I hear a lot of people talk about how much they hate 2v1 lanes, then propose their solution to 2v1 lanes. Those solutions rarely address the actual issues, so I thought that I’d do a post explaining just why it is that the 2v1 lane is so strong.
When 2v1 lanes first started, it was for a very specific reason: one team thought they had a better 1v2 laner than the other team. A perfect example would be a champion like Cho’Gath or Yorick, who can farm under tower, sustain poke, and AoE wave clear to protect the tower. That last one was less of an issue, because early 2v1 lanes were designed around denying cs, not pushing. At the very least, 1v2 laners needed to be able to perform well on 0 cs, and champions like Malphite shone.
However, over time, teams realized an additional value to 2v1 lanes: your laner doesn’t need to be a better 1v2 laner than theirs is, they simply need to be less bad in a 1v2 than they would be in a 1v1. And it’s not just champions, but players.
This was a rather simplistic and case-by-case justification for 1v2s. However, these 1v2s are not the 1v2s we see now.
Over time, certain changes incentivized constant 1v2s. Most specifically, duo lanes started taking the golems before going to lane. This meant that the duo lane on red side had a huge disadvantage, because they hit level 2 much later, and the blue side team could all-in them. To solve this, red side teams started swapping their duo lanes to the top lane.
From there, teams learned realized that the duo lane could — in addition to consistently denying the solo laner cs — push down towers extremely quickly. Once one tower was down, that duo could rotate to another lane to take that tower, and so on until all outer towers were destroyed. If one team chose not to do so, they would soon find themselves down somewhere in between 1 and 3 towers, and with very little control of the map.
Soon, junglers got in on the mess, with 3v1 dives dominating the meta at World Championships. Time and time again, aggressive teams proved that there was nothing safe about solo laning, and that resisting early deaths at your tower — not to mention the early destruction of your tower — was futile. However, 2v1 lanes were not ubiquitous for much of Season 4. Why?
One simple reason: vision. If you picked your bot lane or top lane to counter the opposing bot/top lane, you wanted to be quite sure to get that matchup. And so most early game invasions were not aggressively oriented (aimed at kills or buff steals), but instead vision-oriented (aimed at getting vision to determine who was going to lane where, so you could respond). Trinkets escalated this part of the game: you could ward your own buffs, which meant that any easily tracked invade would be countered easily: they invaded your red? Simply take theirs!
This led to a rather interesting early game, where some teams wanted to lane swap, but you had a way of investing resources (wards) in stopping the lane swap, should you choose to. All of this changed when Riot changed trinkets to be available at 2:00, not 1:30. Now, it was impossible to ward in the pre-game, and so all invades were blind. This meant that no team could split up at the beginning of the game, lest they be caught apart by the enemy team and engaged upon.
With teams roaming as 5, there is no reason not to invade. If you invade and they don’t, you get one of their buffs. If you both invade, you trade buffs. If they invade and you don’t, you risk falling behind a buff. Of course, with teams roaming as 5, it’s hard for 2v2 lanes to happen. To have a 2v2 lane, you’d have to send your duo lane all the way across the map to reach their duo lane, by which point they’d be level 2. This isn’t a problem for your 1v2 lane, because they’re being zoned to start either way, and besides, they don’t want to enter a 1v3 lane only to get dove and killed.
At this point, you have 4 people who can’t be anywhere but together: your mid can go mid, but the rest of your champions might as well be in a lane by themselves. Any that go to the remaining lane will be level 1 and die immediately to 3+ enemy champions. At that point, you may as well push a second tower: there is no way to make it back to defend your second tower in time (it will take significant damage).
The point at which this changes is the inhib tower, where recall + walking times can have you defending a tower in time. Some teams have even realized that pushing to or even through the inhibitor is optimal.
So we come to the true issue behind lane swaps. The decisions are made largely based around buffs and invasions. You end up having to invade blindly, which puts you into the 3-4 vs 0-1 laning game of chicken. And once you’re in that situation, the best choice is typically to keep going at least for 2 towers. So a decision made at the 1:55 mark influences the game heavily, and that decision is made without information. The only change Riot needs to make to make the 1v2s less dominant is to push back the trinket changes, so that they are available at 1:30. This will let invades not be entirely blind, which will allow counter-play in invades, which will make the whole situation less inevitable.
But any glut of changes will not make this situation optimal. Making outer towers tankier will do nothing but slow the rate of tower-taking. Making towers do more damage will kill early aggression.
Even buffing towers to gain more armor if multiple enemies are nearby will do nothing, because the decision to laneswap contains a lot of variables, but is currently rooted in the necessity of blind invades.