Pandalita's Musings

🕹 Drafting in pro LoL

July 20, 2020 - 11 min read

League of Legends is a huge game with many aspects, but recently(season 9-10) people have started discussing drafts and their importance a lot more, and while drafting is extremely important in order to get as many edges as you can: Even pro teams don’t draft properly, even though they have a team of coaches that help them draft. How does that happen?

** If you’re unfamiliar with the terms - there’s a term list at the bottom.

Why is drafting important?

League of Legends is a strategy game with a lot of aspects, and drafting is a part of the strategy. Drafting is important because it can give you big edges, it can be edges in synergy, lane phase, or later on in the game. Drafting can also take responsibility off your players when done properly, which lets them still have advantages even if they’re mechanically less skilled than the opponents.

In-depth drafting

Generally, you want your players to be able to win, no matter how long the game goes, and drafting is very important here because it lets you have edges and advantages even before the game starts - that means that if your team composition is scaling and you go even earlier in the game, you have a higher chance to win.

This means that in a lot of cases picking things that scale is better (however context IS necessary), because otherwise you WILL run out of fuel later on if you pick an all aggro composition. Because professional play is organized play then it’s easier for players to not find themselves in bad positions or disadvantageous areas, which can ruin aggro compositions and sometimes make a scaling one fall behind and not be able to claw back into the game.

Three common examples:

  1. Lee Sin is a completely aggro jungle champion, later on he becomes a kick bot (which means he only has 1 thing he’s able to do), and because he has only 1 mode that he can play - players can play around it if they’re not auto-piloting and are aware of what they’re supposed to do.
  2. Olaf is another aggro jungle champion, later on he becomes a champion that is only able to run at the opponents and hope he doesn’t get slain before he gets to them, which also means he only has 1 mode that he can play and players can play around it very easily if they’re aware of what they’re doing.
  3. Gangplank is a scaling lane champion that is also semi-strong in lane, which means he’s able to go through the lane phase without issues in most cases and get his power later on, if played properly. However players know that this is what he’s trying to do, so they’re able to nullify his attempts if they know what they’re doing, but later on in the game he’ll still be able to be strong (since scaling is inevitable).

The examples I gave are two jungle champions and one lane champion, because usually in pro play, people do take aggro junglers and scaling laners.

Other than the picks themselves, the pick order is important. In LoL the draft phase goes this way -

  1. B1 - R1/R2
  2. B2/B3 - R3/R4
  3. B4/B5 - R5

Which means that as the red team, you have the advantage of a last pick which can be a counter-pick. As the blue team, you have the advantage of first pick which can let you pick a strong champion or a very flexible champion.

Example of a decent draft vs a bad draft:

Bad-draft This draft started out great. Blue team is called KT, and red team is called SB.

  • B1 Varus - Really good and flexible champion, can go to two roles and has 2 different builds he can run.
  • R1 Senna/R2 Volibear - Senna is not good in this spot, since Varus stops her from dealing any damage since he’s so powerful with his poke. Volibear is not good in this spot either, since the enemy team didn’t reveal enough for him to be effective, and his role is to run in (just like Olaf).
  • B2 Olaf/B3 Zoe - Olaf is extremely bad here since he reveals a lot of what the team is trying to achieve, and he’s off-theme because Varus and Zoe want the enemies to come into them, and Olaf wants to run right into the enemy team. Zoe is good here, she goes well with Varus and is a pretty safe blind pick in mid.
  • R3 Syndra/R4 Tahm Kench - Syndra is good here, she beats Zoe and she goes well with Senna in most cases, however with the blue team having so much poke, she’s too short range to be able to do anything. Tahm Kench is very bad here because he has only 1 mode and he stays the same champion in every phase of the game: He’s just a devour bot and he can’t achieve anything else, especially in this game against so much range.
  • B4 Jayce/B5 Blitzcrank - Jayce is decent here, the champion isn’t very good as a blind pick but he has no choice. He runs well with Varus and Zoe and they can poke the enemy team down really easily. Blitzcrank is off-theme here just like Olaf, because he wants to run into the enemy team, however there can be an argument that he can grab enemies that are poked down.
  • R5 Lucian - Lucian is bad here. He’s alright in lane against Jayce, but after lane he isn’t able to do anything especially against such a heavy poke composition. With how hard their team is trying to go in - I’d say that a champion like Camille could fit here.
So, who won draft phase?

That’s a good question. Even though KT’s draft has 2 off-theme champions, I’d say KT won the draft because it takes a lot of responsibility off their shoulders with the way their composition scales later on and the way it naturally nullifies their opposing team. The game is essentially the Varus & Zoe show with Jayce on the side. SB’s draft was awful, they mostly aimed for lane phase and tried to win there and not give KT a chance to win later on, however KT doesn’t have to fight them at all, they just need to be even or slightly behind to win later on.

