2015 Preseason Meta: Solo Queue Tier List & Top Picks [patch 4.21]
Patch 4.21 Solo Queue Tier List
by Kirito Kamui, NA Master Tier
The onset of the preseason saw lots of changes in the balance department. The jungle redesign, itemization changes, tower overhaul, and base stat adjustments have paved the way for some to rise to the top while letting others fall into obscurity. The preseason is a time for testing and data collection for more refined balance during the 2015 season, so balance and champion viability at this time can be unpredictable and hectic.
The Solo Queue Experience
This tier list focuses on champion viability in Solo/Duo Ranked Queue. The meta is and has always been different from competitive meta so often times, there are champions (example: Shaco) who are strong in Solo Queue but are rarely picked in competitive, and vice versa. The top champions in this tier list are champions that are the best to climb and do well in Solo Queue once you learn the champion.
Parameters of Judgment
Factors taken into account for determining a champion's Solo Queue viability include:
- Solo Queue win and pick rates across all tiers and each tier
- Skill floor and cap of the champion
- Ability to carry in a less organized environment relative to premade games
- Flexibility in fitting teams and/or champion niche
One thing to note is that overpowered =/= top pick. For our purposes, we care about champions who win Solo Queue, not champions that are overpowered once the skill cap is reached. Because of this, win rates are actually important for determining the best Solo Queue champions.
Pick or Ban Tier
Rek'Sai (Jungle/Top), Jarvan IV (Jungle), Janna (Support)
Top: Akali, Rumble, Irelia, Riven, Lissandra
Jungle: Pantheon, Fiddlesticks, Vi
Mid**: Ahri, Katarina, Talon, Cassiopeia, Syndra, Zed, Fizz, Akali, Annie
Marksman: Jinx, Sivir, Corki, Graves
Support: Soraka, Blitzcrank, Leona, Thresh* (see notes)
**I feel the mid lane meta is pretty diverse in terms of top picks so these aren't in any particular order.
Top: Sion, Gnar, Kennen, Swain, Tryndamere, Fiora, Nasus, Heimderdinger Nidalee, Vladimir, Maokai, Rengar, Malphite, Jax, Jayce
Jungle: Shaco* (see notes), Sejuani, Hecarim, Wukong, Rengar, Lee Sin, Xin Zhao, Nunu, Master Yi
Mid: Twisted Fate* (see notes), LeBlanc, Swain, Lissandra, Xerath, Karthus, Kassadin, Heimerdinger, Nidalee, Diana, Malzahar, Anivia, Vel'Koz, Azir, Orianna, Jayce
Marksman: Draven, Caitlyn, Miss Fortune, Ezreal, Lucian
Support: Sona, Annie, Nami, Zyra, Morgana, Braum, Taric, Brand
Top: Renekton, Darius, Cho'Gath, Teemo, Singed, Lulu, Galio, Poppy, Kayle, Yorick, Aatrox, Volibear, Mordekaiser
Jungle: Amumu, Warwick, Evelynn, Nocturne, Kha'Zix, Udyr, Nautilus, Zac, Kayle, Karthus, Skarner, Olaf, Jax, Twisted Fate, Cho'Gath, Trundle, Volibear, Aatrox
Mid: Veigar, Lux, Brand, Viktor, Ziggs, Kayle
Marksman: Kog'Maw, Ashe, Tristana, Varus, Vayne
Support: Alistar, Lulu, Veigar, Kayle
Top: Olaf, Ryze, Shyvana, Trundle, Gragas, Garen, Dr. Mundo, Shen, Urgot
Jungle: Elise, Teemo, Gragas, Dr. Mundo, Shen, Urgot
Mid: Zilean, Gragas, Ryze, Urgot
Marksman: Twitch, Kallista, Urgot
Support: Karma, Zilean, Gragas, Elise, Urgot
- Shaco: Shaco has one of the highest skill floors and caps and that is the primarily barrier to players trying to climb the ladder with him. Shaco has always been a strong pick in high ranked Solo Queue; in fact, whenever he is nerfed, it's often for his shenanigans in Diamond+ rated games. That being said, we all know how unfortunate it is to have a bad Shaco on your team. Once Shaco is mastered however, he is capable of counterjungling, ganking, baiting, and split pushing on a level very few other champions can attain. Because of his steep learning curve, he is place in Tier 2; otherwise, he'd be a Tier 1 champion.
