Every so often, a wise piece of information comes across all of us in our daily lives. For me, as an avid Twitch stream participant and viewee, I get the pleasure of slowly listening and collecting information as to how the game of League of Legends should be played at the highest levels of competition. From the advice of Doublelift; simply telling his viewer base to get good, to the no-brainer mind of Bjergsen where all you have to do to win is to play perfectly and make no mistakes, these players shape the way the rest of the casual and competitive player base sees the game.
But, there is one mind that encapsulates the way the LCS meta is being played in its current state. A wise sage of a player and Solo Q challenger, XFSN Saber, says the winningest strategy to League of Legends is to simply let your opponent kill themselves on you. He says that players should aim to make plays that have a success rate of 90% or more, and to have a detailed plan for the 10% of the time you attempt to outplay your opponent. A standard, not so ground-breaking way to analyze the game, but effective nonetheless. This theory then relies upon your opponent to make mistakes; essentially, this game plan assumes the user to be the better player and to make fewer mistakes, while equally punishing the opponent’s mistakes.
If we assume that this is the standard game plan throughout the LCS, then it’s to no surprise that one of the first place teams is Team Liquid, seeing as how they are the most talented and disciplined team in the LCS. The surprise comes from seeing how FlyQuest is a top seed after the second week.
The common red-thread of victory comes down to three major tools of competitive League of Legends: pick potential, the strength of the counter-gank, and the value of patience.
Pick potential is all about playmaking, not necessarily outplaying the opponent. In simple terms, “getting a pick” is video game slang for getting a kill with little to no resource expenditure. Essentially, getting a pick is the equivalent to a soccer or hockey power play. The team which initiates a play to ensure a kill is rewarded with time on the map where the numbers advantage is in their favor while the enemy is stuck waiting to respawn. Picks are complicated and hard to find. Meticulous vision control and game knowledge are required in successfully getting picks at the highest level, because as the above theory states, players generally look to play safe and avoid deaths than to seek high variance kill opportunities.
The counter-gank is one of the most powerful tools in the current state of League of Legends, and conveniently a direct counter to the pick gaining strategy. This is because the basic principle of a counter-gank is that the team being engaged upon disengages to a safe distance, and then uses a numbers advantage or a timely assortment of stuns to get a pick, thus granting them a numbers advantage and a fight victory as a result. As strong a move as it is, the counter-gank only works if the team that is engaged upon can fulfill two major requirements. The first is that they must successfully survive the initial gank. Burning a flash or a stopwatch charge are some of the most common ways that squishy targets survive the enemy initiation.
Be Patient, Get Rewarded
Now comes the look at how this all relates to the success of LCS teams. Yes, Team Liquid has an unprecedented amount of talent, and to nobody’s surprise, they are the only undefeated team left in the LCS. But the reason why their victories are so impressive is not because of their ability to heavily outplay and stomp their opponents, something a more naïve and talented team might try to do. Team Liquid, as well as the rest of the LCS for the most part, are practicing high levels of macro-oriented gameplay. The most outplaying spectators will see on a weekly basis is a daring escape act from some of the big names. Ever wonder why faces like Jensen, Bjergsen, and Crown are never on the losing end of a solo kill? Maybe it’s because going all in on an opponent is risky and is considered a high variance play, and a more prime opportunity to gain a lead comes further down the road. Why waste a flash ultimate for a simple solo kill, when you can save both for an important fight around the Infernal Drake. Patience.
Patience is the name of the game right now. Wait for the friendly Kai’sa to get her Stormrazor, wait till Ludens Echo is finished building, or maybe wait for the enemy jungler to be on the opposite side of the map so there’s no chance of a counter gank; just wait a little. Team Liquid and FlyQuest both have adopted the strategy of the wise sage XFNS Saber. They play safe and sound, then when the enemy overextends, and all conditions are on a green light, they strike, take a lead, then win the game with even the smallest of advantages.
Does this mean the strategy is unbeatable? Depends on whose using it, but I can assure spectators that there will eventually be high impact and explosive strategies that can be used to undermine the safety being implemented in the current meta.