In the match against Team Dynamics in round 1 of the LCK, T1's Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok hovered Syndra for a short moment.
Just that hovering of Syndra got fans excited. Faker was known as the pioneer of Syndra during his days as “Gojeonpa” and his Syndra pick has been sealed in official matches for more than three years.
Faker eventually changed his pick to Orianna. Faker did play Syndra last spring, but he had hardly played her over the past three years.
Where’s Syndra? And where’s Karma, for that matter?
This made fans question why doesn’t Faker play Syndra? And that in turn also led to the question: Why doesn’t the LCK play Syndra?
Even though Syndra gas had a very high pick or ban rate in the LCS, LEC, and LPL, the LCK has been hardly picking her. While she was one of the most picked or banned champions in the other major regions during the first round of 2020 Summer, Syndra only appeared in 44.8 percent of the picks and bans in the LCK, picked in only 18 out of 116 games, at the time of writing. In comparison, LEC has a 100 percent pick or ban rate and the LPL and LCS have a high pick or ban rate of near 90 percent.
Yoo “FATE” Soo-hyeok has played Syndra the most in the LCK — in a total of five games — but considering SANDBOX Gaming’s head coach is Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi, the LEC meta could have influenced them.
On the other hand, the most popular pick in the LCK has been Karma — a champion which appeared in less than half of the picks and bans in the other three regions. Karma appeared in 96.6 percent of the games in the LCK, making her the most popular pick in the league. The difference between LCK and the other leagues were very wide, as Karma was picked or banned in less than 50 percent of the games. Especially in the LEC, the pick and ban rate of Karma was low at 24.4 percent.
LCK pros explain Syndra’s and Karma’s pick-ban trends
So why are there such different trends between the LCK and other regions?
Over the course of the past week, we asked various pros, coaches, and analysts about why this is the case and many opinions compared Syndra to other mid lane champions in the current meta. Gen.G's top laner Kim “Rascal” Kwang-hee rated her a lot lower in the list of meta champions at the moment, stating:
“I don’t think that she [Syndra] offers as much as the other meta picks in the LCK at the moment. Her range is a lot shorter than Zoe, she has much less utility than Twisted Fate and has a lot lower survivability and hard engage ability than Azir”.
Some also associated the unpopularity of Syndra with LCK’s “safe and play-to-outscale” playstyle. Gen.G mid laner Gwak “Bdd” Bo-sung said:
“There are a lot more skirmishes breaking out throughout the games in other regions, such as the LPL, while fights don’t even start when you want them to in the LCK. Since Syndra’s abilities have high damage with short cooldowns, I think it’s more suited for those regions that always like to fight”.
DAMWON Gaming’s mid laner, Heo “ShowMaker” Su, added:
“Syndra is a ‘high-risk, high-return’ champion, and because of how LCK has historically preferred a playstyle that’s safer overall, she’s not a highly contested pick,” ShowMaker said, despite the fact that T1’s head coach Kim Jeong-soo mentioned that ShowMaker is the only player in the LCK that can confidently pick Syndra.
In a way, such comments about Syndra explained the popularity of Karma in the LCK. Not only does Karma unlock so much utility and survivability for her team with just one or two items, but she’s also a champion that’s very useful in the draft as well, as she can be flexed into three (potentially even four) roles. The head coach for DragonX, Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho, explained:
“Karma’s AOE Mantra Shield provides a lot of support to the other carries in the team in the mid-late game. How strong a team composition is in the mid-late game serves as an important checkpoint in the LCK, so I think that’s why Karma’s so popular”.
However, the head coach for T1, Kim Jung-su, had a different opinion about Karma:
“In the LCK, there are a lot of games that all come down to the marksman champions. The funny thing is, we don’t like to use Karma as well, as the enemy continues to create unknown variables leading up to the power spike that Karma and the marksman champion(s) bring.”
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Obviously, the playstyles and meta trends vary from region to region and league to league. While there are similarities in the three other major regions (LCS, LEC, and LPL), the LCK stands as an outlier in the current meta, due to a more conservative, safer style of play.
However, with every patch, the draft trends shift and there’s still the possibility that the pick/ban rates for Karma and Syndra in the LCK change. And if not, we'll see how Korea's unique meta fairs against the world when the 2020 World Championship arrives — whenever and wherever that might be.
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