition.

In Dota’s pick and ban system, Dire has a double pick very early in the draft that Radiant never has access to, allowing them to secure two very powerful picks immediately. This differs from the LoL system, which gives its blue side more double picks. In exchange, red side has a counterpick in each picking phase.

This is a good indicator of pick-ban balance to offset the aforementioned red side detriments, and it will be interesting to see if this swings win percentages too far in favor of red side. I'm inclined to say that it does, especially in the early stages of the implementation of this draft, as staff may put greater emphasis on comfort picks for players rather than crafting compositions that can execute a particular style.

In the current meta, the following picks are all regarded as fairly viable, among others:

Lane Champions
Top lane Camille Poppy Fiora Nautilus Maokai
Jungle Lee Sin Rengar Vi Hecarim Rek’Sai
Mid lane Orianna Cassiopeia LeBlanc Ryze Viktor
AD Carry Caitlyn Jhin Ezreal Varus Ziggs 
Support Zyra Karma janna Brand Nami

At this point, it seems likely that power picks are still comfortably a part of the first set of bans. Afterward, securing picks which don’t reveal crucial parts of what you need in your composition would be best. Picks such as Poppy, Lee Sin, Orianna, Ryze, Karma, and Zyra are well-rounded enough that they don’t reveal much with respect to the type of composition you are running, versus something like a Fiora which would reveal what is likely a splitpushing composition.


At the moment, the biggest weakness of the new format is the proposed time for each pick and ban, which has been reduced by half, from 60 seconds per pick/ban to 30. If the change in format was meant to induce strategic diversity, this change reduces it just as much. It will hopefully be changed before the season starts; otherwise, panic picks are more likely and coaching staff's plans can be thrown to the wayside very easily if a particularly off-meta or otherwise unusual pick shows up in a draft.

However, it is important to note that overall, the new system makes much more sense in LoL's current competitive ecosystem than implementing Dota 2's system would. Dota's system is meant to compensate for an asymmetrical map and a relative dearth of absolutely necessary powerpicks, neither of which LoL has to deal with.

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a News Editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

Riot to hold international tournament in July

by 12h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games

Riot Games will host an international League of Legends tournament in July, separate from the Mid-Season Invitational and Worlds, according to sections of a Chinese press conference translated by Yahoo Esports' Kelsey Moster.

According to the translation, Riot employee Ye Qiang said that instead of shortening the spring split in order to allow for more international competition, Riot will be hosting an international event in July, which would put it in the middle of the summer split.

“We are still considering what kind of event would be the most interesting for everyone," Qiang said. "For example, can we do a World Cup-type tournament? We hope LoL events can be more diversified, can satisfy our audience, and can give everyone a better player experience, so this is what we will target for the event this year in July. Wait and see.”

The exact format of this tournament is unknown, as is the specific location, date and even how participants will be selected. While the conference was held in China, there is no clear indication that the tournament will be held in Asia.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Riot Games and Big Ten Network partner for new conference LoL championship

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games

Riot Games and the Big Ten Network are set to announce a partnership for a new season-long collegiate League of Legends championship, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.

The championship will feature 12 of the 14 conference schools competing in the championship, the exceptions being Nebraska and Penn State, and is set to begin on Jan. 30. Divided into two divisions named BTN East and West, teams will play in a best-of-three round robin against division opponents, with the top four moving on to a single elimination playoff bracket. The finals will take place on March 27 and will be televised by the BTN.

The winner of the BTN league will subsequently go on to compete in the LoL Collegiate Championship. For BTN, this league will hopefully allow them to reach an audience who they have not connected with before.

"As a content provider, we have obviously seen the popularity in esports grow," Erin Harvego, BTN's vice president of marketing, told ESPN. "Given the demographic that watches, perhaps this could reach a younger viewer who we haven't reached before."

This is not the first time that Riot and BTN have partnered for an event. Last April, BTN and Riot worked together to create the BTN Invitational, a best-of-five series between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports whose journalism idol is Dino Ghiranze. You can follow him on Twitter.

Fantasy LCS: 5 Dark Horse players to draft

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Jose Silva / theScore esports

With Fantasy LCS descending upon us very, very soon, we at theScore esports have taken it upon ourselves to indulge you in what may be your breakout pick of the fantasy season. These picks are generally high risk picks with the possibility of an even higher reward. If you miss out on Bjergsen or Reignover (very likely if you're down in the draft order), you might want to keep an eye out on one of these picks. Who knows, you may strike gold and outperform the top picks of your draft....or take to Twitter to call me an idiot.

As I stressed in my previous articles, EU picks are underwhelming in the "Best Two Games" format due to the league's new format that will see some teams only compete in two games per week.

Top Lane

NA Dark Horse: Samson ”Lourlo” Jackson, Team Liquid

Steady growth is the name of the game for Lourlo. The end of summer saw him expand his champion pool and become a more reliable top laner for Team Liquid. If Lourlo can continue his growth, that, combined with the jungle pressure of Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin, could be the perfect combination to make him a top tier top laner.

EU Dark Horse: Barney “Alphari” Morris, Misfits

We simply don't know how Misfits will perform in their group, but we do know that the top lane talent in that group is fairly exploitable for the likes of Alphari. A rookie entering his first LCS split, his active laning and the support of Lee "KaKAO" Byung-kwon will likely put him as the top of the top laners in his group.


