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The NA LCS meta, explained

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It’s not as complicated as it looks

Riot Games

If you spent any time over the weekend watching the NA LCS, you probably noticed that things got a little weird over the off-season. Mages are going bottom lane, the best mid laner is Irelia and Cloud9 doesn’t quite look the same as it used to.

While that last one is a little more complicated, the meta is explainable, even if it doesn’t seem that way. So let’s take a few minutes and go through a couple important questions about what exactly happened to the NA LCS meta in the 2018 Summer Split.

Why aren’t there marksmen bot lane anymore?

Good question. Let’s start with the basics of our new and strange League of Legends world. The reason you aren’t seeing marksmen is because most of them — like Caitlyn or Jinx or Tristana who relied on critical strike items to do their damage — are trash right now. Back in patch 8.11, Riot decided to rework the core ADC items and, as most often happens, ADCs came out the other side a whole lot weaker. So, teams have all but abandoned the crit marksmen in favor of casters or mages.

What was the point of the ADC item rework if it just took them out of the meta completely?

Well, technically this was the point. Riot wanted to help give mages a foothold in the bottom lane and while they didn’t necessarily want to kill crit marksmen to do it, we all knew it was the only way.

So, Riot got what they wanted, mages in bottom lane right?

Well, mostly. They did get teams to start picking mages in the role, but it hasn’t been particularly successful, especially not in North America. While leagues like Korea’s LCK have managed to implement the picks successfully, it’s been a disaster in the NA LCS. Seven times in ten games, non-marksmen champions were taken bottom lane and only twice did they actually win the game. Meanwhile, non-crit marksmen, like Ezreal, Lucian, Kaisa, Varus and Xayah won eight of the 12 matches they were picked in.

What all that really means is that Riot nerfed crit marksmen just enough for NA teams to think it was a good idea to play mages, but not enough to make playing mages a free win. As for the other regions, the changes have had pretty mixed results, but it seems like it mostly did what it was supposed to.

Is this the new and terrible future?

Kind of? The good news for marksmen players is that Riot has started to walk all this back, with its patch 8.12 crit item hotfix. In fact, in the quick gameplay thoughts, Riot’s lead gameplay designer Meddler mentioned that the hotfix was just the first step leading into 8.13 where they are going to try to buff those champions that are suffering the most from the changes. But, he also mentions that Riot wants to keep mages viable in the bottom lane. So, while things will get better soon for ADCs they may not be back to normal. Until then, learn Brand.

Wait, none of this explains why Echo Fox was swapping positions all weekend.

You’re right. It doesn’t. And we may not ever really know why those things happened without some insight from the team themselves, but, let’s give guessing a shot. Echo Fox is a funny team because they have a star player in the top lane who has, at one point or another, professed his undying love for just about every role and class of champions that isn’t support. In other words, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon is good at everything.

Meanwhile, he is surrounded by veteran players that are extremely talented, not just at their own roles, but at League of Legends as a whole. Put those two things together and, well, sometimes it will be better to send Johnny “Altec” Ru top as Dr. Mundo, while Heo plays Yasuo bottom, or Heo can jungle Taliyah — and break the game — while Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett can play his old favorite Rengar up in top lane where can is significantly better right now.

There may be a more complicated and deeper explanation from the team themselves, but the truth is we don’t really need one. After all, how can you argue with a team full of talent swapping things up and still winning.