Hello, Agigas here!
Against all expectations, today Riot announced a hotfix balance patch – 4 days before the World Championship Qualifiers. Upcoming nerfs will be targeting dominant Shurima-based archetypes – we’ll see changes to Ruin Runner, Merciless Hunter, Shaped Stone, Flurry of Fists, and Irelia‘s Flawless Duet.
(Learn more about the balance changes and the announcement here).
In this article, we will take a look at how this ‘Shurima Hotfix’ should impact the meta. The nerfs to Sivir decks and Azir Irelia will have major consequences not only for these archetypes but also for the meta as a whole. We’ll discuss which popular archetypes will fall, and which ones will rise.
I hope this analysis will help you get a sense of the direction where the meta is headed and will allow you to make better deck choices. The evaluations and conclusions here are based on my personal opinions, but I also back them up with Mobalytics win rate stats.
Sivir Demacia and Sivir Ionia have been crushing on the ladder and in the tournaments for a while now, and the nerfs to these decks were long-awaited.
Sivir Demacia has been the most popular version of the Sivir archetype, and it gets hit by 3 different nerfs in the hotfix. Its win rate exceeded 60% for a long time – however, the deck recently went down to a 56% win rate because of the very high popularity of its only truly bad matchup, Draven Sion (35% win rate against it).
Out of the 3 nerfs, the one to Ruin Runner is likely to be the least impactful. Spellshield, plus various combat tricks the deck has access to, and Sivir giving it the Quick Attack keyword will make sure Ruin Runner is still a pain to deal with – though the nerf will matter in some games.
However, the other 2 nerfs should hit the deck quite hard. Shaped Stone giving only a +2/+1 will make it harder to get a Ruin Runner OTK. Shaped Stone has been a core part of many Shurima decks, and this nerf is more than a Sivir nerf – it’s a nerf to Shurima. Finally, Merciless Hunter losing 1 point of health will make her weaker against cheap Challengers like Fleetfeather Tracker, and against removals like Mystic Shot or Avalanche.
The Sivir Ionia deck not only gets affected by all 3 of these nerfs but also by the nerf to Flurry of Fists. Sivir Ionia is a lot less popular than the Demacia version of the deck but it has maintained a comparable win rate recently on the ladder. It helps that Sivir Ionia has a less-difficult matchup against Draven Sion (47% win rate against it).
Moreover, once the meta stops being so scared of Sivir, good matchups for it will gain in popularity, which means it can maintain or even see a slight increase in its win rate (we’ve seen cases like this in the past).
Overall, while I don’t expect Sivir to be the meta queen anymore, I do expect her decks to remain strong, likely still in Tier 1, depending on the environment.
It’s not the first time that Azir Irelia suffers a nerf, but in the past, the deck’s win rate and play rate weren’t significantly affected by changes to some of its cards.
However, this time things are different. This season, Azir Irelia is not the powerhouse it once was, and it struggles against Sion Draven (43% win rate against it), Sivir Demacia (44% win rate against it), and various aggressive decks (e.g. 37% win rate against Zed Lulu).
Because of these popular bad matchups, the deck is sitting at a 53% win rate, which is good, but far from the best decks in the meta hovering around 56% win rates.
The nerf to Flawless Duet is very impactful, as this deck is all about winning fast by attacking several times each turn. Flawless Duet is a card you would rely on and look to cast as often as possible, getting it from Irelia and also from Lead and Follow.
Azir Irelia also loses some tempo and aggressive power from the nerf to Shaped Stone, a core combat trick of the deck.
While Sivir decks should cope with their nerfs just fine, Azir Irelia might not be so lucky. The meta was already difficult for the deck, and the nerfs only add to it.
I expect Azir Irelia to still be viable, but not as a Tier 1 Staple. If the meta evolves to counter Draven Sion with a lot of control-oriented decks, Azir Irelia will still be there as a great meta call.
Draven Sion has been going toe-to-toe with Sivir Demacia in the battle for meta domination. It is favored in the head-to-head and has a great matchup table overall. Draven Sion has already sent many players to Masters – it is the most played archetype, and it has one of the highest win rates in the meta – 55%.
While Draven Sion isn’t directly impacted by any of the changes, it does suffer from them indirectly. Sivir Demacia (65% win rate against it) and Azir Irelia (57%) were both very good popular matchups, and they are likely to see their play rates drop.
But it doesn’t stop there. As Sivir Demacia and Azir Irelia lose some popularity, it opens the door for numerous decks that were struggling against those archetypes.
Draven Sion is unfavored against Darkness (41% win rate against it), Zoe Lee (28%), Anivia Control (38%), and Ezreal Karma (33%), which should all gain popularity as Azir Irelia’s and Sivir Demacia’s play rate decreases.
Overall, I don’t expect Draven Sion to lose too much popularity – it will still be a Tier 1 Staple, and many players who were on Sivir Demacia or Azir Irelia will now start playing Draven Sion.
However, I expect this deck to lose some win rate percentage, as the meta should become a lot less welcoming for the archetype.
Darkness has been one of the most popular archetypes since the expansion release. However, it hasn’t reached the levels of Draven Sion’s success on the ladder, despite being a good counter to it.
