Drafters internationally have been hit by a severe case of flex fevah. A few picks seem to work seamlessly in multiple roles, but today teams played Corki in four games as an AD carry with zero wins. I'm not saying Corki can't play AD carry or that that's why teams lost their games, but a few moments of Corki confusion definitely came through in today's matches. Understanding why I prefer it mid may illuminate some of the Corki conundrums.
2016 Spring Corki win rates by role and major region
|Role||EU LCS||NA LCS||LCK||LPL||LMS|
Data from eSportspedia
Obviously the sample size isn't very steep. Corki has been played the most in the European LCS (ten games, all AD carry), only once in North America (Immortals played Corki AD carry against Team Impulse), nine times in the LCK (four mid lane games and six AD carry games), four times in the LPL (two games by Masters3 mid lane, and twice AD carry) and five times in the LMS. It's worth noting that, in the six games it has been played mid in the LPL and LCK, Corki has yet to lose a game.
As Corki deals primarily magic damage, one of the challenges in running him as an AD carry comes in balancing damage output. Corki also does a considerable amount of his damage as burst damage, meaning sources of sustained output become more valuable for taking down turrets or longer fights. These can be found in mid lane, top lane, or jungle positions, which means that it isn't as limiting as it could have been in the past. Unicorns of Love tried to compensate with an Ezreal mid, Splyce selected a Lich Bane Twisted Fate and H2K drafted Fiora in the top lane.
Damage distribution from EU LCS Week 2 Day 1 AD carry Corkis
The biggest reason I like Corki mid is that there are also higher priority AD carry picks. The versatility of Lucian, Miss Fortune, Kalista or even Tristana as AD carries can make them higher priority picks in that role, making it more attractive to put Corki mid. The question then becomes why draft Corki at all?
Corki provides a large quantity of benefits including wave clear, massive burst, the ability to deal both magic and physical damage on an auto attack, scaling only from AD for a combined total of 110% scaling, high mobility — and poke. Poke seems to be the largest challenge in execution for today's matches.
Several of today's Corki games saw AD carries diving into fights before utilizing the strength of Corki's burst and poke. Right now, a lot of mid laners, even Leblanc, have been put on mid lane hold and wave clear duty. Corki can clear waves out fairly well and counter-siege with Phosophorous Bomb and even the longer range on Gatling Gun. 3v0 lane swaps mean turrets drop within the first five minutes, it's beneficial to have a champion with these abilities sit in the mid lane to hold against the "ARAM phase" after outer Tier 1s fall.
Movement Speed bonus and area of effect control from Special Delivery also becomes even more potent in the shorter lane. Corki can start bullying opponents early with a proactive jungler on red side, especially with the solo lane farm to get him the levels he needs to scale up the base damage increases on his abilities.
Today's Corkis either misused compositions or didn't use the poke to full effect. Giants' game against Gamers 2 featured Adrián "Adryh" Perez using Valkyrie too aggressively in fog of war and getting picked off. Giants also wanted to use the lockdown from Lissandra, followed up by Corki burst to eliminate targets, but as the game progressed, this became more difficult for Corki and Ahri, as every member of G2 built a magic resist item.
The Unicorns of Love composition had an entirely different story. They drafted a stronger composition with Ezreal and Corki. I favor Corki in the mid lane over Ezreal for reasons mentioned earlier, but even with that stipulation, this was a strong composition from UoL; they simply didn't seem to execute it well. The composition didn't have sufficient lockdown for Pierre "Steeelback" Medjaldi to Valkyrie in and burst a target, but they didn't need it if Ezreal and Corki played to their strengths to kite fights around Trundle's zoning and poke before using burst. Instead, Steeelback didn't seem to do much of anything, resulting in the least damage dealt by any Corki today.
Splyce had impressive wave clear and the ability to answer lane pushes with Corki and Twisted Fate, but they just... didn't, allowing Vitality to acquire turrets for free and get the run-around. Using Corki as more of a control point in this game with Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup holding and deterring the initial push could have gone a long way if Chres "Sencux" Laursen had used his Twisted Fate as more of a split-pusher. Vitality avoided entering a team fight with a beefy Tahm Kench, but smarter map play from Splyce could have gotten them a lot more turret kills than the three with which they ended the game. They had the right resources.
In the case of H2K and the team that probably shouldn't have team fought, they started their game with a pace similar to that of Vitality's against Splyce. They rotated around the map, clearing with Corki, using the pick threat of Morgana and Elise to lay out vision, and split-pushing with Fiora. Lulu provided the added bonus of additional poke and wave clear to keep lanes pushed out and keep Fnatic from invading to set up a choke for a team fight. This worked great until H2K all funneled into river and opted into a fight Fnatic wanted.
H2K had a good turn later and collapse on Baron where Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou-Napoleon secured a triple kill, but Fnatic had been worn down by Baron and lost a fight they would have won under other circumstances. Knowing Fnatic have a superior team fighting composition, H2K Gaming then set up for a fight in the purple side red buff area when Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu could have continued to split and forced backs from Fnatic to peel them off the Baron. A more scattered Fnatic would have lent itself better to catches from Elise and Morgana and burst or poke from Corki, as was peculiar to H2K Gaming's composition.
With the exception of Giants' draft, most of the AD carry Corki compositions today had win conditions and at least made sense, even if I do prefer mid lane Corki. Most of the error came in execution. If one doesn't understand how to execute a pick, it probably shouldn't come into play.
Corki kept coming up in the AD carry role because Corki can function as both a mid laner and AD carry, and flex picks have dominated drafts of late. Early picking Corki can sometimes result in a hidden intent. The problem comes when one realizes Corki's niche. Even if he gets a strong lane matchup, if the opposing team drafts engage and wave clear, they can stall out a Corki composition — especially one not executed well — and use hard engage to snag Corki. Since many other AD carry picks have superior team fighting (like Kalista, which was played opposite Corki in all four games), simply picking a better team fight composition with wave clear and dive can be enough of a solution for an enemy team when Corki appears in first or second rotation.
Many other mistakes occurred in today's games beyond Corki execution, but Corkis out of place were a common trend. If European teams want to team fight after 30 or 40 minutes, they should consider drafting Corki in the mid lane and leaving space open for a different AD carry in the bottom lane. Teams can still draft AD carry Corki, of course, but drafting one and designing a composition won't be sufficient. It's important to also know how to execute your flex pick in both the roles in which it can potentially be played — or it's not actually a flex pick.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. She has to find something to complain about now that Sivir has fallen from grace. You can follow her on Twitter anyway.