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Understanding the (North American) Meta – Patch 3.14 and 3.15


NA Meta 3.15

With the advent of Season 4 LCS approaching in just a few short days, many teams are scrambling to adjust to the changes between Season 3 and the Pre-Season 4 Patch. Certain champions have seen an incredible spike in popularity, while others have disappeared from the radar. Wards and gold income have changed how lanes budget their inventory slots and how they chose to use trinkets. Teams have had over a month to test out the waters and try out new strategies, and certain champions/compositions have risen to the top. While it is unfair to say that North America just adopts strategies and champions from Korea/China, North America has gravitated towards distinct strategies that are not the primary focus of Eastern Teams.

In this extensive article, I hope to bring some insight on the popular North American composition that I call “Siege Control”, which involves a versatile composition that focuses on mid-to-late game siege through minion wave control. There are numerous champions that add different characteristics to the composition, (ie: a more teamfight oriented composition versus a high mobility composition) but the outcome is the ability to withstand or impose a siege efficiently.

In general there are usually 3 to 4 champions for each lane role that are picked or banned in over 90% of professional games. These champions are seen as “strong right now” and often have an edge due to changes from the most recent patch(es). I would like to tackle the logic behind these picks, spanning from the general strategies of each lane to the specific strengths of kits. Each section is broken into each role in lane, starting with the general logic behind a pick, and going into the strengths of the individual champion picks. Included are the most popular picks, along with a few of the waning stars or niche picks.

Top Lane      Jungle      Mid Lane       Marksman      Support

How Patch 3.14 changed the game

The Pre-Season patch (3.14) brought several drastic changes to gameplay between 3.13 to 3.14. Some of the most notable changes were adjustments to global objective gold income, base defenses strengthened, and how ward restrictions make vision more of a team objective.

The global gold adjustments change the pace of game; reducing the income from early towers and pre-5 minute kills, and the scaling value of dragon over time. This makes the first 5 minutes of gameplay more forgiving for teams that have a weaker early game. The ripple effect is that it is much harder to snowball a game early on, and also places a higher value on post 25-minute dragons. The shift towards a longer game favors champions that scale with more items, bring a wider selection of champions in various roles. Item budgeting for players now goes beyond the threshold of “what can I do with 2-3 completed items?” to the possibility of a 4 to 5 item build (in a ~40 minute game).

Patch 3.14 introduced changes to the base defenses, with inhibitors respawning after 4 minutes (instead of 5), other lanes not having empowered minions when an inhibitor is down, along with the gradual repair of inhibitor/nexus turrets. First, with inhibitors respawning more quickly means the offensive team has less time to take objectives and towers in other lanes. Having un-empowered minions means that lanes won’t naturally push towards the defense (unless the minion wave is inside the enemy base), making defending side lanes much easier. The repairing of inhibitor/nexus turrets punishes teams that do not commit to a siege and promote defensive turtling. What this creates is an environment where champions with quick, ranged wave clear can hold the turret almost infinitely, and that split pushing onto a tower is less effective since waves can be cleared quicker. The effect leads to longer games, time allowances for lategame scaling champions to grow, and a higher priority order for champions that can clear minion waves efficiently.

The 3.14 changes to vision require that multiple team members take wards to gain the same vision control near the end of Season 3. Additionally, with the change to vision denial, teams must balance how many members will carry red trinkets, and who will use them. Placing strategic pink wards become a high-value asset if they go untouched or unnoticed. Early game vision in lanes has been reduced, which makes 2v1 lanes favorable to draw out the jungler to a lane, and allows supports to gain enough gold for enough wards on their first back. Picks in the late-game become harder to detect, encouraging the defensive team to sit back and stall out the game. Many mid-late game scenarios favor 2-3 red trinkets with the rest as yellows, all focused towards the area of siege or where a team would ideally like to pick a fight.

