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League changes a lot from patch to patch. If I watch Spring Split games now, the champion picks are virtually unrecognizable in today's meta. While some aspects of the meta remain constant - such as top laners being generally safe champs, whether that means escape tools, survivability, or CC - there's generally a lot of variety. In the first three weeks of the EU LCS Summer Split alone, we saw Maokai, Gnar, Rumble, Hecarim, Jax, Ryze, Gragas, Cho'Gath, Nocturne, Fizz, Dr Mundo, Ekko, Renekton, Vladimir, and Shyvana: mages, assassins, tanks, fighters, all are welcome.

But there's one absolute rule of team comps: you must have a marksman in the bottom lane. I know of exactly one professional game since I started playing a year ago that did not follow this rule, and in that game it was a Yasuo that took the position.

What makes the bottom-lane role so specific? The other members of a team all perform different roles: a top laner could be a teamfight initiator and front-line tank like Maokai, or it could be a straightforward carry like Quinn. A mid laner can be an assassin like Zed, a poke machine like Varus, a utility mage like Orianna, or even a fighter like Diana. But for some reason, we must must must have a bottom lane marksman on every team (and marksman are arguably the most homogenous group of champions).

I understand that the point of having two people bot is to make it easier to contest dragon. But that hardly requires a marksman.

Despite my over-emphasis of professional play above, I'm not just talking about the LCS - also about the game as played by us normals.

  • I believe it is due to the presence of dragon, having 2 in a nearby lane to help a jungler quickly secure/contest it can help make the difference. However you do sometimes see 'lane swaps' of the top and bottom. The likely reason of the marksman bottom is that they are the ones who require the support, therefore they come as a package deal. Also the marksman has a potentially high damage output, or at least burst, which can help secure the dragon. However, this is opinion, I await a proper answer to this good question – nickson104 Jul 13 '15 at 15:01
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In the current professional meta of lane swaps, you'll notice that marksmen are not always in the bot lane. I would say its even rare these days to see a normal 2v2 matchup in the bottom lane.

The reason it used be the meta to always have a marksman bot was a mixture of dragon control and needing to have a support. If marksmen didn't have supports, they would get destroyed in lane. So now we have a two man lane, but where to put them? Put them bot for dragon control to get the most of committing two people to a lane. It's not that dragon control requires a marksman, but that marksmen need a support.

Why a marksman? They fill the role of constant DPS. Without a threat of constant DPS, sustain tanks like Mundo would rule the game. Melee is poor at DPS since they have to move constantly and most AP champs are focused on burst and lack consistent DPS. The DPS a marksman brings is important both for teamfights and objectives.

As for why normal play follows this, its because the pros do it. In most games, the core meta of professional play will trickle down. Pro play is taken with a grain of salt though. An example is lane swaps or buddy jungling. These are concepts that came in response to the established meta and require coordination and communication to pull off properly. Since solo queue lacks these, the smart player sticks to the established meta. Players that blindly try to copy pro play usually get ridiculed by their team for not understanding the underlying concepts.

  • I wouldn't say that lane swaps mean you don't have a marksman bot. It's more of a temporary thing - you'll almost always see them lane swap for a little while, and eventually revert to duo lane bot (until laning phase ends). What I do find enlightening in your answer is the idea that a marksman can DPS better than a melee champ because there's less requirement to move in between AAs, allowing you to keep up higher damage output. – henrebotha Jul 13 '15 at 15:17
  • They do often return to bottom lane once the top tower is down, but not always. If the teams top laner managed to get the bottom tower, the ADC doesn't usually go bot unless its to farm. I was making the distinction that the rule, you must have a marksman in bottom lane, is not an absolute rule of the professional meta. There's nothing that special about the lane itself, its just usually the best place for a two man lane to go. Mid on the other lane, is special because the lane is short so the mid meta is affected by the physical lane itself. – Son of a Sailor Jul 13 '15 at 15:47
  • Note that DPS means "Damage Per Second", so AP carries don't lack DPS. Although I know what you mean, I don't think it is well expressed. – dyesdyes Jul 13 '15 at 16:22
  • I edited my answer to provide better phrasing – Son of a Sailor Jul 13 '15 at 16:28
  • "If marksmen didn't have supports, they would get destroyed in lane." This isn't true. We've seen Ezreal, Corki, Tristrana, and Urgot mid in the current and recent splits, sometimes playing AP and sometimes playing AD. So why don't teams ever run their only marksman mid and 2 of fighter/tank/mage/assassin/support bot? – mbocek Jul 13 '15 at 19:16
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This might just be one of the best League Meta question ever asked (certainly my favorite one).

