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The Evolution of the Meta: A Journey Through the Years

The Evolution of the Meta: A Journey Through the Years

In this article we analyze the shifts in the meta throughout the years and discuss how these changes have impacted the game, both in terms of champion viability and gameplay strategy.
April 18, 2023

The Evolution of the Meta: A Journey Through the Years in League of Legends


Since its inception in 2009, League of Legends has become a worldwide phenomenon in the realm of esports and online gaming. Riot Games, the company behind the title, has continuously made adjustments and updates to the game to maintain its relevance and keep the player base engaged. One of the most intriguing aspects of League of Legends is the ever-changing meta. In this article, we will explore the shifts in the meta throughout the years, analyze how these changes have impacted the game in terms of champion viability and gameplay strategy, and discuss the factors that contribute to these shifts.

The Early Days (2009-2012)

During its initial years, the meta in League of Legends was not as defined as it is now. Players were still experimenting with champion roles and item builds, leading to a more fluid and less rigid gameplay experience. The early years saw some interesting developments, such as the rise of the "League of Cleavers" meta, where champions like Talon and Pantheon would stack The Brutalizer (a now-removed item) to deal massive amounts of armor penetration and damage. This period also saw the beginnings of the standard lane assignments we see today, with one top laner, one mid laner, one jungler, and a duo bot lane consisting of an AD carry and a support.

The Emergence of the "Meta" (2013-2015)

By 2013, the meta in League of Legends had become more established. Players and professional teams had begun to hone their strategies and focus on specific roles and objectives. One of the significant meta shifts in this period was the "Assassin Meta," which was characterized by the prominence of high burst damage champions like Zed, Ahri, and Fizz in the mid lane. This meta shift was largely due to the introduction of powerful items like Blade of the Ruined King and the Black Cleaver, which allowed assassins to deal substantial damage and dominate their lanes.

Another significant meta during this period was the "Tank Meta," where tanky champions with high base damage, such as Maokai, Gnar, and Sion, became popular in the top lane. This meta saw an emphasis on team fighting and objective control, as tanks provided the necessary frontline for their teams to engage and secure crucial objectives like Dragon and Baron Nashor.

The Introduction of Elemental Dragons and the Rise of the ADC (2016-2018)

In 2016, Riot Games introduced Elemental Dragons, a significant change that heavily impacted the meta. These dragons provided powerful buffs to the team that secured them, leading to a more objective-focused gameplay. As a result, champions who could control objectives and skirmish effectively, such as Kindred, Graves, and Nidalee, became more popular in the jungle role.

During this period, the ADC role saw a significant power spike with the introduction of new items like Essence Reaver and the reworked Infinity Edge. ADCs like Lucian, Jhin, and Xayah became dominant forces in the bot lane, and the role itself became a focal point of team compositions. The importance of the ADC in this meta meant that the support role also saw a shift towards champions that could protect and enable their carries, such as Lulu, Janna, and Soraka.

The Rise of the Mage Supports and the Bruiser Bot Lane (2018-2020)

In 2018, the meta shifted again with the introduction of mage supports like Zyra, Brand, and Vel'Koz. These champions provided high damage and strong crowd control in the bot lane, allowing them to exert significant pressure on their opponents. As a result, traditional ADCs began to struggle, and players started experimenting with bruiser champions like Yasuo, Swain, and even Mordekaiser in the bot lane. This "Bruiser Bot Lane" meta led to a more aggressive and diverse bot lane, where various champion combinations could be viable.

The introduction of new runes like Conqueror and the rework of the Keystone Rune system in 2018 further contributed to the rise of bruisers and fighters, both in the bot lane and other roles. Top lane champions like Darius, Fiora, and Irelia became even more potent with the new rune system, as they could stack Conqueror to deal increased true damage and sustain themselves in fights.

The Role of Pro Play and Patch Cycles (2020-2023)

The meta in League of Legends is heavily influenced by the professional scene. High-level players and teams often dictate the meta through their champion picks, strategies, and innovations. As a result, shifts in the meta can often be traced back to key moments in professional play, such as G2 Esports' famous funnel strategy in 2018, where they funneled gold and resources onto their mid laner, Perkz, playing Kai'Sa, while their support, Jankos, roamed the map as a playmaking Braum.

Riot Games' continuous patch cycle, with balance changes and updates every two weeks, has also contributed to the ever-changing meta. These patches often introduce new champions, reworks of existing champions, and changes to items and runes that can significantly impact the meta. As a result, the meta can shift quite rapidly, with champions rising and falling in popularity as players adapt to the changes.

The Impact of Meta Shifts on Champion Viability and Gameplay Strategy

The constant evolution of the meta in League of Legends has had significant implications for champion viability and gameplay strategy. Champions that were once considered top-tier picks can fall out of favor as the meta shifts, while previously overlooked champions can become dominant forces in the game. This constant flux in champion viability requires players to adapt and learn new champions and strategies, which can be both challenging and rewarding.

Meta shifts also impact gameplay strategy, as teams must adjust their approach to objectives, team fighting, and map control based on the current meta. For example, during the "Assassin Meta," teams often prioritized securing vision and making picks on key targets, while the "Tank Meta" focused more on team fighting and objective control. Understanding the prevailing meta and adapting to it is crucial for success in League of Legends.


The ever-changing meta in League of Legends is a testament to the game's dynamic nature and Riot Games' commitment to keeping the game fresh and engaging for its players. Throughout the years, we have seen numerous shifts in the meta, impacting champion viability and gameplay strategy. These changes have created a rich history of innovation and adaptation, as players and professional teams continuously experiment with new strategies, champions, and item builds to stay ahead of the curve. As the game continues to evolve, we can expect the meta to change as well, providing new challenges and opportunities for players to explore and master.

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