These changes heavily favor defending teams, champions with quick wave clear, and champions that scale very well into the late game. A typical game of North American professional League of Legends lasts 35 minutes or beyond. Teams focus on defensive picks that can hold out, rather than compositions that are made to close the game quickly. Now that I’ve gone over some of the general changes from 3.13 to 3.14, lets visit the popular champions for each lane.

NA Meta Top

Generalities:

Many of the 3.14 changes to top lane favor the meta of the “hypertank”. These champions seek to stay in lane for as long as possible, which allows them to gain a minion pressure advantage, as well as accelerate a full build. In most competitive games, the two opposing top laners will stay in their respective lanes for a large majority of the game, only breaking off to assist with map objectives. Another aspect of these top lanes is that they have the ability to escape easily, which punishes teams who send members large by wasting their time. One lane loses its pressure while another lane/objective increases pressure by a champion advantage. High defensive capabilities, high sustain, and gradual AoE damage make these champions a major threat in team fights, which will demand enemy focus by the marksman. The top laners are usually the last to die in a team fight, due to difficulty it is to kill them.

A weakness to the top lane champions is that they are both fragile and weak before completing two full items, most commonly Sunfire Cape and Spirit Visage. It is still difficult to keep the champions out of lane, as they are slippery with great escapes. The early to mid game is the weakest point for these champions, and they must be contained to slow down their scaling into late game, while buying time for the carries to overwhelm the top lane tanks.

Champions:

Shyvana

Shyvana_Splash_3Shyvana is one of the best top lane champions for this meta. Her kit offers bonus defensive stats, a mix of physical and magic damage, a speed up and jump to escape captors, and plenty of area effect damage to push lanes quickly. Her kit is complimented by the extra defensive masteries, but it isn’t uncommon to see Shyvana delve into the offensive tree to pick up extra damage (Running a 14/16/0 Mastery Page).

Renekton

Renekton_Splash_0Renekton has been a staple of the top lane for most of Season 3. With good harass, sustain, and an escape, it’s hard to wrangle this crocodile. In team fights, he can cause havoc in the back line by Slicing and Dicing with Dominus activated. With that being said, Renekton is still an ample choice to fall back on, but Shyvana/Mundo scale a bit better in late game or fulfill a niche role better than the Butcher of the Sands. Renekton can be used against these champions, but must capitalize on a stronger early-mid game to take advantage of the weaker tops in order to come out ahead. Because Renekton has been a staple of the top lane for such a long time, he is also seen as a comfort pick for most top lanes, but does not warrant the early draft selection which reduces his prevalence in professional play.

Dr. Mundo

Ever since the new Defense mastery changes, Mundo has been a major terror in the top lane. With the high-sustained regeneration, a consistent mix of damage (favored more towards Magic), and a DrMundo_Splash_3spammable ranged slow that prevents most escapes/chases, Dr. Mundo is one of the few champions that can get away with a complete defensive build and still remain a threat in team fights (as most tops elect for at least 1 offensive item). A Mundo pick also requires the enemy to conserve Ignites to be available at the time of an engage, or force the enemy to build a Morellonomicon on their AP or support. This is a 2,200 gold item divergence that doesn’t fit well into most champion builds (as the bonus CDR puts supports/mids over the 40% cap).

Honorable Mentions:

Rengar:

Despite the fact that Rengar has been banned from the recent LCS matches due to bugs, he is still one of the best top lane champions in the meta. Rengar has great sustain with his Battle Roar (W), and good trading around bushes with his passive. Tanky Rengar takes some time to get rolling, but can lay down heavy burst damage on turrets by 30 minutes in the game once he starts acquiring offensive items like Bonetooth Necklace and Trinity Force. Rengar can pop Thrill of the Hunt (R) to escape, or scout and engage if the team is on the offensive making this kitty cat quite elusive if the enemy team doesn’t prepare true vision. Rengar’s mid game is quite potent with the ability to roam to mid lane and perform a stealth gank at 6 (when the enemy laner assumes Rengar is backing). The changes to vision greatly favor Rengar play, and it is a shame that he has not been enabled for the LCS events recently. I anticipate Rengar will be a high-priority pick when he is made available into competitive play again.

