Why Kog'Maw picks are on the rise in pro play -- and why they shouldn't be

Provided by Riot Games

Prior to Rift Rivals, League of Legends champion Kog'Maw only appeared in six League of Legends Champions Korea games. In the span of a week, however, Kog'Maw now has a total of 18 appearances in the top league in the world.

That doesn't mean the Kog'Maw win rate in the region improved. Before Rift Rivals, Kog'Maw enjoyed a 50 percent LCK win rate, but since then, the number has fallen to 42.9 percent.

So why is "The Mouth of the Abyss" becoming more prominent in the LCK?

Kog'Maw came into fashion in LCK post-Rift Rivals in part because Team WE's Jin "Mystic" Seongjun dazzled spectators with Kog'Maw-led victories. In the Chinese League of Legends Pro League, Kog'Maw has the highest win rate of any AD carry picked in more than five games for 2017 Summer. In the span of one week, however, that win rate has fallen from 69 percent to 59 percent.

Kog'Maw has highest win rates in regions with suffering early games like the European League of Legends Championship Series and the LPL, or poor top-to-bottom parity like the LPL and League of Legends Master Series in Taiwan. Even in EU and LMS, where Kog'Maw enjoys a win rate above 50 percent, it has only been picked 11 and 10 times, respectively.

To understand LCK's recent Kog'Maw craze, it's important to note what WE and Mystic do correctly with Kog'Maw, and the vision contingencies elsewhere that make it very much a fool's pick.

"As EU LCS caster Riot Deficio says about Martin "Rekkles" Larsson and AD Kennen, I think in the current meta only Team WE play the pick with all the proper conditions met. Even in the LPL and even with a patch change looming that may make Kog'Maw effective against heavy tanks, the Void Pug's win rate will surely drop further.

In Team WE's Rift Rivals wins over Flash Wolves and SK Telecom T1, the team played two Kog'Maw compositions. Both had a great deal in common: the presence of Galio, Jarvan IV, a bruiser and a protective support. Team WE's Kog'Maw games throughout the 2017 summer split follow similar trends, but most notably WE only picked Kog'Maw in one game at the start of the split without Javan IV. That early game in the first match WE played of LPL Summer split, they chose Kled in the top lane to perform a similar function.

Given how WE draft, Kog'Maw often comes as a higher priority than Jarvan IV because opponents have shown a greater tendency to ban or deny Mystic's Kog'Maw. WE have received a Kog'Maw ban in 67 percent of their games this summer; it's the champion most banned against them by a significant margin, the next most-banned being Zac at 43 percent of games. Opponents seemingly ignore the importance of champions like Jarvan IV, Galio and Kled both when playing with and against Kog'Maw.

Jarvan IV's ultimate creates a free zone around the enemy team, separating them from Kog'Maw to allow Kog'Maw to free hit. WE have shown willingness to pick Jarvan IV as both a jungler and a top laner because they acknowledge its usefulness in AD carry-centric teamfights. In WE's pivotal games against SKT and Flash Wolves, the combination of Galio and Jarvan IV put a massive distance between Kog'Maw and the enemy team, but with Kog'Maw's range, he can still make use of the setup for free damage.

WE also denied enemy teams a chance to pick Jarvan IV and engage across the map on an unsuspecting Kog'Maw. The reason Kog'Maw's dominance in the LPL represented a worry more than a sign of strong AD carries was poor vision setup and the high prevalence of engage champions.

Even without Kog'Maw, the vision concern remains relevant. As a result of fear of engage in the mid lane, teams often hesitate to push minion saves up mid and invade the enemy jungle for flanking wards. With Kled, Jarvan IV and Galio able to engage from a screen away, these wards become even more important, but also more risky to place. Rather than risk pick compositions that rely upon jungle wards, teams double down on 5-on-5 teamfighting compositions that don't rely on the wards to split off into side lanes. As a result, side lane control and deep vision globally has suffered

Not even SK Telecom T1 was spared. While many worry about SKT's recent losses, a lot of fault lies in vision philosophy, not overaggressive top laners and junglers. More often than not, SKT have relied upon a thin line of river vision and preferred to buy Sweepers early and deny wards from the enemy rather than place their own. This allows them to make follow-up catches, noting patterns, and force teams to react through fog of war while SKT uses passive vision.

When SKT AD carry Bae "Bang" Junsik jumped briefly on the Kog'Maw train this week, SKT's vision gaps became more obvious.

SK Telecom T1 have always had a tendency to overextend, especially with mid laner Lee "Faker" Sanghyeok. His willingness to play with fog of war and use his own cunning in trades has gotten him caught much more often this split with so many long-range crowd control champions taking center stage. When SKT don't ward past river against the likes of Kog'Maw, Rumble, Kalista and Alistar and position their Kog'Maw in the front line, they opened themselves up to game-losing engages. This cost them two pivotal teamfights in a sweep loss to Afreeca Freecs, one of which ceded Baron.

Aside from claiming picks like Jarvan IV for themselves, Team WE also ensures it has pushing solo lanes (or at least mid lane). Kog'Maw very likely will lose pressure in the bottom lane against almost any opponent duo lane, but mid lane champions like Galio or Karma that almost always have the push prevent the enemy mid from roaming bottom with the jungler. It also makes it easier to keep rows of minions pushing into the enemy jungle during mid game and opens options get picks, avoiding Kog'Maw teamfights all together.

"While many worry about SKT's recent losses, a lot of fault lies in vision philosophy, not overaggressive top laners and junglers."

To finally take down Kog'Maw in Game 3 against Invictus Gaming, for example, Royal Never Give Up managed to control mid lane and side lanes to set up picks on Wang "Megan" Liuyi. They could avoid the bait of the mid lane 5-on-5 with easier midgame mid lane control using the likes of Rumble and Orianna.

With Kog'Maw, teams often fall into the trap of drafting multiple scaling carries. The popularity of Corki makes it a logical complement as both hyper-scaling magic and AD makes it really difficult to itemize. Corki has many poor laning matchups, however, and without strong mid control, Kog'Maw has a more difficult laning phase and will get picked more often in the midgame.

Even players like Kim "Deft" Hyukkyu, historically known for Kog'Maw, should probably leave the pick pocketed if KT Rolster plan to contest questionable Barons and fail to properly push the vision line to prevent Kog'Maw from getting caught out. Shorter-range mid picks like Cassiopeia don't necessarily complement Kog if he needs a longer range line of defense against the likes of Kalista and Braum.

Leave the Kog'Maws to WE's more well-rounded approach, and work on finding answers to the deep warding problem, which will remain relevant in the age of Dusk Blade and Cho'Gath.

Ultimately, a lot of LPL Kog'Maw's successes have come from messy vision control, teams too afraid to execute picks in the jungle and poorly wrought compositions. Enemy teams getting caught out, and Kog'Maw's scaling brute-forcing teamfights, doesn't mean the pick is good; it means that teams have gotten lazy about execution, and Kog'Maw's lowered win rate in LCK despite its uptick in popularity supports it.