Summoner's Insight: An In-Depth Look at LCS Team Compositions - Cloud 9's Zone of Control
Wed 7th Aug 2013 - 4:05pm
Welcome to week two of Summoner's Insight! In this series I will be taking an in-depth look at the way teams in both the EU and NA LCS ban and pick team compositions, and what this means for them as individual players, and also as a team. This week I will be covering Cloud 9 of the NA LCS.
Please note this is not a play-by-play recap of the game. It is an analysis of the teams pick/ban phase and how this translates into the game.
For my first view into the NA scene, I will look into the composition used many times by Cloud 9 HyperX this split, including one game against Counter Logic Gaming.
Interesting bans here from Cloud9, mainly because 2/3 of them are targeted bans. Karthus is banned away from Link - mainly because he causes way too much global pressure, and Cloud9 don't use him in this composition, so they do not have the option of picking him away. Tristana is one of Doublelift's favourite champions. Vayne has fallen out of favour with CLG as of late and the other traditional hyper carry - Kog Maw - isn't one we have seen him play a lot. So then we have Tristana. She scales like crazy (thanks in large part to her huge range - 703 at level 18) and her attack speed steroid on her Q (30% / 45% / 60% / 75% / 90%) Put this machine in the hands of an incredibly skilled AD Carry such as Doublelift, and you have something really scary once late game rolls around. Cloud9 are not concerned with playing around this however, and just simply ban it out.
Finally we are on to Nunu. Nothing really special to say here that hasn't been said multiple times. Nunu will steal your buffs. Your objectives. He shuts down your jungler, makes his ADC attack faster and makes yours attack slower. He simply does too many things in his current state. I wouldn't expect to see him slip through the bans until some changes are made.
Is that a rocket in your pocket?
A couple more target bans from CLG aimed at Balls and Meteos. Zac is one of Meteos' most played champions boasting a 100% win ratio. Another thing to note is Zac's ability to dive the enemy backline. CLG are a team that heavily focuses on backline power with frontline efficiency, often leaving only 1 or 2 champions with meaningful "carry" level damage. If Zac were allowed to get a good Elastic Slingshot into CLG's backline then the vast majority of their power would be in immediate danger, and when you look at Meteos' win rate with Zac, you can almost guarantee he will get that initiation.
Elise is another champion that boasts a 100% win ratio, this time in the hands of Balls. Being a strong 1v1 laner, while still being able to perform okay in the 1v2 lane, means it's very difficult to put her in an unfavourable position. Cloud9 also have the added bonus of having their jungler also willing to play Elise, allowing them to potentially bait a counter pick from CLG, only to send Elise to the the jungle.
Finally we have Twisted Fate. The global pressure he can lay down post-level 6 can crush many team compositions and strategies, and if he gets ahead, his ability to splitpush quickly is virtually unrivaled. He has a 100% pick/ban ratio in EULCS and OGN, while in the NALCS he holds an 85% pick ban. Across all regions he holds at least a 50% win ratio, and with good reason. Much like Shen in season 2. Expect to see this guy either off the table completely - or first picked when he isn't banned - for the rest of the season.
Top -Balls - Rumble
Jungle - Meteos - Nasus
Mid - Hai - Jayce
ADC - Sneaky- Ashe
Support - LemonNation- Zyra
Top - Nien - Shen
Jungle - Bigfatlp - Jarvan IV
Mid - Link - Ahri
ADC - Doublelift - Caitlyn
Support - Chauster - Thresh
Let's take a look at Cloud 9.
At first glance, it looks like Cloud9 have simply picked champions based on personal preference and success, without regard for composition. They have a bit of everything, with some poke from Jayce, a form of engage with Ashe, and disengage with Zyra. Everyone has okay waveclear, the team is pretty average at sieging towers, and outside of Nasus' ultimate Fury of the Sands, they do not have the ability to tear down neutral objectives.
The team does have some pick potential past level 6 through the use of Enchanted Crystal Arrow and Stranglethorns. However these picks will become less likely as the game goes on, and Cloud9 do not have a particularly strong late game team or a truly offensive "wombo combo", and next to zero dive potential.
So what does this team do? Did Cloud 9 simply pick poorly?
What this team does is very subtle and isn't the easiest of compositions to spot at first glance. The composition is something I would informally call a Zone of Control team - ZoC for short. Once the teams start grouping up as 5 in the mid/late game, this comp starts to shine. Through clever layering of Zyra's ultimate, Stranglethorns and Rumble's ultimate The Equalizer, Cloud9 can cut off a huge portion of a lane and esentially deny the opposition the ability to enter that area, or risk being killed in a fired up jungle of thorns.
The other thing this combination does is giving Jayce more time to fire off more Accelerated Shock Blasts while Ashe kites backwards using Frost shot combined with Volley. This makes the team particularly hard to engage onto, as this would usually mean the majority of the enemy team would need to enter a singular zone or area. This area would then almost immediately become Cloud9's ZoC.
Strong AoE CC and Damage.
While Cloud9 are not paticularly good at objective control - this is their strength.
