Hey, Agigas here! Many players were waiting for patch 2.4.0, hoping to see some emergency balance changes that will fix the meta – which is perceived to be in a terrible state by a large part of the community.
In the end, there were no nerfs introduced in the patch, leaving many people disheartened. It is true that this update wasn’t supposed to be a major game balance patch – that one is scheduled to come in two weeks.
However, we’ve seen in the past Riot had a track record of doing some important nerfs in a ‘minor patch’ (ex. patch 2.0.0 with the nerf to Pack Your Bags). It was pretty fair, in my opinion, to expect some balance changes this time – if there were indeed problems with the meta that needed a hotfix.
In this article, I wanted to answer that exact question – what are those cards/decks that make the current competitive meta so problematic. I’m going to, as always, dive into stats – and use them to back up or disprove the community’s perception of the current state of the game.
Twisted Fate has been a major force in the competitive environment for a very long time now. This is an issue because healthy meta is a meta that keeps moving and shifting – and TF remained untouched in his dominant position for a very long time. The list of Tier 1 decks TF has been a part of is really impressive: TF Ezreal, TF Swain, TF Gangplank, TF Go Hard, TF Aphelios, TF Fizz.
Another interesting thing to observe is how archetypes with TF have evolved. At first, they were using him as a sort of a ‘filler/flexible champion’, and at that point, players weren’t complaining about the champion at all. However, those decks were still very powerful, and many other cards from those lists ended up being nerfed (Riptide Rex, Make it Rain, Pack Your Bags).
The latest iterations of TF decks are really looking to abuse his level-up, either by drawing many cards extremely fast (ex. TF Go Hard, and, most importantly, TF Fizz); or by drawing reasonably fast while also protecting the champion (Aphelios TF). This makes TF the win condition and the center of the attention during games, which further adds to players’ growing annoyance with him. TF Fizz particularly accelerated the issue, introducing the ‘TF leveled up on turn 5’ pattern.
TF Fizz is currently the main home for Twisted Fate. The deck emerged soon after the TF Go Hard nerf (patch 2.0.0 – January 13), and quickly became one of the meta-defining archetypes. It dodged all the balance patches so far, even gaining a new card along the way with Stress Testing. So, how dominating this deck really is?
Looking at stats, Fizz TF is indeed very impressive. It has the highest win rate and play rate in Diamond+ stats currently – 57,5% win rate across 11997 games. This clearly goes above the 55% win rate benchmark, which Riot uses when balancing the game.
The deck is also very hard to counter – its two main weaknesses are aggro/burn strategies and cheap AoE. However, even against those, the archetype is still able to regularly upset the matchup.
Fizz TF’s removal package combined with its ability to close games quickly means aggro has to work very hard to win. Twisted Fate’s Red Card makes things even harder for the aggro decks that are looking to swarm the board with small units.
TF Fizz’s worst popular matchups are Pirate Aggro and Scouts – both of them have a 60% win rate against it – which is not even favored enough to call them ‘hard counters’. Swarm-oriented aggro builds like Discard Aggro and Nasus SI aggro are actually losing to Fizz TF, with 47% and 42.5% win rate against it in Diamond+, respectively.
The other popular way to counter Fizz TF – with cheap AoE removals – isn’t seeing too much success against it either. Lissandra/SI is the archetype adopting this strategy, and it has a 54.6% win rate against Fizz TF in Diamond+ which once again is slightly positive but really far from enough to slow down Fizz TF’s domination over the meta.
Overall, Fizz TF looks to have all the characteristics of an overpowered deck on stats. It has an extremely high win rate and play rate, and very few ways to counter it, none of them being really consistent.
The Aphelios Package
This is a problem that the community was not as hardly focused on recently because Aphelios got nerfed not that long ago and is currently not as popular in lower levels of play. However, the Aphelios package still looks problematic for the meta diversity at a higher level.
At the time of writing, we have a total of 13 Fizz TF and 12 Aphelios decks across the top 15 EU and top 15 NA. This is a very alarming statistic and is a clear sign of those decks’ domination.
Aphelios decks have the second-highest win rate among archetypes in Diamond+, just behind Fizz TF. Aphelios already has been nerfed, but stats are clearly showing that the archetype is still fairly above the rest of the competition – just like Fizz TF, it goes above the 55% win rate benchmark. The flexibility of the archetype makes it extremely strong in the hands of top players.
*Stats are from Diamond+, click on the spoiler box to inspect the sample decklists.
The Aphelios package is even harder to counter than Fizz TF. There isn’t any strategy that is looking consistent on stats at beating it, as the archetype has the tools and flexibility to adapt to any situation on the fly.
The incredible value the deck generates makes it very hard to contest in that area. Heals (Guiding Touch, Aphelios’ Severum, Starshaping) and powerful tempo plays (Aphelios’ Crescendum and Calibrum) make the game hard for decks trying to out-pace it. Decks going for a slower gameplan will struggle against The Veiled Temple and the powerful Celestial finishers. Funnily enough, one of the best decks against the Aphelios package is Fizz TF, which has a slight edge in the matchup thanks to its raw strength.
Overall, what we see on the stats is that this meta is essentially a 2-archetypes meta, with Fizz TF and Aphelios being extremely dominant and hard to counter.
Aphelios and Fizz TF aren’t the only decks that recently have received criticism regarding their power-level and dominance. Fiora Shen and Lissandra SI are the two other archetypes that were often called out as overpowered by many players, so let’s take a look at their stats.