How would I make KT’s draft better?

I’d replace Olaf with a champion like Nidalee, although it makes it a lot easier for SB to itemize against the magic damage - it enables the Varus pick even more. I’d also replace the Blitzcrank with a ranged support that makes Tahm Kench useless, such as Soraka or Zyra - Soraka can provide a lot to the team later on with her heals, and Zyra becomes really scary, especially when at this point the SB comp is very squishy. Lastly, I’d replace Jayce with Malphite or Ornn - Since the SB comp isn’t really mobile at all, then Malphite can be good here to get to their backline, but also Ornn can enable the rest of their team composition with his disengage and upgrades.

Examples of an awful draft vs a good draft:

Awful-draft This draft started out bad and ended up bad for CLG (Blue team), IMT (Red team) did a decent job answering the CLG draft.

Bans are - Blue: Orianna Ashe Karma - Yuumi Rakan, Red: TF Kalista Syndra - Sylas GP

  • B1 Aphelios - Extremely bad, players think it’s good but the champion, even though he’s strong - he doesn’t have a lot of modes, he always tries to achieve the same thing, and he’s useless if he gets outranged, because he can’t really walk up and hit anyone (just like the Senna in the previous draft, she can’t walk up against Varus). Ezreal or Karma(banned) are a lot better here, since they’re extremely versatile.
  • R1 Ezreal/R2 Ornn - Ezreal is a good answer to Aphelios, since he has mixed damage and Aphelios has low base resistances, Ezreal also outranges him and if played properly he destroys the Aphelios in every stage of the game. Ornn is also a safe pick that can go in 2 lanes (mid and top), he scales and generally has no real bad matchups, and even if he does - he enables his teammates.
  • B2 Azir/B3 Thresh - Azir is really weird here as a blind pick, the champion can’t achieve much if he gets answered by being out-ranged or just out-scaled. Thresh is a really weird pick here because he can’t achieve much against the picks that IMT have already revealed.
  • R3 Kog’Maw/R4 Braum - Kog’Maw is a good pick into the champions that CLG have revealed. He out-ranges and out-scaless most of the champions on CLG, which means Azir, Thresh, and Aphelios can’t walk up to even auto-attack if he just shoots his R’s every time he can hit them. Braum is a weird pick here, usually Braum likes it when the enemy team tries to run into him, so he can use his ult and shield, although their composition likes it when the enemies run into them, CLG right now isn’t trying to achieve that with their picks except for thresh.
  • B4 Camille/B5 Volibear - Camille is a weird pick here, She generally beats the Ornn pick in a vacuum, but she isn’t able to do much against the other champions on IMT like CLG, trying to counter-pick Ornn in a vacuum and not trying to be useful against the team-comp is weird because Ornn can just give upgrades to his teammates. Volibear is not good here, but as it seems they’re trying to brute force their way into IMT’s comp, which they really can’t with the Braum disengage and Kog’maw’s poke.
  • R5 Graves - Graves is a bit off-theme in the comp, but he does give a lot of value to his team, first of all he’s a physical damage dealer - which means CLG has a hard time itemizing against the whole comp of IMT, and he does scale pretty well later on, so he can provide value when CLG tries to run into them (since they have Volibear and Camille). I think that Jarvan or Kindred could be a lot more effective here, since the comp of CLG tries to run into IMT even though Aphelios likes it a lot better when champions try to run into him.

Generally, drafting is hard and it requires a lot of game knowledge of how lanes go, how scaling works, and what’s the role of every champion in a composition, but I hope I gave you a general idea of what to look for the next time you watch professional play drafts, or even helped you understand how to draft better yourself.

Cya! 👋

Term list

  • Champion - A character that a player plays.
  • Drafting - Pick/Ban phase where you pick/ban champions in an order strategically.
  • B1-5 - Blue team pick 1 - pick 5
  • R1-5 - Red team pick 1 - pick 5
  • Scaling champion - A champion that is often weak or decent early, and massive later through items or levels.
  • Quest champion - A champion that needs to meet a demand to get their power.
  • Aggro - A champion/composition that is naturally strong early/mid game and runs of fuel fast. Often weak if behind/even.
  • Team composition/comp - A collection of champions in a team.
  • Lane phase - An early stage of the game where players are still in their designated lanes.
  • Mechanics - Individual player’s ability to pilot their champion.
  • Win condition - A game plan/way to win the game.
  • Macro - Using available information to play for your win condition by utilizing advantages map-wide.
  • Auto-piloting - Playing without being cognizant of what you’re doing.
  • Farming - Gaining gold and experience through slaying jungle monsters or minions(creeps).

Hi, I'm Pandalita, I'm a full stack developer & ex-hardcore WoW player. I also play LoL and sometimes share random thoughts!