Just one week after his initial release on the live servers, reworked Warwick was picked in his first competitive League of Legends game. This marks the first time the champion has been picked at all since Season 5, when he was played in Garena Pro League by Asus ImbaFate’s Ngọc Hùng “Slay” Nguyễn, in the top lane. The last time any LCS league saw Warwick was Team Coast’s Matthew “Impaler” Taylor back in December of 2014 on the infamous Patch 4.20 Warwick.
The honor of the first to play the new Warwick goes to Unicorns of Love jungler Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir. The Unicorns are known for their creative pick and ban phase, especially out of the jungle, so it’s no great surprise that they would be the team to bring in League’s most champion first.
The pick displayed an impressive amount of early game pressure ambushing Splyce’s jungler Jonas “Trashy” Andersen to help the UOL midlaner secure first blood. This was shortly followed by a gank bottom, where the teams dueling toplaners were located, to secure another assist, and a dragon. The last moment of his early game dominance came with a gank bottom lane that got him one more assist and helped UOL take down the game’s first tower.
The @UnicornsOfLove roam bot and @ExilehLoL picks up a Double Kill: 4-0 for UOL after 15 minutes! #EULCS pic.twitter.com/QE4kVLJsWz— lolesports (@lolesports) February 2, 2017
While Xerxe was able to maintain incredible objective control using the Warwick pick, UOL took four dragons and two barons — thanks to a couple incredible steals — he was never quite able to find his place in team fights.
In truth, the biggest barrier to success faced by the Warwick pick in this game may have been the team compositions it was forced to play with and against. Unicorns of Love picked a composition that relied heavily on protecting their midlaner Fabian “Exileh” Schubert’s Katarina, something Warwick has very few ways to do reliably.
Meanwhile Splyce’s picked a “Floor is Lava” composition built around punishing the enemy for fighting in small areas with abilities like Rumble’s ultimate The Equalizer and Corki’s Special Delivery.
This difference in team composition highlighted Warwick’s natural struggles with team fighting and his place within them, often leaving Xerxe looking lost and failing to make an impact, or simply dying as the fight started.
Despite Unicorns of Love’s inability to win the game, there were some clear strengths to the Warwick pick as well. For one thing, his ability to control the early game, and to lock down mobile champions with his Ultimate makes him a strong early ganking threat for high damage teams. His other major strength was his unbeatable control of the jungle’s Epic monsters such as Baron and Dragon, taking four dragons and managing to steal the first Baron out from under Splyce’s entire team.
ARH-WOOOOOO: @XerxeLoL steals Baron with Warwick! #LCSBIGPLAYS pic.twitter.com/HmY0pngOqK— lolesports (@lolesports) February 2, 2017
It remains to be seen whether or not the new Warwick will catch on in a larger way, but it is clear he has some distinctive strengths and weaknesses. The coordination of a team seems to pose a serious issue to him during team fights. However he also has a dominant early game that could help a team take over a game if the rest of their composition was built correctly.
Xerxe picked Warwick once again in Game 3, going 4/1/8 in his team’s series-winning victory. The champion’s team-fighting ability remains questionable, but as UOL showed, the champion can win at the pro level if you snowball its strong early game.