Could the LDL’s new Fearless drafts work elsewhere in competitive League of Legends?

Weibo @超凡电竞LOL

The LDL’s all-new draft format has been the talk of the town in competitive League of Legends. But could it work anywhere else in the world? 

If there’s one thing that divides the League esports community above all else, it’s the importance of the draft phase. The picking and banning of champions may seem like a fairly simple process, but in actual fact, it’s a complex chess game of priority picks and target bans that can net a team a hefty advantage from the get-go. 

Across the world, the draft format remains almost universally consistent. So what happens when one region decides to shake things up a little? 

The ‘Fearless’ draft

On Jul 14, an announcement came from the LDL (China’s official tier 2 league) that a new draft structure would be implemented for the tournament. Known as the ‘Fearless’ draft, it’s a unique innovation that has not been seen anywhere else in the world of competitive League. 

The key point of the fearless draft is this: once a champion has been played once by a team in a series, that team cannot pick that champion again. 

The ban system remains the same, with five bans for each team per game. But now, five bans are added per game in games two and three, with players locked out of re-picking the champions they have previously played. 

How has the system functioned so far?

Akshan LoLRiot Games
From Akshan mid to Kayn jungle to Maokai support, we’re already seeing a few out-of-meta innovations from the LDL.

According to LPL caster and LDL Co-Streamer Jake ‘Hysterics’ Osypenko, the Fearless system is having the desired effect. So far, it has encouraged players to expand on their champion pools within even the first week of its implementation, and it makes for a significantly more exciting broadcast. 

“I think, in the future, it’ll give us a greater profile of players to watch who aren’t just these amazing OTPS [One-trick-ponies] or two-champion Chucks. It’ll promote LDL players who can move in a more flexible system and have the ability to play more than one style. ” 

With the LDL’s status as a developmental league, this is key — the Fearless draft should be building strong, adaptable, flexible players who will eventually move up to the LPL and continue to level up the region’s international performance. 

It’s a complicated system, with a clear set of advantages and disadvantages that make its implementation a controversial choice. On the one hand, it forces players to have a deep effective champion pool, and stops competitive games from being stuck in a rut of the same champions in every role. 

On the other hand, it’s nothing short of grueling for the players to have to show competency on a greater number of champions. It can also make the viewing experience much more complicated for casual viewers looking to broaden their knowledge of drafting — which in itself is already a difficult enough process. 

But could we ever see this system implemented elsewhere in the world of League of Legends? 

Not in the LEC or LCS

LEC stage lit in redMichal Konkol for Riot Games
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing fearless drafting implemented in the LEC or LCS any time soon.

One key issue that prevents the Fearless draft from being implemented in the LEC or LCS is that it requires a BO3 format. Both Western major regions run on best-of-one, and that’s not something that’ll change any time soon. 

In an interview with Dexerto, Excel coach Joey ‘Youngbuck’ Steltenpool explained how, despite its ability to facilitate innovation, the Fearless draft would be very “difficult to execute” if brought to the LEC. 

“Do I think it’s a good change? Honestly, I don’t know. I think it’s great that they’re testing it in the LDL, and I think if they want to test it here, it should be in the ERLs first. But I think for LEC and LCS, where the regular splits are best-of-one, it wouldn’t be a great change, because if you suddenly go into a playoff series and have to play a unique champion every game, that would get pretty jarring.”

The best-of-one format is much less grueling on players, and allows the LCS and LEC to be condensed into weekends rather than taking place throughout the week, like the LPL and LCK.

And while it’d be nice to think that the LEC and LCS could simply transition to the LPL/LCK model, it just wouldn’t be feasible for right now, with viewership already looking a little rocky for both regions. As Youngbuck explains, “best-of-one drives the best viewership, and what’s most important is that the LEC and LCS thrive as competitions.” 

Where else could we see the fearless format shine?

EU Masters 2022 SpringMichal Konkol/Riot Games
Where better to test a developmental format than one of the biggest developmental leagues in the world?

 So if not in the major regions, then where? 

Look no further than Europe’s regional leagues. Both Hysterics and Youngbuck brought up the ERLs as a possible further testing ground for the fearless draft, in large part because of their status as a system to develop European talent. Much like the LDL to the LPL, the ERLs are considered by many to be the ‘training grounds’ for players looking to enter the LEC. 

“I think it would definitely work in the ERLs,” explained Hysterics, “because champion diversity is already a big focus there, and it’ll push some of the more standard teams to have to think on their toes a little more.” 

It would require the ERLs to switch from BO1 to BO3 — but with many of the accredited leagues run by third-party tournament organizers (the Spanish Superliga and the Nordic NLC being two examples of that), that may be a slightly easier process to implement than in the LEC.  

And, as a matter of fact, this drafting system has actually been proposed in an ERL before. That ERL was none other than the UKLC, the original UK regional league before the UK and Nordic regions merged to form the NLC. 

Nik ‘Lustriga’ Topham, currently working with Guild Esports on their Academy initiative, worked for LVP back when they acquired the UKLC in 2019, and pitched an early iteration of the Fearless draft for the UKLC. He told Dexerto that the aim of the idea was to “make younger players, and players looking to find their future spot, diversify strategies and not get locked into meta champion pools.” 

Although the idea eventually ended up being scrapped in favor of the old UKLC tower format, it’s proof that the format wouldn’t be entirely out of place in the ERLs.