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Tanky meta... or is it?
Hello everyone, long time no see. I have stopped playing LoL right before season 5, so it looks like I missed much. I come into lobby, and someone is banning sejuani. I am like... OK, whatever... And then again. And again.
To be honest, after I realised how much have meta shifted, from hypercarries to loser adcs like Graves (seriously one of weakest adcs in S4, as I have been told by many people last season), I wanted to understand why did this happen. Easy answer would be "Tanks are now strong". Which does not make sense. Seriously, if only problem is strenght of tanks, where's vayne and kog maw, and why are you adcs all playing graves.
Yeah, it is obvious that tanks are strong in this meta to anyone, who played few games. But why is that? If only tanky junglers were doing well, it would be easy to understand - cinderhulk. But even in game where top laner takes TP and flash and not smite, it seems like tanky top laner is doing better than bruisers and other. I wanted to understand clearly why is that. Because from understanging, power is born. Power to overcome meta and to stand step ahead of it. And to understand current tanky meta, we have to go first exactly to oposite direction, than to tanks. That is to adcs.
So first thing I asked after seeing tanks was "where is Vayne and Kog'Maw" and "Why the hell is Varus seen as weakest pick". All mentioned champions have %hp damage and should be rolling hard, with Varus being probably not strong, but at least decent pick. And that is not happening. Why?
First thing I noticed about ADC role is new infinity edge. Compared to S4, it gives 10 ad more and 5% crit chance less. That is actualy buff to adc role, isn't it? You will probably be surprised when I say no, it is not. I mean, it is more cost effective now, right? Yeah, I agree with that part, IE is stronger now. So why is this not buff to adc's?
Answer is simple. While IE certainly is stronger, not all champs are affected same way. As Vayne, for example, building IE first is not really useful, because she profits more from aspd-ish BOTRK. And even on other marksmen, those with multiple ad scaling like Graves and Jinx(who has not only zap and ultimate but also natural permanent ASPD steroid that scales strongly with IE) are profiting more from this change, than other champs, making laning for these champions easier. Also, late S4 BF sword buff(45 -> 50 AD) also affects these champs more than other marksmen.
Does that make sense to you? Yes? Then let me tell you its just load of bull. Because if IE change was only thing disqualifying hypercarry marksmen from competition, where the hell is Caitlyn. And answer to that is that she is in really bad position, while our IE theory would put her on solid, probably not best but OK-ish position. IE change might have some impact on laning phase of marksmen like Graves, but there must be much more happening behind curtains, to make hypercarries suboptimal.
For the second, lets shift our focus from marksmen to supports. What we see most of time are safe picks like Janna, Thresh and Braum, who focus on defending and peeling for carries. This could be explained by problem with tanks who dive ADCs and kill them. But with these supports, shouldn't hyper carries like vayne be safe enough in lane?
Maybe it is not just itemization changes that shifted meta this way. Maybe reason why vayne is suboptimal is not just laning. After all, more than just items have changed from S4 to S5. We now have different dragons and barons. We now have easier way for junglers to destroy wards via smiting wraiths camp.
Lets take a look at new dragons. Taking 1st dragon gives small bonus stats to your whole team. And ironicaly, this helps carries way more than tanks. So how the hell does it help tank meta?
Answer I came to is that fights over dragon are now more important than in last season. While first dragon does not really do that much, dragon number 5 can completely reverse game is comclusion I came to as jungler. And in these teamfights, probably everyone on map will meet.
So once again lets take a look at our top tier AD carries:
+stronger because of IE changes
+strong AoE, ideal for early and mid game dragon skirmishes
+has his own escape/steroid
+armor and mr defence steroid allowing him to do even better in skirmishes over dragon
(+dragon steal potential on ultimate, which is in () because it is not consistent advantage)
-bad against tanks
+stronger because of IE changes
+strong AoE with rockets, nice ultimate, powerful in dragon skirmishes
+her damage against tanks does not really fall short
-lacks escape having inferior tools of personal safety
(+dragon steal potential on ultimate, nonconsistent)
+Not really IE material, but new IE goes well with him(more ad, less crit)
+strong AoE with spells, strong mobility, powerful in dragon skirmishes
+does not fall off as bad as Graves against tanks
-but is still not real antitank
and lets add Kalista
+good with IE changes
+Solid midgame, strong dragon skirmish potential due to ultimate
+!she can outsmite jungler at dragon via rend, making it almost impossible to steal dragon from her team
+kites well in skirmishes and fights
-same as Graves - is not really hypercarry and falls of later against tanks
I know this is not really proof of anything other than that all popular ad carries do well in mid game skirmishes, and adcs with weak mid game (Caitlyn) who share their other traits are in worse position than they should be. But we have seen one hypercarry, that should be able to solve tanks quite well, that is jinx. Right? So why is this tank meta even when your team has jinx?
Now we have finaly reached realm of tanks. I will not spend time elaborating cinderhulk, which I find borderline stupid, because it gives tanky jungler, who already scale well into the late game even more scaling into late game (as a proof, Sejuani was scary late game even in S4, just saying) and 20% bonus bonus HP is not just small amount. I want to understand why tanks are so dominant even without this item, so I will pretend as it did not exist, whenever it is possible(by which I mean top laners with smite, you don't exist from now on, understood?). If you think that Cinderhulk in hyper-late game is fine, I will not argue with you, because you are obviously ignoring reality.
