In a recent tweet, Team Liquid’s Yiliang "Doublelift" Pen mentioned how Uzi has baited most Worlds 2018 lineups into playing towards their bot lanes. It’s easy to dismiss this comment as a member of a losing team making up excuses for his failure—after all, there’s close to no chance TL could find success by playing around anything other than their AD carry. However, the sentiment makes some sense if you separate the message from the messenger.
Royal Never Give Up have been so dominant in 2018 that it became very tempting to straight-up copy their bot lane focused playstyle. In fact, many teams did just that by funneling resources into their AD carries and using them to pave the way to the League of Legends World Championship. But while their efforts bore fruit, everything came crashing down at Worlds.
Gen.G, a team that broke through the LCK Gauntlet by relying on its superstar AD carry Ruler, crumbled in the group stage. Flash Wolves experienced similar issues when they tried to play around the powerhouse duo of Betty and SwordArt, and even the tournament favorites—Royal Never Give Up—suffered a crushing 3-2 loss in the quarterfinals against G2 Esports.
Drawing conclusions from these outcomes screams of results-based thinking. But in the end, Royal Never Give Up still made it to five games in the quarterfinals, proving that their playstyle is strong enough to go toe-to-toe with G2’s 1-3-1 setups. You could even argue RNG should’ve won the series if Uzi didn’t commit several blatant positioning mistakes.
The same applies to Flash Wolves. The LMS representatives had a great chance of advancing to the quarterfinals in a tiebreaker against the very same G2 Esports, but they threw it away by forgoing a Heimerdinger ban and drafting a head-scratching Mordekaiser/Tahm Kench bot lane. Granted, Gen.G never had success within their reach. Still, Ruler was from the main reason behind their downfall, and most of their problems stemmed from Crown struggling to hold his own in the mid lane. Even Team Liquid’s losses were facilitated by individual misplays and stubborn attempts to force fights with scaling team comps instead of their bot lane oriented playstyle.
Meanwhile, AD carries have already proven their worth on the World Championship stage. In their series against Afreeca Freecs, Cloud9 made a conscious decision to avoid fighting Afreeca’s top lane ace—Kiin—and focus on dominating the bot lane with Lucian and Braum. This approach paid off, and C9 took down the #2 LCK seed to qualify for the semifinals.
Another example is the match between KT Rolster and Invictus Gaming. Both of these teams are renowned for their solo laners, however, the final game in their series came down to IG’s AD carry—JackeyLove—flashing forward and finding two quick kills onto Score and Deft. Hell, even Fnatic rallied behind Rekkles when their main carry, Caps, faltered in the 1v1 matchup against EDG’s Scout.
Clearly there’s still a lot of value in funneling resources into your AD carry at Worlds 2018, so saying that the meta prevents you from playing around the bot lane doesn’t reflect the actual state of the game. If anything, the one thing this meta discourages is having weak players.
No matter the position, anyone can—and will—be punished for dropping the ball in the laning phase. And many teams at Worlds 2018 have been exposed by the fact that it’s now much harder to hide their shakiest members behind a strong carry.