It would be a mistake to say that the game had been drastically changed by patch 3.14, but there have been some notable changes. In this article, I will detail the North American meta for patch 3.15. However, given the current dominance of the Korean scene, I cannot help but allude to the Korean scene, which differs in subtle ways from the North American scene. These will serve as minor spoilers to my upcoming articles on OGN picks and bans.
While the Korean meta heavily favors mobility, the North American meta focuses largely on pushing potential, and most picks can be centered around that.
Much of this is covered in previous articles (Top, Jungle, Bot), but I will be tying together the general focus of the current meta here. I will be covering the dominant champions in every lane — typically 3 — and explaining what makes them strong.
Right now, the meta isn’t really about poking or teamfighting, but instead about long, extended engages. There are three types of engages:
Bot Lane has two purposes. First, they want to get their Marksman farmed to be a threat in team fights. Second, they want to focus on tower pushing. This is most evident in 2v1 lanes, which often turn into a race over which 2v1 can take the tower first. However, with the decrease in the value of early towers, the previous increase in the armor of early towers, and the general decrease in snowballing, 2v1 lanes have shifted towards 3v1 dives over 2v2 pushes vs the top laner and the jungler. This has gone hand-in-hand with a shift in what Marksmen and Supports are popular. What defines these popular champions?
The Marksmen are typically very strong pushers with strong burst.
The Supports are typically heavy CC champions with both lockdown and burst, whether they be mages like Annie or tanks like Leona/Thresh.
Supports are definitely the point where the North American meta most clearly mirrors the the Korean meta.
In the 3.13 patch, Annie had been the go-to support, with a 96% pick/ban rate, despite only a 50% win rate. Sona and Thresh both saw high pick/ban rates (67% and 42%), while boasting much higher win rates (62% and 71%)
In the 3.14 patch, however, things changed somewhat, establishing the trend for Preseason 4. Annie still maintained her ‘go-to’ quality, with a 90% pick/ban rate and a 59% win rate. Thresh saw about the same pick/ban rate (44%), but a much lower win rate (47% down from 71%). This is likely due to his significant lack of scaling as compared with Leona, who rose from a 0% pick/ban rate to 24%, with a staggering 70% win rate. Karma also saw a huge pick rate increase (jumping to 22% from 0%), but won only 1 of her 8 games — a quickly discarded experiment.
In the 3.15 patch (just the 7 games of the semi-finals), Thresh, Leona, and Annie were banned in 16/21 games, and picked in the remaining games. It’s hard to conclude much from win rates with only 5 games played, but it is interesting to note that Thresh did not win in either game he was picked.
In North America, these are also the dominant supports. Let’s take a peek at why:
Annie is the remaining viable mage in the NA meta. She brings burst an initiation that can only be matched by Zyra, but is not nearly so easy to dive/pick. Why? If Blitz hooks Zyra, all she can do is drop her ultimate before she dies: no plants, no dps, nothing. Annie can drop all of her spells in a fraction of a second. Moreover, Annie’s damage is much burstier, something which suits her well in the current meta. She doesn’t perform that well against poke, something which is not heavily favored in the currrent meta anyway. In lane, she can zone enemy champions by leaving her stun up, while in the mid-late game, she can make picks or initiate team-fights with an appropriate flash+Tibbers AoE stun.
Annie, like most supports, is best in dragons. Her initiation is extremely strong, and the threat of Tibbers can prevent a team from wanting to engage.
Leona is one of my favorite champions. Her art is designed by Iron Stylus, who ranks up there with Xypherous as ‘Rioters I’d love to meet’. Just look at that art and tell me it doesn’t make you want to play League of Legends? Even just going for pure images, count the number of birds you can find. On her armor alone, I’m counting 3. But I digress.
Leona punishes the old style of support: lots of setup, sustain, but too squishy and too skill-shot oriented to handle being dove on. She used to be considered extremely all-in, but that was before Preseason 4. Now, she gets a bit more gold, and isn’t too squishy to engage ever in the late-game. As such, she doesn’t need to snowball to remain relevant. While Annie often relies on flash to initiate, Leona can simply drop her ultimate from range, or attempt to lead with her lower-cooldown E. Leona also fits well in the current meta, on account of filling the tank role, making the jungler’s job a little easier if the fall behind (or are a damage-oriented jungler).
