The analysts questioned Immortals support Adrian “Adrian” Ma. They damn near mocked him, in fact.
In a League of Legends support meta full of melee champions like Alistar, Trundle, and Braum, Adrian was playing a significantly different roster. He only played four champions the entire split, three of which were “out of meta” ranged supports. Eight games on Janna. Seven on Soraka. Two on Karma. (And a lone Braum game).
Meanwhile, in Korea, China, and Europe, the best players in the world were baffled by this crazy North American support player who seemed to be doing everything wrong. Why wasn’t he playing standard? How was this kid using picks that most pros would never even consider dominating an entire region, going 17-1 during the regular seasons? There was no way that North America, of all regions, predicted the support meta, right?
As it turns out, the Mid-Season Invitational proved that they had. It wasn’t Adrian there – that was accomplished by Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black – but he brought Adrian’s influence with him and showed the world that they had been playing support all wrong.
Watching from home
After spending the entire 2016 Spring Split regular season as the de facto shoo-in for the Mid-Season Invitational, Immortals clearly got cocky. Their hubris was punished as soon as they went into the playoffs. Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon played Lucian top against Team SoloMid in the NA LCS Spring Split semifinals, promptly lost 0-3, and dropped out of contention.
Adrian wasn’t going to be able to show the world what he could do on the international stage.
“We kind of deserved [to not go to MSI]. We lost to TSM. We messed up,” he told Yahoo Esports. “I was really sad. I think if we had gone to MSI and played tank meta top and ranged support meta bottom, I think we would have had a good chance to do really well.”
Alas, it wasn’t his time. But he was proud to have influenced his fellow North American Aphroomoo during Counter Logic Gaming’s run to the MSI finals. A tinge of jealousy and the feeling of missing out could not be escaped, however.
“Everyone was talking about ranged supports, and they didn’t even look good on ranged supports,” he said. “I could have done way better than most of the people there. Aphromoo did a good job, but all the other supports from around the world were really underwhelming.”
“Except for SKT’s support Wolf,” he laughed.
Back to the beginning
Adrian was about six months ahead of the meta. He saw something no one else did, and dominated North America for much of the split with it. Once CLG and Aphromoo caught on, they found their way to the first Riot final in North America’s history. Oh, and then SK Telecom T1 beat them with Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan on Nami, a champion soon to become standard in the bottom lane.
The Immortals support discovered the new meta by way of simply feeling like he didn’t have enough impact in his games..
“I just felt like it was the right way to play the game. Melee supports are really underwhelming. The support role felt really weak and really sad to play,” he said.
But then, he started playing ranged supports in solo queue.
“I was like, ‘Why am I playing melee supports in solo queue when I can be playing ranged supports and winning?’ Ranged supports have way more advantages in solo queue, so I wondered why they couldn’t have the same advantages in competitive.”
Obviously, it worked. The pressure that ranged supports are able to bring to both 2v2 and 2v1 lanes are now key to the early games of many rosters, and their teamfighting isn’t shabby, either.
Put simply by Adrian, “Ranged supports are just better.”
To beat the meta
But as with any meta, it’s only a matter of time until it gets countered. And the best way to counter the support meta is simple: Kill the support. Repeatedly.
“I feel like when people blind pick Nami or something, they’re going to be punished later when someone picks Leona or Blitzcrank and just rolls over them,” he says. “I’m surprised no one has pulled out Blitzcrank yet. I think Blitz is a really strong support right now.”
That all-in style is tough to pull off, though.
“Not that many people have the confidence to play [champions like Leona or Blitzcrank] on stage and take that risk. They could be the reason their team loses the game,” he said.
“Hard engage or hook supports are really risky to play,” he continues. “They’re not really strong right now, but they’re strong if you’re confident with them. If you’re really better than your counterpart or confident enough to execute it, they can work really well.”
For now, Adrian seems content playing the meta that he helped introduce to the world. He may get bored again soon, however, and start trying to beat up on his ranged support bandwagoners. It’s just a matter of mixing it up.
“I feel like supports are really scared to go out of their comfort zone,” he says. “Their teammates keep telling you what’s strong, so you keep playing it. But I’m not scared to go out of my comfort zone and make my teammates uncomfortable when I play something other than what they’re used to right now.”
“My Leona is really clean,” he laughs.
You know Taylor Cocke asked Adrian about Leona. Follow him on Twitter @taylorcocke.