It happens all the time, you come home from a long day at school or work and want to play a wholesome(hah) game of League of Legends when suddenly someone wants to play Teemo mid and you don’t think is that great. Great players usually mind their own business and focus on the strengths of this strange new pick that they can play towards. Good players often politely request a different pick that meets what the team is lacking. Everyone else reacts like they just found out a family member died and Teemo is responsible.
Below I list 5 things I want to encourage players to take into consideration before they hop onto the toxic bandwagon of enforcing the meta.
In short form:
- The meta is more a guideline than rules
- Blind Faith in the meta will quickly lead to disaster and cloud your judgement
- Anyone strictly playing the current meta is always 1 step behind those who are shaping the next one
- It makes your behavior predictable to good players
- Skill is more important than picks or the meta
The meta, a guideline
The meta is like the pirate code it’s really more of a guideline rather than a set of rules. Barbossa says it well:
The purpose of the meta is to serve as a guide or rule of thumb that players can use to help them make decisions on picks, play styles and builds. Without any understanding of the meta it would be difficult to know what to pick and where to take it or why. Lets quickly look at play styles the position meta. Ask yourself some simple questions. Why does the ADC need a support? Does top lane not benefit from a support just like an ADC? Why can’t you send your bot lane top and your top lane bot. Technically your ADC does not need a support, top lane does benefit from one, and you can send you’re bot lane top and your top lane bot.
Some people look at these swaps too simplistically. For example arguments like “Well your solo top laner will get crushed bottom”. While that is a possibility, why is the possibility of your duo lane destroying their solo laner ruled out in this line of logic?
There are however valid concerns with these swaps but they have more to do with map control and design. The shape of the map and the objectives around you change depending on where you are. Summoners rift is not truly symmetrical. Sending two teammates top lane gives up a lot of pressure on the bottom half of the map. Prior to the existence of Rift Herald and following its delayed spawn timer there just are not that many early priority objectives on the top side of the map. Keeping more people bottom allows you to contest or take Dragon early with little risk if your opponents have allocated resources where they are not needed at the time.
This is why there is some validity to players saying that lane swaps are mostly for the pro scene. To pull off a clean lane swap you must have good communication and everyone must understand what your giving and taking. Without a good plan you are just giving up key pressure for nothing.
Does that mean you really can’t lane swap in solo queue?
Well you can but in most cases if you are going to go for it the reasons for the swap need to be clear to your teammates. The less communication the more likely someone will not be on the same page as you and that will hurt you. Remember while lane swaps may be uncharted territory for your allies, your opponents could continue to abide by it. While your team may be unsure of what to do next the enemy team may not.
Blindness is an impairment
Well unless you’re Lee Sin anyway. There will always be times where the meta is not meant to be followed. Firstly, as a reaction to anything the meta is not suitedfor. So lets say the enemy team comp is strange for example they have a kill lane bot lane. While I do think skilled bot laners should be able to adapt to a strange match up by adjusting their play style, that adjustment is usually to a non meta style.
When looking at picks, if you’re pool of champions that intersects with the current meta is countered by the current enemy pick, then pick something else. Do not try to play the meta for the sake of playing the meta. That is just straight silly.
Too often I see players complaining about a match up because it is beating their meta pick. By the same token I see teammates complaining about allies who are losing to non meta picks. The notion seems to be that simply because the pick is non meta it cant possibly beat a meta pick. When you think like this it blinds your judgement and crappy judgement leads to losing without improving.
1 step behind
If 100% of you’re energy is focused on playing the meta you will never truly be the best. You do need to know the meta, but if that is all you can do, you’re at a disadvantage. While theory crafting can be risky, it is also rewarding. Players who are the first to market on OP picks and tricks will always have an advantage.
The meta is influenced by two main factors. The first being Riot and its patches. I personally despise explicitly enforced metas by Riot. To give you an example, the team builder system does not allow for lane swaps in champ select. A grey example would be how hard Riot forced Mordekaiser into bottom lane. As much as I dislike it, to a certain degree it is expected. Technically every balance change influences the meta and when it isn’t brute forced it is actually great.
The second factor is the community, its ability to innovate and how long it takes. Take Ziggs bottom lane right now. He was actually decent bottom lane for a few patches but because of attitudes towards non meta picks it took a lot longer for the meta to evolve to adapt it. We see this all the time, some picks start rising even though they were neither explicitly or implicitly buffed. This is my favorite way the meta is influenced. To me this is emergent game play at its finest.
If you follow the meta like scripture, you’ll be read just as easily. Good players gain from knowing the meta not just because the meta is a good indicator of strong picks or play styles but because it gives them expectations of what the enemy will do. When you meet expectations you allow players to predict what you’ll do and where you’ll go.
Trust me when I say you don’t want that. You open yourself to cheese, out plays and being out rotated.
What can you do about it?
Well you don’t have to run around like a chicken with your head cut off. Just make minor changes to you’re strategies. Have you been dodging hooks down for the last three times they were sent your way? Well dodge up because that Thresh knows you’re going to dodge down now. Most competent players will adapt to enemy behavior and as a rule of thumb, you should not assume incompetence. Adjust your jungle paths, bait abilities by flashing in waiting a moment then finishing your combo and invade when you’re not expected to.
Skill > Meta any day
No matter what, this is a fact. Blindly playing the meta is pointless if you are the best Urgot in the world but cant land an arrow on Varus. You could be an above average Urgot and id prefer that over someone who actually can’t play Varus. It’s just plain stupid to force allies or worse yourself into playing meta when the game matters and you know you just can’t do it.
When someone wants to play something you think is troll, its not your place to bash them. Communicating you’re concerns is not the same thing as harassment. I have been carried by every type of ‘Troll’ pick in the book or I have at least managed to win with it on my team. I have even lost to AP Zed. Ok that one is really bad but the guy destroyed our mid laner and his name was something like”Zed the Magician”. For those of you wondering, this was around D2 ELO.
ONE MORE THING!
There is a sixth message I have. Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes it is good to bring up an issue with a pick in champion select. You might have a valid point you think shouldn’t be ignored. Bring it up. The point of this post is to remind players that enforcing other player picks is silly, not to stop you from raising valid concerns. One too many times I’ve witnessed complaints about someone not playing the meta from players after something has gone slightly wrong. These things happen in games whether or not you play the meta so more often than not these complaints are unproductive and usually come from toxic players.