Hello, Agigas here! Patch 2.5.0 bore a lot of community expectations, as many hoped it would resolve some issues with the meta that became stagnant. This update did not disappoint as it introduced a ton of balance changes which will be very impactful and create a new meta, that will hopefully keep dynamically evolving over the next weeks.
In this article, we will take a look at how this patch would impact the meta. Big nerfs to the three meta kings – namely Fizz TF, Aphelios, and Fiora Shen – will have major consequences for these decks, but also for the meta as a whole. We’ll discuss which popular archetypes will fall, which ones will rise – and I’ll also highlight some of the new decks that could emerge.
I hope it will help you get a sense of a direction where the meta is headed and inform you to make better deck choices. The assumptions here are based on my personal opinions, but I also back them up with Mobalytics win rate stats from the previous patch (all stats are from Platinum+ elo, unless specified otherwise).
Ashe Noxus was one of the worst decks in the entire game to play against Fizz TF (23.9% win rate). Ashe Noxus was great against Fiora Shen (63.3% win rate), but was unfavored in the Aphelios matchup (41.5%). Fizz TF was the most popular deck among this trio of ‘meta kings’ and the matchup was just too unfavored to allow Ashe Noxus to rise.
Ashe Noxus also has a slightly favored matchup against two other decks that should win from the patch: Overwhelm (55.6% win rate against it) and Lee Sin (54.2%). However, Ashe Noxus is unlikely to become a new ‘meta king’ as it still has predators, like Ezreal Noxus (32.0% win rate against it), and aggro/burn decks, like Discard Aggro (32.4%).
Overall, the role of Ashe Noxus in the meta shouldn’t change too much – this deck is more of an answer to a Demacia-heavy meta than a ‘meta king’ candidate itself. The deck has too many polarized matchups to rise to that status.
I expect the deck to be on the high-end of Tier 2, rising occasionally to Tier 1 when burn decks have low popularity. This is already a significant change of status quo – prior to the Fizz TF nerf, Ashe Noxus couldn’t get past Tier 2 even when Demacia (ex: Fiora Shen) was popular.
Freljord Shurima Overwhelm was already a pretty impressive meta deck, and it should keep rising in patch 2.5.0. While it is a very different archetype from Ashe Noxus, it still does share its weaknesses: an abysmal matchup against Fizz TF (37.8% win rate), and some difficulties against burn/aggro archetypes (ex: 31.5% vs Discard Aggro). The matchup against Aphelios was pretty average (47.8% win rate against it), but the Fiora Shen matchup was favorable (57.0%).
Notably, Overwhelm Shurima has an interesting matchup triangle with Lissandra Control and Discard Aggro (click here to inspect the graph).
This kind of self-balancing triangle is healthy for the meta since it creates a nice dynamic that keeps all decks that are part of it from being dominant for too long.
For example, if one of those decks – Lissandra – ever rises too high, the deck that counters it – Overwhelm – will soon rise as a popular answer. Overwhelm will be good also because Discard has been pushed out of the meta by Lissandra. However, after Overwhelm’s rise, the cycle will repeat itself once again – Lissandra will fall, and Discard will rise. The meta will keep shifting and self-correcting.
Overall, it looks like Overwhelm should get even stronger than before the patch thanks to the Fizz TF nerf, but it won’t completely take over the meta because of its position in a triangle as mentioned with two other powerful and popular decks. I expect the deck to flirt between Tier 1 and 2 depending on how popular control and burn decks are.
Lee Sin is a big winner of this patch. It had a bad matchup against all three of the ‘meta kings’ that were hit by nerfs: 48.1% win rate against Aphelios, 39.1% win rate against Fiora Shen, and 34.1% win rate against Fizz TF.
In the previous meta, Lee lost its Tier 1 spot and wasn’t played a lot lately. But now, with all the nerfs raining down on these decks, it’s very likely that Lee Sin will return to his Tier 1 position.
The deck still has some bad matchups, like hyper-aggressive decks (37.2% win rate against Spider Aggro). However, Lee can upset those matchups thanks to its high healing potential from Sparklefly, Eye of the Dragon, Guiding Touch, or less popular but viable options like Starshaping or The Fangs.
This sort of resilience even in unfavorable matchups, alongside the likely outcome that it will once again reclaim the Tier 1 spot, could establish Lee Sin as a dominant deck in the new meta.
Fizz TF is getting hit by no less than 3 nerfs. The deck is obviously a loser of the patch, but the real question is – how hard will the deck actually fall?
Pick a Card will have a much harder time assisting TF with a level-up, and turn 5 flip will now be more of an exception than a rule. The deck will no longer be able to upset bad matchups by getting a leveled TF too early, and will also have a harder time playing towards the TF win condition in general.
Less draw power means it will also make the deck less consistent, especially when it comes to Burblefish spam-turn. The combo potential, the consistency, the cycling, and the value of the deck are all significantly reduced by this nerf.
The Burblefish nerf is also very important – because this is a unit you would play multiple copies of over a single turn, lowering its attack is very impactful. Finding a lethal attack over a single turn of Burblefish spam will be much harder to achieve.
Overall, this patch didn’t hold its punches against Fizz TF, and it has been a long time since we’ve seen a deck being hit that hard. I think the archetype doesn’t make nearly as much sense as it did before, and I expect it to be Tier 2 at best.
