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The LoL Meta According to IEM Cologne

In League of Legends, the preseason is a time of huge changes. With massive patches coming from Riot HQ, the meta can completely change from one season to the next. New strategies arise, previously unplayed champions become must-picks, and teams must adapt.

With the some of the first competitive matches being played in the post-Patch 5.22 world at IEM Cologne, what the meta next season will look like is starting the crystalize, much like Anivia’s egg.

The meta isn’t set in stone quite yet, as there are still a few patches left before the season really gets going. That said, this is what some of the best pro squads have shown off so far.

Fast, But Not Too Fast

Many thought that games would be significantly shorter during the new season, thanks to weaker turrets, more gold around the map, and general buffing of AD champions. Solo queue games are often ending well before the 30 minute mark, and most figured that pro games would keep the same rapid pace.

As it turns out, that wasn’t entirely the case at IEM. While games were certainly shorter on average overall, only 5 of the 17 matches played that weekend ended before the half hour mark. What’s more, several games dragged out to 40 minutes. So while games were somewhat shorter, they weren’t nearly as short as many analysts were predicting they could be.

Rocketing Up the Lanes

With many AD carries seeing changes in Patch 5.22, many of them found themselves on the receiving end of some serious buffs. That means that the bottom lane has become the focus of many teams.

At IEM Cologne, Tristana was far and away the most popular AD carry, with Miss Fortune and Lucian trailing in a distant second. The premier tower demolitionist in League of Legends, many teams were forced to respond. Left unchecked, a mid game Tristana could  take towers at whim and get away safely. All she needed was a minion wave to accompany her, and down go turrets. Opposing squads needed wave clear to counteract these hard pushes - and fast.

Control Mages Take Up Space

As it turns out, that answer came in the rise of control mages. To counteract the fast pushing of the newly powerful AD carries, teams have discovered that it’s vital to have wave clear ready to slow things down a bit. Enter the likes of Lissandra and Viktor.

Aided by more potent AP items - Rylai’s Crystal Scepter and Rod of Ages, notably - control mages are much more able to, dominate the spaces around objectives. They deal more damage and have more utility than they’ve ever had before. As a result, IEM saw a high wave clear utility mage in every single match throughout the tournament.

As Captain Picard Would Say…

One problem with utility mages: They tend to be rather immobile and squishy. As such, they’re incredibly easy to catch out with engage champions.

At IEM, the most popular slot for those engage-heavy champions was in the bottom lane. Alistar was picked or banned in 16 of the 17 games over the weekend, while Trundle found himself on the champion select screen 15 times. Both have the capability to catch out unsuspecting mage players, forcing them to play further back than they normally would.

The most interesting of the pair is definitely support Trundle. Previously somewhat of a niche pick - though he did see professional play here and there - the Troll King has established himself as a premier support pick. With many players building as much cooldown reduction as possible as quickly as possible, he’s able to throw up Pillars of Ice every few seconds, literally changing the landscape of every fight. And that’s not even mentioning its free vision-giving powers.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Right now, it seems that many pro teams are playing a game of rock, paper, scissors while they figure out exactly how to play on the current patch. AD carries are quickly shoving down turrets, so control mages are being picked to counteract that, which causes engage supports to rise through the ranks.

It’s a dynamic time in League of Legends, with teams scrambling to keep up with all the changes. The best teams will be able to adapt, while those unprepared will fall to the wayside. For now, the push and pull of teams adapting on League's biggest stages is a bit chaotic, but things will settle down soon. Until then, enjoy the chaos. 

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