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If there’s any team in the League Championship Series that knows 1v1 matches, it’s Cloud9. C9 won its most recent North American League of Legends domestic title last summer when it took the 2022 LCS Championship by storm due to the strong individual prowess of the players on the roster, and in retaining four of those five players, C9 hasn’t missed a step in 2023. The reigning champs are currently in a 1st place tie with FlyQuest in the 2023 LCS Spring Split with a 12-3 record.
Let’s take a look at the champions that members of the Cloud9 LCS squad are the key to success in 1v1 matches.
1. Vayne, the Night Hunter (C9 Berserker)
The words came out of Cloud9 AD carry Kim "Berserker" Min-cheol’s mouth right away: “If I pick for 1v1, I’m going to pick Vayne.”
No marksman champion slots into a traditional duelist dynamic better than Vayne, which has led to the pick being even more successful as a pocket solo laner than in the bot lane. Her mobility, stacking damage, and hyperscaling make for a tough to beat combination in any extended 1v1 trade regardless of game state.
In traditional League of Legends, Vayne is one of the weaker 2v2 bot lane picks. Her range is relatively short in comparison to most marksman champions, and her lack of waveclear and multi-target damage makes controlling the minion wave difficult on Summoner’s Rift. Similarly, Vayne wins most matchups in the top lane, but unless she gets incredibly far ahead, she’s not exactly great teamfight material from an even position as a top laner.
However, Vayne’s shortcomings are far less punishing in context of a 1v1 match. The innate strengths of her kit make her a formidable duelist that only becomes more dangerous as time passes.
2. Draven, the Glorious Executioner (C9 Fudge/C9 Berserker)
One League of Legends champion got a vote of confidence from the Cloud9 LCS squad like no other.
“I would say the best champion in 1v1 is probably Draven, mainly because it’s easy to build life steal and your upfront base damage is ridiculous,” said C9 top laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami . ”No champion can really 1v1 you in the early game.”
Draven’s always been a snowball-focused champion, so it makes sense that he’d have the tools to threaten kills in the early game. However, like Vayne, when put in an isolated situation, his weaknesses are much more difficult to expose when trying to deal with his enormous base damage.
A lot of skill is required to get the most out of Draven’s kit in a game of League of Legends. The idea is to utilize Draven’s three basic abilities in tandem – a player can extend a favorable trade with Blood Rush by resetting its decay timer by catching a Spinning Axe, and an opponent can be run down even easier when slowed by Stand Aside. In the
Draven’s base stats are through the roof, as Fudge said, but like Vayne, Berserker attributed the success of the Glorious Executioner in a dueling context to the innate qualities of his kit: “They’re just strong 1v1.”
3. Kalista, the Spear of Vengeance (C9 Fudge)
Kalista shares a lot of Draven’s strengths – her base stats and kit value extended trades, and her passive allows her to be more evasive by the second than any other champion in her class. Kalista’s hopping around is certainly a boon in 1v1 matchups, especially against melee champions looking to all-in a more frail ranged opponent.
Kalista thrives in extended trades, using her passive to hop around and stack as many spears in the opponent as possible before ripping them out for massive damage with her Rend ability. The longer Kalista can play keep away from her opponents, the more favorable it is for her in context of the trade.
However, no amount of jumping can help Kalista in a matchup against Draven, who can outdamage Kalista early on and keep well within her range in an extended trade. This makes the Spear of Vengeance – at least in Fudge’s book – definitively secondary, at best.
4. Varus, the Arrow of Retribution (C9 Fudge)
Few AD carries match the versatility of Varus. The Arrow of Retribution’s combination of range, attack speed, and utility from his ultimate have allowed players to succeed when building him as a lethaltity-based, poke-focused caster, a traditional attack-speed crit DPS threat, and at times, even an AP damage threat.
Varus’ versatility gives him resiliency in the early game in multiple matchups because he’s allowed to viably approach them in more ways than the average champion in a 1v1 match context.
They may not have the evasiveness of Kalista, but according to Fudge, he fares a bit better against the king of 1v1s than she does. “Draven can beat Varus, but I would say it’s close,” said the C9 top laner.
