Hello! So here’s a bit of League of Legends [official site] news which might not sound big at first, especially if you don’t play or don’t watch the pro scene BUT it is a big thing and I will try to explain a little about why. The news is that League of Legends is finally expanding the ban bit of the pick and ban phase you get before competitive matches. Instead of three opportunities to remove a champion from the selection process teams will now get five. Ten bans overall – three each at the start of the phase and then a further two each after some of the champions have been picked. Here’s why I’m excited:
So one of the things with watching competitive League of Legends, especially if you’re also someone keeping an eye on something like Dota 2, is that League tends to have a stronger/more predictable meta. There are fewer curve balls when players are drafting team compositions, and you see the same champions get banned over and over because they tend to be the strongest/most useful in whatever state the game is at that point.
The easiest way to get and idea of stuff like that is to look at the number of individual champs picked and banned in a particular tournament then compare it with the number of champs actually available to play. Looking at the most recent World Championship tournament I think 57 unique champs were picked or banned over the course of the matches and at that point there were over 130 champions in the game. That’s not to say matches couldn’t be interesting or surprising, but it does help to illustrate that you’re less likely to be taken by surprise and there’s less to cause teams to step outside that smaller subset of champs when money and contracts are on the line.
What the new pick and ban phase has the potential to do is allow teams to try to disrupt each other’s compositions, and thus their strategies. It’s a very different mindset to get to grips with as you need to start paying attention to what information your first set of picks reveals about your game plan. You had to do that a little before, but the most the opposition could do was either pick champions to counter what you were trying to do or snap up the champs you wanted for themselves, effectively banning them by denying you the option.
But when the other team can just cross off some of your options without necessarily needing their own draft to change, that’s a whole different kettle of bees. You start factoring in different kinds of mind games – selections which will throw the other side off the scent or tempt them into banning a champ you had no intention of picking up. You also start needing to make more contingency plans and working out how to build more flexibility into team compositions just in case a key element gets snatched away.
That inbuilt disruption has the potential for creating more diverse champion lineups in tournaments, or weirder drafts which teams can sneak through because they’re less predictable and which might shine given more of the go-to options will be elbowed off the table.
So as someone who watches this stuff a lot for work, that’s exciting. Or at least it really could be and I want it to be.
In case you’re after more of the fine detail, lead gameplay designer Andrei ‘Meddler’ Van Roon explained:
“The first part of champ select will be the same as at present, with both sides banning 3 champs then some picks. Blue picks first, red picks twice, blue picks twice and then red picks once again. After that there’s a second ban phase, where the two sides alternate bans back and forth, starting with red side. There’s then a final pick phase, where red picks once, blue picks twice and red picks one final time.”
It’s actually not a million miles away from what happens in the Dota 2 mode which gets used for tournaments, although Dota’s phase has slightly fewer points where a team gets to make two decisions back to back.
Here’s Riot’s illustration of the process in case that makes it easier to get your head around.
There have been concerns about whether the exact order of the draft now gives the red side a slight advantage but as part of a response on the LoL subreddit Meddler noted that they hope that this will be offset by the fact the blue team historically has a slight edge which was partly to do with drafting but also related to map layout. It’s a work in progress, though, so elements might still change. It also sounds like they’re also still fine-tuning the timings for each decision so the whole thing doesn’t take forever – currently the plan is to give a 30 second window to choose instead of a full minute.
The other thing to note here is that pick and ban phases aren’t the exclusive domain of professional tournaments, they are also part of some game modes. With that in mind, the devs are still looking to rejig the process, but are trying to work out how to do that in environments where players aren’t facing off against known opponents and so on. Here’s the relevant info:
“Revised pick/ban for regular play will come somewhat later than the changes in organized play. We’re still assessing what style of pick/ban changes makes the most sense for regular games, given the different circumstances (unfamiliar allies, lack of information about your opposition).
“Shifting to 10 bans still has a lot of appeal, in particular because it allows one ban per player giving each person equal agency in the ban phase. Goals of bans are somewhat different though (e.g. you’re not banning the unusual pick you know the enemy team likes to run).”
Anyway, yes. This thing is a thing about which I am legit excited.