The European Style
Ever since Dreamhack, the metagame known as the European Meta is generally accepted as the standard way to set up a team and lanes. It provides a general backbone of lanesetups that proved to be safe and adaptable enough to become a standard able to deal with anything thrown at it.
There may be vastly different play styles out there - but this is the solid standard that can compete with all of them.
Basic Lane Distribution
Mid lane will be occupied by your solo AP carry, such as Brand, Malzahar or Anivia.
This has a bunch of reasons:
- APs are strong 1on1 laners who can dominate against most other champions
- They profit from leveling up quickly the most
- They often have the highest impact on early Dragon fights because this is where ad carries and bruisers don't have the gear yet, noone will have too much magic resists and your AP will have a leveling advantage. Also they often have strong damage against teams (just think of Brand), so you want them to be close to Dragon.
- They can all push hard but usually are vulnerable to ganks. This makes the very short and hard to gank midlane a good place.
- Most APs are very strong gankers, too. When they win mid lane, they are a severe threat to side lanes. Some examples would be Rumble (super long range ultimate and slowing), Malzahar's disable, Brand's pure output of damage or Anivia's wall and burst damage.
Toplane is occupied by either a Tank, Bruiser or even another AP.
- Just like mid lane, you want a strong 1on1 champion here. For reasons explained later, bottom lane will be the 2on2 lane in most games, so expect to find only one opponent here.
- Bruisers and Tanks go rather top than bot, because they push less and often are better in escaping ganks, due to more mobility or their tankiness.
- They are often very sustainable (Warwick, Jarvan, Irelia, pre-rework Kayle etc.) and thus can farm without the need of a supporter.
- With care and skill, it is possible to place a second AP here. As stated, they usually are very strong laners so they actually can lane on top as well, but will need even more care of not getting caught in ganks.
- Yet you will mostly meet bruisers on top lanes. Many AP's are somewhat squishy and prefer throwing spells while beeing rather close to tower range for safety, you can't always do that on a long lane.
This lane will be used by an AD Carry plus Support combo.
- Bottom lane is near to dragon, so it is good to have two people here rather than on top lane.
- AD carries usually have not such a strong early game, so they lane with a supporter.
- Further they profit most from farm but least from levels, so they synergise very well with supports.
- Supporters can help controling dragon by making sure southern river remains always warded.
- An AD-Support combo can outlane tanky chars and force roamers to stay, while ADs on solo top can be rather vulnerable
- Having a jungler allows your team to control buffs in the jungle
- Further it threatens the opponents with ganks all the time, since a jungler is almost always "missing" from lane.
- It allows your team to take a solo lane and farming the jungle, so you get much more gold and XP as a team
Why is a solo lane such a good thing? New players often ask so, since it can be hard and frustrating to play against two players, and getting zoned out might feel like you actually lose too much.
When playing as a team, you will mostly have a champion that can survive on a 1on2 lane.
Basically there are two problems facing such a lane:
- Getting pushed really hard and potentially losing a tower early. The best champions to counter this are usually such that can push hard themselves, so you probably want someone with strong AoE for top lane then. If the threat of an enemy tower dive is too big, try to give top lane to someone more durable or someone harder to dive, and let the first tower fall if you have to.
- Getting zoned out while your opponents do not push the lane, but deny your top laner xp and gold. This is much harder to counteract, but you probably want a champion that either has a very strong poke or is very hard to kill against this. Again, your jungler might have to spend some attention and time to aid this lane and should lay out his jungle routes accordingly.
What is viable?Basically a lot of things are viable, and many teams have their own favorite champions. There also is a certain difference between regions, as there are champions that are played a lot in the USA, but rarely in EU, and vice versa. And there is a tendency towards a little less variety in big tournaments as some champions are just exeptionally safe choices.
As there is frequent change and many personal choices even amongst the very best teams, it is often not as easy as just creating a "tier list" and rate all champions in power.
Common Choices: Brand, Orianna, Karthus, Anivia, Annie, Cassiopeia, Gragas, Malzahar, Morgana, Rumble, Zilean.
- Orianna is considered a "must ban/firstpick" champion right now.
