Why NA LCS Teams Struggle on the Red Side in League of Legends
The blue side has always been considered the stronger side of the map in League of Legends. Whether it’s in solo queue or on the professional stage, teams on the blue side usually have a five to 10 percent boost to their win rate.
However, the numbers have been particularly crazy in the NA LCS this split. According to match data from Oracle’s Elixir, NA LCS teams had a 60-percent win rate on the blue side through July 31. But the most recent trend is even more impressive. From July 29 through the second game yesterday, blue side teams in NA went 16-1, resulting in a staggering 94-percent win rate.
So, what’s the reason behind NA LCS teams struggling on the red side? It turns out that the biggest disadvantages of the red side also align with the weaknesses of NA LCS teams in general, with it all starting in the draft phase.
In the draft, blue side teams get the advantage of first pick, allowing them to secure the most powerful champion available. This forces red side teams to waste one or more bans on overpowered champions. This advantage is particularly beneficial for NA teams because it simplifies the game by giving them clearly superior champions.
On the other hand, red side teams get the chance to respond with two picks of their own. In other regions, such as the LCK, strong teams sometimes prefer the red side to trade one overpowered champion for two of their own. Additionally, the red side gets the last pick in the draft, allowing skilled players to counter-pick as they please.
Unfortunately, these strategies haven’t been effectively utilized by NA LCS teams. They tend to stick to the simpler approach of choosing the best champion or relying on comfort picks.
Another area where the blue side advantage commonly manifests is in the control of the Baron. The Baron is the most crucial objective in the game, and the map’s layout favors blue side teams. Due to the wall behind Baron, red side teams cannot easily see the objective by walking into the river.
This gives blue side teams tremendous control, even in neutral games. Checking Baron becomes riskier for red side teams. Moreover, when the other team has already started the Baron, it becomes even more challenging for a red side jungler to contest it.
There are ways to work around this, but many of them go against the historical tendencies of NA LCS teams. For example, red side teams should pick champions with strong poke, like Varus, to deter their opponents from attempting Baron. Champions like Zoe can check the pit with her ultimate without significant consequences, making her a valuable asset.
Alternatively, red side teams can opt not to fight around Baron and instead focus on split push strategies to force the enemy team into difficult decisions.
Recent games in the LCS have shown that some of these solutions can be effective for red side teams. In the match between OpTic Gaming and Echo Fox, OpTic, playing on the red side, employed interesting picks like top lane Fiora and mid lane Fizz. Their strategy revolved around split pushing and deterring Echo Fox from the Baron pit, and it was successful.
A similar approach was seen in the game between Clutch Gaming and Golden Guardians, where Clutch’s top lane Camille had constant priority in side lanes, ultimately helping the team secure victory.
As of now, red side teams in NA have won five straight games (except for a wild game where 100 Thieves lost against TSM). Only time will tell if this trend is temporary or if NA teams have truly figured out the red side conundrum. If it’s the latter, then it seems that EU’s red side win rate of only 32 percent through July 31 needs some improvement as well.
Keywords: NA LCS, League of Legends, red side disadvantage, blue side advantage, draft phase, Baron control.