In the game League of Legends, there are more than 75 different champions to choose from and each fills a role typical of the traditional archetypical trinity of role-playing games. There are healers, tanks, dps’ers, rogues, warriors and wizards of all sorts. The common belief that all players should learn and be able to use any of those types of champs effectively is widely accepted as the norm. And for ranked play, this is certainly very true. Focusing specifically on a single champ can leave you high and dry in ranked play if your favorite happens to get banned. The most popular way to avoid this, of course, is to learn many different champs filling all the different roles. This helps players not only adapt to their team’s needs in any given circumstance, but also broadens a players understanding of the game as a whole.
With that said, however, normal (unranked) play is a whole different ballgame. Normal play is determined by what is called a “Blind pick” (as opposed to the Ban/Open Pick one experiences in matches where ELO is on the line). What that means, in essence, is that every player on a particular team is free to choose whichever champ they feel like playing. Only occasionally do players actually have any real concern for team composition or necessary roles. For example, I’ve found myself in countless games without a tank, or even in the worst cases, without any real team-fight initiators at all. But this discussion is not about team composition.
This discussion is about champion mastery versus player adaptability in normal, unranked games and why I believe champion mastery far outweighs the importance of being able to play several different champions and/or roles in those situations.
I believe the school of thought that states that players should learn a number of champions does not apply here.
In my own experience, I can say with confidence that I have mastered one champion. Out of all the characters available, I’ve learned as much as I possibly can with Sona in the confines of unranked play. I say this, because I’ve played hundreds of games with her and have faced nearly every possible matchup. I’ve played Sona against a Sona. I’ve played Sona against Xin Zhao. I’ve played Sona against every other champion out there, with the exception of Vayne (who was only just released earlier this week). I know how Sona stacks up in terms of range, durability and mobility. I feel confident that I can approach any game with Sona and win with very few deaths (0-2) and a very high number of assists (often more than 20).
So what does that say about me as a player? Nothing, other than the fact that I am consistent with Sona. Otherwise, I know nothing, and that’s why I only play unranked games.
The reason I say this is because of my recent experience with Vayne. When I enter the fields of justice with Vayne, I feel as though I have started from scratch, and must re-learn the game anew. With Sona, I feel confident being aggressive against a champion like Irelia because I know that I will not only be able to outmaneouver her, but I have a very distinct range advantage and a superior form of healing. Alternatively, with Sona, I know to maintain safe distance from champions like Taric or Sion. The ranged stun those champions have can put Sona in a very bad situation.
With Vayne, on the other hand, there is definite danger aggressing Irelia. Irelia’s Bladesurge has approximately the same range as Vayne’s auto-attack. Moving into that range puts Vayne in jeopardy due to her fragile nature and Irelia’s high burst damage. Add to that Irelia’s ability to heal with Hiten Style, and Vayne is simply out-matched. For me, this lesson was hard-won.
But that just brings the point home all the more dramatically. In order to be as consistent with Vayne as I am with Sona, I’ll need to relearn all the possible match-ups against her. Not only that, but Vayne has an entirely different style of play. As a support champion, Sona requires very little gold and needs to be close to the action in order to be effective. Her healing, speed boost and even her ultimate all have a range that requires her to be on the heels of her carries and tanks (albiet at a slight distance and safely behind those she supports). Vayne, however, is an assassin type. She requires a great amount of gold and a strong initiator ahead of her. Sona can initiate team fights with her ultimate. Vayne is effectively useless until someone else has committed to a fight. Only at that time can Vayne truly bring her weapons to bear, behind the scenes, and seek and destroy that enemy support or ranged carry.
I believe taking the time and making the effort to master a single champion at a time is the best foot forward in the direction of success in League of Legends. Yes, being able to play several different champions and roles makes a player more versatile, but focusing on a single champion at a time allows a player to become consistent.
If one were to become serious about competitive play (or “going pro”) one should very seriously consider spending the time it takes to learn several different champs, certainly. But I highly recommend doing so one character at a time while maintaining good practice with those champions who are already mastered.