When you watch a professional League of Legends game, you’ll often hear the casters and analysts talk about “team comp.” This is a fairly self-explanatory term. It refers to the synergy that the champions on a team have together. However, the standards used to judge the strength of a team comp are less apparent. This can often be a difficult thing to gauge because sometimes a good team comp can lose. Also, as NA LCS analyst Mark “MarkZ” Zimmerman once said “I think you can have a good team comp without a good draft”. So, what kind of factors can we use to judge how good a team comp is?
Team Comps: The Essentials
First, let’s discuss the essentials. What are some things that literally any team comp ever will need? One should be obvious: Damage. Can’t just have a team with all tanks. You’re all really hard to kill, sure, but nothing’s gonna happen. Ever.
Generally, but not always, it’s advisable to have a good damage split. You don’t want to be “AD-heavy” as people call it, or worse, “AP-heavy.” AP-heavy is worse primarily because you have much less objective pressure. There’s certainly no secret that Master Yi will knock down towers and dragons faster than Ahri. This isn’t necessarily an “essential” though. It’s still possible to win with an AD-heavy team or AP-heavy team. AD heavy teams usually have several Black Cleaver buyers anyway, since it’s such a popular item. Cleaver’s Armor shred benefits the entire team this way. The armor shred passive of multiple Black Cleavers does not stack. However, two Cleaver users attacking the same target will stack the armor shred to maximum more quickly.
Generally, I like to refer to it as “physical damage” or “magic damage” to avoid the confusion with someone like Corki or any other champion who does magic damage without necessarily prioritizing heavy amounts of Ability Power.
The next essential is utility. Utility is basically anything that isn’t straight up damage or tankiness. Heals, shields, CC, mobility, etc. It’s anything that allows you to make plays, whether you’re forcing a play or punishing the enemy team. Generally, it’s wise to have some kind of engage potential, although not always necessary. This generally comes in the form of a tank champion, but not all tanks are “engage based.” Defensive utility to protect your priority carries is also very useful.
Another not necessarily essential thing that enhances team comps is having not too many melee champions. While melee champions tend to have some amazing tools, having too many melee champions lowers your ability to trade back damage while running away or “kiting” as it’s popularly called.
Finally, any team comp needs a win condition. Team comps are generally defined by either the win condition they’re going for or the tools they’re prioritizing.
Now that we know how to define team comps, let’s learn about some different kinds of team comps while keeping one thing in mind, not every team comp is cut and dry. There’s some overlap generally.
Teamfight Team Comps
When people hear the phrase “Teamfighting-Based comps, they might think of something that looks like this:
We’ve all been a part of comps like this many a time in soloQ, but they’re not seen in competitive often. I picked a particularly bad example so I could take apart the problems with this kind of comp as a demonstration.
To begin with, Malphite, Amumu, and Orianna are all magic damage dealers. This team’s entire topside of the map is magic damage oriented. Malphite’s lane opponent will most likely prioritize some kind of early MR, like a first back Spectre’s Cowl, Hexdrinker, or just Mercury’s Treads.
Generally, Malphite is a pretty weak laner. Most people know this, but his laning will get even more difficult if all his enemy laner needs to do is buy Hexdrinker/Merc Treads or Spectre’s Cowl/Merc Treads to become essentially invincible. Invincible not only in the early 1v1s against Malphite, but also to any sort of pressure that might be applied from Amumu or Orianna. The enemy jungler may also put a priority on some of that early MR to make those 2v2 in the mid and top lane all the more difficult.
This doesn’t just make early game difficult though. As the game transitions into the mid and late game, you have an Orianna who can’t deal significant damage since everyone has so much magic resistance. Void Staff can only do so much.
So late game, MF might be who this team has to rely on as a carry. She’s a lane bully, right? Miss Fortune should be able to get an early advantage. The problem with that is that MF’s support is Leona. While Leona’s all-in is strong, her early laning has a lot of exploitable weaknesses. While this sort of “wombo-combo” team may look really cool. It’s important to realize that League of Legends is not just a 5v5 game. It’s also a 1v1, a 2v2, a 3v3, a 1v2, and 3v2, and so on. That’s not to say you’ll never see a comp like this in competitive, but typically there has to be a specific environment that allows it to be viable. We’ve seen multiple iterations of it: “Curse of the Sad Bullet Time,” “Yasuo’s Knock Up Comp,” and “Orianna’s Ball Delivery System.”
This is a more convential “teamfight-oriented” comp you might see in Competitive play at the moment:
While the “wombo-combo” potential of a comp like this isn’t as obvious, it still has very reliable means of engage from all its members. There’s great peel available for the carries of this team as well. It has a good damage split, with lanes that have good gank assistance for this Lee Sin to snowball off his famously strong early game pressure. There is a mix of single target and Area of Effect abilities. You also have a much stronger bot lane duo combo for those early game trades.
