When I started playing League of Legends, I chose to play ADC. It wasn’t exactly a conscious decision.
Like many new players, I got into the game because my friend kept pestering me to try it, and since he was already manning support, taking up ADC seemed like a no-brainer. But as I kept playing and learning my role, I gradually realized it was unlike any other position in the game. And playing it came with challenges that few roles experience.
You have no agency
ADCs don’t have much control over the flow of the game. This might seem weird to anyone who hasn’t played marksmen—after all, there were many seasons when everything revolved around bot lane. However, the game revolving around ADCs and ADCs dictating the pace of the game are two very different concepts.
Everything starts in the laning phase. Over the years, the evolution of bot lane reached the point where supports have an overwhelming amount of early game presence. Whether it’s tanks, initiators, mages, or enchanters, supports are usually the one that initiate trades. Granted, ADCs can poke, push, and keep up their CS count. But for the most part, they’re still waiting for a chance to follow up.
But isn’t it natural for a late-game role to have no agency in the laning phase? Surely, things get better later on? Well, yes and no. It’s true that once ADCs get a few items, they become major teamfighting threats. But barring a few exceptions, they’re still not the ones who decide when—and where—teamfights take place.
There are countless games where your teammates won’t be able to initiate a good fight even if their lives depended on it, or—even worse—they will be running around the map like headless chickens.
With other roles, you could work around this by getting a splitpush going or starting a 5 vs. 5 on your own. But the vast majority of ADC champions are not good at duels or initiations. Thus, their only viable option is grouping and hoping their teammates get it together. After all, the optimal playstyle is DPSing from the backline, and there’s a reason why SKT’s Bang thinks the most valuable ADC skill is not dying.
You need to coordinate
If you want to succeed as an ADC, you need to rely on your teammates. Granted, League of Legends is a team game, so other roles also have to work together. But the interactions between junglers and solo laners are fleeting compared to the constant link that exists between ADCs and supports. From the very first minutes of the game, marksmen have to coordinate with their supports.
If they don’t have voice chat, it’s almost inevitable they’ll run into synergy issues that might very well cost thtem the game. Hell, even with voice chat, misunderstandings are unavoidable. Just take a look at how hard things get for TL’s Doublelift when Olleh suddenly has a bad game.
You could still say this doesn’t matter. The professional scene has repeatedly shown the advantages of playing the game through bot lane, so ADCs must still hold a lot of value. But pro play is a very different beast from Solo Queue.
Plus, the main reason why most pros prefer to play around the bottom side of the map is that they can score two kills instead of one while targeting the fragile bot lane turret. And if you find yourself on the wrong side of this exchange, there’s a good chance you’ll spend the rest of the game starved for gold and items—which is akin to a death sentence for most ADCs.
Things don’t get much better in teamfights either. Even in the Ardent Censor meta, ADCs needed a huge supporting staff that peeled and initiated teamfights. And considering the volatile nature of pick-up games, you’re not likely to get much help in your average Solo Queue game.
You are on the brink of extinction
The recent meta changes truly put marksmen to a test. The loss of base stats and sustainability opened up the bot lane to mages and bruisers, and only a handful of ADC champions were strong enough to keep up with the newcomers. But this is just a symptom of a much larger issue.
The ADC role is far too reliant on scaling, synergy, and other players setting him or her up for success. Combine that with the fact that Solo Queue doesn’t provide good ways to communicate with teammates, and there’s only so much an ADC can do to change the course of the game.
Editorial credit: Riot Games