At the beginning of the 2018 summer season, Riot’s latest meta creation took to the stage for the first time. With changes to crit items and buffs passed around to other roles, audiences were greeted by a smorgasbord of team compositions that would have otherwise never have seen the light of day.
Historically speaking, what is being played today is extremely different from how League of Legends previously functioned. In the past, traditional League of Legends was played in the linear RPG approach of tanks/fighters in front, then spellcasters, marksman, and healers bringing up the rear. Each role stuck to a specific handful of champions and would not see much overlap with other roles. Through this tradition, players were able to hone their specific skills like a finely sharpened blade. To be the best meant mastering the champions associated within their role and putting individual ability to the test. Up until recently, League of Legends was about teams comparing the sharpness of these skills against one another.
Currently, it seems that tradition is taking a backseat. Now, it is not enough for a team to simply have players that are proficient in their given roles. Rather, functions such as team play and strategy are what measure the strength of a team in the current meta. Players must evolve to playing styles and champions that hover outside of their comfort zones. If players are to succeed, they must adapt or fall to the wayside.
No Holds Barred
Why should players be limited to a small tool belt when they could have access to an entire workshop? This is the essence behind League of Legends’ anything-goes meta. Players and picks are unchained from their traditional duties and allowed to freely roam where they think they are best utilized. Maybe your team needs more than one support, or perhaps you desire an explosive early game to try and quickly destroy the Nexus. Through this newfound flexibility, the sky is the limit and anything seems possible!
This flexibility forces teams to push their skills and rosters to the very limit of what they can do. Bot lane players must force themselves to either learn non-marksman champions or make way for substitutes that can pick up the slack. Junglers must be prepared to do double duty by directing a gold funnel’s jungle pathing while simultaneously playing the game as a supportive Braum or Nunu. Coaches must stay even more moves ahead and make sure their mental gambits are airtight.
Riot has the opportunity to open their game to an even higher degree of diversity. With the right tweaking, teams could run a myriad of strategies with no limit other than the inherent synergies within each champion.
A large criticism I have had over the years has been the absence of League’s full champion roster. Champions such as Shyvana or Wukong seem to be permanently shelved by the competitive scene due to Riot’s previous approaches toward balancing and opinions from the higher echelons of the competitive community. It has been frustrating to see only a handful of champions in a given role despite many, albeit “less efficient” options. At times, I even questioned the thinking behind having a large, playable roster. Why bother when only a handful will be shown any competitive favor?
The main issue will be how Riot handles future changes. Balancing in the past has been tricky for Riot. Changes like the 2015 Juggernaut rework, for example, created so many issues that immediate changes were required.
On the other end, champions such as Taliyah needed a lot of tweaking after release to ensure a healthy level of viability. Riot must apply their lessons learned from the past in this new age. If they can successfully apply a measured touch, I see no reason why this new approach can’t thrive.
Through it all, Riot has created a brand new game that is no longer held back by rigid composition structure or cyclical meta rotations. If a team wants to play around a Yasuo in the ADC position, they are now able to do so without putting their chance of a win in jeopardy.
For the time being, the game finally feels free. Here’s hoping that it lasts long into the future.