The marksman role has had its fair share of criticism in these past few weeks; be it the assassins, the one shot “control” mages or the unkillable front line tanks, a lot of us now see the marksman as a role with little to no influence in the current meta. This has become even more exaggerated with the rise of bot lane Ziggs, threatening the basic attack damage carries as a stalwart of a League of Legends composition.
I want to break through the meme-filled haze and take a real look at the influence that bot lane has in the current state of the game. There’s no doubt that bot lane in general is being prioritised in the draft phase during professional play; I looked at the first week of pick and bans for the LCK followed by EU LCS and found that although Junglers still took a priority in the first rotation, bot lane itself was prioritised in the first three picks by a huge margin compared to other roles.
As a little side note the EU LCS put far more priority on mid lane than LCK (EU midlaners eh?).
There are a few explanations for these figures, all of which hold some merit, so let's look at them individually:
Prioritising bot lane and jungle means you save counter picks for your solo laners until later in the draft.
This is a valid point and certainly could explain why we see bot lane receive a priority when it comes to drafting - there are no absolute dominant forces in the mid and top lane currently and getting the edge with a counter-pick in lane can be vital to a team's strategy.
Prioritising bot lane and jungle means you hold back certain elements of your composition, shielding the true nature of the composition
This is true to a large extent - we are seeing lots of Varus, Ashe and Jhin all of which perform a similar function in a composition so therefore the true variables lie in the Top/Mid laners. To allow good deep vision in the enemy jungle you often want to get the better wave shove in the mid lane which is why we see mid laners often held until later in the draft.
A utility focused bot lane is important right now to allow you to make the first move when looking to “open” the map with a tower dive
This is the explanation I want to take a look at today. Often we see games spiral into one team's favour once their bot lane rotates after successfully taking their Tier 1 - therefore we can arguably make the assumption that there is some importance in the pick strategy for bot lane.
Why is bot lane important?
To put it simply, it’s the easiest place to find the first tower take of the game and taking the first tower of the game sets the pace for most macro strategies. By looking at this you can see why certain picks in the bot lane are appearing and why, at the anguish of every solo queue bot lane player in existence, 4-man bot lane dives are a crucial tactic that hold major influence in the momentum of a game. Think of bot lane as the match to a firework fuse, if you can light it correctly then the whole game begins to take off.
The above image describes a perfect (before most of you tell me that this scenario never happens) game from a bot lane perspective. This tactic relies on a team's ability to get high levels of deep vision in the enemy jungle and restrict the enemy mid movement by keeping them pushed to tower. This can be achieved through having the superior wave push, denying the enemy blue buff or putting gank pressure on mid itself. Tempo has become a critical part of the game, by taking early T1 towers you force your opponent on the back foot. You can place further vision into their jungle, you can stack and shove waves in the side lane and suddenly the majority of the map control becomes yours.
Now earlier I talked about marksmen being picked up in the early draft phase and below you can see the stats behind marksmen prioritisation for week one of the EU LCS and LCK.
When Ashe, Varus or Jhin were not picked on first draft phase by one team, the second ban phase was almost exclusively the remainder of the two. In only two games across the EU LCS and LCK did we see an Ezreal or a Caitlyn locked in on the first three picks. So why is it that Ashe, Jhin and Varus have formed the new trifecta of marksmen picks? And how does this fit into the importance that bot lane supposedly has?
Let's get the obvious out the way! Ashe, Jhin and Varus have almost unparalleled engage potential for a champion in the marksman role. A utility that can also be doubled up as a disengage and self peel tool for Ashe and Varus. This engage potential is extremely useful when setting up to sweep in for bot lane Tier 1 tower either through diving or outright killing your opposing laners with the help of the jungler. Their ultimate utility has multiple applications later into the game when looking to siege, tower dive, make picks in the enemy jungle or just force a teamfight outright! But bot lane isn’t just comprised of a marksman - we need to take a look at supports too.
We can see that there is increased diversity in the support role, but the majority of support picks are dominated by Zyra, Malazahar and Miss Fortune (picked almost exclusively into Zyra). When you pair these supports with the top three marksmen you get lane pairings that can relentlessly shove waves. This is vital, if you hadn’t guessed yet, to get the advantage when looking to make a decisive move on a Tier 1 Tower in the bot lane. After all, you can’t dive a tower without a minion wave there to get positioning! These supports also bring their own unique toolkits to ganks, teamfights and sieges - great CC, zoning potential, damage output or shielding for allies. It would be naive of me to say that these dives are dictated by push potential alone, and whilst we don’t often see 2v2 kills in professional play, lane matchups are important too. Getting the edge in a 2v2 trade can turn turn the tides of the minion wave in your favour.
When you pair these supports with the top three marksmen you get lane pairings that can relentlessly shove waves
The marksmen trifecta are also popular due to their diversity and power spikes, they have high utility kits with the ability to deal significant damage from a distance (avoid those pesky Syndra ults!). Take Varus for instance, he has multiple power spikes, long range poke, can slow, reduce healing, engage and peel - to name a few! The adaptability of a marksman is vital to their role in the game, we’ve moved from the 1v5 ranged carries to a job focused on utility, wave control, and structure taking.
There are arguments to say that these three marksmen are picked because it’s not worth trying to shred tanks, and utility marksmen just fare the best because of this. The counter argument would be “why aren’t Vayne and KogMaw picked then?” and the response would be “they have a poor laning phase, get shoved in constantly and take too long to come online”. Lo’ and behold we’ve come full circle!
Once the ball is rolling, the global gold gaps start to open and that's where you see team fights and skirmishes forced by the team with the advantage. There are always opportunities to slip up, I’m sure you’ve seen your favourite team throw a gargantuan lead from time to time, but a perfectly executed game should take a complete stranglehold on the map - starving the opposition of all the major neutral objectives as well as any potential for them to find their own structures in return.
Eventually the pressure mounts and inhibitors go down, or better yet, you win a teamfight in the enemy base and win the game. It sounds so wonderfully simple right?
So why is this not happening in my Solo Queue games?
Ah yes, now we have the discussion out the way let's talk about why you’re probably safer locking in Kalista and assuring your teammates that you’re the second coming of Zven. Actually, don’t do that, I don’t want to be responsible for tilting half of the world’s League of Legends solo queue players.
you’re probably safer locking in Kalista and assuring your teammates that you’re the second coming of Zven
The reason we see marksman struggle in solo queue in a lot of ways is because solo queue is, for the most part, thoroughly un-coordinated. Team fights and skirmishes are rife and that's where we see our beloved marksman fall back on their pure team fight damage output and survivability - which as we have talked about, can be lackluster! Furthermore bot lane in solo queue is dictated by advantages gained very early on in the laning phase - how often do you see a bot lane die 2v2 in professional play? It’s quite uncommon! There is also the influence of jungle ganks, which is often down to huge vision discrepancies (especially deep vision in the enemy jungle) between professional play and the types of games that we play on a daily basis.
It’s not uncommon to see an early Tier 1 tower take in solo queue but what IS uncommon is to then see that respective lane rotate top and begin a siege on the T1 top lane. No, what we generally see is the marksmen either meander back bot and continue to farm or head mid lane and try to siege against a control mage with excellent wave clear. Let's pretend for a moment that our solo queue bot lane DID head towards top, how often would we see the jungler then be in position to immediately dive the top lane once the duo has shoved the minion wave to tower? I would wager that the answer is “not very often”.
Remember it takes incredible coordination and communication to give these tactics life - a feat which we don’t often see in our solo queue play. So next time you say “ADC IN 2017 LUL” - ask yourself if you’re playing the right style of marksman.