For the last three years, the competitive top lane metagame has always revolved around tanks, with a number of notable exceptions like the release of Black Cleaver. Whether it be the strength of the old Sunfire Cape, Courage of Colossus, or the more recent Doran Ring stacking, there's always been something keeping the tanks on top.
Well, not anymore. Courage of Colossus has been nerfed. Sunfire Cape has been nerfed. Nautilus and Maokai got nerfed into oblivion. Doran's Rings don't stack anymore, which kills the final major top lane tank, Gragas. The top lane isn't a place for pure tanks anymore, for just about the first time in the competitive history of League of Legends, at least in the LCS era. Instead of Maokai in the top lane, you have Kled. Instead of Nautilus, you have Jarvan IV. Instead of Gragas you have...Akali?
See, the lack of hard tanks in the top lane is opening the way for a class of champion that we haven't seen in a long, long time: squishy melee champions that are weak to crowd control. A year ago Akali was a meme pick because while you might dominate the lane, you'd still just get hit by Twisted Advance later on in the game and get instantly killed. But what if there was no Twisted Advance? Well, then apparently you'd be free to get late-game pentakills on Akali much like Ikksu did against Samsung Galaxy last night.
But Akali isn't the only champion that's suddenly stuck her head out again on the competitive stage, as last night also featured a far, far stranger pick. Akali was at least in the realm of possibilities, as she's been a solo queue star for a number of weeks now. Mordekaiser, however, wasn't on anyone's radar last night, at least not until Longzhu Khan picked the Master of the Metal and pounded the Afreeca Freecs' head in sideways with it, even after Marin's Renekton kept him down early on. The pick proved so effective that Afreeca were forced to ban out Mordekaiser in both of the subsequent games.
So why are these bizarre picks cropping up? Why now? Well, as previously mentioned, there just less hard crowd control in the game right now than there has been in years past. It's not unusual to see a team like Kled, Kha'Zix, Taliyah, Caitlyn, and Lulu, a team that has precious little crowd control between them all. That makes the picks less punishing in the later stages of the game, especially if they manage to stick themselves in a side lane in a 1v1. in both the case of Akali and Mordekaiser that's exactly what happened, as both teams specifically made sure to keep them in a side lane where they could smash their opposite in the 1v1. Moreover, both of these champions have something else in common: Hextech Gunblade. This persistently problematic item turns both Mordekaiser and Akali into completely unanswerable duelists, as they out heal absolutely anything that can get thrown their way. You don't know terror until you see your Fiora get tower dove and killed 1v1 thanks to all the healing a Gunblade can put out.
So should you try out these picks in your own games? Absolutely. Akali has been strong for quite some time now, and her win rate before 25 minutes is the best in the entire game. The fact that her win rate plummets like a rock after 30 minutes shouldn't dissuade you, as Akali's high-tempo playstyle ensures that's rarely a problem. If the game went that long, it was because you already got shut down. Likewise there's tons of matchups that Mordekaiser is excellent into, especially some of the weirder mages in the top lane like Swain or Vladimir. just be careful of the AD ranged champions, as both Jayce and Kennen have no trouble turning the Mordekaiser into a pile of sheet metal.
Change is coming to the league, and it's a change that will benefit those who stay ahead of the curve. Give both of these champs a whirl in your upcoming solo queue adventures, and let us know how it goes!