Aphelios decks received several big nerfs. Aphelios himself has already been nerfed once recently – his health went down from 3 to 2, but this change was clearly not enough for a champion that is clearly designed to stay away of combat, in a region with an abundance of protection spells.
This time the nerf to Aphelios hits an actual source of his power: his weapon generation. The Veiled Temple is also getting nerfed, to a lesser extent than Aphelios but it still is pretty significant. I go over both of these changes in my patch breakdown article, so feel welcome to click here if you want an in-depth commentary on the nerfs.
Overall, Aphelios takes a really big hit this patch, and the balance team very seriously addressed the Aphelios Temple dominance. I expect the archetype to drop significantly, and go into Tier 2.
Fiora Shen is another obvious loser of the patch, but it is so in even more ways than you’d think.
The direct nerf to Fiora is very impactful, way more than the exact same treatment Aphelios got a month ago because she is not a backrow champion. She has to engage in combat with her Challenger keyword to be useful and progress toward her level up. This nerf makes her more vulnerable to removals, but it also makes her level-up and win condition a lot more difficult to achieve.
The other factor that contributes to Fiora Shen’s downfall comes from… the TF Fizz nerf. This might not be obvious at first, because Fiora Shen had an even matchup against it (exactly 50.0% win rate on stats!), but Fizz TF was the big factor that was making Fiora Shen dominant.
Earlier we’ve discussed a healthy meta structure – ‘the matchup triangle’. Now let’s talk about a ‘matchup square’ which is to the opposite, an unhealthy configuration (click here to inspect the graph).
In a square, if one deck rises, it keeps rising. Fizz TF, because of its sheer power, started to dominate the meta, which completely prevented Ashe Noxus and Ezreal Draven from rising again. Therefore, Fiora Shen could strive without being targeted, because its biggest counters were kept in-check by Fizz TF.
Moreover, Fiora Shen itself has a pretty good win rate against decks that counter Fizz TF, which made it even stronger as they rose to attack Fizz TF. In a ‘matchup square’, two decks are covering each other’s weaknesses, which further contributes to their dominance and makes them hard to attack.
In this particular situation, Fizz TF actually didn’t have that many weaknesses so it didn’t need a cover from Fiora Shen. Fiora Shen, however, had some very clear weaknesses, and Fizz TF did its job eliminating decks that could exploit them.
Overall, the Fiora nerf and the loss of its partner in crime, Fizz TF, means Fiora Shen will take a big hit. I expect it to still be competitive, probably as a Tier 2 archetype.
The archetype unfortunately has been struggling for a very long time, often considered as a casual deck. Still, in his recent guide on Treasure Deep, Random7HS presented Deep as a viable alternative to the meta decks.
The Empire of the Ascended expansion buffed Deep in an unexpected way – the deck has a strong matchup against Lissandra (65.8% win rate), which gave it a clear target to prey on. The deck, however, was still losing hard to the ‘meta kings’: 44.1% win rate against Aphelios, 33.7% win rate against Fiora Shen, and an abysmal 16.8% win rate against Fizz TF (even worse than Ashe!).
With the major nerfs to all 3 of those archetypes, alongside sizeable buffs to both Dreg Dredgers and Sea Scarab that improved its early board presence, Deep might very well be a competitive archetype once again!
Zoe Karma has been a sleeper deck for quite a long time. On a raw power-level, this deck was always a clear contender for Tier 1. Hush, Concussive Palm and the numerous healing spells make it very resilient, and in the late-game it is one of the best decks in the game. Ionia has access to some of the most powerful late-game disruption tools, and Karma can double up Starshaping to find multiple powerful Celestial finishers. The deck was held back by one major weakness: Fizz TF (30% win rate against it).
Now that Fizz TF has been nerfed significantly, I expect Zoe Karma to come back in the meta and be one of the premium control decks. The nerf to Veiled Temple will clearly impact the deck, but it should still be in great shape. It still has a weakness to board flood and shouldn’t be dominant, but I expect it to find a comfortable place in the meta.
Soraka Tahm Kench is yet another deck that was doing great overall but was gatekeeped by Fizz TF. It had a 42.3% win rate against it (data from all-ranks, I expect it to be lower in Platinum+).
While Soraka Tahm Kench is hard-countered by Ashe Noxus (24.9% win rate against it in all-ranks), which should be a winner of the patch, it is also one of the best counters to Zoe Lee (62.0% win rate against it in all-ranks), which will most likely be a popular Tier 1 archetype. Tahm also has a very favored matchup against Lissandra SI (66.1% win rate against it in all-ranks), which should still be a very popular archetype.
I don’t expect the deck to become dominant, but it should reclaim a comfortable meta spot once again, and will be rising whenever Zoe Lee or Lisssandra SI get too popular.
The patch 2.5.0 doesn’t take the meta issues lightly, and it isn’t holding any punches! The numerous minor buffs to underwhelming archetypes shouldn’t impact the meta in a major way but should help a bit when it comes to those weak archetypes.
The numerous nerfs to the ‘meta kings’ are looking to completely reshape the competitive environment. I think this is exactly what the community wanted, and I’m very happy about this patch and excited to see the meta evolutions in the coming weeks.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and are excited for the new meta! If you have any questions, feedback, or want to discuss those balance changes, I’ll be happy to read and answer you in this dedicated Reddit post or in the comment below! 😄
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Thanks for reading!