League of Legends has an enchanter problem


It’s safe to say League of Legends has an enchanter problem. They were largely left out in Season 11 considering how strong tanky, hard-engage supports were the way to go. Near the end of Season 11, champions like Yuumi, Lulu, and Nami started being played in the developing Worlds 2021 meta, but enchanters didn’t get much attention otherwise. Now, in Season 12, we’re seeing a lot more pro players take advantage of what enchanters bring to the table. Just not in the support role.


We’re at the point where locking in an enchanter top lane and leaving the lane open is a viable, winning strategy. C9’s Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami is first-timing Soraka mid in a pro game and winning with ease. Zilean mid has been a solo queue nightmare in the right hands, and Team Liquid’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg currently has an 100% win rate with Zilean in pro play this year. What’s happening here?


Enchanters are overpowered by design

When it comes to support mages, they’re designed in a way that allows them to be very effective with a low income. Since supports are constantly starved for gold, champions designed for the role have high base numbers and abilities. Enchanters and utility mages like Zilean are powerful with low income for the exact same reason Leona can buy two items and be about as tanky as a four-item top laner. 


In the past, off-meta picks like Sona/Taric bot lane, Soraka/Seraphine ADC, Garen/Yuumi bot lane, and Yi/Taric funneling are examples of combos that have been strong for their own reasons. In most cases, individual nerfs will solve the problem of a particular support champion stepping over the line of balance. However, it feels like the current state of the meta facilitates too many enchanters for there to be an easy fix.



Smite Janna top has been played enough to get significant data on the pick, and her win rate is astronomically high in top lane. Many other enchanters like Bard, Karma, and Soraka have all been viable played in “top lane” where they roam around the map and wreak havoc on the enemy bot lane and jungle.



Felix "MagiFelix" Boström, arguably the greatest European solo queue player of all time, has already played over 130 games of Zilean mid on one of his accounts. He currently sits at rank #3 on EUW, and he’s been winning games despite being down on CS in comparison to the other mid laner.



Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami can hit his R key and win the fight for his team without the opposing mid laner being able to match it in any way. According to the post-game interview, this was Fudge’s first Soraka game outside of in-house 1v1s in over two years. Cloud9 didn’t practice this strategy in scrims at all, yet it looked so easy for Fudge to boost Robert "Blaber" Huang and Kim "Berserker" Min-cheol into a position where they could carry the game. Not to mention Fudge’s Ivern mid, which demolished Golden Guardians despite Milo “Pridestalkr” Wehnes getting a hefty early game lead.

Enchanters play a different game

The unifying factor of all these strategies is the lack of a need for income. Whether that gold is being funneled to teammates or being left on the table for the sake of rotating and surviving, support mages generally win games regardless of how good their CS is in comparison to the other laner.



Marc "Caedrel" Lamont’s explanation of Zilean mid is spot-on. Many low-pressure mid laners are hampered by their need to get CS and, in turn, get outrotated by a high-pressure lane opponent. But when it’s possible to drop a wave and still be almost as effective without gold as you’d be with it, there’s no reason not to match the opponent.



Or, when possible, giving gold to teammates is also ideal. Fudge’s ability to turn teamfights and get Blaber fed in the early game gave C9 a level of map control Evil Geniuses couldn’t hope to match.



Looking at the CS numbers, Fudge was close to even on gold with EG’s Joseph “Jojopyun” Joon Pyun, while Blaber was way ahead of the opposing jungler. The almost 30 CS lead Jojopyun had over Fudge didn’t matter when C9 were already in the driver’s seat. Viktor scales, sure, but Soraka’s early game power combined with the power spike an item like Moonstone Renewer provides meant that EG could do very little to stop the bleeding once C9 made their first cuts.


Rather than playing like traditional laners, enchanters in solo lanes are freed by the shackles of gold reliance and can commit all their time into teamfighting. While enchanters fall off later, the rest of their team is so far ahead by that point that the game’s already over. There’s a reason this strategy has such a high win rate. It’s a lot easier to just rotate around and teamfight than it is to try and stay alive in bad lane matchups and have to compete for farm and XP.



Riot’s balance team is already nerfing the viability of support items in solo lanes, meaning Smite enchanters top may be phased out soon. But this doesn’t solve the new mid strats, or the potential of enchanters to be played in bot lane or top lane as standard laners. Enchanters have a bright future in the meta if the entirety of the class isn’t nerfed in some way. And none of that potential is realized in the role enchanters were intended for.

Fighting fire with fire

Right now, enchanters mid feels like a fun strategy that a few select teams have been able to utilize well. There have been some examples of enchanters mid being gapped hard, like XL Erlend "Nukeduck" Holm's Sona mid that was down by 1500 gold against Corki in the opening minutes of their match against Rogue. It’s not a foolproof or unbeatable strategy, but mid lane enchanters are effective in the right hands.



This leaves the meta in a potentially dangerous spot. If enchanters are really strong without gold, who’s to say that both mid laners won’t run enchanters and play for teamfights? Enchanters are fun to see as an answer to late-game hyperscaling mid laners, but we run the risk of League’s optimal strategy becoming to counter enchanters with enchanters.


Sure, the “Arena” part of MOBA is important, but having pro games turn into a gladiatorial bloodsport between two early-game junglers getting healed and shielded is the sort of thing that gets old fast. The power of Nick "LS" De Cesare’s drafting style in the hands of other teams is still unknown.



LS has been a brilliant coach so far and his initial C9 drafts have set a frightening precedent for just how good enchanters can be. His unique drafting style combined with the recent Smite top lane shenanigans may create a domino effect where enchanters are being picked in every game. And not in the support role. 


It’s hard to say what the future holds, but at least these emerging strategies are bringing some fun variety to the meta. For now.

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