TL;DR

  • Sustained Damage
  • He functions as a backup plan and snowball at the same time.

I'll try to answer your question with some additional information to the competitive metagame.

About the Meta

Now the meta game is usually controlled by buffs and nerfs on riots side. In very rare occasions there are some pro players that influence the meta with weird picks by discovering a strategy on a champion that was overlooked by Riot. The biggest factor to changes in the meta game are however not champion but Item changes. Items like Cinterhulk, Feral Flare and Force of Nature have shown that the changing, introduction or removal of Items can change the FOTM (Flavor of the month) Champions completely.

But the thing is: while all these things have a direct influence the meta, the changes aren't that extreme. Since the end of Season one the meta has become fairly stable. In the pasts 5 years toplane has always been the farm lane for Tanks or Bruisers that scale well into the lategame. Midlane was usually dominated by Mages or Assassins that have a huge impact on the midgame. Now the viability of a certain jungle and support pick is usually determined by the current meta in the toplane and midlane. If there is an assassin meta you will usually find junglers and supporters that peel for the ADC while during a poke (mage) meta you will find a lot of engage supporters and junglers. Of course they're also influenced by item/champion changes like every other lane but those two roles are the ones that aren't easily changed by simple item changes and/or buffs.

As a sidenote: Yes there have been some weird picks in the past like Quinn Top or Soraka mid but those aren't really meta, they're just situational counters or surprise picks.

But as you said in your Question: The ADC always stays.

Why is there always an AD Carry?

To understand why the AD Carry is present in every meta you have to understand what an AD Carry actually does.
It is the Attack Damage Carry which means that he will always bring physical damage to a teamfight (sometimes hybrid in the cases of Corki/Kog'Maw). Now the carry in Mobas usually stands for a character that can dish out a lot of damage but is fairly squishy (easily killed).
But why don't we just send an AP Carry bot with a supporter?
There are two reasons for this:

  1. There would probably be only one or two physical damage dealers in the team.
  2. There aren't a lot of AP Carrys that have sustained damage, and those are better played mid.

And the 2nd point is the most important one. Sustained Damage. The ADC is the champion that can dish out high damage in any situation for a long period of time if he's well protected and positioned.

Tanks usually have low sustained damage, Mages have either burst or Poke with high cooldown, Melee ADCs are very quickly countered by CC and Supporters are usually just here for initiation and protection. The ADC is the backup. He can kill the frontline with kiting where a Mage would just waste cooldowns or where a melee ADC would just get CCed and bursted. He can work his way through the teamfight with constant high DPS as long as he gets protected by his own frontline. He's also great at cleaning up the remaining teamfight and at getting objectives. If the ADC is the last man standing after a teamfight he can usually kill 1-3 enemies who survived the skirmish with half HP.

Now obviously there are different types of ADCs and this is where the actual meta changes show themselves. In Assassin metas you will usually find more bursty and mobile ADCs whereas in tank metas the high-range ADs are dominant. Bursty ADCs like Graves or Corki are almost hybrids of other roles but the fact that they build Attack Damage and Crit guarantees that they will have some sort of safe sustained damage.

Why do normal people play with an ADC?

There are two main reasons to this:

  1. The community is extremely Influenced by the Professional Scene.
  2. The reasons above also apply to the normal community.

