Greetings Summoners, it’s time for the third instalment of the Strategy Workshop. This time I am going to be talking about depth and breadth. Once again, to understand much of what I have to say you will need to have read the previous articles: Types of Strategy and Rock, Paper, Scissors. Specifically this time, I will be drawing on A LOT of what I have mentioned previously. So, seriously, go read it.
What do you mean by depth and breadth?
As we have already covered, there are three macrostrategies: Teamfight-oriented (combo), Objective-oriented (control) and Pick-oriented (aggro). To quote myself from the last article: “The reality is that it isn’t anywhere near as neat as I have presented it”. What is the reality then? There is no team composition that is entirely focused on one of the macrostrategies. Most (successful) compositions have strong potential in two of the three strategies, with only some focused only one and even fewer on all three.
Notice that I am talking about potential and execution. This is a throwback to something I bought up way back in Part 1. Strategy is split into composition and execution. Where compositional strategy is what the five champions picked are capable of doing and execution is what the five summoners are trying to do with them. Most of this article is talking about compositional strategy and works with the assumption that a team knows and is able to execute a strategy to it’s strengths.
Now, onto what depth and breadth mean in this context:
How strong the potential of a composition is in any of the given macrostrategies. Generally the more champions in a composition which lean towards a specific strategy the greater the depth that composition has in that strategy.
How many strategies a composition has the potential to successfully execute. For example a Teamfight-only composition has low breadth (ie is narrow) whereas a high breadth composition would be able to switch between combo, control and aggro at will.
Breadth vs Depth
The perfect team composition would be able to do all three macrostrategies very well, think of it as the strategic Holy Grail. The problem is that as you improve depth, breadth suffers and vice versa. If you have extremely high depth but no breadth and run into the strategy that counters yours (think back to Rock, Paper, Scissors) then you have a problem. Likewise if you go for high breadth then you are unlikely to be strong enough in any of the strategies to be able to execute them well (I could probably shove another Pokémon reference in here).
You need to achieve a balance between depth and breadth. As mentioned earlier, that balance normally lies in a dual-focus composition. In other words, Aggro-Combo, Aggro-Control or Combo-Control tend to be the way forward. With these you have an answer to whichever macrostrategy your opponent throws at you. Best-case you can counter it, worst-case you can match it. Mirror matches are actually pretty complex but for now I’ll just say that the strategic advantage goes to whoever has the greatest depth in the strategy.
In either case, however, dual-focus allows your composition to avoid getting hard-countered without sacrificing too much depth to do so.
Let’s go deeper
There are three dual-focus strategies, Aggro-Combo, Aggro-Control and Combo-Control. These strategies are able to swap between their two macrostrategies on-the-fly without sacrificing too much power in either. They can switch strategy to cover up weaknesses in scaling, laning discrepancies or to counter the opponent to name but three possibilities.
Aggro-Combo is a very common strategy to see. It is relatively easy to execute (an important but oft forgotten consideration) and is something people naturally stumble upon. I suspect most people come to this type of strategy by realising their Combo composition is weak early and so slots in early-game champions, which tend to be pick-focussed.
That is the theory behind Aggro-Combo. Mix in pick champions with your teamfighting combo to allow you to keep up with the opponent until the teamfighting phase. There are a number of ways of doing this, but virtually all of them revolve around having an early-spiking, aggressive jungler (Rek’Sai, Elise, Evelynn in the current meta) plus some form of “help” for the jungler: double-teleport to follow up on ganks; laners that are easy to gank for or a roaming support/mid laner. What it basically boils down to is the jungler and their +1 applying high early pressure through picks/ganks/invades (or the threat of picks) to relieve pressure off the teamfighting combo until it is ready.
Aggro-Control can be summed up by calling it “Aggro with a splitpusher”. It is fairly common for strong pick champions to make good splitpushers. Twisted Fate, Diana and Zed spring to mind, but also damage-oriented top laners like Riven. These teams have of course have the option of going full-Aggro early and mid-game and can snowball from there. But if they don’t and if they encounter a Combo team then the splitpusher goes off to splitpush. Of course you can’t just drop in a splitpusher and be able to use him, the other four members still need the key to any control strategy: disengage.
I’m deliberately trying to avoid metagame specific examples as they won’t stay relevant for long, but the current trend of double Teleport aids this strategy immensely with the spell’s potential to follow up on picks and aid in objective control.
Combo control is a different solution to the same problem Aggro-Combo answers: how to prop up the early weaknesses of a typical Combo-strategy. Some of the legendary strategies of the past fall into this category. The Moscow Five “push top then counterjungle” strategy was one. Running a Caitlyn push-lane is another. In fact Combo-Control nearly always revolves around one or more lanes which just spend their time pushing. Whether or not they get the turrets, they apply (safe) pressure in whilst in lane which draws pressure away from lanes that need to survive until the team can teamfight.
Of course, it’s important not to forget you need to be able to teamfight well. Either with champions that can do both (Viktor), a mix of control and combo champions or some magic synergy (Nunu + Caitlyn).
Between the three macrostrategies; their rock, paper, scissors interaction and now breadth, depth & the three dual-focus strategies, it’s all starting to get rather complex isn’t it? The good news is that this is about it for the pure-theory. From here on you should be able to start figuring out your own strategies to use and more importantly, when to use them. There are still some things which I have yet to cover in detail though: scaling, microstrategies, champion select. I will get to those, but in the meantime I look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with in the tournament this weekend. I hope you give me some good games to talk about in the new Weekly Recap.
~Peter ‘Aezure’ Dakin