What do I mean by this? Well, teams will go for objectives. This is a fact that holds true in 100% of games. You cannot win without taking some form of objective. So when CLG inevitably group up for a Dragon, Tower, or Baron, they also enter a small area around said objective. Cloud9 will then try to create their ZoC: either on that objective or just outside it. This would prevent CLG from leaving, and allow free damage to be dealt to the opposition. This is also much easier around the blue and red buffs where the walls inside the jungle put a harder barrier around the ZoC
ZoC compositions are very similar to AoE compositions in this regard. The difference being AoE comps generally want to go in. ZoC comps would much prefer to stay back and create a distance between the two teams that would be safe for them to enter, but potentially lethal for the other team. ZoC also heavily punish bad communication and/or positioning. Imagine a scenario where one or two people dive forward into Cloud9. The space that is created behind the enemy frontline could potentially zone out the enemy back line completely. This gives the team time to shred down whoever is diving, while simultaneously stopping them from retreating if at any point they feel they need to run.
If this comp creates so much space and time, why do they not include a hypercarry?
The next part is crucial to the execution of a ZoC comp. Cloud9's ZoC will not last forever so what do they do once it fades? There are two polar opposite outcomes, both with the same style of resolution.
Scenario A: The opposing team feels they are weaker and losing - they proceed to run away to the nearest point of safety, minimising casualties and regrouping for the next fight.
Ashe and Jayce both offer something not many characters have. Team wide chase ability. Ashe has Volley, slowing all enemies hit for 15 / 20 / 25 / 30 / 35% (based on her current rank of frost shot.) Jayce then lays down an Acceleration Gate speeding his entire team up by 30 / 35 / 40 / 45 / 50% This sort of chase potential is nearly unrivaled and unless the enemy has several short cooldown hard crowd controls, they will not be able to stop all 5 members from chasing. While the enemy is retreating, everyone is free to put out as much damage as possible without taking damage, as the opposition is running. This can potentially be further enhanced by item purchases such as Rylai's Crystal Scepter (Rumble) and Shurelya's Reverie (Zyra.)
Scenario B: The opposing team is winning, and the backline catches up once the ZoC fades.
Very similar scenario, although much more difficult to execute effectively. Volley and Acceleration Gate gives Cloud 9 a large movement speed disparity over CLG that tries to create extra space as the team retreats. Jayce's Thundering Blow can be used to knock one aggressor back, instantly creating a small amount of space. Nasus can also Wither to slow one attacker down. Ultimately, however the team is significantly weaker on the retreat, and if all long cooldowns have been spent the team will probably lose the fight (assuming teams are fairly even - clearly a team with a 10K gold lead isn't going to be in as much trouble.)
Dragon and Baron - Expensive baiting tools.
So what do Cloud9 want to do during the game - how do they plan on winning?
Cloud9 are looking to go even in lane, possible pull through with a slight lead. Everyone leaving lane with a slight disadvantage isn't that bad for C9. However, due to the nature of the comp, if one person is too far behind the team loses significant 5v5 power. During the mid game they should be looking to contest buffs and other neutral objectives, using the ZoC startegy discussed earlier. They should look to wave clear and push oppenents in, while putting good damage on towers from relative safety, being able to disengage when needed. The team will look for controlled aggression and will probably snowball slower than most teams, but much more reliably.
With solid ward control they can ensure that the opposing team will have difficulty attempting Dragon or Baron without C9 being aware and able to contest. If C9 do get ahead, you will see them look to contest other neutral monsters such as blue buff, with the jungle walls allowing them to establish their ZoC even easier.
They way C9 will look to win is through post 6 team fight domination. Generally, splitpushing is a bad idea with this team comp, as the champions rely on their synergy with each other for power as opposed to dueling potential. Without trying to sound painfully obvious, C9 will simply look to win teamfights and slowly push towers.
It's simple, just destroy the nexus.
What are the counter plays to this team?
There are 3 team comps that I would class as counters (and I use the term counter incredibly loosely).
1. Early dominant lanes with a strong, gank heavy jungler.
This exploits one of the weaknesses of C9's comp. All champions are reliant on their level 6 to fight effectively. If you can form laners that beat out the lanes early, you can look to invade the opponent's jungle pre-level 6 and force fights early on. From here teams will look to enter the mid game at a level/item advantage. Ending the game during the mid game is crucial if you are looking to win the game using this strategy.
2. A strong split push team.
As I mentioned earlier, the C9 comp is much, much worse when split up. By ultilising strong splitpushers/duelists such as Twisted Fate, Zed, or Tryndamere. Forcing someone from C9 to attempt to split off and duel reduces the remaining 4 member's team fight power and hinders their ability to contest objectives.
So why not Shen? Shen is a different type of split pusher, as his main advantage is his ability to rejoin a fight. This plays into C9's hands of wanting to 5v5.
3. An anti CC team.
This is arguably the hardest to pull off. Champions like Zac and Irelia are not affected by CC due to their passives and abilities, making C9's job of kiting much more difficult. As well as this, champions that can remove disables entirely such as Alistar can be used to take the Enchanted Crystal Arrow to bait the follow up from C9, only to immediately remove it and potentially catch them of guard with a counter engage. Another thing to note is that it would often times be wise for AP mids and even AD carries to pick up Merc Treads in order to help mitigate some of the engage C9 possesses.
Some things for both mids and AD's to consider.
I won't spoil how the game played out, as thats not what I am here to do. That being said, I hope that gives you some insight on what this team comp does and why it is used. Over the course of the next few weeks I hope to be able to expand your knowledge on the thought process that professional players make.
As always any comments and feedback would be well received. Tell me what you want to see me write about, as I'm always looking to improve.
I'd also like to say a massive thank you for taking the time to read this article, aspiring content creators such as myself seriously appreciate it. Really.