The Secret Weapon of Season Three
posted by HanzoK, 1 year agoThe World Championships are now well underway, with a total of 47 games played. A lot of people have been making comparisons between last year's play and this year's. However... people seem to be missing the biggest difference.
That's right. Wards. Vision control has always been an important element in League of Legends. It has been a common thing for a very long time now, for teams to take easy dragons when the enemy top laner revealed himself top-lane. Teams would also use wards to help secure objectives, and to protect their lanes from ganks.
This year however, teams have taken it to a new level. The amount of ward control we have seen coming out of certain teams in this World Championship has been unparralleled in the realm of competitive play. The main proponents for this increased ward coverage have been the Chinese and Korean teams. However, this doesn't mean the EU and NA teams haven't had their moments.
The first major difference in terms of ward control, and probably the most obvious is the rise of level one ward coverage. Throughout the LCS and the rest of Season Three, we saw the rise of level one warding. It was completely (or near enough) non-existent in Season Two, but in Season Three we have started to see teams grouping up and invading, just to get wards down in the enemies jungle.
It was rare to ever see the teams really use these wards though. At some points it started to seem like they were just doing it out of habit without really thinking. OMG changed the landscape of level one wards in the World Championships though. Not only did they use new level one wards, they used them quite dramatically.
Click either image to enlarge
At the start of their day three game against Lemondogs, OMG grouped up as a five man unit whilst Zyra placed two defensive wards, one at the entrance to their blue and one at the entrance to their red. Nothing new so far. Then they moved into the enemy and placed the ward shown on the right hand picture. This ward gave them vision between the two enemy towers as shown on the minimap picture, however it was not in a position where Lemondogs could see it.
When Lemondogs duo lane headed up into the top lane, this ward gave vision of them, and OMG's top-laner recalled and went bot to get the solo lane match-up, whilst their duo-lane moved up the map and went into the top lane. This single ward gave OMG knowledge of the enemies lanes early on, and gave them the time to move into the lanes they wanted without much of a disadvantage.
This is a huge advantage as it completely stopped Lemondogs from getting an advantagous 2 vs 1 against OMG without recalling and missing exp. If OMG don't want a particular lane match-up, they WILL stop you from getting it, with just a single ward.
Most of the other teams saw the advantage this ward gave OMG, and started to copy it, with some teams like TSM moving it up to between the inner and inhibitor tower, to give them even earlier knowledge of the opposing teams movements. The problem with their placement of this ward however, was that the opposing team could se them place it, potentially allowing the enemy team to dodge it.
Click image to enlarge
Another thing we saw in this World Championships is the rise of pink wards. It is no longer just the supports job to pink ward the map. In almost every game we saw every single member of the team (except the AD) buying pink wards and just having a mind game war, trying to deny the other team vision and creating opportunities for picks. Even in the screenshot above, that is Mineski versus Vulcun, who both went out in the groups, but even still, look at those inventories, they're beautiful to see.
In most games supports would get extremely early oracles, or even sometimes the jungler, as early as fifteen minutes in, just to control vision even more. Even when teams had oracles on one member they would still buy pink wards and place them around the map so that they could clear wards even when their oracle wasn't close.
The ultimate example of this increased vision control and pink warding was in the final game between Gambit Gaming and Najin Black Sword. Gambit got their signature Evelynn onto Danil 'Diamondprox' Reshetnikov, but Najin felt comfortable. Normally teams have a lot of trouble with Diamond's Evelynn, but Najin had the best pink ward control to deal with Evelynn that I have ever seen.
Even just at level one, most teams will pink ward at level one, to try destroy an enemies ward, but Sword kept hold of theirs and instead used it bottom lane, to stop Diamond from ganking. When the mid and top laners recalled, they then both bought a pink lane for themselves and used them to protect their lane.
They also put a number of green wards in Diamond's jungle, which would see him when he came out of stealth to clear the jungle and get a rough idea of his location for Sword. Gambit tried to answer some of this ward control by placing a pink ward in the bottom-lane river brush, so Diamond could gank, but Diamond got spotted by a pink ward at dragon, placed by Choi 'watch' Jae-geol.
With the knowledge that Diamond had entered their jungle, Jang 'Cain' Nu-ri then placed a pink ward in the brush next to his turret, just in case Diamond ganked. So now, with a pink at the mid-lane jungle entrace, a pink at dragon, and a pink at bot-lanes turret brush, Najin Sword had perfect vision of where Diamond was at all times and could prevent his ganks.
Thanks to this amazing vision, Najin managed to send multiple members of their team bot-lane, knowing the gank was coming, and despite Gambit sending all five members bot-lane, Najin traded two for two, with Renekton still pressuring the top turret. All thanks to the amazing ward coverage of the bottom river.
Click image to enlargeAfter Gambit's 'failed' attempt at five man ganking bottom lane, Najin Sword took dragon, and it's no surprise they could take dragon with no contest from Gambit. Just look at their pink ward control on the bottom side of the map. There are seven pink wards on the minimap screenshot, and another one in the mid-lane which you can't see, for a total of eight pink wards on the map AT ONCE, only ten minutes into the game. All just to shut Diamondprox down on his Evelynn.
This means they spent 1,000 gold on pink wards to secure that dragon and only got 975 gold as a team from it. They made a gold LOSS off getting dragon but experience gain. The upside however, was completely shutting Diamond's Eve down, and controlling the map, which allowed them to get more than just dragons. This is how much Najin valued vision control over the map.
As the game progressed Watch bought the fifteen minute oracle I spoke of earlier and when the team pushed one side of the map, they would systematically enter Gambit's jungle to clear out any wards Gambit had placed and replace them with their own wards. They would have at least five wards in Gambit's jungle every time they pushed, only on the side of the map they where pushing, and even more than that most of the time.
Gambit couldn't move anywhere without Najin Sword knowing about it, where as Najin had free roam of the map, and Gambit would have no clue where they were. One of the main reasons Najin valued vision so much was their team composition. With an AP Nidalee on their team, this vision control meant they always knew where to aim their spears, and Gambit wouldn't know where Nidalee was, making them harder to dodge.
Click image to enlarge
This one picture shows just how much late game control Najin got thanks to their warding. A pink ward on the outside of Gambit's base allows to Nidalee to sit out of Gambit's vision throwing spears, zoning them to the left side of their turret, meaning Corki can harrass easier with his missiles. They also had a ward inside Gambit's base to give them vision of Gambit at all times, and even though Gambit had a pink ward, they couldn't kill the ward, because it meant easy spears for Nidalee. Total control by Najin.
To summarize, wards are underestimated by a lot of people. Whenever people play Solo Queue, they constantly refuse to ward, saying that it is the support's job and dying because of ganks, etc. Professional players have never fallen into this category, they have always understood that wards are important, but it seems they have placed an even greater importance on them this tournament. Something has happened to make professional players value wards a lot more, especially pink wards, which are now been picked up by every member of professional teams, not just the support.
Teams have moved from both teams just spamming the map with green wards to having a full on 'ward war'. Both teams buy a ton of pink wards and using a lot of money, so not only do they gain vision for themselves, they also deny the enemy's vision. Teams have always used oracles, but never have pink wards been so popular in the proffessional scene.
The League of Legends professional scene is constantly evolving and this is it's latest evolution. My eyes are now on the remaining games of the World Championship and next season. To see what the professional players will bring out next.
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