Riven:

Riven has seen a rise in popularity against the hypertanks, due to a strong early game, solid mobility, and massive damage in team fights. Riven, when played offensively, can snowball ahead and out-duel the top tanks. The tanks want to poke, and whittle down enemies, where Riven wants to kill an enemy as quick as possible. This allows Riven to quickly clear waves and reverse any pressure from a lane, and has the mobility to quickly rejoin the team or chase down a fleeing opponent. Riven is fairly squishy and can be focused down easily, and also forces the jungler into a main-tank/initiator role (which can be difficult on a jungler’s salary). With tanks dominating the top lane, recently Riven has been making frequent appearances in the middle lane where she can take advantage of more fragile champions.

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NA Meta Jungle

Generalities:

The role of the jungler in 3.14 hasn’t changed much, despite several changes to jungle mechanics. Smite was adjusted to be up more frequently, and jungle specific items supplement income to reinforce more aggressive play. While early buff trades are common in competitive play, the reduced cooldown on Smite makes the second buff much safer to secure. The jungler is often the prime initiator, and also has a kit designed to force out flashes through slows. As the game progresses, the junglers typically focus on building tanky with Cooldown Reduction and often pick up the Locket of the Iron Solari for the team.

Champions:

Olaf

Olaf is a monster in the jungle, with fast and safe clear times, a powerful level one (including vision with his Axe), and ganks that force out summoners with the successful landing of a single axe. Once he hits 6, he can evade all crowd control for 6 seconds,Olaf_Splash_4 which makes him slippery enough to get out of dangerous situations, or go deep into the enemy back line. The damage output of Undertow (Q) and the true damage from his Reckless Swing (E) make his early game especially treacherous and can often secure early kills. With the item build for Olaf favoring Spirit Visage and Spirit of the Ancient Golem, Olaf gains 30% CDR (with the possibility of the last 10% coming from Locket of the Iron Solari), which helps him spam out his abilities for poke, chase, and constant damage in a full-on teamfight.

Vi

Vi_Splash_0Vi is one of the best early gankers in the jungle because of her ability to hop over walls, displace, and stick to enemies. Vi’s passive grants her a 10% max hp shield when engaging, making her even tankier on engagements. Ultimately, Vi has high mobility, kill potential both pre-6 and at 6, and stays relevant throughout the game. Most of the North American junglers build Vi tanky; however Cloud 9’s Meteos prefers to go offensive when he is far ahead. The damage output of a tank Vi is still high, due to the AoE from Excessive Force (E) and the armor shred/max HP damage from Denting Blows (W-Passive). Vi is very disruptive and works best in pick scenarios when there is crowd control to follow up with her engage.

Elise:

Elise_OriginalSkinElise has been a top tier jungler for the longest time, due to her fantastic kit. Elise has a ranged stun (1.5 seconds at rank 1), a gap closer that evades crowd control, two abilities that deal percentage-health based damage, and minions to mitigate damage from jungle creeps, dragons, and even towers. Elise traditionally builds magic penetration (due to high base values on spells) into tanky. Elise has excellent objective control and can solo dragon very early due to spider minions. Elise fits in to nearly every iteration of any composition, but her forte is creating picks. Elise has close to a 100% pick/ban rate in North American (and Korean) competitive play.

Honorable Mentions:

Dr. Mundo:

Most of the times you will see a Dr. Mundo in the jungle is when the red side has the ability to pick both Shyvana and Mundo at the same time. Dr. Mundo is an admirable jungle, but does not bring the same power as Olaf or Vi. Mundo can chase until an opponent is dead, but dodging a single cleaver is usually all it takes to send Mundo back to the jungle. A jungle Mundo does not have the income that a solo lane Mundo would have, which makes his survivability much lower in teamfights. However, the power of denying Mundo to the opponent can be more valuable than having a stronger jungler to force a the enemy to draft a weaker top lane.

