We’re past the halfway point of the 2019 Spring Split in most League of Legends regions. It’s been a fun split filled with interesting strategies, crazy champion picks, and even some crafty rule manipulations.
That means that the meta has evolved a lot over the year. At first, there was a lot of carryover from Worlds 2018 because the preseason didn’t bring us anything that new champion-wise. But as players adjusted to things like minion bounties and turret plating, Karthus damage, and new crit items, we’re beginning to see more diversity. That makes now a good point to step back and assess what the professional meta looks like.
Here are the five biggest things we’ve learned about League’s competitive meta in 2019.
Early game matters
The biggest carryover from last season is the pace of the pro game. Specifically, matches are finishing fast. According to League stats site Games of Legends, average game times started the year in the 32-minute range, right on par with where we ended Worlds 2018. Games got a bit longer in Patch 9.2, but have since come down a bit again to just under 34 minutes (through Feb. 18).
This is a lot faster than years past when 35 to 38 minute average games were common. There are a few reasons for this. First, Riot has consciously made the game faster by increasing the number of dragon spawns, reducing the amount of vision available, and putting emphasis on early-game objectives like turret plates.
The result is that teams with strong early games tend to win, more so than years past.
Solo lane carries
Where teams are concentrating their power is almost overwhelmingly the solo lanes. The tank meta is still dead, especially since Galio has been pushed off his tank items. That means top laners are playing the likes of Jayce and Kennen, while mid laners are favoring Zoe and LeBlanc.
The return of the mage meta after nerfs to Irelia and Akali finally took them out of mid lane is also an interesting development. That should help mid laners with more traditional champion pools. Along with traditional mages like Ryze, Orianna, and Syndra, it would be interesting to see if champions like Azir come back. And then there’s the potential for assassin counters like Zed to show their faces again.
Ranged champions dominate
One thing that could limit how effective assassins are is the sheer prevalence of ranged champions. Players have figured out that ranged champions can control waves and contest for turret plates, which contributes to their early game leads. If done correctly, they can hit key items fast and help snowball the game.
On Patch 9.3, eight of the 10 most popular champions, not including supports, are ranged. This is a noticeable bump from years past. Ranged champions have their weaknesses—they’re typically squishy, and some, like Jayce, fall behind if they don’t get early leads. But teams are willing to bet that they can get those turret plates down fast enough to make ranged champions the way to go.
Coaches are being creative
An especially interesting development in season nine is just how creative teams have gotten. From abusing minions to no-farm lanes, coaches are really going next level in their efforts to figure out the game.
That has extended to the champions being picked as well. Per League writer Michael Kelly, champion diversity through the first half of the 2019 Spring Split is a lot higher than last year. Even Sylas, who’s absolute garbage in solo queue, is being played at the highest level.
Nearly every champion is viable right now, many in multiple roles. It makes the game fresh and fun to watch.
Crit ADCs will have their day
It’s still early in the days of Patch 9.3, where big crit changes went live. So far, there hasn’t been a large-scale resurgence in crit ADCs, as marksman like Lucian and Ezreal continue to run the meta. We’ve seen some more Sivir, but the second most popular crit bot laner is Yasuo.
But we think it’s only a matter of time before more crit ADCs reappear. Teams are still figuring out which comps to play around crit champions. And typically, when playoffs come, objective control and teamfighting will be at the forefront of the meta again. That means crit ADCs should get another look. And with their ability to pressure turret plates, champions like Tristana and Caitlyn shouldn’t be ignored for long.