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Mar 29, 2016

Which Champions are Strongest When Mastered? - April 2016

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Over the course of two years, The "Strongest Champions When Mastered" series has changed greatly, despite best efforts otherwise. Even though we try and focus in on the strongest champions over a long course of time, the massive buffs and nerfs that Riot hits champions with quickly drops them from major powerhouses to firmly unplayable or vice versa.

However, I think that this list strikes a good balance of flavor of the month and true power. For example, despite Lux starting as a FOTM favorite, she continuously outperformed and is now one of the key staples of mid lane.
With that in mind, I'll start noting which champions may be more of a FOTM pick and which ones appear to have more long-lasting value.

Check out the full list below!

Season 6 - Patch 6.6 Champion Gallery
"Strongest Champions When Mastered "

This List has been updated, and new versions are available via this link

Introduction

It's been a long ride. Over the course of two years, The "Strongest Champions When Mastered" series has changed greatly. Even though we try and focus in on the strongest champions over a long course of time, the massive buffs and nerfs that Riot hits champions with quickly drops them from major powerhouses to firmly unplayable or vice versa.

However, I think that this list strikes a good balance of flavor of the month and true power. For example, despite Lux starting as a FOTM favorite, she continuously outperformed and is now one of the key staples of mid lane.

I do see the list trending towards more of a FOTM from time to time though so I'll start noting which champions may be more of a FOTM pick and which ones appear to have more long-lasting value.

Check out the full list below, or if you're more interested in the FOTM picks, check out the FOTM Tier List too!

Updates

  • Mid lane - No changes
    • Top lane - Malphite, Dr. Mundo replaced by Graves, Riven
    • Jungle - No changes
      • Support - No changes
      • Marksman - Kog'Maw replaced by Jhin

      Purpose

      Winning in solo queue is a complex affair. There are so many variables involved outside of player control such as lag, that consistency plays a massive part in climbing the ranks. Some champions excel in outplaying other champions, while others rely on brute force or special skills to win.

      However, in an ideal situation with teammates who select champions that reasonably synergize with you, which champions offer the most bang for their buck when mastered?

      What Makes a Champion "Strong"? 

      Damage based champions rely mostly on sheer damage, usually via skill shots to overpower their enemies;

      Utility based champions do something unique and game-changing, creating situations that are extremely beneficial to their own team or create detrimental effects for the enemy team that they cannot ignore.

      Outplay based champions make the enemy miss skills that would otherwise definitely hit, mitigating large amounts of potential damage.

      Although some champions may overlap, the criterion laid out above is used and we will omit the following criterion that we use for solo queue
      1. Ease of play; 
      2. Synergy with popular champions; and
      3. Margin of error.

      Strongest Mid Laners




      Returning Veterans

      Ahri [Damage/Utility/Outplay]: Ahri's power remains a staple in every mid laner's repertoire. Renowned for her ability to dodge and outplay with her ultimate, she combines those with her damage potential and CC from her kit to result in a flashy, yet effective burst mage. Late game, her cooldowns are also short enough to smoothly transition into a sustained damage dealer that can easily tango with late game marksmen.

      Leblanc [Damage/Utility]: A champion that needs no introductions, Leblanc is still on top as a strong contender for mid lane dominance. Leblanc jumps in and out of battles seamlessly, allowing her to dodge many spells that might otherwise kill her. Meanwhile, the mind games that she can utilize are extremely varied, each with the potential to be game changing via distortion poke or passive clone micro.

      Lux [Damage/Utility]One of the safest mid laners on the rift, Lux packs quite a punch when it comes to CC and team utility. Her shield allows teams to take objectives with minimal damage, and also prevents would-be assassins from taking down an otherwise squishy champion. Her teamfight ability is excellent when it comes to extended trades, and she can easily one-shot squishies end game if they get caught out at any point in time. During laning phase, her E makes for excellent trades since it's *technically* undodgeable with standard movespeed.

      Yasuo [Damage/Utility]: Yasuo's ability to outplay has always been extraordinarily high with his excellent mobility, passive, and of course, the previously mentioned windwall. Some Yasuo players now opt to build using Grasp of the Undying to supplement his weak early game, but Warlord's Bloodlust is equally effective on him.

      Zed [Damage/Outplay] - : A master of shadows, Zed's burst damage was greatly augmented by Duskblade of Draktharr, resulting in essentially a double Zed ult. Combined with Thunderlord's Decree, Zed dishes out some obnoxiously high burst damage. He's also able to quickly jump in and out of teamfights to take down targets, and good Zeds will also be able to deal excellent sustained damage at high speed via Youmuu's Ghostblade.
      ---

      Honorable Mentions: Anivia, Annie, Brand, Azir, Corki, Ekko, Fizz, Katarina, Morgana, Orianna, Veigar.

