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League of Legends Worlds 2018: The Glorious Evolution of the Meta

The 2018 League of Legends World Championship Quarterfinals have just ended in dramatic fashion, with the tournament favorites exiting on the same day and three Western teams making it to the semifinals. Gone are the days where teams outside of Korea trembled in fear at the thought of getting a Korean team in their group. The tournament meta has significantly rewarded teams with strong early lanes that are able to excel in early skirmishes and snowball – a departure from the risk averse, vision control style that Samsung White pioneered in 2014.

And as with any tournament, the read on the meta that teams have going into it changes as the tournament goes on. At last year’s Worlds, Ardent Censer supports were the hot commodity going into it, with Janna and Lulu played nearly every game. But famously, we saw that Misfits countered that strategy by having their support Ignar play aggressive all in supports like Blitzcrank and Fervor of Battle Leona that can kill the squishy Ardent Censer supports. Let’s take a look at this year’s meta and see what has been popular and how teams have adapted to it.

The Aatrox/Urgot Dynamic

If one was told last year that Aatrox and Urgot would be the highest priority champions at this year’s Worlds, they would most definitely be in disbelief. Both champions are just shy of having 100 percent pick/ban status so far and win more than they lose. They are immensely strong champions, which warrants looking at how they personally match up and the reasons why they are so hotly contested picks at the tournament.

It’s important to note that Aatrox versus Urgot is a skill matchup. Leading up to Worlds, each region had a different view on who wins this matchup in the 1v1 setting and which champion they value higher in the draft. Most of the regions outside of Korea thought that it was more Urgot-sided, while the Korean top laners thought it was in favor of Aatrox. Normally, Urgot dominates melee champions in trades with his W, so why do Korean top laners think Aatrox beats him despite his status as a melee champion?

Courtesy of picksandbans.net

While Urgot is deceptively low-ranged for a ranged champion, Aatrox is deceptively high-ranged for a melee champion and has a lot of tools to out trade Urgot. His passive auto-attack gets increased range, bonus damage, and most importantly, reduces the shielding from Urgot’s W. He has great range from the first two strikes from his Q and if Urgot has his E dash on cooldown, he won’t be able to escape from his W chain zone because of how slow he is. To top it all off, the revival from Aatrox’s ultimate makes it so that if Urgot tries to execute him with his own ultimate, he will just revive. Assuming equal skill and isolation, Aatrox should slightly win this lane. But how do teams want to play around these two juggernauts in the top lane?

The team with Aatrox wants to play a 1-3-1 split push composition while Urgot is usually picked to round out 4-1 Baron compositions. Urgot is the safer champion to take into a team fight because even when he is behind, he still functions as a tank that can soak up damage and disrupt team fights. If Urgot gets an execute from Fear Beyond Death, he can flash into the enemy team just as the execution goes through to create a massive AOE fear that will win team fights.

Aatrox, however, needs to capitalize on his strong early game and transition his dueling potential into splitting the side lanes and taking towers. If he gets behind, he isn’t nearly as useful as Urgot and he will be instantly taken down in fights and killed immediately after he revives from his ultimate. But if he gets ahead, he is a monster that can teleport into a team fight and flank with his ultimate, utilizing his massive AOE damage to completely wipe the opponent’s back line all while being unkillable. Both champions have been so strong that they are even often flexed to mid to give teams that extra edge in the draft. This Worlds has been dominated by the two so far, but now we’ll discuss a pick that has emerged to contest the two.

The Rise and Fall of Kai’Sa

During the Play-In stage of Worlds, Kai’Sa had a 69 percent win rate. Right now, she has a measly 45 percent win rate that has been dropping with every game she is picked. Why was she so highly valued by teams in the first place and why are teams now shying away from her?

Courtesy of Riot Games

Kai’Sa is a hypercarry with insane mobility, insane DPS, and flexible build paths to ensure that your team has a good balance in different damage types. She is the center of the new protect the puppy composition that teams in the past have done with Kog’Maw to get him through the early game. You have to put a lot of resources and vision into making sure Kai’Sa can get the items and levels that she needs to 1v5 a game and you also need to avoid unnecessary early skirmishes that can set her behind.