- This guy is still the king of mid lane in the right hands. Considering that Pobelter has managed to get 3+ accounts to the top of Challenger with this guy, it's safe to say TF has godly carrying potential. Although a lot of it has to do with the player, it's undeniable that TF has one of the best play making potential in the game with his semi-global ult. He does, however, has an extremely high skill cap, resulting in his Tier 2 placement. It takes time to learn how to positioning correctly and kite with TF in addition to laning safely while managing your mana and health bars. He has several layers of depth when it comes to mastery but a good TF can be very scary to go against. Also, because of UoL, jungle TF is hilariously a thing but that's a niche pick (don't auto pick jungle TF in Solo Queue please).
- See above ^ explanation for TF. Same logic applies to LeBonkers.
- I feel that Thresh is the Lee Sin of supports: high skill cap champion who is very versatile and can make plays. His Tier 1 status is meaningful only if the player has achieved enough mastery to take advantage of the potential his kit offers -- from positioning correctly to save teammates with lantern and to catch people with Flay to landing key hooks to knowing how much damage Thresh to can do in various situations. He is not a champion to pick without prior practice.
- Warwick: Patch 4.21 obliterated Warwick: his win rate dropped by 10% in most tiers. The Skirmisher nerf, Devourer nerf, reduction of Hunter's Call's uptime from 10 to 6 seconds, and the ult CD increase all contributed to his downfall. He is now far from being a good pick, but he is still capable of being Warwick and catching people with his ult at key moments. He is still a decent pick but he lost a lot of carrying potential.
- Rek'Sai: She is currently broken. Riot overtuned her and he will be nerfed soon. Current Rek'Sai just has too many tools to gank and duel while having high numbers. She also isn't very mechanically intensive -- the crux of her learning curve is knowing how to use her tunnels and once that is attained, she is relatively easy to carry Solo Queue with.
- Cassiopeia: She is currently my favorite champion to play. Her rework made her a bit lackluster but the buffs she received this patch fixed many of her problems, notably her relatively weak early game. The way her passive now functions normalized the amount of time it takes her to get full stacks (at around 30-35 minutes) regardless of how you're doing in any particular match. This along with other reliability and damage buffs improved her early and mid game while retaining her late scale hyper scaling. In addition, the weakened early jungle alleviated some pressure off from from the enemy jungler. She takes some time to learn since she is mechanically intensive, but she wrecks face in the right hands.
- Sivir: The preseasons changes have been a boon for Sivir. The emphasis on early-mid game skirmishes means Sivir has more opportunities make plays with her ult. With each nerf to other ADCs and with each patch, she is becoming more prominent. Her ability to excel in skirmishes and for initiating them earn her a high win rate and competitive recognition.
- Kassadin: For better or worse, Kassadin is making a comeback. The base stat changes and the nerf to early jungle mitigated some of Kassadin's early game weakness. In addition, Kassadins sometimes go top lane nowadays and unlike in mid lane, Kassadin has no trouble bypassing his weaknesses there in this meta. More frequent skirmishes is also a plus for Kassadin.
- Gnar: To be honest, I think Gnar is overrated this patch, at least in Solo Queue. The nerfs he received decreased a good amount of his bullying power and early-mid presence. He is still able to go gnarly things and apply damage and CC in teamfights, but his solo carrying potential took deep hits. He is still a top threat in competitive play, however.
- Nidalee: Cancer AP Nidalee is back! She can go either top or mid and build AP regardless. Nidalee is one of the best, if not the best, skirmishers in the game. It's no wonder that she has gotten buffed with the preseason changes. She now has a lot more opportunities to snowball the game in her favor.
