One of my favorite things about watching professional level League of Legends is getting a chance to see what champions the pros are playing. This year’s World Championships have been an excellent opportunity to see just what champions are currently in demand. Hint, only two of the champions pictured above still remain popular picks.
In a game like this, certain champions will tend to end up being stronger than other champions, at certain points in their life cycles. If the pros are playing a lot of a certain champion there’s a good chance that champion is currently on the strong side. I do not always advise playing “flavor of the month champions,” but once you have a pretty decent understanding of the game and the different roles I think it really pays off to be able to play the same champions that the pros are playing.
One of the biggest reasons for playing popular champions is that their raw stats are very good. Even if you play a very devastating jungle Mundo he’s just not as effective, at the moment, as a jungle Vi. This means that you can have an amazing game on Mundo but still be shown up by a Vi who only puts in half the effort. Vi, who is my example here, is just in a better place than Mundo. Her clear times are faster, her base damages are higher and her defensive stats are better. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Mundo; I’m just suggesting that if you’re a great jungler than the things you can do on Vi would probably be even more amazing than the things you can do on Mundo – just because Vi is currently a stronger option.
Understanding why certain champions are receiving a lot of play time goes further than looking at their stats and figuring out who is stronger. A lot of it has to do with the current meta, or how the game is being played. Let’s take a quick second to talk about the meta before we look at some of the popular champions coming out of Worlds.
I am by no means an expert on this subject matter but the current meta , as viewed from a position by position basis, shapes up something like this.
ADC’s have always been the heavy hitters but now they are also commonly being used to provide a team’s poke. Ezreal and Corki have not only been made popular by how strong Triforce is but also because they can poke away at enemy teams before fights. This doesn’t mean you won’t still see champions like Vayne, for her pure damage potential, but you will also see a lot of Varus because of his ability to poke and provide a decent amount of utility.
The reason that ADCs are being used to provide more poke than ever before is because mid lane has become the home of assassins. Mid laners are now almost entirely responsible for making one person on the other team die before or right at the beginning of a fight. Zed, Ahri, Fizz and others do not have a ton of crowd control or area of effect damage, but they can make a single opponent die very, very quickly. Even supports are fair game to be instantly destroyed before a fight starts.
Interestingly, we are already seeing the meta begin to shift to deal with the assassins in mid, even as the tournament continues. Gragas and Orianna have received increase play due not only to their huge amounts of CC, which they always had, but also because they are tanky enough to avoid being easily assassinated while still doing enough damage to kill whoever is trying to assassinate them. I predict that tankier mids, or ones that have strong defensive abilities, will make a comeback as we head into next season.
Jungle is an interesting position. Junglers need to be able to get tanky if required, but more importantly, they need to be able to provide strong ganks/map pressure, especially in the early game. With 2 v 1 lanes being all the rage, we have seen an increased interest in junglers who can help to lock up early kills in 3 v 1 situations. This isn’t quite as important for the rest of us, who are rarely going to be doing 2 v 1 lanes, but it has led to the pros identifying some of the junglers who really possess a good combination of tankiness, clear speed and strong mobility or crowd control.
The top lane has also been pretty much business as usual. Top laners need to survive 2 v 1, they need to be somewhat tanky and they need to either be able to split push or stop the split push. Strong duelers like Jax and Renekton are popular along with champions that can be everywhere on the map, such as Shen. There has been more emphasis on being able to look after top lane than being able to join later team fights, but most of the commonly played top laners have no problem jumping into team fights. We have seen very few pure split pushers.
With mid laners being used more and more to assassinate people, it makes sense that the most popular mid champs do more single target than area of effect damage. The same goes with crowd control. Because of this, the role of providing large amounts of AOE CC, and as much AOE damage as possible, falls to the support. If a support cannot offer this then they must be able to offer a large amount of utility. Specifically, they must be good at saving other champs from being assassinated.
As you can see, some of what the pros are looking for simply doesn’t make sense for your average League of Legends player to look for. Shen is never a bad pick, but he really shines when he is part of a highly coordinated team. You won’t find that in a lot of solo que games, and might be better off looking for a champion that will let you win your lane while still being able to contribute to later team fights. Solo que does not have a lot of patience for split pushing or champs that don’t win their lanes early.
