League of Legends' bottom lane is not how you last remember it.
Instead of hyper-carries sharpshooting their way to the late-game, we are left in a meta where up is down and down is up. Say goodbye to Caitlyn, Kog'Maw and a majority of the AD carries outside of a select few who can still withstand the laning phase, and say hello to your new bottom lane carries: Yasuo, Mordekaiser, Brand, Vladimir and pretty much anything else you can think of. If it can do damage, it can now go bottom lane, and we've entered the strangest meta since the early days of professional League of Legends play, with the likes of SK Telecom T1 legend Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok playing support Taric in the mid lane and going bottom lane with Darius.
While some players adore the meta for its wealth of options and breaking of the status quo, others, such as Team Liquid's superstar AD carry (well, bot lane carry) Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, consider the meta a wayward distraction from what the game was and soon will be again when Riot Games tinkers with its upcoming patches. For now, at least, Doublelift will need to navigate the current topsy-turvy meta if Team Liquid wants a chance to repeat as league champions in Oakland in two months' time.
"The cause of all this is just people are trying to find how to have the most game impact," Doublelift said. "And when previously, the way to have the most game impact from the bottom lane was to pick only marksmen -- generally marksmen who can spike after two or three items -- and play with relative safety. ... And now, the way to have the most game impact is to play engage and stuff like Alistar, Leona and like stuff that can go HAM in dives and play [alongside] champions who spike on one item like Irelia."
From a distance, there is no rhyme or reason to what is happening nowadays on Summoner's Rift. Games can be over in a matter of seconds if a team can funnel its resources onto the right carry. In South Korea, MVP was successful in one of the first games on the patch by playing around a single carry, Master Yi, and snowballing its jungler effectively through the early-game until he was too big to stop. While that has worked once or twice, the funneling strategy has also been the demise of teams: Fnatic, for example, put its best player and current European LCS MVP, Martin "Rekkles" Larsson, on Janna while playing a multisupport composition.
Other strategies like playing around Karthus and other oddball champions have briefly caught on but then fallen through the cracks as teams have gotten a better handle on the meta.
At the current point in time, teams are starting to piece together what can work on the patch, and the possibilities are endless. Instead of featuring prepositioned roles, the state of the game now resembles Dota 2, where positions are more free-flowing and can be switched around based on composition and draft order.
There are now games in which AD carries, for whom "utility" previously meant just playing Ashe and still dealing out damage, are now actual utility members, with their only purpose being backing up a Master Yi or Irelia.
"Being creative is cool and having diversity is cool, [but] sometimes the game just isn't fun to play, and I think this is just one of those metas," Doublelift said. "Faker is playing Taric, and great AD carry players are playing like Irelia and Vlad, and it's not fun. And the game has just become so much less fun than it was. So yeah, sometimes you might have a great idea, but the execution or the fun of the game goes down so much."
Although it's hard to imagine this current meta being used in three months at the 2018 world championships, the pinnacle of worldwide esports with millions around the world watching, it will be used in the upcoming Rift Rivals competition at the beginning of July. At the event, Team Liquid, along with the other two best teams from the NA LCS spring split, 100 Thieves and Echo Fox, will battle against Europe's finest, champion Fnatic, runner-up G2 Esports and third-place Splyce, in a competition for bragging rights at the LCS Arena in Los Angeles.
There, Doublelift will get to see his old friend Rekkles. Doublelift's Liquid squad dropped out of the Mid-Season Invitational on European soil in a tiebreaker loss to Fnatic earlier this year.
"I think it's just exciting to play against Rekkles again because I just played him at MSI," he said. "I just like seeing him as a person. I think Rekkles is really cool and really nice, and I would say he's one of my few friends who is in the EU LCS."
Doublelift. Rekkles. The legendary American AD carry and the legendary Swedish AD carry in a battle for regional supremacy. This time, however, don't be too surprised if it's Doublelift as Vladimir and Rekkles as Mordekaiser, both just trying to figure out this crazy new world we live in.