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Picking for the Part, Part I: Five Tips for Mastering Champ Select in SoloQ

ohsopresteej

ohsopresteej

Tue 7th Nov 2017 - 9:47pm

If you ask any League player what the phases of a standard League of Legends game are, you'll probably hear something along the lines of "early game, mid game, late game". It's not uncommon for people to spend huge amounts of time planning out how they'll play through each phase in solo queue, and it's not uncommon to see numerous guides posted on the subject, each claiming to some degree that one phase is more influential or advantageous to excel in than the other, depending on the meta at the time. But as we watch the pros or even come face-to-face with (sometimes favorably, sometimes unfavorably) in games of our own as we try to climb the ladder or just play games in general, what you play and when you play it can be just as important and influential (if not more sometimes) as how you play it, which brings me to an often overlooked "fourth" phase of play. 

Why? Because the game starts at Champ Select. 

Today I'm going to share with you five tips and tricks that I've learned along the way to maximize your champ select experience. But first, I'm going to answer a question I'm sure I'll hear a lot if I don't address it first here and now. 

Why is taking champion select seriously important? Can't I just play what I want where I want and climb?

Yes, if you're winning over half of your games with every champion that you pick. Though in theory, the perfect player could literally climb with anything if you put in the number of games needed to master that champion in virtually any circumstance, you probably aren't the case. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't be looking at this post. If you are a case, then you're one of the exceptions and are not average by any means, so more power to you. 

With the game slowly slipping away more and more from hard stomps by one particular person in order to carry ranked games, team play has been all the more influential with each passing season. Unless you're tiered above your peers in the games you play (or tiers below and are literally feeding every game), what you do as a team is going to significantly affect the game more than what you alone do. That's not to discredit what you do in the game, but more to emphasize the strength that coordinating as a team brings to your chances of winning. Why do you think Riot shows so many statistics about teamplay and working together during the loading screens prior to each game?

Excluding the picking of your primary and secondary role, the champion you play is the first major decision you can make as a summoner that has a direct effect on how your game will play out every single time you step onto Summoner's Rift. 

And now, the tips:

1. Learn the top champions, what they do, what they bring to the table in games, and why that is so important in the current meta

Statistics sites for League of Legends often have filters where you can sort champs by popularity and win rates, so it's easy to learn which is on top patch-by-patch. 

By learn here, I mean it in the sense of both learning the champ in terms of their kit and learning the niche they bring to a team comp - even if you don't necessarily plan on playing them. By top champions I mean the most popular champs with also the highest win rates in their respective roles- even branching into professional play if you're one to keep up with it. Yes, we know Shen is a tank, but his niche is being able to turn fights into advantageous scenarios through his global ult while still being able to cause pressure on different parts of the map. Ezreal jungle can avoid his weak tear start and is very reliable when it comes to ganks and pressuring the enemy jungler. Even if you don't understand how to play the champ yourself (or have never played it), you should still understand what they do, what their strengths are (so you can play with/around them), and the niche they bring to the table when they inevitably find their way into one of your games. 


2. Use your hovers and bans, and use them wisely

You might not always end up with 10 bans, but note the conception of a team comp already beginning for blue side with the hovers 

Hovering gives you an idea of the comp you'll be playing with, giving you time to adapt on the fly if something changes (or gets banned), emphasize a particular strength or cover for a glaring weakness, ban potential hazards to your desired team composition, or form a general win condition with your team. It also, in most cases, will prevent the accidental ban of your intended champion by a teammate. Bans are the first and most effective way of completely removing a potential obstacle to your team or yourself in game (at least in terms of champions). 

As far as banning, a good rule of thumb is to first ban the champion you think will be the hardest for you to execute your desired win condition over. If you don't have a ban after thinking on that, then move on to one of the most popular "overpowered" picks of your patch. If all of those have been taken care of, then look at your teammates' hovers and ban something that would nullify one of their picks or something. But don't opt out of using something that could potentially put you at an advantage. 

For hovering? Just do it because proper preparation will generally prevent poor performance. A team that can prepare is a team that can adequately adapt. Those teams are usually the ones that win. 


3. Have champions ready to play for each role, and don't play ranked until you do. 

I can't stress this one enough. There's nothing worse than getting into champ select just to see someone say something along the lines of "I got autofilled, I can't play X. Can Y trade with me?". In norms, this isn't as bad because it really doesn't matter much and is in a casual setting. In ranked, this can offset the entire team. Every person who queues up does so knowing that there's a chance that they'll be autofilled, and ignoring preparation for that is inconsideration to your team.

Nick "LS" De Cesare, in his recent video with Duncan "Thorin" Shields, explained how most North American players in the professional scene don't know much about the other champions/roles outside of their own, which hurts their play as a team. I'd go as far as to say this also extends to soloqueue. No one is saying to have an entire arsenal of champs you can play if you somehow get autofilled, just one or two will do. In this particular case, anything is better than nothing though. 


4. Play to your strengths as a player and build on your team's strengths as a group through your champion picks

If you know that you are without a doubt one of the least aggressive laners the Rift has ever seen, do not pick champions that rely on securing strong leads in lane or having high amounts of pressure in order to have an influence on the game. If you know that you generally like to play aggressive and have no problem trading with people and asserting yourself (and gaining leads doing so), don't pick champions that are weakest early. If you've never played the champ a single game in your life, don't pick it now just because you heard X counters Y, you saw Z pro player stomp with this in their games, or someone else told you that this would be a good idea. That's immediately going to set your team up with an unnecessary disadvantage. Save it for norms first, trust me. Your LP and your teammates will thank you later. 

A small caveat to this should also be that while playing to your strengths, do not neglect the enemy or what they might be planning to execute. Play to your strengths, but be sure to fill necessary holes if they are places where the enemy might be specifically planning to exploit you. An example of this could be drafting a tank or form of hard engage so that your otherwise fragile poke team has a reliable front line that can start fights when needed and prevent your team from having to play reactively in situations of conflict. 


5. Understand the power that comes with first pick and trading

The first pick on either team often sets the tone for their respective team comps. If you are the first pick for your team, not only does your team adapt to you first when they pick their champions, but you are the first person that the enemy team will consider when they are picking. I should note a special emphasis to this tip if you are prone to blind picking champions that have notoriety for losing most lane matchups or not being influential until around late game. A rule of thumb here is that if you find yourself picking first, you want to pick from your absolute best and most forgiving champions, as you'll generally know how to play from behind with them and can reliably adapt to the matchups you find yourself in.

Trading picks, when used effectively, is really good for scouting out the enemy team, securing high priority picks (think those OP things that somehow made it through bans or just the things that you absolutely need in order for your team to win), securing an advantage in a pivotal place, or just trading picks if your team decides that it might be better for one person to play a champ that has already been locked in over another. 

Even in soloqueue, don't be afraid to abuse this knowledge. Just make sure the appropriate parties are all capable of trading before you start. It'd be disastrous if a miscommunication were to occur. Again, this all goes back to what I said in my second tip about preparation and adaptation.
 

Conclusion

Champ Select in solo/duo ranked is an often overlooked indicator of how a game could go before it even starts. It's often indulged in selfishly or without the necessary knowledge and can really make or break your gains and losses. Though there is more I'm sure that I could go on about, these tips should help anyone see a difference in their games or just, in general, feel better about champ select prior to going into their games.

In the second part, I'll cover how to maximize your drafting in flex queue and how to coordinate against coordinated groups. 

Best of luck on the rift, guys. Until next time. 

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