Evelynn:

With the changes to vision in 3.14 allowing only one pink ward per player (with the knowledge of where the pink ward resides), Evelynn creates incredible fear with the unpredictability of early ganks and lane-game flanks. Strategies exist to track Evelynn, such as deep wards at jungle camps, or just the reading how an opponent changes pressure in lane being a cue for a gank. If Evelynn gets fed, the responsibility is on her to make the most out of the advantage and not allow the enemy to farm back into the game. If Evelynn falls behind, her impact on the game is minimal and quickly turns the game into a 4v5. Because she is a high-risk high-reward champion (and with the restriction of pink wards making it not as income-taxing), teams have strayed away from Evelynn.

Lee Sin:

Lee Sin has and will always probably be a relevant jungler. Lee Sin has the most mobility out of the aforementioned champions, creates some of the most devastating early game ganks, and has such a high skill cap that is difficult to prepare against in competitive play. Lee Sin is an incredibly mechanical champion and is extremely unforgiving if he falls behind. His late game potential is more about displacement and diversion rather than heavy crowd control or burst potential. Because having the patience and skill to perform with Lee Sin at a high level is so difficult, many junglers prefer to go with the meta-centric champions. With Patch 3.14 rewarding more lategame scenarios, Lee Sin has been indirectly nerfed since more often than not, his impact on games will wane if he doesn’t feed his lanes or himself in the early game.

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NA Meta Mid

Generalities:

The change of 3.14 on the mid-lane meta is that 1-v-1 lane kills become less prevalent, and that kills are secured from tower rotations and jungle ganks. Instead of actively dueling each other with burst mages, champions that have excellent wave clear (to fend off siege) and have some sort of displacement/slow tend to be the most favored at this time. While “siege control”, both offensively and defensively, has been the major focus of teams, there are still pick and poke mid lane champions that are less prevalent.

Champions:

Ziggs

Ziggs_Splash_2Ziggs has been an incredibly dominant champion in the Western professional eSports scene due to the versatility of his kit. Ziggs has an AoE slow, long range poke, an escape/disengage, an ultimate that can clear out an entire wave from a long distance, and a passive that helps him tear down towers with empowered auto attacks. Ziggs is also an incredibly safe laner with his ability to punish dives with the disengage/damage of his slows and escapes. His Bouncing Bomb (Q) is on a short cooldown which provides great waveclear and doubles as laning harass.

One of the largest impacts that Ziggs has on the game is his ability to accrue ridiculous farm numbers. Typically, Ziggs will end up with the highest CS score in the game. Along with a kit that has high AP-scaling AoE spells on low cooldowns, Ziggs almost always has an item advantage over the enemy mid and can fully utilize the build on both a winning and losing side. With such a versatile kit that has a high damage output and can control minion pushes so easily, it is no wonder that Ziggs has been the most contested mid champ in North America. *For the record, in the recent North American Battle of the Atlantic series and LCS Promotional tournament, Ziggs had a 100% win rate over 7 games during the week.

Gragas

Gragas_Splash_0Gragas has constantly been in favor for quite some time, with incredible burst, efficient wave clear, great mobility, and an initiation that can set up picks/teamfights. Gragas can spike down Dragons and Barons with his Barrel Roll (Q)/Explosive Cask (R) combo which makes timed objectives difficult for the enemy to secure safely. His waveclear is outstanding and his ability to move around the map from Body Slam (W) allows for great picking potential especially under turrets.

Gragas can defend against siege, and can create zones with his barrel to initiate sieges. In the current meta, Gragas is an alternative/counter to Ziggs because Barrel Roll can halt the siege pressure from Ziggs’ wave clear. The direct impact of Gragas’ ultimate is has more utility than Ziggs in a teamfight/grouped situation. Gragas has a weak laning phase until he no longer has mana issues (usually after his first back around 6 after purchasing a Chalice of Harmony), and scales well as the game goes on. It is very hard to create a pick onto Gragas, and he is a constant threat in teamfights. With high damage output, objective control, and siege control, Gragas remains a strong pick in the 3.14 meta.