With the win rate of 53,3% across 8303 matches in Diamond+, Fiora Shen is strong, but not alarming. The deck has its hard counters, showing a 29,5% win rate against Ashe Noxus, and a 33,8% win rate against Ezreal/Noxus (note: this one is on a small sample size and I expect it to average 40% on a larger sample size). Overall, the deck doesn’t look really problematic.
So, why is Fiora Shen a problem for many players? The first issue is that Fiora Shen is an ever-lasting archetype, and while it never has been the top dog of a meta, it is the only deck that has been in Tier 1 for a whole year! However, this hasn’t been much of a problem for the major part of that time, because the deck plays pretty ‘fair’ and never really broke through acceptable win rates.
The real problem that brought Fiora Shen into the discussion about meta-toxicity is actually… Fizz TF! In the past, whenever Fiora Shen was getting too popular, Ashe Noxus and, most recently, Ezreal Draven, were rising up to counter it. But in recent times, Fiora Shen is ‘protected’ by Fizz TF: both Ashe Noxus and Ezreal Draven have lots of trouble dealing with Fizz TF (24.9% win rate and 34.2% win rate against it in Diamond+, respectively), which prevents them from rising up as ways to keep Fiora Shen in check.
In the end, I don’t think Fiora Shen is a real source of problems for the meta. It still doesn’t break through acceptable win rates, and the feeling of not having ways to counter it is instrumentalized by the popularity of Fizz TF. If Fizz TF was nerfed, counters would emerge against Fiora Shen and the deck would be back to its previous state. Whether or not the deck deserves a nerf depend on how much we value having a dynamic meta – the deck has been there for a very long time, which can warrant a nerf to keep the meta moving, but isn’t a real problem power-level-wise.
Lissandra SI’s win rate of 51,8% across 7383 games in Diamond+ seems perfectly fine at the first look, and it doesn’t even enough to be Tier 1-worthy.
However, it is important to say that Lissandra SI is the first ‘new’ archetype of this article. Hence, some under-optimized lists are still out there contaminating the stats – and a lot of players are still discovering the archetype, lowering the archetype’s win rate. But still, even after taking a deeper look at the archetype’s stats, even the best lists at the higher level don’t look to be performing that great.
The deck isn’t easy to counter, but still has hard-counters like Azir Lucian (23.6% win rate against it in Diamond+) and Soraka TK (36.2% win rate against it in all-rank, not enough stats for Diamond+). There are also a lot of slightly unfavored matchups, like Overwhelm Shurima (40% win rate against it in Diamond+).
Overall, this deck doesn’t look like it is a problem to the meta – it is a very solid archetype, but nothing close to the dominance of Fizz TF or Aphelios decks. It is still very new, so we’ll see how it develops with time, but I don’t think there is a reason this deck should receive a balance change power-level wise.
Players have shared their frustration against the Watcher combo, which is very hard to interact with because of the ability to copy and play several free Watchers over 1 turn. This is something that is more related to game design and acceptable gameplay patterns – it isn’t something I can analyze with stats. Speaking strictly in terms of power level and meta health this deck isn’t a problem.
- No signs of Shurima
As you might have seen in our Metagame Tier List, there is no Shurima Tier 1 deck right now. The only new deck is Lissandra SI, but ‘new’ is a big word for a spin-off of the very old Frejlord Shadow Isles control archetype.
The actually brand new archetypes introduced by the Empire of the Ascended expansion saw a lot of experimentation and created a lot of Tier 2 archetypes, but none of them were able to challenge the giants of the meta as it existed before.
Overall, Shurima has a 47.8% win rate as a region in Diamond+ the last 7 days. Shurima is currently the only region with no region combination that has an above 50% win rate. Every other region but Shadow Isles has at least 3 region combinations with a 50%+ win rate (Shadow Isles has only one – when paired with Frejlord).
To some extent, it can be explained by the fact that Shurima archetypes are very new, and therefore not perfectly refined yet. However, the gap with the other regions is pretty large, and taking the stats only from the past 7 days at high levels goes against that explanation. Taking the stats only from the past 3 days doesn’t improve Shurima’s stats one bit either.
Shurima looks to be a pretty weak region. It didn’t bring that breath of fresh air to the meta that the player base needed, given that the last big balance patch was on February 3 – 6 weeks ago. It is not helping that Shurima also looks extremely weak to Fizz TF, as there are almost no popular Shurima archetypes that are able to sustain a good win rate against it in Diamond+.
Is the meta completely broken in Patch 2.4.0? It looks like it is. Fizz TF and Aphelios archetypes are dominating the top of the meta, and the entire Shurima expansion brought close to no changes in high ranks.
Dominant decks are a problem for the meta health, but even the bigger problem comes from the fact of how long these decks have been dominant. A lot of players have expressed their opinion on the current cadence of the balance patches being too slow. On the subject I suggest taking a look at this Tweet thread from Boulevard, analyzing the history of balance patches in Legends of Runeterra, and explaining very well why the community has been disappointed by the latest patch.
However, to balance out all the doom and gloom, I want to add that there are still plenty of quality archetypes besides the dominant decks. There are currently 18 different archetypes in Tier 1 and Tier 2 in my tier list, so there is still a lot of good things about Legends of Runeterra and its meta, even if it isn’t nearly as balanced and fresh as we’ve been used to.
Also, live balance is a difficult thing to do in a card game – pretty much every card game has seen problems in that area. It is only fair for the community to express their complaints and opinions on the changes of the balance patch cadence and the current meta, as we all want the best for the game, but please stay respectful and supportive of the LoR balance team.
Thanks a lot for reading! If you wanna discuss the subject or have questions or feedback on the article, I’ll be happy to read and answer you in the comments and in this dedicated Reddit post! 😄
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