Nowadays, the vast majority of players follow meta, and there are several psychological reasons for that:
-Most people feel much more comfortable when they are part of the majority. Thus, it’s much easier for us to copy the dominant trends they see. Also sometimes people fear that they will be condemned if they do not follow the general course.
-We tend to believe the authorities. When a pro team shows new picks on a popular league, these picks are at the same time becoming popular among ordinary players.
-We prefer order over chaos, and meta in any game provides us with the order.
So, how did it all began?
When the game was released, players took the most direct approach to winning, which happened to be 5 ADs in one team. Mages were hard and autoattacking is easy. So that’s how the game kicked off, 5 BF swords. But it didn’t stay out for long, soon people started trying to figure out different ways to beat this meta which brings us to our next strategy — AOE. By that time, it was fairly obvious that if you have 5 squishy ADs, you’ll do a lot of damage but you won’t be able to take damage in return. Champions like Amumu, Kennen and Fiddlesticks thrived in this environment, and that resulted in a first shift of strategy that League of Legends has ever seen. As AOE teams become more popular, others began working on their own ways to counter them. It was figured that if the team can survive AOE ultimates, they will be able to win most teamfights. As a result, a 5 tanky bruisers stacking sunfire capes became a norm.
Pre-S1 was the game’s formative time, and things were way too in flux for the game to really even have a meta. It had somewhat settled down by S1, but there were still a variety of strategies that have since been pruned.
In Season 1, things were sorta all over the place and pro teams often didn’t have a ‘top laner’ or a ‘mid laner’, players would often play the champions they were confident at in the lane they had the best matchup. A number of different lineups were played, such as 1/1/1 with two roamers or 1/1/2 + Jungle with an AP top, ADC mid, and double bruiser bot. But things changed when Fnatic won Season 1 World Championship. European teams picked the range AD and Support bot with an APC mid. Both EU teams came to finals, and it was obvious for everyone that their strategy was the optimal one for that time. That eventually ended up being considered the strongest, and become the common meta ever since. So after that, there was a “right” way to play the game and a “wrong” one, and it’s what we’ve used ever since. After, the meta has been mostly about what roles are best in lanes, itemization, and what lanes the groupings are going into.
The most notable thing about S1, compared to every season since is that the jungling was extremely hard. Warwick is the only champ that comes to mind that could start anything but cloth armor + 5 health potions, and expect to survive a clear without recalling. If you didn’t have enough mastery points to at least get some offensive points and the defensive masteries pertaining to the jungle, you would die or clear super slow. There was no machete, but Madred’s did build out of a cloth armor and a long sword and spirit stone didn’t exist. Buff donation also wasn’t quite as common, and junglers that were dedicated to farming could keep up with laners in exp.
As for the normal games, a player known as “HotshotGG” had a huge influence. He discovered split pushing champions and was extremely successful with them. He had such a ridiculously high skill ceiling on the certain amount of champions, that Riot had to nerf them soon after they saw what someone could do with them. Mobile champions with great wave clear who could stomp 1v1 started filling the top lane, while other lanes followed Fnatics idea of AP mid & ADC/SUP bot. The era had to end because of the amount of nerfs to these champions, and an emphasis on grouping up and teamfighting starting forming.
Top lane was usually a bruiser that did well in duels and scaled fairly well into the late game, with Irelia, Jax, and Olaf being common examples of that. Season 2 also saw mostly tanky/supportive junglers (Maokai and Skarner being two primary examples). The jungle was made much, much easier to clear, but gave a bit less gold and EXP over time and more friendly to AoE damage champions. Season 2 also saw a rise in popularity of double AP, partly thanks to Will of the Ancients and a buff to Vlad. Even on champs that weren’t a natural fit, WotA was strong because it was cheap AP and an aura. Season 2 was also the era of 2–3 people on a team getting gold generation items. They were different back then, they were in the form of an item with weak stats for their cost that also passively generated 5 gold per 10 seconds. You could get multiple of them, but the same ones wouldn’t stack. Philosopher’s Stone was HP and MP regen, Heart of Gold was HP (and armor, in S1) and those two were the most common. Philo built into what has become Talisman of Ascension (then called Shurelya’s Reverie) and Heart of Gold built into Randuin’s. Supports, Toplaners and Junglers would usually end up with both of those, either selling them once they had no more item slots or would build their upgrades. There were some other silly things that were flash-in-the-pan sorts of things, like toplaners and ADCs getting Wriggle’s Lantern, back when it had lifesteal, to do fast dragons and barons.
Counterjungling became more common, thanks to the jungle being less punishing. Before, it was a much more risky proposition.
Warmog’s with Atma’s was a common combination on Top. Every top laner had become a bruiser because of these 2 items. They were dominating every other champion/lane. Atma’s Impaler in its first form was insanely strong and Warmog’s was a core of the usual bruisers, so all you had to do was to bring in an extra item to become a monster. They synergized very well like Sunfire’s Cape/Iceborn Gauntlet now. When combined with a 3rd item like Trinity Force, they were simply unstoppable. Another item which made them even more annoying was Frozen Mallet. It was just hell for anyone else, but bruisers.
