The State of Lane Swaps
Lately in competitive play, you rarely find that both teams end up going to the “expected” lanes. For instance, the bot lane duo on blue may go mid to siege the most important outer tower, as it opens up the largest part of the map by being destroyed. Along with that, the minions are quickest to get to the middle lane, contacting each other just around 1:55. If the mid laner attempts to stay there, they are likely lose their tower; however if they don’t, they and whoever comes into that lane will lose exp by having to move into/out of the lane.
Along with that, the bot lane duo may choose to siege whatever lane has the highest potential to snowball. Riven is a champion that both snowballs well and has a strong early game. The enemy team may decide to try and shut her down early and thus prevent a strong late game.
For instance, if the duo on blue has gone top lane, the purple side duo could go bottom, while the jungler helps mid. This would help them take 1-2 towers and a dragon, in exchange for losing top and it’s snowball potential. A really efficient team can usually take an early tower, rotate, and repeat. However, a team comp that allows that may be shut down by a team with a hard engage, or some champions such as Singed that really don’t give a crap and will run circles around you until you’re dead. This really brings some interesting strategies to competitive play, and it’s just recently hit the NA and EU LCS in the past couple months; though they are still far behind the Koreans who really know how to make it work. The ability to push down towers so early and get your team ahead is huge.
Teams in Korea, and recently Cloud 9, have employed an “Always Take an Objective” strategy. After all, the goal of the game is to take down the opponents’ Nexus. Not get the most kills, ace them X amount of times; you want to destroy their nexus. Killing them is a means to an end. The enemy champions are just in your way. You might take the dragon or baron to kill them, so that you can get to the nexus. You can only reach it by taking down towers. By lane-swapping, teams take down multiple towers at a high rate. Games are a bit shorter nowadays, the game is no longer about “Let’s force a fight here, ace them and win!” It’s about pushing, killing them if need be, and pushing again. Certain picks have really helped that.
Caitlyn, for example, has the ability to siege towers very early with her long auto-attack range, and can zone you from defending with her traps. She also packs in the escape mechanisms to take the tower and live. She has a very high pick/ban rate in competitive play, simply because if going 2v2 lane, she’ll outrange you and if she has a ranged support as well, can poke you down and your tower. If she’s in a 2v1 lane, the tower is essentially hers, as one person cannot clear so many waves so early. If she draws the jungler to her lane, all the other lanes can pressure hard with the help of her own jungler, take objectives, or even have the jungler counter-gank. Other champions can suit this playstyle of taking down towers, such as Singed. While not common in competitive play, his ability to push down the minions in his lane can draw the attention of the jungler or a champion from another lane, which allows the rest of the team to pressure or take objectives while two people worry about Singed. If they don’t go after him he ends up with an incredibly high amount of farm, which allows his DPS and Tankyness to be incredibly high later in the game. Overall, what’s been pushed, whether or not it was Riot’s intention, is a faster-paced, skirmished based, objective focused game of LoL.
The game will continue to evolve, and innovation is sure to come for the victors. We’ll see how this all plays out at an international level, if the game stays like this when Worlds roll around.