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The Summoner's Guidebook: League of Legends' hardest choices

Patrick Mackey

Sometimes League of Legends gives us hard choices. As a jungler, I'm frequently tasked with the difficult decision of whether to gank or counter-jungle and where I should do so. After a lost teamfight, you also have to make a lot of decisions about how to turn the game around. Should you buy elixirs? Should you try to farm and stall the game out or force another teamfight in a better position?

These are all difficult choices. However, most players have to deal with the toughest question of all: Which champion should I unlock next?

There's always a story

As is frequently the case in The Summoner's Guidebook, there's a bit of inspiration as to why I chose to talk about these choices. Normally I have a small pool of potential choices to choose from before I have any surplus IP to spend, and I narrow down my choices as I play games. I tend to avoid champions I've barely played at all; I prefer to have a bit of experience behind the controls of a particular character before I invest in him or her.

Recently, I was stuck in a situation where I had about 4000 IP and still could not make up my mind between two characters: Syndra and Lulu. I usually pick someone who adds depth to my roster, but my best pick for that was Jayce and I absolutely hate him. I am really attracted to both Lulu and Syndra for both gameplay and aesthetic reasons.

In my opinion, Syndra is probably the most appealing character Riot has released in a long time. I really like her dark mage aesthetic (and she looks really hot), and she has quirky, complex gameplay. I remember when she was announced and I thought that I hadn't been this interested in a character since Zyra was released. She places little traps on the ground and she can fling minions around, and her entire gameplan is really complex. I think that her function doesn't match her form very well; her design is that she's a powerful magical prodigy, but her gameplay is a bit more strategic. I thought her gameplay would be a bit more Ryze and a bit less Bobby Fischer, but I like tricky gameplay so it ended up better for me anyway.

Lulu, on the other hand, is more of a support character, but on my home grounds of Dominion, she's a stellar pick. Her shield is awesome, her harassment is awesome, she has a movement buff to get people out of tricky situations, and it can be used to turn people into squirrels to create tricky situations. Lulu kind of reminds me of an adorable cat that jumps on your keyboard, only she's jumping on all of your opponents' keyboards at the same time. When she was initially released, I knew I wanted to unlock her, but I had so many characters I wanted and a lot of them were much cheaper than Lulu.

I recently made the decision to unlock a 6300 champion (I'm running out of 3150 characters I actually want), and these two popped to the top of the list. However, I couldn't decide! I really wanted both of them.

The Summoner's Guidebook League of Legends' hardest choices
And now the dilemma

The big problem with the Lulu vs. Syndra argument is that of these two characters, one is really good and the other is a niche pick. Syndra adds very little to my roster. I already have quite a few mage characters, and while Syndra is a bit more like Brand or Annie (neither of which I own) than my go-to mages (Ryze, Ahri, Diana, Zyra, Morgana), she's still a bit redundant.

On the other hand, I have quite a few supports too, but Lulu does a lot of unique things that no other character does. The closest approximation is Janna, but Lulu's ally-targeted ultimate and incredibly flexible skillshot zoning do things Janna can only dream of.

There's a little bug inside me though that wants Syndra anyway. Even though the end result of her gameplay is very similar to Brand, she goes about it in a very unique and different way. No other character in the game has the ability to pick up minions your foe is about to last-hit, then zone and harass your foe and toss the minion back at a bad time. Although Zyra has similar zoning to Syndra, no character really locks down an enemy's movement like Syndra does.

Lulu is fun too, but there's the combination of Syndra's completely zany gameplay and the fact that she's a bit underpowered that makes me want her more. Lulu is incredibly strong, everyone knows that she's strong, and she's a good pick in all game modes. She's the obvious choice, but that also frustrates me.

Why is it that a character as cool as Syndra has to be so niche? Her biggest advantage is that she's rarely played, and thus few people know the matchup. That's not really a sustainable advantage, especially in high-level play. Even if her opponent doesn't know the matchup, many characters can just use their basic gameplan and make life hard for Syndra.

The Summoner's Guidebook League of Legends' hardest choices
Making the choice

A lot of you readers would just pick the champion you like more, regardless of what she adds to your roster. Unfortunately, I think this is a bad decision, and I chose Lulu in the end because what she adds to my options is more important than a champion that might be a little more fun.

I'm not sure I'll ever unlock Syndra. She's a character I'd really love to have, but I'm not sure how much play she'd actually get. I bought Ahri (with RP, even) a long time ago for similar reasons and now I rarely play her. I'd like to play Ahri more, but I get into a situation where I'm solo mid and think, why not play Evelynn or Zyra instead? When I get a team composition where Lulu would fit best, I can lock her in and feel good about my choice. I can't say the same for Syndra because there is never a situation where she would be the best option.

I know a lot of you disagree and you think that I should just play what I want, but ultimately I can't do that. League of Legends is a team game, and when I pick a champion I'm making a choice for the team, not for myself. That's the reason I pick the characters I do -- it's not for myself, but for everyone I might play with.

We understand what it's like to climb the skill ladder in League of Legends. The Summoner's Guidebook teaches you the tools you need to get a competitive edge. Whether you're climbing the ranked ladder, playing Draft Dominion, or getting crushed by intermediate bots, every enemy has a weakness. And every Thursday, Patrick Mackey shows how you can improve improve on yours.

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