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5 sleeper champions on the verge of meta success

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

It’s no secret that LCS players inspire which champions we choose to climb the ladder with but sometimes we want to step away from our Jhins, Cassiopeias and Jayces and surprise our opponents with zany pocket picks and fringe strategies that are crazy enough to work. With that said, it’s also important to think of your teammates and communicate what you want to play so that they’re not just as surprised by your support Singed as the enemy team.

Simply put, I understand that you want to play something wacky and off-meta, but your teammates do not want you to play the support Singed you’ve been craving.

But fear not, as there are a number of niche champions that are still incredibly fun to play without invoking the ire of your teammates. Furthermore, these are picks on the precipice of the meta so be prepared to see a few of them in professional play soon.

Tahm Kench, Top Lane

With the advent of the assassin rework, protecting your Attack Damage and Ability Power carries is absolutely key. Shields, heals, and even large stomachs are needed to keep the damage away, and Tahm Kench is very, very, adept at the latter. Tahm is amazing to play into tanks such as Nautilus, Maokai, and Poppy, and his laning is also fantastic into certain melee splitpushers such as Irelia, Fiora, and Jax. His laning is exemplified by his early kill pressure through two forms of crowd control.

Tahm is also a champion with a pseudo-global ultimate, which will give your team an assured advantage and pressure in a meta that doesn’t really focus on champions with global abilities. This allows for collapses and pick possibilities previously unknown, and your tankiness and consistent damage and utility in fights will make you a nuisance in skirmishes and full teamfights. Tahm’s waveclear is also quite reasonable, with sunfire and his Devour (W) providing appropriate area-of-effect damage to prepare sidewaves before setting up for objectives. Both Flash and Ghost are seen as viable mobility summoner options to pair with Teleport given Tahm’s chasing potential in lane.

Quick Tip: Using Devour (W) on an enemy champion will have them lose their passive stacks, but using Tongue Lash (Q) on a fully stacked target will keep the stacks on the enemy, allowing you to follow up with a Devour.

Early Buys: Bami’s Cinder, Spectre’s Cowl, Tier 1 Boots

Full Build: Sunfire Cape, Mercury Treads, Spirit Visage, Frozen Mallet, Guardian Angel, Titanic Hydra/Knight’s Vow/Redemption/Randuin’s Omen

Runes: Attack Damage Reds, Armor Yellows, Magic Resist per level Blues, Attack Speed Quints

Masteries*

Tahm Kench Masteries

* Both Grasp of the undying and Courage of the Colossus are worth taking, but Courage’s current overtuned state allows it to be much more viable.

Poppy, Jungle

A powerhouse top laner in the current meta, Poppy is also an incredibly effective jungle champion. She has percentage health damage on her Q, which speeds up her early clear quite a bit with Greenfather’s Gift. Additionally, her sustainability is bolstered by her shield passive and easy ability to stun large camps with very little mana. Poppy also engages with other junglers quite well when invading or getting invaded on. The narrow corridors of the jungle make it very likely for her to get a 1v1 advantage in the immediate engage.

When it comes to ganks, Poppy is best played as a pseudo-Lee Sin that’s looking to get behind her targets in order to push them into walls or further away from the safety of their turret. If she ends up behind a gank target, it’s very likely that the enemy jungler will blow a Flash. Counterganks done by a Poppy, especially after Level 6, could be devastating, with her W and R carving out natural advantages against those who overextend.

Quick Tip: Even if E does not stun, its displacement will trigger Courage of the Colossus for you.

Early Buys: Tier 1 Boots, Skirmisher’s/Tracker’s (Cinderhulk), Iceborne Gauntlet,

Full Build: Mercury Treads, Skirmisher’s/Tracker’s (Cinderhulk), Iceborne Gauntlet, Randuin’s Omen, Spirit Visage, Guardian Angel

Runes: Attack Damage Reds, four Armor + five Health per level Yellows, Magic resist per level blues, Attack Damage Quints

Masteries

Poppy Masteries

AP Kog’Maw, Mid Lane

As of November 16, AP Kog’Maw mid has an absurdly high 55.9% win rate, and has been powerful since the Living Artillery changes in patch 6.21 went through. But why is it that the void puppy sees so much success with the assassins running about? Simple answer: insane lane pressure and waveclear with E; your ideal spacing between you and your opponent is the end of your E. Be careful of early ganks, especially from pesky roaming supports and tanky junglers who hope to dive you under tower.

