League of Legends: A Look at the Diversity of Each Role

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /
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Blood Moon Elise. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Courtesy of Riot Games. /

We look at the diversity of each role in League of Legends to see which has the most stagnant meta.

Yesterday, I came across an interesting video by one of my favorite League of Legends content creators, Virkayu. In his latest video, Virkayu changes tone from his usual jungle tutorials, replay reviews, and tier lists to discuss a topic near and dear to a lot of people’s heart: the jungle meta.

Specifically, he has a lot of issues with the state of the jungle meta, how stale the champion pool has been (particularly in high-elo and pro play), and why Riot has been unable to fix it. While I don’t disagree with his overall point about the role being unsatisfying and certain picks crowding out the rest, the video triggered a question in my mind: just how stale is the jungle meta compared to other roles?

Now, I’ve been compiling League of Legends tier lists going back to preseason 2018 (Patch 8.24). That’s 36 patches worth of data to uncover the meta for each position in League of Legends and how they have shifted. So, I delved into that data trying to figure out which lanes have the widest pools (the most different champions that could be considered meta) and the deepest pools (the most champions that are consistently in the meta). As a note, I know it’s a bit self-serving to use my own tier lists to conduct this research but given that they are aggregated rankings by multiple other sites, I do feel confident that they give a fairly accurate representation of what is considered to be meta.

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To start, I looked at a basic overview of the lanes and how many champions we have on our tier list at any given time. As you would expect, top and mid lanes are the most diverse while ADC is the least diverse, with jungle and support being somewhere in the middle. Here is the average number of champions on each patch’s tier list by role:

  • Top = 49.2
  • Jungle = 42.9
  • Mid = 49.3
  • ADC = 20.8
  • Support = 32.8

So, the jungle champion pool in a given patch is slightly smaller than the solo lanes, but larger than the bot lanes. Doesn’t seem so bad, but we’re not considering meta champions to be just any champions that can fit in a role. We want to know how many champions are considered strong picks that “shape” the meta as Virkayu says.

To figure this out, I first picked the top ten champions in each role in every patch and listed them out to see how many unique champions were considered top-ten picks. Here is how many unique champions made the top ten (even if it was only one patch):

  • Top = 38
  • Jungle = 30
  • Mid = 33
  • ADC = 20
  • Support = 22

Already, we see that the jungle role is not lagging behind the solo lanes in terms of diversity, even though it has a fairly wide pool to begin with. On the other hand, while the ADC pool was the narrowest pool at the start (only 20.8 average champions on a given tier list) its “meta” pool is large comparably (20 unique champions made the top ten). Support, on the other hand, seems to have one of the smallest meta pools (22 unique champions in the top ten).

But let’s go further.

Because the ADC role has such a narrow pool overall (and remember, this data is going back to preseason 2019 when bot lane mages were firmly in the meta), taking the top ten in their role is essentially just the top half of all bot laners as opposed to one quarter or one third for the other roles. For the next step, I only selected champions that my tier list rated as “A” or better in the patch (and in parentheses, the average number of A-graded champions per patch):

  • Top = 40 (10.7)
  • Jungle = 31 (11.9)
  • Mid = 37 (11.5)
  • ADC = 17 (7.3)
  • Support = 24 (10.2)

Now we start to see a bit of a shift because top, support, and mid gained more unique meta picks when we expanded the criteria from top-ten to A tier picks. Ironically, jungle is the role that had the most new champions added to the meta pool (that is to say, there were more A tier junglers not in the top ten than any other role). But we only added one new jungler to our meta list from the last 36 patches.

Essentially, in each role the champion pool got wider with the exception of ADC, but the jungle didn’t get as wide as we would expect given the number of new potential champions that could have entered the champion pool.

This certainly does support Virkayu’s argument that the jungle meta is largely stale, given that we see so many champions being recycled in the A tier. However, the counter-points to this argument would be that in terms of absolute width of meta champion pools jungle is slightly above average.