- Morgana is very popular on EU since her last buffs and by some considered a ban/firstpick champion. She is a durable and hard to kill/gank/outlane laner while beeing a scary opponent in poke fights as well as having massive AoE.
- Zilean is a very "American" choice until now, but proved it's effectiveness during Gamescom. Wether he will become as popular in Europe is not as clear yet, but so far he has rather been accepted as an additonal choice amongst many, especially since he is strong early but especially weak late game.
- Akali is still beeing used by some teams as an AP and is the most common choice amongst these for tournament games.
- Mordekaiser suffers severely from lack of crowd control abilities compared to other APs, but still is a viable choice for certain team compositions. He is mostly considered to counter AD carries due to his ultimate.
Common Choices: Ashe, Caitlyn, Ezreal, Kog'Maw, Tristana, Vayne, Miss Fortune, Urgot
- Kog'Maw is the most banned AD carry right now as he deals tremendous damage on high range.
- Miss Fortune is the probably least favored AD out of these. She is close to Kog'Maw in style but has severely lower range.
- While Ashe usually plays a defensive lane style with a supporter like Janna, the other ad carries can play aggressively depending on their supporter.
- Ashe and Tristana have the weakest midgame but strongest lategame.
- Urgot is the most recent addition. Long not considered a real ad carry, Fnatic Lamia and #1 EU solo queue Yellowpete use him to great effect. His ultimate can give him guaranteed kills during ganks.
- Corki gets outdone by most ADs since his blind was removed.
- Sivir and Twitch are very niche champions, though not unplayable.
Common Choices: Sona, Janna, Taric, Alistar, Soraka
- Taric and Alistar support a highly aggressive playstyle on bottom lane and are more favored since Riot lowers heals and sustainability.
- Janna and Soraka are the more defensive picks, Soraka gets severely less attention since her skills were changed from sustainability to a more burst/counterburst playstyle though.
- Sona supports a harassment heavy playstyle or protects against such.
Common Choices: Irelia, Lee Sin, Gangplank, Cho'Gath, Jax, Nasus, Singed, Talon, Trundle, Udyr, Warwick, Garen
- Irelia and Lee Sin make specifically often picked or banned top laners in Europe right now.
- Cho'Gath makes many appearances in tournament play in general as a solid choice.
- Nidalee is a frequent pick in tournament play for top lane, as her spears make her one of the strongest poking champions. She suffers from a recent nerf of her heal though that makes her less sustainable.
- Kennen and Galio are rather typical for American gameplay and way less used in EU.
- Jarvan was an extremely common choice until he got nerfed repeatedly and is rarely seen ever since.
Common Choices: Amumu, Lee Sin, Udyr, Nocturne, Alistar, Trundle, Warwick, Gangplank, Fiddlesticks
- Especially Amumu but also Lee Sin make an extremely frequent ban. Amumu is known as trademark European and considered one of the strongest champs of all in Europe, getting banned on every Elo and level of play for his amazing CC ability. But he is specifically dependend on blue buff while beeing a poor lv 1 fighter, so lv 1 invasions are often seen against him.
- Fiddlesticks is known as a typical American champion and finds way less recognition in Europe.
Bans or firstpicks extraordinarily often include:
- Orianna, Amumu, Brand, Gangplank, Morgana, Kog'Maw, Irelia, Nocturne
On Summoners Rift, there are several objectives of high value: Blue Buff, Red Buff, Dragon, Baron, Towers and Inhibitors, as well as the nexus most obviously.
- Blue buff grants strong mana regeneration and cooldown reduction for 2:30 minutes (3:15 with masteries)
- The golem holding it spawns at 1:55 ingame time and has a 5:00 minutes respawn timer.
- The buff is very important for junglers in early game (exept Lee Sin), usually junglers take the first and maybe second blue buff. It gives 80 gold and enough xp to get from lv 1 to level 2.
- Junglers usually starting at blue buff: Amumu, Alistar, Trundle, Fiddlesticks, Rammus, Olaf, Jarvan, Warwick.
- Starting after the first or second respawn of golem, blue buff is granted to the AP carry who can put the CDR and mana regeneration to best use.
- Anivia is known for beeing the most blue buff dependend AP carry, thus blue buff is often contested when she is on a team.
- Red buff grants a damage over time effect and a slow on auto attacks.
