While some of us (me) still haven’t fully recovered from the World Championship 2 weeks ago, the competition halts for no one. We’re just 1 week out from the first Seasonal tournament of the 2022 season, and while it may not count for anything in regards to next year's Worlds, there’s still quite a pretty penny up for grabs alongside the prestige of being a Seasonal Champion. This week it looks like the meta has finally settled and no new decks popped up to take over the ladder, so we should have a decent snapshot of what the Seasonal will be looking like.
I want to emphasize the word “decent” here pretty heavily - we don’t have any tournaments to look at that ran in the Seasonal format of 3 decks 1 ban swiss into single-elimination top cut. AM and EU Fight Night had a fleeting moment of togetherness before AM went back on a 2-week hiatus for the Seasonal, and Mastering Runeterra put on a few events of their own. With Fight Night running their traditional 2 deck no ban and Mastering Runeterra running single-elimination events, we have a “decent” idea of the meta.
Kicking off our wrap-up with EU Fight Night we had one of the most diverse fields in recent memory, with only Draven/Sion and Nami/Zoe showing up more than once. Jimmylihui picked up the win with Draven/Sion and Darkness over Gonfoz on Ziggs/Poppy and Zoe/Nami. Despite the field being overrun with a variety of strategies, it was the tried and true meta staples that still prevailed. It’s always nice to see players trying new things as late into the game as possible, but it’s important to note what’s succeeding. While I don’t want to rule out some newer decks popping up (especially when you see what I have in store for you a little later in this very article), EU Fight Night started off our weekend in a very expected fashion.
AM Fight Night continued on in a similar trend with Draven/Sion and Zoe/Nami stealing the show in terms of representation. To really drive the point home, Jtamonda won the event with both Zoe/Nami and Draven/Sion. The runner-up this time, Tako Salvaje, elected not to run either of these decks and came in with Sivir/Akshan and Frostbite Midrange. Oh, Frostbite Midrange. A deck nearly as old as Runeterra itself, it has helped me solidify a theory almost as old as the deck: Fight Night is scripted. You see I’m something of a content creator myself, and the content I put out is tournament tier lists. These always gain a fair bit more traction the week of the Seasonal, and it is in that pivotal moment of publicity that I have been humiliated time and time again as I continuously find myself unable to place Frostbite Midrange any lower than tier 2. You see, as a “certified” Legends of Runeterra historian, it’s my job to pay attention and remember. To spot patterns. And the pattern I’m starting to notice is Frostbite Midrange making a finals appearance at nearly every AM Fight Night that takes place before the Seasonal. For a long time I thought MaykaS just had this odd power spike around the Seasonal where he could win nearly every tournament he touched in the week prior, but never the main event. I attributed MaykaS spike to the power of Frostbite Midrange as a sleeper pick in the meta, and always bent over backward to justify its place in tier 2 by talking up its matchup charts into the top decks. But no longer.
Frostbite Midrange picked up a win at the Online League Series for the opening weekend of Beyond the Bandlewood, planting it at the back of my mind for the entirety of the season. I looked for it high and low, waited for the deck to have a repeat performance in a similar anti-Draven/Sion lineup. I always knew the deck would appear again, and it was that knowing that broke me out of my mind prison and let me see the truth. I KNEW I would see Frostbite Midrange again before the Seasonal, and I KNEW it would be at Fight Night because it is ALWAYS at Fight Night. But why? After tormenting for dozens of minutes, I came to my conclusion. There was no grand conspiracy, no scriptwriter pulling strings to make me look the fool. It was simply the historian in me seeing the ghost of Winding God’s legacy, bringing power to those who carry on his will by bringing Frostbite Midrange to Fight Night.
The analyst in me, however, sees an antiquated deck in a non-Seasonal format tournament. I didn’t even go back to fact-check whether or not what I said about Frostbite performing at pre-Seasonal Fight Night’s is true. So don’t read into the Frostbite’s finals finish that much, or at all really, that kind of stuff is my job. And I’m telling you not to bring it.
Last weekend we only saw 2 lineups make up the top 4 of the Mastering Runeterra tournament; the winning lineup of Ziggs/Poppy, Sivir/Akshan, and Plunder (which picked up the win in EU this weekend) and the lineup that took up the other 3 top 4 spots, Draven/Sion, Ziggs/Poppy, and Bandle Pirates (which took home the gold at the AM tournament this weekend). With back-to-back performances in the Mastering Runeterra events, it’s a safe bet that both of these lineups will be pretty popular at the upcoming Seasonal. While neither may come out as the most popular in the event, I would imagine each one will put multiple players into the top 32.
As for new trends, I want to touch on Yordles in Arms. Many Poppy decks outside of the burn variant have been turning to this powerhouse card lately. While it’s always been present in the meta and Poppy piles, the presence of it wasn’t necessarily the certainty that it is now. Emzeeshady even threw a copy into their Bandle Tree deck, and Lorgi played it in their unique Poppy/Jarvan list. It’s a finisher that players don’t mind seeing multiples of, as it can be played in almost the same way as survival skills on defensive turns and the 2nd copy can be used for offense on the next turn. This is more of a general observation than something with a point, but take it into consideration. In theory, it does increase the viability of cards like Ruination if your opponent is seeking to play slow-speed spells pre-combat.
I’m not going to touch on Demacia Sion. Actually, I’m not going to really go in-depth into any deck in Boky’s lineup. You can look at it, study it, but I haven’t been able to draw any meaningful conclusions from the lineup’s performance. I don’t expect his finals appearance to make any major waves in the Seasonal meta, and while he may run these decks again this weekend and find success, I would be surprised if it was something that could be duplicated by someone else.
So what are the major players going into the Seasonal? Draven/Sion and Ziggs/Poppy seem to be the 2 most popular decks over the course of the last few weeks, so while the aggro boogeyman is usually something you can reasonably avoid, that doesn’t seem to be the case this time around. Outside of those 2 decks though, nothing has been putting earth-shaking numbers. Zoe/Nami seems to fluctuate on a week to week basis, with this week it performing well at Fight Night but only putting up 1 list in the top 4 of either Mastering Runeterra event. While Pinpingho’s strategy of out-aggroing the Nami decks didn’t pay off for him at Worlds, he didn’t have Ziggs/Poppy at his disposal. Zoe/Lee has also been making a comeback as of late, further removing Zoe/Nami from the equation. Other staples like Bandle Pirates have only been showing up lately in one specific lineup. Despite Worlds only being 2 weeks ago, the injection of Ziggs/Poppy into the meta combined potentially with lower stakes has flipped the meta on its head. Draven/Caitlyn/Ezreal has completely disappeared from the format despite being the deck that played the most games at Worlds (24) with a very positive win rate to boot (58.33%). The deck does tend to spike a little higher in playrate at the Seasonal tournaments themselves, but this time around the return to an old favorite may be the undoing of some players.
This coming weekend I’m feeling the winds of change in the air. Throughout the 5 Seasonals of the 2021 season, 4 decks were able to make an appearance in every top 32; Draven/Ezreal, Lee Sin, Discard Aggro, and Overwhelm. Given the trends of the last few weeks, Lee Sin may be the only returning contender for the 2022 season, but only time will tell for sure. Be sure to tune in for the swiss portion of the event this Sunday at twitch.tv/giantslayerlor to see how things play out!