Kog’Maw also has incredibly good scaling with high AP ratios and is a purchaser of Tear of The Goddess; the combination of the Seraph’s Embrace shield and Health from Rylai’s Crystal Sceptre makes Kog’Maw deceptively tanky and allows him to survive and get off more damage when collapsed on. But his value is similar to Jhin’s, as Kog’Maw can keep his distance as a fight starts, rendering him more difficult to catch with any sort of direct frontline engage. After all the initiations are blown, he can then float further in and rain on the parade of his enemies.

Quick Tip: You can use E and Q simultaneously for trading on attempted harass by your lane opponent. Follow it up with a W-empowered auto attack as they fade away from their harass pattern to get extra percentage health damage and trigger your Thunderlord’s Decree.

Early Buys: Tear of the Goddess, Tier 1 Boots, Lost Chapter

Full Build: Sorceror’s Shoes > Morellonomicon > Rylai’s Crystal Scepter > Seraph’s Embrace > Void Staff > Guardian Angel/Banshee’s Veil/Mercurial Scimitar

Runes: Magic Penetration Reds, Health per level Yellows, six Cooldown Reduction per level + three Flat Magic Resistance Blues, Ability Power Quints

Masteries

Kog'Maw Masteries

Evelynn, Jungle

A beneficiary of the downtime the new jungle provides, Evelynn has a solid first clear and provides heavy pressure through her constantly camouflaged presence as only Scryer’s Blooms can spot her in the early game unless individuals sacrifice early gold for control wards. She also provides high damage during ganks after a couple key items. Her overall burst, with a combination of Thunderlord’s Decree, Hextech Revolver and Sheen, and even Runic Echoes on a Skirmisher’s Smite, lead her to be a potent ganker in the early and middle game for lanes with powerful initiation, tankiness, and stickiness. She also can help get splitpushers further ahead through sneakily ganking the 1v1, similar to the collapses of a Twisted Fate, Taliyah, or Ryze.

Quick Tip: She can exploit this technique to make her clear healthier and safer than it usually is.

Early Buys: Skirmisher’s Smite (Runic Echoes), Hextech Revolver, Sheen

Full Build: Skirmisher’s Smite (Runic Echoes) > Protobelt > Lichbane > Rylai’s Crystal Scepter > Dead Man’s Plate/Randuin’s Omen > Abyssal Scepter/Void Staff/Banshee’s Veil

Runes: Attack Damage Reds, Armor Yellows, six Cooldown Reduction per level + three Ability Power Blues, Ability Power Quints

Masteries

Evelynn Masteries

Fiora, Top Lane

Changes to splitpushing in patch 6.22 have made freezing waves much easier than it used to be, and has allowed splitpushers to threaten tier three towers moreso thanks to their loss of deadly laser beams. As a result, duelists, heavy splitpushers and cleanup champions like Fiora should be seeing more play. While she has more difficult matchups in the form of champions such as Jayce or Kennen, the resurgence of picks such as Poppy, Maokai, and even the new toplane Rengar make for matchups that skew more in her favour, and matchups that allow her to scale into a potent sidelane threat.

Using your Q combined with Greenfather’s Gift, Fresh Blood, and hitting a vital deals over 100 damage (mixed as physical, magic, and true) after resistances on one hit. At level two, your auto attack and E reset can add roughly 200 damage to this after resistances, not including additional vital procs, or keystone damage such as Fervor of Battle, Grasp of the Undying or Thunderlord’s Decree.

Quick Tip: Fiora can Riposte (W) while moving with her Lunge (Q), allowing her to slide into position or away from others while baiting crowd control with her mobility.

Early Buys: Tiamat, Phage, Tier 1 Boots

Full Build: CDR/Swiftness/Mercury Treads, Black Cleaver, Ravenous Hydra, Bloodthirster/Mercurial Scimitar, Spirit Visage/Edge of Night/Mercurial Scimitar/Maw of Malmortius, Guardian Angel

Runes: Attack Damage Reds, Armor Yellows, six Cooldown Reduction per level + three Flat Magic Resistance Blues, Attack Speed Quints

Masteries*

Fiora Masteries

*Fiora can viably take Fervor of Battle, Grasp of the Undying or Thunderlord’s Decree, depending on the difficulty of her matchup.

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a News Editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

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