Why do pro teams STILL pick Ezreal?

Alright, what’s the deal with Ezreal? I’m sure you’ve also asked this question when you’re watching your favorite group of players in the draft. Things are looking good. They’ve already secured a couple of power picks, setting up a strong team comp with well-defined win conditions. And then it happens.

Debonair Ezreal Splash Art

The dreaded Ezreal lock-in.

Don’t the pros know that DPS-wise he’s one of the worst AD carries in the game? Or are they too stubborn to admit that their pocket pick is no longer viable in the LCS? Well, things might not be as clear-cut as they seem, because as it stands, there are plenty of reasons to play Ezreal!

A jack-of-all-trades

It’s true that marksmen can outclass the Prodigal Explorer in certain situations, but few champions can match his overall versatility. Ezreal simply has everything an AD carry could ever need. A reliable escape? Check. A long-ranged damage spell? Got it! A decent laning and teamfighting presence? Yeap, it’s there alright.
But wouldn’t such a broad skill set still make him inferior to dedicated specialists? That’s definitely a valid argument. An Ezreal will never outdps a Kog’Maw or outduel a Vayne. At least, not in a fair fight. Which brings us to our next point…

Rewarding skill

At face value, Ezreal is merely adequate. He’s the textbook example of a good-but-not-great champion that performs well throughout the game. However, his wide selection of tools puts him in a league of his own. Most conventional AD carries have to deal with tanks before moving on to priority targets, but Ezreal doesn’t have to follow this rule.
In fact, a good player can use the smallest opening to get around the enemy frontline and assassinate their carries. And the best part? After doing that, he can still get away unscathed! This insane mobility is a huge part of what makes Ezreal successful, so you’ll often see the best marksmen find creative angles to suppress their foes with a barrage of skill shots.

Of course, the word ‘best’ is key here. We’ve all seen autofilled Ezreals sitting back and throwing out Qs from half a screen away. Hell, even some pro players are guilty of this. However, this approach is a stark contrast to the champion’s optimal playstyle, and Ezreal masters are always eager to jump into the fray and punish the slightest positioning mistakes.

Take a look at the clip above. Not only does Bang start a good teamfight by engaging onto the enemy Tristana, but he also gets up close and personal to take out the enemy jungle. This allows SKT T1 to take Baron Nashor and find another great skirmish, effectively securing a game-winning advantage. All because their Ezreal knew when to pull the trigger.

Mid game power spike

Most meta champions have a power spike—a time in the game when they become more dominant compared to their counterparts. Usually, it comes with items. For Ezreal, his power spike starts when he gets Trinity Force, but it only grows stronger as he acquires Muramana and Blade of the Ruined King.
Coincidentally, this happens during the most important part of the match. The mid game. This is the turning point where teams battle for map control in an effort to secure crushing advantages, so having a powerful AD carry is a must here. And Ezreal fulfills this role perfectly.

Of course, other marksmen have their own power spikes. Guinsoo’s Rageblade alone brings so much damage to the likes of Kog’Maw and Varus that most AD carries are hard-press to match it. But these champions don’t have the necessary mobility to challenge Ezreal. And if push comes to shove, the Prodigal Explorer can always switch out his Trinity Force for Iceborn Gauntlet to provide utility and poke his enemies from afar.

Keep in mind, though, that Ezreal is a scaling pick. He needs time to ramp up, so his laning phase is often weaker compared to that of conventional AD carries. But, bizarrely enough, Ezreal doesn’t want the game to last for too long either. Remember, his power spike comes during that 2-3 item sweet spot, so he’s not nearly as effective when the game enters the full build territory.

Conserving resources

We’ve already outlined that Ezreal is a self-sufficient champion. In teamfights, he’s perfectly capable of surviving on his own while dealing massive amounts of damage. This allows his allies to do their own thing, making it possible to draft solo lane carries and build multi-threat team compositions.
Meanwhile, someone like Kog’Maw needs the game to revolve around him. Even if you have strong players in other positions, they won’t be getting a lot of attention because you have to protect your hypercarry. And sure, he might repay you by single-handedly winning the game, but he won’t get to that point without constant babysitting.

