When it comes to drafting, no one does it quite like C9’s new coach LS. For years LS has watched teams in dismay as they lose to their own drafts in high pressure games. When LS joined C9, there were two camps of people excited to watch LS’ new strategies come to life. There were those who wanted to see how he would implement his theory, and there are those expecting him to fail.
But what is LS’ draft strategy? Why does it differ so much from the rest of the competition?
In the most basic terms, LS wants to play Magic: The Gathering during his League of Legends drafts. Maybe that isn’t as basic as it sounds. Let’s break down what exactly that means to those who don’t play MTG.
How Magic Relates to League
Magic: The Gathering is a game about colors. Each card in the game is assigned a color, and their traits are typically based on that color. All five colors have unique characteristics that fit only that color. The identity of each color is important to how decks are built and how games are played. For example, blue cards are usually slower but more powerful as the game lingers. Red cards are fast, aggressive and often threatens to win early on in the game.
In order to theory craft compositions and draft strategies, LS assigns each champion in League of Legends a color pairing. Integrating the theory of deck-building into the draft process allows LS and his team to go into a draft with a sure game plan with several different versions of the same plan. As an example, LS and Cloud9 could go into a game looking to build a late-game, “blue-based” team and draft several different types of blue champions that would fit into the composition. Some of those champions may be banned in the process, but it doesn’t matter too much. C9 can now easily queue up a similar blue champion and still implement the strategy to success.
Pairing champions with colors also allows a team to adjust the team composition based on what the opponent is drafting. In theory a draft could start with aggressive red champions, but end up something closer to a red-green or even a red-green-blue composition. Of course, the following picks should share some color in some way for it all to mesh together into one cohesive unit.
Now that that’s covered, it’s time to look at what these colors do.
White champions are the most flexible champions in the game. A champion aligned with white has the opportunity to adjust their playstyle based on the state of the team. Sometimes these characters can have two modes that vary differently based on what the composition is, and what benefits the team the most. White champions are sort of “team players” in that regard.
Though it is important to note that white champions often lock into one of their modes before the game starts, and don’t often adjust once the game gets going. Their strength comes from the versatility of their champion-choices during the draft.
LS loves to use the example of Gragas in terms of describing white characters. Gragas can play in several different spots in the game, pursue several different build paths and ultimately adjust his own style of play based on what the composition is around him. However once Gragas is deemed a “tank” or a “ap carry” as the draft completes, there isn’t going back .
Example: Gragas, J4, Hecarim
Blue champions are the most stereotypical “late game” champions in League of Legends. Champions that are blue want to control the game their way. They don’t want the opponent to interact, and actually prefer to be reactive rather than proactive. These blue champions want to manage the game in a way that allows them to control the pace of the game. If blue champions had their way, they would want the game to turn into a 40 minute farm-fest.
These blue champions love to scale, and their power comes from the inevitability of their scaling. It is almost impossible to beat a blue-centric team composition in the late game because they have more than likely exhausted all of the resources of the opponent. Blue teams want to simply “not lose” the game. Blue can struggle early on in games, and the key will always be mitigating the damage the opponent can do before 15 minutes.
Examples: Ryze, Jinx
Red Champions are, at their core, aggressively oriented characters. These champions appear to have a linear playstyle that favors action over inaction. Red champions want to be doing something, in order to put pressure onto the opposing team. Whether it be aggressively trading in lane, finding picks and netting kills, red champions often lean towards damage as their main focus. Using damage as a power point forces the enemy team to adapt their own playstyle, oftentimes forcing their hand to play in a way that is suboptimal for their chosen composition.
Red champions are linear in their playstyle, but it is important to know their secondary color to truly understand the full power of a seemingly simple champion. A champion can be red and blue, meaning their playstyle is linear and aggressive, but has the opportunity to serve as a controlling presence later in the game. Or a red champion can share some green traits, where their aggression is used to enhance the champions around them. Those red/green champions might not be able to win games on their own, and could fit in a larger theme that isn’t necessarily all about aggression.
Examples: Lee Sin, Olaf, Aatrox, Thresh, Leblanc
Black is one of the more interesting colors in League of Legends, as it isn’t easily identifiable. More often than not, champions are one color, featuring some black traits. Overall black champions warp the game in such a way that the champion has to meet a certain condition in order to find success. Black champions usually have to trade off something in order to truly excel in another avenue. Champions that usually have restrictions or small side quests are typically black.
Black is also more likely to be a secondary color on any given champion. For example a champion can be blue, but have some sort of criteria they need to meet in order to provide value, giving them some black traits. The same goes with any red champion that needs to attack from a different angle as a trade off from traditional red champions.
Examples: Draven, Kindred, Karthus
Finally green champions are, by and large, the supporters in League of Legends. Most enchanters are green as they shine when they are enabling others. These green champs don’t often win by themselves, but they win by granting allies buffs and empowering the team. Green champions also have a unique trait in that they excel once certain items are hit. Supports often only need a single mythic item to reach their full potential.
Other green champions find success with components of items that allow them to ramp up quicker than the opponents. However often times green can stumble a bit towards longer games as opponents catch up to their early power spikes.
Examples: Yuumi, Sona, Vladimir
Featured image courtesy of Riot Games
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