I'm pretty sure that if there are multiple matches in the LCS where no ADC is picked, the majority of the Community would stop playing ADCs, regardless of whether it's good or bad. But in general: If you're ahead with an ADC and you know how to position yourself it might just be the easiest role to carry with. Having a fed ADC in your team increases your chance of winning drastically.

  • 1
    Do you have anything I didn't cover in my answer about why ADCs go bot? – Son of a Sailor Jul 14 '15 at 14:10
  • The only thing missing in your answer is to answer "Why bottom lane?". – Jonathan Drapeau Jul 14 '15 at 14:33
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A Marksman champion is a ranged AD carry.

Why ranged over melee? Because melee champions that build mostly damage are squishy and die quickly because naturally, they have to get into melee range of their enemies. Exceptions like Zed and Yasuo exist, but they have ranged poke and/or excellent mobility to get into and out of fights easily. Melees also typically have a large disadvantage over ranged carries in the laning phase, because they can be poked for free by the ranged opponent when the melee goes for last hits.

Why AD over AP? AP champs are, in addition to items, strongly reliant on their skills to fulfill their role. That means they need to gain levels quickly to stay relevant, which means they have to go into a solo lane for the quickest leveling. AD champs are most reliant on items to function, therefore they will take all the CS in a lane, so they are paired with supports who function well with minimal gold and levels. Also, since the AP carry is already in a solo lane, having another AP carry would allow the enemy team to itemize very easily - they would just build a lot of magic resist and therefore shut down both enemy carries at once.

  • So why don't we see Zed or Yasuo bot? – henrebotha Jul 14 '15 at 15:53
  • Because, as I wrote, melees have a big disadvantage against ranged champions in laning phase, and the disadvantage is even greater when you play against ranged AD carries, because their autos actually hurt. In mid lane, ranged mages do little damage with their autos, and using their spells costs mana. That is why you can play melee vs ranged in mid lane (although it's still difficult), but not in bot lane. – Hackworth Jul 14 '15 at 15:58
  • Sure, but for instance, Yasuo can Wind Wall against harass. Pair him with Braum and suddenly all that painful ranged harass may as well not exist. And there's a huge subset of melee champs (many of them fighter/assassins) who have good gap-closing ability, further negating the range discrepancy. I know anecdotally I've seen some terrifying Vi + Voli bot lanes at my potato Elo. – henrebotha Jul 15 '15 at 12:40
  • Abilities have cooldowns and usually mana costs associated with them, meaning far less than 100% uptime, whereas autos cost nothing. Gap closing and fighting in lane at low levels is not recommended because autoattacks near enemy minions will draw their aggro, and minions hit very hard at early levels, massively tilting fights in favor of the defender. And no offense, but at potato elo almost everything works, because mistakes don't get exploited as heavily. The margin for error closes rapidly in higher divisions, and by that I mean gold (where I am) and higher. – Hackworth Jul 15 '15 at 14:43
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We can work ourselves into an ADC bot meta by something of a process of elimination. We have 5 players, and only 3 lanes and one jungle.

We don't want to put a duo jungle, because the jungle already ends up with lower amounts of gold, and because a second ganker doesn't really add much more pressure than just one (especially since they have to farm together to maximize exp gain). So we're left with having a duo lane.

Note that dragon control is important during the laning phase. Baron doesn't really become important until after the laning phase ends. So we want our duo either bot or mid.

The support/carry duo seems like the obvious choice. If you try to go double-carry, I think you'll just end up with two underfarmed carries (but I've never tried this; maybe it works?). You also end up with less total gold there, since the support gets extra by way of gold items and masteries/runes. Replacing the carry with a fighter or tank has its own problems - those are typically melee, and a melee character up against a duo has a lot of trouble farming without getting consistently poked out of lane. You do occasionally see ranged fighters replace the carry - Gnar and Jayce both show up bot.

We don't put the duo mid because it is a short lane - it is easier for a carry who is mid to take care of themselves by getting back to tower when a gank shows up. So duo bot, but why is the carry who gets supported a marksman?

