2016 World Championship: Dissecting the meta


A diverse pool of champions is leading to unpredictable and refreshing gameplay at the 2016 World Championship.

The first week of the group stage of Worlds is in the books, and the results are not quite what pundits had predicted. In the wake of key late-season patches which emphasized standard lane matchups, nerfs to overperforming champions, and the heightened importance of picking champions revolving around winning lanes and strong team-fighting, there has been quite a bit jostling in group standings. With a glimpse of what is to come for the remainder of the World Championship, it will be fascinating to see what adaptations teams will have in store in order to exploit the meta to their advantage.

Jungler Diversity

It was no secret that much of the jungle meta across all regions this past split was dominated by two junglers: Gragas and Rek’Sai. A deadly concoction of early-game mobility, jungling durability and reliable crowd control made them the unquestionable King and Queen of the jungle. Coming into Worlds, Riot made concerted strides to temper their dominance, evidenced by nerfs mainly to mobility cooldowns as well as durability. The complete absence of Gragas at Worlds so far has been jarring, but comes at no surprise, with the fluidity of his kit disrupted by changes to his ultimate.

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Rushing to occupy the void during Worlds thus far has been a motley bunch of familiar and forgotten faces, as well as some fringe picks. Making his triumphant return to the professional scene as a mainstream pick is Lee Sin. Aptly put as “a poor man’s Gragas (of the former variety),” Lee Sin has fulfilled the role of an early-game skirmishing and ganking threat, as well as a late-game playmaker capable of displacing enemy carries into the frontline. Nidalee and Elise have seen increased play as premier AP skirmishers who bring flexibility to teams. Certain compositions have opted to go with previously obscure picks like Skarner and Nocturne, who specialize in eliminating a targeted champion. These types of dive mentality champions also synergize incredibly well with meta champions such as Cassiopeia and Malzahar, whose kits can prevent any form of escape after an initial round of crowd control.

Top-Lane Retro Favorites

This season’s top lane meta has transitioned from the much-maligned tank meta to the current situation at Worlds, where high-damage, carry top laners have been all the craze. Rumble, a popular champion in prior Worlds for his teamfighting prowess, has seen a resurgence back into the meta this year. On the topic of adept AP team-fighters, Kennen has also reclaimed prominence on the world stage, owing to his unrivaled potential to decimate an entire team. Look no further for proof than Smeb’s single-handed destruction of G2’s backline, pulling the game back from the brink for ROX Tigers:

The Year of the Control Mage

Mid lane meta of past World Championships often featured assassins of some variety; after all, some of the most memorable plays made during Worlds have been flashy outmaneuvers by Tinown’s Ahri and xPeke’s Zed, just to name a few. This year has been devoid of such assassins picks, with teams electing to go with zoning proficient champions such as Malzahar and Cassiopeia. Since his rework, Malzahar has been a mainstay in the professional scene, given his unique point-and-click suppression and ability to set up plays with ease. Cassiopeia, one of the highest consistent damage champions, has the ability to both lock-down oncoming foes, as well as prevent their escape with her reworked miasma ability. It would be remiss not to mention Syndra and her immense lane pressure potential, showcased by clinical play from the likes of Bjergsen and Faker.

Niche picks occupying similar a role such as Anivia and Orianna, have also found degrees of success at Worlds. Aurelion Sol, once thought of as a very niche pick, has emerged as a flexible and surprisingly durable mid laner, making use of unorthodox builds. Meanwhile, Vladimir has slipped through several nerfs targeting his tankiness relatively unscathed to maintain his position as a tanky threat.

With three days of preparation in between Week 1 and Week 2 of the group stage, we can only assume that teams will have plenty of pocket picks up their sleeves.  Which teams can adapt and excel in this volatile meta?

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