Path Building Evolution.

How Riot has evolved the Meta over the years.

Riot has always been developing and altering the items and game style from their popular game, League of Legends. This has affected both laning and what roles could carry their potential Solo Queue games, yet it arguably has also ruined lanes, or altered them completely. League of Legends has been a major competitive game title for over five whole years now, that means that for five years we’ve been looking up to the pro’s, and practically copying their play styles in order to make ourselves better at the game. It is a well known fact that the LCS defines the Meta, but what exactly is the Meta, what made it adapt this way, and how will it further develop as time goes on. Lets start with how we got to where we are today, looking back at the mysterious Season one of League. When League of Legends was released, most players took the most direct, and easiest way to win, which so happened to be taking five “Attack Damage” Champions on the team and pushing, Attack Damage items had immense value, and since auto attacks didn't cost anything nor require anything special, it was one of the easiest play styles to win . Mages started off being extremely difficult, and the very distinct mana problems made them unfavourable in terms of pick order. Yet Season one of League didn’t remain as thus, swiftly evolving into a more AOE (Area Of Effect) damage team compositions. Next came the infamous era of the Tanks, where people stacked Five Sunfire Capes and were ultimately unkillable. Meta’s and strategies began to develop over time, and soon, Riot Games began participating, by helping shift the Meta to a more favourable outcome. If tanks were dominating the game, Riot would nerf tanky items, thus making Marksmen or Mages stronger again and so on.

 

The first large-scale LCS tournament was aired in 2010, and looking at the LCS today, its amazing just how fast and popular it has developed to become. At that time, the League of Legends Meta was all over the place, running unviable and unique positions such as Ashe Mid lane. The Meta slowly evolved, buffs, nerfs and gameplay elements were implemented into League of Legends, altering its play style and ultimately the objective. It started becoming less about kills and more about objectives and map control. Junglers were introduced and given an insane amount of power, while laners sat helplessly in lane trying to pocket some gold. Now obviously a lot of major factors has been changed from Season one in League of Legends, but throughout all of the game developments, League has managed to become what it is today, and despite some people hating Season five for its ‘Tanky’ Meta, League of Legends is undoubtedly becoming more entertaining and more team focused.

 

 

The Solo Top lane is one of the hardest lane’s for Riot to balance, because despite everything they’ve implemented into items, new champions and new game mechanics (Trinkets), Top has been and always will be vulnerable to being ganked, and ultimately being snowballed. During the early years of League of Legends, Assassins were played top and it was basically another mid lane, but unlike mid, it was easier for melee’s to survive due to the rapidly expanding ranged mages coming into play, but Top soon developed into the well known ‘Tank’ lane once Force of Nature and other tanky items was implemented. Force of Nature had a huge impact, offering insane value out of 2610 gold, it had magic resist, health regeneration and movement speed. Force of Nature was later split up into Warmogs and Spirit Visage, giving its insane health regeneration to Warmogs and its Magic Resist to Spirit Visage. An undeniably overpowered item it was, this allowed tanks to sit there and swallow up any damage a Mage tried to throw at them, but this in return, essentially rendered Mages useless. Heart of Gold also helped tanks get the required gold to practically be unkillable. With Force of Nature being ‘removed’, and it taking double the time for tanks to get their needed items, they slowly started to die down, and top lane was dominated by Fighters. Top became a brawl lane, a one for all where both players picked duel heavy Champions and fought it out like ‘real men’. This play style somehow managed to persist throughout the changes Riot implemented to the other roles, and even now in Season five, top lane consists of mostly Fighters and Tanks, and one can only wonder when the ‘good old’ assassins will come back to the Top Lane Island.

