The meta at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship has been everything fans could ask for and more. Rather than a rigid list of certain champions that should and shouldn’t be played, teams have effectively been given freedom to choose whatever they want as long as it meets certain criteria.
If the champion fits well into the team comp’s overall strategy and that strategy is a viable and solid choice into the enemy’s comp, any player can get away with mostly anything. Because of that, we’ve seen champions on the Worlds stage that we barely or never saw in the pro meta prior to the tournament. Some came straight from solo queue fads, and others it seems that only a couple players would be able to pull off to begin with.
From both sides of that spectrum and everything in between, here are five (sort of) champions that perfectly embody the meta at Worlds heading into the finals between Invictus and Fnatic this Saturday at 2:30am CT.
Right, we know starting off a list of five champions with a pair means that the list will technically reach six and that’s a little wonky, but bear with us. We need to include these two together because they’ve both had this massive chain reaction on the meta, and they did it in tandem as the two most powerful top laners heading into Worlds.
These guys are responsible for the meta breaking down the way it did in the top lane, because teams all had different responses to countering them or to replace them in the case of bans. It’s because of these boys that top lane Viktor with Iceborn Gauntlet became a thing at all, and that has to be one of the most innovative champion choices that we’ve seen in a while from either solo queue or pros. And that’s saying something. We’ll get into Viktor in a bit, though.
What’s more impressive is that both Urgot and Aatrox began a trend. The only reason pro players could begin flexing them in the mid and top lane together was because they were so strong, and that kicked off a much more popular mid/top flex trend in the rest of the tournament. Irelia was also flexed to both mid and top, but that wasn’t as common. Soon after, Akali and Ryze were heading to the top lane, Jayce was going mid and top, and, in Cloud9’s case, Viktor arrived in the bot lane. Thanks Urgot and Aatrox, you started something magical.
Speaking of Viktor, he was almost entirely dead in the water before Worlds began. Well, technically, he was dead in the water until the patch before Worlds, which is when he began his ascent to the top of the solo queue ladder. On the pro stage, however, he was still unheard of, and the only reason he was whipped out is because he hard-counters so many very strong champions, like Urgot and Aatrox.
Typically, pro players avoid practicing or playing with solo queue trends, because the pro and casual meta are so wildly different that it usually doesn’t work. This year, however, pro players threw caution to the wind, because they knew as long as the pick made sense with their comp and as long as they played it well, anything was possible. And so, the top lane Viktor joined the pro stage at Worlds as the most solo-queue-oriented champion at the tournament.
Segue. There were plenty of extremely strong Jayce players heading into Worlds, but none of them chose to play him right away, nor had some of them even played him in months. Why? Well, sort of like Viktor, he just wasn’t in the pro meta. It’s hard to explain why Viktor wasn’t played pre-Worlds in his normal role in the mid lane, because he’s not a terrible mid lane mage. Jayce, on the other hand, is notably weaker than he used to be when he spent his time as one of the world’s most popular picks, and that’s probably dissuaded players from bringing him back.
Where else, though, than this year’s Worlds stage? After all, anything works, right? Jayce really started to gain some traction in the semifinals, when Invictus used it against G2 Esports. Two players on IG were very renowned Jayce players, and they decided to use it to try to shut down G2’s top lane, which was G2’s strongest asset in the tournament so far. It worked really, really well. So well, in fact, that it appeared G2 wasn’t just having a hard time with the pick, but that it actually countered Aatrox, which G2 kept trying to rely on.
Fnatic tested that theory the next day against Cloud9, and, for all intents and purposes, confirmed it by dismantling C9’s Aatrox in the laning phase. All throughout, Jayce had roughly 15-20 farm up on the Aatrox, and at one point, a kill, too. Sure, by the end of the game, Aatrox and Jayce were on equal footing, but that’s a different topic entirely.
Lee Sin, like Jayce, used to be very popular in the pro meta, but took a tumble in the last year due to general weakness and other types of champions surging in power. Lee is a damage-oriented jungler, a carry, and before Worlds began, only tanks and a couple of select carries had really stood a chance, and none of those were Lee Sin. It was a long way to fall for a champion that used to dominate the pro meta, and one that continues to dominate solo queue to this day as the third most popular champ in the entire game.
There are a couple Lee Sin beasts in attendance this year, though, and they knew that if they played him well enough, he would be just fine. Well, in Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen’s case, he was certainly played to his fullest potential. And soon, after Broxah completely demolished his enemies with the champion a few times, no one was questioning whether or not Lee could make a comeback on the pro stage.
Nothing says “you can play whatever you want” quite like Petter “Hjarnan” Freyschuss’ bot lane Heimerdinger, lovingly referred to here at Dot as Hjarnandinger. The Lord of the Dings surged in popularity during the bot lane mage meta of mid-summer, but after a few weeks of it, Hjarnan was the only one left still using it. The marksman meta had returned, but Hjarnan didn’t want to let go, and for good reason.
Despite Heimerdinger being considered overall weak, every time a (smart) team faced G2, they knew they had to ban Heimerdinger. Because, meta or not, Hjarnan could smash their faces in with it. Every time it was left open, he locked it in, and he won. This is sort of similar to Lee Sin, in how the only reason he popped up again is because really good Lee players locked him in. But Heimer isn’t even popular (or successful) in solo queue, so he’s even more of a head-scratcher. And that’s just the most beautiful thing we’ve seen in the Worlds meta so far.