Pick Team Comps
“Getting a pick” is when you can catch someone out by themselves and kill them, which gives you a plethora of options to work with. You can force a teamfight since it would be 4v5, apply pressure in all lanes since it would be more difficult to match, or make an attempt at Baron, Rift Herald, or Dragon. Certain team comps prioritize the tools that allow them to get good picks.
This is an example of the kind of team comp that necessarily doesn’t need a dedicated full tank champion. It’s very popular in competitive due to that aforementioned plethora of options once this comp gets what it wants. This is very much the opposite of that first AOE-based team comp we looked at, because the tools you want in a comp like this are largely those for taking down single targets. The second comp we looked has good pick potential, but let’s look at a more dramatic example:
Look at those solo laners. That is some very devastating early pressure you have there. While this comp doesn’t have a dedicated full-tank champion, Renekton, Thresh, and to a lesser degree, Elise, will be building “semi-tanky,” so you will still be able to absorb some hits.
You might think it’s easy to play around a pick-comp, as it’s very dependent on the enemy team making a mistake. However, deep vision wards in the enemy’s jungle are essential for gathering the information necessary to make picks. This means that members of the team must risk getting picked in order to set up a pick!
There are still weaknesses with a comp like this. It’s not, as a whole, very strong late game. You have three champions on this team who are specifically known for late-game problems: Renekton, Elise, and LeBlanc. The 5v5 on this team isn’t as good as it was on the first two teams we looked at due to a lack of AOE damage. However the options are plentiful, and the pressure is powerful.
The 1-3-1 Team Comp
This is a type of splitpushing comp. We all know what splitpushing is. Someone goes off into a side lane to push it by themselves while another part of the map is being pressured simultaneously. “1-3-1” is the most classic form of splitpushing. 1 person in the top lane, 3 in the mid lane, and 1 in the bot lane. How do you decide who goes where? Well, the best splitpushing champions are the ones with the strongest 1v1 potential. If you have a champion that no one on the enemy team can beat in a 1v1 or match the pressure of, then you force the enemy to send multiple team members to deal with that person. This allows your team to capitalize on a numbers advantage in the rest of the map. Throughout League’s history, many teams have opted for this kind of composition due to its ability to get good picks and pressure all lanes at once. Weaknesses with a 1-3-1 typically include not the best scaling or 5v5, and a reliance on having some kind of lead. Here’s an example of a 1-3-1 comp one might run in the current competitive meta:
This is a pretty standard 1-3-1. You’ll most likely see Kled and Ekko in the side lanes with Kha’Zix, Caitlyn, and Lulu in the midlane. A midlaner who can take Teleport is fairly essential to this strategy, as the splitpushers both have to be able to respond quickly if the enemy team engages on the group of three.
Poke & Siege Team Comps
The idea of this comp is to prioritize long range abilities that can be used to chunk the opposing team’s champion’s health bars to a point where they can no longer defend objectives.
Poke & Siege Comps have an odd relationship with engage-based team comps. They both counter each other in a sense. If a team is too low on HP to engage, the poke comp will get what it wants, but at the same time, the poke stops mattering once the engage actually happens.
The utility you generally want in team like this is a primarily defensive utility. Having disengage is very helpful to prevent your carries in this comp from getting engaged on. Another useful tool is ranged CC. Having something you can use to lock down targets without committing so that your teammates can follow up on it without going all the way in is very useful.
Strengths of a comp like this include early spikes and how easy it is to build a large objective lead. Since poke comps generally start grouping earlier than other team comps, it is difficult to deal with the hybrid damage coming in around the midgame. Even your tanks while most likely not have the resistances to soak the damage coming in.
Poke comps are not necessarily very lead-dependent comps, as they will naturally spike at the midgame. However, they’re still very execution-heavy comps that might get run over in the lategame. That’s not to say that you can just fall behind and rely on that natural midgame spike. Obviously, you never want to fall behind, but another key weakness of this comp is how vulnerable it is to flankers.
A powerful flanker (e.g. Gragas, Lee Sin, Kennen) can do serious damage to a team like this. Being ahead as a flanker presents you with an easier opportunity to get down the deep vision to make those flanks happen. I have a simple rhyme to remember this weakness. If a poke/siege comp gets cut off at the pass, they’re going to take it in the a**.
Here’s an example of a poke-oriented comp you might see (although some of these picks are a bit off-meta for the current competitive state):
Your primary pokers on this team are Nidalee, Jayce, and Ezreal. Nami and Nidalee can keep up sustain (another variation, made famous by Immortals, is Nidalee and Soraka—Nidalee heals the Soraka, meaning Soraka has infinite healing for the rest of her team!). Maokai will be the one to soak damage and look for the opportunity to dive to punish the enemy team if they stay too long under those turrets. There’s also great disengage tools from Nami and Jayce.
