Acid Reign: 3 reasons why the west should adopt Kog'Maw

by Michael "Veteran" Archer Aug 19 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

A great power has risen in the east. Precipitated by his increased play in spring as part of the Juggermaw and AP mid compositions, Kog’Maw has seen a renewed and increased playrate this split as we enter the post-Sivir meta. Predominantly favoured by an increasingly bot-centric LGD, Kog’Maw was an instrumental part of the Chinese first seed’s breathtaking demolition of EDG in a 3-0 sweep. EDG itself (main carry: Deft) has also picked up Kog’Maw lately with showings in the Demacia Cup against OMG and WE.

So what of his status in the west? The most prevalent picker of the void puppy in the LCS is arguably the most eastern, Team Impulse. AD Carry Apollo used Kog’Maw to sweep Dignitas with a scoreline of 13-3-12 across two games only to drop his next two games on the champion to CLG. Unlike EDG and LGD the crux of Team Impulse’s strengths cannot be said to be in it’s ability to play around the bot lane. ROCCAT dabbled extensively in the void puppy during their one series of the EU LCS quarterfinals but were unable to make it work.

It’s slightly disappointing that more teams haven’t picked him up. Most recently, H2K were in a perfect position to pick Kog’Maw and are a team that plays around Hjarnan very well. Hjarnan himself became one of the most impactful teamfighting AD carries this split with the highest percentage of his team’s damage dealt to champions across the entire AD role at 29.7%. Despite this he was relegated to Jinx in a perfect Kog’Maw situation. We’ll explore the situation in question later.

Maybe the west doesn’t acknowledge the strengths of Kog’Maw or maybe there aren’t enough western teams confident in the carry potential of their ADC. Either way, here are the top four reasons that Kog’Maw should be seeing more play.

The Post-Sivir Meta

Sivir has been a staple of season five since close to the start. Initially used in the east for her immense early tower pushing potential through buffing her team’s rotational play (an auto attack reset on her Ricochet didn’t hurt either) she would become a key skirmishing tool for western teams for her ability to buff all-ins. Eventually Sivir was recognised to fit everywhere. Poke composition? Sivir could reposition them into a favourable setting if need be (the Fnatic special). Want to support a low mobility hypercarry in the mid lane? Sivir can keep them safe. Need to dive the backline? Sivir can help with that. Sivir was an all-prevailing utility AD Carry in a time where traditional carries (Lucian, Graves etc) were shoved out of the metagame by Cinderhulk.

That has changed. The rise of control mages mid and their ability to control the terrain of teamfights (Azir, Viktor) has led to the resurgence of Sivir’s in-lane counters such as Vayne and post-six Corki. Corki’s re-introduction into the meta was also boosted by the increased priority of early drakes, with compositions prioritizing a low-econ mid game spiking top such as Rumble with their Corki to ensure early control of the neutral objectives. Corki surpassed Vayne as a skirmishing tool for this reason and doubled up for sieging. Kog’Maw serves as both a lane counter to Sivir and a lane counter to Corki, holding the same primary function as the latter but with better in-lane trading and a stronger mid game Trinity Force power spike despite his identity as an incredible late game scaler.

The introduction of this post-Sivir meta has also led to a prevalence in siege compositions. Viktor, Azir and Orianna lend their teams’ brilliant zone control and with it a great buffer zone for Kog’Maw to siege en masse and maintain range in fights. Gragas and Rek’Sai are still heavily prioritized with Gragas offering an AOE disengage (effective for resetting unfavourable fights/flanks) on top of his zone control and peel potential, and Rek’Sai delivering poke alongside the addition of Tremor Sense - a unique passive Kog’Maw can take advantage of with his Living Artillery. The return of Elise/Lee Sin to the fore is of no worry to the beast. The former is a great addition to siege with her Cocoon offering free Living Artillery strikes while Lee Sin turns into a perfect bodyguard late game with his Safeguard/Dragon’s Rage.

One key champion to come out of this is Lulu. As Janna became more and more contested for her synergy with Sivir and AOE disengage, the old Lulu-Janna combination returned. The necessity to dive the backline for a champion like Kalista, her disengage potential in general and safe laning phase against the majority of meta matchups has led to Lulu finding herself first rotated by teams that like to play around their bot lane. In optimal situations she can buffer a Jinx or a Kog’Maw and provide effective disengages from flanks with polymorph/whimsy and peel. Her ultimate Wild Growth provides an effective disengage against bursty dive champions.

Flexibility in Every Sense

A team first picking Lulu is automatically setting themselves up to win teamfights. They can buffer a Yasuo/Kog’Maw combination in the vein of the old Samsung White for example - a combination LGD recently put into play (albeit without the Lulu) and defeated EDG with. Lulu herself immediately opens up for a potential Juggermaw as Team Liquid attempted to put into practice in Game 1 of their NA LCS semifinal series against Team SoloMid. Unfortunately a key component of this composition, the Wild Growth, was seemingly utilized on everybody but the Kog’Maw so there’s still some practice to be done.

