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.

Former Tainted Minds coach alleges team was mistreated by org, players reportedly in contract dispute

by 16h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Tainted Minds

Former Tainted Minds coach Nick "Inero" Smith has alleged that the organization severely mistreated some of its League of Legends players, telling PVP Live's James "Obscurica" Chen that it attempted to bar them from leaving the org.

According to Inero, the team house was often without power over a period of two months. Other complaints included bad computers that crashed too often to play on, a lack of air conditioning and mold growth in the house.

Inero told PVP Live that the team missed two weeks of scrims because of the computer issues. The team then allegedly contacted a lawyer to legally terminate their contacts, before reportedly being told by Tainted Minds on Feb. 17 that they were still under contract to the org.

A representative for Jessep Entertainment and Sports Lawyers confirmed for theScore esports that the firm is representing a group of players in a contract dispute against Tainted Minds, but was unable to provide further clarification on the specific players involved and the nature of the dispute.

Inero told PVP Live the players' lawyer has told them that their contracts are legally terminated, and that they are "are not bound to represent Tainted Minds any further." However, all players who have played for Tainted Minds this split are still listed as being signed to Tainted Minds on Riot's Global Contract Database.

While PVP Live's report does not specify which players are in the dispute with Tainted Minds, Ryan "ShorterACE" Nget, Aaron "ChuChuZ" Bland, Tristan "Cake" Côté-Lalumière and Andrew "Rosey" Rose did not play in any of Tainted Minds 2017 OPL Split 1 Week 5 games.

Inero told PVP Live that on Feb. 18, Tainted Minds had 13 players signed to the org on the database, despite Riot's official rules stating that teams can only have 10 players signed to the roster.

Inero also claims that after the players' lawyer contacted Riot Oceania's head of esports with regards to Tainted Minds' alleged breaches of contract, Riot updated the Global Contract Database to put Tainted Minds in the right.

The database currently only lists 10 players on Tainted Minds, and states it was last updated on Feb 19th. Inero told PVP Live that this is a sign that Riot is covering up for Tainted Minds, as he claims to have a screenshot of the database from Feb. 20 that says it was last updated on Feb. 16.

Tainted Minds has yet to make a public statement on the matter.

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

Mid Season Tanks Update - Maokai 20h ago

After Sejuani's changes were discussed in a previous post, Maokai has been announced as the next tank rework slated for the Rift. Game Designer Beluga Whale took to the forums to discuss the incoming changes:

"Why hello there. It's time to turn over a new leaf for Maokai, the next champion in our Tank Update! We choose Maokai for a slot in this update because we felt that there was a great opportunity to push this champion as a whole into a really good state. With fairly modern visuals and an updated lore courtesy of the Harrowing, there were only a few major flaws remaining."

Click here for the full article via

Patch 7.4 notes | League of Legends 20h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

The latest League of Legends patch is bringing nerfs to a handful of very strong champions, as well as a big change to catch-up experience.

Maokai and Corki are getting nerfs, with a severe reduction to Corki's missile damage, and Maokai's laning phase getting harder. Additionally, Jhin's ultimate slows less. Aside from that, it'll be easier for under-levelled players to catch up to their team thanks to bonus experience that will kick in when you are below your team's average level, up to four levels behind.

Click here for the full article via

Watch: How to Build and Play Caitlyn

theScore esports Staff 1d ago

Caitlyn, the Sheriff of Piltover.

This champion is an ever-present pick in solo queue, useful for her long range and high carry potential. Here's a basic guide on how to get started with her.

For more video interviews and highlights, be sure to subscribe to theScore esports on YouTube.

LCS owners and CEOs participate in charity poker tournament to raise nearly $25,000

by 2d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Gabriel Ruiz / 1Up Studios

On Sunday night, 10 NA LCS team executives and one Riot Games representative participated in the Big Bluff charity poker tournament, ending with nearly $25,000 going to the Trevor Project.

The participants included Team SoloMid's Andy "Reginald" Dinh, Cloud9's Jack Etienne, Counter Logic Gaming's George "HotshotGG" Georgallidis and Team EnVyUs' Mike "Hastr0" Rufail, but not even the combined might of the LCS could topple Riot Games, as Riot's esports manager Chris "Chopper" Hopper won the final hand against Team Liquid's Steve Arhancet with a two pair.

Hopper's winnings went to the Trevor Project, which is dedicated to providing suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth, as well as crisis intervention.

"I'm very proud of what we were able to accomplish at last night's Big Bluff Charity Poker Tournament — the first event of its kind," Arhancet said to theScore esports in an emailed statement. "Coordinating with all the teams, our partners at NGE, and putting on such an exciting event for so many great causes really underscores what the esports community is all about. We all look forward to continuing this annual tradition."

In addition to the money sent to the Trevor foundation, over $2,500 raised through community donations during the stream will be going to Sr. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

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

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