- The lizard holding it spawns at 1:55 ingame time and has a 5:00 minutes respawn timer.
- The buff helps junglers with ganking a lot. Some junglers like Warwick, Shaco and Gangplank are severely dependend on it to gank.
- AD carries will pick it up later. They autoattack the most and are often the target of melees. Redbuff helps them to kite those to survive and deal additional damage.
- Dragon grants 190 gold für the whole team as well as local xp.
- It spawns at 2:30 and has a respawn timer of 6:00 minutes.
- Knowing when you can take dragon as well as when your opponents want to do it is crucial.
A few junglers like Fiddlesticks and Warwick might just steal it away when nobody watches, be aware when they have a strong jungler like this.
When to go for dragon:
- You just killed or forced back bottom or mid lane.
- You are completely dominating these lanes and have cleared wards.
- You have a strong jungler who can do most of the job.
- Your opponents are out of position, such as their jungler just starting to gank top lane while your jungler is around dragon.
- You want a team fight but your opponents don't.
- Grants 300 gold and 900xp to the whole team.
- Gives a 40 AP, 40 AD and mana/health regeneration buff.
- Killing him can effectively end a game.
Baron is the number one objective for late game. While minions become worth more and more gold and thus the relative value of Dragon becomes a little less, the baron buff gives a severe advantage and 300 gold are still a lot.
Usually Nashor becomes a point of interest around 20:00 minutes, when a team can gain a strong advantage (at this point it usually requires to ace the enemy while your jungler and ad carry are still alive). When this does not happen, it will usually become important at 30:00 at the latest.
When your enemy can do baron at 15:00, you know you should just quit the game.
When to go for Baron:
- You just aced your opponent (or at least killed 3 important enemies) and don't think that you can push to an inhibitor.
- You have the power to do it quick and your opponent is out of position. In really late game, one person out of position can be enough to trigger the enemy to go for baron.
Towers and Inhibitors
- Towers give 150 team gold and a lot of safety for your team as a point to retreat to, as well as granting vision.
- When to go for towers: Whenever you can. Unless you totally dominate a lane and don't want to end laning phase early. If you can push to a tower at 10:00, you might decide to keep it alive on low health to have a lane to farm. If you die for an inner turret, it was usually worth it.
- When to give up towers: When you cannot defend them anymore, or in return for an important objective. Damaged outer tower: Worth to sacrifice for Dragon. Inner Turret: Worth to sacrifice for Baron. Base Turret: Don't sacrifice these unless you can at least get one yourself.
- When to go for inhibitors: Whenever you can. If you get aced and get an inhibitor and your opponent cannot take one of yours in return, it was probably worth it. These things are worth to die for.
Before the Game: Summoner Skills and Team Composition
Summoner Skills: These are pretty much set for most lanes, with very few exeptions. Everyone usually either has Flash or Ghost (usually Flash).
- Jungler: Smite.
- Support: Clairvoyance.
- AD Carry: Exhaust.
ADs further lack in CC, which is why exhaust helps them a lot.
- AP Carry: Ignite.
- Top Laner: Ignite, Exhaust, or Teleport.
Teleport can be a great tool for ganks, going for objectives like dragon and split pushing. It can allow level 1 fights far from top lane without losing any xp or gold from coming too late for lane, and can grant lane dominance by minimizing farming downtimes.
Level One: Invasion?
Even before the first mobs spawn, there can be ways of gaining an advantage. If a team is confident, it can invade the enemy jungle to set back their jungler and boost their own one. A very common move is to steal the enemy blue buff when they have an Amumu. But it is also possible to steal the other half of the jungle -wraith, doublegolems, red buff. This is often used for a strong level 2 gank with red buff.
For jungle invasions it is very important to use Clairvoyance (CV) at the right times and to stay together closely.
The choice of jungle invasions often is done based on the level one power of a team.
- Strong level one fighters include: Alistar, Taric, Ezreal, Miss Fortune, Caitlyn, Anivia, Orianna, Udyr
- Weak level one fighters: Amumu, Sona, Soraka, Janna, most champions with weak auto attack and no cc on level 1.