Kog’Maw as a front line threat in the Juggermaw, as part of a protect/peel (Protect the Doublelift!) composition with champions like Gragas/Alistar, or as an effective part of a siege composition with a control mage mid and Braum (one of the best blind picks of the meta) are all possibilities. Kog’Maw is a flexible and adaptable champion that does not immediately give away your intentions in the draft phase. Should a matchup like Corki be first rotated against you, as it was in Game 4 of H2K Gaming vs. Origen, you can safely pick Kog’Maw without revealing too much of your overall strategy.

Lets look at where the draft phase was. A Lulu/Kog’Maw rotation against Fizz/Corki would instantly deny both Fizz and Corki safety in the game. Lulu is a great denial against Fizz’s all-in with her Wild Growth and polymorph, and a Riven pick later on (something Odoamne has practised) would prevent Fizz having a safe option in the top lane. The resulting composition gives us Riven/Lee Sin/Lulu/Kog’Maw/Thresh.

Given the Lulu ban, Orianna was another wholly justifable pick and within Ryu’s repertoire. it would give Fizz an equally difficult time in lane and buff Kog’Maw in much the same way, only leaving out the option for Juggermaw. Origen’s picks of Elise/Braum in their second rotation may have changed, but Orianna/Kog’Maw and a later Riven would have placed H2K in a far better position than the resulting Yasuo/Jinx composition did. Additionally, Origen’s optimal response would have been far less telegraphed.

Kog’Maw can also be flexed in the draft phase. AP Kog’Maw mid is still relevant in the current meta. It has a solid farm lane against both Viktor and Azir and is possibly the last meta mid laner that can outscale the Viktor. As an effective part of a siege composition you can blind pick him without worries and flex him if need be. For this very reason I believe in Kog’Maw as an optimal second rotation blue side flex. This is especially useful for North American teams where Kog’Maw mid is still prevalent. This article primarily focuses on Kog’maw’s use as an ADC so we won’t expand too much further on this aspect.

The Last Hypercarry That Matters

So everything above is labelling how Kog’Maw can be used. None of it properly addresses why he should be used. Kog’Maw is the last remaining untouched hypercarry in League of Legends. While Jinx and Kalista have received nerfs to their hypercarry potential, Kog’Maw has been allowed to reign supreme. Vayne herself has not been touched all season - in fact the itemization changes were in her favour - but is ultimately out of place in a meta developed around the prevalence of zone control.

As a result Kog’Maw is the go-to tank killer. Given Maokai/Gnar’s continued top lane standing and tanky supports like Braum/Alistar as a priority, Kog’Maw finds himself in a brilliant position to counter the meta. He can accept the commonplace zone control and still function. In fights around neutral objectives he becomes the king AD Carry with enough peel and protection afforded to him. He can contest early dragons with his Trinity Force power spike. With an advantage he can buff a siege beautifully. It’s not that difficult to give him skirmishing potential with aforementioned picks of Lulu/Janna/Gragas/Braum/Alistar and others.

Kog’Maw, as an AD Carry, currently holds the highest damage share of all ADCs at 33.9%, the only damage percentage in the top ten. He is second only to Ezreal for DPM (damage per minute) at 626 to Ezreal’s 638 - likely due to Ezreal’s more reliable poke and the unlikelihood Ezreal is picked against tanky teams or teams where he can’t snowball. As an AP mid the Void Puppy is second only to Xerath (25 games of Kog’Maw to Xerath’s four) in damage share and first overall in DPM. If you’re looking for your flexible meta damage dealer then look no further.

Kog’Maw is also one of the last proprietors of truly mixed damage. His Bio-Arcane Barrage deals it’s additional percentage health as magic damage and Caustic Spittle lowers both armor and magic resist, making him a potent buff to your team’s overall magic damage output when paired with champions like Ryze. This also prevents similar situations to the aforementioned Yasuo/Jinx composition, where a theoretically late game scaling team found themselves peaked out in the mid game due to enemy itemization.

Dawn of the Acid Reign

With Living Artillery and Void Ooze, your brand new adopted void puppy will be delivering acid death on your opponents for patches to come. Treated properly with care and attention and fed appropriately, your AD Carry is just a little guidance/peel away from making you proud. Don’t let Kog’Maw’s looks fool you. He’s here to help.

For teams in the west that are capable of running double threat, or those just looking to build further around their AD Carry, there’s a champion here for you to add to your repertoire. Teams like Origen, H2K and Fnatic immediately spring to mind from our top four. Gauntlet teams like ROCCAT have already seen the potential in Kog’Maw too, however they were unable to play effectively around it in any of their games. Over in NA CLG, Team Liquid (with a bit of practice) and maybe even TSM are primed to go all in on the new hypercarry king.

One thing I will say. An effective Kog’Maw requires a degree of coordination. He’s not your Forg1ven-style 1v5 or 1v9 champion. He needs peel. He needs protection. He needs to be fed. But do these things and you have a very strong threat on your team. He is perfect with the meta and in compositions against the meta. In the here and now I struggle not to call him perfect. Adopt a void puppy today.

Michael “Veteran” Archer is an EU writer, consultant and former coach/analyst. He was going to adopt a puppy once but instead stayed inside and played children’s video games. You can follow him on Twitter.