During Play-Ins, we saw teams like EDG and C9 draft heavy CC compositions around Kai’Sa so that in mid to late game team fights, Kai’Sa has lots of options to go in with her ultimate and blow up the opposing back line with her insane damage. For the most part, this strategy was left unpunished, until the second round of Group Stage games. In Group B, Royal Never Give Up (RNG) lost to Vitality and C9 with Kai’Sa. RNG is one of the biggest advocates of Kai’Sa in the world and even they have stayed away from it since those games.

Because teams like Cloud9 and Vitality showed the power of denying vision and early game compositions to fight and fight often, the bot lane with Kai’Sa is a point of weakness that can be exploited in the draft and in game. Kai’Sa needs stability and when that stability is thrown off, the game might be over before she can get to her item power spikes. A wide range of champions have been used to answer her. Champions to bully her (Draven, Varus, Lucian). Hyperscaling ADC’s that push her in (Sivir, Xayah, Tristana). And a champion like Ezreal that is safe and gets to his two and three item power spikes much faster than Kai’Sa does.

In game, teams have been exploiting the weakness of the early Kai’Sa lane to push her in and have priority against her. They can join fights quicker because Kai’Sa might lose a wave if she tries to join. If the jungler tries to gank for the Kai’Sa lane, the opposing jungler can simply counter gank and the 3v3 will be in favor of them. And if Kai’Sa gracefully loses lane, she still loses first tower and all of a sudden the enemy team has all of the cards to decide how they want to control the map.

The snowballed team either beats them with their split push competition and doesn’t give Kai’Sa the ability to find that perfect fight, or they get outfought by a deathball composition that she doesn’t have the items to deal with yet. Either way, due to the meta Kai’Sa is a trap pick right now and expect her priority to drop lower and lower.

Viktor…Top? (And other Kleptomancy Tops)

In the Afreeca vs. Cloud9 series, Afreeca’s Kiin debuted the Viktor top as a counter to Aatrox, doing the ost damage in the game by far but still losing in the end. This isn’t your standard E max Viktor in the mid lane. Kleptomancy. Corrupting Potion with Biscuits and Time Warp Tonic for Sustain. Maxes Q and upgrades Q first. Rushes Iceborn Gauntlet.

Add them all up and you have an untouchable lane bully that dominates Aatrox and tank picks, all while getting to scale for free into his stellar late game. This Viktor top build has been floating around high Korean Solo Queue for a little while now, but we hadn’t gotten to see it on the competitive stage until Kiin and Fnatic’s Bwipo brought it out and I expect to see more of this champion in the top lane during the semifinals.

It’s going to be interesting to see how teams are going to try and counter it. The champions that do best against it are usually all-in assassins like Ekko, Fizz, Akali, or bruisers like Irelia and Kled. You can’t hope to out-trade him in lane so your best bet is to find an early all in on him or dive him with your jungler to set him behind. Something else that could work are tanks like Cho’Gath and Sion who are able to take Arcane Comet, waveclear through his Harass, and scale up so that Viktor has a hard time doing damage to them.

Courtesy of Riot Games

Speaking of Bwipo, we have seen him bring out something similar to Viktor top; the kleptomancy Swain top. Bwipo actually replaced Rekkles in the line up early this year when marksman’s were considered weak. During that time, Bwipo looked like an MVP candidate, especially shining on Swain. So it’s a no-brainer that he takes Swain with kleptomancy into Sion where he can bully and scale fast with the extra gold from the keystone to reach his powerful mid game team fight spikes with Rod of Ages and Zhonya’s.

And if we were to see a kleptomancy Gangplank in the top lane, expect someone like Invictus Gaming’s TheShy to pick it up. We saw from Kiin that when he is able to farm for free, he becomes a monster in those big five-on-five team fights that have dominated this meta.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of runeforge.gg

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