Counter picking in LoL - pick like a pro!
Sat 3rd Mar 2012 - 3:19pm: League of Legends
The picks and bans phase of any competitive game of LoL is something I really enjoy personally - the draft mode adds a level of strategic planning, tactics and skill that goes a little under the radar for most fans. For any professional team to be successful at LoL, they need to have an very solid grasp of how important this initial phase of the game is and play the tactical game of correctly picking the right characters at the right time.
In combination with building a team composition that synergises well, many professional teams will often use the draft phase to engineer an advantage through counter picking the enemy teams champion selections. I recall several post-game interviews with players after losing a game that have simply said they lost the game in the picks and bans, rather than identifying particular points in a game.
While very few players will have an encyclopedic knowledge of exactly which champions counter which, having a general idea of a few broad hard counters can reap rewards in both general solo queue and arranged team play. For example, a very common and well-known counter pick I see in my solo queue games is taking Galio as a counter to an early AP mid pick of LeBlanc.
By picking champions that can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the other player in a lane, you give yourself a much better chance of winning the lane. A popular LoL streamer, Bjorn 'Guardsman Bob' Dons, regularly speaks on his stream about the importance of winning lanes and how champions that are low on popular tier lists can often be used to great effect to hard counter certain champions in lane matchups.
Player skill can be something that can level the playing field, but by effective counter picking, you can stack the percentage chance of winning a lane in your favour from the outset.
Galio is regularly picked as a "hard counter" for several AP carries, such as LeBlanc.
In solo queue games, many people often open themselves up to being countered by selecting certain champions earlier rather than later. Frequently, many players will make an early pick of either of the two solo lanes that can be counter picked - while your instinct as a solo queue player is to carry the team yourself, you can make this much more difficult by giving the enemy team 4 or 5 picks at selecting a champion that could make your laning phase very difficult.
Generally, I find myself going either support/AD for the bottom lane or a jungler if I have an early pick, as this is generally a safer strategy - and this is something that is often mirrored in pro games. Team SoloMid were one of the many teams at IEM Kiev that would often delay the pick of their AP carry to their last to prevent any counter pick for the other team and Dan 'Dan Dinh' Dinh of Epik Gamer has previously written about how they go about counter picking. Being on the receiving end of a counter can often be the difference between a win and loss and is something all players who want to improve can take a bit of time learn about.
Picking your solo lanes first can sometimes be a little risky.
The LoL subreddit (and also, the LoL metagame subreddit) is a great resource for finding out more about counter picking in LoL. Something that I regularly have open for my solo queue games is a popular Google spreadsheet that I found on Reddit that lists multiple counters for all champions. Although some of them can sometimes just be down to opinion rather than direct hard counters, they give you something to consider when you have a champion that you have difficulty playing against.
Learning a champion that is a counter to one you find hard beating can hugely rewarding, particularly when you learn how to play those matchups well. If you use the champion select to your advantage to punish early picks by the enemy teams with champions you can play that counter theirs, you give yourself that much more chance to win your lane and win games.
That is, until your AD carry goes 0-5-0 and is 100 CS behind... ;)