Predicting the Meta for Worlds: Mid Lane
I think mid lane remains relatively unchanged in the juggernaut era. I think two traits make a strong mid lane champion in this current meta: good wave clear and strong zone control. Zone control is a big part of team fights that essentially means how large of a radius are you threatening or how far away you can deal damage. Control mages thrive in jungle fights where the narrow pathways allow them to maximize their CC and AOE damage. I think control/utility mages are the strongest at the moment. A few assassins may be viable; poke and scaling champions are weak. Games average a little over 30 minutes, which usually isn’t enough time for poke or late game champions to reach their peak. With an emphasis on team fighting rather than pick comps, control/utility mages stand above the rest.
Quick side note: teleport has seen an increasing popularity in mid laners providing even more global pressure. It was most commonly seen on Diana, but now picks like Lulu, Gangplank, and even TF are taking TP mid. It will be interesting to see what summoners players will choose at Worlds.
Lulu will be one of the most highly contested picks at Worlds. She can be a flex pick being viable top and mid and provides immense team utility. She is also one of the few champions you can blind pick and not have to worry about counter picks. She has good wave clearing, a strong laning phase, and is extremely versatile in team fights. Her kit can be used both offensively and defensively and it’s this flexibility that makes her such a strong pick. She fits into almost any team comp, most notably the classic “juggermaw” (aka protect the ADC) or buff the bruiser (like TSM used against GV in the summer playoffs). With the popularity of bruisers, there are less “true” tanks on the rift like Maokai/Gnar. Lulu can turn almost anyone into a pseudo-tank. Her weaknesses are that she’s low on damage and is dependent on her team to do well. Ideally she doesn’t want to have to use ult on a support or tank caught out, but would rather protect the carry. Her low damage output can be a liability in some comps. Her recent health nerfs may make building Rod of Ages more common although that’s typically seen in top lane Lulus.
Side note: Lulu makes all bruisers top stronger, but she is Fiora’s best mid lane partner for synergy. Lulu’s utility and Fiora’s AOE healing from her ult can make the entire team unkillable. Lulu also works well with Skarner who has trouble closing the gap, helping him use his ult without needing flash.
Viktor was changed a bit in patch 5.16, but it only affected his unique item the Hex Core. He should remain a top pick for mid with his immense wave clear, burst potential, some poke, and zone potential with his W. One of the reasons Viktor has been such a strong pick is that his power curve was just strong at all phases of the game – early, mid, and late. The changes to his Hex Core took a lot of power away from upgrading it. It no longer provides any base stats and simply scales off champion level now. This shift weakens his early game where people upgraded the Hex Core first before buying items, but gives him more power late game. Without the flat mana from upgrading the Hex Core, expect Viktors to build Morellonomicon as a first item. This also weakens his early game a bit as he isn’t able to build straight into Needlessly Large Rod items. Besides these slight changes, Viktor is still as powerful as ever. His great wave clear allows him to constantly shove and pressure mid lane causing CS disadvantages, jungler attention, and eventually taking mid turret opening up jungle pressure. He is a powerful team fighter with great burst, especially in choke points. Control mages like to fight in the jungle where the narrow corridors make their burst and zoning even more potent. His main weakness is his lack of mobility. He’s completely reliant on his summoner spells (most will take flash and cleanse) and is very susceptible to ganks. Teams with Viktor should provide jungler support to help ward for him and perhaps hover for counter-ganks.
Azir has steadily received nerfs throughout season 5 and his upfront burst damage has been gimped, but he still remains a top pick for the mid lane. As I mentioned earlier, I think control-style mages are the strongest in this meta and Azir still brings a ton of it. Most of Azir’s damage nerfs are to his burst with his Q and E, but he remains a powerful consistent damage dealer with his soldiers. He has great wave clear, turret taking ability, great mobility, and powerful repositioning with his ultimate. He brings great zone control with his soldiers and the threat of his ultimate. This helps give control over objectives and can outright win team fights. This is the power of control mages; being able to dictate how a team fight plays out by zoning enemies and possibly splitting them up. Teams will be hesitant to challenge objectives when his soldiers are set up. His ultimate can funnel the enemy team to be trapped inside dragon/baron pit for easy team fighting. Azir is very versatile in how he can play team fights – zoning with his soldiers, going aggressive for the “Shurima shuffle,” or disengaging with a knock back ult. His weaknesses include requiring time to set up soldiers (being caught off guard is very punishing) and having one of the highest skill caps in the game (although at this point in the season, players should be experienced enough to optimize his gameplay). Most build Azir with Nashor’s Tooth and Rylais, but if he’s getting denied blue buff, he may be forced into buying Morellonomicon which is suboptimal.
