The meta in League of Legends is usually defined by a few key characteristics in the game — the 2018 Worlds play-in meta is no exception.
Whether it’s when Riot reworked the rune system and Summon Aery became way too strong or when Ardent Censer made hyper carries gods among men, there’s always that one defining feature that narrows down what champions and strategies are likely to pan out in the competitive landscape of the game.
Case in point, even though we’ve only had a week’s worth of games, we’ve already seen more champions played than at any of the previous World Championships.
That’s what has made the 2018 Worlds play-in meta so exciting so far.
2018 Worlds Play-In Meta — A More Diverse Pool of Champions
that’s the number of champions teams have contested at the 2018 World Championship. That’s 14 more than the entire 2017 World Championship. Even the casual viewer feels each team’s personality in the pick and ban phase, with the likes of Ahri, Vel’Koz, Singed, and Zac all having seen play so far. Surprisingly, even with the chance for teams to bring out their own personal flavour, we’ve seen a handful of champions dominate their roles.
Urgot and Aatrox
2 kings have so far dominated the 2018 Worlds play-in meta: Urgot and Aatrox.
Picked and banned in every game so far, Urgot boasts an impressive 68% winrate in the top lane, and for good reason. Urgot offers teams a lot of relability as a champion that also has a little bit of everything. He has high base stats, aoe damage, range, % max HP damage, a dash, and some soft CC’s, which give him a strong laning phase and make him a powerful champion to keep in the side lane.
Urgot also has very few lane counters. This makes him a great blind pink, with the potential to also play in the mid or the top lane. He’s also a fairly capable tank, and utility-wise, Urgot also has a lot of options to help out his team.
On the other hand, Aatrox has struggled so far. This is despite teams banning or picking him in 98% of the games so far. Despite being able to go even in lane with thanks to the trading power of The Darkin Blade and the healing he receives from the passive of Umbral Dash, Aatrox just doesn’t provide as much to mid-game skirmishes or teamfights as Urgot does. Aatrox isn’t able to effectively build resistances without giving up too much in the damage department, and Urgot’s ability to shred tanks, execute low health targets, and provide some sort of frontline just seems to have given him the edge over his top lane adversary.
Snowballing Out of Control
Last year, we saw Gragas and Sejuani played over and over again during the play-in stage. The Worlds 2018 meta, on the other hand, is a lot more diverse. Already, we’ve seen snowbally champions like Xin Zhao, Taliyah, and Olaf.
Pick potential also seems a priority for the most popularity junglers of the 2018 Worlds play-in meta. Gragas, Skarner, and Nocturne have seen the most play as junglers so far. The so-called king of the jungle, Gragas is a no-brainer at this point. He is flexible in terms of runes and build path. His kit also offers a bit of everything, with options for both engaging and disengaging.
For Skarner, he offers teams a strong tempo jungler through his fast clear speed around his spires. He works extremely well as a playmaker to set up assassins that have so far dominated the mid lane, like Leblanc and Akali, thanks to his crowd control from Fracture and Impale.
With tank and engage champions trending the top and support roles, Nocturne slots in quite easily in just about every kind of team composition. The champion has a strong gank potential and synergy with the likes of Shen, Maokai, Rakan, and Alistar. Nocturne’s semi-global map pressure also helps create space for champions like Ryze, Irelia, and Lissandra, who frequent the sidelane, while also dissuading enemy teams from answering split-push threats.
Individual Tastes for Mid Laners
Mid lane is the role where teams have showed their own individual tastes.
We’ve seen strong assassins like Leblanc, Syndra, and Akali prevail in the 2018 Worlds play-in meta. But, on the other hand, we’ve also seen more traditional late-game control mages like Orianna, Victor, and Azir. We’ve even seen typical AD champions like Urgot, Yasuo, and Aatrox.
As a result of the diversity in the mid lane, no particular champion has dominated this role. Akali boasts an imprsesive 25 bans, but the 33% win rate suggests that the champion is not as good as the ban-rate suggests. Meanwhile, cChampions that can safely play in a side lane and provide some sort of pick potential have been favorites among play-in teams.
Leblanc, Syndra, Ryze, Galio, and Irelia are the 5 most played mid laners and they all fit that criteria.
