Once considered one of the LCK’s top picks, Azir has struggled in the LCK this season.
With the LCK wrapping up its Week 2 schedule with Hanwha Life and T1’s match on Jan. 28, Azir currently has 8 wins, 22 losses and a 26.7% win percentage in 30 appearances in the LCK. He has even been considered a “losing pick” by many fans, as he has lost 10 straight games since Kwak “Bididdy” Bo-seong lost to Azir in the January 24 matchup between Guangdong Freecs and KT Rolster.
Overseas, however, it’s a completely different story. If we combine all LOL professional stages around the world, Azir has a 78% ban pick rate and a 50% win rate, which is a decent pick. If we look at the four leagues (LCK, LPL, LEC, LCS) that are considered to be relatively strong, he has an 85% ban pick rate and 47% win rate, which is not bad. If we exclude the LCK from both metrics, we can see that Azir has a win rate of over 50% in all overseas regions. This trend is quite disparate considering that until last year, Azir was a highly favored and well-handled pick in Korea.
The first reason for the decrease in Azir’s win rate is the fact that he is often picked by relative underdogs. The most popular player to pick Azir in the LCK so far this season is Kim “Charis” Hong-jo of the undefeated OK Savings Bank Brion. He’s 0-6 with Azir this season. If we widen the scope even further, teams ranked 1-5 have played Azir a total of 11 times, while teams ranked 6-10 have played Azir a total of 19 times, indicating that Azir’s popularity is clearly higher at the bottom of the table. Naturally, this would lead to a decrease in Azir’s win rate.
However, the drop in Azir’s win rate is not limited to the bottom teams. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyuk and Kwak “Biddy” Bo-seong, who were nicknamed the Pigeon Scammers for their use of Azir, are 0-3 and 1-2 against Azir this season, respectively. Heo “Showmaker” Soo-soo has also taken out Azir once and lost. With the exception of Kim “Zeca” Gun-woo, who is undefeated in three matches, most players have struggled to accumulate wins with the azure. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyuk has a 66.7 percent career win rate on the azure, while Kwak “BdD” Bo-seong has a 60.3 percent career win rate on the azure.
The most common explanation for the drop in Azir’s win rate is that teams and players have not yet adjusted to the changes in playstyle required by the changes to Templar. In Patch 14.1, Azir’s favorite core item, the Shattered Queen’s Crown, was removed, as well as the Second Hand Clock. Previously, builds with Crown of the Shattered Queen as a core item allowed Azir to pursue a relatively low-risk play, often referred to as a “toss,” where he would gank and then use his ultimate to push the opposing laner, as the damage reduction from Crown of the Shattered Queen allowed him to stay alive after ganking.
Now, however, not only has the Crown of the Shattered Queen been removed, but the overall damage of the game has increased as a result of itemization changes, so it’s not uncommon for a player to get killed with just one or two bad hits. In the past, Azir could often get ‘Hourglass of Jonya’ for two or three coins, but now that ‘Nasher’s Tooth’ is mandatory, the timing of ‘Hourglass of Jonya’ has been delayed, making it even more risky to enter the game.
The fact that players have become more responsive to Azir’s skills in the LCK due to the high number of times he has attempted to make a kill in the past also contributes to the drop in Azir’s win rate. It’s only the second week of the League, but there have already been several highlights of players evading Azir’s ‘Emperor’s Faction’. The theory is that the toss is becoming less successful, the pressure is increasing, and eventually Azir himself is becoming an ambiguous pick.
Another problem for Azir is that his early game strength has dropped. Last year, Azir had a +1 15 minute CS gap and a -34 gold gap in the LCK, while this year he has a clear downward trend with a -1.3 15 minute CS and a -244 gold gap. Unlike last season, when lane pressure was necessary, players could pick up core runes like Mystic Meteor or Kong Kong’s Summon to apply pressure, this season’s meta and item changes have made lane pressure more difficult, with Nimble Steps becoming the dominant rune.
As a result, even with a strong late-game pick like Corky against Azir, it’s harder for Azir to press hard enough to generate team gains, which may explain the drop in Azir’s win rate. In addition, even at 1-core, Azir with Echoes of Ruden is stronger in terms of dealing, and Azir with Crown of the Broken Queen can be milled as mentioned above, while Azir with Nasher’s Tooth is harder to use.
To summarize, the change in playstyle and the drop in early game power due to the change in items is likely the reason for the decrease in Azir’s win rate. Nonetheless, with the lack of picks in the LCK, especially in the mid lane, it seems likely that we’ll see Azir in leagues in Week 3. It will be interesting to see if Azir can shake off the “losing pick” label and regain his former glory.