Leona extends at all 3 types of the major team fights present in the current meta. Of course her CC is good at initiating fights around dragon, but her tankiness allows her to lead tower dives when necessary, and the low cooldown on her Zenith Blade and her stun means that in an extended kite/chase she can lock down priority targets again and again.
If Annie is the long-dominant support (overplayed) and Leona is the rising star (underplayed), Thresh is the underperformer (overrated). That is not to say that Thresh is not a good support. He offers a little bit — make that a decent amount — of everything. But unlike Annie or Leona who bring initiation on demand, plus heavy damage or CC, Thresh only has one — hit or miss — initiation tool, his grab. And while Annie and Leona both have great skins, Thresh has – sorry, off-topic again…
Thresh has decent peel with Flay and his Ultimate, and offers some repositioning via his lantern. But none of them can compare to 2 hard CCs (Leona), high burst (Annie), or a spammable stun (both).
Annie has long range, letting her stay safe. Leona has extreme tankiness, letting her dive in. Thresh is sort of ranged and a little bit tanky. All of these things equate to a kit that is solid, and a good safe support pick, but nothing you pick to dominate. This is especially a weakness in 2v1 lanes, where he’s not tanky enough to dive towers early game, but not ranged enough to freely poke at them.
Thresh excels in kite/chase situations, with how much mobility related CC he brings to the table, not to mention his lantern.
Marksmen are definitely where the divergence from the NA and KR scenes is strongest. The Korean scene is all about mobility, with all of the dominant ones but one having a dash. The North American scene is all about tower-pushing ability. ADCs need to be able to kill a minion wave quickly, put damage on a tower quickly, and escape quickly.
In patch 3.14, Sivir, Lucian, and Jinx dominated the ADC scene. Lucian and Sivir were both nerfed in 3.15, and Jinx stands out in exceedingly dominant. Let’s look at what an ADC needs at this point:
Leave Jinx alone bot lane and you risk losing a tower almost instantly. Worse, her ultimate does huge damage — including 35% of enemies’ missing health — if you, say, choose to try to take Baron while she is bot lane.
On top of that, Jinx wins almost every lane matchup due to her long range for poke, and her AS steroid for longer trades. Her only notable weakness is a lack of mobility. She is to Marksman what Season 3 Leona was to supports: a bit heavily all-in, slightly clunky, and needing to snowball a bit to take off. But if she does, she becomes a force to be reckoned with, and is almost as hard to pin down as Caitlyn, due to her traps and long-ranged slow, not to mention her passive.
Jinx is fantastic at tower sieges due to her long range (although she also split-pushes towers extremely well due to her Attack Speed steroid. However, her passive makes her exceptionally strong in extended chases/kiting situations, where one kill or assist can snowball into 3, or simply let her escape. She is not bad in dragon fights either, because her traps fill up a significant portion of the river, and her ultimate as well.
Lucian is the cool Marksman Ezreal wishes he could be when he grows up: bursty, highly mobile, and able to poke from a huge range. He has largely favorable lane matchups, due to being able to poke from range or go in for a kill. He also has extremely strong tower pushing, due to his passive. Every time he is at a tower, he can put huge damage on it just from comboing his abilities and his passive. On top of that, with 2 AoE abilities and his ultimate, he can destroy a minion wave quickly.
Lucian is fantastic at tower sieges, because he only needs one second to put huge damage on a tower with his passive. He also melts through dragon, and performs extremely well in extended chases due to the reset on his E and his ability to put out damage while moving via his ultimate.
Sivir has a little bit of everything: long-ranged poke, AoE damage, and an AoE speed boost that can be used to engage or disengage. Her low range is more than made up for by her spell shield, not to mention the long-ranged damage she puts out with Boomerang Blade and Ricochet.
However, her ability to siege towers is limited due to her low auto-attack range.