Orianna is the perennial mid lane queen. Renekton is often considered the benchmark of top lane, Lee Sin the benchmark of junglers, and Orianna is the benchmark of mid laners. Always a strong, but not dominant champion, she’s always been in the upper echelon of mages since her release. Orianna plays very similarly to Lulu in what she brings to a team – a good combination of offensive and defensive utility. Lulu is geared more towards defensive tendencies while Orianna is her offensive counterpart. Shockwave remains a powerful, potentially game changing ultimate, but requires teammates help. Orianna has a decent laning phase with decent wave clear, but she shines when grouped with teammates. While Orianna isn’t as reliant on her teammates as a Lulu, even multi-man ultimates don’t seem to do much without follow-up from her team. She brings good utility to a team with shields and speed boosts and zoning control with her ball. She is susceptible to ganks and requires more scaling to be effective. Orianna is more mana dependent than the other champions listed which slows down her item build and thus her power spike.
Twisted Fate has always been an annoying champion for any team to deal with. His semi-global ultimate completely changes the game when its off cooldown. Split pushing is no longer safe. Even farming alone without a turret in range can prove costly. He has decent wave clear and is good at pushing towers with a Lich Bane. He allows teams to really stretch out the map for 1/3/1 pressure (mid and top lanes solo split pushing while the rest push the third lane) and is constantly a backdoor threat. TF’s ganking once he hits 6 can really snowball the game by helping the side lanes win. Expect to see 5v2 dives bottom lane. His weakness is that he’s fairly item dependent – he needs Lich Bane to push and a lot of mana regen + AP for wave clear. He’s also incredibly squishy and susceptible to ganks. To counter TF’s strengths, opposing teams can pick assassins to kill TF in lane or champions with strong early wave clear to shove in his lane. If his lane is constantly pushed in he won’t be free to roam and gank with his ultimate. Teams without good communication will suffer with TF. Teams playing TF require immense coordination which was lacking in the few times he was picked in NA summer split. Teams against TF will need good communication to prevent his snowball potential.
Lissandra can poke well in lane, has an escape in her E for safer laning, and provides huge team fight utility. She has decent wave clear, good mobility, and immense zone control. Her AOE roots and slows are strong team fighting tools along with her ult which now also heals herself. She provides immense zone control where enemies must avoid, allowing for team fights with a numbers advantage (if you can zone 1 or 2 enemies, then you have a 5v4 or 5v3). She occupies a lot of time/attention in team fights in a similar fashion as Vladimir (ult + zhonya) where many enemies will erroneously sit and wait while the rest of their team is dying. If the enemy ADC knows a Lissandra has her E and ult up, they will sit back in team fights and likely deal no damage until they know its safe. The threat of a pick like Lissandra can swing team fights, especially in tight corriders within the jungle. Expect to see her against a squishy team comp that lacks a main tank or good initiation. Her ult can wreck enemy carries, especially with the influx of bruisers.
Assassins might see some play to counter mid lane picks, but only a few stand out.
Diana has seen rising popularity as the main assassin in mid lane. She doesn’t fit the control/utility mage prototype I mentioned before, but she’s useful in shutting down the other strong mid picks. While she doesn’t have great wave clear, amongst melee assassins she’s better than most. She’s quite linear in that she only goes in to kill a champion, but has no escape. Players usually take teleport with her for global pressure since she can usually kill without needing ignite. She brings kill pressure with raw damage that the other mages listed lack. Her weaknesses are that she’s melee (poor for tower pushing), has weak wave clear, low mobility (susceptible to ganks), and is reliant on her Q to pull off any ganks.
Ahri is an assassin with great mobility, but is highly skillshot reliant. She has good wave clear unlike other assassins and benefits from being ranged. While her burst isn’t as powerful as other assassins, her mobility more than makes up for it, making her difficult to gank. Ahri is one of the few champions you can blind pick without many counter-picks available. Her weakness is that she’s highly item dependent (needs mana regen, high amounts of AP for damage and wave clear) and skillshot reliant.