Ezreal Base Splash Art

The same logic applies to the early game. A support that’s paired with Ezreal can leave his lane without being afraid of his AD carry dying to the enemy duo. In short, he’s free to move around the map and make plays with his jungler, knowing that his marksman will always be able to farm from a safe distance. Many teams opt in for this playstyle since it makes it easier to take over the mid lane, so an AD carry like Ezreal is a key part of their strategies.

And then, there’s the draft. Remember the power picks we mentioned at the beginning of this article? Yeah, none of those would be there if it weren’t for Ezreal. After all, if you rush to grab a strong AD carry, you’re effectively giving up the likes of Azir, Olaf, Skarner, or Camille. And since most meta marksmen are immobile, they can still be countered by an aggressive bot lane or hard-engage champions. Meanwhile, Ezreal is a very well-rounded pick that fits into most team compositions and doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses.

Also, keep in mind that supports are the ones that set the pace of the bot lane. Hence, most pro teams prefer to save their counter pick for this position instead of using it on AD carries. Plus, there are times when the only thing your AD carry needs to focus on is…

Losing gracefully

Sometimes, you just don’t have another choice. Maybe your team decided to invest resources into other positions, or your opponents snatched a dominant bot lane from the get-go. Whatever the case, your AD carry got the short end of the stick. And the Prodigal Explorer is one of the few champions that can staunch the bleeding and make a losing matchup more manageable.

Of course, Ezreal won’t challenge someone like Xayah or Caitlyn in the early game. But in this case, all he needs to do is avoid poke, keep up in CS, and protect his turret. In short, he has to cut the losses while staying relevant in the game. And sure, he’ll lose the bot lane at some point, but if you didn’t completely mess up the draft, you should have plenty of playmaking opportunities in other parts of the map.

In the end, Ezreal is a selfless pick. Locking him in signals that your team is willing to give up some priority in the bot lane if that means coming out on top somewhere else. And while most AD carries would prefer to play high-impact marksmen, sometimes you have to take one for the team.
Then, there is the state of the game. Ezreal wasn’t always the underdog he is now, and a couple of months ago he was one of the best marksmen in the game. In fact, he was so dominant that the last three patches brought nothing but nerfs to him. And yet, despite these hits, Ezreal keeps showing up in the bot lane—simply because of the insane versatility he brings to the table.

A look at statistics

Finally, you should always look at the numbers. At the time of writing this article, Ezreal has a whopping 230 games played in the 2018 spring season across the leagues of NA LCS, EU LCS, LCK, LMS, and LPL. With that, he’s the most popular AD carry of spring 2018, followed by Varus at 217 games played.
In spite of this insane volume, he’s sitting at a firm 50% win rate while having the third-best KDA of 5.4 (or first if we discount niche picks like Ziggs and Miss Fortune). Ezreal players also tend to die the least out of the meta AD carries, as evidenced by their 13.6% share of team deaths. And did we mention that the champion has the second-highest damage per minute of 730? Granted, this number might be skewed by his poke-heavy playstyle, but it’s hard to deny that Ezreal is doing his job.

Frosted Ezreal Splash

Of course, Ezreal’s dominance in early 2018 could’ve influenced his statistics. But a single glance at his match history would let you know that he’s still played in most competitive regions. And even though he drops games here and there, there’s plenty of wins to make up for that.
But even if you don’t trust the statistics, you should believe in pro players. After all, there’s a reason why they follow the meta. These are the people whose livelihoods depend on how well they perform in League of Legends games, and they’re not going to jeopardize that by drafting suboptimal picks.

In conclusion

Ezreal is one of the best champions to round out your team composition. He brings a potent mixture of damage and utility, and great players can use his versatile kit to take over games. Not only that but he’s very safe. He can hold his own against most lane bullies, and his ability to avoid poke and skill shots allows Ezreal to be independent from his support.
Of course, he has a hard time keeping up with most meta AD carries in the late game. But considering that League of Legends matches are often decided before then, he still provides a solid power spike for most pros to work with. So the next time your favorite team locks in Ezreal, you might actually want to bet on them to take the win.

Read also: How to play Vayne