I am tailoring this more for a ranked game perspective, but it should apply decently to normal games as well. When you enter champion select, after you call and successfully claim your role, what now? Are you ready to pick a champion?
Let’s cover some scenarios to analyze some of what I perceive as problems with champion select. First and foremost everyone asks: “Should I be x, y or z?” This is a loaded question. Assuming you play them all evenly and they can all contribute evenly, I can tell you which champion I feel fits our team composition, but is that scenario possible? I play champions at completely different levels–say I call jungle and am asking for Shaco, Hecarim or Gangplank.
If I can play them all evenly, Hecarim heads up would be my pick because he brings the most to lane presence and late game dominance in my opinion. But now say we have a Twisted Fate and Shen on our team. Suddenly, Gangplank’s global ultimate seems really potent to combine with the team’s already huge global presence. Shaco is a great ganker but falls off if he does not snowball the team in my opinion. But say we are running a super early game composition where we plan to win the game in under 30 minutes, ideally between 20-25, now he is probably better than Hecarim for sure because Hecarim’s late game is awesome, but an early team that pushes all the lanes hard and does skirmishes over large fights.
All of these options are assuming I can play them all equally, but now what if I can only play Shaco at 50% of his capability, Hecarim at 90% of his capability and Gangplanks at 70% of his capability? Even if we are running an early game composition, Hecarim at 90% of his capability sounds a lot better than Shaco at 50%. This all still assumes an even balance of each champion having the same damage and capabilities, which is obviously flawed as Hecarim can tank damage fairly well while GP can dish poke out at ranged.
Ultimately I always answer the original question (“Should I be x,y or z?”) with whoever you are most comfortable with. A person playing 100% of a champion is better than a person playing 50% of a champion.
Balancing this with the relative power of champions is important. Say I am choosing between two champions. Champion A is rated as a skill cap of 100 and champion B is rated as a skill cap of only 85 after the recent buffs/nerfs in this week’s patch. Now I have been playing champion B for over a month, and I feel like I can play him comfortably at 90% or maybe even 100% of his potential. But champion A I have not played much of at all because he got a pretty big buff and caught me by surprise. I can only play him at maybe 70% of his potential.
Champ B: 85*0.9=76.5+
Champ A: 100*0.7=70.0-
Now I add the plus because I might have a good game and I am more comfortable with this champion, so odds are I will play him better than worse. I add the minus because I am not comfortable, I am riding the flavor of the month train, and I just do not know champion A’s combinations as well as champion B.
The problem arises that if I ask a lobby which champion to play they will almost always lean to the “OP” champion because he is good right now and the patch notes give that to him. The problem is that in reality taking my comfort champion will almost always result in better play and a more optimal outcome.
This brings me to champion pools, which may seem contradictory, but give me a second! Just because I am comfortable with champion B from my previous example, does not mean he is the right choice. Maybe instead of jumping into ranked day 1 after the patch where I know champion A will catch people off guard who do not read patch notes and theory craft on the power spikes and dips of champions, I decide to practice them up and see if I can play them more optimally.
So instead I jump into normal and play champion A a few times to get the hang of their kit and how I may achieve my optimal play. I might then raise my comfort from 70% to 85% and change it from a minus to a plus because I realize I do enjoy this champion and just have not played it enough. Now champion A is the much better choice to the point, where even if I play champion B at 100% I cannot improve beyond 85 where as if I can play champion A even at 86% (from the plus) a slight improvement/lucky kill will drive you to its higher potential.
As such, testing out champions is important but playing your comfort champions is key. Doing this along with doing some research on patch notes will turn it into your game to lose. Leave a comment about what preparation you think helps in champion select.