To answer this question, we have to think about how characters scale. A mage or assassin is typically very ability-dependent. This means that they primarily need levels to scale up (although items are obviously still important). On the other hand, a marksman is typically reliant on auto-attacks. Even Lucian, a very ability-dependent marksman, gets most of his damage from his passive, which is about extra autos. This means that they primarily need items (base AD and attack speed don't scale very well with levels). So they can afford to give up some exp to a support.

  • The huge issue with your answer is it doesn't address at all why it has to be a marksman. All of your supposed substantiations for marksmen apply to fighters too - why don't we see Jax or Master Yi bot? – henrebotha Jul 15 '15 at 9:34
  • @henrebotha I edited a bit. "at all" is a bit rude, considering I had explained away so many roles. – Aaron Dufour Jul 16 '15 at 3:56
  • You talk about a melee character suffering vs a duo, but you also ignore the fact that he has a support with him. I can see for instance a champ like Karma or Vel'Koz being a great adjunct to a melee carry, where you're less focused on peeling or engaging and more on trading, making up for the reduced harass your melee companion can put out. – henrebotha Jul 16 '15 at 9:07
  • @henrebotha That does not change my answer. Even with a ranged support, a melee trying to farm will get poked out of lane by a duo. – Aaron Dufour Jul 16 '15 at 14:24
  • Let's say it's Yasuo+Vel'Koz vs Ashe+Leona. There's no poke coming from Leona just like there's no poke coming from Yasuo. And while Ashe needs to be concerned with last hitting, Vel'Koz doesn't have that problem. Sure, come late game he's not going to hit as hard as Ashe, but come late game laning phase is over. – henrebotha Jul 17 '15 at 13:55
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This is how I see it: Marksman is ranged and is supposed to deal the most damage. If you have a support who takes the kills and say "I am the carry now" they don't understand the meta. My interoperation of this is that as a marksman you buy almost no defense, and go 100% damage, vs most other roles want something to sustain them. so if a carry with no defense is off on their own it is easier to kill than lets say a someone with some health. So how to you stay alive with no defense? a body guard or support. this is the person to ensures safety while farming. Keeping vision is key so they can put as much effort in getting gold as they can so mid late game they can tear up the enemy team.

If you are support and get kills make use of it and grab some damage. I've always felt it a waste if lets say you accidentally take 2 kills and buy health pots or something.

you have to remember LCS is different form solo queue. LCS knows the enemy team so being able to see how each team plays they work around that. So maybe the enemy team has a strong top player they will send two top to bully them. For solo queue the meta ended up this way for consistency because you don't know how the enemy plays let alone your own teammate. If two people know a strategy but the rest of your teammates don't, why force something? keep it stable so everyone knows whats going on and can jump in a game and play.

I am no expert but I do play Marksman.

  • Doesn't explain why it has to be a marksman and not, say, a fighter. – henrebotha Jul 15 '15 at 9:36
  • Sorry I didnt really answer why its bot lane did I? With Dota range really doesnt matter. In league range is a huge deal. Yes yas and yi can do more damage, but if you go in to a fight and are cc'ed then the ranged champs have an advantage. As in they are positioned where you cant reach them but they can reach you. Now you have lost the trade and are open to ganks. Also you are right about dragon control. That is probably the main reason why you send two bot lane. When I was on a ranked team we tried rotating top mid late game for baron control. We were a heavy farm comp. – dcarney999 Jul 15 '15 at 17:36
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While the dragon control is one reason, to address a point not addressed in the previous answers: critical hits and the rate at which they are applied.

The damage applied, seen as a rate of damage over short periods of time, mid to late game with a support shielding you (or even better, applying some CC) as a ranged carry, marksman, gets the most benefit from crits because you can proc crits more often without spending mana on skills.

When you add in the armor penetration and attack speed itemization that is so common you find that the AD is with good reason so often THE priority target to get when you are trying to take apart the opposing team in team fights.

