For two seasons, Marksmen mains existed as mere fodder for the food trays of tanks and Juggernauts. The title “Attack Damage Carry” was hollow to Marksmen mains and their teams. Then the Marksmen update of Season 6 came. Reworks, unilateral buffs, and new items for the first time in years were delivered. “Yes, it’s finally our turn to shine,” we Marksmen mains thought. “We’ll finally be the Doublelifts, the Gosus of Soloqueue.”
In truth, we were almost there. The new items gave marksmen unprecedented options, and most updates empowered the champions, some in ways that enabled them to be played outside of the bottom lane. In competitive play, compositions with two or even three marksmen are seen consistently across the regions. However, it is not a true marksmen meta. Rather, it is a particular class of marksmen that are bullying out the other marksmen. And while most teams choose to retaliate with double marksmen comps of their own, there is another, better answer that has quietly been succeeding: the Anti-Marksmen.
The Rise of Marksmen….Everywhere
The birth of the Marksmen meta came with the release of Kindred, the first proper jungle marksmen ever in League. With her sustain, scaling, and snowball potential, she was dominating the scene when she came into the league, and she still makes a splash in competitive and solo queue in the five months that she’s been released.
Then came the honeymoon phase with the Caitlyn, Miss Fortune, Quinn, and Graves reworks. No longer were Marksmen solely shackled to Jinx and Tristana as tower pushers, or utility marksmen like Sivir and Ashe. Then, we could wield Marksmen who could fight in lane, rather effectively. Miss Fortune, Lucian, and Caitlyn were vying for the top spot as the supreme rulers of bot lane while Keystones were rebalanced. Over time, various Keystones like Warlord’s Bloodluster were nerfed, and -- as an associate of mine said -- League of Legends became the game of You, Me and Decree.
Once again we are restricted to a pool of Marksmen that serve one purpose: dueling with Thunderlords Decree.Those who play short ranged Marksmen like Vayne, and Sivir, have a hard time in lane, and those difficulties translate over to team fights. Additionally, some fairly large reworks moved Marksmen to the jungle or solo lanes, such as Graves and Quinn. Other changes, to either kits or items, took others like Kog’Maw and Twitch off the grid.
With Patches 6.3 and 6.4 we see a rise and flux of Marksmen most specifically to bring Kog’maw back onto the field of play, with his tweaks to his kit making him a pick or ban Marksman. Jhin, released in Patch 6.3 just got a nice set of shiny buffs that have increased his dueling potential, and his strength all game. Other Marksmen worth noting that we may see more of in competitive play are Sivir and Ashe.
The Season 6 style of the double ADC comp first appeared in Korea, courtesy of SK Telecom’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. Playing Corki mid with Kalista as a bot lane Marksman in the first match against CJ Entus. This was followed by a spattering of double Marksmen comps with Corki, Varus or Ezreal mid, Graves or Quinn top, and Kindred or Graves in the jungle paired with a Marksman that can kite well or have high burst like Miss Fortune, Lucian, Kalista. We saw this in Week 2 of not only the LCK but the European League Championship Series (EU LCS) and the North American League Championship Series (NA LCS.)
The spike in usage of double AD compositions between Week 1 and Week 2 of these competitions was stark. LCK’s pick rate went from 56% - 63%. EU LCS went from 33% to 80%. And NA LCS went from 10% picks to 80%.
Is it Really the Marksmen meta?
With double marksmen comps so popular, surely it must be a sign that the meta is ruled by them? While the widespread usage suggests so, analysis of the win-rates of such compositions tell a different story. In games that contained only one team running a double Marksmen composition, LCK has 41.9% win rate with a 58.1% loss rate across 31 games. The EU LCS has significantly greater success, with a 72% win rate and a 28% loss rate across 22 games, while NA LCS mirrors LCK more closely at a 38.1% win rate and a 61.9% loss rate across 21 games. Remember, these statistics don’t account for games where both teams played double marksmen compositions because the win-rate of those comps is null as they receive a win and a loss.
