Predicting the Meta: The 2015 Season Top Lane
There are two positions that change the most with each passing season: top lane and the jungle. The changes to the jungle take place due to map changes, item changes, and champion changes, and I feel that the jungle has changed immensely since the new Summoners Rift was released. The top lane’s changes have been a bit more subtle. In the beginning of the 2014 season, the top lane meta was dominated by four champions: Renekton, Dr. Mundo, Shyvana, and later, Trundle.
After seeing this excruciating “farm fest” for several weeks, duelists Jax and Irelia began to see extensive play alongside Ryze and Kayle as AP options. Lulu and Gragas became priority picks later in the season until both saw considerable nerfs. After this, we saw the rise of top lane AD Nidalee, which also got nerfed into near obscurity. The end of the season saw two very popular picks get picked or banned in nearly every game: Maokai and Alistar. Both saw several nerfs after that, and the top lane meta seems pretty wide open at this point. What champions will grace us with their presence this year?
Lissandra Loses Ground in Wake of Jarvan IV
In certain competitive matchups, top tier jungle champion Jarvan IV has been chosen as a semi-counter to AP mage Lissandra. It was a bit of a surprise, to me at least, to see Lissandra back in meta as a top lane champion, but with all the crowd control and damage she provides, it was certainly coming at some point. Jarvan IV provides a great amount of crowd control himself, can survive in top lane with a shield, and is fairly easy to last hit with. He could hold his own in a lane against Maokai, and he also has an escape if in trouble. The 2015 season may just be Jarvan IV’s year.
Galio Moves Top to Deal with AP Top Lane Champions
I feel that this scenario may be a bit more unlikely than Jarvan IV and other duelists returning to top lane. However, Galio’s AP scales with his magic resistance, and therefore, if other AP carries join Lissandra and Rumble in the top lane, Galio could be a viable option. He provides a great amount of crowd control with his ultimate, as well as his Q, which doubles as a slow. However, this is only an option if top lane is dominated by AP carries. With Irelia, Jayce, and Jax still played fairly often, Galio would not be able to compete. However, we may see Galio is a possible counterpick against primarily AP compositions.
Maokai Receives His Final Nerf
Despite a few nerfs over the patches this season, Maokai continues to receive heavy play in the top lane. He provides stellar protection, engagement, and poke to any team composition. Maokai still seems to be able to deal with everything that comes his way in top lane, but if he receives any more nerfs, we could see a massive decline in his use.
The Return of Riven
I am not talking about Alliance jungler Shook playing Riven in the jungle again. With popular season 3 picks, such as Jayce, Rumble, and Jax returning to the crowded top lane meta, Riven may make another break into the competitive scene that doesn’t involve her in the mid lane or jungle. Hopefully this time, Riven will stick in the meta a bit longer than a week (the amount of time Riven mid lasted in the meta at the beginning of the 2014 season). A skilled Riven player can duke it out with the best duelists in the game, and it’s always an entertaining lane to watch. If this happens, BoxBox will look for an LCS team, guaranteed.
Ahoy Mates! It’s Gangplank
I probably was not the only one to gasp when Team Roccat locked in Gangplank for top laner Overpow. Although the Gangplank wasn’t greatly successful, his ultimate can turn around the tide of a fight at any point on the map. I’m not saying that Gangplank will outduel Jax, Riven, and Irelia, but if those three champions receive nerfs, welcome Gangplank and every other outdated duelist back into the top lane meta.
Shen and the Return of the Global Composition
When I watched Curse Academy jungler Saintvicious run a successful jungle Karthus, my imagination ran wild at the types of compostitions a team could synergize with this. It brought me back to the days when Team SoloMid ran Shen top, Nocturne jungle, and Karthus mid, a team composition that stacked up and created a massive assault from out of nowhere. I really want to see an adaptation where Curse Academy runs Shen top, uses Saintvicious’s jungle Karthus, and mid laner Keane’s special mid lane Hecarim. Even without the return of the global composition (it might be just my wishful thinking), Shen could still be a solid and safe top lane champion that would see more play with a slight buff.
Gnar Rules the World
Gnar is another very popular pick currently. He is so popular in fact that in the North American Expansion Tournament (offline), Gnar was banned in all but two games. In those two games that he was not banned, he was played. With communication and strong team play, Gnar is possibly the strongest top lane champion currently. Even with another nerf from Riot, he will still be a strong pick. I predict that until they nerf Gnar into the ground, he will be played and banned out of every week in competitive play this season.
Some of these hypothetical scenarios seem like a long shot, but if certain events happen, then the meta will shift into one of these. It all depends on where Riot wants to make changes, and how top lane players view these changes. These are all predictions, but they may never happen. The only thing I know as fact is no one wants to see Dr. Mundo versus Shyvana ever again.