Season 3 saw the rise of a lot of powerful assassins, especially AD assassins. Season 4 has seen them fall back out of favor. Teamfights are no longer just about a really powerful ADC standing behind a tank well and shredding everybody down.
This means that tanks with a lot of CC are a lot weaker — actually, the weakness of tanks with a lot of CC is probably the cause of the weakness of teamfight ADCs — because the ADCs they’re protecting are less important. It also means that assassins are a lot weaker because killing the ADC isn’t the 100% priority it’s been in past metas. Finally, the fact that most top laners are tanks means that having a source of magic damage mid is important.
Right now, mages have 3 important roles:
Gragas basically is the current meta. He has incredible AoE and can clear a wave instantly. He can poke under towers. He can isolate and burst a target who gets out of position. He can roam quickly with his bodyslam for mobility. But he has great extended damage as well, with both his Q and his E having a low cooldown. On top of that, his W even gives him a bit of consistent auto-attack damage. His main weakness is the early game due to being melee.
Gragas excels at poking or zoning at towers, because his barrels can zone teams away from killing off his minion wave quickly enough. He is also strong at dragons due to the burst on his Q-ult combo, and is extremely strong in extended chases due to the low cooldown of his barrel and bodyslam.
Speaking of being melee as an only disadvantage, Kassadin is basically the teamfight version of Gragas. He has no poke for towers or dragons, but his ability to chase down and kill a target is unrivaled, and his late game is ludicrously strong. Moreover, while his laning phase is terrible, he can have an impact even when 50 cs behind.
Ziggs is extremely strong, with enough AoE to clear a wave instantly, heavy AoE burst, and two tools of disengage.
Ziggs is not as strong in extended engages due to lack of mobility, but has massive zoning potential with bouncing bombs and his minefield, both of which make him very strong in tower sieges. His ultimate can also be used to force a team off of a tower.
Junglers aren’t just spam-gankers anymore: they are objective control, and in many ways, the backbone of a team’s strategy. If your jungler has lots of AoE waveclear, you probably want to focus on defending towers early. If your jungler has good poke or the ability to dive towers early, you probably want to focus on taking towers early. If your jungler has good sustain, you just might be able to take an early dragon!
Junglers need some of the following: ranged waveclear, fast clear speed, mobility, CC, burst, tankiness. Right now, there are 3 really strong junglers:
Elise is basically the perfect jungler. Ranged stun in ganks? Gap-closer? Huge burst? If she gets fed, she can build heavy MPen, but if she doesn’t, she can use her stun and high % health burst to either peel and burst down bruisers or dive onto a priority target.
She’s great in tower dives due to her ability to dodge tower aggro with rappel. But on top of that, she can actually attack towers from range and use her poke under towers. She is also quite strong at taking dragon due to her ability to have spiderlings tank it for her, and very strong in extended jungle fights due to the mobility her rappel grants her.
Move over, Jarvan, there’s a new ganker/initiator/bruiser in town. Vi can dodge wards with her Q, has 2 CCs — gap-closing CCs, mind you — once she hits 6, she can gank you from miles away. Like Elise, she has a whole gamut of builds ranging from bursty assassin, bruiser with one extended damage item, or CDR tank.
Her % health damage means she destroys dragon. The low cd on her Q — not to mention the shield her passive grants her — lets her continue in long fights. She’s not great at towers, but most junglers — Elise aside — really only contribute the ability to initiate dives on towers.
Olaf is the Nasus of Season 4. He has strong AoE waveclear with his axes, allowing him to defend towers in 1v2 lanes, and a spammable slow that allows him to chase champions all the way back to their towers. Most junglers can show up to a 1v2 lane to hold or help. Olaf can start an advantageous 2v2. If he wants to, he can clear the jungle extremely quickly. With high CDR (or even without it), he is great in extended fights due to the reduction on the CD of his axes from picking them up. He gets extremely tanky in the late game, and can’t be CC’d for 6 seconds, allowing her to dive hard onto any ADC.