Orianna

Orianna is another wave-clear champion similar to Gragas and Ziggs, but trades sustained DPS for higher teamfight utility. Orianna needs at least 2 full items to be able to clear a minion wave in a single rotation, which is longer than what Ziggs/Gragas need to push a wave out. Orianna brings several utility mechanics to the team, from speed-boosts/slows to shields, displacement and cheap vision. When an Orianna is picked, the team is complimented with champions that can dive into the back line, putting heavy damage on the carries to scare them out of combat or kill them.

Orianna_Splash_3Orianna has started to fall off due to her weaker lane presence, reliance on a successful teamfight execution, and severe punishment for not landing her critical skill shots. With Ziggs or Gragas, if an ultimate misses, the team can simply disengage, but with Orianna’s Shockwave (R), a team has committed to an engagement and a deathless retreat isn’t an option (which leads to greater objective control by the opposing team). The skill of an Orianna, and often the fate of the game, is put in the enemy positioning and ability for Orianna to land a devastating ultimate.

Kassadin

Kassadin_Splash_0Kassadin is at a near 100% pick/ban rate because of the risk he brings with his mobility around the map and his damage being very high with little investment. His ability to get to a lane is much quicker than the ability to realize that Kassadin is missing, and more often than not, a retreat from a 3 to 4-man dive is not possible at this point. This gives excellent mid-game objective control, and forces enemies to invest into more vision to track where Kassadin is roaming. Once Kassadin secures a couple of kills, his income is high enough to afford the critical mana items needed for him to maintain an overwhelming presence. Kassadin becomes a potent split pusher later in the game, with the ability to wear down solo tanks or escape if the enemy commits more than 1 person to stopping the split push.

The best strategy for defeating a Kassadin is to make his quest to level 6 as arduous as possible. A Kassadin denied of levels and farm has a harder time making an impact at that critical level 6; giving the enemy more time to power up to address the Kassadin Issue. Teams have become adaptive to the weaknesses of Kassadin, and counterplay to keep Kassadin as safe as possible up to that point are taken, where the jungler will pressure other lanes in order to draw attention away from mid.

Honorable Mentions:

Nidalee:

Nidalee is the epitome of a poke champion, however she has seen a decline in play (while still having a high ban rate) due to the fact that she has trouble keeping up when playing from behind and the nerfs to her Javelin Toss. Nidalee has a difficult time CS’ing at the turret pre-6 opposite to many of the meta-favored “pusher” champions. Nidalee also takes time to scale up into the mid/late game, which has a much later power spike than most mid champions. The advantage to Nidalee is that she has the best poke in the game with Javelin Toss (Q), which can turn a game if a high-priority target is hit with a single spear. This leads to an enemy retreat and a 5v4 advantage for the Nidalee team. She also provides great sustain with heals, mobility in Cougar Form (R), and is considered one of the most annoying champions to play against. Ultimately, the combination of good spears and poor enemy positioning is what makes Nidalee such a strong pick.

Kha’Zix/LeBlanc/Zed:

Instead of running down each of these champions to go over each strength and weakness, it is better to group them as burst assassins. These champions excel on early game kills and income/experience differentials in mid. There is a substantial amount of pressure on these champions to win the early game and be able to carry the team/demoralize the enemy into a fast defeat. The big issue with these champions is that the current meta favors longer games, where the assassins have a harder time killing carries with defensive items. These champions are still relevant and have a place in more aggressive playstyles, but don’t have the late-game insurance that other safer, siege clear champions bring to the table.