Season 2 World Championship set the base of league regardless of patch to come: Bruiser/Tank top lane, Bruiser/Tank jungle, AP mid lane, ADC/SUP bot lane. In top lane, there were some exceptions with Diana/Jayce, but overall this was the usual setup. Bot lane had the “Unholy trinity” with the occasional “Kog’maw + Nunu” for insane mid/ late game potential.
Nunu started being picked as a response to counterjungle. It was a flex pick for jungle/support which could be taken away during the early drafting phase. The rest was just a “sum” of all the metas together. Trinity force was strong, Diana/Jayce were strong. Orianna was the queen of mid lane. The “unusual” adcs like Vayne/Kog’maw were picked in sync with some sort of utility: Lulu / Orianna /Nunu to be the tank crusher with lots of safety on their team.
The era ended with the Season 3 changes, the meta was flipped completely.
The start of the season 3 might be known as a “League of Cleavers or League of Warmogs”. Both items were buffed to absurd during the pre-season. Everyone and their mother bought Black Cleavers and stacked them. The team who had more Black Cleavers and better champions to use them usually won. The era didn’t last for that much, cause Riot realized what chaos it caused and nerfed those items.
In season 3 lane swaps become more popular and even common with some teamcomps. It was less about super fast pushes, however, with top laners being popular for their tankiness and ability to stop a tower from falling and farming despite being weaker in lane than their opposition. Duelists became much less popular, as they would usually be crushed in a 2v1 lane. Teams who were better at rotating and predicting lanes usually got a better early game.
Season 3 was the introduction of machete and spirit stone items and removal of Heart of Gold. Junglers become more gank oriented, red pot starts, and assassins being popular. The jungle was made slightly easier to clear and you could very easily, and with high HP afterwards, take both blue and red buff, and be at level 3. Junglers often wouldn’t clear much of their jungle and laners would end up taking camps. This somewhat led to the game being mid laner dominated, with mid laners getting the most farm in the game. As a result, assassins became popular mid. They would use that farm to snowball the game on roams. Further, with itemization changes, AD mids started to appear. In general, the game was fairly snowbally, and builds took advantage of that, with the major one being Elixir of Fortitude. Mid and top Laners would start with a red pot and use it to attempt to kill their opponent to get an early lead. IMO, that was a great time since solo laners tried to fight as soon as possible. It was a very fast-paced, individual-oriented game, where a player on an assassin could stomp entire teams almost by himself with proper support from his team on side lanes. A lot of people remember this era because individual skills really mattered. That was the time when the legendary Faker vs Ryu Zed outplay happened.
Things slightly changed with the release of the pie patch (3.14). The new support items arrived in this patch, enabling many supports outside of the previous ones. Targon items were extremely broken and the execution was enabled for any person equipped with it. Leading to no jungler and double ADC team comps with 4x Targon and insane gold leads. It was instantly hotfixed before next patch. Popular setups included double ADC/Sup on both bot and top with a strong waveclearing midlaner.
Season 4 has brought in drastic changes to the game, especially to the Jungler and Support positions. The changes to these staple positions increase their gold flow as well as, in the case of supports, seeing many of the traditional support champions given scaling to their abilities in order to properly benefit from this increased gold. Before, they were designed to operate with minimal items, as they did not have the money to purchase them and mostly spent onwards. The first change to their cash flow was items. Both roles have received new items that increase their gold flow in different ways. These items also have strong stat lines and/or utility, making them worth buying for more than their gold advantage (they’re also surprisingly well balanced, making them nearly useless for the other roles). Another change is how warding mechanics work. Before it was the supports’ job, with a small amount of assistance, to ensure that the map was covered in wards. This was a huge gold drain to an already money-taxed position.
Other changes mostly affect the hyper-aggressive nature of Season 3. Before, turrets and dragons were all important. Teams that didn’t manage to secure these had a very difficult time keeping up with their opponents; the global gold simply snowballed them way ahead. However, both dragon and turrets had their global gold reduced. Taking a turret now has to be calculated, as the farm lost will not be outbalanced by the global gold for the team. In addition, a dragon is worth far less as the gold it gives is much lower early on. Although hyper-aggressive, fast pushing is still an option, it now has to be calculated, and losing a couple towers early in the game isn’t going to mean your opponent snowballs ahead with a huge gold lead. This also means laning phases will get longer. Taking turrets is less profitable than killing minions for their gold in lane.
The changes of Season 4 have opened up more possibilities. Playing a slow, farm-centered game is now much more possible, and hyper-aggressive playstyles shouldn’t run away with every game, but still remain viable. The warding changes spread the responsibility of map vision out, and also strengthen tactical ward placement. Supports and junglers now have much more gold to play with, and this will mean these positions have more impact on the game. Season 4 seems to have made all the right changes to make the game more balanced, more competitive, and more entertaining to play. Some say, that the game was on the decline in terms of enjoyment and fun since then.
