League of Legends is a constantly changing game, frequent patches result in champions constantly rising and falling in performance and popularity (with both direct and indirects changes).
This season, the AD Carry role has seen many different champions at the top, at distinctly different time periods, different metas if you will and currently, we might be currently witnessing another shift.
The Past - Preseason Meta
In Preseason 2017, Twitch and Vayne were the two most popular AD Carries. With the minor update to assassins, Twitch was given longer stealth periods (now camouflage), allowing him to reposition better in fights and play around killing isolated targets. Vayne on the other hand benefitted from Fervor of Battle nerfs that pushed away the competition, alongside direct buffs to her kit in previous patches.
The competitive season started all around the world and it was obvious these two carries weren’t going to last. Following swift and targeted nerfs, Twitch saw little play and Vayne even less.
In a meta where AD Carries are currently too item dependant to be relevant in most games, the two preseason rulers lost priority in favor of utility and crowd control in the form of Ashe and Jhin. Varus showed up later and became the go to Marksman as the Lethality buffs hit the Rift.
What happened in the last few patches
After the Lethality buffs on Patch 7.2, any champion that could use and abuse the stat became meta, these last patches have been all about containing specific champions. Edge of Night and Youmuu’s Ghostblade both received nerfs and Varus, Miss Fortune and Jhin were all nerfed; directly through their kits and their Keystone Mastery of choice (Deathfire Touch).
As a result, these three champions all took a big hit in popularity while also heavily dipping in performance.
Simultaneously, other important changes went through
Maximum life steal against enemy champions reduced to 15% from 20%.
New Effect: Moving or attacking makes an attack Energized Energized attacks grant 1% - 50% (based on level) lifesteal and 30% movement speed for 0.75 seconds.
The go to mastery for most AD carries in Season 7 was initially nerfed and more recently in 7.5 reworked. Currently, the mastery is underwhelming and it went from almost mandatory to situational.
Fervor of Battle
Stack Duration increased from 6 to 8 seconds
Let’s get this straight, while Fervor of Battle still isn’t nearly as attractive for ADC’s as it was before, with physical on hit damage and spell stacking, the increased stack duration makes it much more attractive for AD carries again as they can now keep it up for longer and stack it in prolonged trades or fights, even if they’re pushed out and forced to reposition.
Bonus Armor Penetration increased from 30% to 45%
Attack Damage reduced from 25 to 10
Part of why auto based carries haven’t been doing well this season is because they have limited solutions to deal with tanks. While Last Whisper may have lost part of its attack damage, the percentage armor penetration increase on a relatively cheap purchase makes the item much more attractive as a mid game purchase to deal with armor stacking.
Blade of the Ruined King
Combine cost reduced from 900 gold (3400 total) to 800 gold (3300 total).
Attack Damage increased from 25 to 40.
Attack Speed reduced from 40% to 25%.
Life Steal increased from 10% to 15%.
Active damage changed from 10% of targets max health as physical damage to 100 magic damage.
Damage dealt by the active is no longer converted to a heal.
Passive on-hit damage now has a minimum of 10 15 on hit damage.
This change had a lot of people scratching their heads on what it would change. The AD increase over the Attack Speed nerf is most definitely welcome, as the role has sufficient ways of increasing that stat, with Berserker’s Greaves and Zeal items. The active did lose part of its appeal, but the life steal increase means there’s now another option to make sure carries are healing back up fast enough without having to grab a Bloodthirster.
With Lethality AD Carries losing a lot of their relevance, who are their successors?
Buffs to Fervor and BotRK benefit him greatly
The Prodigal Explorer has steadily been gaining traction since nerfs pushed away some of the former top tier marksmen on 7.4. In previous patches and in order to make it through lane, Ezreal would have to run Warlord’s Bloodlust to be able to keep up in sustain or to simply not get poked and bullied out of lane.
These changes, alongside a general meta shift further away from mage supports and into enchanter type supports such as Lulu have helped him greatly to get through laning phase. The 7.5 changes are the icing on the cake.
8 seconds on Fervor stacks means that even in fights where Ezreal is heavily zoned out, he can still keep stacking with max range Mystic Shots.
The Blade of the Ruined King changes benefit him more than any other carry, as Ezreal isn’t reliant on basic attacks and Mystic Shot apply the buffed Attack Damage, Lifesteal and on hit damage.
Over in competitive, Ezreal was the most picked champion last week and it’s very likely this trend will continue for the near future.
Picks of the week - 7th of March to 12th of March - Source
Buffs to cast animations and BotRK
Lucian has really shown up this patch, his play rate tripled and he rocketed to a podium position in AD Carry popularity, as the 2nd most played in the current patch.
Most of this is due to the cast time changes to his spells, making his animations more smooth as he ranks up abilities, alongside the BotRK buff which he benefits a ton from, especially with the additional AD and on hit damage that Lucian makes very good use of with his passive Lightslinger.
While he has only seen a couple of games in competitive, as regions start playing on Patch 7.5 it’s possible that he will start seeing more play.
Consistently high damage throughout the game, can bully many lane matchups
Given her high range and relevant damage throughout all stages of the game, it’s no surprise Caitlyn is amongst the most popular champions. The nerfs to Jhin and Varus alone were enough to both increase her priority in professional play and her performances in ranked matches as there aren’t many champions that can withstand Caitlyn’s superior range.
Are there others?
While not as popular, there are other AD carries that will show up frequently in the coming patches
Jhin and Ashe are likely to still see play, especially in competitive. This is much due to their sheer utility and ability to set up picks with long range initiation.
Kalista's recent buffs alongside the changes to Blade of the Ruined King make her a more attractive pick currently (she didn't need the attack speed as she already itemizes heavily for that stat), especially if she doesn't have to lane versus Varus and Jhin constantly, her play rate and win rate have been going up steadily and it's very likely we will see more of her in both ranked and competitive.
Sivir is still a solid pick for team utility, waveclear and an absolute 6 item terror.
Kog’maw has been dominating ranked in the last few patches, as he synergizes greatly from laning with enchanter supports. He does require a lot of setup and for a composition to be built around him though, which will make it hard for him to show up in competitive.