One of the defining differences league of legends has from other multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) is their short term meta changes. Unlike Dota 2 or Heroes of the Storm where major patches or balance updates may take months to be released, Riot (League of Legends creator) receives balance changes bi-weekly. Additionally, the League of Legends balance team has been praised among players for their extensive and swift balancing changes. With quality changes being released so frequently, the competitive scene always feels fresh and sometimes completely new.
It should be noted that the patch 7.18 will be the official patch of the World Championship. Riot has stated that there should be no major changes before the world championship. Hence, we can expect the current meta to continue throughout the World Championship. Recently we saw a buff to lethality based champions and assassin. A buff to assassins meant that attack damage carry (ADC) champions would be less effective. There was also a large buff to tank items in the game. By strengthening tanks, ADCs saw yet another pseudo nerf and tank junglers became the competitive pick. With a strong tank centric meta, champions with the ability to poke behind the frontline saw an increase in popularity and despite the recent buffs, a reduction in assassin popularity. As these trends continue we can expect to see in the world championship:
The top lane meta has not change greatly in recent times and will continue to be mostly tanks like Maokai and Gragas or split pushers like Renekton or Shen. This has been the competitive meta for some time now. It can also be noted that Yorick recently saw a solo queue win rate spike. Although Yorick is not considered meta, he may be a pocket pick for some teams with his split pushing capability and ability to play from behind.
In a tank meta, the popularity of “poke” champions always increases. This means the return of Ziggs and Xerath to competitive play. Also, with the nerf to safe mid laners we can expect the return of Malzahar and Karthus to the world championship stage. The popularity of tank may deter assassin picks.
Although Khazix and Rengar saw a large spike in win rate and popularity following the buffs to Duskblade of Draktharr but the current meta with over powered tank champions negate the initial power spike they received. Thus it can be expected that the tank junglers such as Gragas or Maokai would reign. The only exception is team comps that consist of a tank top lane and support. In this scenario, Khazix, Elise or Jarvan may be a more contested pick
With the recent buff to tank items and assassins, the support meta has become dominated by Janna and Braum. Even Taric with recent buffs has competitive play in the LCS. The contested supports are either tank oriented (e.g. Braum, Thresh) or specialize in damage mitigation (e.g. Janna or Karma)
With the popularity of tanks, “shredder” ADCs such as Kalista or Kogmaw should see a rise in popularity. Although Vayne is the best shredding ADC, her weak early game may hinder her chances of competitive play during the world championship. Recently Riot has executed a vendetta against Caitlyn with even more nerfs coming in the upcoming patch 7.16. Although Draven remains a top tier ADC in solo queue, his limited play in team compositions would hinder his chances of returning to competitive play during the world championship.
The public beta environment (PBE) allows players to play test upcoming patches and balance changes. In the current PBE we have noted quite a few mid lane changes. The following are the changes seen thus far:
- Le Blanc laning weakened
- Shatter Orb (Q) minion damage lowered
- From: 80% To: 50%
- Orianna damage reduction
- Command: Dissonance (W) damage reduced by 20 per rank
- From: 70/115/160/205/250 To: 50/95/140/185/230
- Syndra damage reduction
- Unleashed Power (R) Ability power (AP) scaling reduced
- AP per sphere lowered From: 20% To: 17%
- AP on total damage lowered From: 60% To: 51%
- Taliyah damage reduction
- Command: Dissonance (W) is having its damage reduced by 20 per rank
- From: 50/55/60/65/70 To: 60/70/80/90/100
- Galio cooldown increase and utility reductionHero’s Entrance (R) cooldown increased
- From: 160/140/120 To: 180/150/120
- Hero’s Entrance (R) ally damage reduction lowered
- From: 20/30/40% To: 20% at all ranks
- Fizz damage and laning strengthened
- Playful/Trickster (E) cooldown lowered
- From: 18/16/14/12/10 To: 16/14.5/13/11.5/10
- Cassiopeia mana cost increased
- Twin Fang (E) mana cost increased
- From: 40/50/60/70/80 To: 50/60/70/80/90
We can observe that Le Blanc has had her lane phase weakened greatly by reducing her ability to kill minions. This means she now has to focus on either pushing a wave or commit to fighting the enemy mid laner but not both. The holy trinity of mid lane i.e. Orianna, Taliyah and Syndra has had their damage reduced. This would result in smaller level 6 and level 7 spikes when mages tend to acquire their first and potentially roam to assist the adjacent lanes or jungle. Galio’s kit was designed such that he could fulfill the role of a mid laner while providing the tank/utlity of a top laner. He has been a very popular competitive pick since his rework but a damage reduction and utility reduction may be the end of his competitive reign in the mid lane.
The PBE is such that, the changes implemented so far can still be adjusted before reaching the live league of legends client. Even with this in mind, we can see patch 7.16 is targeted at Mid laners. Recently, a controversial Korean midlaner “Apdo” (aka Dopa) climb to rank 1 in Korean solo queue. During his climb, he discussed how annoyed he would be when facing the “safe” midlaners i.e. Orianna, Syndra and Taliyah. These champions saw a spike in popularity after the controversial lethality and assassin buffs. Although these champions may be regarded as “safe” they don’t have the highest win rates mid lane. The highest mid lane win rates belong to Karthus, Malzahar, Zilean and Aurelion Sol. Essentially, reducing the potency or nerfing these “safe” mid laners can be seen as a pseudo buff to assassin mid laners and the current mid laner dominant mages.