Marksman Mid:

Sometimes teams will take a highly contested marksmen as an early pick, and then elect to take a second high-priority marksman lower in the draft. What this means is that the team with dual marksmen will look to push down as many inner towers before the 20-minutes as possible. This strategy is known as fast push, where having a 3-4 tower advantage early on gives a massive gold/item advantage before the enemy has time to establish wave clear or a heavily armored tank. The dual marksmen falls apart if the early game advantage is not pressed, which has made this playstyle risky and uncommon in the current meta. With the changes to gold distribution on tower takedowns, hypertanks in the top lane, and mid champions with great siege defense, marksmen mids are less common than they were in Season 3.

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NA Meta Marksman

Generalities:

As with the trend in the current meta, champions with fast wave clear have become quite the hot commodity in competitive play. There is a distinct triad of three main marksmen seen in most competitive games; Sivir, Lucian, and Jinx. The marksman is not the focal point of the current meta, but can be relied to carry the late game through raw damage output and turret siege. The main objective of a marksmen on the offensive siege is to put down as much damage on the turret as safely as possible (getting 1-2 turret shots per minion wave), and on the defensive siege is to quickly clear the waves and dealing as much burst damage to the tank as possible (in hopes to force the tank away and relieving the pressure from the lane).

Champions:

Sivir

Sivir_Splash_5Sivir received an overhaul in patch 3.13, granting her insane wave clear and excellent poke if you can land her Boomerang Blade (Q). The biggest (and best) change was her ultimate, which gives a speed boost to help teams engage or disengage. Sivir also excels in siege clear and tower push, which fits nicely into most compositions. Sivir’s Spell Shield (E) is a wonderful utility spell that rewards fast reactions and can thwart initiates/picks if used properly (in patch 3.15 the duration of Spell Shield is reduced by half, making the skill more challenging to use). Sivir is very safe, brings high teamfight utility, and has excellent wave clear which makes her a popular marksman in North America.

Lucian

LucianLucian has seen a surge in popularity over the past couple of months, having tremendous success in poke and push compositions, especially in conjunction with Nidalee. Lucian also does a deceptive amount of single target damage with his passive dealing an extra 50% damage and is triggered after every ability, and this is used to great effect when sieging down a tower with an extra half-damage auto-attack. The extra damage that is put Lucian can put down on towers, especially with the Sheen proc, makes his tower damage some of the highest per-auto out of all marksmen. Lucian becomes very scary if he gets ahead in lane, with great snowball potential. Lucian’s poke damage, chase potential, and ability to clear an entire wave with his ultimate make him a viable marksman in the “Siege Control” meta.

Jinx

Jinx is a harassing marksman that can easily clean up fights after a single kill. Jinx does incredible single target damage (from a ramping attack speed passive) and has long-range poke that also clears waves quickly. Her Flame Chompers (E) help zone away chasing opponents, or can be used to follow up a crowd control for a potential kill. Ideally, Jinx is used to fast push an early tower and looks to pick up early kills in lane. In teamfights, her job is to kill the tanks and then jinx_splash_0zip around cleaning up any low enemies. Jinx’s passive, Get Excited, grants a massive movespeed boost for a couple of seconds after each kill, allowing Jinx to chase opponents (or escape), which can snowball her advantages quickly. While Jinx’s utility is not near the level of Sivir or Lucian, her potential to carry the game is much more prevalent as she can do an absurd amount of damage in a short period of time from range with Fishbones.

Honorable Mentions:

Draven:

Draven has crept into the competitive scene as a counter against Jinx, Lucian, and Sivir. Draven has the ability to chase down and deal massive damage early on the carries, and every kill he secures grants bonus gold. In short, Draven snowballs really hard if he gets ahead and doesn’t die. The issue with Draven is that he needs a team to protect him, along with excellent mechanics to catch axes during a teamfights. Much like Lee Sin, this is a mechanically difficult champion to master for the late game, and has trouble making an impact if he falls behind.

