It’s no secret that the professional League of Legends meta has been stagnant for most of 2021. From hard-engage supports to Turbo Chemtank-abusing junglers, 2021 has played host to a lack of innovation the likes of which pro League has never seen. And if the meta continues to sit at its current pace for the rest of the season, we could see several champion diversity records shattered by the time 2021 comes to a close.
Never before in the history of professional League has one champion finished a season with a pick/ban rate above 80 percent, according to League stats site gol.gg. The highest pick/ban rate ever across major region play belongs to Sett, who set the record as a valuable flex pick last season. The champion’s record-breaking mark of 78 percent surpassed Tahm Kench, who appeared in 73 percent of all champion selects in 2018.
This season, we’re on pace to see two champions reach the 80-percent mark, with six of them eclipsing the 70-percent threshold. Kai’Sa and Renekton will both break the all-time champion presence record if they continue to be this popular through the end of the year.
Last season, Sett and Aphelios were the most dominant champions in professional play. They were the only two champions to be picked or banned in over 70 percent of games in 2020. And while neither of them has remained particularly dominant in 2021, they’ve still seen situational flex potential across several regions.
The biggest problem this season, however, is that the lack of diversity in champion picks is an issue that spreads to all five roles.
In the top lane, Renekton and Gnar have dominated the discussion, earning respective global pick/ban rates of 82 and 78 percent, according to gol.gg. They’re two of the three most present champions in the game this season. Only Kai’Sa, who’s appeared in 87 percent of champion selects this year, has been more dominant.
The jungle hasn’t seen much diversity in recent times, either. Since the prevalent nerfs to Goredrinker on Patch 11.3, champions that use Turbo Chemtank, including Hecarim and Udyr, are simply not going away despite several nerfs. Udyr and his 71-percent pick/ban rate worldwide is a champion to watch closely in Patch 11.9 since nerfs to Chemtank might finally cause the Spirit Walker to fall out of favor with professional players.
For mid lane players, control mages such as Orianna, Syndra, and Twisted Fate have remained prevalent throughout the start of the season. But at the very least, the mid lane meta has shown the most flair with its picks. Champions like Viktor, Azir, and Zoe have popped up from time to time, keeping the position fresher than others. Unlike other roles on the Rift that have been constricted by the confines of the meta, skilled mid laners could feasibly play up to eight or nine relevant champions this season.
And in the bottom lane, beyond the obvious elephant in the room that is Kai’Sa, the champion’s lane partners haven’t seen much variation in 2021, either. The support position has revolved mainly around champions with hard-engage abilities, such as Alistar, Rell, and Thresh, all three of which have consistently hovered near the 70-percent pick/ban threshold throughout 2021.
We’re on pace to see record-breaking lows when it comes to champion diversity this season—and the problem extends to nearly every position on the Rift. Twenty-four champions on the roster post a pick/ban rate of 33 percent heading into the halfway point of the year, according to gol.gg. With 153 champions in League, that number essentially means that just 15 percent of the roster is holding the professional meta with a vice grip by appearing in a third of all games.
And while Riot has done a fair amount of work over the course of recent patches to bring more stylistic champions into the meta—especially in the jungle—we’ve yet to see those changes implemented on the professional stage.
With a month-long break between the closing of regional leagues and the start of the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational, pro players won’t be back on stage until Patch 11.9 is front and center. Perhaps at that tournament, which begins on May 6, fans can expect to see variations in the meta following nerfs to the Turbo Chemtank meta, as well as several engage-focused support champions.
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