Now, some other things.
Thornmail vs Lifesteal
What happened close to end of season 4 is that lot of lifesteal items - Vampiric, Cuitlass and BoRK had their lifesteal drasticaly reduced. Only item that had more lifesteal delivered was The Bloodthirster, but at the cost of higher cost and 20 less ad making it not really optimal 1st item(but 100 AD BT was kinda broken, seriously). And with new IE, BT became 3rd item to most carries, as suboptimal choice, because first item is IE, second needs to have aspd to strengthen IE, right. With that, it was only obvious that one item would raise in power, that is, thornmail. Item, that was said to be situational now became item that would make your adc commit suicide by attacking tank, because said ADC could no longer casually lifesteal through it, as they usually did before, if they dont have BT completed yet. And if your adc cant kill tank, who will?
While thornmail does not reflect damage caused by abilities, Graves who has this great advantage compared to other adcs cant simply kill tank as easily in late game as other adcs, same with Kalista. Jinx, while she is hypercarry, is on the other hand heavily destroyed by this item, as her damage is all counted towards reflect of thornmail(because it is physical autoattack damage), while true dmg of vayne and magic damage of varus is of course not reflected, but these champions have their own problems, Vayne not really good midgame skirmish power, and Varus, being a Varus.
New item, righteous glory adds new engage power to tanks. When combined with good old Randuins, diving into ADC becomes too easy for tank. Due to that, most hypercarries find themselves screwed. It is another reason why tanks have solid standings in this meta, other than mid game oriented adcs.
+20% Bonus HP. Seriously. Riot Pls, give it 100 more hp, but cut this down to 10% bonus HP. In lategame, this item becomes just stupid. I will not comment on this item any further until it becomes reasonable in ultra-late game.
New frog like wight has buff that works similar to thornmail. This buff scales off HP, and is certainly annoying for marksmen who don't have enough lifesteal. When combined with thornmail, it goes one step further. This plays into hand of tanky junglers.
Thanks to new AoE smite with self heal, tanky junglers can live in their jungle solidly. With cinderhulk clear and tankiness, they no longer have to deal with juggernaut problem of if I finish enchantment, I will be tanky but my clear will still suck, they now get bit of each in small package together.
2 tanks diving together
With both top lane and jungle being tanky divers, adc is now in big danger. Thanks to thornmail and frog buff, they can no longer sustain themselves easily when dived. Damage coming from sunfire/cinders is magic, damage coming from thornmail is magic, damage coming from these tanks(Maokai, Sejuani, Gragas) is also mostly magic, while ADC is stuck with 30 + runes MR(+ Graves passive). Amount of slows and stuns and roots from these tanks is also high.
There certainly is tanky meta in wider meaning. This tanky meta is however heavily caused by mid game skirmish importance, to lesser extent supported by optimal ADC and possible tank itemization. With lower lifesteal on most lifesteal items, thornmail became strong item. Jungle tanks and smite top tanks also gain additional power from Cinderhulk +%bonushp, which boosts their already strong late game and frog buff. Importance of new dragon and new baron does not allow you to pick carries that are strong only towards late game, because if you do that, your adc won't be able to deal with tanks in these skirmishes and you will lose lategame against dragon buff number 5.
Theoreticaly, building hexdrinker on adc in midgame could help solve some problems, but how it would work in practice I am not sure.
Supports could once more start to build Mikhael Crucible, to offer aditional CC removing tool, which could theoreticaly reduce impact of tank power in midgame.
As midlaner, going for skirmish friendly and high damage over time champions such as Casiopeia, Annie, Viktor, Malzahar, should be probably strong.
To make some not yet observed predictions based on my conclusion, I will make list of less obvious but probably strong(not OP, just strong) picks, that are not picked much, to try to see if my conclusion is correct.
Hidden Strong Marksmen: Miss Fortune(W magic damage is not reflected by thornmail, strong skirmish power, but disadvantage of immobility would have to be somehow covered), Azir bot lane (Ignores thornmail, strong in skirmishes, has good lategame damage compareable to adc, would force tanks to build MR, which could be abused by AD mid or Urgot)
Hidden Strong Support: Soraka(Can heal through thornmail, can use silence zone to create safer zone for adc against tanks), Orianna(Offers more MR (and Armor) to ADC).
Disclaimer: I might be wrong about something. Maybe even about everything.
Here I will note things that I realised thanks to you guys in chat.
Vayne actually is also part of this meta, her tank wrecking powers still makes up for her weaknesses. Probably still sink or fly champion, based on observation.
Sivir enters meta thanks to both her skirmish mid game power and utility.
Also, one thing I was not clear enough. Reason I spoke so much about IE was because it was my first guess. It proved to have some effect, but there were other bigger factors in game(which I noticed by fact that Caitlyn was doing bad and other adcs who don't build IE being still game). Thats what I wrote in conclusion. This season, mid game adcs which still have decent late game are strong.