With 4.12 hitting the west this week and presumably arriving in Korea next week, I though it'd be a good time to look back on and analyze the meta we're leaving. 4.11 brought a lot of changes, and it's interesting to examine the impact that they had in competitive play.
**The Quill Coat Fizzles**
Obviously, the most hyped up part of 4.11 was the remake of the Hunter's Machete and Spirit of the Ancient Golem, intended to bring scaling, tanky junglers back into viability. On paper, the item seemed to offer everything an Amumu could ask for - early armor itemization to deal with junglers like Lee Sin or Rengar, free wards to mitigate your vulnerability to counterjungling, and an incredibly gold efficient passive that could theoretically make up for the reduced gold income that you get in the jungle.
And yet, if you'd have looked at the stats for 4.11, you'd think that nothing had changed. In fact, the only mainstream jungler that was building Ancient Golem, Elise, passed over the revamped item in favor of higher damage, AP MPen builds, while tank junglers were almost unplayed across all regions. So, what went wrong?
In reflection, not only did the new Ancient Golem have a few issues of its own, it also failed to adequately address the issues that kept tanks out of the competitive champion pool. Unlike Spirit Stone, whose sustain scales throughout the entire game, the flat HP/5 and Mana/5 offered by the Ancient Golem falls off relatively hard, not least because the item *encourages* stacking health. The problem caused by Spirit Stone's scaling with damage essentially persists - full tank junglers can't just pop into the jungle and heal up a few hundred health like a Kha'Zix or a Rengar can.
Furthermore, while the item's passive is extremely gold efficient *late game*, it takes a long time to get there when you're operating on a jungler's income. You need a completed Randuin's Omen *and then some* just to reach parity with the old Ancient Golem. And although the armor offered by item certainly helps against AD junglers, if offers comparatively little against the Spectral Wraith Elise that you're gonna have to deal with. Also, the item was rather unfortunately introduced just after a buff to the Blade of the Ruined King that ensured every ADC had access to cheap and powerful %HP damage, which makes stacking health as the item encourages rather risky.
Ultimately, although Maokai and Rammus did *technically* see play (one game each), the change largely shifted the meta even further towards high damage, early game champions. Of all tank junglers, Nunu stands proudly as the only one who seems to have really benefited from the new item, while Amumu and friends continue to languish in non-viability.
**How the Mighty Have Fallen - or - Kayle and Jax Get the Axe**
Given the incredible dominance of the two top laners - reaching ~95% and 75% Pick/Ban rate on 4.10, respectively - it's hardly surprising that they were given a health smack of the nerf bat. What is surprising is how far they fell. Even after the official changes were published, public opinion was divided on how viable they'd be. When we think of Jax, we think of the late game monster that two shots our carries. We don't think of the dude with pretty big numbers at level 1. On the face of it, it seemed that Jax would maybe have a slightly more difficult time laning, but would still be no less of a late game monster, and thus no less of a threat.
And yet, out of 47 games, he sits at a measly 3 picks, 3 bans, and *0* wins.
Jax was one of the few top laners that could afford to build multiple offensive items. In large part, this was because of the powerful tools he had to mitigate damage in Counterstrike and Grandmaster's Might, but it was also because his base stats were ludicrously high. While other champions were forced to work for their defensive statistics, Jax could cruise by with the second highest base Health *in the game*, and the fourth highest Health/Level. Deprived of that defensive buffer, Jax suddenly finds himself incredibly vulnerable as he completes his ~7000 GP offensive core, and ultimately, has proven himself too great of an early liability to risk picking. After all, scaling well only matters if you have the means to acquire gold to scale with.
The Kayle nerfs were a bit less ambiguous. The community had been begging for a longer cooldown on intervention for months, and Riot finally delivered. Still, there were questions about whether or not she would leave the competitive champion pool. Her ult, though longer cooldown, could still win teamfights outright if used correctly, and she still had incredible utility scaling on her Passive and W. Furthermore, the hit to her E's scaling wouldn't necessarily impact her ability to bully melees in lane, since you wouldn't generally have access to much AP at that point anyways.
