Conquest 101 — An Introduction to Ranked Play and Draft Picking in League

Fenrir loves LeaguesFrom Bronze to Masters: The pick and ban phase in League is all about outdrafting the enemy team and getting the perfect team composition.

This introduction to ranked play goes over the requirements for playing League, illustrates how draft picking works, and details strategies for getting the desired god picks.

Preparing for League

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From top to bottom tierGrappul not only provides competent builds using in-game player data, the website also offers a snapshot of the current ranked meta in terms of top picks and bans.

Every level-30 player with at least 16 god masteries is technically already eligible to participate in ranked play. However, these are only the bare-minimum requirements set by the game. Experience shows that more time and dedication are necessary to place well in League not only after the mandatory ten qualifying matches.

Here are our three recommendations for getting into ranked play:

  1. Have at least 40 gods mastered including the support gods. Since only mastered gods can be traded with the team, the top-pick characters should all be mastered. This includes the good support gods who are generally picked highly only to be traded later. The god tier list on Grappul, which offers a snapshot of the current meta using in-game data, is always a good reference for this. Here the S+ through A-tier picks are the most relevant to us. This method also guarantees that a player has the top-pick gods of each role mastered and available for trade even if he doesn’t play the particular pick himself. God masteries are grinded most efficiently in Arena.
  2. Be comfortable in at least four Conquest roles including support. Role calls are nonbinding in ranked play (more on that in the next section). It is therefore not guaranteed in League that a player gets to play his main role, and last pick usually winds up having to play support. Ranked players should therefore be versed in more than only the main role. For instance, someone who mains AD Carry and is fairly comfortable with playing solo, mid, and support — but has jungle as pet peeve — fulfills the requirement.
  3. Use Curse Voice to communicate with the team. Aside from using the in-game voice-guided system (VGS), being able to hear or call plays instantly and effortlessly via voice chat is invaluable for the performance of the team. Curse Voice is the defacto gold standard for voice chat in SMITE. The program automatically puts teammates in one and the same voice call. Curse Voice is completely free to use and can be downloaded here.

Draft Picking

Draft Pick Phases

Draft picking dissected in all of its phases: The team that bans first is always Order. Newly released gods are automatically banned before the drafting process begins.

In contrast to normal queues, League works with a draft pick and ban system. Roles are picked in a top-to-bottom fashion. The player highest up has the most Elo and therefore does the banning for the entire team, and he also picks first. All other teammates appearing underneath are ordered randomly and not sorted by Elo.

In stark contrast to normal Conquest queues, role calls are nonbinding in Ranked. However, a preferred role call should be issued nonetheless in lobby chat in order to give the team the chance to account for individual strengths and weaknesses, which can greatly influence team performance. For instance, “ADC pref” would signal the team that AD Carry is the preferred role for the match.

Draft picking is comprised of multiple phases and the two sides pick and ban in alternating fashion. All in all there are two ban and two pick phases, with six bans in total (3 per side). One important thing to note here is that the team banning first is always Order. Additionally, recently released gods (still labelled “new” in the character screen) are automatically banned prior to the start of the drafting process.

Unfortunately, SMITE’s user interface in the god selection screens fails to convey which team gets to pick next after a ban phase concludes. The illustration on the right is meant to fill in those gaps, giving a detailed overview of the pick and ban order. One useful mnemonic to remember is this: whichever side gets to ban first at the start of a ban phase also gets to pick first in the pick phase following thereafter.

Drafting Strategies

There are essentially two drafting strategies in SMITE: (1) either a team bans out the characters they consider overpowered and would like to avoid dealing with or (2) a team bans out the comfort picks of the enemy. Both strategies can be equally successful depending on the competing teams, and pro player Incon gives plenty of examples for both in his Banning Strategies video.

The main goal for first pick is to secure one of the best three characters in the matchup while at the same time denying any such top picks to the enemy.

Like chess problems, the permutations for drafting in SMITE can look quite grueling but there is value to be had to sift through, visualize, and internalize the whole drafting process as a form of mind game. The following is a transcript of an example from Incon’s video above in which Order tries to steal a top 3 pick from Chaos in two different draft scenarios.

Given: Order has the advantage by going first. Their goal is to secure a top 3 pick while Chaos doesn’t.

Permutation A:

  • Order bans a character not from the top 3.
    • Chaos bans a top 3 character.
      • Order bans a character not from the top 3.
        • Chaos bans a top 3 character.
          • Order gets to pick a top 3 character. Chaos gets nothing.

Permutation B:

  • Order bans a character not from the top 3.
    • Chaos bans a character not from the top 3.
      • Order bans a top 3 character.
        • Chaos bans a top 3 character.
          • Order gets to pick a top 3 character. Chaos gets nothing.
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