An explanation of the “Shaco Syndrome” scale

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /
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Shaco. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

When Shaco is on my team, he feeds, but when he’s on the other team he carries. What is known throughout the community as “Shaco Syndrome” afflicts some champions more than others, but what are the different levels of the Shaco Syndrome?

Amongst the League of Legends community, there is a commonly-understood term: Shaco Syndrome. For those unaware, this is defined as “a law that states that any mechanically complex champion on your team will be completely useless and feed, while on the enemy team they will be gods and carry their team.” This has also been known as the Yasuo complex, the Zed syndrome, the Riven rule, or the Draven effect.

Champions that have a high mechanical ceiling/floor can vary massively between godly and useless, and more often it seems you don’t get the godly performance from your teammates. It’s a subsection of the “elo hell” philosophy – that your teammates are dragging you down – applied to a certain category of champions or players who are always frustrating to have on your team for one reason or another.

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What is often undiscussed, however, are the “anti-Shaco Syndrome” champions. The ones that have such low variance, even when they’re put on one of your drooling, mouth-breathing teammates, they’ll generally have about the same level of influence because of their simple kit, pure utility, or forgiving late game. If at one end of the spectrum, we have Shaco, then at the other end we have Malphite, who will always be a giant tanky rock who can fly into the entire teammate no matter how much your teammate feeds.

Let’s take a look to see what are the varying degrees of “Shaco Syndrome” and where certain champions might fall on the scale.

Level 1: the Malphite mandate

These would be described as the “low variance” champions. The difference in the hands of an experienced player versus a bad player is almost non-existent.

It’s not just that these champions are easy to execute, but that it’s hard to fail with them unless the person controlling the character is trolling. It’s the fact every champion that is Level 1 on the Shaco Syndrome scale can have a massive impact based purely off their kit, no matter how behind they are. Whether the Malphite is a “your team” or “enemy team” he’s going to do the same basic things: be a tank and engage with ult.

On the enemy team, Malphite is constantly whittling down his opponent in the top laner with Qs and damage from Arcane Comet off cool down. When he hits 6, he does a perfect flash+ult to turn a gank and get away or even claim a counter kill. He’s always out of vision in late game team fights and flies in with perfectly-timed ults that catch four or five members.

On your team, worst case Malphite builds full AP, wastes his mana in lane spamming Qs and ground slams. When he engages, it’s usually to his death, and he refuses to explain why he would build Sorc Shoes over Ninja Tabis against Yasuo top. However, even the worst Malphite in the world ends up being somewhat tanky and has fantastic engage with his ult, meaning – unlike a 0/9/2 Yasuo – he can do something in team fights.

Other examples of Level 1 champions: Nautilus, Rammus, Annie, Miss Fortune, Soraka

Level 2: the Garen guideline

Similar to the Level 1 champions, these characters are relatively simple mechanically, making it hard to truly be “useless.” However, whereas the Malphites and Sorakas will always have some level guaranteed utility, these champions can suffer if they fall behind.

If they get ahead, these champions can genuinely run games over, but they often don’t because their kits are inherently limiting. Once you reach a high enough skill level, you’ll become accustomed to countering those easy to play champions, so even if a Garen or Nasus takes a lead out of lane they’ll have a harder time just running roughshod.

On the other hand, a bad Garen player – though tanky and not entirely useless – will be left doing little damage and dying quickly. They’ll be in that awkward point of not quite enough damage to one-shot a carry, but not quite tanky enough to be an adequate frontline. Fortunately, because these champions are so simple to execute and so forgiving, it’s unlikely that they’ll come out of laning phase that massively behind.

On the enemy team, the Garen builds Trinity Force, QSS, and spins through your entire team cutting them down until he gets through to the ADC and drops an ult of a billion true damage on them. When you chunk him down and force him to flash out, his passive and the Warmogs he already bought has him back to full health in five seconds, ready to clean up your still-wounded teammates.

On your team, Garen is seen constantly missing Qs on minions under tower forcing him to do that awkward, slow wind-up each time he targets a new minion to last hit. He somehow continues to miss his ultimate, gets kited so the enemy carry is just out of range, and dies without dropping it. Also, he builds full AD and whines about how much CC the enemy team has.

Other examples of Level 2 champions: Volibear, Karthus, Ashe, Karma, Fiddlesticks