A Gentleman's Farewell - LCS Pick/Ban/Matchup Analysis

TL;DR Reign of Gaming is moving forward with a new blog system (among other things), and I will no longer be a consistent author here, although I will continue to do guest posts from time to time. However, I wanted to give you all one last blog post. Today's topic? An in-depth analysis of picks and bans in the first half of the 2014 spring split of LCS.


I will no longer be writing consistently for Reign of Gaming, although I will try to pen some guest posts from time-to-time. However, I have been lucky enough to be offered a post writing for Riot Games at lolesports.com.

If you want to see my posts there, you can check them out here! As well, I've started my own solo League of Legends website at http://gentlemangustaf.com, so feel free to stop by!

Now, let's dive into that LCS data!

Let’s start with the basics: what are the champions LCS players consider strong enough to pick or ban consistently? Rather than lump it all together, let’s go role by role!

Top Lane

At the beginning of the 2014 Season, top lane was dominated by three champions: Renekton, Mundo, and Shyvana. These champions — as detailed here and here — are manaless, extremely tanky, and very sustained with the new masteries.

Early in Season 4, two counter-picks to these champions arose, Warwick (played mostly by Gambit’s top laner: Darien) and Trundle (popularized by Fnatic’s top laner: sOAZ). Warwick had high sustain and % health damage, while Trundle’s ultimate drained the tankiness of the dominant top laners. As well, sOAZ and Balls were expected to play their Season 3 AP picks. How has this panned out?

As it turns out, not very much.

  1. Renekton, Mundo, and Shyvana account for about 20% of top lane picks each.
  2. Tank-busters account for about 17.5%, with about 15% from Trundle and 2.5% from Warwick.
  3. Melee Carries make up about 8% of picks, split between Jax, Yasuo, Aatrox, Irelia, Nasus, and Riven.
  4. AP Carries account for another 8% between Gragas (2%), Karthus (1%), Rumble (1%), LeBlanc (1%), Lulu (1%), Nidalee (1%), Lissandra (<1%), and Vladimir (<1%).
  5. AP Tanks add another 2.5% split evenly between Malphite and Zac.

Groups 1-4 all maintain about a 50% win rate. So what causes groups 1 and 2 to be so popular? Consistency. Top lane has always been biased towards tanky champions because of the volatility of the lane. It is isolated from dragon, so may go long periods without help, and it often suffers from 2v1 lanes. As such, top laners need to be able to deal with falling behind. A carry who falls behind is nearly useless, while a bruiser who falls behind is simply finally killable.

More interesting than the 50% win rates is against whom those wins come.

Renekton is 30-26 overall, but more importantly, he’s 12-4 against all champions outside the 4 top picks. This is what we expect from Renekton: he wins every lane, but has to win lane or he gets outscaled. While he is 8-4 against Mundo (able to punish his weak early game), he is 6-9 against Shyvana and 4-9 against Trundle. More than anything, this is what makes Shyvana and Trundle solid picks: they can beat Renekton; not necessarily in lane, but in overall contributions to the game. Against champions who aren't Renekton/Mundo/Shyvana/Trundle, Shyvana and Trundle actually have modest records: 6-6 and 5-6 respectively.

However, I foresee this changing in the near future. The regen from perserverance and Doran’s Shield that made Dr. Mundo and Shyvana viable has been nerfed heavily. Doran’s Shield’s health regen has been nerfed by 40%, and the perserverance regen has been nerfed by 66%. While Trundle and Renekton can start Doran’s Blade, Mundo and Shyvana are pretty reliant on the sustain of Doran’s Shield. With the Doran’s Shield nerfs coming through, I predict Shyvana and Dr. Mundo falling slightly out of favor, with Renekton sticking around as a generally strong laner, and Trundle as a strong Renekton counter. As well, champions who have strong sustain from their kits or builds — Irelia/Aatrox/Jax — or strong poke — Jayce — might be able to force champions out of lane without the the oppressive regen of Doran’s Shield. Who knows, maybe we’ll even see more Warwick!


The new jungle was heralded as allowing ‘farming’ junglers to have a place in the meta. However, looking at most of the top picks, a jungler’s role remains the same as it’s always been: snowball lanes during the early game, control objectives during the early and mid game, and initiate/peel/dive late-game.

Elise, Vi, and Lee Sin were all dominant junglers last season, and have remained so. Pantheon was buffed into viability by changes to Elder Lizard, and his early ganks have started to strike terror into the hearts of laners, but only become worse once he hits 6.

