The meta is dead - long live the meta | LoL Esports
The meta is dead - long live the meta
What if the meta really changed?
In Week 11, Fnatic trotted out a team comp that had players and analysts scratching their heads. And while many will regard that match as a throwaway game due to its insignificance on the Summer split results, there's a lot more depth to Fnatic's strategy than is immediately apparent. In short, Fnatic ran what can only be described as a DOTA comp, as nothing of this sort is common in League of Legends - yet.
What is at work here, and how can it influence the meta for the better?
Dota doesn’t use a positional hierarchy like League of Legends does. While League has top, jungle, mid, ADC, and support roles, DOTA uses 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 positional identifiers. There isn’t a direct parallel between the systems, but there is a basis for comparison. The lower the number, the more that farm is focused onto that champion. Often this can go a step further - the lower the number, the more that champion needs farm to succeed. Take the following team composition as an example:
- Tristana - ADC bot
- Ahri - mid
- Mundo - top
- Elise - jungle
- Morgana - support
Tristana is a late-game hyper-carry, and does not begin to have a notable advantage over other marksman until her level-scaling and itemization kick in. Because of this, she is given a majority of the farm. Ahri is an assassin who shines in the mid-game with the next highest level of farm. These two are the primary damage dealers who require the highest level of itemization across the team comp. Comparatively, Morgana reaches diminishing returns once she finishes Frost Queen’s Claim and Zhonya’s Hourglass and Elise is effective with only a minimum amount of items due to the utility in her kit.
Sometimes these roles can switch a bit when champions like Ryze enter the fray:
- Ryze - mid
- Sivir - ADC bot
- Evelynn - jungle
- Karma - support
- Zac - top
In this team comp, Ryze (an AP champion) is the hard carry, and Sivir is secondary with a mid-game power spike. Evelynn and Karma can both be built for damage easier than Zac, and therefore it can be advantageous for a team to give them more farm. This numerical hierarchy doesn’t apply directly to certain champions, but rather the role a specific champion has in a specific team composition. Jarvan, for example, can be built for damage or for tankiness, ranging from a 2 or 3, all the way to a 4 or 5, depending on the comp.
With that in mind, let’s look at Fnatic’s comp from the Week 11 game versus Roccat.
On paper, this comp looks strange, to say the least:
- Blitzcrank - top (sOAZ)
- Elise - jungle (Cyanide)
- Kassadin - mid (xPeke)
- Vayne - ADC bot (Rekkles)
- Morgana - support (Yellowstar)
Here is how the same composition looked with the numbering hierarchy:
- Vayne - ADC bot (Rekkles)
- Kassadin - mid (xPeke)
- Elise - jungle / roaming (Cyanide)
- Morgana - top (Yellowstar)
- Blitzcrank - jungle / roaming (sOAZ)
With two supports, lots of hard CC, and late-game hyper carries, this is a dangerous team composition. Morgana is traditionally played only as a 2 or 5 - she is either the support or the secondary carry in mid lane. Here is what farm looked like at the 7:24 mark of this game.
Fnatic’s strategy involved employing three self-sufficient champions across the solo lanes. Morgana, who is very hard to kill (even 1v2) played safely in top and farmed slowly, while Kassadin and Vayne farmed steadily in their lanes 1v1.
Notice that Morgana (4) is fourth in farm, even trailing Elise (3), despite being a solo laner. Even though the jungler usually gets less farm than solo laners, it doesn’t have to be this way. In Fnatic’s execution, it was more important for Elise, not Morgana, to provide consistent damage, and therefore it was more beneficial for Elise to eat up the farm.
Why would Fnatic or anyone else play this comp? The answer lies in the lane pressure that their additional “support” champion gives.
This double-gank pressure gave each of their solo laners a reprieve, and got them ahead of their opponents. In normal isolation, Kassadin’s anti-magic kit is not equipped to deal with Zed, and Vayne is not the most efficient farmer early game. Yet look at the farm at 11:12.
Glance back up at the numerical hierarchy of the champions.
Fnatic used their gank pressure to get their carries ahead - this was intentional.
By using three champions (the 3,4, and 5 positions) who need minimal farm to have an impact, alongside champions who need lots of items before they are ready to dominate, you can snowball late game hyper-carries.
What Quickshot says during this segment is key. “Fnatic are intentionally leaving these kills for Rekkles. They put together this comp to single out targets of Roccat. And they’re pulling it off. It’s unorthodox, but it’s working…”
The Meta That Was
While the way I've framed this issue may be unique, the idea of changing champion's roles based on team compositions is nothing new. Take a similar composition like this:
- Karthus - mid
- Irelia - top
- Urgot - ADC bot
- Lee Sin - jungle
- Alistar - roaming
This is another team that is designed to take advantage of two late-game hyper-carries, with hard CC and a strong ganking presence to get lanes ahead that may not normally be able to. Does this look familiar? It should.
It's actually Moscow 5 in the Grand Finals of IEM Hanover.
Then there is this slightly different approach:
- Vayne - ADC bot
- Janna - mid
- Lulu - top
- Nunu - jungle
- Taric - support
This comp in particular emphasizes the support attributes of four champions to protect a late game hyper carry. Janna mid? No one would ever run this surely...
Other than the Season 2 World Champion Taipei Assassins.
Are you starting to see both the similarities and differences?
Why run such strange compositions?
For one, it adds an element of surprise that many teams won’t see coming. But at a much more fundamental level, sometimes it's more important to get additional pressure on lanes than it is to protect an ADC in bot lane, particularly if your late-game or mid-game carries are in other lanes. This enables flexibility in ganks. Normally, at a competitive level it is impossible to gank top or mid lane with four people without specific global abilities. But in a composition like this, you are able to pressure any lane with more members than a normal League composition is prepared to deal with.
"Sometimes it's more important to get additional pressure on lanes than it is to protect an ADC in bot lane, particularly if your late-game or mid-game carries are in other lanes."
To put it more simply, don’t you want to tunnel early kills onto your team’s Ryze or Jax? What about instead of just a jungle gank, you have a jungle and support ganking top lane at four minutes into the game?
Calling back to Fnatic versus Roccat, the game featured a Vayne who had nearly all the kills and a non-mid lane Morgana with triple digit farm and the Teleport summoner spell.
See the advantage?
As Quickshot said, it’s quite unorthodox, but perhaps it’s better! For the last three years, we’ve lived in a world of duo bot, two solo lanes, and a jungle. But what if there are different comps that ignore the current meta completely? What if sometimes, it's better to do things differently?
Figuring this out may destroy the meta - for the better.