Last weekend in the NA LCS was our first with patch 8.12, and while traditional ADCs may have been a little more prevalent than in week one, things were certainly still a little weird. More specifically, you probably noticed teams putting strange players and champions in the mid lane, and letting them take smite, while the jungler took exhaust.
This is called funneling, and it’s the NA LCS’s latest trend. While the name may give you a couple of hints as to what it might entail, we’re here to lay out exactly what funneling is and why teams are using it.
The point of a funnel comp is exactly what it sounds like: funnel as much of your teams gold as possible onto one hyper-carry champion and let them carry you through the mid game. In order to make this happen, teams will most often select the champion they want to funnel gold into — usually Kai’Sa, but occasionally someone like Irelia or Lucian — and put the player on the team that knows the champions best in the mid lane. The reason this player goes mid is because it’s a free farm lane that you can also make fairly safe, thanks to jungle pressure.
Speaking of junglers, they play an important role in this strategy as well. While the mid lane player will take smite and handle all the smiting duties, the jungler will take exhaust and act as the mid laners support. No, really, I mean support. Most of the time, the jungler plays Braum. They wander the jungle bringing camps low enough that the mid laner can kill the camp and collect the XP and gold, because just the mid lane isn’t as much gold as you want for your carry. If done correctly, this strategy can give one team’s mid laner between 50 and 100 more farm at 30 minutes, giving them a massive advantage in teamfights.
Does it work?
Kind of? Of the four times the odd strategy was used in the NA LCS in week two, it won twice and lost twice — one game featured two funnel comps facing off so really it was closer to 2-1. What that really means is that the strategy isn’t quite good enough to make it a must-play, but prioritizing it, or banning it away, is probably going to be at the front of most teams minds when they retake the NA LCS stage next week.
As for how it’s working out in other regions, a few teams in the LCK have also started to show the composition off a little bit as well. While its record in Korea is similarly mixed — 2-2 — the gold funneled Kai’Sa was an absolute monster in three of the games, and took over two of them beyond anything that the other team could hope to com back from.
The truth is, the strategy itself makes a lot of sense. Think of it as the next evolution of something like the jugger-’Maw comp, except instead of trying to protect a character and power them into late game, you are trying to get them ready to fight a little early, since games tend to only go about 34 minutes in the NA LCS. If teams spend all their time and energy funneling gold into just one character, it doesn’t really power them up that much faster than normal, just a little faster than their opponent, and that’s all that really matters.
Is this going to get fixed?
Probably. But it’s hard to say since this strategy is pretty unlikely to become a solo queue darling. After all, if you hovered mid lane Kai’Sa and tried to convince your jungler to play Braum while you took smite, you would probably get half the team to rage quit before you even locked in your champion. While we won’t know anything for sure until the patch notes for patch 8.13 drop — probably later this week — it seems like that some kind of a tweak aimed at funneling will be included in either this patch or the next one.
In his Quick Gameplay Thoughts for June 20, Riot’s lead gameplay designer, Meddler, said the following:
After spending time assessing funneling strats last week we’ve come to the conclusion that, at least for now, the correct approach to dealing with them is to address a small subset of champions, rather than trying to make wider systemic changes.
But all of those were in relation to some of last week’s funnel darlings, like Master Yi. As for the new world, where Kai’Sa is the primary target of these funnel strats, we’ll just have to wait and see what changes come through.