Competitive League of Legends play is currently entering its 7th season but the specter of Season 2, the first season when LoL became a popular and widely watched e-sport, still weighs heavily on modern LoL analysis. Unfortunately, this is an outdated approach - the way the game is played today barely resembles the strategies of Season 2. In fact, many game mechanics from Season 2 were eventually abused or even mastered to the point that they had to be reworked for the game to continue. Here are some common "Season 2 pitfalls" to avoid when discussing the modern game of LoL.
Season 2 LoL saw a clear definition of the 5 main roles and their responsibilities. However, item reworks, champion changes, and an improved understanding of strategy and how to play the game have modified or outright eroded these requirements. Let's take a look at the primary roles in Season 2 so we can examine how they've changed over time.
Top - In Season 2, the common "top lane island" trope was popularized. The main focus of top lane picks was on winning the laning phase and 1v1 dueling. The most popular Summoner Spells were Ignite + Flash, and the best top laners were the ones that could split push or damage carry their teams to victory.
Jungle - The main focus of the jungle position was to pick gank and teamfight oriented picks. Players focused on tanky champions which could farm up the jungle and initiate fights. Picks like Amumu, Dr. Mundo, and Maokai were particularly prized.
Mid - Season 2 was the era of the great mid lane farm mage. At the time, Froggen was one of the models of skilled mid lane play, and his playstyle has carried over to his current days on Echo Fox. Mids focused on playing waveclear mages which could push out their lane and display a strong teamfight presence.
AD Carry - AD Carry was the most powerful carry position in Season 2. Even early or mid oriented picks such as Ezreal or Graves had an incredibly strong late game presence because of the high scaling of critical strike items for auto-attack champions.
Support - The support position had a much lower gold income than in modern times. The role was still very focused on warding, but because of how strong the mid and AD roles were, there was a much higher emphasis on peel. Aside from the rare player (MadLife or Edward) the role was rarely used for engage.
Looking back, many of these role preconceptions remain to this day. However, the key responsibilities of the 5 positions have greatly changed over time. While being able to demonstrate strengths that were previously important is certainly a bonus, it's much more improtant to respect the new positional requirements. Here's how the roles have changed over time and the shifts which led to these changes.
Top - Improved strategy and a better understanding of teamplay has led to the widespread popularity of the Teleport spell. Teleport has made it much more difficult to bully lane, because players have a chance once every 5 minutes to return to lane with full health and mana after a lost trade. In addition, the ability to influence the other lanes even from a deficit means that rather the Season 2 damage-oriented split pusher meta has been replaced by a utility tank meta in the top lane. This has been a longstanding change from late Season 3 onwards. When evaluating top laners, it's certainly nice for players to be able to hard carry from this underrated carry position, but it's even more important to examine teamplay and teamfight tank play when judging new players. The best modern tops, such as Smeb, do have strong carry picks to punish unsuspecting opponents, but tank and utility play remains an absolute requirement for their success.
Jungle - The jungle position has remained somewhat similar in that gank and teamfight oriented picks remain the most powerful. However, early game play and low economy has become increasingly important. While some metas do place a premium on farming junglers, the most impactful pro junglers have by and large been those that help their teammates kill their opponents in the laning phase. While teamfighting was once the most important skill, teamfight oriented farmers like Meteos on C9 last season aren't as impactful as they used to be. In fact, the swap of Contractz-for-Meteos has demonstrated how impactful a modern-age jungler can be as C9 went from a clear-cut second-tier to TSM to dominating the NA LCS.
Mid - The mid lane position's evolution over time has also had a big change due to the much higher emphasis placed on roams. Simply farming under tower is no longer viable and instead players have to make an impact by roaming. The mid lane pool has also dramatically expanded since the days of Season 2 and in many metas, having a strong assassin game is just as important as being able to play the traditional mages. However, the gradual evolution of this role and the clear transformational impact that Faker played in redefining the position in Season 3 means that current mid lane role evaluations are much more accurate than for other positions.
AD Carry - The AD position is no longer really a carry-oriented position. Instead of focusing solely on damage output, players should also be evaluated for their self-sufficiency and utility game, especailly because champions like Ashe, Jhin, and Varus have repeatedly appeared in the meta especially when AD Carries are weaker. Even when AD Carries are strong, champions like Jinx and Tristana are expected to kite out and peel for themselves much more often. Players such as Doublelift or Forg1ven who were formerly known for their old school hard carry styles were able to take the next step in their carries by adding a utility game.
Support - Support has changed the least but the evolving ward system still isn't taken into account when evaluating players, especially by fans. Movable vision with pinks or even kept trinket wards are more valuable than ever due to ward limits. In addition to support's relatively low evolution, MadLife also redefined the position in his image including picks/engages instead of just peel, bringing perceptions of supports much more in line with their current status.
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