It’s All Kai’sa for AD Carries
The AD carry of choice showing off an impressive 76% presence during the play-ins is the daughter of the void, Kai’sa.
A huge factor in Kai’sa’s popularity is her high scaling potential from her passive. Kai’sa basic attacks, her W, and her allies immobilizing spells mark enemies with a stack. When Kai’sa attacks an enemy with 4 stacks she deals a certain amount of the champions missing hp as as magic damage. Kai’sa also mixes in well with a lot of these engage heavy compositions as her ultimate, Killer Instinct, lets her dash into team fights if she has hit an enemy champion with her plasma. T
The answer we repeatedly saw attempted to take down Kai’sa was the Lucian but it almost never panned out with only 2 wins and a staggering 7 losses in the matchup. It’s not a surprise that not one Lucian game was from a team representing a major region.
Three’s The Number
So far, mid-game skirmishes and pick potential have dominated the 2018 Worlds play-in meta. Perhaps as a result, we’ve seen 3 supports rise a bit above the pack.
Teams have valued Alistar and Rakan for their ability to add some explosive engage in any lineup composition. A safe blind pick option, Alistar has a lot of playmaking and dive potential. His strong level 3 and level 6 power spikes give him strong all-in potential and easy ways to pair up with an early pressure jungler.
Rakan’s ability to cover so much distance with his The Quickness, Flash, and Grand Entrance combo as well as his strong pairing with Xayah give him a stable place in a meta in need of early game pressure and engage.
Tahm Kench lies on the opposite side of the spectrum of Alistar and Rakan. Tahm Kench’s ability to deny picks, keep immobile carries safe, and apply global pressure has given him a safe place in the World’s meta.
What Overall Strategies Have Prevailed So Far?
Hard engage, skirmishing, and pick potential.
Those are the three things that have stood out the most at the 2018 LoL World Championship. Case in point, a successful strategy we’ve seen G-Rex consistently bring out is building their lineups around a strong mid and a 2v2 jungle.
G-Rex jungler, Emp2ty, has been mostly playing utility junglers and ward around mid lane while mirroring the enemy jungler. This gives G-Rex’s laners the ability to play their matchups freely and abuse their strong laning prowess.
They’ve been utilizing priority recall timings and smart roams from their hard engage sources in top and support to constantly create fights around pixel brush, scuttle crab, and mid tower to gain their advantages.
We have also seen a lot of success from teams that pick up champions that can play through creating picks and putting pressure in the side lanes. Leblanc, Ryze, and Irelia all have more than five games played and are each sitting at or above a 60% win rate. Pairing these champions with strong front lines and scaling adc’s gives your composition flexibility in how you can play the game.
The 2018 Worlds Meta Going Forward
One thing that’s certain is we will definitely keep seeing compositions built around engage and early-mid game skirmishes. Alistar, Gragas, Urgot, and Sion are here to stay. These compositions are just so safe, flexible, and easy to execute that there’s no reason to believe that we’ll see teams switch gears anytime soon.
You can comfortably control sidelanes with a champion like Urgot or Irelia, be able to set the pace of the game with Alistar and Gragas, while still having strong late game DPS with Kai’sa, Xayah, or Tristana in your composition.
Personally, what I’d really like to see going forward emerge in the 2018 Worlds Meta is more counter-engage and zone control.
Poppy is a great answer to the strong priority on Alistar, Rakan, and Gragas. Anivia dissuades picks like Akali and Irelia in the midlane with her safe wave clear as well as her passive revive. Her wall also provides a ton of utility against these hard engage compositions. Tahm Kench will continue to be a strong pick since we’re seeing so much burst and pick potential from champions like Syndra, Leblanc, Akali, and Skarner. The big downside with these types of compositions is it gives your enemy the precedence to dictate the pace of the game but if executed properly it provides a strong answer to the power picks we’re seeing played every game.
Either way, from what we’ve seen prevail in the 2018 Worlds play-in meta, it’s that the overall metagame has not reached its full potential yet and, from what we can tell, things are going to get a lot more exciting from here on out.
Click here for our recap of the 2018 LoL Worlds Play-In Stage.