Being in the fourth week, we can begin to start making general statements about the state of the League of Legends Championship Series. Today’s European games were the first on the new patch, but the changes to the champions didn’t effect the meta game whatsoever. Most of the balance changes were made to problematic champions in solo queue, like Dr. Mundo and Rengar, but there were small changes due to professional play, such as Kindred and Tahm kench. The thing is, both champions were picked today, so the patch literally had no effect on the meta at all. Because not much unexpected happened today in the EU LCS, the first two points are about the metagame trends through four weeks, and why the changes to the game have been underwhelming.
Siege is the name of the game
The games are now shorter this season, which isn’t as innocent as it might seem. Shorter games means a couple things: Adding up to a meta that has become pretty straight forward. Early on, Asian teams showed how powerful siege compositions are. Because of the viability of Graves and Kindred along with the tower and death timer changes, teams have now adopted a one-track mind. Team compositions are crafted with only a small number of major themes. Outer turret pushing, whether it be powerful lane match ups, great teleport plays, or single split pushing and dueling/skirmishing. Gone are the days of sitting back and farming and forcing 5-v-5 team fights around Baron and Dragon. Scaling champions and early dominate team fighting champions are now left out.
Early in the game, outer towers will fall quickly, and the ability to make pressure in a long lane becomes important. Some games even evolve to an ARAM type style, where no team can make an advantage for a long period of time. Eventually a play is made and something is broken open.
There are a few problems with this. Right now, the meta is not very diverse. Most compositions are their trying to do the same thing, which is poke and siege, or directly counter the poke and siege composition by having hard engage. Other strategies aren’t there anymore as well. The 1-3-1 split push hardly exists, mostly relying on either 4-1 split push or all five sieging. The 1-3-1 opens up more opportunities to pick champions that excel at single split pushing and dueling/skirmishing other than top lane champions. Besides the 1-3-1 split push, the protect the ADC comp are the Juggernaut comp is pretty much absent. (The Juggernaut comp, most notably the Juggermaw or Juggerjinx comp is when a hyper scaling ADC is paired with other champions that are centered around protecting the adc or buffing them, Lulu being the centerpiece alongside Jinx and Kog’Maw). Yes, Lulu is still a power pick, and can create great synergies with champions like Lucian, but whole entire drafts aren’t centered around it, like how it was last season. Drafting was much more interesting now that flex picking is all the rage. Don’t get me wrong, powerful flex picks make the drafts very interesting, but when a champion like Corki comes along, when can we begin to call it a power pick over a flex pick, or just an overpowered champion?
One Play, One Patch, One Match
Another problematic part of the patch is how much one play can win the game for a team. Power plays have always existed in League, even plays that ended the game. The thing is with this new season, these game ending plays are coming far too quickly. Why is this a problem? Elements of luck are now thrown in the mix, and it gives more chances for worse teams to beat better teams. It’s easy for teams to think, “Did we happen to win that one skirmish at that perfect time? Good. Now let’s take two towers, an inhibitor, two more towers and then the nexus!” Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles put it perfectly (at the 32:18 mark), “The better team will win eight out of 10 team fights… but in this meta if you win one team fight at 40 minutes and it happens to be one of the two out of 10, then the you just automatically win the game because the death timers are so long.”
Nothing out of the ordinary
There were no upsets today, based on the current standings. Standings wise, the most important game was G2 vs Origen, especially if you are expecting Origen to finally emerge from its uneven early-season play. Everything in that game went exactly as it has been going through this season. G2 makes good map plays but gives up a few unnecessary deaths, while Origen has superior team fighting and overall decision making, makes a huge communication game plan decision, and loses the game.
The only other small thing that was out of the ordinary was the performance of Rudy “Rudy” Beltran, the replacement jungler of Unicorns of Love. The reason I say “small thing” was because UOL has this ability to seamlessly adopt a new jungler with ease. Other than that, the performance was the opposite of small. Rudy was playing with confidence making plays around the map and invading the enemy jungle, looking like he’s done this a million times on stage. It’s refreshing to see a good performance from a rookie, especially replacing a legendary player like Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov. While ROCCAT was not much of an opponent for today, UOL is proving that they can easily be a top-three team even with a new jungler.