Through the first week of the group stage at the 2016 League of Legends World Championships, 48 different champions have been played. That’s almost as many as last year’s entire group stage (69) in only half the time. With the increase in variety comes an increase in choices both the good and the bad choices in champion select. And week 1 featured plenty of both.
Let's go position-by-position, looking over the top five most popular champions in each role and some things that stuck out.
Stats via Oracle's Elixir.
Gnar - Gnar hasn’t been a great pick at worlds so far. In particular, he has struggled to keep up with other popular toplaners in damage. Gnar dealt only 455 damage per minute on average, while most of the other champions, such as Jayce, Rumble, and Kennen dealt closer to 550 DPM. The only one of the five most played top laners he beat was Poppy at 358, however, she offers far more in terms of tankiness and sustain than he does. This makes his place a little nebulous for teams who haven’t already had great Gnar performances from their top lane.
Kennen - Kennen had a great start to worlds. He did plenty of damage, and managed to blow up more than his fair share of teamfights. But Kennen has a fatal flaw. If his opponents don’t group close together, his ultimate becomes a lot less useful. To be fair, teams did not do a great job of this during the first week.
But I have a feeling that teams won’t be making these kinds of mistakes again, likely making Kennen a still good, but slightly less useful pick in week 2.
Skarner - I think some teams blinked early on Skarner. What I mean by that, is that I think he was a well prepared pick by most teams, that was going to be brought out in week 2, to surprise opponents, and some teams just decided to use him earlier. Despite his early reveal, Skarner is likely to still see a solid play rate in the second half of the group stage. He is both a menace to carries everywhere, and has a great walk animation. This potent combination - well, the first one mostly - allows teams whose laners may not be particularly strong, to negate their opponent’s advantage, while also starting every team fight a man up.
Olaf - Olaf is this world’s general purpose jungler. Elise, is okay but not great (33% win rate), Rek’Sai isn’t too good at all (17% win rate), Lee Sin is good but difficult to pull off (50% win rate) and no one at all should be allowed to play Nidalee (83% win rate). So, who does that leave in the middle of every comp? Well, it leaves Olaf. He isn’t particularly amazing at anything, but he builds well into both damage and tank, and provides a good all around champion to round out comps. That being said, don’t expect to see many teams not named CLG build a composition around their Olaf.
Syndra - I have an important message for all teams participating in the World Championships: Don’t let the other team play Syndra unless you can play Aurelion Sol. Through the first week of competition, she is far and away the scariest champion. She can start and end a team fight before most people can flash - not that flash would save you.
If you still don’t believe me, lets look to the numbers to make the case. Syndra has been banned 16 out of 24 games so far, and in the 7 she has played she has a 71% win rate. That makes her the only midlaner with an over 50% participation rate, and an over 50% win rate. The next closest champions in participation rate - her competition in other words - are Cassiopeia with a 36% win rate and Vlad whose win rate is 17%. What that means is that there is, no better candidate for a midlane ban than Syndra.
Aurelion Sol - After the first week of competition Aurelion Sol’s true power at this Worlds remains a mystery as hidden as his star particles. That being said, let’s take quick stock of what we do know:
1. He is really really good, Huhi and Maple both had incredible games playing completely different styles.
2. We don’t have sufficient evidence - two games at worlds isn’t a lot - but so far he has been the rest of the world’s silver bullet against the Korean powerhouse teams.
So, what exactly does that tell us? Well, for one thing, we probably won’t see any more Aurelion Sol from Maple. And we definitely won’t be seeing it from Huhi - barring any tragic misclicks. But for the rest of the world Aurelion Sol is likely to be one of the most contested mid lane picks in the second half of the group stage. After all, we watched him act as a perfect counter to Faker’s Cassiopaea and we have already established that Syndra shouldn’t be let anywhere near the rift. In other words, it’s finally time for the Star Forger to shine, let’s just hope he shines bright enough for Bjergsen to see.
Ezreal - It’s amazing that Ezreal has found himself as the go to AD Carry for every team. It’s, frankly, not a great idea. In fact, he has only won 36% of his games. He requires a solid flow of income well into the 20 minute mark to get started, and doesn’t even fully ramp up until almost 30. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be played, mind you, there are still plenty of AD Carry players who have shown themselves more than up to the challenge - with Uzi and PraY being the standouts. But he shouldn’t be the default for every team. Instead, that default should be Caitlyn.
Caitlyn - Caitlyn is like a one-size-fitsall AD Carry security blanket. She may not be as flashy as Ezreal, or do quite as much damage - he averages 688 DPM, while she averages 483 - but she gets the job done - at least in 71% of her games she does.
Now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for your Jhins or your Ezreals, or your Lucians. What it means is that when there isn’t quite a perfect fit AD Carry for your composition, you take Caitlyn and you rest secure in the knowledge, that she can do it all.
Support has fallen into a bit of a rut at worlds so far. Nami and Karma make up the bulk of range supports while Alistar and the odd Braum make up the melee. The funny thing about this role, however, is that it’s likely the role that will allow for the most experimentation as the tournament gets later. What do I mean by that? Someone played Brand and won, is what I mean. Anytime Karma is popular as a support pick, the door swings wide open for a variety of AP supports to surprise the competition, and this Worlds should be no different. That being said, the role still has a dominant force:
Alistar - Alistar has won 89% of his games, and been banned exactly zero times. I know, it’s difficult to justify a ban on a champion that so many people play, but at the very least he needs to be made a priority in pick and ban. After all, he has incredible crowd control, get’s unbelievably hard to kill, and Excel’s against almost every support, including Karma, one of the tournaments most popular choices for the role.
One of the greatest things about the World Championships are pocket picks. The champions players have been practicing in secret only to pull out at the perfect moment to catch their opponent off guard. Over the first week, we didn’t see a huge wealth of these kinds of picks. Sure, we had Likkrit, picking things like Brand or Kira playing Anivia, but we knew about those - and they did not disappoint.
That beings said, week 2 is when pocket picks really shine. During the second week, the format of the tournament changes slightly, as each day one group will play all of their games, meaning that teams play three times in one day. This gives teams little time to react to monumental shifts, which allows pocket picks that work to become free bans, or lead to momentum changing wins. If teams came into Worlds with an ace up their sleeves, this will be the perfect weekend to pull it out.