Addressing two specific cases and a criticism of this general answer to a somewhat broad question. (thanks for bringing this up goes to henrebotha)

I've been critted to !@$% by Yi and Yasuo.

Haven't we all? Yasuo seems to be a notable exception to the general pick in terms of bottom lane. Whether or not he is banned during draft is beyond the scope of this answer.

As to Yi, his early game kiting/farming is potentially not as strong the marksman due concerns of poke-range (poke of the opposing marksman), his being not as beefy as other fighters early, and his early low mana pool. Maybe he's an edge case, but it's good that point was raised.

Doesn't explain why it has to be a marksman and not, say, a fighter.

"Most often" more than "has to." Marksmen can more often stay out of CC and spell ranges while still dealing damage, generally, than those who have to mix it up ... but that also depends on how much poke a given fighter has. It also depends on "just how good are you at kiting?"

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It really is simple:

Why Marksmen?

They do the most consistent DPS late game.

Why Lane with a Partner?

Marksmen tend to have awful early games and are easy to bully. Supports are used to keep them from being zoned away from their farm, which is VERY important for them.

Why Bottom?

Dragon is an important early objective, it isn't that you need a marksman to take it down, but if you will have two champions in any lane, it would be best to have them close to dragon. This makes mid lane also an acceptable option, but since mid lane is the shortest lane you hardly need a support to keep you alive there.

This should apply to any teammate that needs some protection to be great. You could totally send someone snowbally like Poppy or pre-rework Veigar bot lane and keep them alive long enough to run away with the game while your marksman goes mid lane.

0

There's one thing of why an ADC (separating it from Marksmen since there are marksmen that are just unacceptable for bottom lane, like Kayle and Teemo) that keeps coming up missing and that is towers (and to a smaller extent, Baron and Dragon). A team without a marksman at all has to take relatively suboptimal routes (or has to be able to nearly clean ace a team) to be able to bust down towers at any reasonable rate. The more cc the enemy team has, the more dangerous it gets to get under a tower to siege the tower. The more wave clear the enemy has, the more Attack speed (in the base ADC build path, rarely exists in a normal mage path) and base damage (1.0 AD vs .4 AP) you need to get any serious damage on a tower. The ADC's build path supplies that the best, and their kit supplies the range to stay out of CC range.

This is not to say that some mages can't tower bust. Mordekaiser, Annie, Malzhar, and Heimerdinger (through their minions), TF and Ziggs (through their on-hit passives and Lich Bane being a decent build path on them), Kayle, Teemo, and Azir (through their natural synergy with Attack speed) all stand a decent chance at standing in for an objective busting role.

As others have said, the ADC build path gives one of the best paths for busting heavy fighters and tanks. Not to say others can't do it (I think a lot of Malz, Vi, and Amumu, to name a couple, to ruin tanks day's), but it rarely comes in the same kit as tower busting otherwise.

Now why bottom lane? There's 5 players, and out of them, ADCs have the least need for levels, and the most need for gold. This puts them in the best spot to put a duo lane. Again, as others have said, you want as many people near dragon fights as possible, so that rules out top lane in general play. You could send them mid-lane, but on top of weaker roaming, the mid-lane duo has less lane space to actually get an advantage. While some supports can burst targets to near nothing, typically kills bottom lane are parts of much longer exchanges. With the danger of a longer lane mitigated with a second person that can afford to ward, you can take most of the advantages of a longer lane, whether it be freezing a lane for longer, or having more real estate to secure a kill. Both mean that if the opposition starts to fall behind, they can fall really behind, and it only gets worse if they struggle against range.

All of this is coming from a support main that started in Season 1.

  • great response. Here on Arqade, we try to cater towards all users. This answer should not only help OP, but help other users that come on, looking for the same question/answer. For this reason, it would be a good idea to remove any jargon. More experienced players may understand things like ADC and clean-ace, but new users that come on with the same question might find this answer confusing. – user106385 Aug 29 '15 at 1:01

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