Kite Back/Disengage Team Comps
“Kite back” can function somewhat similarly to pick comps or poke comps, but one of the key differences with a kite back comp is how much pressure it can provide as the team is moving backward from potential engages. A “kite back” comps requires very careful execution, excellent communication, and extreme patience. Especially as this kind of team comp will generally opt to have a very small amount of engage potential. Possibly, it could have none at all. If you want to see how a Kite Back Team Comp is properly executed, I urge to you watch some games from SK telecom T1 (especially last year). This is one of their favorite team comps to run, and it has been for a long time. Here’s an example of what a Kite Back Team Comp might look like:
This is a specific iteration of the “Kite Back” comp known as Triple Marksman, and you can probably guess why they call it that. Everyone on this team has tools that are useful for kiting back. Rumble’s ultimate, Graves’ W, Corki’s W (both normal and with package), Lucian’s E and ultimate, Zyra’s E and ultimate. What is particularly strong about a triple marksman comp is the amount of DPS you have against objectives. This team has a lightning fast Baron.
Protect the Hyper Carry Team Comps
We’ve all probably heard of this one before. This team usually has only one major damage dealer, and it’s usually the ADC. The rest of the team is comprised of champions with the tools to protect and engage for this champion. With a comp like this, you need to use a hyper carry or you’ll suffer late game from a lack of damage. However, this puts a big burden on the ADC. If your carry doesn’t have the items they need to do damage, you’ve got a major problem. This team’s teamfighting is absurdly good and they make it very difficult to get high value picks. How well this team comp works generally depends on what kind of place hyper carries are in with the meta at the time, but it might it look something like this:
At MSI, we’ve seen a fair amount of this kind of team comp. Orianna is a champion who is great for this comp since not only does she contribute to the “protect the ADC” aspect of it, but she can also be a damage dealer. All the eggs aren’t in Kog’Maw’s basket, so to speak. The current strength of Ivern as a champion also is great for this team. Look at all those shields. You think you’re gonna kill Kog’Maw through those?
Other Forms of Synergy
There are other smaller forms of synergy that can be used across the map to enhance your team comp as well. For example, running multiple AP champions on a team with lethality abusers. Lethality and flat magic pen have increased value against targets with lower amounts of the resistance, so if you build for your lane against the lethality abuser or the magic damage dealer, you have a high chance to be punished by the rest of this team.
Another example would be scaling champions with high waveclear champions. Especially in competitive, where playing safer is relatively easier and more rewarding, teams with high amounts of waveclear make it difficult to contest objectives. Say you have a heavy scaling top laner like Gangplank. Gangplank really appreciates allies like Viktor or Sivir who are immensely good at clearing waves in the other lanes.
Global ultimates also have a lot of synergy with each other. There was a time when building your entire team comp around global ultimates was the standard. Personally, I would regard this kind of team comp as the strongest I’ve ever seen because there was essentially no counter play to it. Think about it: you’re just putting down some wards or clearing a wave, then suddenly a Twisted Fate ult gets free vision of you. He shows up and stuns you, then a Shen ults in onto the TF so you can’t kill him, the Shen taunts you, and TF finishes you off. Boom—an instant pick onto a priority target. Since this time in League history, the tools that this comp abused have been nerfed and/or removed from the game entirely. It’s also part of the reason why almost every global ultimate in the game has such a massively high cooldown. Even though we haven’t seen a full global team comp done in quite some time, there’s still a lot of synergy with having a few global ultimates on your team.
For a final example, we have something I like to call “dive buddies.” This is when you prioritize champions who have strong backline access. The natural counterplay to these diver champions is to peel this champion off of their target. Put shields on that target, CC the diver, any form of peel that you can put out. This is why, especially in competitive play, diving is best done in pairs. Obviously, two people are harder to peel than one. Also, I’m not sure how much value you can give to this, but facing a powerful duo of “dive buddies” can be pretty tilting. Every teamfight, Vi and Zed both ulting you on cooldown can just make you feel helpless.
In competitive, where the communication is better and the punishment for mistakes is potentially larger, having a good team comp is very important. Every team comp has their strengths and weaknesses though, so teams that show that they have more than one trick in their playbook that they can execute reliably have a distinctive advantage. For example, I stressed how much SK Telecom T1 loves their kite back comps. They may love that comp specifically, but it’s not the only thing they can execute well. Most analysts would agree that in the case of soloQ, worrying about team comp is generally not as important. I would agree with that take as well. This article is entirely for educational purposes. Please do not run into soloQ and demand that your teammates run a Triple Marksman comp with you!