One striking thing really stands out about this: every champion on here — except Wukong — has a winning record. In fact, if we look at the win rates of all champions picked fewer than 4 times, they are 5-15. If we include the 3 next-least-picked champions, Nunu, Gragas, and Shyvana, that extends to a whopping 7-30. For comparison, the numbers of the 'niche' picks are 16-19 in top and 7-5 in support. Only mid compares, with a 9-25 record.

In jungle, it really seems like there is a bar: can jungle vs can’t jungle. The strong junglers right now feel like Vi, Lee Sin, and Pantheon: AD junglers with strong early games and devasting post-6 ganks. However, Evelynn is gaining popularity, Elise does well vs Vi/Evelynn, and Olaf sneaks in off of good scaling. As for Wukong, he really only has one good matchup, Elise, and has a measly 43.48% win-rate.

Mid Lane

Mid lane is the black sheep of lanes right now. While 4 top laners account for about 80% of top lane picks, and 5 junglers do the same, you need 10 mid laners to account for 80% of mid lane picks. Many people love seeing tons of different champion picks. To an analyst, it’s sort of a nightmare. Mid lane ends up being the hardest to analyze this season, because the wide variety of picks decreases the consistency of picks, which makes it hard to distinguish actual trends from random correlations.

There are also a few types of mids that are picked

  1. Wave clear mids – These mids obviously bring other things than wave clear to the table, but they have strong wave clear, which allows for solid tower control.
  2. Assassin mids – Assassins dominated the end of the 2013 season, and are still strong in the 2014 spring split.
  3. Team fight mids – Some mids simply bring a lot of AoE damage and CC that can initiate fights.
  4. Supportive mids – Some mids bring a lot of team utility and lane presence.
  5. Nidalee

I think analyzing each matchup in mid is disingenuous, due to the low sample size of each matchup, so I'll avoid it. The most-played matchup is Gragas vs Ziggs, with 9 games, the next highest is LeBlanc vs Orianna, with 6 games, and from there, everything is 4 games or fewer. So while it’s safe to say that there’s counter-picking, there’s a lot of picking to fit the team, or counter the enemy’s team, or picking a jungler to offset the laner’s strengths.

Mid has to choose between roaming and lane dominance; wave clear and single-target burst, utility and damage, and so many more factors, not to mention countering their lane. No wonder many teams leave mid for their last pick. So instead, I’ll leave you with a few meandering thoughts:

  • Assassins. LeBlanc and Kha’Zix have extremely high win rates, and Zed has seen some success, despite outcry after his last set of nerfs.
  • Nidalee is also scary, as usual. Dem spears.
  • Karthus seems to be making a comeback, with the same 80% win rate as Vayne
  • Lulu wins lane, and that’s given her a decent win rate at 56%.
  • Yasuo was hyped as super scary, but 54%, while strong, doesn’t quite live up to the hype.


If top lane looks dominated by 3 champions, you haven’t played bot lane recently. ADCs almost reach the 80% mark with the top 3 picks:

It's a bit baffling that anybody picks Ezreal at all, given his low win rate. If I had to guess, he's a comfort pick for ADCs, given how safe he has been for so long.

Then again, Lucian is the top-picked champion with a 43% record, so it may be that ADCs preference safety too-highly. However, I think there's some matchup information at play, so we'll revisit this later.


I probably shouldn’t have hyped ADC so hard, because Support suffers from even more extreme concentration of champions.

Basically, Thresh is the dominant pick, Morgana is a good counter-pick to Leona, and you’re stuck with Leona/Annie/Lulu if the other team gets Thresh.

But bot lane picks should be made together: what important considerations remain when we combine the data?

The matchups help to explain why Lucian is such a strong pick. Caitlyn only synergizes well with Thresh, while Jinx is heavily countered by Caitlyn (data available here).

This makes first-picking Caitlyn dangerous because it locks you into Thresh, and first-picking Jinx dangerous because the enemy team can just grab Caitlyn. I do think that as more players start to master Sivir, she will replace Lucian as the 'safe' pick, but for now, picking him isn't great, but avoids hard counters.


How do the bans reflect the pick situation?