Kassadin/LeBlanc might see some play, but I think they’re weaker picks than the other assassins. Kassadin requires more time and items to scale up. His weak laning phase makes farming difficult and susspect. His late game impact however is much stronger than the other assassins with his great mobility. LeBlanc has weak wave clearing and really needs to snowball to win. The meta revolves more around team fighting rather than small skirmishes so I’m wary of her effectiveness.
AD champions mid may not be the best due to the popularity of bruisers top; having an all AD team is usually bad news. There are strong picks, but will require specific comps to make them effective.
Yasuo has slowly become more popular throughout season 5. He requires a lot of team synergy to be effective, but can be a great pick in nullifying enemy mid laners. The wind wall is not to be underestimated. It can block out poke, combos from a mage’s burst, initiating tools (like Gragas ult), and any incoming ADC damage. Although wind wall shines in the jungle, he shines in fights in lanes where he can use minions to maximize his mobility. His weaknesses are his lack of wave clear, being melee (low tower pushing threat), and reliance on teammates to set up team fights.
Gangplank’s damage has taken quite a hit in patch 5.18, but he still provides global pressure with his ult, strong zoning with his barrels (useful around objectives), a split push threat, and strong siege potential. Gangplank is great because he can be picked early in draft and be a flex pick for mid and top making it difficult to match up and counter him. Teams who draft Lulu and GP together will have maximum flexibility in two strong solo laners that do well in either position. Players have also begun taking teleport with mid Gangplank to provide even more global pressure and to strengthen his laning phase. One of his biggest strengths is his zone control and it should not be underestimated. He can block off choke points to dragon/baron and potentially even steal these objectives with his massive burst from the kegs. His ultimate can be considered a “poor man’s TF ult,” in helping defend or gank side lanes. His ultimate also provides powerful zoning potential in team fights along with his kegs. Gangplank can farm well, even from range allowing for a decent laning phase. One of his strengths is how quickly his items can snowball. Once Triforce is picked up, farming becomes easier and more gold is acquired from Parley’s bonus making subsequent purchases come more quickly. This makes Gangplank harder to keep down/deny than other champions. While oranges can make most ganks k, he’s still susceptible to knock-ups prevalent in junglers like Gragas and Rek’Sai.
Corki is one of my sleeper picks for mid lane. I don’t think its particularly strong, but I think he fills a niche for some team comps. He’s a ranged AD threat that has his own escape for safer laning. He has good wave clear and decent poke. His wave clear is what makes him a better pick than Ezreal for mid lane presence. He’s a safe option for mid that can hold his own. The main reason I’m mentioning him is if we’re going to see a team use Mordekaiser bot lane, I think Corki is the best ADC that can farm alone safely. Even with Morde, ADCs are still valuable for their tower taking ability that melee champions simply cannot do. The reason I would use him mid rather than top is for its safety. I think any ADC in a side lane alone is too susceptible to farm well.
Anivia is my other sleeper pick for mid lane. Anivia is one of the strongest control mages since LoL’s beginning. Her problem is she’s heavily item and blue buff dependent. She needs much more time and farm to scale up than the others to be effective. She also has a fairly weak laning phase until she hits 6. Once she has her mana items though, Anivia can dictate the game. No one matches Anivia’s wave clear prowess. Everyone remembers the epic CLG.EU vs M5 match back at Dreamhack 2012. CLG.EU came back from a 27,000 gold deficit to win the game with Froggen’s Anivia dragging out the game with her amazing wave clear. She also has an AOE stun and slow and the power of the wall should not be understated. Anivia’s wall forces enemies to blow flash for only a 25 second cooldown. A good wall can force team fights with a numbers advantage by blocking off crucial enemy champions allowing Anivia’s team to catch out a carry or focus the tank with no retribution.
Ekko could be used as a control mage much like he is from the jungle, but with greater burst potential. He has decent wave clear, but suffers from being melee. He can offer some zone control with his W and is hard to catch with his ult.
Ziggs might be seen mainly for his wave clear duties. He does provide good zone control with his mine field and has semi-global presence with his ult. He offers a safe pick mid, but lacks the CC or raw damage as other champions.