Riot Games made big changes to League of Legends right before the start of the 2018 Summer Split. It was a classic case of bad timing, similar to the juggernaut rework before the 2015 World Championship that led to teams perma-banning Mordekaiser. Riot has a history of changing the League meta at exactly the wrong moment.
This time, the players that were hit hardest were attack damage carries. Riot introduced massive changes to marksmen, which caused outrage among professional ADCs. Some teams even abandoned their ADCs, forcing them to swap positions or even benching them.
Some teams are still having success without major changes, and with the bot laners still playing marksmen. What really is going with the ADC role, and what do we think will happen as we get closer to Worlds?
Not used to change
The standard meta of a two-person bot lane with a ranged champion accompanied by a support was pioneered by European squad Fnatic, who won the first World Championship with ADC Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim on Ashe. Even back then, the strongest marksman often won games because they could control the dragon and clean up teamfights.
Since then, ADC has been the most stable position in professional play. ADCs typically only have to learn a handful of champions, and even those with limited pools often have safe standbys to fall back on. And now that it’s changing, ADCs are not happy.
Team Liquid ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng told ESPN in an interview that, “being creative is cool and having diversity is cool, [but] sometimes the game just isn’t fun to play, and I think this is just one of those metas.”
But some of his peers at other positions disagree. Doublelift even admitted that the reason marksmen were so ubiquitous in the bot lane was because of their relative safety—after all, it’s the safe, longer-ranged champions like Caitlyn and Tristana that have really dominated the professional meta.
So some change is good. It’s especially good that riskier, caster-type ranged champions like Ezreal and Lucian are now available. Players at every other position have dealt with more changes than ADCs, it’s about time they learned to adapt.
How they’ve adapted
Teams and players have adapted to the new meta in a variety of ways. One of the most common is just to have the current ADC play a non-marksman champion, whether it be a mage like Brand or Ziggs, a bruiser like Yasuo or Irelia, or something else entirely, like Janna.
Some teams have even had their ADC swap roles so that someone more experienced on a certain champion can play in the bot lane. We saw this when Echo Fox sent Johnny “Altec” Ru to top lane on Dr. Mundo, a relatively safe champion, so Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon could play bot lane Yasuo.
Even more extreme are the teams that have outright benched their starting ADC. We all wondered what Cloud9 was doing subbing out Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, but his early performances on non-marksmen in solo queue were subpar. Then Fnatic took things to the next level by benching two-time defending league MVP Martin “Rekkles” Larsson so they could play their substitute top laner in his seat.
That only worked because Fnatic have two LCS-quality top laners. For most teams, the adaptations have not been nearly as wild. Kai’Sa is pretty broken, and if she’s banned, Lucian and Ezreal are good options as well. Neither of them can kill an Aatrox, and they are inefficient at sieging, but they can hold in lane and do well in fights.
For those looking for even more safety, picks like Xayah, Varus, and Ashe are viable. None of them really use the new Infinity Edge, which indicates that they may need some tuning. But overall, there are options for players with limited champion pools.
What the change has forced ADCs to do is learn a bit from their teammates. It’s good for the overall skill level of the game that players are figuring out different roles and playing in unfamiliar positions.
“It’s actually really funny,” CLG mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun told ESPN. “Whenever [ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes] picks up a champion he’ll ask me or [top laner Darshan Upadhyaya] for tips and we’ll tell him what to do.”
In Korea, this type of cross-positional play is common. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok recently expressed his confidence in all five roles, and Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong. is well known for having five challenger accounts, each playing a different role. Meanwhile, Golden Guardians ADC Matthew “Deftly” Chen admitted to dodging solo queue games when he didn’t get his preferred role. That’s not good for him or the game.
“We’re just trying to share knowledge a lot, because a lot of picks are being flexed everywhere,” Team Liquid mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park said in the interview with ESPN. “It’s not exclusive to bot lane, that’s not the only example, but I think that’s what’s really important right now, just teaching each other.”
As for crit ADCs, while they’re not being played now it’s not hard to see how they could come back into the meta. After all, two major reasons that marksmen are not meta—shorter game times and a lack of tanks not named Ornn—have nothing to do with the actual lane. It’s the game that’s changed.
But as Riot continues to balance the game and teams keep experimenting, champions like Kog’Maw and Twitch should be playable. And when tanks eventually make a return, crit will again be an important part of the standard team composition. The goal is that crit can be useful, but is not required. When that happens, the professionals that learned the most during this period of adjustment and really improved as well-rounded players should reap the most benefits.