Because of its very bad matchup against Demacia Sivir (31% win rate against it) and Azir Irelia (44% win rate against it), the deck remained as a Tier 2 archetype and only had a 51% overall win rate on the ladder.
Now that two of the Darkness’s worst popular matchups should see their play rate diminish, the deck will have a lot more breathing room. Darkness has a strong matchup against Draven Sion (59% win rate against it), which should persist as one of the most popular archetypes.
Moreover, the nerfs of the Azir Irelia and Sivir decks should increase the popularity of control decks, which Darkness also thrives against. We can expect an increase in play rates for Zoe Lee (64% win rate against it), Anivia Control (57% win rate against it), and Ezreal Karma (68% win rate against it).
It looks like this hotfix will create a much better environment for Darkness, and it can finally have a win rate that could back up its currently very high play rate. I expect Darkness to be one of the biggest winners of this patch, and it will have a very good shot at taking a Tier 1 spot.
Zoe Lee did not see much play since the expansion release – it didn’t get any hype from the new cards, and Sivir was too dominating. Many players also avoided the archetype because of its weakness to key Bandle City cards like Stress Defence, Minimorph, and Aloof Travelers.
However, against all odds, the deck is silently showing up some really great performances on the ladder. It has an overall 56% win rate, mostly thanks to its 72% win rate against Draven Sion in particular.
Zoe Lee struggles against both Azir Irelia (28% win rate against it) and Sivir Demacia (37% win rate against it) and so it will be a big winner from the hotfix.
The deck will still be kept in check by its bad matchups against Darkness (35% win rate against it) and Zed Lulu (36% win rate against it), so I don’t expect it to completely take over the meta despite being an already well-positioned winner from the patch.
Zoe Lee also tends to perform a lot better in high elo. In low elo, Zoe Lee’s positioning shouldn’t change much, but at high levels of play, it will likely become a Tier 1 deck.
Anivia Control hasn’t been played a lot this season and it only had a 51% win rate on the ladder. Even before the expansion was released, Anivia Control wasn’t considered to be a very good ladder deck because of its abysmal matchup against Azir Irelia (22% win rate against it) and Sivir Demacia (35%).
However, with both of those bad matchups being nerfed, Anivia Control might become a lot more relevant. Its great matchup into Draven Sion (62% win rate against it) and into a lot of other aggressive decks (e.g. 66% win rate against Pirate Burn) makes the archetype a very interesting choice.
Anivia Control isn’t so great against Darkness (43% win rate against it), which is a big winner of the hotfix, and overall doesn’t have the most impressive matchup table. Therefore, I don’t expect it to become a Tier 1 Staple. But the deck still wins a lot from this hotfix, so I expect to see more Anivias soon and they should find decent success.
Ezreal Karma is yet another control deck that wins a lot from the hotfix. It has not been played much this season, and its results have been pretty average because of bad matchups into Sivir Demacia (23% win rate against it) and Azir Irelia (30%).
Ezreal Karma has a great matchup into Draven Sion (67% win rate against it), and it also does great against another Tier 1 Staple, Zed Lulu (61%). Moreover, Ezreal Karma does great against Anivia Control and Zoe Lee (not enough data this season, around 70% win rate for Ezreal Karma last season), which are both winners from the hotfix.
However, Ezreal Karma is not without enemies. Darkness (32% win rate against it) and Gangplank Sejuani (31%) both should be staples in the upcoming meta. While I don’t expect Ezreal Karma to suddenly become a meta staple, it will now be a more interesting option.
Just like Zoe Lee, Ezreal Karma is a very skill-intensive deck, showing widely different performances in low and high elos. The deck shouldn’t see a huge boost in popularity and success at most levels, but in Masters, it could definitely make a splash.
Turbo Thralls is a low play rate deck that has been doing pretty well lately on the ladder, with a 54% win rate. Just like other winners of the hotfix, it does have a very bad win rate against both Sivir Demacia (33% win rate against it) and Azir Irelia (33%).
However, Turbo Thralls is a very different kind of winner as compared to the others presented in this article. Turbo Thralls doesn’t have a great matchup against Draven Sion (44% win rate against it) but it does counter the rising stars from the upcoming meta.
Turbo Thralls has a very good matchup into control decks – a 65% win rate against Darkness, and while there is not enough data this season about its matchup against Ezreal Karma and Anivia Control, these were known as very Thrall-favored matchups last season.
Thralls also have a great matchup into Gangplank Sejuani (61% win rate against it), which should also see its play rate increase as the meta develops.
Turbo Thralls was already doing pretty good before the hotfix, and it should only get better. Every loser of the hotfix is its bad matchup, and it matches up perfectly against the more control-oriented meta that’s awaiting us.
However the deck still has some popular bad matchups such as Draven Sion, and Zed Lulu (31% win rate against it) so I wouldn’t worry about it taking over the meta.
For the World Championship competitors, that hotfix timing is coming very awkward, giving us only 4 days to prepare for a whole new unexpected meta.
That said, the nerfs are looking very good, and while I am personally unsure how it’s best to attack the meta, I am also excited. Sivir and Azir Irelia have been gate-keeping a lot of decks for a very long time, and their nerfs should give a large boost to control and combo archetypes, and overall diversify the meta.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and are excited about 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 the comments below!
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Thanks for reading!