      These champions often have the ability to dominate solo queue by themselves. However, their damage output is currently not quite as strong as others are in their pool in the current patch. I would keep them tight on the radar though, as they are strong contenders in their own right.

      Strongest Top Laners



      New Champions

      Riven [Damage/Utility] - New!: Let's talk Riven. She's not in an overpowered state right now, but good Riven players can absolutely still dominate a game by themselves. She has a TON of quirky mechanics that most players never discover, but a fully mastered Riven player can definitely dish out some ridiculous plays and obnoxiously high damage. As a result, we're popping her back onto the list maybe for the fact that her AOE knock-back can potentially stop Akali's ultimate and Shyvana's ultimate at the same time.

      Graves [Damage/Utility] - New!: This one might be more of a FOTM pick, but leaving him out would really be a shame. In his current state, Graves can easily solo carry a game by himself. An absolutely unkillable champion at full build, Graves is the lifesteal tank that Vladimir wishes he could be. This combined with his ability to dodge spells with both his E and his ultimate means that he can pull off some ridiculous plays, despite having low offensive utility (not damage).
      ---

      Removed Champions

      Dr. Mundo [Damage]After thinking about it some more, although Dr. Mundo is an excellent pick that always eventually cycles around, he's still more of a FOTM pick rather than a truly enduring champion selection. As a result, I'm taking him off the list as a result of his relatively basic kit.

      Malphite [Utility]: Similar to Dr. Mundo, Malphite came onboard as a FOTM pick. However, I think that his long-term value is much higher as a result of his awesome initiation abilities, which can turn around a game at any level of play. As a result, I'm moving him down to Honorable Mentions.

      ---

      Returning Champions

      Nautilus [Utility]Nautilus made quite a splash when players realized what an insane amount of trading potential he has top lane against most melee champions. His late game utility is also through the roof, and the potential multi-man knock-up can affect teamfights in a similar degree as a Malphite ultimate. Meanwhile, the Zz'Rot Portal meta worked wonders for him as a result of his extraordinarily high waveclear and free damage granted via his W.

      Fiora [Damage/Outplay]: Fiora has definitely held her own as one of the strongest champions top lane. She has a slew of abilities that give her strong outplay potential, especially her AOE riposte stun that can take down obnoxiously simple abilities like Malzahar's suppression and stuns for the same duration as a Sona ultimate.

      Poppy [Damage/Utility]: Poppy is one of those champions that can either absolutely dominate or be utter trash. If she can smash an opponent against a wall, she doubles the damage on that ability and guarantees the second half of her Q damage. Missing the wall stun reduces her overall damage by a massive amount, resulting in a high skillcap champion.

      Poppy's ultimate and dash block also have insanely high utility for what they can potentially do in a team fight, giving her some extremely helpful tools for making great plays in an advanced player's hands.

      ---

      Honorable Mentions: Gangplank, Gnar, Illaoi, Irelia, Jax, Malphite, Quinn, Vladimir, Tahm Kench

      Jungle


      Returning Champions

      Gragas [Damage/Utility]: An extremely mobile pick, Gragas has evolved through several forms as a jungler. In his latest form, Gragas works  as a ganking jungler, and can dish out quite a bit of CC and damage. His burst isn't quite as high as it used to be, but his ultimate can still change a teamfight around just as quickly by repositioning entire teams.

      Nidalee [Damage/Outplay]: One of the most respected junglers on the rift, Nidalee appears to be in a relatively balanced state after her last round of nerfs...except in the hands of a true master. Her counterjungling is extremely effective, and her pounce allows her an almost unfair amount of utility. That being said, the difference between a Nidalee that can hit spears and one that can't is almost as stark as a Lee Sin (see below).

      Lee Sin [Damage/Utility]: A Lee Sin that cannot land his Q or perform smooth ward jumps is hardly a Lee Sin at all. There are hardly any Lee Sins at all. However, a well-executed 5-man knock-up via Lee Sin kicking their marksman through the entire team is 100% game changing. A good Lee Sin can snowball the game from start to finish. Games are lasting shorter than ever and tracker's knife providing free wards to jump to, making Lee very strong now.

      Master Yi [Damage/Outplay]As a champion with excellent synergy with Guinsoo's Rageblade, a sated Master Yi can easily dispatch enemies after dodging dangerous spells via his Alpha Strike. In the hands of a good Master Yi player, auto resets, Alpha Strike dodges, and meditate resets are just the start of the possible high level moves he can pull off.

      Elise [Damage/Utility]: Elise remains a very strong pick in today's meta because of her strong early game and overall utility. She performs excellently with Thunderlord's Decree, and her combos make it very easy to proc if she hits her cocoon. The latest changes to the AP jungler item also improve her gank power, something that is crucial to playing a good Elise.