When you cannot find your enemies with CV and have no vision on one or several entrances of your jungle, be very careful until you see some of your opponents on the mini map. They might lurk in your jungle or in the brushes of any lane to get first blood.
Level Two Ganks
Some junglers such as Udyr (speed, stun, high damage) and Jarvan (strong stun and high damage) have especially strong level two ganks. Time your CV well and ward early when you suspect this to happen.
Top lane is especially vulnerable to such ganks as supporters on bottom lane usually have wards on level 1 and mid lane is hard to gank anyways.
Junglers like Lee Sin can gank right the moment you enter the lane for the first time, as double golems grant level 2 and spawn at 1:40 already.
- As blue team, your bottom lane might be victim of a level two gank if the enemy jungler starts at blue, and your top lane might be level two ganked when the enemy jungler starts at double golems or red buff (for latter one he will need help).
- For purple team the same applies vice versa due to map architecture.
Early and Mid Game: Laning, Warding, Ganks
As a laner your aim is to farm safely and to not give your opponent any kills or possibilities to take your jungle or Dragon.
- On bottom lane, the supporter is responsible for warding to be safe of ganks and to keep vision on dragon.
- On mid lane, ideally your mid laner and jungler ward one site each, to make sure you detect anyone invading your jungle and to secure mid lane from ganks.
- The top laner usually wards for himself. This lane often is the most susceptible one to ganks.
The jungler has several aims:
- Keeping his own jungle clear to stay on par with levels and farm of everyone.
- Scoring as many assists or kills as possible without neglecting farming.
- Assisting losing lanes if possible or absolutely necessary.
- Making sure to secure objectives for their team and to participate in fights for such.
In many games you will find every lane warded all the time. An oracles can be a great investment if that happens, and you might be able to gank top and bottom lane from the lane brushes, when your team has the lane pushed.
During early and parts of the mid game, the AP carries will usually be the dominant force on the map. AD carries usually need around 20 minutes game time to make a real impact at all, and then some have a rather weak mid game again (Tristana, Ashe). AP carries will be the ones making the largest impact at early dragon fights usually, while you however need your jungler and probably also your ad carry present to take it down quickly.
ADs normally are still doing everything they can to prepare for late game, where they really shine. If there is no team fight situation going on, they will just occupy any lane and farm it.
After the laning phase ends or when it is just about to, it is an extreme benefit when your team (usually the support) does have an oracles. It will make warding way more expensive to your opponents and can secure objectives to you by granting a great advantage in map control.
Tournament and Patch updatesI am going to try to add the most remarkable things of latest tournaments and patches here, from details to drastic changes.
Gamescom (IEM, EMS)
- Dual AP (mid and top) is not quite dead yet
- Orianna (usual ban) - Even Riot admit that she is broken on high skill level right now
- Nidalee (Pick/Ban) - Not only against HotshotGG, her poke is just so incredibly powerful. And many games ended in poking battles around towers.
- Zilean - a true surprise for Europeans, but the Americans showed how scary of a mid laner he is.
A few notes i found less impactful but somewhat noteworthy:
Brand gets picked often. Strong laning, so good in teamfights of any size. Amumu is still a very common ban or firstpick. For ADs Ezreal, Urgot and Kog'Maw showed their viability in competetive play, while Caitlyn gets picked more than ever - Great laning, way better mid game than Tristana and extremely good in the poking fights around towers.
- Sustain nerfed in general, especially heals; Taric and Alistar (despite his ultimate beeing nerfed) take a much more important role as support now and are seen very often.
- Udyr picked and especially banned way less now due to sustainability nerfs.
- New champion Talon makes a strong choice for top Lane.
- Due to previous buffs, Morgana, Nasus and Garen are seen way more now. Morgana became a firstpick/ban type.
- Orianna's laning nerfed hard, might not be a mandatory ban anymore.
ESL Global Challenge NY Qualifier (EU)
- Ezreal, Caitlyn, Kog'Maw and Urgot are the most played AD carries. Especially Urgot and Ezreal beeing so popular is new.
ConcludingI believe that this knowing this form of meta game will help especially beginners a lot. It gives every player an easy to understand role and it allows to improve team coordination step by step for new arranged teams. It will help you specialising on a role as each role is connected to a certain lane, and often certain lane opponents as well.