Now that you have some idea of why the pros are playing certain champions, other than those champion’s solid stats, let’s look at some of the champions that have been receiving a lot of play time at Worlds.
Ahri: Typifies the mid game meta. She is Highly mobile and amazing at blowing up a single opponent. Even if you miss your charm your ult can still allow you to keep up with your opponent and get that all important kill. Definitely worth learning how to play. She does rely on a lot of skill shots, so I would definitely advise you practice her a bit before hoping into ranked.
Zed: We haven’t seen so much of this guy, because he is often banned. When he hits R (his ultimate) someone is likely going to die. He can get poked hard in the early laning phase because he is a melee mid, but he can still farm with his abilities. He has extreme mobility but can be hard to keep track of in team fights. Worth picking up if you are good with champions who can blink around with.
Orianna: Offers a strong combination of AoE damage, AoE cc and the ability to survive assassination attempts. She is also great at poking away at melee champions in the early game. Pros make moving her ball around look effortless. In reality, it definitely takes some practice to get perfect. I don’t believe she’s a candidate to get nerfed any time soon, so give her a try.
Gragas: The big man himself. A very tanky melee mid laner. His AP ratios are very strong and both of his barrels hit quite hard, if you can land them. His damage can be kind of unreliable if you can’t hit his barrels, and he is one of those strange champions who starts fights from a distance but looks to get in closer as the fight continues. I wouldn’t have thought he would have been the pro’s first choice to counter assassins, but he has multiple ways to escape attacks while still possessing the damage to make a difference.
Vi: A strong bruiser with quick jungle clear and very strong ganks, once she gets her ult. She is fairly easy to use and is definitely worth learning. A lot of her strength is coming from the strong base damage on her Q. I highly expect this damage to be nerfed. Until then, max it first and watch your jungle creeps melt before you. Work quickly towards level, 6 and then use Assault and Battery (her ult) to secure a kill somewhere.
Lee Sin: Lee Sin will always be a popular choice, and this tournament just reminded everyone why. His damage got reduced and people stopped playing him, but he is just simply too mobile to ignore. He has enough mobility and damage to be considered an assassin, but he can also thrive as a tank. He clears his jungle reasonably quickly, and can be very annoying when let loose in the other team’s jungle. The thing about Lee Sin is that he probably has one of the most far ranging skill caps in the game. He is tricky to learn, there is no denying that, but once you master him the plays you can pull off are more amazing than most other champions. He is one of those champs that really does reward you for taking the time to get very good with him.
Elise: Quick clear times and strong ganks are Elise’s specialties. Her ability to repel on or dash to opponents and then stun them makes her ganks very difficult to get away from. You can also build her reasonably tanky while still allowing her to do a lot of magic damage, for a jungler. If you are going to use her repel (E) to drop on someone make sure that you have her stun (human form E) or her dash ( spider form Q) ready to go or you will not be able to catch them.
Aatrox: Kind of a surprise pick for a jungler. He does a lot of damage. He has very strong early ganks due to said damage and his ability to revive (once) after dying. If you are unable to use him to snowball your lanes early in the game there is a good chance you will be in for a rough late game. Aatrox is just too squishy to provide a front line for his carries, and he relies on getting those kills. However, he is devastating if you can get him going.
Shen: He will never be one of the flashiest champions in the game, and for that reason I think people hate playing him. His fame comes from his legendary ult, but he is actually quite capable of holding his own in lane. If an opponent attacks you in the wrong spot it’s not too hard to taunt them and watch as they take a ton of creep damage while continuing to attack you. Shen’s style is definitely more of a grinder than a lot of top laners, who do more obvious damage and have easier ways to kill opponents, but I still recommend learning this guy. He is a very safe pick that will always contribute something to a game.
Renekton: I’ve been saying for a while that this gator truly is a beast, and without any major nerfs heading into Worlds, I knew we would continue to see him. You can build him tanky and he still puts out enough damage to duel with anyone. In team fights, he can dive into the back line or provide a strong front line for his carries. Too versatile and safe to be ignored. Learn how to play this guy.
