League of Legends: Champion Mastery vs. the Meta

Personal Experience

“My KDA on Udyr is a 5.0, therefore Udyr must be meta.” Not only is this a false statement, it also demonstrates one of the most misunderstood concepts in League of Legends: Champion Strength. No, not just how strong Braum is or how many push-ups Darius does pre-game, but how they perform in lane, team fights, and objective control. Different champions have different strengths or stronger areas, but how these specific areas compare to other champions is what determines their strength.

 

For example, Viktor has very strong wave clear as soon as he grabs his first upgrade on his laser. Viktor’s E ability is the one of the strongest ways to shove lane. Combined with his Q poke and Thunderlord’s proc, he can abuse his laner fairly easily. This combo, including the passive shield, should win every single trade that happens in the mid lane. This is also why Viktor has such a low win rate in lower elo: his mastery cap.

Viktor, a Prime Example

Viktor as a champion is not strong. Different champions can push the wave as fast as Viktor can. Orianna can chunk Viktor out of lane just as easily. Anivia scales really hard into late game, just as hard as Viktor can. However, I have yet to lose lane on Viktor in any of my ranked games in Season 7, with around an 80% win rate in around 25 games. This is because how Viktor can perform at a high level if the summoner has mastered the ins and outs of Viktor’s lane phase. The following is Viktor’s statistics such as win rate and lane placement in the mid lane.

Viktor
{Courtesy of Champion.gg}

As you can see, Viktor is currently out-performed by many different mid laners. In fact, Dun, a Challenger Viktor main, doesn’t play Viktor as much anymore. This is due to his mediocre performance compared to other control mages.

This brings us to the topic of why my Viktor win rate is high, but Viktor’s win rate in general is pretty low: champion mastery can out-perform basic strength. Arguments such as providing personal KDA or win rates are nullified by champion statistics. Viktor is not strong, but my Viktor gameplay is.

Statistics vs. Champion Mastery

If you are confused by the difference between the two, Viktor’s basic kit is not what wins me my Viktor games. My experience with Viktor’s kit is what wins me my games. Another prime example is my Udyr OTP friend who has around 250 games on Udyr with a 60% win rate and around a 4.0 KDA. Udyr’s kit isn’t overloaded – in fact being considered one of the least useful champions in the entire game – but he has so much experience with Udyr’s kit that my friend knows where his champion shines and how to use Udyr’s kit effectively.

M.E.T.A.

Another topic of discussion is what makes something “meta”, as I just proved above that win rates and KDA ratios are not what does it. “META” stands for Most Effective Tactic Available, originating from StarCraft, and is basically what specific area of a game should be performing better than others; notice how SHOULD is in bold.

Statistics are the guide lines for the meta, showing what is performing well and how often it is played. However, the Meta goes beyond simple numbers. Right now, we are experiencing a “tank meta”, where tanks are performing really well, and their jobs in team fights – engaging or finding a pick – are highlighted within games. Tanks are not essential in games, but makes them easier.

But you also have to read further into the meta, something that even us analysts have a hard time doing sometimes.

The meta not only means that tanks are really strong, but that the counters to tanks are really strong. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I like to call this the “anti-meta”, or specific champions or items that counter what the meta like to build.

Anti-Meta

Control mages are known for their ability to “control” (heh) areas of a team fight. For example, Anivia will place her ultimate in front of the carries. This means that the enemy front line has to walk either through Anivia’s ultimate to get to the back line, path a different way which delays the enemy front line, or simply give up diving the back line and peel off from the fight.

Another effective zoning tool is Taliyah’s wall, my personal favorite team fight ultimate. Yes, team fight ultimate. Her ult is extremely effective at roaming and picking off carries, but it can also serve its purpose of zoning off the enemy carries from a fight, zoning off the enemy support from a fight, or soloing out the carries from the front line, thus either forcing flashes for her ultimate or winning a team fight in most cases.

This means that the anti-meta is control mages, and thus control mages will perform strongly against most front lines.

How the Meta Changes

Finally, let’s talk about what changes the meta, or how the meta adapts. In most cases, changes to an item will make the item really strong; this means that any champion that builds the item will experience stronger performance in-game.

Maybe, for example, Orianna experiences a nerf to her Command: Attack poke in lane. This means that her abusive lane phase, which used to bully champions that do not have strong trading ability during lane phase, is no longer as abusive as it used to be. This makes champions which usually have an unfavorable match up into Orianna more available to play.

Theorycraft

Theorycrafting and the Meta

A final way that the meta can change is a concept called “theory crafting”. This is a term used in several different MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft. Theorycrafting means to play around with different ways to play the game, and different builds which may be more effective and efficient than what is widely accepted to be the best way.

Korea as a region is accepted as the best region, having strong performances in World competitions, namely SKT T1 with their annual world’s win. Korea is also the region where a lot of the “theory crafting” goes down! They invent a lot of different builds, such as the diverse Riven builds awhile back. Korean Riven mains played a life-steal heavy build when lethality was in its prime, whereas NA Riven mains rushed lethality items.

In general, the meta is always shifting and revolving around item, champion, or build changes. That being said, most of my articles for Caliber Esports will be dealing with the current meta under the patch, specifically which champions are performing well.

 

If you need to know which champions are top-tier in Patch 7.17, check out BadLuckBrain’s Tier List.

Stay tuned for Meta updates with your metagame analyst Talavin!