Top lane is, by far, the most homogeneous lane at the moment. It is dominated by manaless champions with high sustain, good wave clear, and mobility, especially those with at least one hard CC or spammable soft CC.
To simplify, these three all fill the same role. They are incredibly hard to push out of lane due to their sustain. They all have mobility tools, and they can all build extremely tanky. Renekton has a hybrid damage available that grants him access to a little more damage, while Rengar can theoretically be built pure damage.
When it comes to early game strength, Renekton is the clear winner, with Rengar coming a close second and Shyvana not far behind. Mundo is a bit weaker due to the health cost on his abilities. This is most pronounced by their first item purchases, where Renekton tends to be ahead of the other laners.
Why? I think the answer is simple: physical vs magical damage. The two items these champions build first are typically Spirit Visage and Sunfire Cape. Sunfire Cape is the stronger pushing item, while Spirit Visage is the better sustain item. Against Mundo and Shyvana, you can afford to go Spirit Visage first. This makes you stronger against the mid laner — should they roam — and lets you stay in lane indefinitely.
On the other hand, against Renekton and Rengar, you need to to Sunfire Cape first, due to their higher physical damage. However, once both items are complete, Mundo starts to really show their strengths, with extreme tankiness and sustain, but naturally high poke damage. In fact, Mundo is the only champion of the 4 to bring poke to dragon/tower sieges, making him somewhat unique.
In the mid-game, Rengar starts to take off, with strong burst and a ranged stun that can initiate for ganks. As well, his ultimate allows him to roam to make plays.
Finally, in the late-game, Mundo can become almost invincible.
Regardless, these tanks are best in tower/dragon sieges, where they can tank forever without being too hurt. Rengar is strong in extended chases if there are bushes to enable his jumping, while Mundo is the best of the 4 in extended chases due to his cleaver.
Some champions aren’t great for the current meta, but have enough general strength to stick around. They’re typically very safe picks with unique strengths.
Sona is the poster child for mediocrity, doing a little bit of everything. She’s simply too squishy and ultimate reliant at the moment: sure, she can AoE stun initiate, but Annie can too, and still bring more stuns.
Ezreal and Caitlyn are slippery ADCs with long-ranged poke and extremely strong 2v1 lanes. They will always be strong as a result. There’s not much to say about their strengths, as a result. They don’t particularly fit into the meta. They are just very strong in 2v2 lanes, and even stronger in 2v1 lanes.
Caitlyn pushes towers well, and they both deal very well with extended trades due to range and kiting abilities. However, they both have pretty low dragon damage.
Assassins just aren’t very strong right now. They may burst down a squishy support or the ADC, but the extremely tanky tanks will outlast them. As well, physical damage mid means you have low magic damage, and few magic assassins have been strong, historically. Maybe LeBlanc will show up, but Reginald doesn’t play anymore :p
Everybody seemed to be all over Shyvana and Mundo in the jungle at the start of the Preseason: they have strong clear speeds, are manaless, and get extremely tanky with items. But unfortunately, the honeymoon period with these champions seems to have ended. They simply don’t offer enough in the early/mid game to warrant picking them, as your team can fall incredibly behind as they farm, unable to provide much in the way of pressure.
Yes, she’s manaless. Yes, she has escapes and mobility. Yes, she can snowball well. but if she doesn’t snowball, she feels a bit disappointing, especially top where she won’t see a squishy champion for 20 minutes. I think she’s stronger mid where she can roam. She’s great in this meta, with gap closers out the wazoo serving her well in extended teamfights. There’s just no reason to run her top. The same goes for Yasuo.
Here’s my predictions on a few champions who could be pretty strong in the current meta.
Lulu saw 3 bans at OGN — a sign of things to come, in my opinion. She does well against Thresh and Leona in lane due to her level of poke. She offers a ton of tankiness, which helps against the bursty, divey bot lanes we see everywhere. She pushes towers quickly due to her range. The main weakness I think she brings is a lack of synergy with either of the commonly bought gold items. She is not tanky enough to think about FotM (not to mention a ranged champion), but she doesn’t really benefit from the Shurelya’s active to care that much about Talisman. While initiating supports can really tank advantage of the active to force engages, Lulu doesn’t have much in the way of a hard engage skill.