Talking about champs in season 4, Jinx came out and was crazy strong. ADC meta was weird. Lucian was great most of the season despite reworks and there, of course, was the infamous patch where he had a dash for free with almost no cd. Also, Tristana was fairly strong. Top was all over the place. Ziggs got buffed and dominated the mid meta for a while, he stalled games out for a really long time. In Jungle, there was a lot of Lee Sin and Elise. Some Evelynn on occasion for flanks. Kha on and off, he was good pretty much all season but was nerfed/changed a lot so people had to keep figuring out what to do with him. Kha at the beginning of the season was really OP. Late in the season more Rengars appeared because pro teams were running the Rengar Ori comp. Patch 4.20 completely reworked the jungle. The entire jungle was hard, and Warwick was op. He would reach his jungle item and botrk and literally one-shot any squishy with ult>Botrk active> Q. Pantheon also solo’d dragon without taking damage at any point in the game. It was a fun patch. Throughout most of the season though I saw a lot of Udyr and Yi. Feral flare was extremely strong. They could farm for about 15 minutes, finish feral and do whatever they wanted with that power spike for the next 10 minutes or so. Feral made the characters who could farm it really strong.
With the nerfs to assassins and removal of DFG, the game was slowly transcending to a more teamfight-oriented.Top lane became the place where the game begins, evolves and ends. With the fall of assassins, the bruisers started rising up, and can easily carry the game by themselves. They got the damage and health to do so.
The meta started focusing on dive-heavy champions, a place where bruisers excelled, they decided who lives and who dies. So two types of setups have become mainstream: heavy engage with dive potential and disengages setups. It was alive for a pretty big amount of time until people realized what you could do with a pure tank up toplane by taking Smite. People started picking Smite, doing a level 1 camp then went toplane to harass enemies heavily due to the bonus exp, the Smite item was usually upgraded into a cinderhulk and so the “tanky” meta appeared for some time, where every top laner was viable if he could use Cinderhulk & Smite properly. The smite upgrade of choice was a Skirmisher’s Sabre which allowed to outduel anyone in a 1v1.
Top: either very sustain-heavy champs like Maokai or Sion, or AP casters like Rumble, Lissandra, and Lulu. Taking teleport is a must.
Jungle: Vi, Rek’sai, Lee Sin, J4 are the current top picks because they have safe clears and can destroy the enemy in their jungle.
Mid: Assassins like Leblanc, Zed, and Ahri are very popular. AP control mages like Lissandra and Viktor are less popular, but still very potent.
ADC: Lane bullies like Graves, Kalista, Corki, and Draven are very strong early to mid game. Some (like Kalista and Draven) are pretty good late game too.
Support: Hard initiators like Leona and Thresh are still very popular, but sustain-focused champs like Sona and Nami are still strong laners (especially if you get forced into support).
Overall: There’s a much stronger emphasis on dragon control. Outer towers drop fast, inner towers are a bit harder because they have shields, and cracking an inhib tower requires Baron most of the time.
Season 6 was a League of Tanks. It began with a pretty boring and dull situation in the top lane, because of the reworked masteries ( especially Grasp of the Undying ), tanks were insanely overpowered, especially when coupled with a few items ( Sunfire Cape & Iceborn Gauntlet ) soo everyone started picking up tanks and build the same items in the top lane. Malphite, Mundo, Tahm Kench and Trundle as a counter to them were picked in quite a lot of games.
While people were mostly focused on top lane, in the jungle arose the “ADC junglers” ( Graves/Kindred ) who forced Riot to nerf certain stacking items. Their base damage was insane and allowed them to clear without any issues the jungle. With the combination of Sterak’s Gage and Maw of Malmortius they were essentially unkillable while dishing out tons of damage. Then out of nowhere, a Dragon Rework came to force teams to do something outside of farming for ages. The meta was undergoing a lot of drastic changes every few patches and then came the mage rework, with lots of items and abilities modifications.
Overall, it was probably the most boring season as we had little to no reward for individual playmaking skill (compared to other seasons) and it was centered about long teamfights.
Season 7 began with a rework to the jungle by swapping some minions around, experimenting with the experience gains and adding the new plants to the equation. Each of these changes giving different unique opportunities to players to perform new and exciting executions of playstyles in the jungle. Right now jungling is the most impactful role in the game because of the amount of tools they have in their environment, allowing them either to farm for large periods of time and come out of the jungle insanely strong, or allowing them to find a balance between farming and ganking and never falling behind. It’s a big issue for other laners, especially for the solo-laners in the mid and top lane when the enemy jungler comes to gank you and he is ahead.
Compared to previous season where some item could have defined the meta, or where a summoner spell was always picked by 3–4 teammates (ex. Heal pre-nerf ), season 7 seems to come with much more flexibility and no “presets” — meaning that more options are “approved” and used in the metagame. All in all, everything seems more or less balanced, with the exception of the jungle role.
As you can see, League changes quite frequently. It might be hard to keep track of all the recent changes, their impact and upcoming trends. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back! MoreLegends experts release their own analysis and adapted tier lists for each patch, and what’s more important, you can find all of them for free on Youtube or on the website. Learn from the best! Be the best!