NA Dark Horse: Lee “Chaser” Sang-Hyun, Dignitas

Chaser's career trajectory would rival the greatest of rollercoasters. From being one of the best junglers across 2015 and a superstar on Jin Air, Chaser was subsequently part of a Longzhu superteam that did not come close to living up to expectations. Benched for upcoming aggressive talent Lee "Crash" Dong-woo, Chaser did not perform well in 2016. In a revitalized Dignitas lineup, Chaser is the catalyst for the lineup's early game and a key factor in the performance of his aggressive sidelanes. Look for Chaser to rack up assists and/or die trying.

EU Dark Horse: Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir, Unicorns of Love

When you think of "dark horses", maybe a unicorn isn't your first thought. But, newcomer Xerxe has been hyped up by peers and enemies alike, with his entry into the jungle being a true X-factor in determining just how good the Unicorns of Love will be. If you think love prevails, you might want to pick up the jungle prodigy just to see how far he can go under the guidance of his incredibly experienced peers.

Mid Laner

NA Dark Horse: Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook, Phoenix1

Nothing says under the radar like having a Worlds semifinalist moving to a historically poor NA LCS team and people not making a bigger deal about it. Alas, Ryu and his stats can tell the whole story. Constantly in the upper echelon in the EU LCS, he benefited from Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski's aggressive jungling style. Rami "Inori" Charagh will provide similar coverage on this team, potentially leaving Ryu in familiar territory to rack up points in the mid lane.

EU Dark Horse: Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, H2k-Gaming

There's no denying Febiven's talent. I mean, did you see him solo-kill Faker? Memes aside, Febiven is coming onto a revitalization after a disappointing 2016. His presence in H2K, matched with a new self-sufficient bot lane should see the first blood king come back to form as the playmaker he was known to be in Season 5.

AD carry

NA Dark Horse: Benjamin “LOD” deMunck, Dignitas

Seventy-three KDA in the first week, a top three KDA in his position by the end of the split, and an absurdly low 13.2 percent of his team's death. You wouldn't know it if I just said the stats, but this was LOD on a team that barely squeaked into playoffs, not Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng. With the support of the new Dignitas lineup, it's likely that he can ascend to new heights and cement himself as one of the region's best AD carries.

EU Dark Horse: Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi, Team Vitality

Steeelback is moving to a team with an undeniably higher ceiling, and communicating with his Vitality teammates will be a lot as the team fields a number of French-speaking players. His rapport with veteran support Ha "Hachani" Seung-chan will be important in establishing a solid presence in the bottom lane, and could be the catalyst in padding his already stellar statistics.


NA Dark Horse: Matthew “Matt” Elento, Team Liquid

Team Liquid look poised to have a solid bot lane and jungle synergy with their two imports operating in both these positions. Matt will serve to benefit as well, being a natural playmaker on champions like Bard and Thresh. He has the chance to rack up an incredible amount of assists as a result. He may also cut down on his deaths in a better team environment with better synergy.

EU Dark Horse: Lee “IgNar“ Dong-geun, Misfits

IgNar may be new to the EU LCS, but his talent on other teams have not been questioned. He has played in the top level of North America and Korea, and will be the anchor to rookie AD carry Steven "Hans Sama" Liv. His experience may be underrated and as a result could be a solid pickup in the support position, able to rival the top tier supports in needed statistics.

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a News Editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

Scripting site shuts down after settlement with Riot Games

by 6d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

After a six-month court case, the hackers behind scripting service LeagueSharp have ceased operations after reaching a settlement with Riot, according to a post on their now-defunct website.

"As some of you may know, Riot Games has filed a lawsuit against LeagueSharp and has made it clear to us that LeagueSharp violates their Terms of Use. As a result of our lawsuit with Riot, we have agreed to cease development and support for LeagueSharp and any other tools related to Riot Games. You also should be aware that using third-party tools in League of Legends may result in the suspension or banning of your account by Riot Games. We apologize for any pain we've caused to players of League of Legends."

Riot originally filed a complaint, which was obtained by Rift Herald, against the five people behind the service on Aug. 5, citing breaches to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and facilitating the means by which thousands of players violated LoL's Terms of Use.

They also accused the defendants of leaking personal information about a Riot employee who they threatened and harassed on social media after Riot reached out to them to try and settle the matter out of court.

"[The] defendants or those working in concert with them disseminated personal and non-public information about a Riot employee, threatened that employee, and posted offensive comments on the employee’s social media," the complaint said.

According to the complaint, the five defendants operated through a Peruvian shell company which held the copyright to their scripting software in hopes that it would protect them from legal ramifications.

"Additionally, knowing that this lawsuit was imminent, Defendants have been quickly and carefully destroying or concealing evidence such as their most incriminating online posts and purporting to hide behind a Peruvian shell corporation created solely for the purpose of evading liability," it said.

With the settlement, the average LoL player can expect encountering a few less unwinnable battles in Solo Q as well as some balance restored to the Summoner's Code.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter, it'll be great for his self-esteem.

Sandbox mode details released
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

Riot Games have released a blog post with more details about the long-awaited sandbox mode that's coming to the Summoners' Rift.

According to the post, commands included in the practice tool for its first iteration include auto-refresh cooldowns, health and mana, respawning the jungle and Dragons, creating dummies and disabling turrets among others.

While Riot has yet to give a release date for the tool, the post states that they will be trying to implement a "bare-bones version" of it early in the patch cycle. However, they will continue working on improvements to the practice tool over time.

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