Let’s break this down a little bit more. Keep in mind that LCK’s numbers have a bit more leeway because of having nearly double the amount of games that the EU LCS and NA LCS have. Comparing just the EU LCS and the NA LCS to start because of the same number of games, one has to look now at the players. Europe had more players that willingly embrace the Corki Mid, the Graves Jungle/Top, Kindred Jungle, or Quinn Top, and play them well. They have more ‘balls to the wall’ duelist styled players in their top lanes, and in their jungles, then North America does. North American players tend to play more of the Anti-marksmen than other regions.
So when a double marksmen comp faces a single marksmen comp, the results favor the single marksmen compositions. But why?
The answer is Anti-Marksmen, and you may wonder what is that? An Anti-Marksman is any champion with the ability to get to the Marksmen and stay on them with a high potential to kill them. Many of them fall into other categories such as Hyper carry, Bruiser, or Assassin. Some examples are Dr. Mundo, Malphite, Jax, Leblanc, Rengar, Graves ( the irony is there, but I promise an explanation), Wukong, Fiora and plenty more.
Why have these champions, these Anti-Marksmen, come to stalk us? It’s part of the balance cycle -- as one class rises to dominance, answers to that class appear to fight it.
For example, we flashback to the beginning of Spring 2014, when top lane was ruled by tanks. Major individual changes and new masteries resulted in Shyvana, Renekton, and Mundo briefly dominating the top lane as monstrous tanks even with few items. In response, champions like Trundle, who could steal their stats, and others who could shred tanks with percent health damage or built in penetration, answered the call of Anti-Tanks. When Doran’s Shield and the Perseverance Mastery were nerfed in 4.3, those champions fell away quickly, and the counters as well because they weren’t needed anymore.
The same principle is happening again in Season 6, with a role reversal. Instead of everyone piling on the tanks, it’s a game of cat-and-mouse between Anti-Marksmen and Marksmen. In Challenger level Soloqueue, Rengars build full damage with just a hint of tank kill AD carries in three hits. And it’s not just Rengar, it’s also Master Yi, Poppy, and Lee Sin.
It’s also visible in competitive play. The most striking example would be ROX Tigers vs. KT Rolster on January 21st. In a three game series of which at least one team played the Double Marksman composition each game, only one of those games resulted in a win.
In Game one, KT Go “Score” Dong-bin played Kindred Jungle while KT No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon played Lucian bot lane run the Double Marksman composition against two excellent Anti-marksmen in Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho’s Poppy and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon’s Alistar. Those two champions alone offered enough front line interference that ROX Tigers were able to end the game after a rather long siege with Nidalee, Ezreal, and Twisted Fate.
Game two of the series saw ROX Tigers trying to run basically the same team composition against KT Rolsters as if to one-up KT. This time it was Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho on Kindred, and Kim “PraY” on Ezreal for the Double Marksman composition, facing into Ssumday’s Gnar, Score’s Elise, and Song “Fly” Yong-jun’s Lissandra. In a long slugfest, it was evident that the game was not about the marksmen but the anti-marksmen. Ssumday was immaculate on Gnar, contributing to 30 out of 31 kills in the game with his brutal engages, notably at fight over the Rift Herald.
Smeb answered in a later teamfight by completing an Ace on Arrow. Baron went to ROX shortly after that, and while Smeb was botlane preparing for the seige to end the series, it was Fly’s Lissandra flanking from the rear with teleport to lock down PraY and Peanut that led to KT Rolster tying the game.
Both teams dropped Tahm Kench (was not banned, was not picked) in Game three and we saw ROX pick up a double AD poke composition with Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng on Varus with PraY on Corki. With Smeb’s Kennen and GorillA’s Alistar front lining, preventing KT from engaging on them, the Tiger’s closed out the game in under 30 minutes. It was a win for the double marksmen compositions, but with such fantastic anti-marksmen at the front line, some credit has to be given to Smeb and GorillA for enabling KurO and PraY to eviscerate KT’s base.
