Is the lane-swap dead?
Most likely, yes. While you can still lane-swap, it would not be in your best interests. To provide a bit more context, the bottom lane towers no longer have bonus defense fortifications whereas the top lane towers still do; should you lane-swap, the opposing duo in the bottom lane would take that tower significantly quicker than you would on the top side. They could then bounce the wave towards their half of the map, giving their top laner a juicy wave to farm while they return to the top half, where they will likely still have a turret and be back into the 2v2 matchup that you wanted to avoid. This leads to some serious downsides for the lane-swapping team: you would lose a tower, which now gives “first blood” gold, your top-laner would be denied farm and experience, and you likely wouldn’t avoid the 2v2 for long.
Lane-swapping therefore probably isn’t the optimal strategy, which means that we’re likely going to see more standard lanes throughout playoffs. This will result in teams prioritizing winning side-lane matchups; taking the first tower of the game will grant your team a large gain in gold and map pressure, so having side lanes that won’t crumble in the first 5 minutes of play is paramount.
Top lane top picks
We heard from a few pro players that the meta will likely shift towards playing around the bottom lane and ensuring that they have the most success early. One of the best ways to enforce that is to have a top-laner that can easily transition to the bot lane and get involved in any shenanigans, preventing the situation from going awry for their team. On top of this, they need to be able to hold their own in lane. Remember that the meta is shifting towards standard lane matchups, so if you have an opponent that is stronger than you early, you can’t avoid it anymore!
The major pick that fits the bill on all these topics is Shen; already a popular pick on patch 6.14, he is a safe laner that has few if any bad matchups. He scales incredibly well as a frontline tank, can pack quite the punch, and brings global pressure to aid allies in sticky situations. Shen is likely to become the top priority on 6.15 and I expect plenty of bans and first picks to be aimed at this not-so-sneaky ninja.
We must always remember though, wherever there are ninjas, there are pirates. Gangplank is another champion that has many of the desirable traits coming into the new meta; his global pressure combined with his relatively safe laning means that he can help out his bottom lane should they need it, while building advantages in his own half of the map. He does have some tough matchups, but it’s a risk worth taking for the reward of his mid-to-late-game power. Fortunately for him, if Shen becomes the new top dog, he won’t have to worry about his early laning and can safely farm to the fabled Trinity Force that makes his opponents wish they had scurvy!
We’re still likely to see champions such as Trundle, Gnar and Ekko in the top lane, though it will be interesting to see how much their priority shifts when picking more towards lane-dominance or picking for the team.
2 v 2 us, bros
Now, the bot lane is where things get interesting. More standard lanes is a given, the question now is whether teams will choose to play for the lane or choose to play for the team. In the past, pros could always pick a bottom lane for the team because if it was a bad matchup, they could lane-swap and avoid it. This is no longer the case; should a team opt for a lane that struggles in 2 v 2, they can be punished during the laning phase and the enemy team could snowball a significant advantage from this point.
In reality, it’s unlikely that a team, even in a losing matchup, will give away a big enough lead in a 2 v 2 that’s not in their favour. Melee supports are still likely to be considered the most valuable, because, despite their weak laning phase, the utility and frontline presence that they provide come the mid-and-late-game would heavily outweigh the value that a ranged support could provide. This means that champions like Tahm Kench and Braum will still be top-tier supports, alongside Alistar and Trundle.
For AD carries, it’s a similar situation: you can opt for a marksman that provides more pressure during the laning phase while gradually falling off over time, or pick a utility-focused marksman that suffers during the laning phase, but provides more value in teamfights and objective control come the mid-to-late-game. Some champions that have both good laning and scaling include Jhin and Ashe. Due to their ability to trade well in lane, provide reasonable waveclear alongside their strength in mid-to-late game teamfighting, it’s highly likely that these two marksmen will be considered the strongest.
The jungler games: mid play
These are the two roles least likely to be affected by the newest patch. The biggest change will be that Nidalee’s priority may drop, depending on how pros perceive the changes that she received in patch 6.15. Even with the new focus on standard lanes, the current meta junglers of Gragas, Rek’Sai and Elise all provide early pressure and scale nicely into off-tanks that can peel or engage. The only major addition could be Lee Sin, as a tribute to our fallen god Gilius.
The mid lane will see a similar lack of change, outside of individual champion balance. The 1-3-1 meta that reigned supreme during 6.14 will still be standard, meaning champions like Vladimir, Karma and Malzahar will continue to be highly valued due to their strong wave clear, good scaling and their ability to perform in a side lane. We’re seeing more Kassadin, often picked into Vladimir thanks to his fantastic scaling: he’s one of the few champions that, come late game, will regularly come out ahead of the Crimson Reaper. This is likely to continue due to the small buffs he received in the most recent patch.
The other important thing to consider is the rise of roaming mid-laners. These are champions that perform well in a 1-3-1 set up while also influencing the side lanes early on. We’ve already seen some Twisted Fate and Taliyah throughout 6.14, but these may rise in value depending on a team's playstyle and their ability to roam early on.
A strong draft
I’m most looking forward to the changing drafts this patch. Now that every lane is looking for a winning matchup, how will teams look to prioritize different lanes? Will teams sometimes choose to voluntarily take one weaker side lane in order to guarantee a stronger side lane on the other side of the map? The inability to lane-swap will create interesting dynamics during the early game and I am excited to see how the professionals will adapt.
What do you think will become the new priority? Do you agree or disagree with my predictions? Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter!