In a dev blog released this week, Riot Games developer James "Statikk" Bach revealed some changes to League of Legends' traditional list of classes. In order to better encompass the huge number of characters and archetypes now in the game, Riot has increased the overall number of class labels, as well as adding subclasses within most of them.
Here's a TL;DR rundown of the various class and subclass types:
As you might imagine, tanks are set apart by their high hit points and defense and, as such, their ability to take a lot of damage from enemies. The Vanguard subclass are a more offensive variety of tank focusing on team fight initiation — think of someone like Malphite here. The more traditional defensive tank role is embodied by the Warden subclass, including champions like Braum.
This class represents characters who are focused on melee attacks, can deal a fair amount of damage but also aren't paper-thin. The Juggernaut subclass is the most dangerous, as they can both dish out and take damage, but they also tend to be very immobile, as evidenced by a character like Nasus. The Diver subclass, on the other hand, can jump into the fray easily, with a tendency toward single-target damage. Xin Zhao is an example of this.
Like fighters, slayers are melee-focused champs, but they do higher damage in exchange for lower survivability. Assassin is a subclass that uses stealth, teleports or other tricky defensive abilities to get behind enemy lines, kill a target and get away before they're caught out. You can see this perfectly in a champion like Zed. Skirmishers have more abilities that allow them to survive in the middle of team fights and depend on sustained damage rather than a quick burst, as seen in someone like Fiora.
Mages are the quintessential, damage-focused magic using class, and because of the broad nature of that description, they have the most subclasses of anyone. Burst Mages such as Lux can lock down single targets and devastate them in a single combo but often struggle against tanks. Vladimir is an example of the Battle Mage subclass, which includes mages with a slightly shorter range who often need to get into the midst of team fights in order to deal damage. As such, they're given more defensive and sustain abilities than the average mage. And finally, the Artillery Mage subclass encompasses characters with some of the highest range in the game, making them very powerful at poking down enemies from a distance but incredibly weak once enemies close that gap. Xerath is one example of an artillery mage.
Arguably the most complicated class in the game, controllers are magic-using champs who buff allies, lock down enemies and don't worry much about actually dealing damage. The Enchanter subclass is the more buff-focused variety, as seen in champions like Lulu who can shield allies, increase their movement speed and turn them into an unstoppable giant. Disruptors, meanwhile, fit under what used to be called "control mages." They're more focused on stunning, freezing or otherwise slowing down and weakening the enemy team. Anivia is the perfect example of this.
Marksmen are the one class that doesn't currently have any subclasses. They're ranged attackers that poke at the enemy from a distance and have to stay just outside the main battle lines to be most effective. A bow user like Ashe is an obvious example. Riot says it may break down the Marksman class into subclasses at some point in the future, but for now "all of the Marksmen ultimately serve a very similar role for their team."
So that's a lot to take in! However, Statikk warns in the post that not every champion fits perfectly into one of the subclasses, and not all of them need to. Many are hybrids of two subclasses, and a few (such as Fiddlesticks and Singed) have unique playstyles to such a degree that they don't really fit under any of them.
The purpose of breaking down characters into these groups (and sharing them with the public) is simply to facilitate better, more informed conversations between Riot and the community about what groups need help, who's doing good and so on. Statikk says more posts about Riot's evolving philosophy toward League of Legends are coming as the game's large mid-season update approaches, so stay tuned for more.