Mid-lane has always been thought of as the biggest power in a League of Legends team. The meta that dominates the mid lane frequently sets the meta for each position. For example, in Season 3 when Zed, Ahri and Kha’zix were the power in mid lane we saw pick compositions dominate the meta, compositions suited to the heavy burst coming out of mid. Pick-comp champions such as Shen, Elise and Zyra in other lanes complemented the assassins that were the face of success in Season 3.
By the time the 2014 Season started, all of the major Season 3 assassins had been nerfed. The buff to exhaust was very important, giving another tool to shut down the heavy burst of Zed and Ahri. This paved the way for a poke-based meta entirely different from the past season, dominated by Lulu, Nidalee, and a poke-build Leblanc.
Mid-Season 2014 has presented some very interesting developments. With nerfs to the mid-game oriented champions Nidalee and Leblanc, to Renekton in the top lane and to the quintessential lane-bully AD carry item Bloodthirster, we have seen the meta evolve from its previous mid-game power picks to a heavy late game style.
In OGN, this late game style has found success in a big way, with Kayle defining the meta in top lane and Kog’maw at ADC, all teams focused their attention on successfully maneuvering lane swaps so that their hard carry champions could get huge. In this article I’d like to cover what made OGN’s new meta so solely focused on the late game, and thus what the new power picks are in champion select.
Ziggs: The New Mid Lane Power (Rito Pls)
Samsung Blue in their group stage match against SK Telecom T1 K were the first to first pick Ziggs with other priority picks open. Easyhoon of SK Telecom T1 S also always first picks it when it isn’t banned against him, which is rarely, but that is because the champion fits his playstyle and the playstyle of his team. Dade’s pick was more surprising and possibly a sign of a shift in the meta.
At the time even though Ziggs was considered strong most attributed Samsung Blue’s high priority for it to Dade’s notoriously small champion pool. However, the trend continued and Ziggs was first priority for not only him and Easyhoon but also CJ Frost’s Coco and Jin Air Stealths’ Fly.
On many occasions teams had begun to first pick Ziggs even when Lulu was unbanned, which is surprising considering Lulu’s dominance in the OGN since the changes to CC scaling with AP. So what is it that makes Ziggs so uncontestably strong and, most importantly, so critical to certain team compositions that may fail without him?
The answer partially is late game power, and more importantly, the ability to turtle until the late game. The champion is a source of repeated frustration for compositions that seek to push towers in the mid game with his unmatched wave clear. Not only is Ziggs able to use his normal abilities to destroy a wave singlehandedly before it even reaches the turret, he has the ability to counter pushes in the side lane from mid easily with his ultimate.
The effect of Ziggs in a game is not only time bought for his allies to scale up into the late game, it is also an effective shutdown of mid-game push compositions and, critically, split-push compositions that were so popular in the season 3 pick-comp meta.
Of course, Ziggs brings another crucial element to his teams: insane damage in the late game. In the clip below we can see how Samsung Blue utilizes Ziggs to get the edge in all late-game teamfights in a very close game against SKT T1 K. Note how Dade uses his ultimate before the fight begins, dealing insane aoe damage that puts K on the back foot from the very beginning.
In my opinion, Ziggs is getting pretty close to the anti-fun, “Riot please rework”, worse-than-Nidalee stage. In the KT Arrows vs Najin White Shield game 1 quarterfinals Ggoong effortlessly dominated as Ziggs in a poke/siege comp; combining the poke of Ziggs with full AP Gragas Kt Arrows were never able to engage even with a Shyvana.
Top Lane: Mundo is Back
Samsung White’s Looper was the first to pick Dr. Mundo as a hard counter to top Kayle. At the time it was confusing to most and the OGN casters thought it was Looper relying on a comfort pick to deal with a hard-carry lane. Instead, it was a well-thought out strategy.
Looper definitely has practice; Acorn, the top laner of Looper’s sister team Samsung Blue, is considered the best Kayle in the world. Shockingly to all, the Mundo counterpick has the potential to completely shut down Kayle in late-game teamfights, which are supposed to be when she shines the most. He does this by using his ultimate and insane tankiness to just stand on top of her, unkitable with his cleavers, and prevent her from doing any damage to the carries.
With the rise of the double-AP composition, Mundo could come back in a big way. The Spirit Visage rush is by far his favorite build path and late game he turns into a hypertank, capable of matching almost all of the feared hypercarries in teamfights.
Step Down Renekton: Top Has a New Bully
Top Gragas has entered the international meta in a big way since Rock of the Jin Air Stealths introduced it in a fantastic debut match against Najin White Shield. According to MonteCristo, “there are many schools of thought on how to build top Gragas… Rock’s full AP damage build is most impressive.”
I couldn’t agree more. Tank Gragas is more popular as it is a safer choice, but it does not fulfill a proper niche, and is certainly a bad idea if the team has no other forms of primary initiation. Tank Gragas such as that favored by SKT T1 K’s Impact is useful for peel and teamfight displacement in certain compositions, but is a weak split-pusher, initiator and “poker”.
Najin White Shield’s Save seemed to learn fast from those who could better him, and put on a clinic as full AP Gragas in the quarterfinals against the KT Arrows. Rock said in his MVP interview that full AP was his favorite way to play Gragas, with an emphasis of bursting someone down before teamfights.
Longer Games, Worse Mistakes
The infamous Curse vs. Complexity game may not be an anamoly, but a symptom of a changing meta. With several late game picks dominating the Super tier in champion select, with the lane-swap meta and recent balance changes depowering lane bullies, we are experiencing a type of game that is much, much different than the more explosive style of season 3.
Without trying to be too opinionated, I’d like to say that this super late-game meta is more “anti-fun”, as matches revolve more and more around individual mistakes, causing both teams to play even safer and not try and make plays. When it gets to the late game, all the factors that determine leads such as gold leads, turret leads, dragons all become less and less significant, whereas the significance of each and every teamfight becomes the central focus, with each teamfight having the potential of turning the game completely.
MonteCristo and DoA, the casters of OGN, commented in the KTA vs Najin Shield quarterfinal how reminiscent the games are getting to season 2, with Froggen farming up a storm and turtling for 40 mins with Anivia. They also made a very relevant comparison to Ziggs, laughing at how he is Anivia 2.0, offering even more to the team.
The Ziggs/Anivia, season 4/season 2 comparison is not even an equal one. Ziggs offers longer range, the ability to turtle not only mid but side lanes, a higher burst ultimate that has the potential to decide by itself which way a late-game teamfight sways and, on top of it all, more mobility and escape power than such a hypercarry should ever be allowed to have.
Riot’s balance teams often deals with a situation of a stagnating meta by nerfing champions across the board, but right now I don’t think severe nerfs to Mundo, Kog’maw and Gragas are warranted. The only reason that these champions are able to shine in competitive play is when they are combined with the heavy turtling power of Ziggs, preferably with a strong disengage champion like Nami.
Although it is still in the early stages the meta may be stagnating in a place that is not very interesting. However, I could be very wrong about all this and it is possible that some strong early-game meta arises that abuses the potential of lane-swaps even more than late-game turtling comps. In OGN, if anyone is going to effect a change like this, it will be Samsung Blue with their prowess of the lane-swap and the skill and playmaking ability of their jungler Spirit. I will be keeping a close eye on their upcoming quarterfinal game vs. Jin Air Stealths to get a hint of where the meta is headed from here.