There are more examples than just this LCK series. There is Immortals VS NRG eSports from January 24th where NRG ran a double Marksman composition similar to ROX’s, featuring Lee “Ganked by Mom” Chang-seok on Varus mid, and Johnny “Altec” Ru on Corki AD. Immortals responded with several anti-marksmen: Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon played Lissandra, Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin picked up Rengar with a juggernaut build, and Eugene “Pobelter” Park rounded out the selection with Zed.
Throughout the entire game, there were good rotations from all players, but NRG didn’t stand a chance against the lock down, and triple Anti-Marksmen they faced. Huni would engage with either a flash and Ring of Frost or Glacial Path into Ring of Frost and then self-cast Frozen Tomb for the slow, and to stop the enemy team from turning on him. This allowed for Reignover’s Rengar to get into the back line with Thrill of the Hunt, and Pobelter’s Zed to follow up with Death Mark. This combination happened over and over to win the game against NRG in 34 minutes.
Perhaps the simplest example of Anti-Marksmen is Counter Logic Gaming’s Darshan " Darshan" Upadhyaya two shotting Team SoloMid Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng. In the opening game of NA LCS Spring 2016, Darshan was allowed to play Jax and farmed 418 minions in 42 minutes. Darhsan became too much for TSM, and Doublelift’s Tristana fell to the Anti-Marksman.
On February 17th of the LCK we see KT Rolster vs. Jin Air Greenwings bringing forth the might of the anti-marksman. When Jin Air assembled the triple marksmen comp, KT Rolster picked Rammus for ssumday to answer it. KT already had massive backline threat with a Rumble in the Jungle with the crowd control combination of Thresh and Kalista. Rushing thorn mail, Rammus became unkillable by 13 minutes in the game. Because of this, Jin Air were unable to deal damage to the Anti-Marksman that they faced, and through well-played dives KT Rolsters were able to dismantle Jin Air in 40 minutes.
Now for my promised explanation; Graves, the Marksman who also is an Anti-Marksman. His rework moved him to the top picks and bans in solo queue as a jungle and top. Once you get used to the reload mechanic he’s now equipped with, you find out that you have the largest burst if you can make it through laning phase and into team fights. He’s even made splashes in competitive play courtesy of G2 Esports Kim "Trick" Gang-yun, and Jin Air Greenwings Yeon "TrAce" Chang-dong. Worthy to note that even with his new popularity, he still doesn’t get his cigar.
The Meta of Anti-Marksmen
So what are Marksmen mains to do now that the Anti-Marksmen are assailing us from all angles? It’s impossible to stop them alone, but we have to remember, League of Legends is a team game. We are going to have to rely on our teammates, in games that can potentially last for 30 minutes or more. What happens to one affects the rest. The enemy team has their Anti-Marksmen, but as does our team. We are Marksmen, and our role is to carry through attack damage, but we do it on the backs of our front line, our Anti-marksmen, and our supports.
As Marksmen, we have to tip our hats, and our KDA’s to the Anti-marksmen on our own teams, for they are the ones setting us up to win. Lissandra with her teleport flanks and ults that lock the enemy Marksman in an immovable pillar for 1.5 seconds for your other Anti-Marksmen to assist you. To Ryze, if he gets through pick and ban, with his point and click snare and sheer damage after thirty minutes. To Olaf with his ability to run right through the enemy team and stay on the Marksman without half trying with Ragnarok. Our honeymoon phase is over, and reality here to stay.
It’s not our time yet. And it may be a long time coming where we reign supreme for long periods of time, because we have a new assassin item in 6.3 to contend with, and the Mage update incoming. So we must be patient, like a brush bait, perfectly executed for a quadra kill.