There is a right way to play League of Legends.
This statement used to be accepted as the universal truth with most players and community figures agreeing that LCK is the shining example of how the game is supposed to be played. And while it’s true that Koreans are a step ahead of their competition, every once in awhile a team appears that makes you reconsider. And this season, there’s more than one.
Fnatic’s Animal Style
Fnatic was in dire straits this Split. After Team ROCCAT stepped up to challenge them for the Playoffs spot, it was obvious that Fnatic needed to make drastic changes. That change was the Animal Style.
The team’s new approach focused entirely on giving Fnatic an explosive mid game. By drafting off-meta marksmen like Vayne, Twitch, and Kennen, Fnatic turned their AD carry into the vanguard of their offensive. Usually, these picks would be exploited in the early game, but Fnatic made sure to cover their bot lane with jungle Elise and mid laners with high roaming potential. This way, even the most dominant bot lanes would be wary of challenging Rekkles due to the constant fear of being dragged into a 2v3 fight.
Of course, this bot lane focus had to be covered with safe—and somewhat passive—top lane picks. But that was a small price to pay for getting Fnatic’s superstar AD carry going. Not only that, but Rekkles’s Frozen Mallet build turned him into a massive splitpushing threat while his champions’ kits allowed him to remain a force to be reckoned with in teamfights.
The weirdest thing about the Animal Style was that it worked, and even a team like G2 could get caught off guard by it. Still, it would be easy to write it off as a one-time gimmick. But how scary could Fnatic get if they polished this approach to perfection? And how much of a headache would they be to draft against if Animal Style became just one of the tools in their arsenal?
UoL’s Perfect Balance
Unicorns are no strangers to innovation. They have come a long way since their Chaos Style days, but there’s still some magic happening in their draft. The team’s rookie jungler, Xerxe, puts on a clinic on untested picks like Warwick, Rumble, or Hecarim. Samux often prioritizes Caitlyn and Lucian that are not exactly S-tier. And Hylissang’s immense champion pool allowed him to counter enemy strategies with defensive champions like Taric, Zilean, and Tahm Kench.
No matter the roster, UoL always seems to retain their unique vision. It’s worth noting that the most recent iteration of the Unicorns doesn’t try out new things for the sake of it. Instead, they work on integrating unusual champions into their strategies, and combine solid macro with off-meta compositions. Considering that they’ve made it all the way to the finals of the EU LCS, things seem to have been working out for them.
FlyQuest’s Flex Picks
Not all innovators have to be successful. Their 6-1 record at the start of the Split, lead the NA LCS team to believe that it could take on the world. The ensuing feeding spree almost made them fall short of qualifying for Playoffs, and FlyQuest had to switch to standard play to salvage the situation. Now it’s easy to say that the team got carried away playing Mordekaiser/Blitzcrank bot lane and Shaco jungle.
But some of their picks worked.
The sole presence of Moon’s Evelynn instilled fear into FlyQuest’s enemies and allowed the team to pull through in many key games. Unorthodox champions aren’t the only thing that FlyQuest brought to the table. With Hai being in charge of the team’s decision-making, FlyQuest’s all-or-nothing shot calling has repeatedly blindsided its opponents. In retrospect, many have claimed that this approach had been hit or miss. But is that really true when it took most NA teams so much time to adapt to it?
GIGABYTE Marines’ Aggression
The “see hero, kill hero” playstyle is anything but new in League of Legends. However, most people would agree that it’s ill-suited for modern competition, and few would consider bringing it out at the international tournament. Well, looks like GIGABYTE Marines have proven this wrong. Not only did they breeze through the first MSI Play-In stage with the help of their decisive aggression, but they’ve even qualified for the main event.
Using their superstar jungler/mid laner duo, Marines break open their games with clutch plays and scattered skirmishes. And they don’t let up until they reach the enemy Nexus. Will that style work against top-tier teams like SKT or Flash Wolves? Probably not. But qualifying for the MSI is already proof enough that Marines are doing something right.
The best thing is that’s not all they’re capable of. In their game 2 against TSM, Marines have proven that they can macro on par with the #1 North American team. Only time will tell how good Marines are but for now, they’re a force to be reckoned with even among the best teams in the world.
It might be true that LCK’s style is the right way to play League of Legends. And there have been countless attempts to adopt it in the West. But at some point you have to ask yourself: could a Western team really beat Koreans at their own game? The styles we’ve listed aren’t perfect—but they don’t have to be.
In poker, few can outplay the masters of the game using conventional playstyles. Yet year after year newcomers manage to find new ways to overwhelm veterans with relentless aggression and unorthodox strategies.
Perhaps it’s time for League of Legends teams to do the same.
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