Neeko started as a bot lane mage in League, and Riot wants to explore that concept again

. 1 week ago
Shan Hai Scrolls Neeko in League of Legends
Riot Games

The bot lane meta is opening up in League of Legends thanks to the release of melee skirmisher Nilah. However, Riot has revealed they have tested many other off-meta bot lane concepts in champions like Neeko, and that further innovation isn’t off the table.

League of Legends’ bot lane has been dominated by long-range squishy AD carries since practically the game’s inception in 2009. While the meta was still solving itself in the early days, back to day one there was a big focus on having one hyperscaling physical damage threat.

Players have become stuck in their ways somewhat. Bot lane mains are comfortable on AD carries, rarely deviating from the archetype even if it gets nerfed (like in Season 8) or other picks rise up to challenge their throne (like Ziggs, Seraphine, or Yasuo).

However, Riot are opening up the possibilities with Nilah ⁠— League of Legends’ first melee carry intended to be played down south on Summoner’s Rift. Her kit falls somewhere between Yasuo and Samira, but with unique elements that makes the Joy Unbound unlike any other bot lane carry.

It’s not the only innovation in the bot lane space really, and breaking up the marksman meta has been on Riot’s cards for some time. In fact, lead gameplay producer Ryan Mireles told press a number of other champions ⁠— including Neeko ⁠— were planned to do just that.

Star Guardian Neeko skin for League of Legends
Riot Games
Neeko was originally intended to be a bot lane mage, Riot has revealed.

“We always try to talk about whether there are some unique things we can do in any type of lane that is quite exciting,” he explained ahead of Nilah’s launch.

“Neeko, originally, started out as a bot lane mage for example but eventually we felt like it wouldn’t work as well as it would in mid lane so we moved her.”

While it didn’t work out for the shapeshifting Vastayan, with mages like Ziggs, Seraphine, and Syndra making an appearance in the bot lane meta in recent years, the possibility of more dedicated bot lane carries that aren’t just long-ranged marksman has been floated.

“That’s the idea of like ‘would we make a bot lane mage from the ground up?’ People play Ziggs and Syndra down there but maybe one day we would consider making a mage intentionally from Day 1 as a bot laner,” Mireles said.

Riot Games
Riot Games
Some mages have seen success in bot lane like Ziggs, but there’s not been a magic damage champion specifically designed for the role.

It doesn’t stop there either. Riot wants to bring diversity to the damage types in bot lane to try and open up more picks across the map. Having bot lane carries locked to being physical damage carries can limit other roles, and magic damage choices could unlock hidden power across the rest of the map.

“We’ve discussed AP marksman ⁠— we have some hybrid stuff like Corki but something like where auto attacks are converted into AP damage and it’s a pure magic damage marksman is something we’ve talked about. It could add some pick diversity to the game as it could free up other roles to go more AD heavy,” he added.

“We’re not committing to any of this stuff, but we have had discussions.”

Nilah in League of Legends
Riot Games
Nilah is opening the door to more bot lane innovation, but Riot hasn’t committed to any other off-meta champions just yet.

Exploration in the space is underway, but don’t expect Riot to tee up another meta-shifting release in the bot lane quickly.

The champions team are now turning their focus to a number of reworks ⁠— Udyr, Skarner, and Aurelion Sol to name three ⁠— after a glut of fresh releases to kick off 2022.

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