Top laners across the world seemed to agree, however, that the nerfs were too much. Unlike Jax, Kayle wasn't even given the courtesy of being banned, and sat at only two picks at the end of the day. Impact's attempt at AD Kayle, building BotRK, Shiv and Lucidity Boots fell flat, resulting in a crushing 31 minute defeat at the hands of Samsung White. And while Acorn did see moderate success with his more standard AP build, the pick was chosen alongside Zilean specifically to deny Tristana resets, rather than on its own merits.
Now, it seems incredible that a champion with a pick/ban rate second only to Kassadin could plummet to such depths. Ultimately, I believe that the greatest contributing factor was the hit to her E. Now, it's important to remember that not all ratios are created equal. If a .2 AP Ratio were taken off her Q, which has an 8 second cooldown, she'd be losing ~3% of her AP in DPS after CDR. The loss of a .2 AP ratio on an "ability" potentially used upwards of twice a second, however, is devastating. Every auto attack Kayle takes essentially multiplies the damage she isn't getting, and in the end, she could be losing hundreds of DPS at full build. For a champion that was heavily prioritized for her incredible sustained damage, such a nerf is simply unsurviveable.
**Getting the Snowball Rolling Again**
The systematic changes that 4.11 introduced don't have as much to do with picks and bans, but I thought they'd be worth mentioning. 4.11 brought three significant changes to the competitive landscape - increased rewards for very early kills (and reduced rewards for killing players with multiple kills), a buff to turrets, and an increase to the range at which you can receive experience from lane minions dying.
I'll touch on the first point only briefly. Although it could be argued that Blitzcrank's surprising resurgence in Europe is thanks to his unparalleled ability to cheese at level 1, this change doesn't necessarily alter the meta landscape. Champions with very high kill pressure were already quite popular in all positions, and it's relatively difficult to actively seek pre-2 minute kills against a coordinated team that wards the entrances to their jungle. More significant is the change to bounties, which allows team comps that primarily secure gold leads through kills and neutral objectives slightly more security in any leads they might acquire. The exact scope of these changes is difficult to quantify in terms of picks, however, as champions like Elise or Thresh were already some of the most popular in their roles under the previous bounty system.
Far more impactful, in my opinion, were the changes to turrets and experience, which I'll talk about together. Both of these changes are mosty significant in lane swaps. In every region, the teams that were most successful were the ones that were able to simultaneously feed their top laner cs and experience, while denying the same to the enemy's. If one top laner or the other misused their teleport and got dived, they were practically out of the game. With these changes, not only is it much riskier to attempt turret dives to punish the use of teleport, it's also much more challenging to deny a top laner experience in a 1v2, should they elect to stay in lane.
In terms of picks, this has been enormously beneficial to AP top laners who'd otherwise suffer in lane swaps for their inability to clear the jungle or lane against ADCs. Gragas in particular has skyrocketed in popularity, quickly becoming the third most picked champion in the game. With such poor potential gains from sending your duo lane top, and the risk of giving up the (recently buffed) early dragon, most teams are forced to send their top laners into the 1v1 matchups that Gragas can dominate and allow him to farm his way into becoming the unstoppable split pusher we've all grown to know and love.
By the same token, however, champions that excelled in the 1v0 meta have suffered something of a fall from grace. Although Lulu's pick rate remained high, her win rate fell from ~50% to the mid *30s*. Now that it's significantly less common for a top laner to find themselves in a 2v2 lane against an ADC, her ability to trade auto attacks with ADCs simply isn't significant anymore, and she finds herself outclassed rather heavily by Gragas as an AP lane bully with safe waveclear and disengage. Naturally, she still brings enormous utility, but it seems clear that she's suffered from the changes to how top lane is played.
Anyways, that's all I have to say. I do enjoy putting this sort of thing together, and hope to do so for future patches, so I welcome any feedback :)
[(for reference, these are the statistics I'm referencing)](https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BMuoCRhYmlT5_2M_8Oz_WCbfbQ6SgsLSgfIOSUr5mWU/edit#gid=1195379499)