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Esports League of Legends

League of Legends’ “New Meta” Has to Go

League of Legends’ recent meta change has been something people are praising. Starting in patch 8.11, new strategies and champion picks are running rampant in the pro scene and solo queue. Some of these changes have brought a new look to the game, and interesting new ways to play.

However, this “new meta,” for lack of a better term, needs to change. For the health of the game and the professional scene, Riot needs to re-balance the game. LoL thrives off of the “standard meta” that people played and learned for years. Riot themselves even shaped it to the form it was in before they decided to turn the meta on its head.

Two things attributed to the new meta have completely changed the game: the death of marksman and Riot’s new stance on large changes in frequent patches. In this author’s opinion, these two issues have caused a decline in the health, stability, and overall enjoyment of the game. It seems that Riot may be walking down a dangerous path with this new approach to the game. LoL’s new meta was fine for a while, but too much of something this radical is frustrating, not fun.

The State of ADCs

For a traditional bot lane comp, laning against aggressive supports with all-in champions was, and still is, nearly impossible. The trade-off should be that marksmen are better scaling into the late game. Unfortunately for ADC players, being bullied in lane means they can’t afford the items they need to scale effectively.

Heimerdinger splash art. Photo via Riot Games.

With ADCs pretty much useless, where does that leave us? First, let’s turn the attention to AFK pushing bottom lanes. The Heimerdinger and Fiddlesticks combo is the most infamous, with Morgana being relevant too. These laners all have one goal early on: to perma-push and take the tower as fast as possible. This encourages minimal interaction between players.

The second place it brings us is to bruisers and mages. Vladimir, Swain, Irelia and Yasuo have all found homes in the bottom lane at some point in professional games. Here, they make ADCs’ lives as bad as pushing lanes do because of their hyper-aggressive play. They dominate ADCs early on and effectively dive ADCs mid-late game.

These two strategies are common, and not fun to play against. Because of this, ADC players primarily run Teleport to avoid conflict as much as possible. They are encouraged to farm and not fight in lane. It’s an extremely boring playstyle that even the good ADCs have had to adopt.

The Far Reaching Death of ADCs

The most common argument made in support of this change is that new champions in the bottom lane increases diversity. However, due to so many marksmen being essentially unplayable, I’d argue that it doesn’t. In the NA LCS Summer Split, there have been 16 unique bot lane carries (former ADC role). Six of those have been marksman, seven are mages/bruisers and three supports picked. Supports are picked for outside of lane, and are not as viable in solo queue because of the lack of communication.

There are 19 marksman that all play in the bottom carry role. It isn’t hard to see the entire pool of ADCs becoming larger than the current amount of potential bottom laners. Perhaps one may respond to this by saying that the meta never realistically sees 19 champions in the bottom lane. While that may be true, the theoretical possibility of ADCs outnumbering bottom laners is something that shouldn’t be immediately discarded.

When was the last time you’ve seen a Twitch in your game? A Sivir, or even a Vayne? For this writer, it has been quite a while. The difference is the vast disparity in viability of the single bottom tier marksman. No matter the meta, you could find success on any ADC if you wanted to.

FLY v TL match history. Photo via Riot Games and LoL Esports.

While on the subject of playing meta, it is relatively difficult for ADC players to do so. Those who have put thousands of hours into that pool of 19 champions can’t, or don’t even want to change their entire pool and playstyle. There’s a definite population that has had years of work and practice diminished. There’s always meta shifts for other lanes, but they keep relatively similar playstyles that aren’t so radically impacted as this.

One of the best ADC players in the world, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng exemplifies this. In the second day of NA LCS, he attempted to play Vladimir. His performance was honestly bad, and looked awkward on the champion. Team Liquid kept him on ADCs after this failure (except for one more not-so-good Vladimir game). Fnatic’s Rekkles, another world-class player, benched himself because of his inability to adapt. If players of this caliber can’t adapt to these changes, how can casual players be expected to?

Pre-Season Changes All Season

Riot has implemented a new strategy of increased radical changes in more frequent patches than in the past. Significant balance changes, including but not limited to Rift Scuttler, ADC nerfs, Baron nerfs and gold bounties have been rolled out in the span of a few patches. Big changes have previously been left until mid-season or pre-season. Their system worked, but now it seems like they’re changing things for the sake of changing them.

Rift Scuttler splash art. Photo via Riot Games

Change is good – but in such a high volume, it can be frustrating. First, let’s discuss how the community at large and casual players are affected by this radical amount of change in such a short time. Casual players have a hard time keeping up with rapid, influential patches. Rift Scuttler is a good example. I have a friend that played jungle, didn’t read the patch notes, and was dumbfounded when he didn’t get level three off his standard clear. Not everyone plays League every day, or even every few days. The competitive part of the game is a main focus, but it still needs to be fun for the casual player.

For professional players, it can be just as frustrating. Doublelift discusses his perspective on these patches and brings a new look to the struggles of an unstable meta. Professional players have to put in hours more of overtime to adapt and perform to the level they’re needed at. He further develops consequences of this regarding content creation. For players that devote their whole lives to the game, being forced to work hours other jobs would find criminal is no way to grow the scene. It only hurts the players in the long run.

Moving Forward

The main reason for this negativity surrounding Riot’s new patching strategy is the updates’ lack of proper address, radical nature, and high frequency. At the same time, though, these frequent and radical updates have been instrumental in the growth of the game. It is quite possible that if all the ADC changes were reverted now, some teams would still bust out unique picks in the bottom lane. A balance of both would be the ideal situation.

ADC champions. Photo via Riot Games.

Looking towards the future, reviving ADCs to some extent is the foremost priority. All the new champions playing bot have other roles they suit just fine (top and mid). However, ADCs are only “viable” bottom or as a funnel, which isn’t as viable a strategy after 8.14. Having the new perspective should prove to be healthier for the bottom lane. It would be silly to keep ADCs dead forever, and Riot has proved they are making small steps to bring them back. Though they roll out huge changes with no hesitation, they seem to be very careful here. It’s not uncalled for, but frustrating for many.

Riot may need to tone it down with the meta-smashing patches. Having to adapt to totally different strategies every patch is a pain for everyone. It makes it new and fresh, but at the cost of people’s sanity and familiarity with the game. Some games go years without major balance changes, and while that wouldn’t be good for League, they can learn from this to let the meta develop itself, instead of the company dictating its direction.

LoL’s new meta after patch 8.11 has been crazy to see develop. It has fostered new strategies and perspectives on the game, but its time is nearing an end. If balance is truly what they aim for, Riot should readjust Crit marksman and relax on their policy of implementing large scale changes.

Too much change over such a short period of time may be proving to be damaging to the game’s health. It’s up to Riot on whether or not they think this damage is worth healing.

 

Stats provided by Games of Legends.

Featured image courtesy of Riot Games.

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