The bottom lane has been dominated by a trio of marksmen so far this spring, but the most popular of the three, Varus, hasn’t been putting his money where his mouth is.
Varus, Ashe, and Jhin all bring crowd control ultimates that make them useful in any circumstance and in most team compositions, which is important given the current itemization woes AD carries are facing. To put these champions’ popularity in context, the fourth-highest pick/ban rate for an AD carry belongs to Caitlyn at just 21%.
|Champion||Games Played||Pick/Ban Rate|
Based on LCS/LCK/LPL through two weeks of play; LMS data is not yet available. More champion stats from premier leagues.
Varus is leading the pack, with Ashe close behind. Most games feature a combination of those two champions, and they’re usually picked early in the draft to oppose one another. Varus is actually more popular than Ashe, though, judging by how often he is selected by the team playing the red side of the map, which typically is the first to choose their bot laner.
|Champion||Games on Blue||Games on Red|
There are many good reasons for Varus’s popularity. He has high versatility in his item builds, being able to opt into more utility, or more team fighting and tank-killing, and able to focus on either mid-game or late-game power depending on the win conditions of his team composition.
But Varus’s popularity, on first look, does not seem to be justified by his results. In his 91 games, Varus has only a 40% win rate!
|Champion||Games Played||Win Rate|
A discussion of this fact on Twitter led to a hypothesis from Misfits analyst Naser “Empyre” Al-Naqi:
@TimSevenhuysen at least that's what I think could be lowering his winrate. He's picked more often on red side.
— Empyre (@NaserAlNaqi) January 30, 2017
Empyre’s hypothesis proved to be correct. Here’s the evidence:
|Map Side||Varus Games||Varus Win %|
It’s unsurprising that any champion’s win rate would be lower on red side. In fact, in the NA and EU LCS, the red side is winning just 35% of games so far. The LCK has managed a red side win rate of 41%, but the LPL’s red side win rate is just 24%!
Obviously the solution to this issue for Varus isn’t as simple as “stop picking him early on red side.” The problem is that if the red team doesn’t pick Varus, the blue side probably will, and Varus’s blue side results are quite good.
There may be a solution in picking for matchups, however. While Varus has been successful overall on the blue side, there’s one champion who has given him trouble regardless of map side.
Jhin has been the third choice globally, but his results suggest that he’s being underused. Jhin has beaten Varus quite consistently, even when Varus has the blue side advantage. That’s not because Jhin wins lane: Varus leads the 2v2 with +2.4 CSD@10 against Jhin in 25 games. More likely the wins are coming from elsewhere on the map, perhaps with advantages gained through different elements of the draft by lowering the team’s priority on having first pick of AD carries.
Armed with this information, teams may decide to deprioritize picking their bot laner early, or they could choose to put higher priority on picking Jhin. Taking the latter approach should be relatively safe, since there’s no real need to fear an Ashe pick from the blue team, either: Jhin has an overall 45% win rate on Ashe in 20 games, and his map side win rates against her are fairly balanced (42% when Jhin is on blue, 50% on red).
But the greater risk from picking an early Jhin, or Varus or Ashe may come from giving up power picks in other positions. At the same time, avoiding an AD carry entirely in the first rotation on red side is dangerous, since it allows the opponent to have their own free choice from the trio. Failing to pick an AD carry at all in the first three picks is even more dangerous since it allows the opponent to ban any of the remaining top three picks and force you to descend the bot lane tier list.
There are no easy answers in the 10-ban draft system, and Varus’s win rate by map side is just one of the variables that is emerging to prove that point. The discussion will continue over the coming weeks: patch 7.2 hasn’t meaningfully altered the state of the bottom lane, so we will have more time to see how teams evolve their strategy around AD carry draft priority.