As we near the end of the year, and with the dust still settling from the World Championship and only the All-Star Event in Las Vegas still to go, we’ve got some time to look back on the past 12 months.
We’ve seen the start of the LEC and the rise of G2 Esports, we’ve seen the meta shift, and Summoner’s Rift is now undergoing huge changes. We’ve been given new champions too, and old favourites have been reworked. So, what have been the picks that have dominated League of Legends esports across the continent in 2019?
When a champion gets a Victorious skin, you know it must’ve been a pretty popular choice that year. Aatrox was picked or banned 122 times in LEC regular season games in 2019, mostly played in the mid lane and top lane, but even in the jungle. The Darkin Blade’s strength and versatility often made him a top pick, even if in the end his win rate wasn’t all that impressive (47.8 percent in Spring, 40.6 percent in summer).
He completely fell off by the time Worlds came around, picked just 13 times throughout the whole tournament, but you can’t take anything away from the year he’s had. If you get hit by one of those Qs, it’s probably lights out, and definitely don’t try fighting him when his Ultimate is active.
Xayah / Kai’Sa
The AD champion powerhouses towards the end of the year were undoubtedly Kai’Sa and Xayah, coming in as a joint entry on this list. The amount of burst damage from Kai’Sa’s Icathian Rain is simply oppressive, as is the damage and combined root from Xayah’s Bladecaller. They might be feathers, but they do more than tickle you. In the right hands, these champions are almost unstoppable, which is why we saw them face off against each other so often at Worlds 2019.
Xayah was picked/banned 102 times in that one tournament, while Kai’Sa got 88 pick/bans. They weren’t as popular in the Spring Split, but they finished the year with a serious bang. Xayah was particularly dominant, with a 61.4 percent win rate at Worlds, and add Rakan into the mix as a bonus choice if you’re looking for that lovers’ synergy.
Pantheon got picked once during the Spring Split, and not at all during the Summer Split. Then, he was only played once at Worlds, although for a very different reason. Simply put, The Unbreakable Spear is now essentially broken after the rework he received in August. He can be played in solo lanes, the jungle, and even as a support. His Q damage is massive, he still has the stun from his W, and his Ultimate wreaks havoc across a teamfight.
MEGA’s midlaner Nuttapong “G4” Menkasikan luckily got to play Pantheon once in the Play-In Stage of Worlds, and they won, of course, but he was banned for literally every single other game at the tournament. We’ve barely seen him, he was only good for the last few months of the year, but he’s been so dominant he can’t be left off this year’s list.
Garen + Yuumi
Another joint entry here, as the unlikely pairing of Garen and Yuumi ripped up the bot lane for a good portion of 2019. The meta change that even made Fnatic’s Martin “Rekkles” Larsson bench himself caused a raft of strange picks, and one of the most popular was Garen, backed up by the Magical Cat, Yuumi.
There was nothing particularly flashy about it: Garen ran at you, hit you with his Decisive Strike, and did his classic spin to win. Meanwhile, Yuumi would be healing him up, poking with her Q, and rooting with her Ultimate. There wasn’t much a traditional AD Carry could do, and they often weren’t even safe under their tower. The pairing’s usefulness fell off towards the end of summer, as bot laners the world over heaved a sigh of relief, but there’s no denying the chaos the duo caused over the course of the past year.
Much like Yuumi, Qiyana is another new champion for 2019 that ended up being one of the more powerful picks. It’s been a year where flexibility and roaming potential have driven the meta, and Qiyana embodies that style. She can square up against you in the top lane or the mid lane, or she can come at you out of the jungle.
It took awhile for her to warm up after release, but she was picked/banned 100 percent of the time in the LEC Summer Playoffs, and had the second-highest pick/ban rate at Worlds behind Pantheon with 90.8 percent. The Empress of the Elements comes flying at you, stuns you, and deletes you instantly, and you’d better make sure you’re not teamfighting against her near a wall, or it’ll be game over.
Rounding out the list, and adding another member of True Damage in for good measure, Akali is another top tier example of the power of flexibility and roaming. She’s been pretty popular all year long, but was another champion that came into her own once Worlds came around, with a 74.2 percent pick/ban rate.
She can be played top or mid, but let her scale up a bit and she’ll be getting kills all over the map in no time. All those dashes, all that damage, and being able to shroud herself make her pretty annoying to play against, so you know she won’t be going away any time soon.