      ---

      Honorable Mentions: Diana, Ekko, Kindred. Rek'Sai, Rengar, Shaco, Xin Zhao, Udyr

      Strongest Supports




      Returning Veterans:

      Alistar [Outplay]: Mess with this bull and you get the horns. Strong engagement and diving power are further enunciated by the fact that missing his headbutt pulverize combination is no longer a possibility for seasoned Alistar players. After the recent changes to Alistar's ability to queue up his pulverize mid headbutt, players can now focus more on play-making decisions rather than difficult mechanics that even professionals mess up from time to time.

      Blitzcrank [Utility]: Where Janna and Thresh keep teams ahead of the game, Blitzcrank has the ability to take away leads from even careful enemy teams. With his hook, he has the ability to create advantageous team fights without needing to get close enough to the rest of the enemy team. This, combined with his speed boost makes it so that he can get the job done.

      Janna [Utility]: Janna is close to being indisputably the best support in the game in terms of sheer utility that she provides by herself. Through both her tornado and her monsoon (ultimate), Janna has the ability to block a massive number of champion "jump" attacks mid-air, including but not limited to the following:

      Lee Sin, Akali, Kha'zix, Tristana, Corki, Lucian, Jarvan, Ahri, Fizz, Pantheon, Shen, Wukong, Xin Zhao, Vi, Fiora, Amumu...the list goes on and on. Check out this link for a full list!

      Not only that, but she provides nearby teammates the ability to simply be faster than enemy champions whether it is for running away or for chasing down. This combined with the ability for her shield to deny death and give an insanely strong damage buff cements her as a top tier support.

      Tahm Kench [Utility]With his insanely short cooldowns  and powerful utility-based spells, it seems obvious that Tahm Kench can potentially pull allied units right in the nick of time out of dangerous situations or remove dangerous champions from the battle to create immense confusion. The damage output via his devour on enemy champions is also absurdly high, and although it can be difficult to decide which targets to hit during a team fight, that is where the champion mastery comes into play.

      Thresh [Utility]: Where Janna is the queen of preventing plays from happening, Thresh is the offensive version and king of making plays happen. His lantern and hook make him essentially the best support initiation in the game, as he can bring a friend with him during his initiation as a free gap closer. Additionally, all the champions listed above that Janna can block Thresh can also block with his flay (although with a shorter range/window of opportunity).

      Honorable Mentions: Bard, Braum, Lulu, Sona, Soraka

      Strongest Marksmen (AD Carries)


      Jhin [Damage/Utility] - New!: The newest marksman on the rift started off with mixed reviews, but soon became not only one of the most fun champions on the rift, but also one of the most respected as well. As a champion that relies on traps and massive skillshot reliance to crush his opponents, strong Jhin players can quickly overwhelm enemies, whereas poor Jhin players will need to rely on some luck.

      ---

      Removed Champions:

      Kog'Maw [Damage]: Although Kog'Maw is still a relatively strong champion, he doesn't provide much in the way of utility or outplaying. His major strength at the moment is still the fact that people get too close to him and are not able to escape afterwards. In terms of ranged damage or simple dueling, Jhin is preferred in most instances when you need a high damage dealer and have enough peel.
      ---

      Returning Champions:

      Caitlyn [Utility]: The premier lane bully, Caitlyn works very well in the hands of a good marksman. As a high ranged champion, Caitlyn is extremely safe to play, especially for players that understand spacing.

      Meanwhile, her traps can be placed in quick succession, allowing for extremely effective one-man (girl) zoning potential for her entire team during sieges. Although her damage isn't anything terribly note-worthy, her abilities to kite and zone are what make her a top-notch marksman at the moment.

      Ezreal [Damage/Utility]: Technically speaking, if you were to hit every one of his Qs on enemy champions every time it came off CD except when they flashed or otherwise dodged it on purpose, Ezreal would be the most broken AD carry in the game, bar none. Luckily, most people seem to hit around 20%, if that.

      Lucian [Damage/Outplay]Lucian's early game trades are insanely strong, especially since he synergizes well with the Fervor changes. As a mana hungry champion with a large number of spells required to maximize his damage, Essence Reaver allows him to snowball through the game, even when he's using tons of mana offensively. Good Lucian players will use their E both defensively and offensively at the same time, allowing him to outplay many skillshot based champions.

      Vayne [Damage/Outplay]: In a world full of powerful tanks and skillshot-based champions, Vayne is the one soldier to take them all head-on. Although very difficult to master, her sheer potential is high enough to make her one of the strongest ADCs on the rift now. Better yet, she does not require as many crazy requirements as some other marksmen to reach her full potential (who can really hit every Ezreal Q anyway?

      Honorable Mentions: Draven, Graves, Jinx, Kalista, Quinn, Sivir

      Previous Versions:

      Thoughts on other champions who should have made the list? Comment below!




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