Jan 5 2017 - 10:10 pm

It’s a new world for ADCs—and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing

The ADC meta has come under fire. What exactly went wrong?
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Image via Riot Games

Few things are as reliable as League of Legends fans complaining about over- or under-powered champions on the Internet. With over 100 champions, balance will never be perfect. The most recent uproar has actually been repeated in seasons before: AD Carries (ADCs) are under-powered. The argument can be summed up in one game clip:

ADC’s don’t do enough damage early. They can’t survive encounters with anyone outside the duo lane. They lack agency in the way they play their lane. Even mages are beginning to take over their role in the bot lane.

The furor has risen to such a level that Riot’s lead designer, Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street responded to this specific question via a post on his personal Tumblr. It’s clear that this is an issue Riot is concerned with and is looking to address. We took a look at the ADC meta and some solutions to issues fans have identified.

ADC mains certainly have some valid concerns, but overall, changes to the bot lane meta have been needed for years.

What changed in the game?

There are four primary changes between Seasons 6 and 7 that affected ADCs. That these changes touched seemingly disparate parts of the game made it tough to tune their combined effect.

  • Lethality: Flat armor penetration, which was powerful early, was removed in favor of lethality, which scales into the late game.
  • Youmuu’s: The active on Youmuu’s Ghostblade no longer gives 40 percent attack speed for six seconds. An inexpensive item with a flexible build path, Youmuu’s was key to ADCs that liked to play aggressive, kill-oriented lanes.
  • Fervor of Battle: There have been many changes to this combat-oriented mastery over the last couple patches, but one remains problematic: Abilities don’t generate fervor stacks. That means champions that rely on abilities for damage (Lucian), can’t generate stacks like they used to. As a result, Fervor is being ditched for Warlord’s Bloodlust, a sustain mastery.
  • Turret First Blood: Really a Season 6 change, the bot lane turret is the weakest outer turret. The bonus gold from turret first blood encourages parties in the bot lane.

The net result of these changes was a huge nerf to ADCs that like to trade early and bully lanes. But there are other ways to play ADC, right?

What changed in player’s behavior?

What’s really shifted is the way that the game is being played at all five positions. Riot has wanted League of Legends to become a more teamwork-oriented game and have made changes to suit that style.

The Season 7 jungle encourages junglers to gank more. Solo laners have figured out that roaming for first turret is a reliable way to snowball early advantages. Those snowballs quicken the pace of the game while ADCs are facing a slower power curve. ADCs can try to roam, but often don’t have tools like crowd control (CC), mobility, or sustain that solo lane champions bring. And speeding up the laning phase and erasing turrets has the most negative consequences on squishy, immobile ADCs.

With roaming off the table and little kill pressure, bot lane has turned into a farming contest. In many games, it feels like the bot lane is completely disconnected from the rest of the map. Building up small advantages in creep score (CS) is tedious work, and if a solo lane feeds (or snowballs), that CS advantage may not even matter. Finally, pushing the lane aggressively for CS lights up a giant “GANK ME” sign for all to see.

To be fair, an ADC on two or more core items (usually crit items) can still output a high level of damage. Getting to those items is the tough part, and ADCs are now much more reliant on their teammates to do so. And once they get items, they still rely on teammates to keep them safe.

What changed in ADC’s attitudes?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with relying on teammates. And a game that emphasizes teamwork almost necessitates unglamorous roles. But that cost is being borne by ADCs more than any other class. The initial argument that ADCs don’t deal enough damage has been replaced with a complaint that ADCs have no agency.

The reliance on teammates to constantly protect them devalues the choices ADCs make. Games are often won or lost in the early stages regardless of how the ADC plays. Build paths are getting increasingly stale, focused on a few core crit items. Sieging is still a marksman strength, but prolonged sieges are hard to set up, especially in solo queue. Many times, the easiest way to destroy turrets is by diving and killing the enemy team first. The agency of the team is superseding that of the ADC.

Finally, the meta is still a bit unstable in preseason, but ADCs have the least champion diversity of all the roles. Popular champions reflect two predominant playstyles: safe champions like Ezreal and Caitlyn, or hyper carries like Twitch, Jinx, and Vayne. Jhin is the only high-usage champion that doesn’t fit one of those buckets due to his ability to provide unique long-range engage.

Some issues, like champion diversity, have existed for a long time. But add it all up and ADCs feel like their choices are the least impactful. They are still required to bring high-level mechanics—kiting and positioning make ADC one of the most challenging roles mechanically—but not high-level thought processes.

What can or should be done?

Some of the most obvious answers, such as a rework to itemization, have their own perils. Changes to items often have unintended consequences for other champion classes. Ghostcrawler has admitted that auto attacks are a blunt tool that makes tuning difficult, and that changes could be a multi-year process. It’s possible that a change could require a fundamental shift in how crit items work. As has been noted by one redditor, gold efficiency for crit items is pretty poor until you stack more than one crit item. Another possibility could be items devoted specifically to ranged attackers.

The loss in marksman diversity is partially being compensated by increasing usage of creative picks, like ADC Ziggs, or even non-ranged champions. Overall, it’s healthy for the game that more champions are being tried in the bot lane. But it’s also unhealthy (as Ghostcrawler noted) that few marksmen are found outside of the bot lane. He wrote that it’s “hard to steer the Marksman class into many different spaces.” Instead of ADCs learning different roles, they could learn a few non-marksman champions that can go bot.

More should be done to match the power curve of marksman champions to the length of the game. To enable a healthy queue, all roles should feel like their decisions matter. Sometimes, it’s okay if that decision for ADCs is to farm for 10, 15, 20 minutes. Knowing how to farm and play around teammate pressure is an important skill. But even lane experts have a tough time when being dove in 2 vs. 3 or 2 vs. 4 situations. Giving ADCs some early options to at least survive under turret (whether through damage or other abilities) could help stabilize the role.

Right or wrong, laning skill is often used as a benchmark for player skill. It’s understandable that ADC mains are upset over the changes to the lane phase. But it’s also inevitable that in a team-oriented game, certain roles are going to become more specialized. Not everyone can or should impact the map in the same way. Maybe a Draven isn’t supposed to survive against Poppy (a Poppy shouldn’t be able to 1v5 the entire enemy team either). Until the meta shifts again, ADCs may need to adjust their mindset to find satisfaction in ways other than dominating an opponent in lane.

Perhaps the most important thing Riot could do for ADCs is to wait and see how the meta develops over the next patch or two. Other roles have seen significant change over the last few seasons and a jolt in the bot lane could be good for League.

Jan 19 2017 - 2:30 am

2017 EU LCS Preseason Rankings

The LCS is back tomorrow. We ranked every EU team heading into week one.
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Photo via Riot Games

In a word, Season 6 in the European League Championship Series was unpredictable.

The best team all year, G2 Esports, looked lost when they left the continent. A team that looked like they were headed for relegation (Splyce), made it all the way to Worlds. And the third EU seed at Worlds, H2K Gaming, won their Worlds group.

All three of those teams brought their key players back for another run in Season 7. Now that the offseason is over, we looked at all the EU LCS rosters in order to rank the teams before the Spring Split. Ranking teams at the start of the year is extremely difficult because of roster changes and the evolving meta. But if the unpredictability of 2016 returns and we’re proven wrong, that will mean a lot of exciting upsets for EU fans.

Starting off the list is the team that has dominated for two consecutive splits and is looking to establish a dynasty.

1) G2

We’re not sure who was more disappointed last year: Fans of EU teams chasing G2, or G2’s own fans watching them fail at international events. Both groups of fans are looking for vindication this year as G2 kept the entirety of Europe’s most talented roster.

G2 shouldn’t face much difficulty in their region. None of the players is a major weakness, and none of the other top contenders made game-breaking moves. Top laner Ki “Expect” Dae-han can play a bigger part in carrying after serving a more utility role last year. And mid laner Luka “Perkz” Perkovic can be more consistent, especially in clutch situations. He made uncharacteristic mistakes in some games and in others seemed to have little impact on the outcome.

But Europe was never the problem for these guys—2017 is about showing up against other regions.

Best Case: Perkz develops into a true star and the team makes things interesting in the semifinals of an international tournament

Worst Case: The team stagnates and stumbles into Worlds without noticeable improvement. Everyone takes a vacation—again

2) H2K

H2K also chose to bring back their core players: Top laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu and jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski. Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten developed into a star carry on Fnatic and should do well in lieu of Yoo "Ryu" Sang-ook. The team will be fine on the top half of the map, even against G2.

The bot lane is the problem. H2K dismissed controversial AD carry Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou again. But jettisoning support Oskar "VandeR" Bogdan was a head scratcher. The new duo of Shin "Nuclear" Jung-hyun and Choi "Chei" Sun-ho may provide better team play compared to FORG1VEN’s farm-focused lane. H2K needs to hope that improvement comes fast enough.

Best Case: H2K plays a more adaptable game, wins Europe, and recreates their 2016 Worlds luck

Worst Case: The team struggles to integrate their Korean members, and with better teams around them, fails to make it to Worlds

3) Splyce

Splyce chose to return the same starting five that they used to ascend the EU table last season. They already know how to play with one another and what their win conditions are. They are fantastic in the late game and can really run opponents around the map with split pushing.

The key to 2017 will be getting to their win conditions more consistently. They adapted to the standard lanes meta, but never really thrived, and teams at Worlds exposed their weak laning phase. As we highlighted in our player preview, we think the burden needs to be on Trashy to be a more involved, aggressive jungler. If he can get close to G2 jungler Kim "Trick" Gang-yun’s level, this team could push G2 for the EU title.

Best Case: They win more than one game off G2 in the EU finals and win more than one game at Worlds

Worst Case: They can’t get out of the regional qualifier in a more crowded EU field

4) Vitality

Vitality made some of the biggest moves in the offseason, highlighted by landing ADC Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi and pairing him with Ha "Hachani" Seung-chan, formerly of KT Rolster. If those two can jell quickly and push without getting caught, the duo lane could rival G2’s for the title of Europe’s best.

But they still need a team around them, and Vitality still have to show that they can consistently make the correct team calls. Things never clicked last year as a roster with good players like Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Mesle and Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holm fell to 7th in the Summer Split.

Best Case: Steelback is rejuvenated and Cabochard carries the roster to the EU semifinals

Worst Case: The team can never figure out their win conditions and Steelback has flashbacks of the last couple years

5) Fnatic

Fnatic, Europe’s most storied franchise, stumbled a bit in 2016. Despite hanging on to Febiven and AD carry Martin “Rekkles” Larson, the team was unable to replace stars Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin. Team communication and coordination suffered with the new Korean players they brought in.

In 2017, Fnatic will try to enable better communication with an all-EU starting roster. They’ll need it, since none of these players look capable of hard carrying. New mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther will be the target of particular scrutiny—he was never the focus for his previous team, Turkey’s Dark Passage. He would often lose lane with little priority, but was more useful in team fights.

Best Case: Rekkles is a star again, Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider props up the solo lanes, and Fnatic makes a triumphant return to the EU Finals

Worst Case: Mid lane is an enormous problem and the team falls into the second half of the standings

6) Unicorns of Love

We originally had Unicorns 4th, nipping on the heels of Splyce. Maybe we were too enamored with their winning performance at IEM Oakland last November. But this team looked ready to take the next step.

And then homesick ADC Kim "Veritas" Kyoung-min announced that he was returning to Korea. Veritas was not UOL’s best (or even second-best) player. But he was an essential part of a team that worked on their communication throughout 2016. Leaving late in the offseason put Unicorns in a tough spot.

They signed Samuel "Samux" Fernández as a replacement, but the move did not build a lot of confidence. Samux has bounced around for some time, but has never really shown LCS potential.

Solo laners Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert have the talent to carry, but this is going to be a tough run through the regular season.

Best Case: Exileh steps up and the roster proves that they are a top-four team with the pieces they have. They make the EU semifinals, proving that IEM wasn’t a fluke

Worst Case: They can’t survive the loss of Veritas and end up in the promotion tournament

7) Misfits

Misfits will go through a lot of learning pains as they learn to play at an LCS level. It has less to do with individual skill level and more to do with rotations and shot calls. Top laner Barney “Alphari” Morris and ADC Steven "Hans sama" Liv are exciting to watch and should stick in the LCS.

The question will be whether jungler Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon can return to form and whether he and Lee “IgNAR” Dong-geun, both Korean players, can properly shot call for the rest of the team. If the coaches can get this team to talk and be on the same page, even as the game goes late, they have a shot.

Best Case: The players learn to play together, the rookies stand up to better players at their positions, and the team grabs a playoff seed

Worst Case: They make too many mistakes against a higher level of competition and need the promotion tournament to hold on to their new LCS slot

8) Giants

This was a bewildering team last year. After finding mid laner “NighT” Gun-woo out of nowhere, the team went on a tear through the Summer Split. The revamped 2017 roster may not be better, however. Jungler Jonas "Memento" Elmarghichi is serviceable but it’s hard to identify which lane they can win outside of mid.

Best Case: NighT is a top-three mid laner in the region and is able to prop up the rest of the roster to a 0.500 record

Worst Case: The team reverses their progress from last summer and is back in the promotion tournament


ROCCAT has a budding star in mid laner Felix "Betsy" Edling. But the roster is pretty sad around him. The team took chances on a series of unknown players, and there is real threat they could get relegated. The team placed 9th and 10th in the last two splits, and that was with Steelback, who could usually win lane. It’s going to be a battle for ROCCAT to remain relevant all year.

