Coach Enatron Talks About Drafting and Game Preparation
Enatron highlights the importance of drafting and what’s involved in this process as a coach.
With the LCS Regular Season and Playoffs now behind us, all that’s left for the professional League of Legends’ Season is the 2023 World Championships. One of the hot topics that’s discussed at this massive event every year is the value of drafting and game preparation.
We got a chance to sit down and discuss how important drafting and the game preparation process is with Dignitas’ Head Coach, Ilias ‘Enatron’ Theodorou!
When you're analyzing the draft tendencies, are there any key elements that you look toward to identify their preferred playstyle and potential weaknesses?
Enatron: First of all, we are using an analyst, so usually I'm asking him to give me patterns and tendencies from my opponents. For example, let's say we are analyzing if they have an OTP (one-trick pony), what percentage is the OTP played, how flexible the champion is, or if it's a mid laner champion, an AD carry, or a support. Then I can have a start at least knowing where my opponent has started their way of drafting.
The first thing I'm looking at before even watching the team is watching for patterns, because I want to understand from the enemy coach’s perspective. I'm trying to put myself in the opponent’s coach's shoes, basically.
Once I understand those patterns, then the next thing I'm watching is how much they're playing the meta champions and how much they're playing unique champions. Usually, the best teams are playing the meta champions and the worst teams are playing their own unique way of the game. So, I'm trying to figure out depending on my opponent, who am I facing, how I need to manipulate the bans, and then our picks, then their meta champions and their preferred champions.
Step 3 is watching the game tendencies. Let's say they are heavily bot-side focused. It's only natural for me to headshot their bot lane. So, I'm trying to see what the Champions of the current patch are helping to create that focus and once I'm aware about that, I discuss it with my team. Whether we have an answer to deal with it or whether we should ban any of that.
The fourth thing we're checking is, now that we know we are thinking like our opponents, we know everything our opponents are thinking, so in that case, how do we want our team to be playing. Of course, this is something that we have discussed throughout the week. But, when it comes down to the specific opponent. After we analyze the opponent, now we're thinking about how we want to play as a team. First as the opponent, and then we are slowly creating answers to their strong points. If we can match those strong points, we're probably going to match that. If we can't, we are probably banning something out. Once we understand our opponent and we are considering our identity, after that the process of the draft becomes a lot easier for us.
One of the things that you touched on is about teams that are not necessarily the best, tending to lean into unpredictable or innovative strategies. How do you account for that? I'm sure that there's some things that just aren’t publicly accessible information like private accounts.
Enatron: We start of course with always trying to track as many possible accounts as we can. A really good example of this tracking is when we were playing versus TSM in the playoffs and Insanity playing Xerath. Of course, he played Xerath three weeks before our game. But at that point, I sat down and thought why is he playing Xerath? I checked what the meta thing was being played at that point and the matchup that was being played was Azir.
The next thing I would have is a talk with Jensen. I’ll ask ‘Can you play Xerath into Azir?’ According to that answer or according to how we would scrim with that, I would know fully whether this pocket pick would be a pain or not for my drafting.
Of course, as you said, sometimes, maybe we cannot find those accounts or players are really good at hiding them. In these cases, just during the game, according to the identity that you're creating as a team, you're trying to figure out whether this team is capable of pulling off the weird pick.
A good example is Immortals when Bolulu picked Veigar on his fifth pick and we had four champs that were dashing into him. It was a really great counterpick. We didn't think about it at that time, but this is the element of surprise that all teams should have.
In a best-of-five series, how do you adjust your drafting approach between games to adapt to your opponent's adaptations and maintain a strategic edge?
Enatron: First of all, that whole week we are preparing for that game one. So, we have an idea of what we want to play and what potential points will be banned.
Going into games after game one, the first thing we are checking is not necessarily what they're banning or what they're picking, or even what we are banning or what we are picking. It's more about. Which players on both teams are having a great day or which players have great momentum from the last game.
For example, let's say we're going to the game and our AD carry looks really solid going into this game. Tomo is going to get more attention. Or, if my opponent is having his bad night or is having the day of his life, we are probably going to be trying to shut down his strong options as a champion and as a player.
Once we identify that, then we're going in understanding what surprises happened or how much we predicted our opponent had prepared against us and how well we were doing on stage that day as a team. As I said, we have an identity during the week. We seek out that identity and execute on stage. Of course, we're playing multiple styles during the week, so we can be more adaptable on the BO5, but we always have a main idea.
