Season 3's Mid-Lane Meta's Fall & The Rise of Season 4's
Thu 13th Feb 2014 - 10:11am
Note: What players in the League of Legends community have called the "meta" is a concept brought by individuals in an attempt to create standardized picks and/or strategies in order to succeed in winning the game. However, though this may suggest that certain champions/strategies are the most effective (and perhaps only) way to win, it is quite the contrary. Many players play "unconventional picks" and have much success. This article is not in any way meant to undermine "outside of the meta" picks, but to inform others on what recent trends are in the community that many players follow during this time state of the game.
In the Season 3 meta, it was not uncommon for professional and solo queue players to pick a mid lane assassin that could easily snowball in order to win. Champions like Ahri, Zed, Fizz, and Kha'Zix were very prominent picks in Season 3 for their ability to carry entire games off of getting an early lead in their lanes.With the induction of Season 4, many of these high damage and high mobility champions have faced nerfs to their kits in order to allow for more counter play and overall less likelihood to snowball. As of late, traditional AP casters and high burst mages have been able to make a resurgence in all levels of play.
What Happened In Season 3 :
Season 3 professional and solo queue play basically went by picking your mid-lane assassin of choice, winning your lane (or making it to level 6), and then roaming to assert pressure in other parts of the map. This often quickly led to snowballing with champions like Fizz or Kha'Zix who were able to jump in, isolate and execute targets, and then jump out with little punishment. Players would often find themselves in hopeless situations if the enemy mid-laner was fed with little to no counter play options.
Example 1: Ahri
Ahri was a priority pick/ban in the North American LCS towards the end of the summer split due to her high burst damage combo, mobility, and crowd control (your typical assassin). With her E (charm) and Q (Orb of Deception) combo, she would be able to lock enemies down, deal tons of damage, and walk away with little to no damage done back to her. When hitting level 6, her ultimate allowed her to become a highly mobile champion capable of escaping over walls, chasing enemies, and gap-closing for initiation with her charm.
Before the 3.14 patch, Ahri's dependency on landing her crowd control ability (her charm) was almost unnecessary in order to burst down her enemy. When the pre-season patch was implemented, the changes redistributed her damage and made the landing of her charm much more important to her entire combo.This made her much more committed and weaker (if she didn't land her charm), a thing players who like playing assassin types typically don't like.
Example 2: Zed
In addition to Ahri, Zed was also a widely popular pick in all levels of play. With his ability to gap close, escape, and kill priority targets, Zed was the epitome of a mid-lane assassin. The idea of go in, get out, was never more prevalent than with Zed. His ultimate simply made it too easy for one to stick to his target and deal the maximum amount of damage in such a small window of time as the old shadow would appear behind the target. Once the damage was dealt and the death mark began to tick, Zed could simply return to the initial shadow and walk away or continue the chase by sticking onto the shadow created by the ultimate. In competetive play especially, this was a huge problem that was addressed in the pre-season patch.
In order to balance Zed, the shadow created from his ultimate would be created from his initial cast position. What does this mean exactly? This made Zed a much more committed "all-in" champion that needed to use not only his ultimate, but his shadows wisely in team fights as there would be less of a chance for Zed to "stick" onto his target, and less room for escape if he returned to the shadow. This made players have to choose and face possible consequences for going in.
What Season 4 Offers:
With less of a likelihood for assassins to escape so easily when fighting other mid-lane champions, picks such as Ziggs, Kayle, Orianna, Brand, etc. are allowed to make a resurgence with their high burst damage combos. The room for counter play against mid-lane assassins has opened up so much in recent months that players are now trending towards picking the traditional casters for their damage.
Since assassins were among the squishiest of champions, the amount of damage from a high burst mage would be able to kill them and had their escape mechanisms/mobility were not so easily accessible. Now that assassin players have to commit more, there is much more room and risk for the possibility of facing consequences for going all-in.
Rising Champion: Ziggs
One thing I like seeing is the rise in these AP casters and the buffs associated with them in order to bring back the satsifying feel of being able to blow up someone. Literally, you can blow up opponents with Ziggs. With his unique kit built-in with an escape mechanism that is reasonable, a slight crowd control slow, and a burst damage nuke, Ziggs really brings back the traditional aspect of a caster with an innovative twist. Even moreso after the 3.14 patch, Ziggs has gained a significant power boost that put him on par with many other popular champion picks. This opens up many more possibilities to the player base in being able to play a wide variety of more fun champions in my opinion.
Times are changing, the age of mid-lane assassins is over. The AP casters are coming back into the scene. For those of you who have been watching the LCS, pros have been at the forefront of this transition and many players are following. It certainly is a refreshing take on the entire meta and forces all players to adapt to the times. Though assassins are no longer considered the meta and their strengths are still noteworthy, their weaknesses have been brought to light a lot more. Assassins in the mid-lane may not be the best option anymore, but they definitely are not the worst. As long as there are innovators, and people who like to lead the charge in the future of the League of Legends meta, assassins will find their place in the future, but for now, the casters are back.