Bot lane has changed the most this season. First, support has obviously changed considerably due to the gold item changes. Second, ADC has changed significantly as a result in a number of changes in the meta, but I think it ultimately comes down to changes in the support meta. To really get at these changes, we’ll have to observe the support meta in S3, and the new support meta in S4.
In Season 3, supporting was all about utility. Even when a mage like Zyra or Annie went bot, it was largely about their low-cost, utility oriented builds. However, the increase to support and jungle gold has changed the dynamic of the game (at least in solo queue). Interestingly enough, the pro scene (especially in Korea) has not experienced these changes as strongly. This is presumably due to the fact that junglers are getting to farm less, and supports are more likely to start with lucky coin. For now, we’ll assume that we’re discussing solo queue through mid Diamond 1.
The general increase in gold has opened up two new roles significantly: tank supports and mage supports. This is not to say that you couldn’t play tanks or mages before, but your builds were much more limited. Season 3 support tanks were much more squishy initiators, whereas mages were much more of CC bots with a bit of burst. Now, mage supports have a significant amount more damage, while tank supports can actually tank to about the degree of Season 3 junglers.
This has had many, sweeping effects on other roles. But before I get into that, what are these mages and tanks?
I would argue that the support meta is about as restrictive as it has always been. There are really 3 supports seeing a ton of play.
- Leona – the extra gold makes Leona insane to deal with. With even one tank item on top of her shield, she becomes extremely hard to kill, and with even one CDR item, she can spam out a ridiculous amount of CC. Leona seems to be LemonNation’s favorite support at the moment
- Thresh – Thresh isn’t nearly as tanky as Leona, but has more consistent pick potential with his grab, equivalent peel power with flay and box, and a good mobility tool with his lantern. He suffers from a weaker — albeit less all-in — laning phase.
- Annie – Annie was strong in Season 3, without damage.
Lulu, Sona, Janna, and Nami are still very strong supports, but they don’t really match up to these three at the moment. Zyra, once extremely favored, has fallen from grace. Her strength was having good damage with no damage items, but a champion like Annie outclasses her with damage items. Moreover, Zyra gets destroyed by Leona, so her strength makes Zyra an unsafe pick.
Lulu – I think Lulu will be one of the strong supports we see in the next few months. She can protect ADCs against the new sources of burst with her ultimate and shield, can nullify big threats with her single-target CC and line slow, and has a strong laning phase vs melee champions like Thresh and Leona.
Zyra – Zyra will rise and fall with Leona. If Leona keeps being a strong pick, it’s hard to imagine Zyra being safe in 2v2 lanes, although she may still have a place in 2v1 lanes.
With Annie bursting so hard while Thresh and Leona become tanky, how is the meta changing? In two ways.
First, jungle tanks simply aren’t as strong anymore.
Mage supports are now another threat to the ADC, making a tank’s job of peeling even harder. Worse, these mage supports are even a threat to jungle tanks, as another damage source on the field makes it even harder for them to stay alive. This has allowed for a lot of more damage/burst heavy junglers to arise, including Riven, Kha’Zix, and assassin style Vi.
Tank supports also threaten jungle tanks, by performing their job about as well, while now being at the approximate gold threshold to afford the aura items that were once suitable for jungle tanks.
Luckily, top tanks have stepped in to fill the void. This is not to say that junglers cannot build tanky, only to say that is now much more situational a choice.
However, the combination of all the changes to support, top, and junglers have vastly changed the position ADCs are put in.
AD Carries face a whole host of threats that they didn’t face in Season 3. First, top laners are tankier. The top laners in Season 3 were more about gap-closers and a combination of damage and tankiness. This meant that many responses were available: burst them down before they killed the ADC, kite them, CC them while the ADC killed them, and so on. Top laners right now are extremely tanky. This means that the ‘burst them down’ option is not available, while the ‘kite them’ option effectively removes the ADC from the teamfight. This means that high damage, kite-heavy ADCs have become extremely strong, and ADCs are picked much more for their laning phase, tower-pushing, and burst than they are for their teamfighting. Thus, we have ended up with 4 strong ADCs of the moment:
- Jinx – Jinx is the bees knees outside of Korea. She has extremely strong pushing, with AoE waveclear in rocket mode and a huge Attack Speed steroid in minigun mode. She has high burst with her ultimate, and her trap and slow feel a lot like better versions of Caitlyn’s trap and slow. The only thing that she doesn’t have on Caitlyn is a dash. This lack of a dash has lead to her being a low priority pick in Korea, with much more focus on Lucian, Ezreal, and Caitlyn.
- Lucian – Lucian is really the follow-up to Jinx. He beats everybody in lane other than her, has great mobility, great burst, and great tower-pushing with his passive. Moreover, he can pass on Attack Speed, going for a Corki/Legolas style BT + TF + LW build.
- Sivir – Sivir is the master of pushing towers, chasing, and kiting.
- Draven – Draven wins so many lanes due to his high damage, snowballs hard, and pushes towers quickly.
- Ezreal/Caitlyn – Ezreal and Caitlyn earn honorable mention for kiting ability.
I think ADC is no longer the powerhouse teamfight carrying role we see it as, and is shifting more into objective control (especially tower-pushing). I think this has the potential to bring a few new ADCs back into play.
Ashe – her initiate will never go out of style. Her low damage is a problem in teamfights, to be sure, but with a high-damage jungler like Vi (with whom she has great synergy), maybe it wouldn’t be crippling. Plus, her laning phase is safe enough to not get destroyed by most of the lane bullies.
Varus – Like Ashe, but with less initiation and more % health damage.
Tristana – It would take a few laning phase nerfs to the current dominant chapters, but high damage and long range is exactly what you need for tower-pushing. On top of that, she can easily kite tanks like Mundo or Shyvana.
So there you have it: my prediction is that the ADC position continues to become more about pushing and less about teamfights, and that the support position will be geared towards winning lane while providing initiation of some sort, because that sure won’t be coming from top lane, and a lot of the strong junglers are lacking it at the moment as well.
Mattias “Gentleman Gustaf” Lehman is a big time nerd-gamer who has been involved in both SC2 and LoL. He has ranked as high as Diamond 1 in solo queue and Diamond 3 in arranged 5s.
You can see his other work here:
Reign of Gaming LoL articles