Breaking the META is tough in League of Legends. You may have that friend who plays attack damage carry (ADC) Thresh or machine gun Lulu in unranked games. I myself have a pretty impressive win-rate with AP Lucian in middle lane. The success of the aforementioned non-META builds often hinges on at least one of the following factors:
- Played in lower ELO games by players who “one-trick” those champions
- Surprising your opponent with a “cheese strategy” (damage coming from an unexpected source)
- Exposing an ability scaling oversight that only lasts for a patch or two
There are exceptions though: my favorite exception to this rule was the person who climbed through the ranks of diamond by playing ADC Ahri. Generally speaking though, the community is willing to accept and adopt a META breaking shift when they see people having repeated success with it at the Master and Challenger ranking. The most prominent example of a META breaker from this year (season 7) is bottom lane Ziggs. While the ‘bot’ lane role is typically filled with a ranged attack damage (AD) source, unique circumstances in this year’s off-season led to the adoption of an ability power (AP) mage being played in that role.
Assassin Update and ADC scaling
Riot constantly updates League of Legends through periodic patches (every two weeks) that release new content and re-balance champion and item scaling. Most prominent of the updates are the champion class overhauls that occur twice a year; once in mid-season between LCS splits and once in the off-season. This year’s off-season champion class overhaul specifically targeted the assassin class. Whether over-powered (OP) or not, this brought a huge increase in the play rate of assassins, as League of Legends players love new content and reworked champion. This increased play rate of assassin class champions is generally bad news for bottom lane ADC mains, since assassins feast on champions with low defense and low mobility; marksman and ADC in a nutshell.
In addition to the rise of assassins, marksman itemization was in a very bad place at the beginning of the year. Marksmen rely on gold income exponentially more than other classes because they scale primarily off of items rather than ability levels. The problem was that marksmen were taking too long to scale, as items felt far too expensive relative to their impact on damage output. This left a gaping hole in the bottom lane carry role for months until they eventually buffed Blade of the Ruined King (BoRK), which gives marksmen an impressive attack speed/damage/lifesteal combination.
League of Legends and The Rise of Ziggs
The conditions described above presented a perfect opportunity for a META breaking champion to capitalize on. Popularized by Shiphtur, Ziggs began experiencing success in the bottom lane. Generally speaking, AP mage champions scale more naturally with levels than AD marksmen, which positioned them to capitalize on their early game weakness. But the question remains: why Ziggs of all AP mages?
The answer all comes down to a single combination in Ziggs’ explosive arsenal. Ziggs’ passive and his W ability (Satchel Charge) mean that he can destroy turrets exponentially faster than any other AP mage, which is traditionally a drawback of placing a mage in the bottom lane. It additionally helped that many AD assassins were being played in the mid lane at this time, making the team damage spread (AP/AD ratio) still favorable despite missing the ranged AD marksman.
Ziggs is still completely viable to be played in the bottom lane if your team composition requires the AP damage. While this shift in the META was initially a reaction to a period of marksman weakness that has since largely been fixed, Shiphtur used the opportunity to identify a viable META breaking champion role-swap.
Author: Greg Albert
Greg holds a Master of Science in Forest Genetics from North Carolina State University and a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Studies from Binghamton University. An avid League of Legends gamer with roots in 90’s classics. In his spare time, Greg also plays tennis and obsesses over his dog.