Big patches usually bring big changes, and while in some specific roles it might feel as if the most popular champions haven’t changed much, in others we see a great shift, with some of the former top tier champions going down as other, previously considered more unusual choices become the flavor of the month.
This has been the case with the AD Carry role. While it hasn’t been the only position with big changes in terms of meta champions, we have seen a shift in popularity throughout the two preseason patches.
Vayne and Twitch both saw a surge in popularity, with Vayne becoming the most popular AD Carry in ranked matches, whilst Twitch is now sitting at 15% play rate, 10% higher than before preseason began.
Their resurgence isn’t random. It's a consequence of multiple other factors that allow them to thrive in this meta. Let’s have a look.
Fervor of Battle Nerfs
With Patch 6.22 came the infamous new Keystone Mastery Courage of the Colossus, but the rework to Fervor of Battle was one of the changes that really made a dent on the AD Carry meta.
To summarize, while extra Attack Damage sounds really good, having a higher maximum number of stacks, less time on each stack and no stacking with abilities effectively made the mastery much weaker for AD Carries, who only get 1 stack per basic attack. The champion most affected by the changes is probably Lucian. He can still stack Fervor faster than most in his role, but not being able to stack it with abilities hurts his damage rotations a lot.
Lucian was already consistently under 50% win rate and with nerfs to Fervor of Battle he's currently even weaker
The Fervor nerfs mean that champions such as Lucian or Ezreal have lost a part of their lane presence and those on the fence between two options such as Caitlyn are now defaulting to Warlord’s Bloodlust. It has gotten to the point where you will even see Lucian and Ezreal with that mastery, as not running them would lead to getting out sustained in lane.
In a meta where the added damage isn’t coming in anymore and sustain is king, Twitch and Vayne can sneak in and get through laning phase with more ease.
2. The Introduction of Lethality
Throughout the season we slowly saw AD Carries pick up heavy Armor Penetration oriented builds, trading the late game scaling that multiple critical strike items would yield for an earlier spike in power and more relevance in the early to mid game stage of matches. At first we saw Lucian do it, followed by Miss Fortune and Jhin.
In competitive play, Patch 6.15 effectively killed lane swaps and enforced standard lane meta, which in turn made these builds even more prevalent as establishing lane dominance and guaranteeing the first blood gold was (and still is) a great win condition to secure from the get go.
On Patch 6.22, Armor Penetration was slightly reworked with the introduction of Lethality. The reduction of flat armor penetration in early levels, combined with key changes to Ghostblade and Duskblade effectively killed Armor Penetration builds on AD Carries, taking away another aspect that granted them dominance in the earlier stages of matches.
While this doesn’t necessarily affect the early stages of the laning phase, Vayne and Twitch are still AD Carries that need time to grow into the game. They start becoming a real menace after two items (and just get stronger from there).
Armor pen builds gone for AD Carries mean that everyone is going back to Critical Strike oriented builds. These builds take more time to scale, which makes early game oriented ADC's less overwhelming to deal with for weaker laners.
3. The Current Support Meta
If in other roles we have seen new champions show up once more, the support meta is relatively untouched. Thresh is showing up more with the introduction of Courage of the Colossus and the new Alistar still provides strong teamfight presence. Yet the meta is still dominated by ranged supports.
Janna is still queen in ranked and has been at the top for months without end. Alongside her are other picks such as Nami, Karma, even Sona and Soraka to an extent. Brand and Zyra are obviously still a thing, but these defensive supports that rely mainly on shielding and healing carries are out in full force. The introduction of Redemption has been further encouragement for this archetype of supports (what Riot calls Enchanter Supports) to thrive.
Janna and Karma are frequently amongst the top 10 most popular champions in Platinum and above.
Why is this important, you may ask?
Well Enchanter Supports excel at keeping their carries alive. The combination of Warlord’s Bloodlust alongside defensive support picks allow these two carries to survive with more ease in the laning phase and get to the mid game relatively unscathed.
These three factors allowed these two hyper carries to come back in, but that isn’t the only reason why they’re peaking right now.
Vayne: A Tank killer and an anti-assassin AD Carry
With the new mastery, tanks are overwhelming the top lane meta once again. To take care of them, what better AD Carry than Vayne? Not only does she have True Damage to quickly dispatch the tankiest of opponents, Condemn is also an extremely strong tool to create distance from incoming opponents.
Patch 6.22 also brought a key change for Vayne. Using Tumble while in Final Hour now makes Vayne completely invisible and not even Control Wards will spot her. Being able to break line of sight with opponents allows Vayne to be safer from the ever so popular Rengar and Kha’zix picks in the jungle currently. Other strong junglers in the current patch such as Hecarim, Vi and Shyvana will easily get kited by all the tools that Vayne has at her disposal.
Twitch: Skirmishing and Teamfighting prowess
Twitch might not be as good at tank killing as Vayne (he is still pretty good due to Deadly Venom and his itemization) but in return he is strong in a wide variety of encounters, which is something that Vayne lacks (she's a rather poor pick against long range teamfighting picks such as Orianna and Viktor).
Whether it is catching the enemy carry isolated in a side lane to assassinate him, showing up unannounced in a skirmish after most crowd control has been blown or just doing tons of AoE damage from a distance with Spray and Pray, the Plague Rat is probably the jack of all trades if one is looking for a versatile AD Carry pick that is good in almost any type of fight.
Recent Buffs: Blade of the Ruined King
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Blade of the Ruined King was buffed on patch 6.23. This item was traditionally core on these two picks but fell out of favor after nerfs. With recent buffs increasing the % current damage dealt on hit to 8% (from 6%) it’s very likely that these champions will start picking it more frequently once again, giving them more tools to dispatch and kite tanks, bruisers and those pesky assassins.
It’s too early to tell, but despite their much higher pick rates, it’s likely that Twitch and Vayne won’t be nearly as prominent in pro play, despite now being more viable than they have been in a while. Scaling and poor laners get punished much more often in Pro play, where teams coordinate much better to set up frequent dives and communicate better in fights to shut down these kinds of picks.
You should still expect Caitlyn and Jhin to be amongst the most popular AD Carries, possibly alongside Ezreal and Ashe. Twitch and Vayne are still poor blind picks, but there’s now a reinforced probability of them showing up later into the draft when there’s more information on an opponent's composition.