Not just Kai’Sa: What Do the Pros Pick in Season 11?
As is tradition, the competitive Season 11 starts with pros finding individual overpowered champions and sticking to them. This year’s darling is Kai’Sa, but there are a few more pick & ban trends to look at.
The Kai’Sa Effect
Generally, a champion that is always present in the pick & ban phase is very dangerous for the professional scene. It effectively denies teams a fixed number of bans, as they have to ban certain champions or most likely lose the game. Worlds 2015, a month-long tournament that had 73 games, was a pretty infamous example of mandatory bans with Gangplank (69 bans & 4 picks) and Mordekaiser (68 bans & 4 picks). Similarly, Kalista was banned in all 80 games of Worlds 2017.
The presence of overpowered picks puts additional pressure on the Red Side. If they don’t ban a certain champion, Blue Side simply first picks it. As a reminder, European LEC and the North American LCS still play best-of-1 matches. Whoever plays Red Side early in the split is at a disadvantage long-term as well. Their opponent will not end up in the same predicament during the second match, as the problematic OP pick will (hopefully) be nerfed by then. The Eastern leagues, LCK and LPL, have it a bit easier with bo3 series, but one team still has to play the Red Side twice.
Enter Kai’Sa, the single most dominant champion of Season 11 in pro play. Between the four leagues, she has been either picked or banned 94.4% of the time. For reference, Samira in the second place is at 58.6% with Aphelios at 52.6% and the rest at 30% or lower. Kai’Sa not just plays often (practically ⅔ of pro matches) but wins a lot as well, showing a win rate of 57%. Only Xayah is higher at 58%, but she was picked in 57 matches versus Kai’Sa 162.
The ADC duopoly is not new to the professional League of Legends. At the beginning of Season 2017, teams infamously played nothing but Jhin and Ashe. Back then, it was an extent to which ADC players could influence the game: simply set up others to actually play League. The 2021 problem is different: other ADC can’t stand up to Kai’Sa and Xayah. It seems like the answer in the upcoming patches will be nerfing them instead of making the rest of the ADC pool stronger. On top of the Omnivamp nerfs in Patch 11.3, chances are Kai’Sa and Xayah will be overnerfed just enough to become irrelevant in the pro scene.
The Pantheon Trifecta
Pantheon is the most banned champion in pro play at 70.1%. Esports players despise him just as much as us plebs, because Pantheon simply does too much. His stun has an insane amount of base damage (even if it doesn’t scale later), the one-directional invincibility is superb for objective control, and no melee champion – except for Fiora? – can win a 1v1 against Pantheon in the lane. Just last week, Pantheon had a 53%+ SoloQ win rate.
More importantly for both ranked and pro play, Pantheon is too flexible. The 53% figure that I mentioned for SoloQ was present for Pantheon in Jungle, Top, and Support. Teams love flex picks as they allow for cool draft mind games, but Riot Games view them differently. The devs generally prefer not to have champions that are strong in two non-adjacent roles. Top & Mid is usually fine but Top & Jungle really isn’t. Pantheon remains on top (he-he) of the meta offenders list as he continues to be strong in three roles through the Preseason and a full month of Season 11.
Now, you may wonder whether the pros are fear-mongering like they sometimes do. After all, some champions are wonderful in SoloQ but fail to win games in pro play. Pantheon certainly doesn’t. Pantheon lost the two games where he was picked as Support and Top, but the Jungle win rate is 64% (27 wins and 15 losses). No nerfs in sight here.
The Taliyah Dilemma
Taliyah has been neglected for a while. After two years of not touching the champion, Riot Games presented a list of changes in Patch 10.25 that would finally revitalize Taliyah in Mid, the role that Riot would like to see Taliyah played in. Desperate Taliyah mains were teased with the reasonable Armor buff and updated free Q projectiles mechanic—but the only thing that actually made it to live servers was reverting a two-year-old nerf to Jungle clear. In the end, Mid Taliyah got nothing.
Fast-forward to 2021, and Riot’s worst nightmare came true. Taliyah is an S-tier Jungle with an extremely oppressive pro play presence. She has a win rate of 78% (32 wins and 9 losses), which is the highest value for all champions with more than 5 games. The combined Pick & Ban Rate is pretty high as well at 69.7% (picked 16.3% and banned 53.4%) of the time.
The strategy of addressing Taliyah’s popularity in Jungle has once again been questionable. Patch 11.2 introduced a major nerf to Movement Speed from the passive, which naturally made Taliyah weaker in any role, not just Jungle. Patch 11.3 finally takes a more reasonable approach by reverting the Movement Speed nerf and lowering damage to monsters from Threaded Volley stones instead. Only time will tell if the nerf to Jungle clear will be enough of a deterrent from a very effective roamer in Jungle Taliyah. One thing is clear: Mid Taliyah is still yet to receive any love.
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Who is the strongest champion in professional League of Legends?
As of early Season 11, Jungle Taliyah is rocking it with a win rate of 78%.
Which champions pro League players hate the most?
It’s Pantheon, since he is both strong and flexible with the potential to be played in three holes. His ban rate is at 70.1%
What ADC do the pros play?
They prefer Kai’Sa and Xayah with an ocassional. Players who couldn’t get them usually opt for Aphelios and Jhin, but these are so behind they have had negative win rate in early weeks of Season 11 pro play.