EU LCS Roundup: Much ado about teamplay

by theScore Staff Jul 17 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Robert Paul / The Score eSports

I didn't enjoy the games today. That doesn't mean European teams are bad. That doesn't mean I don't like watching the European LCS and its players. It's a problem I've been having with spectating competitive matches this summer. I don't enjoy the current meta game.

I like Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games because they feature elements of both team play and individual mechanical skill. League of Legends in particular always seems to have a nice blend of both. The strategic element isn't too complicated that a solid carry cannot run away with the game, and a strong carry doesn't totally eclipse team play. Individual mechanical skill caps are low enough that team play eventually becomes paramount.

This season has gone too far in the teamplay aspect without making teamplay diverse enough to make it fun to watch. Most games revolve around either setting up for five dragons or setting up side pushes to secure Baron. The Teleport meta means it's even difficult to feel extremely rewarded for snowballing top lane well.

Tanks have also taken over to an alarming extent. I've previously mentioned the anti-burst potential of Shen, there's been a recent fascination with Nautilus top, and Ekko is no longer a good top lane pick. Even recent hard carry selections like AD Jarvan IV aren't extremely complicated mechanically. Most have to contend with Rumble as the most mechanically complex pick available, unless you count the timing on Shen's ultimate, but that's also an inherent aspect of teamplay.

The reward for having a strong carry player like FORG1VEN or PowerofEvil on one's team is marginal, given that mid laners more often than not are designed to hold lanes or drop area of effect in choke points that enemy teams probably shouldn't wander into anyway.

The must-ban AD Carry of every game is Sivir because she's absolutely the most powerful, and even if she does strong damage, she's mainly valued because she has the best utility. Most AD Carries just get demolished by the aforementioned tank top laners.

Ideally, the best approach would be to take Ignite on the top laner and send the jungler to gank top repeatedly. If the top laner got enough kills, he could truly have a strong impact on the game as an individual. Unfortunately, the pull of Baron is too powerful, and the amount of snowball necessary to counteract the comeback mechanic of split-pushing top laners and Teleport when Baron is in play is too large and too risky to make it viable.

So if none of the carry roles are as individually important or complicated as in previous seasons complicated, how do teams win? Usually in minion control and turret pushing. I'm a huge fan, honestly, but when a top laner just gets smashed by a lane swap farm deficit — as in Copenhagen Wolves vs H2K — and another lane cannot take over to carry, the game is more difficult to enjoy.

By the way, it's a terrible misconception that H2K are good at early lane swaps. They aren't. They struggle with them a lot. They're good at mid to late game split pressure and 1-4 sieging or getting picks.

Teams win by shoving out the bottom lane with top laners, warding Baron pit, and waiting for a non-Teleport-bearer to drift bottom to shove back the wave. This seems to happen invariably to teams facing Fnatic, like in the case of Elements' Tabzz today.

Outside top lane, the strongest picks are jungle and support. Snowballing a jungle champion with Juggernaut enchantment can prove extremely beneficial in this tank-ridden meta game. Champions like Rek'Sai and Gragas get boring outside the fantastic Explosive Cask. Truly, the most mechanically complex role at the moment feels like support — support, also coincidentally, seem to have the largest individual impact through warding. That's why KaSing and YellOwStaR arguably stand out more this year than they ever have. A satisfying Alistar combo or Janna Monsoon is more or less all I live for.

The ideal way to play would be to snowball top and jungle ahead with their tanky builds and then snag down squishy scaling carries. Follow up by sending supports to roam for vision.

Properly snowballed tanks cannot be stopped by the burst of AP champions. So many teams in Korea and China have higher gold distributions sent toward top laners. The mid lanes that work best are good at clearing waves and holding lanes, like Varus and Viktor. This will keep the enemy mid detained and allow for dragon control while the jungler is top.

Since there isn't much benefit from taking early dragons anyway, there's literally no incentive to not have both junglers ganking for their top laners early on. Perhaps the best way then to counter-act that is to lane swap, but because of the power of wave clear to fast push against better scaling AD Carry picks, this inevitably forces the taking of the tower.

Few teams have been successful enough in keeping the enemy top laner from getting farm after his tower is taken, though it can definitely be done. The team to execute that best — typically the team that groups and dives — seems to have the best chance of winning.

The few rays of hope I have remaining are a few stray picks. Ideally, buffed Runeglaive and Liandry's make picks like Nidalee and Elise more attractive, and I hope we see more of them. The advent of Elise might make more assassination and pick style champions like Ahri or Twitch popular again. A breath of fresh air injected into the game!

But then if you pick Ahri and Twitch, how do you stall a game? How do you make a comeback? Where is the wave clear? Gambit found out the hard way that the answer is "nowhere" when they attempted to stall out against Unicorns of Love with only a Gangplank ultimate to prolong the inevitable.

Runeglaive should also make Diana more popular. Picks like Orianna actually work with Runeglaive — though I'm not sold on the Nashor's Tooth pickup — but so do champions like Diana. Unfortunately, it's hard to justify picking a melee assassin when the enemy team picks up so much poke with Nidalee and Jayce or Varus that finding the correct engagement becomes difficult.

Then, of course, we've seen more Kog'Maw this weekend. Kalista nerfs and Shen have made getting big tank chunkers through laning phase a more feasible option. Kog'Maw takes actual skill to play. It would be nice to see more of him. It's just hard to justify him as the star of any show when he can still get popped in an instant by a Maokai lockdown and a Viktor ultimate.

It isn't just Europe, and just because I find the current meta unsatisfying doesn't mean you have to. A lot of people like team play, and as I said before, I do too — I just would like to see an increase in team play options if I see a decrease in the amount of high mechanical skill cap champions played.

At the moment, some of the Runeglaive buffs and AP item changes have put us on the cusp of fixing some of these problems. The next patch, perhaps the World Championship patch, will be crucial in determining the direction of travel and how rewarding this year's Playoffs, Regionals, and European tour will feel overall.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You may have noticed she didn't particularly enjoy today's games, but you can follow her on Twitter anyway.