“Recently the term metagame has come to be used by PC Gaming shoutcasters to describe an emergent methodology that is a subset of the basic strategy necessary to play the game at a high level.” – Wikipedia
The 1.4 patch has been live for about a week now. This has given me some time to get some games in, watch some streams, speak with high skill-tier players, and see how the North American metagame has changed. Here are my observations.
LANE (In order of frequency)
Crystal power Vox is still one of the top dogs. The removal of 50% crystal ratio to Vox’s ultimate hasn’t made him any less viable. Typically I’m seeing him built with the IraqiZorro build, but I have also seen some people trying double Eve of Harvest with success. Vox’s sustained AOE (area of effect) damage is unmatched in the late game.
Weapon power Ringo remains a popular choice amongst the North American crowd. I am seeing a shift in meta away from early Tension Bow, with players rushing a Sorrowblade instead. This coincides with a meta shift away from burst damage to more sustained damage over time. Common items for Ringo are Sorrowblade, Tyrant’s Monocle, Bonesaw, Aegis.
Celeste was adjusted in 1.4, and I’m seeing her in the Fold a lot more than before. Heliogenesis received a moderate buff to its damage. Along with the increased crystal power to Frostburn, these two changes make her damage more consistent and her poke and kiting abilities very good. A skilled player is rewarded by playing Celeste now, as she’s no longer a one trick pony (ultimate). Common items for Celeste are Shatterglass, Frostburn, Eve of Harvest, Aegis.
Joule received a number of changes in 1.4, and after the patch I saw her being played in almost every match. She’s now officially a laner, as her optimal builds are quite expensive. She can be built weapon power or crystal power. Stacking weapon power on her means you deal a lot damage with Thunderstrike, which can critically strike and hit multiple enemies in a line. As crystal power, her faster Rocket Leap can now land with large amounts of crystal damage. Followed up by a Big Red Button, you can do massive amounts of AOE damage with proper positioning. Common items for weapon Joule are Sorrowblade, Tornado Trigger, Serpent’s Mask, Aegis. Common items for crystal joule are Shatterglass, Frostburn, Eve of Harvest, Aegis.
Oh man. Do I even need to explain this one? Skaarf is currently broken. His Spitfire mistakenly applies two stacks of his heroic perk, Fan the Flames. This means that his initial burn will do 6% of your health every second you are burning. It only takes two auto attacks to increase that to 10% and you are pretty much dead. Currently built with attack speed (Blazing Salvo, Tornado Trigger), Broken Myth (against shield), and defensive items. Skaarf will pitch a tent in your jungle from level one and never leave.
Tanksha ran amok in patch 1.2 and never left. She’s still incredible and, when combined with Skaarf, can wreck you with their early jungle wombo combo. I’m listing her as a Jungle carry-ish because she’s usually built with defensive items and an Aftershock. She isn’t a pure support, she has good damage without items, and is quite mobile. Are you seeing a trend of semi-tanky junglers? Sometimes Koshka gets the contract, where she is more support. Sometimes she’s the carry and builds more crystal power.
While the above two heroes are dominating jungle meta right now, Taka has also seen a rise when played with sustained weapon power damage. Likely due to ShinKaigan’s performance on VGL with Zekent, Taka is quite an effective counter to Vox. His X-Retsu halves all healing for four seconds. His heroic perk allows him to have a 100% critical strike chance, so he can focus on having high base weapon power and attack speed without utilizing too many item slots. Taka is being built with Sorrowblade, Blazing Salvo into Bonesaw, and lots of Fountain of Renewals and other defensive items. Semi-tanky sustained DPS (damage per second). It’s the new meta!
While not as prevalent due to the current Skaarf meta, post 1.3 buffed Krul is seeing his share of play as well. His weak early game can be overcome by pairing with a Koshka or Skaarf. Krul is the definitive “jungle carry-ish” bruiser. After level 11, he’s tanky and versatile. Krul is being built either with Aftershock as burst damage or Breaking Point and attack speed as sustained damage. Defensive items help Krul stay alive while he applies his weakness stacks. He is a late game play, which is a counter to the early game aggressive meta (if you can get to the late game by smart, defensive play).
Wait what? Two Skaarfs? Yes, he’s also being played as a full support getting Ironguard Contract. His heroic perk doesn’t scale with items except attack speed and shield pierce, so he doesn’t actually need all that much money. Defensive items are cheaper than offensive items. Skaarf can also repetitively invade, get kills, and steal enemy jungle camps to make up for the lack of gold. Build Ironguard Contract, Blazing Salvo, and defensive items.
That evil b&#*!. She’s back and meaner than ever. Catherine’s stun bug isn’t 100% fixed, but it’s much better than before. Also, due to the changes to Ironguard Contract (no longer provides 20 gold to the Contract holder for being hit), Jungle supports are getting even less money. Catherine shines without the need for gold, as her abilities have very little item scaling. Combined with Vox, you can silence the enemy team for 4.5 seconds. This is an eternity in Vainglory and can seal a kill on at least one team member, turning it into a 2v3. Build Ironguard Contract, and pure defensive items.
Adagio is seeing some counter-meta play as his level 1 defend is very strong. His crystal ratios were corrected in the 1.4 patch, giving him a buff when built with Crystal power. His abilities when played as a pure support also don’t require expensive items. You can build him full support, still provide burst heal, buff your carry, and stun an entire enemy team with the ultimate. Build Crucibles, Fountain of Renewals, Eve of Harvest.
With the changes to Reflex Block and the prevalence of Vox, Koshka, and Skaarf, Fountain of Renewal is seeing a lot of play in 1.4. It adds a good amount of shield and provides lots of group sustain against small AOE damage (such as Vox and Skaarf). The more Fountains on your team, the more likely you are to win.
Aegis is also a very popular item because it provides massive amounts of shield, and has the Reflex Block active to block stuns, silences, and debuffs. I had listed Aegis on almost every carry’s recommended items, and for good reason.
With the changes to Flares, Scout Traps are more important than ever. Scout Traps are everywhere in high Elo play. Vision is the key to success, and Scout Traps in strategic locations will provide you with that.
SKAARF, SKAARF, SKAARF
An enemy Skaarf usually means an early invade. Be prepared for this by having all three party members together to defend. A Light Shield on your team’s jungle tank/support will help because Fan the Flames has no shield piercing until level six. Skaarf is your number one focus. If he misses his Spitfire, go at him HARD. Spitfire’s cooldown at level one is a long eight seconds. If you do get hit by the fire, do not go near your teammates, as you will burn them as well. Try to back off out of his auto attack range, but still attack any other enemy that’s in range. Expect the enemy Skaarf to invade every chance they get. Keep your side populated with Scout Traps. If you can survive to mid-late game, you have a fighting chance. Late game, Skaarf is no longer your focus target. His damage tickles if he’s built full support, so focus on the enemy carry, then go for Skaarf.
LEVEL ONE COUNTER JUNGLE
Another method of countering an early invade (due to Skaarf), is to purchase Sprint Boots first and run across the top lane bush (unseen) and steal the back two jungle camps before they can notice. Gadianton shows how you can accomplish this in this excellent video. A counter to this strategy as a lane hero is to stay in your lane bush a little longer to make sure they aren’t doing this.