Disclaimer: Do not try this at home without duo supervision and/or significant experience/skill, side effects may include: nausea, being flamed in SoloQ, confusion, loss of LP and MMR, blurry vision, demotion to Bronze V, moderate to severe amnesia and tilt.
With the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational almost done, several developments to the meta on Patch 8.8 have occurred. The meta at the beginning and end of the tournament will always look very different as seen with previous international competitions (Miss Fortune Support in 2016 Worlds, Fervor Leona in 2017 Worlds). These changes tend to occur as a response to other power picks in the meta and can make significant impact within the draft stage of a series, potentially resulting in bans or denial picks. Whilst not all players at the tournament are as capable on these picks as others, practice and scrimmage time can lead to the addition of these picks into their champion pools for further use.
1. Blind Pick Yasuo Mid
With MSI being held in Europe, what better way to represent the character of the region than the ultimate SoloQ champion in Yasuo? Once thought of as a counter-pick seen exclusively in the top lane to match up against Gnar, Mr. Hasaki himself has risen to blind pick status in the mid lane as a comfort pick for Rasmus “Caps” Winther. The Fnatic mid-laner may only have a 1-2 record on the champion during the Group Stage in Berlin, but has drawn numerous bans against it and in all three games, blind picked it.
Early in Season 8, Yasuo mid was seldom considered in professional play due to the ease in itemising against him, a side effect from Runes Reforged not providing a satisfactory replacement for Fervor of Battle. With the debut of the Conqueror Keystone in professional play at MSI, Yasuo is now able to punch through the defences of an early Seeker’s Armguard. Other power picks of Karma, Ryze, Swain etc. may deny a few CS from Yasuo in the laning phase, but the combination of Bone Plating and Second Wind in the Resolve tree prevents him from being pushed out of the lane or outright dying. In the mid-game, these champions are simply not able to match Yasuo’s split-pushing pressure and can expect to give a solo kill over without significant caution being taken. Though not as successful as Caps, Eugene “Pobelter” Park and Gwak “Bdd” Bo-Seong of Team Liquid and Kingzone DragonX respectively have played Yasuo mid at MSI.
Expect to see more of Yasuo later this season in Rift Rivals, Summer Split and potentially Worlds, bar some drastic nerfs in later patches. As for SoloQ, it’s Yasuo; even if this development did not occur, he will still be seen going 0/8/0 flashing that Mastery 7 emote.
2. Teleport Ezreal
Though Heal is the Summoner Spell of choice for all ADCs alongside Flash for the sake of survivability, Kim “PraY” Jong-in demonstrated the power of Teleport Ezreal in Kingzone DragonX’s Day 1 game against Team Liquid. Initially thought to be the consequence of Kang “GorillA” Beom-Hyeon running Heal on Soraka (the Summoner Spell of choice on her other than Barrier since it allows her to survive to heal up her teammates, rather than the more aggressive Ignite or Exhaust), PraY then ran the same Summoner Spell setup with GorillA’s Tahm Kench who ran Ignite in Kingzone’s games against Royal Never Give Up and EVOS Espots.
It is optimal for Ezreal to buy his Tear of the Goddess as soon as possible so that he can begin stacking it. With Teleport, Ezreal can Recall to base as soon as he earns 750 gold (850 gold for us amateur plebs on Patch 8.10) and immediately come back to lane without missing CS. This is not the case with Heal, where the window for back timings is tighter, thus delaying the building and subsequent stacking of Tear. Other Ezreal games at MSI have suggested that this may be the norm for this champion in future professional games, with Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao and Lu “Betty” Yu-Hang picking up wins for Royal Never Give Up and Flash Wolves using the same set up respectively.
As for SoloQ, the more volatile nature of bot lane presents Heal as the better option. However, do consider Teleport for Ezreal if duoing with a support that understands the limits of safety in a matchup and can provide a strong force in lane such as a constantly-healing Soraka or a Tahm Kench with global presence; other ADCs simply do not have as safe a laning phase, nor benefit as strongly from the more generous back timings to take Teleport.
3. Marksmen Junglers
Whilst there have been metas where Graves and Kindred are extremely powerful, it is nonetheless surprising to see their presence in professional play here at MSI, as Olaf, Sejuani and Zac have dominated the meta for most of Season 8. With a focus towards bot lane in Patch 8.8, tank and bruisers are typically chosen to peel for the ADC in late game team-fights. As a response to these tanks and bruisers, Trundle has emerged as a major power pick, being able to clear quickly, countergank effectively and absolutely shred their defences with the use of Subjugate.
To counter Trundle, Graves and Kindred have emerged. Trundle is both Graves and Kindred’s best matchup; they can dash through his Pillar of Ice, and since they don’t have much armor or magic resistance, Subjugate is useless against them. Though Graves has a greater priority over Kindred due to his considerably healthier clear, both serve a similar purpose; both have strong counterjungling ability through kiting and their burst damage lends itself to counterganking. Unlike Kindred, Graves can be blind picked due to his more favourable matchups against the other meta junglers, though the assassins of Kha’Zix and Nocturne remain tough matchups. Kindred’s Marks allow for their pathing to be read easily, but the damage and scaling given by earning Marks is a worthwhile reward.
With the recent jungle changes on Patch 8.10, Graves and Kindred are especially strong as their existing pathing options did not experience many changes and are largely unaffected by nerfs to jungle items. Though the bonus attack speed has been removed from Hunter’s Machete, Graves and Kindred already use the Precision tree, so this impact is minimal. Should these jungle changes stick, Graves and Kindred should be considered as two top tier jungle picks for both professional and SoloQ play.
By Iain "Arkk003" Lew [2018 Marketing (Publications) Subcommittee]