Nami saw three picks, not three bans, at OGN. At first glance, she seems even likelier than Lulu to break into the scene. She has multiple forms of engage (like Leona/Annie), relatively spammable hard CC (like Leona/Annie), and also carries a heal. But it is exactly that versatility that holds her back, as it forces her to make sacrifices elsewhere. She is squishy with little easy self-peel, has a hard-to-land stun (knockup), and doesn’t bring much damage. Moreover, her initiation isn’t really improved by Shurelia’s, due to its significant delay. Still, she has good ranged CC, good poke, and a decent initiate. If she can survive the laning phase against Leona/Annie, she brings a lot of tools.
Draven is a lane bully in a meta of lane bullies. This makes him very strong (the meta suits his talents) but also very weak (he doesn’t bully them as hard as he could a weaker laner like Vayne). His lack of a dash or spell shield makes him a very dangerous pick without a tank. The current strength of Leona and Thresh certainly benefits him, but if we can learn from recent matchups, Lucian tends to beat him in lane. On top of that, his push power is lower.
His towers are weaker than you’d hope, but extended chases and dragons are where he shines, due to the AoE from his ultimate and the reset synergy between his Attack Speed steroid and his axe-catching mini-game.
Amidst a bunch of kiting ADCs who bring utility and long range for poking towers, Ashe and Varus seem right at home. They also has the range to deal with Jinx during the laning phase. Their lack of mobility and early burst doesn’t fit well with Annie/Leona, however, which forces them to either play passively until level 6 or branch out to new supports.
Nidalee just seems perfect for this meta, with incredibly poke and sustain, mobility with extended damage. And in Korea, she’s drawing a number of bans. But she hasn’t quite caught on yet.
Syndra rose to dominance towards the end of Season 3, but never saw much competitive play. She has incredible burst, good poke that be used to set up an initiation, and long range for sieges. She also has very good extended damage. Her main weaknesses?
It’s no secret that I love the big tanks of Season 2: Nautilus, Maokai, Amumu, Skarner, and so on. But one of them seems particularly poised to rise to the occasion: Amumu.
Amumu, like Vi, has a spammable gap-closing CC.
Amumu, like Vi, has a strong teamfight ultimate.
Amumu, like Vi, has a lot of % health damage.
He may have a slightly weaker early game, but his clear speed is very high, he is naturally tanky, and he brings a ridiculous amount to teamfights. With the upcoming rework of the Spirit Stone items, he is poised to become extremely strong, especially with champions like Mundo, Shyvana, and Lee Sin — those same champions who forced tanks out of the meta with counter-jungling and invasions — falling out of favor
This is hardly a prediction. Rumble has always been strong. He brings a ton of AoE damage to teamfights, and a main weakness of his has always been the lack of tankiness he leaves your team with. With supports getting tankier now, that weakness is lessened. He brings ridiculous zoning potential at dragon and towers with his ultimate. I think the only thing holding him back at the moment is the strength of Spirit Visage on the deadly 4 top laners. With its upcoming nerf (10% CDR), look to see Rumble back in Season 4, at the very least in the hands of Cloud9’s very own Balls.
Jax remains quite strong, taking towers almost instantly when left alone. He’s just not being left alone very much with the manaless tanks top. Still, he can be used to great effect, with a 2-0 showing in the OGN semifinals.
So how can we use our knowledge about the meta to help us? With a little bit of ingenuity. We like ranged engages, ability to kite, high-ranged tower damage and spammable abilities? Why not Ashe? Teams are relying on ranged poke to siege towers? Could Yasuo’s wall turn the tide? Knowing the meta doesn’t just give you the ability to follow it lockstep, it is also a prerequisite for breaking it (meaningfully).
Mattias “Gentleman Gustaf” Lehman is a big time nerd-gamer who has been involved in both SC2 and LoL. He has ranked as high as Diamond 1 in solo queue and Diamond 3 in arranged 5s.
You can see his other work here: