It’s finally time, League of Legends fans. The 2019 World Championship has arrived, starting with the play-in stage on Oct. 2, which features teams from major regions, including Splyce from Europe, Clutch Gaming from North America, and DAMWON Gaming from Korea.
As spectators prepare for the event and North American fans get their best “well now which team do I root for?” faces ready, one of the most important evaluations to make revolves around the in-game meta.
The Worlds patch, Patch 9.19, arrived less than a week ago. By using stats gathered from both it and the last patch that major regions played on competitively, we can predict which champions will make the biggest splash. And that’s not a Nami pun because she’s not on the list.
Here are the 15 champions, split into groups of three by which role they represent, we expect to see the most at Worlds 2019.
Top: Mordekaiser, Pantheon, and Renekton
Renekton is the least surprising choice for a would-be Worlds top lane representative. He was played a ton this summer and his impact on the game hasn’t diminished at all since then. He’s still the go-to early game fighter and it’ll likely stay that way throughout Worlds.
Mordekaiser isn’t a huge surprise, either, since he was in a great place a month ago and the meta has only shifted away from him barely in the weeks that followed. He scales hard, but he’s kited easily, so expect to see some ranged top laners, like Vlad or Kennen, appear to counter him.
Pantheon is the biggest surprise. When his update first went live, he was in a bit of a precarious place. It was right as most regional qualifying tournaments were wrapping up and no team wanted to gamble on him, probably because that would require changing strategies at the last possible second. He’s had some time to simmer, though, and he’s been completely dominating the top lane meta for a few weeks. And with the Worlds patch locked in, there’s no chance he’ll be nerfed before the tournament is over. So don’t be surprised if he seemingly comes out of nowhere to become a staple on the big stage.
Jungle: Lee Sin, Gragas, and Kha’Zix
The jungle meta is in a far different spot than it was last year. It’s carry-oriented for the first time in a while and even old reliable tanks like Gragas are being consistently built with nothing but damage, damage, and more damage. Gragas offers a ton of support, too, in the form of spammable crowd control, damage mitigation, and a game-changing ultimate. There’s a reason most junglers fell back on him as their go-to champ if their regular pick got banned. He’s good and he usually makes it through the ban phase.
Lee Sin, on the other hand, is the champion that everyone wanted to play this summer—and they’d then choose Gragas when he was picked or banned. Lee has been incredibly popular for years due to his high skill ceiling, damage, and utility. And that hasn’t changed one bit this year. Some of the best Lee Sin players in the world are going to be at this tournament, too, so we don’t expect Lee’s play rate to stop skyrocketing.
Kha’Zix, while less reliable than Lee Sin, is the strongest damage-oriented jungler in the game right now. You can expect pro junglers to run with him while the meta supports it. And right now, the meta supports it. Junglers may experiment with other high-damage junglers, too, like Ekko, but Kha’Zix will always remain the safer choice.
Mid: Ahri, Ekko, and Kassadin
That’s right, no Akali and no Sylas to counter her. Both of those champions got hit so hard by Riot’s nerf hammer pre-9.19 that they can’t even find Summoner’s Rift. And that makes predicting the Worlds mid meta a little more difficult because both of these champions were mainstays for most of the year. And we can’t really look at solo queue at all because it’s been controlled by assassins for the better part of the last six months. Based on the risk that assassins carry with them, pros aren’t likely to play them all that much. Ahri and Kassadin, on the other hand, are safe, carry-prone champions with good utility.
They’re being picked up by Worlds pros in solo queue quite often and both have made many Worlds appearances in the past, so it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine they’ll do the same this year. Ahri, in particular, is in a very good spot, while Kassadin is a slightly riskier pick, so we may see some champions rise to prominence simply because they counter her.
Ekko is the biggest gamble here. We’re only including him in this list because he’s been so increasingly popular as of late, but since he was nonexistent only a couple of weeks ago when each regional league wrapped up, teams may pass on him entirely. If they don’t, though, he has a ton of utility and he scales very well, making him a solid all-around choice, even when he falls behind.
Support: Thresh, Blitzcrank, and Nautilus
Playmakers, playmakers, and more playmakers. This has been the meta all year and it’s certainly not going to change at Worlds. That’s all there really is to it. Expect to see other playmakers, too, especially Pyke, but mages and enchanters generally aren’t nearly as strong. The beauty of pro play, however, is that anything can work if you have a strategy for it. But these types of champions should still rule at large.
The one interesting choice of these three is Blitzcrank. At literally any other time of the year, we would’ve put Pyke in his place. But in the Worlds patch, Riot increased the range of his hook by 100 units. That opens the door for Blitzcrank to force plays that no other support could. So while he’s definitely the riskier pick, it would be strange if he didn’t frequent the stage.
Bot: Kai’Sa, Kai’Sa, and Kai’Sa
You might think we’re kidding on this one, but Kai’Sa should be one of the most popular and steady champions in the tournament. If she isn’t picked, we expect a ban, and other bot lane carries will only pop up when someone can’t play her.
To make sure we still hit the 15 champions we promised, though, there are two champions that will likely see the light of day even if almost every bot lane prioritizes Kai’Sa first. Those two champions are Caitlyn and Jinx.
Caitlyn is the current staple for early-to-mid-game bot lane picks. When a team wants to push their bot lane early and not rely too heavily on a jungler’s influence, Caitlyn is usually the pick. And likewise, if a team wants to concede bot lane control in favor of a hyper carry in the late game, Jinx is the strongest of that variety right now.