Is there a perfect League of Legends meta? Riot doesn’t believe so

Lunar Dragon Sylas in League of LegendsRiot Games

With over 160 champions in League of Legends, finding a way to balance the map and items around these characters sounds like an impossible task. But what does the perfect meta look like for Riot’s balance team? In short, it doesn’t exist.

Every League of Legends player has an idea on what the perfect meta is. With more than 160 champions in the game though, it’s easier said than done to actually execute on it.

The game has gone through a number of variations. From the Ardent Censer meta to lane swapping to enchanters in random lanes — even as far back as double top lane with no jungle in the early days — it’s evolved over time as the game systems have.

However what in Riot’s eyes is the perfect meta, and is there actually one? According to League of Legends lead designer Matt ‘Phroxzon’ Leung-Harrison, there isn’t really one.

“If there is a champion that is sleeper overpowered… is [that champion] meta if they are not being played but they’re the strongest champion in the game,” Phroxzon stated in a podcast earlier in August. “Probably not because he’s not being played, but they are factually the strongest thing.

“Meta is an artificial construct in that way. Meta doesn’t necessarily represent what is factually the most powerful thing.”

art for Zeri in League of LegendsRiot Games
League of Legends has its strong and weak champions, but can they be balanced into a perfect meta? Riot doesn’t believe so — but not for simple reasons.

There’s a certain, as Phroxzon put it, “lag” when it comes to what ends up being meta.

This lag when it comes to trying out new items, champions, or strategies has been present since League’s early days. At times, balance decisions can take months to become relevant according to Phroxzon. This is where large-scale meta disasters like Ardent Censer’s dominance come from.

The example he gave in the podcast was Sylas, a champion that got buffed repeatedly and still didn’t enter the meta until players figured out First Strike was the best rune to run on him. Until a high elo player tries something and has success with it, it isn’t likely to catch on with the general player base.

“The thing that’s in the high elo solo queue meta or the pro play meta definitely isn’t the thing that’s the most powerful.”, Phroxzon went on to explain.

This is likely why, despite some champions having a fairly low win rate, they don’t get buffed — and vice versa. Not only does the balance team need to nerf anything that’s causing issues in the game, they also have to try and guess what’s good before players even discover it.

“It definitely influences the players’ perception of what the most powerful thing you can do is, and in that sense we need to pay some attention to it,” he continued. “For every champion we have this set of indicators that are like ‘oh we think this champion is actually too strong to be buffed’ even if it’s not being played.”

Phroxzon also mentioned Nick ‘LS’ De Cesare, a popular content creator, former caster, and coach who holds the opinion that pro players are too focused on the meta and lent some credibility to LS’s view on the game.

LS casting in League of LegendsRiot Games
LS’ opinion on League of Legends’ meta often divides players.

The discussion led to the conclusion that pro players pick what they’re comfortable with and what they’re good at, rather than what is the best at any given time.

While Phroxzon doesn’t see any perfect meta for League of Legends, it’s hard to say what that meta could be or if a “perfect meta” could ever exist in the first place.

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