After three long weeks of emptiness, the LEC returns this weekend with its first series of the 2022 Spring Split playoffs. Rogue, Fnatic, G2 Esports, Misfits Gaming, Excel Esports, and Team Vitality take to the stage starting Friday, March 25, hunting the trophy and a coveted ticket to the Mid-Season Invitational.
A few things have changed since the last time these teams played in the LEC, though. Patch 12.5b hit Summoner’s Rift and toned down prominent meta champions such as Jinx, Aphelios, and Ryze. Since Riot Games confirmed to Inven Global that the LEC playoffs will indeed be played on patch 12.5b, let’s take a look at which champions we can expect to pop up on-stage.
Top & jungle: Play it on repeat
We’ll start off with the two roles that aren’t expected to see too much experimentation in the LEC playoffs. The top lane and jungle meta haven’t been affected by patch 12.5b. For most teams except G2 (we’ll get to them later), the recipe is bound to stay the same.
Top lane champions such as Graves and Gwen have been extremely popular to enable a split-push composition. For champions that offer more in teamfights, teams should be looking at Jayce (incredible poke damage) and Gnar (Mega Gnar isn’t to be trifled with). Less popular top lane champions can fill a niche gap. For example, Camille is excellent at singling out targets and carrying games. A Gragas pick, on the other hand, might make your top laner cry as he’ll have to stay under his own turret for 14 minutes, but in teamfights the big-bellied bruiser can soak a lot of damage while splitting up the enemies.
The jungle meta is even more boring. Xin Zhao reigned supreme during the regular LEC Spring Split and will do so again in the playoffs. His engage options plus the immunity his ultimate provides are just too good to pass on at the moment. Lee Sin, Viego, and Jarvan IV follow in Xin Zhao’s trail. Diana isn’t as popular as the aforementioned champions, but she is the best AP champion to pair with an AD mid. The last jungle champion to take note of is Hecarim. The undead pony increased in popularity towards the end of the LEC split and very well could continue his gallop up the priority list in the playoffs.
Mid: Get ready for a K/DA cameo
The mid lane meta wasn’t as top-heavy in the LEC, as we saw a more even spread among the champions picked. Ryze and Viktor led the pack, followed by LeBlanc, Twisted Fate, and Orianna. Pro player Henk "Advienne" Reijenga scouted the meta a bit and reported that these champions will still be high up the list. “I think the scaling meta will resume,” he said.
However, Advienne also pointed out that a new champion might finally show her face in the LEC: Kai’Sa. Yes, that’s Kai’Sa mid, with an ability power build. Kai’Sa mid was popularized by League of Legends G.O.A.T. Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, who picked the ‘Daughter of the Void’ in the LCK. You can’t always pick her—she’s mostly good against champions who have to focus on farming minions because she outranges them. Furthermore, she doesn’t become a threat until Void Seeker, her W, is upgraded. Once that happens, though, Kai’Sa becomes a monster with a long-range nuke on a potential 3-second cooldown.
In addition to Kai’Sa, another member of the virtual K-pop group K/DA is set to pop up more: Ahri. During the regular split, Ahri fell flat on her face in the LEC. She was picked four times and lost every single game she was played in. However, with a three-week break as a buffer, teams must have caught up. Ahri’s potential is simply too good to ignore. Her mobility and burst damage, combined with a death sentence in the shape of her Charm, make Ahri an early game menace.
Bot: Are we finally getting variety?
LEC fans can breathe a sigh of relief: the bot lane meta is changing. Jinx, who was picked or banned in 80 out of 90 games, is dropping in priority. Advienne is cautious with his prediction, though, as he still thinks Jinx remains the strongest pick in the bot lane. But at least there are more answers to the rocket-slinging maniac. “Perhaps Ashe can become an answer to the Jinx, with a better laning phase and a buffed R [Enchanted Crystal Arrow],” he said. He also added that the Lucian/Nami bot lane duo appears to be returning, and that Nautilus remained a strong blind pick support for teams to lock in.
Astralis jungler Nikolay "Zanzarah" Akatov is a bit more optimistic. With the nerfs to Jinx and Aphelios, he expects teams to leave the bot lane champions to the second half of the draft phase. “[There is a] high chance that a lot of ADCs are gonna have the same power level, so you don’t need to pick it in the first three,” Zanzarah said, “It means you can just get mid, jungle, and top. [Then] pick bot, because the enemy can’t ban everything.” He mentioned that Jhin, Caitlyn, Varus, and Ashe are potential contenders for the bot lane.
There are still a few question marks surrounding the potential bot lane meta we’ll see in the LEC playoffs. Zeri, who received a whopping 46 bans during the regular split, seems to have fallen out of grace in other regions. How powerful do the LEC teams think she still is, especially since she can be flexed to the mid lane as well? Lastly, there is League of Legends’ latest champion to be released: Renata Glasc. In the regular split, the new support champ was picked only three times. She won two games—both victories were claimed when Fnatic’s Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov piloted her. With her powerful teamfight utility and lane combos with champions like Caitlyn, Renata Glasc is bound to increase in popularity.
Pocket picks to look out for
The LEC’s best-of-5 stage lends itself excellently for pocket picks. Risky strategies aren’t immediately punished, so teams can allow themselves more wiggle room to experiment.
If we talk about experimentation, we must instantly talk about The Professor: Hylissang. As said before, Hylissang was the only player confident enough to lock in Renata Glasc and actually win with her. But let’s not kid ourselves. Hylissang’s pocket pick is Pyke. He plays the champion on a level unmatched by anyone else. His hooks have a magnet attached to them and don’t allow the enemy bot lane for any breathing room. You realistically can’t ban Pyke against Fnatic since that leaves the team open to pick other powerful champions, but at the same time, a lethal Pyke is always lurking around the corner.
Another standout player with a deadly pocket pick is Misfits mid laner Vincent "Vetheo" Berrié. While the young Frenchman dominated the split on a variety of champions, his Zoe remains iconic. When Vetheo debuted last year, he danced circles around Fnatic with the tiny spellslinger and annihilated them in his very first game. Zoe isn’t a meta pick at all at the moment, but if the opportunity lends itself for it and Vetheo goes for her, get your cameras ready for a highlight reel.
Lastly, a player worth highlighting is Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik, top laner for G2. He has played a different role in his team than most other LEC top laners. Whereas most teams focused on either their mid laner or bot laner to carry, G2 heavily favored playing to the top side of the map and gave Broken Blade a lot of agency. As a result, his champion pool this split was incredibly diverse: from Akshan to Renekton and from Akali to Yone, Broken Blade wielded them all successfully. But there is one champion he hasn’t played yet: Riven, whose weapon Broken Blade’s tag is an homage to. Riven isn’t played a lot and has found most success in the LPL, played by Invictus Gaming top laner Tang "Zika" Hua-Yu. But should G2 be on the back foot against Fnatic this Saturday, don’t be shocked if Broken Blade whips out his signature champion.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.