Pantheon has been banned 100 times and picked once out of the 101 games played thus far during the 2019 League of Legends World Championship. But why has the Unbreakable Spear drawn so much attention? The answer lies within Pantheon’s utility and relevance throughout the game primarily thanks to his E.
Ever since Pantheon’s rework in Patch 9.16, he’s become an entirely new beast. He still maintains a semi-global presence with his R, Grand Starfall, but now he doesn’t fall off moving past the early game. Pantheon is reliable, offers plenty of damage, and can go just about anywhere. So much so that teams on red side have been essentially forced to tossing a ban at Pantheon, because he will assuredly be picked first if left open.
Early game made easy
Pantheon has the upper hand going into just about every lane matchup. The point and click stun on his W, Shield Vault, lets Pantheon easily engage or prevent follow up, which enables Pantheon to consistently use his combos in lane. Additionally, Pantheon’s E, Aegis Assault, makes it almost impossible for any champion to trade back because of the invulnerability attached. Pantheon can even double his E’s duration to 2.5 seconds by empowering it with his passive. Along with his damage output, Pantheon almost always has no problem sailing through lane phase.
Furthermore, his kit is perfect for setting up early game ganks and tower dives. There’s no fear of missing skills shots with Shield Vault, so junglers can immediately layer on damage effortlessly. Additionally, juggling turret aggro or even solo diving under tower is made 10 times easier because Aegis Assault blocks turret damage.
We saw this during the Worlds play-in match between MEGA Esports and Lowkey Esports. Around five minutes in, Nuttapong “G4” Menkasikan on Pantheon used his ultimate to dive top lane with Atit “Rockky” Phaomuang on Camille. G4 stunned Nguyễn “Hani” Tuấn Phát’s GangPlank under tower and blocked the turret aggro with Aegis Assault as Rockky finished the kill.
Right now, the Worlds meta is heavily focused around the early game, and Pantheon would make it that much simpler for teams to snowball leads if he weren’t banned.
Always relevant, always resilient
Similar to his early game, Pantheon has incredible setup throughout any given match. As a game progresses, Aegis Assault becomes critical to Pantheon’s backline prowess. Any time he has access to the backline, Pantheon can use his entire damage combo on carry target while surviving because of the immunity his E grants. Other meta backline champions like Qiyanna or even Kai’sa don’t have that luxury since it’s not built into their kits.
On top of this, his Q, Comet Spear, critically strikes enemies below 25 percent health, which in turn acts like an execute. This means Pantheon can remain relevant through late games by cleaning up kills for his teammates.
While not nearly as important as Aegis Assault, Pantheon’s ultimate adds a bonus to his already strong kit. As a semi-global skill, Pantheon can use Grand Starfall as a point of engage for his teammates or it can be used to join fights from far away.
Top, mid, jungle—maybe support?
Before his rework, we’d primarily see Pantheon in the top lane with occasional off-role picks here and there. Now, however, his kit makes him incredibly flexible. According to op.gg, he currently has a playrate of roughly 43 percent in top, 37 percent in mid, and 20 percent in the jungle. He was a relatively popular support option upon his 9.16 release as well.
Once again, Pantheon’s versatility comes from his consistent ability to set up and take trades without being punished, in addition to his ultimate which allows him to be anywhere on the map at any given time. The amount of utility and damage he offers can fill just about any slot a team is missing. Considering this, Pantheon’s 100 percent presence rate is further justified since teams likely want to eliminate any swapping scenarios their opponents may ensue.
Since Pantheon’s rework, he’s seen a few adjustments here and there which have made him slightly less popular outside of professional play. The most recent being a small nerf to his Q damage in Patch 9.20. Because the entirety of Worlds will run on Patch 9.19, however, it’s unlikely we’ll see a change in Pantheon’s pick/ban rates.