Best Case: They clean up their mistakes and make things interesting in the regular season

Worst Case: The team is lost without Steelback and are relegated

10) Origen

Origen’s free fall continued into the offseason. Unable to keep Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and Amazing, the team totally rebooted. You can’t blame them for not trying, as the team searched hard and wide for new players, including signing mid laner Yoo Nae-hyun out of China’s minor league.

The roster really doesn’t have much of a chance. It combines players that have had a shot at the LCS and failed, with foreign players who may be hard to integrate. It will take a miracle for this roster to learn how to play together and figure out win conditions, especially in the best-of-three setting. It’s been a great run for Origen and popular owner Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez, but we’re guessing it ends here.

Best Case: The team somehow pulls out another win in the promotion tournament to keep xPeke’s dream alive

Worst Case: The team is relegated after a split and xPeke retires from competitive League and rides off into the sunset

All photos via Riot Games

Jan 18 2017 - 12:04 am

The new LCK meta: Singed top?

LCK Season 7 kicked off last night, giving us an early look at the new 10-ban meta.
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Image via Riot Games

Competitive League is back. Most professional leagues kick off the Spring Split later this week, with League of Legends Champions Korea getting the ball rolling last night. After a crazy offseason, we finally get to see what the pros make of the meta, how they’ll play around overpowered tanks, and what they’ll do with jungle plants.

One of the key questions going into this season was what the new draft phase would look like with the implementation of 10 bans (5 per team). We saw some of the effects of that last night. The first match involved a fascinating storyline with the ROX Tigers facing former top laner Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho for the first time.

But from a meta perspective, the more interesting match started after Smeb and KT walked off with a win. That’s when Longzhu Gaming and Samsung Galaxy both busted out pocket picks.

Wait, what? Singed top?

The craziness started in game one, when Samsung, playing on the red side (and picking second), inexplicably left Rengar available. That allowed Longzhu to first-pick the terrifying jungle assassin. In return though, they got Ezreal, Poppy, Zyra, and Viktor, strong picks themselves and ones that Samsung is familiar with.

Then with the last pick, top laner Gu "Expession" Bon-taek went with Singed.

Singed is fun and unique champion who can push minion waves in a way few champions can match. His mechanics have led to some pretty ridiculous strategies. But he’s not known in professional play because of his low overall damage and uselessness in team fights. Singed players typically play with a one-versus-five mentality, something that usually doesn’t agree with the typical Korean focus on team cohesion.

For Longzhu, Singed was honestly an afterthought for most of the game. That’s because Rengar took over. Lee "Crash" Dong-woo was all over Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong’s Lee Sin from the start, taking over the blue side jungle and enabling his bot lane to push with impunity.

That can be risky against Samsung’s strong solo laners, but it paid off as the Longzhu duo roamed around for turret after turret. Kim "PraY" Jong-in’s Jhin was absolutely incredible, pushing people off turrets and sniping them from range.

Samsung tried to turtle and defend, but that’s where Singed came in. Having built Zz’rot portal, he made life hell for Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin’s Poppy. Poppy wants to teamfight, but with Singed constantly pushing, CuVee had no priority and Longzhu romped.

We are not sure that Singed will continue to be a popular pick; he’s too easy to camp if there isn’t pressure elsewhere. But we’re also excited to see more team strategies being built around previously off-meta champions. 

More pocket picks to come

Image via Riot Games

Samsung responded in game two with a new champion: Camille somehow made it through the first ban phase. But then Longzhu came back with a counter pick of their own: Jax.

This game was what 10 bans was all about. It was incredibly fun watching these two top laners duel. At first, Camille had the upper hand, taking on Jax and then Song "Fly" Young-jun’s Ekko, beating both. But after Jax got a couple items, he became the stronger bruiser, getting a solo kill back. Stuns, dashes, and ults combined in a terrific dance. It was an incredible display of skill from two players and everything we hoped 10 bans could be.

Game 3 was a more straightforward Samsung win, but we got even more champions. New jungler Kang "Haru" Min-seung picked Kha’zix, and a level one invade got him first blood. In the mid lane, Lee "Crown" Min-ho picked Corki, someone we hadn’t seen in a some time. His range advantage kept Fly pushed in and Samsung played a steady game to win.

Three games, full of creative strategies and pocket picks. This is likely what Riot envisioned when they moved to the 10 ban system. But of course, these are the highest skilled players in the world—can players in Europe and North America, perhaps with smaller champion pools, recreate the success we saw last night?

In just a few days, we’ll find out.