5. Olaf, the Berserker (C9 Fudge)
While ADCs reign supreme in 1v1s, Fudge also identified one other viable champion class in the dueling meta: “It’s like ADCs and bruiser champions who can just straight up all-in you.”
It’s hard to imagine a better non-ranged 1v1 champion than Olaf. His early game stats are some of the best in the game, he has a spammable projectile, and he certainly doesn’t go down easy, especially after getting his CC-immunity ultimate. However, Olaf’s biggest weakness is that because he doesn’t have a definitive way to lock every ranged champion down, he has an uphill battle against them.
It’s this weakness that keeps Olaf from being at the top tier of duelist champions in favor of ranged options. There’s no doubt that if Olaf is able close the gap – especially with his ultimate active – he will almost certainly kill his opponent. But the binary nature of the champion means that if he’s in a disadvantaged matchup, there’s little he can do it to work around it outside of waiting for a mistake from his opponent.
“It used to be like Olaf, or Darius, but ADCs, if played really, really well, can beat the melee champions. Kalista just jumps around, or Draven can E’s you and kites you with movespeed,” Fudge explained.
Olaf can certainly still be a strong pick for 1v1 matches, but aside from an enormous skill advantage over the opponent, the Berserker will struggle against the ranged champions that are strong in 1v1 situations.
6. Irelia, the Blade Dancer (C9 Fudge)
Fudge was quick to make clear that it’s not impossible for a melee champion to win a 1v1 against a ranged champion. “Unless the ADC makes a mistake, the melee champion can’t really win, but if they do make even ONE mistake, you can just die straight up,” said Fudge.
The C9 top laner used the example of Irelia, who, with difficulty, can aim to punish a marksman should the ranged opponent be stunned and marked by her Flawless Duet. Irelia can then Blade Surge to dash onto the opponent, and because they are marked, the cooldown of Blade Surge resets. Irelia’s ultimately ability, Vanguard’s Edge, creates a diamond of blades that mark and slow the opponent if they are hit by the blades or if they walk through the blades while the ultimate is still active. This allows for incredible all-in potential because of potentially multiple resets being available for Blad Surge, which allows Irelia to chase her opponents ruthlessly due to having access to more than one dash in a combo.
Irelia can win a 1v1 bout by landing a single E if her combo is executed correctly, but as far as Fudge is concerned, therein lies the problem: if a ranged champion stays out of range of Flawless Duet, Irelia doesn’t have a lot of options in a 1v1. “You can land your E and just kill them, but most of the time, the ADCs will win if they play well,” said the C9 top laner.
7. Syndra, the Dark Sovereign (C9 EMENES)
Fudge’s thoughts towards the strengths of physical damage ranged champions in 1v1 matchups do not apply to their AP counterparts. “Mages are pretty bad in 1v1s because they just don’t have enough damage in the early game. They need items, and usually, 1v1s are pretty short,” said Fudge.
However, Cloud9 mid laner Jang "EMENES" Min-soo, who made his LCS debut in week 5 of the 2023 LCS Spring Split and has since won Player of the Week in week 7, has an exception to the rule: “Syndra. She’s known as a really strong scaling champion, but even though that’s true, her laning phase is really strong.
She can hit enemies from places that enemies can’t hit her.” Between everything EMENES highlighted, as well as her enormous single target burst and stun, it’s hard to find a better 1v1 mage than the Dark Sovereign.
8. Jayce, the Defender of Tomorrow (C9 Berserker)
Jayce has plenty of makings of a strong 1v1 champion. His damage scaling is very smooth and he has an incredibly strong laning phase. His “dual” kit means that he has six abilities right from the beginning of the game as opposed to the three and eventual four of most other champions, which makes his all-in potential a threat much earlier than other 1v1 champions.
That doesn’t mean it’s as easy as “six abilities > four abilities” though. In his ranged form, Jayce’s Acceleration Gate amplifies the damage and speed of his Shock Blast. Should the Shock Blast hit, Jayce can then run through the gate, use his Hyper Charge for increased Attack Speed, and switch to his melee form and get in quickly with To The Skies to put in as much damage as possible with his melee abilities.
Berserker likes the idea of Jayce as a 1v1 pick…except for one thing: “If I had to pick between Jayce and Draven, I would just play Draven.”