Adding up picks and bans, we can get the most feared (and liked) champions in the LCS:

  1. 125 (122/3) – Kassadin
  2. 124 (71/53)- Elise
  3. 113 (31/82) – Thresh
  4. 112 (56/56) – Annie
  5. 86 (46/40) – LeBlanc
  6. 80 (32/48) – Gragas
  7. 80 (6/74) – Lucian
  8. 77 (21/56) – Renekton
  9. 76 (14/62) – Caitlyn
  10. 75 (28/47) – Vi
  11. 70 (46/24) – Kayle
  12. 68 (15/53) – Dr. Mundo
  13. 68 (10/58) – Leona
  14. 62 (31/31) – Pantheon
  15. 61 (20/41) – Lee Sin
  16. 56 (7/49) – Shyvana
  17. 53 (35/18) – Yasuo
  18. 53 (6/47) – Jinx
  19. 49 (17/32) – Ziggs
  20. 42 (10/32) – Lulu
  21. 41 (7/34) – Trundle
  22. 40 (8/32) – Sivir
  23. 37 (20/17) – Kha’Zix
  24. 36 (20/16) – Olaf
  25. 31 (11/20) – Riven

So there you have it: an analysis of each lane and the 25 most picked and banned champions in the first half of the 2014 spring split.


Mattias "Gentleman Gustaf" Lehman is a big time nerd-gamer and mathcrafter who has ranked as high as Diamond 1 in solo queue and Diamond 3 in arranged 5s.
Check out my League of Legends Website!
Follow me on Facebook and @GentlemanGustaf for updates!
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  • #46 A1rheart

    At least now we will hopefully see more variety in support picks thanks to the item changes but the problems with adcs are more systemic of problems with the role as a whole rather than certain champs being just numerically superior with dominant items. I could write on and on on how unhealthily the role of attack damage carry is at the moment and how any carry designed for extended combat is screwed atm. Hopefully we'll see something given to make the other 3/4ths of carries at least competitive.

  • #47 GentlemanGustaf

    Then why aren't Graves/Corki the dominant carries?

    Jinx has good extended damage, and Sivir's isn't bad either. Caitlyn's strengths are still in extended combat (in that her burst isn't that good in a teamfight.

    The nature of a competitive game is limited options. A year+ ago, it was Corki/Ezreal/Graves, now it's Lucian/Caitlyn/Jinx/Sivir.

  • #48 A1rheart

    I suppose I should elaborate here. When I say a carry is designed for extended combat I mean they typically have to fight or die and rely on out dpsing their opponents in order to survive. Jinx and Caitlyn in fights have the option of staying out of harms way and wittling their targets down from a safe distance while Lucian has more of a hit and run style especially with his ult. Sivir is the weird one but I view her as a bit of a reverse Ashe where her own ability to deal with threats is meh (especially if she wiffs her q) but she augments her teams performance enough to take out threats for her. Carries like Twitch, Graves, and Corki on the other hand are far more limited in their ability to deal with threats safely and are easier to focus down and when everyone is a threat to your safety rather than just the mid lane assassin of season 3 and they don't offer enough to a team to be picked with any sort of regularity beyond maybe 1 game when every other pick is banned. This is most obvious on Draven to me as he absolutely dominates when he is played (especially when Cop picks him) but he represents too much risk for his professional pick rate to rise. I guess what I'm trying to say is that every carry we see has very little risk to picking them while most carries we don't see like Graves, and Twitch have too much risk in their kits right now to be played professionally in any capacity. Basically the safety meta has a death grip on the carry role and any adc that can't play safe or buff their team massively just offers too little reward to bypass the danger of picking them. Of course this is coming from a sad Graves player who has just given up and admitted Lucian is a better choice in every way for this meta so I'm biased in my opinion.

  • #49 A1rheart

    Also I am remissed to mention that Lucian, Caitlyn, and Jinx also represent the 3 best carries for taking down turrets at the moment (Jinx can choose between having the highest dps for uncontested turrets, or range poke for sieges, Lucian's doubleshot is great for quick bursts on towers especially with Trinity Force which has been his preferred build path, and Caitlyn has the best sustained dps during a siege thanks to her safety at range from level 1 forward.) while Sivir arguably is the best at defending against sieges thanks to the wave clear of Boomerang blade. This, to me a carries effect in a fight is becoming increasingly negligible which is dangerous because there are only so many ways to balance a class around their ability to force down/protect towers and that hurts the variety of the role.

    Last edited by A1rheart: 3/10/2014 8:46:38 PM
  • #50 GentlemanGustaf

    Draven is 6-2 and Vayne is 9-4, if that makes you feel better.

  • #51 A1rheart

    Actually the thing that weirds me out the most is the shocking absence of Varus. Like I know he's been played a little but especially against these super tank top laners I'd expect it'd be his time to shine. Guess being designed to counter a meta does not mean you'll actually be played when that meta becomes popular.

  • #52 GentlemanGustaf

    He can't get away from this at all, though :/

    His % Health damage is also overrated, as it's not spammable and takes time to charge up.