Jax: With the resurgence of the Triforce (thanks to some buffs that item received) champions that make very good use of that item have also seen a resurgence. Jax is one of the best duelists in the game, and can split push all day while requiring two or more champions to have to come and stop him. He can take some getting used to in a team fight setting, but he will shred squishy opponents. Pick this guy up if you are looking for a top laner with some great damage and some very fun abilities. Definitely a bit flashier than Shen.
Corki: Speaking of champs who have really benefited from the Triforce buffs, the Worlds have really been the coming out party for Corki. His missiles (ultimate) give him some of the best poke of any ADC. Rush the Triforce on this guy and consider using magic penetration boots for that extra bit of damage. Once he hits level six and gets his Triforce you need to really respect his damage. Even if he is behind in lane he is able able to trade extremely well with his opponents. Fairly easy to learn. Landing his missiles takes a bit of practice but feels very rewarding.
Twitch: Always well respected for his damage, Twitch has been recognized as one of the champions who can easily go toe to toe with Corki. His early and late game damages are insane, but you need to be extremely careful how you position him. His positioning is not only key to his survival but also to how much damage he can do with his ult.
Caitlyn: The reemergence of Corki was definitely the ADC surprise of the tournament. What shouldn’t surprise anyone is Caitlyn’s continued popularity. Her early game ability to bully opponents and take down turrets makes her popular in any style of team composition. Any champion who can be a lane bully is immensely useful in solo que. I don’t main ADC, but Caitlyn is my go to ADC if I need one. Her attack range lets you play her basically any way you would like, and it gives you lots of room for mistakes.
Zyra: If you are looking for a support to try and learn this might just be the one. Her high base damages and her long ranged poke and auto attacks make her a bully in lane. Most devastating of all is her ultimate, Stranglethorns. Opponents have to decide if they want to stand in it and take a decent amount of damage and get knocked up in the air or if they want to vacate a fairly large portion of the battlefield. Great for disengaging or for locking up an entire team. Combine it with another AOE ult like Amumu’s or Sejuani and you have one heck of a wambo combo. I full expect her base damages to get nerfed, so we will have to see where she stands after that. Until then, use her liberally but be careful when dealing with a Thresh or Blitzcrank who can take you outside of your comfort zone.
Sona: Sona has long been a classic. Her poke, sustain and ultimate are all first class. You have to be careful with her because she is very squishy, but you should be able to poke and run fairly easily. She is definitely one of the easiest supports to learn and be effective with, damage wise. Learning to avoid getting caught in bad situations and how to land her ult perfectly can take some practice. Like Zyra, she supplies that AOE CC that teams are looking for from supports.
Fiddlesticks: I put Fiddlesticks here because the amount of times I saw him played, while not large in quantity, was often enough to surprise me. People are looking for supports to provide AOE damage, AOE CC and strong utility. Or in other words something to help their team not get assassinated. If you have ever been hit with a Fiddlesticks fear (Q) you know exactly why he excels in this role – he makes one champion uncontrollable for a lengthy amount of time. Like Sona, he is a bit on the squishy side, and his ult doesn’t do a ton of damage without additional AP, but his fear alone makes him a worthwhile pick. It ruins people’s day.
These are some of the champions I have seen played frequently at World’s. With a new patch rolling in tonight, and a new season fast approaching, this is bound to change fairly soon. A few classics like Shen and Sona will probably stay popular, but I will leave it up to you to decide if they are worth picking up or leaving for a while.
Are there any champs that you have seen being played a lot at Worlds that I haven’t included here? If so, feel free to mention them and explain why you think they have seen a lot of play time. Also, are there any champions who have been played less than you thought, or more than you thought? I was very intrigued by a mid Swain and a couple of Leona picks in the bot lane.
This Friday night, October 4th, SK Telecom of Korea will take on Royal Club of China for the League of Legends World Championship. Regardless of whether you know or care anything about professional League of Legends, I highly recommend checking out this series either live (give Riot those ratings so they can use the money to bribe bad players to be good) or on VOD.
Every indication is that the games will be fantastic, and you will probably get to see a few of the champs I have mentioned above being played on the highest stage in this game. I can’t wait to see who wins, but I’ll definitely be cheering for SK Telecom. Go Faker and company!