Off-Meta Magic: How to Use Off-Meta Picks to Improve Your Climb
Sun 22nd Mar 2020 - 12:00pm
Everyone has a horror story about that one game in ranked where they lost to a Cassiopeia Jungle or a Darius/Lee Sin Botlane. For most people, they cut their losses and queue up for their next game. A select few, however, will take that idea and try to mimic it. I am one of the latter and have gained a name in my friend group for being the one who can take these weird off-meta picks and make them work.
Before I give you the tools needed to succeed in ranked with these weird and unique picks, I want to give a disclaimer here: This is not something you should do every game. I really want to make it clear that off-meta picks are not the only thing you should be playing every time you queue up for a ranked match. As the name would suggest, these picks are rare and will only work in certain situations. This finally leads me into the first step in this guide.
1) Know What Makes an Off-Meta Pick
Many players understand what meta means, but can't conceptualize what it means for a pick to be non-meta. As a reminder, meta stands for "most effective tactics available" and usually is what people believe to be the easiest way to win the game. Currently, the League of Legends meta looks to focus mainly tanky top-laners and junglers with carry mid-laners and engage supports. (It should be noted that the meta of the game changes pretty consistently which means it is important to constantly be adapting to the game.)
On top of overall game meta, there is also individual metas to lanes/roles. This means that poke-focused AD Carries like Varus and MF could be strong in one patch while crit-based AD Carries like Caitlyn and Draven could be strong the next. This is also important to the topic because there are times when an off-meta laner actually works well as a counter to a meta one.
Using this method, we can determine that carry junglers (Lee Sin, Evelynn, etc.), enchanter supports (Soraka, Lulu, etc.) and supportive mid laners (Zilean, Orianna, etc.) would all be considered off-meta picks. One of my favorite off-meta picks is Rakan mid lane. I will be using this pick as an example as to unify this guide as we move to the next point.
2) Practice Your Champion
This part of the guide may seem to be a reiteration of what you have always heard from nearly every guide on how to play and win in League of Legends. Realizing this, I will skip over talking about how practicing will help you learn your champ. However, I do want to reiterate that you should be doing this practice in Normals or Customs. Having a safe place to practice your pick, and practice it a lot, is extremely important to playing "non-standard" League of Legends. While learning the champion is important, the significantly more important part of practice is learning your role on this pick.
Using Rakan mid as the example, the role of this pick is to provide support and initiation from the mid lane. While practicing this champion in the mid lane I realized quickly that Rakan may not be as strong in the early game in terms of damage and kill potential, he made up for it in gank assist/set-up and late game initiation. With The Quickness and Grand Entrance, I could almost always get a flash or a kill on the enemy mid during any ganks. This was also coupled by the fact that those two abilities also created great engage potential for late game teamfights.
Another big thing that you are granted by practicing your champion is you learn what matchups you are good into. The more games that you practice on a champion, the more matchups you will face. This gives you practice into a lot of matchups and with a lot of different team compositions. Obviously, off-meta champions are not going to be great into every single matchup or work with every team. Don't be afraid to lose these practice games, any information you learn about your pick is going to be important. One thing that I learned while practicing Rakan is that he was really good into melee mid laners that like to dive. Champions like Yasuo, Diana, and Zed were really good matchups for me as Rakan as my W and R abilities were great to turn dives into winning situations for me.
3) Pick Your Battles
When it comes to picking an off-meta champion, it is extremely important to choose your battles wisely. Not only should you choose the off-meta pick when it creates an advantage for you in the game, you should also be careful that the pick is not going to heavily disadvantage your team. When I am deciding when to play Rakan Mid, I always check to see if my support is playing a heavy magic damage champion or that our magic damage is provided elsewhere. I also avoid playing Rakan mid when the enemy team has a lot of tanks or gank potential.
The true goal of the off-meta pick is to create an advantage for your team in an otherwise even or disadvantageous position. If you give up ground in teamfighting just to gain a slight advantage in laning phase, you will essentially be going even. This means overall you have not helped your team as well as a meta pick would have.
On top of picking off-meta in the right situations, you should be careful of what fights to take while in game. I have explained earlier that Rakan is extremely good in fighting off dives and most ganks. However this advantage is sometimes offset by the lack of pushing power and kill potential in lane. To combat this, I will play more for a safe lane of farming under turret and letting my jungler gank my lane during the enemy push. This will be something that you will learn with practice of the champion in normals and should allow you to learn which fights to take and which to concede.
4) Profit? Profit!
Now obviously, League of Legends is an extremely volatile game both on a patch-by-patch basis and a game-by-game basis. This means that you are not guaranteed to win every single time that you play this off-meta pick. Don't let those losses get to you and power through your ranked climb. Overall during my time on Rakan mid during Season 8 I had a 49% winrate in 107 games. This is about what you should expect out of an off-meta pick if you play it into most advantageous situations.
The reason that an off-meta pick doesn't normally perform at a 75% winrate is because of the volatility of the pick itself. A lot of times, the power of your pick and the champs around you will fluctuate throughout the season. With each patch having large impacts on the game, the popularity of certain comps and champs will rise and fall. This could cause your off-meta pick to be less effective against the current meta comps. This means that you really should pay attention to patch notes to see what changes with your champ and the comps that you find success against.
5) Post-Game Notes
Whether you win or lose the game, you should always look over the game as a whole. Look at the replay to see things that you can improve. The main things to look at are your deaths, teamfights, and laning phase. Look at each of your deaths to see if there was something that could have been done to avoid them. Were there wards that you could have seen the enemy on? Was it a uneven fight? There is always something that can be learned from reviewing your VODs.
Reviewing VODs also does more than help you learn from possible mistakes. It also gives you a bit of rest time. Continuous game time will eventually deteriorate your ability to play. It also allows you to, in the case of a loss, reset your mental state so that the loss and any potential tilt from the game will drop off and you can play to your best ability in the next game.
Now that you know the steps to win with these off-meta and unique champion picks, go out there and gain that LP. If you have any fun off-meta champs that you are using to gain LP, leave them in the comments and tell us what has helped you climb in ranked.