Block and Strike – A Look at Counter Picks in LoL
Sat 6th Oct 2018 - 2:00pm
Counter picks. They are a huge part of pro play and, while they are given too much emphasis in the lower tiers of ranked play across the world, they are still very much useful and therefore, utilizable. However, a counter is not just a case of this champion automatically beats that one. Counters work in different ways and require the human piloting the counter pick to understand why they have a favorable matchup and how to apply it. In this piece, I shall give a rundown of the different types of counters and examples of them so that you hopefully can utilize these favorable matchups better in your quest to climb the ranked ladder.
Local and Reactionary Counters (Morgana into Leona)
Now, this is one of the most well-known counters in the role of support (shout out to Vander who brought the pick way back in Season 4 to completely ruin the support trifecta of Thresh/Leona/Annie at the time). The way this counter works is very simple. When Leona goes in to use her high CC/low damage single-target spells to lock down a target, all Morgana has to do is put Black Shield on the target as Leona goes in to negate her effect and leave her overextended as result. If Leona never goes in, Morgana can then use her range advantage to win the lane as a result. This is a great example of a local counter (as Morgana is in the same lane as Leona) and a reactionary counter (as Morgana is reacting to Leona’s engage) but remember a counter is dependant on the players in play.
Global and Reactionary Counters (Soraka into Karthus)
Now I’m sure many of you have seen the meme featuring Soraka and Karthus where Soraka mocks Karthus’s ultimate when she is in a game with him on the opposing side. Jokes aside, here is a point here. A team with Soraka on it is very hard to deal with as Karthus. Why? Well, Soraka’s ultimate is a global heal which undoes the global damage of Karthus’s ultimate which he is based around. Also consider that Soraka’s ultimate cooldown is much lower than Karthus’, and the situation is not looking good for the Deathsinger. Now, this is another example of a reactionary counter as Soraka reacts to the Karthus ultimate by casting her own, but, unlike the previous example, this is not a local counter as Soraka will be in bot lane as the support while Karthus is primarily in top or mid, meaning that this is a global counter.
Active and Local Counters (Blitzcrank into Tahm Kench)
Now up until this point, I’ve only really shown you reactionary counters, counters that adapt to their enemies play patterns. While they are the most common type of counter in LoL, there still are counters that require you to take the initiative. For example, take the matchup of Blitzcrank into Tahm Kench. For this I want to look at what TK does well. He is good at saving carries when he is near them with Devour (W) and tanking up double damage via Thick Skin (E). So how does Blitz counter TK? Well, he disables the conditions TK needs to succeed. TK needs to be near his carries to save them, but Blitz can just pull the carry from him or him away from set carry, hence he is actively countering Tahm in this instance. But, what about TK’s tanking potential. Well this set potential is locked into Thick Skin’s active! But what if TK can’t cast it, say because of a silence? A silence such as Static Field (Blitzcrank’s ultimate), so once again we see how Blitz can counter TK by being active and, since they are both in bot lane, it's another example of a local counter too.
The Scaling Counters (Shyvana into Renekton)
Now, I’m sure the majority of you are aware of what scaling is, as it affects so many of our solo queue matches in both ranked and normal games (this is emphasized as many teams in lower elo struggle to effectively close out games meaning they go to late game more often) but how does this concept apply to finding and utilizing a counter pick in LoL? Well, it can be summed up in this two-part question. Can I Survive laning phase against this early game bully with this pick? Yes. Now I must ask, "Does this champion out-scale the bully?" Yes! Well look at that, you’ve got a scaling counter pick in your hands. The best example of this that comes to mid also harks back to Season 4 where Renekton top was the best top laner for pretty much the entire Spring Split’s opening weeks and so teams started looking into counters and one was found by a number of teams, Shyvana. The half-dragon could survive the big crocodile’s punishing laning phase and once hitting level 11, she could start pushing Renekton back due to the fact that, with two items on both champions, she would now be more powerful with the matchup getting even worse for Renek as the game goes on. Now scaling counters can be active and reactionary but they do exist. However, I once again warn you that counters are not an auto-win and every game is dependent on the players piloting the champions in the match.
What have we learned here and how can we apply it today both in our gameplay and in our theorycrafting? Well, we have shown that a counter has an execute condition whether it being reactionary or actively chasing it, we also know that counters aren’t limited to lane matchups and can be game state dependent (early game and late game affect every game). So when it comes to playing and finding counters, remember what you are countering, why your countering, and how you're going to execute the counter in pursuit of the big W. With that I once again I leave you with the thoughts of GL, HF, and GG.
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