Ezreal:

Ezreal has been around the competitive scene for over a year, seeing constant buffs and nerfs, but being resilient overall. Ezreal has a strong mobile, poking kit that synergizes well in teamfights and around objectives. Ezreal hasn’t found great reception in 3.14, due to his slower wave clear and relatively low damage output with 3-4 items (compared against a Lucian or Jinx). Still, Ezreal is a comfort pick that can win a teamfight with proper targeting and a tank line that can hold out while he evades the enemy frontline.

Caitlyn:

Caitlyn is seen as a very safe pick in lane with her long range, decent wave clear, and a reliable escape. Caitlyn will almost always be used in a 2v1 lane to shove a towers down early on, and then rotate to push down towers in other lanes. The logic behind the push is that Caitlyn needs items to be efficient, and towers/objectives granting global gold are the quickest way to get ahead. Once Caitlyn is able to get that 3rd and 4th offensive item, then she becomes an absolute terror against towers. The difficulty is that Caitlyn tends to have a difficult time in the mid-game, where she is the weakest. With champions like Lucian and Sivir having better wave clear and more team utility, Caitlyn has fallen from the competitive scene for now since her teamfighting presence is something left to be desired for.

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NA Meta Support

Generalities:

Patch 3.14 granted supports a viable income, which allows them to have more of an impact in the lategame(outside of the vision war). With ward restrictions, the reliance on supports to be primary warders have been reduced, which gives the option for supports to buy more team utility items. At this time, the most frequently purchased item is the Talisman of Ascention, which offers 20% CDR along with an active speed boost to initiate or disengage from fights. Supports now have a duty to control the location of the battle; through initiations, picks, disengagements, and mobility buffs.

Champions:

Annie

Annie_Splash_6Currently, Annie is one of the most feared supports in the North American meta since she has the ability to land a multi-person 1.75 second stun with high base damage to follow up. The kicker is that there is little-to-no reaction time to counter this engagement. Even as a support, Annie is a duo lane’s largest threat since transforms any lane into a kill lane with her early game prowess. Even if her laning phase doesn’t go quite as expected, she still remains relevant through all stages of the game with such a powerful engagement tool. However, lesser mechanical players need not apply; Flash-Tibbers (R) is a high-cooldown combination, and failing the pair can be heavily punished.

Leona

Leona_Splash_2Leona has been building steam recently, with her CC-heavy kit that allows for prime engagement opportunities against turtling teams. In patch 3.14, Leona now has the ability to purchase the items that increase her durability; a luxury that she did not have in Season 3. With basic coordination, Leona can chain-CC a single target 100-to-0 with a marksman at level 6. As the game progresses, the addition of CDR items available for supports allows her Solar Flare to be available approximately every 40 seconds. The advantage of having a ranged engage on a short cooldown is that if an initiation is botched (or the ult doesn’t hit the intended target), recovery is much easier since the jungler does not have to commit as the initiator (and likely dying because of a botched engagement).

Thresh

Thresh_Splash_1Thresh has one of the most unique support kits in the game, with so much utility that it is impossible to note every aspect of his play. If there is a single characteristic to generalize Thresh, it would be disruptive. With multiple displacement abilities and slows, Thresh is one of the most early picked supports in North American competitive play. Thresh’s lantern can rescue a member in the most dire of situations, or set up a clever play to bring someone into the fray. The disengage from The Box (R) punishes those who chase. Thresh can also create incredible picks from Death Sentence (Q), which gives teams yet another tool to their team composition.

Honorable Mention:

Karma:

Despite being heralded as one of the best supports of the current meta, Karma has not had great reception or performance in the North American professional scene. Karma’s kit is all about mobility and kiting, being able to speed up the entire team or slow an area on the ground. Karma also has a poke-heavy early game, which is difficult for non-tank lanes to persevere through. In the end, champions with a hard engage are currently being drafted over Karma.