  • #53 A1rheart

    Yeah, but for a while to me at least Varus looked like he'd be a thing along with Karma support. I'm currently pinning his complete lack of play and linking it to Fnatic's losing streak and them letting Puszu go after putting in work for them on the champ on my internet conspiracy board. There's something there I just know it.

  • #54 GentlemanGustaf

    until Leona, Vi, and the other divers stop being a thing, I can't imagine that. Maybe if Morgana sticks around a lot, but even Morgana can fall to Leona, as we've seen.

  • #45 DahakaMVl

    These statistics are really sad. S4 fucked up picks even more than S3.

  • #41 UltrosHiddenOP

    Thank you for all your contributions, I'll sure visit your new site. Gz & gl!

  • #40 Arcane_Azmadi

    Pro LoL has NEVER been as boring as it is right now. I've pretty much given up on watching the LCS because it's just so damn boring and repetative now. Oh god, another Renekton/Elise/Gragas/Lucian/Thresh vs Mundo/Vi/Ziggs/Caitlyn/Annie match. Get me a bucket.

  • #37 Vaestus

    Damn shame you're leaving. You, Stonewall and Oldman Eyebrows have always produced great articles and RoG's certainly gonna become less due to your absence. Still, kudos for the great work and good luck on future endeavours. =)

    Last edited by Vaestus: 3/9/2014 3:17:10 PM
  • #38 GentlemanGustaf

    tyty! Feel free to check out my other work!

  • #30 skytoucher

    <3 your work on this. Looking forward to your new site.

  • #31 GentlemanGustaf

    Tyty :)

  • #26 smartaleccomment

    Why isn't olaf used in the toplane? I always do well with him and trundle vs Renekton and Shyvana. Olaf uses little mana because most of his damage comes from E and his sustain from W is godly

  • #21 DaarkPaladinX

    Interesting analysis of every lanes. Judging the things that are going, I could see a resurgance of ranged top laners such as Teemo, Nidalee, Jayce, AD/AP/Hybrid Kennen, Kayle, and even AD/AP/hybrid Lulu after the nerfs of Doran's Shield.  More particularly Teemo since he's known to counter the said top top laners like Renekton, Shyvanna, Dr. Mundo, and Trundle with his mushrooms and his Move Quick passive/active (and he has better late game thanks to his mushrooms providing lane/vision control and the fact that placing the shrooms in the lane makes it difficult to push into towers).  Heck, he's known to counter a lot of top laners even Jax (except Pantheon, but most pros don't play Pantheon top for some reason).

    I'm kinda sad that Fizz (one of my favorite junglers) isn't doing that well in the mid lane (he's supposed to counnter Gragas, Nidalee, and Leblanc), perhaps he may find a new home in the top lane or the jungle?  However, I still think "carry" junglers still have their place in LCS and competition.  Gank-heavy junglers like Vi, Lee Sin, Pantheon, and Evelynn puts more emphasis on scoring kills/assist to get ahead while "carry" junglers put more emphasis in farming up and catching up in levels.  Heck, many of the said ganking junglers don't have that great late-game scaling while "carry" junglers do. Kha'zix is considered a "carry" jungler and he seems to be doing fine judging by the looks of things, so I can see Master Yi, Tryndamere, Jax, Fizz, Akali, Zed, and Talon junglers coming into play as well (or even top lane if they're built as bruisers).

    ADC isn't much different, but they're now limited to heavy pushing role, which is why we see a lot of Lucian, Jinx, Caitlyn, and Sivir since they're quite good at shoving lanes.  I could see a slight resurgance of the two long autoattack range late-game hypercarries like Kog'Maw and Tristana with some of the recent buffs I've heard they're getting.(heck, Doublelift thinks Tristana is a strong pick).

    Not much to say about supports.  Supports are supports, although I could see heavy nerfs on Thresh and Morgana soon.

    Anyways, these are my pet peeves opinion.  I've been noticing the LCS scene puts more emphasis on heavy pushing, which is why mid-lane assassins aren't played that much (except Leblanc, but she has her own poke).

  • #25 n4zArh

    I found Ryze top wrecking Renektons. I might be wrong though, 2 matches when I was just dominating might mean nothing, they could be just overconfident or weak.

  • #27 DaarkPaladinX

    Same with Teemo, Lulu, Kayle, and Jayce.  Considering the fact that all of these champions have movement speed buffs and slowling effects to distance themselves away from Renekton and kite him (or in Jayce's case, disnengagement in the hammer form).

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