 

 

The Jungle, on the other hand, is a rapidly evolving role, with multiple item changes over the years. Riot doesn’t really seem to know what they want persist in the jungle, changing it a couple of times every season, yet despite this, the Jungle always seems to come back to the same pivot, revolving around Tanks with some sort of CC (Crowd Control) dominating. Junglers used to consist of getting the first couple of buffs, buying their precious GP10 (Gold per 10) and ganking consistently as their gold passively built up, but by Riot removing most of the GP10 items, it’s forced Junglers to farm, or fall increasingly behind, becoming more and more useless. In order to try fix it, Riot released new jungle items, ones that didn’t involve repetitive auto attacks and built into nothing of any value; The Spirit Jungle items. This opened Jungle much harder than Riot expected, allowing Champions that would have never before seen the Jungle to sit comfortably and farm all day. There were three main items, one for Tanks, one for Duelers, and the other for sustained Mages. This made Jungle a much more interesting position to play, and allowed a vast amount of experimentation, making it a much more popular role. Riot eventually removed those items, not happy with the flexibility it gave to the non-Junglers, and after nerfing the Jungle immensely, finally released items very similar to them. These items allowed your smite to define your play style, whether it's AFK farming, counter jungling continuously, or dueling other Champions. Once again this made the Jungle much more flexible, but just how much Riot will allow its players to experiment in the Jungle still remains an unknown factor.

 

 

The Marksman and Support role have always been intertwined, and by changing one you simultaneously change the other. Over the years Riot has been focused on making both of them relying heavily on each other. Marksman used to be a Solo lane, both ADC’s (Attack Damage Carries) sat in the bottom lane farming whilst the support roamed and got the more ‘snowbally’ lanes fed, yet as soon as Riot nerfed Vamp Sceptre from 400g to 800g, Marksman relied on their supports much more to sustain during laning phase. Sustain supports became much more dominant, and roaming slowly died down. By Riot changing something as small as the sustain item, the whole Bottom lane Meta managed to completely alter, from solo farming and scaling into a 2v2 duelling lane, one where health is a precious resource. Riot also decided to buff the Support lane, not enjoying the sit in lane and heal the Marksman role it was slowly becoming. They made Support have a much larger item optimisation, even introducing new damage items that they used to be against. This slowly made the Healer Meta die down, and it started to become a more Mage/Poke lane; from helping the Marksman farm to denying the enemy Marksman farm. Its fascinating to witness just how fast Bottom lane progressed into such an aggressive position. GP10 (Gold per 10) items also helped Supports immensely, not only for them to gain items that they so badly needed to do damage, but for Vision Wards, Sight Wards and Oracles. Yet just like the Jungle, Riot didn’t leave Supports craving more gold than they could afford, and implemented new items. Three to be in fact, one for Tanks which distributed Gold and Sustain for both positions. The other new item was for Mages, this provided a decent amount of damage and gold when you hit an enemy Champion with a spell.  Last but not least, there’s a new Support item for the passive laners, which built up gold passively, helping them scale just as well as before. This opened up a lot of new Support build paths and Champion choices, making the Support role much more expressive than it used to be. By making Supports this adaptive, more Marksmen became viable due to the Supports skill set empowering their play style, allowing for much better flexibility in the Bottom lane.

 

 

The meta seems to be in a extremely comfortable spot, Assassins can’t just rush in with low risk high reward, but have to wait for the perfect opportunity to really excel. Mages offer a terrifying amount of up front burst, yet are quite immobile. Tanks are monsters that can both survive an onslaught, usually off the entire team, for more than five seconds, whilst also dealing an impressive amount of damage back. Marksman and Support are very adept at handle front lines with the correct amount of teamwork, and can kill anyone that comes charging their way. The Meta itself is a nonstop evolution of new game styles, amazing mechanics and a ton of new Champions ready to be rolled out and explored. Hopefully Riot will allow for more flexibility in item builds, not only to make League of Legends more fun, but to allow for every player to find the right play style for them. As League of Legends continues to adapt, and as Season five swiftly comes to an end, I’m extremely intrigued in what Riot will implement into their game next, and how will it affect the Meta yet again.



Written by: Prince - Diamond GuestWriter

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