The second point is we are seeing if our opponent drafted the way we were expecting them to draft or if they prepared something new and we are addressing that before even the first game is done. Between us, the coaching staff, when we are backstage, we're already discussing how we want to approach the next game.
Can you walk us through the process of prioritizing comfort picks for your players while also ensuring a strong overall team composition during the draft?
Enatron: During the week leading up to the BO5, we are already creating a tier list of champions that our players would prefer to play during the BO5. We know the comfort zone of our players and we are always thinking that if a player has three champions and then bans two, that means we need to pick one of these Champions really early in the draft. But the week going into that BO5, we have been preparing to increase to four and five champions for the player. So at least for our team, every time that we were in the BO5 situation, we were making sure that all our players had five champions, because it's really hard for an opponent to headshot all five champions in a draft.
This means they are going to leave something more meta, and if they hit only one player, this means the rest are going to be strong. So, of course comfortability is a really important factor. I think versus TSM, for example, we were playing a lot of Tristana/Jayce and versus Golden Guardians, we went into Azir compositions because we felt like, that day, it was looking the strongest and that both Mid laners were really comfortable on that.
There are many team compositions that we will be thinking about, so it’s important to have in mind which composition beats the other and according to the power picks that we’re aiming for, we try to create a composition around them at the same time we try to promote the strengths of our squad.
What considerations do you take into account when deciding between prioritizing strong laning champions or scaling champions in the draft phase?
Enatron: It depends a lot on scripts, right? We are playing in total on a weekly basis 20 to 27 scrims. At that point we're experimenting with more early game, we're experimenting with more mid game, late game types of compositions, seeing what fits better to our team. We consider whenever we pick this champion, this is the highest chance of us winning. Or, whenever this player is playing X champion, there's a higher chance of us winning the game. During the day, as you said, it's really important to be taking note about ‘X’ players playing really well today. Based on this we might see they have a tendency to prioritize most of their power picks as late game Champions and use that as a starting point.
For example, in Game 3 versus Golden Guardians, we decided to go with Kai’Sa because we really believe that Tomo’s Kai’Sa was one of his best champions and we felt like she could match really well against the Golden Gardens bot lane strength. At the same time, we drafted Sejuani for Santorin because we were thinking that Sejuani was the easiest to promote our team identity. Of course, this is depending on the week of scrims and how much success we have seen with those picks recently as well.
When facing a team with versatile players how do you approach budgeting your three bans against someone who can perform well on a wide range of champions?
Enatron: Throughout my experience as a coach, the red side usually is the side where they need to invest one to two bans on a power pick. That was quite often the case this year, this split that we saw Neeko being permabanned because Neeko was looking really strong till the nerfs. Usually, there is at least that investment in most of their bans in meta picks and one will be power picks for the opponent.
You're always trying to force your opponent into a situation where they have to choose the least bad thing to give to the opponent. When you’re blue side, it's a bit more adaptable to draft, but you're always thinking that your enemy is going to get a guaranteed one or two lanes as a counter pick. So, you need to make sure that your counter pick is going to be really good when you're on the red side as well as when you're on the blue side to make sure that your bans are going to promote your team identity really well.
How do you decide when to prioritize flex picks and how to execute them effectively in your team's drafts?
Enatron: I think the strength of flex picks overall comes a lot from how strong the champion is in a specific role. When Rell was first reworked, I think it was really strong. She could be played in support blind pick, and she could be played in jungle and have a decent clear speed. Against a team that would draft Rell, you’d maybe pick something like Alistar. OK, well now Rell goes jungle, but Alistar cannot be flexed anywhere.
Of course there are flexibilities between solo lanes. We played LeBlanc, for example, on top. We have a really good LeBlanc mid laner. It’s really hard for the enemy to draft something against LeBlanc. You’d probably have to draft something like Lissandra or Syndra. But when you pick those champions and we put LeBlanc top lane then the enemy has been countered because they cannot put Syndra top lane for example.
We’d like to thank Enatron for taking the time to sit down with us for this ‘Question & Answer’ interview! Of course, there are many more strategies and topics we sadly could not possibly cover in this one conversation. Feel free to check out Enatron’s socials to ask him some of your own burning questions about drafts, game preparation, and more!
Be sure to follow Enatron on X/Twitter.