Lulu:

When Lulu is picked, it generally means that a team is looking to dive and looking to have several layers of crowd control in a teamfight. Lulu has a strong early game in 2v1 lanes with great harassment and good damage to turrets. Lulu’s Glitterlance (Q) helps deter ganks through a massive slow, and her Whimsy (W) can disable a target for up to 2.5 seconds at max ranks, or speed herself away if the teamfight goes awry. Lulu has trouble against the hard engage supports, and has been less favorable with head-to-head 5v5 teamfights becoming less common.

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Patch 3.15 Implications

Riot introduced patch 3.15 in the middle of December and had a few minor changes that affect how some of the more popular champions/playstyles from 3.14 to 3.15.

A major change was the cooldown reduction (-33%) on the Red trinket, making it easier to control vision. The range on the Blue trinket was increased, but the trinket still has limited functional utility (compared to the other trinkets). Jungle gold income items were enhanced so that the Conservation passive was now passed onto the other two jungle items, bringing more build diversity to carry junglers such as Kha’Zix.

Changes to masteries reduced the flat bonus AP and AD from the 9 point talent in the Offensive Tree, scaling down early game champion power. In the Defensive Tree, the 3-point skill Perseverance was scaled back from 3% missing health regen per 5 seconds to 2%, which marginally nerfed rampant health gains in the top lane and jungle. Still, we don’t anticipate this change affecting the top lane meta too much. The range on 16-point skill “Legendary Guardian” was reduced to 700 (from 900), which makes tanks less durable if the opponent spreads out. Pro-tip: During level 1’s, defensive stat changes could tip off an encroaching enemy similar to Fiddlesticks’ Dread passive, but with the reduced range, this “alarm system” is much more unreliable and risky.

3.15 also adjusted the power levels of several duo lane champions, including both supports and marksmen. Sivir took a huge hit in her utility, with the reduced duration of Spell Shield (E) and lower duration of On The Hunt (R). This takes away some of Sivir’s team mobility, while leaving her pushing power in tact. Lucian took a nerf on his Piercing Light (Q) in both range and damage, making his poke a little less powerful in the lategame. These changes to marksmen make Jinx a very high priority pick, and bring champions like Caitlyn and Ezreal as viable options depending on what composition a team elects to run.

Support changes include the duration reduction of Fiddlestick’s Terrify (Q) from a max duration of 3sec down to 2.25sec. Fiddlesticks support has fallen out of favor near the end of patch 3.13, where he was considered to be at his prime. Taric also had armor ratio bonuses reduced, which took away a significant amount of power of his kit. Neither of these two champions saw a huge amount of highlight in North American professional play, and these nerfs only strengthen the other supports discussed in the 3.14 meta.

In short, the changes in 3.15 still do not completely alleviate the problems of siege control in 3.14, but adjust how mid-late game vision control is established. The “hypertank” meta still exists, but is only slightly less effective. The changes to marksmen should make Jinx a prime ban candidate, while making the AD selection less of a priority in draft. The nerfs to Fiddlesticks and Taric simply eliminate them from the professional champion pool for now.

Where is the strategy going to evolve in the future?

With many teams playing a safe, longer game, there are going to be teams that seek to punish the safe play with highly aggressive picks. Granted, this strategy is much more difficult to pull off post Season 3, but the team that can map out objective times and refine the item completion times (as well as the damage threshold with fewer items) to capitalize on the gold disparity will be able to close games with greater efficiency. Picks will trend towards an early-game focus, since it is much easier to control a team with fewer items/levels. The mid-lane will still likely be the focal point of most teams, but the value of the jungler will increase with aggressive play. The true key to success will come with teams being able to end games with 1 to 2 major items completed.

* A special thank you to SorenKurosaki for helping with the art in this article.


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Jera

Jera is a former Human Factors psychologist, video game researcher, and avid follower of professional League of Legends. Jera enjoys taking a statistical approach to analyzing gameplay and discovering how small events cause ripple effects throughout the game. Follow Jera on twitter @coL_Jera

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