Climbing The Ladder: Champion Picks - Meta vs Comfort



Wed 11th Oct 2017 - 12:54pm

We've all been there...

We're starting up our League of Legends client, loading into solo queue, champion select begins, and then we see a locked in champion that isn't "meta". Only three minutes into a game we hear the announcer saying "First blood!". It was our team's Malphite top that got killed at level 2 against the enemy Singed! At that instant, a few thoughts may come to someone's head such as "Wow that Singed is a God" or "How bad is our Malphite?"


What does "meta" mean?

With every patch that happens on League of Legends, there will be certain champions that fill the meta. A best example of this is when you notice certain champions that are typically most banned or most played in a lane (ie. Maokai top, Gragas jungle, Orianna mid, Xayah ADC, Janna support). The reason that a meta works is because these are the champions that can contribute the most to your team doing what the current patch calls for. 

Is a meta always the same? 

I just want to stress the fact that a meta isn't always set in stone as it's always shifting throughout a patch once something is discovered to work well. A great example of this is the rise in popularity of Ezreal jungle. Some thought of it as a "troll" and "that's stupid, what can he contribute to the jungle better than a Gragas or Rek'Sai?". Well, players quickly ate those words once they saw the incredible damage output by an early game Warrior's enchantment jungle item rush with Ezreal's Q (Mystic Shot). He quickly rose into the meta because of his recent Patch 7.17 update which increased his Q's AD scaling to 125%, which helped transition into faster jungle clears and extreme burst ganks when using his E (Arcane Shift) over walls and following up with his Q skillshots. Having that burst opportunity combined with how mobile Ezreal is helped support his climb into the current meta.

What's better to play then?

We now move on to the big question: Should I pick meta in my ranked games or should I pick something I'm comfortable with? (This is also not something to be confused with lane swaps, such as "I'm an ADC main who plays only Vayne and Kalista, and now I got auto-filled mid. I have a 54% win rate with 80 games played as Vayne in bot lane, so let's just lock her in mid!"). When you're about to pick a champion, think about how risky your pick is.

Let's say you pick Orianna because you know she fits well into the meta with her kit, but then your enemy locks in Kayle mid because they used to play her years ago. All of a sudden, you're in lane losing to this enemy Kayle that rushed Essence Reaver and your team is typing "How are you losing to that???" into the chat. You begin to question your pick and wonder why your meta pick isn't working into what you classify as a "troll pick". Meanwhile, you don't realize that this enemy Essence Reaver rush Kayle has hundreds of games under their belt over the years with her, so it's their last minute "I don't know what else to play... YOLO!" pick during champion select. Just because you picked a meta champion doesn't mean you necessarily have a higher chance to win your lane. The enemy Kayle player felt comfortable with that pick because they justified it with being a flexible pick under many situations due to her heals, CC, burst, and an invincible ultimate that can save their teammates (Just kidding, we know Kayles only ult themselves). 


What does the situation call for?

Situation is the keyword here to determining whether or not a meta pick or comfort pick WORKS in a game. The thing to note though is not specifically if a champion is viable in a game, but if the champion you select has a kit that is just as useful as what a meta pick would contain. A great example of this would be the ADC role. Sure, we have our current meta picks such as Tristana/Xayah/Twitch/Varus, but that doesn't mean a player that is comfortable on Ashe or Miss Fortune can't win their lane and carry just as hard. For a role like ADC, you just need to make sure that the champion you pick can work well with your team composition whether you need more damage or you need a utility champion like Sivir for her ultimate. 


Will I only win with meta champions?

However, not all roles can be as flexible as bot lane, such as say top lane. If you're playing by the meta, the strongest arguable picks would be Cho'Gath and Maokai right now as favorites for their tanky late game scaling and the CC (Crowd Control) that they supply for your team. As an example, let's use the two popular streamers Marcus "Dyrus" Hill and Albert "BoxBox" Zheng. They both play top lane as their main role and have their own comfort picks (Dyrus on Sion, BoxBox on Riven). Even though both of these champions aren't popularly played in games, they both can contribute just as much as a meta pick can. Sion on his own has great base damage, huge shields, amazing CC, and can either engage or disengage a team fight. Riven is an extremely mobile champion that has the luxury of being built as a bruiser to make sure that she can fully engage in a team fight and not explode on the spot (ie. using the Black Cleaver + Titanic Hydra build). So sure, they aren't picking popular champions that are considered meta, but you can be sure that their comfort picks can provide just as much as what another popular pick may have. 


Knowledge is key

All of this isn't to try and sway everyone away from learning the meta champions because they can become a comfort pick that can work into any team comp when you don't know what else to pick. I don't want to sound cliche when I mention the "pick at least three champions per role and learn them thoroughly so that you always have a pick to fall back on," but it's absolutely true. There is also some benefit to learning these meta picks because you yourself can gain the knowledge to understand what their limits are and how to play against it. Once you understand the cooldowns and damage of a champion, you know exactly what you can play against it as well as what you can't. Transitioning meta picks into comfort picks can be your most dangerous weapon in solo queue when deciding to get into ranked games and trying to win. 

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