- Azir: He can be quite strong and annoying to play against, but I think he's flat out overrated. In addition to having a high skill cap and somewhat high skill floor, Azir has trouble against certain champions. His early game is still weak against champions whom he cannot bully in lane and he has problems against tanks who can soak his DPS. He is, however, incredibly strong in certain situations where he can get to the enemy backline or if a fight manages to happen around his turret.
- Kallista: Her kit is uniquely clunky and very team-orientated. She can be strong in the hands of someone who managed to master her unique mechanics, but she is just difficult to succeeded reliably in solo queue right now.
- Zed: For someone with one of the highest skill caps in the game, 50% win rate is honestly too high, especially for having a high pick rate. Gameplay wise, Zed has too much flexibility in this meta. Zed has always had the options to play passive or aggressive thanks to his Q spam and his mobility, but lessened jungle pressure and more skirmishes simply mean that Zed now has even more degrees of freedom to do whatever he wants. He is highly valued in competitive play because he's a safe pick who has high outplay potential and who can... do anything.
- Anivia: Interestingly, Anivia has one of the biggest win rate differences when looking at Diamond+ statistics and statistics for the rest of the tiers. This correctly indicates that she is one of the hardest champions to master, but once mastered, she is incredibly threatening with accurate Flash Frosts and amazing Wall placements. She is tier 2 only because she has a high skill floor and cap. The early jungle nerfs certainly helped her relatively weak pre-6 laning. Her skirmishing capabilities are pretty strong too.
- Fizz: Fizz is one of the most banned champions below Master Tier, and even occasionally in Masters, but I don't think his bans are often justified. Fizz is one of those champions who will always seem scary if he's viable because it's very clear to see when and how he is strong in any particular game: his power is very visible, in contrast to someone like Janna who packs a lot of invisible power, especially pre-passive change. Fizz might be on the strong side right now, enough to be a Tier 1 pick, but he still has glaring weaknesses: weak pushing, difficult teamfighting, and anti-snowballing mechanics. He is a good pick if you can play him, but don't think he's anywhere close to "free Elo" if you're not too familiar with him.
- Ryze: He is far from the powerhouse he was two months ago. The nerf to his base damage (Overload's base damage got reduced by 1/4) hurt his laning a lot. In addition, the preseason changes are unkind to him since he takes time to ramp up, unable to compete in early skirmishes. The current top lane meta is also difficult for Ryze to consistently succeed in.
- The preseason changes were indirect buffs to Annie, mid or support: decreased jungle pressure means Annie has more room to safely hard to level 6+ and the change to base stats gives more value to her shield. In addition, as one of the strongest post-6 mid game mages, Annie has more opportunities to wreck face with her strong early teamfighting and 1v1. Mobility and Distortion enchant boots is still the way to go for snowballing. Her high win rate indicates her success.
- I feel like Fabulous is highly underrated right now. He provides a LOT of AoE utility that's highly valued in the frequent skirmishes around bot/mid lane. In addition, similarly to Annie, the base stat changes add value to his armor buff. He has one of the few remaining targeted hard CCs in the game and with Morgana out of top tier, the bot lane meta seems to favor him more than before.
I made this list with the goals of providing Master level insight to primarily Silver/Gold/Plat players looking to climb. I have been playing since Season 1 (in Bronze) and gradually climbed to Diamond+ in Season 3 with my highest being only several games away from reaching challenger (D1 99 LP pre-Master). My experiences in Solo Queue gave me rare knowledge of what works when you're looking to climb.
The beneficiaries of reading this article are ones who have been playing Solo Queue a lot and are looking to improve their rankings. As an example, despite Evelynn's very low win rate and thus seemingly deserves of bottom tier placement, her win rate drastically improves in the upper tiers. This shows that players who take the time to master her gets rewarded in Solo Queue and so she's in Tier 2. Ultimately, it's up to the Solo Queue players to learn to champions in order to improve rankings, but there are certain champions who are easier to climb with than others -- which is what this list presents.
Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment if you have any questions.
Source of images and statistics: leagueoflegends.com, leagueoflegends.wikia.com, bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, leagueofgraphs.com