[Worlds 2019] HAVE YOU SEEN THIS SORCERESS?: The sudden disappearance of Syndra

Syndra was one of the most highly contested picks in the Draft Phase coming into the 2019 League of Legends World Championship. After 43 games in the Play-In and through 24 Group Stage games, Syndra possessed a pick/ban rate of 95%, second only to the 100% boasted by Pantheon, who has been banned in every single game of Worlds aside from a single Play-In match. 

In the final 26 games of the Group Stage, Syndra was only banned in 12 of them, but the Dark Sovereign's expected rise in selection due to less bans did not materialize. Syndra's 65% pick/ban rate in the last 26 games pales in comparison to her 95% in the first 67.

This isn't the first time we've seen a champion that was perceived extremely strong heading into Worlds fall out of favor as the meta continues to develop, which begets the question: Why was Syndra considered so strong in the first place, and what in the world happened in the Group Stage to cause her sudden disappearance from the forefront of the Worlds meta? 

Sovereign's Strength

To understand what may have been inaccurately perceived by professional teams heading into Worlds 2019, one must understand the strengths that Syndra possesses in a vacuum given the current state of competitive LoL. 

Syndra's flexibility as a Bot Laner and Mid Laner, consistent laning, and waveclear seemed to have made her some sort of compositional chameleon that could always be trusted to fit in somewhere by the end of a draft. Mages are as viable as ever in the Bot Lane, which frees up for a more AD-heavy top-side which plays to the strengths of aggressive solo lane focused teams like Cloud9, and also increases the compositional viability of powerful AD Mid Laners like Irelia and Qiyana. 

Syndra's high burst damage and ability to chain other forms of Crowd Control with her Stun proc on her E, Scatter the Weak, means that she can properly capitalize on any set up by a playmaker. In addition, Syndra's immense amount of waveclear also means she can play safely in lane without missing too much CS, or shove a lane that is trying to do the same. In addition to this flexibility, Syndra has a smooth scaling curve and near-unmatched versatility in item and rune selection. 

▲ artist unknown

Dark Magic Drought

A decrease in both bans AND picks in the second half of the Worlds 2019 Group Stage implies an oversight in the previous competitive landscape. In the 14 of the final 26 games Syndra was left open, Syndra was picked only five times, and crucially, only once in the Bot Lane. Marksmen have proven themselves to be the premiere Bot Lane class at the World Championship. ayah and Kai'Sa are at the front of the meta, but other mages like Heimerdinger were still preferred to Syndra. 

So what happened to lower Syndra's stock? In her last five Group Stage Appearances, Syndra went 1-4, her only win coming in the Mid Lane in the hands of G2's Rasmus "Caps" Winther against Hong Kong Attitude in Group A. That sounds pretty bad, so let's take a look at how many games Syndra won in the first 24 games of groups.

Syndra was banned in 14 of those first 24 games, and in the ten she was left open, the Dark Sovereign hit the rift six of those times, twice as a Bot Laner. Out of those six games, Syndra's record was....1-5. With a single win in the Mid Lane.

To say Syndra has underwhelmed in the Worlds 2019 Group Stage would be an understatement. While the champion hasn't been completely forgotten, based on its stats, it looks like it probably should be by most teams still at Worlds 2019.

Syndra checks every single box for positive qualities in this meta, but as a whole kit, she stands as a jack-of-all trades, master-of-none with little agency or identity when compared to the more mobile, threatening Solo Laners. When compared to other control mages, Syndra lacks the durability to survive long against highly mobile opposing compositions like a Lissandra or the immense amounts of AOE damage that one can deal on the likes of Vladimir. 

When compared to other Bot Laners, Syndra may catch a laner or two off-guard, but the reliability of late game DPS marksmen, as well as the overwhelming amount of legacy marksmen players — Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao, and Sun "Cody Sun" Li-Yu just to name a few who didn't even make it out of groups — eclipses whatever flexibility Syndra can bring in the early or even pre-stages of gameplay. 

Even other bot lane wizards are doing their jobs better than Syndra, and that's because their niches are clearly more carved. Veigar's AOE stun on his E, Glacial Augment slow procs, and massive scaling make him a clear pick for Scaling and zoning for more mobile solo carries, whereas Heimerdinger is in the Bot Lane to negate the 2v2 entirely and auto-shove to his heart's content. Syndra...does a little bit of all of that, but nowhere near as well as the aforementioned in their respective specializations.

▲ Image Source: Riot Games

Before the Dawn

Despite her lack of defined purpose and underwhelming Group Stage, there is still a chance we see Syndra in the Knockout Stage. Amongst remaining teams at Worlds 2019 are a handful of world-class talents on the Dark Sovereign. 

Invictus Gaming Mid Laner Song "Rookie" Eui-jin was a legacy Syndra long before he used the mage to help him win his first World Championship in 2018. G2 Esports will still find plenty of flexibility in drafting Syndra due to Caps' proficiency on the champion, and Bot Laner Luka "Perkz" Perković has kept the Dark Sovereign in his champion pool after his role swap long before she was the flavor of the month on Patch 9.19.

However, the second round robin of Group C might be the best indicator of Syndra's future for the remainder of Worlds 2019. In the final six games of the group, Syndra was only banned once and selected zero times across both sides. 

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