Here’s a fact: We as people always move towards a state of highest efficiency. This is true in life, finances, video games, you name it. Competitive gaming stands as no exception to this rule. These games, regardless of genre, have an established meta, whether it be up for change via patches, or long standing due to the core mechanics of the game benefiting particular characters or tactics. This meta is widely considered to be the best way to play the game, or more accurately the best way to consistently win. However, there is often an argument, especially in a genre like fighting games or high level MOBA play, about playing what you like. This argument remains prevalent even in the face of the meta. The logic here being that preference and expertise will trump the metagame.
The League Championship Series is the premier League of Legends
tournament franchised league on the North American side of the pond. In years past it’s been one of the more hype-inducing events in the League of Legends community. This is in large part due to the large playerbase on the continent. Naturally, this brought attention of larger forces, such as the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors wasted no time putting together their own roster and getting some unsung talent. Some unsung talent, alongside a legend of the game. Henrik “Froggen” Hansen would grace the roster with a mammoth amount of knowledge and high level mechanics. Unfortunately, they would struggle in the beginning of the 2019 season, being dealt four lossses in a row. Things weren’t looking good for this team. It seemed that Froggen would once again be on a team that wasn’t any good, something his legacy didn’t need.
But then something changed.
The team found themselves putting Froggen on Karthus. The Lich champion, while strong, wasn’t particularly meta in the mid lane. It seemed like something of an absurd idea. Playing Karthus in a meta where the most impressive looking teams had aggressive early games? Practically a surrender vote in itself. Except it wasn’t. Golden Guardians found themselves knocking out their opponents, Optic Gaming’s nexus in 33 minutes.
Certainly a fluke right? Team Solo Mid seemed to think so. They left Froggen’s Karthus available to be picked and let him have it. Forty-five minutes later, TSM found their Nexus destroyed. The Golden Guardians even put up a worthy fight against the first place, and, at that point, undefeated Team Liquid, the game looked like contest until it didn’t. That’s more than most teams can boast, and all with Froggen on Anivia.
We can sit around and throw facts about all day, but what’s it all mean? Is it a clear sign that preference trumps meta all the time? That if skill is equal everyone should just forget about meta entirely? Well, no. Obviously if we consider the mechanical skill of most high level League of Legends players similar, then we need only take a look at GG’s current record. At 3-5, against/as the meta against them and a loss to Liquid on their own terms, it wouldn’t be accurate analysis to claim this. But it does lead one to believe that perhaps there is more consideration in picks and bans than just priority picks. Pocket picks and specialties have clear value. First, they allow for more pressure in the pick and ban phase. Secondly, it forces an unprepared opponent onto the back foot.
These two things alone can net a win in high level play, without even considering the level of expertise the player may have. When you factor in the amount of expertise a player has? Well, Froggen has played more Karthus than time he’s probably spent eating, and it showed. Simply put, there’s more value in using what you know, than people will tell you, and following the meta regardless of your preference or history with it? Not always worth time.
Now please, stop picking Yasuo in low elo solo queue. Don’t try and be a Caps. Be a Froggen and play what you like.