When the 7.16 patch notes hit, I was alarmed. A simple glance at the notes will tell you that it is just a patch filled to the brim with nerfs, taking the damage dealers that we have relied on for weeks keeping the tank meta at bay, and kicking them to the curb. Since the patch last Wednesday, I have personally noted an uptick in my game time and unkillable monsters on both sides. Turns out when the damage dealers lose all of their damage, nobody can kill the tanks.
Champions like Cho’Gath, Dr. Mundo and Maokai have dominated every game I have seen them in. When you ban one, the other will surely get picked up. If you ban them all, a rogue Galio or a Tahm Kench top will find his way in. These beefy behemoths walk through the top lane or the jungle and just sit on people until they die. But their impervious nature and ludicrous damage leave team fights meaningless. If we kill four members of a team and their Maokai is still up, you can’t push an objective. Similarly, the enemy can’t do the same to you either. This leads to 40-plus minute games that only deliver on true tension for the final 10.
The looming tank meta has been a problem for years, rearing its ugly head in almost every season since the LCS started. As you can imagine, watching rocks crash into each other over and over and over again isn’t particularly riveting. In fact, it just leads to a seemingly unending series of plays that eventually finishes with a soft, muted pop.
This meta is frustrating to play in ranked or in solos. If both teams pick tanks, you are going to 40 minutes. If one team picks a brawler or an assassin in a role that the enemy team picks tanks in, then the game is over in 15 minutes or less. There isn’t really any middle ground, as the tank will be able to beat the assassin even in the early game. There is no hope for those who can’t absorb multiple minutes of combat with a tank.
Ordinarily, this would be an annoying patch that comes out, only to be fixed two weeks later. However, 7.16 is the second to last patch before we get the Worlds patch, 7.18. In fact, Riot’s comments at the top of the notes state that Worlds is indeed upcoming, and that these changes are meant to tweak competitive play. The patch then proceeds to deal some heavy blows against the in-meta mid laners of the past few patches. As I have been playing the patch, it seems clear to me that the balance teams has overstepped a bit too far with these changes. This new tank meta is a result of that.
So why worry about Worlds? Well, we are two patches away and that is it. Keep in mind that Worlds goes on for several weeks using only one patch. I don’t know about you, but I am not eager to watch a dozen 50 minute games every week only for a tank split pushing or simply outliving the enemy to be the dominating strat.
Fortunately, these problems are not permanent, but Riot has tried to just tweak balance changes in their pre-worlds patches, as to no upset the flow of nature too much and force players to learn a whole new meta. The fear with 7.16 is that they did just that. With 7.17 and 7.18 coming up, we are running out of time to create a meta that will be interesting to watch as well as fun to play on.
Ideally, the next four weeks or so leading up to Patch 7.18 will be able to solve these problems, but Riot will be forced to make sweeping changes very close to Worlds in order for that to happen. They have two more chances to kill the tank meta without elevating lethality to the state that it was in only a few weeks ago. It is a treacherous tight-rope that Riot walks this time of year, and they seem to be playing a little more dangerously this time around.