There was no shortage of powerful, meta-defining champions that debuted in League this year.
The world of League of Legends continued to evolve throughout 2022, bringing familiar faces back to the forefront with updates to the lore, while seamlessly introducing new champions to the ongoing struggles plaguing Runeterra. In doing so, the popular MOBA once more changed drastically as players discovered how the additions to the cast impacted gameplay and the ever-changing meta.
This year, Riot Games released five new champions in League, while reworking the winner of 2021’s rework poll to breathe new life into a champion that has roamed Summoner’s Rift for over a decade. Each of these debuting champions was created with the intention to fill a specific niche, with only two occupying the same lane position—though with drastically different playstyles.
Interestingly, Riot did not release a champion designed for the mid lane in 2022, a place that it had specified would be the recipient of one or more new champions each year. But even without any fresh faces fulfilling the most popular role in the game, constant changes to the meta made it seem that the mid lane always had something new for players to experience.
Riot’s emphasis on balancing champions continued to venture away from simply creating new characters to be played on the Rift, as well. Smaller kit updates, known as mid-scope updates, to champions like Taliyah, Swain, and Olaf tuned their kits to bring them back into the fray without removing the thematic parts of their characters that make them beloved by many fans.
Yet the five champions added to League this year, alongside 2022’s only rework, each shifted the meta in ways the game hadn’t seen prior—some more harshly than others. Here’s our ranking of the champions that players got to meet over the past 12 months.
6. Nilah, the Joy Unbound
Prior to Nilah’s release, players were incredibly wary as to the power she had across her kit. Mobility, immense healing, a shareable Jax E, an Orianna-esque ult, and a passive that allows her to share experience with her lane partner—when put together, these attributes made it seem that Nilah would be completely overtuned upon release, and a balancing nightmare akin to another ADC released this year.
Yet the Joy Unbound, despite her interesting lore, had one glaring issue: she was designed as a melee ADC. Though she has ample range with her whip, Nilah has suffered consistently since her debut in League this past July for how difficult it is to play her in a lane where players suffer barrages of attacks from two or more opponents at once.
While her hypercarry potential remains high due to her quick experience gains, Nilah has little room to reach that play-making possibility with how much quicker games have become.
Nilah is also the only champion released this year to have been avoided almost completely in professional play around the world despite a rather stable ADC meta allowing for diversity. Though Nilah has enjoyed a few of the changes that accompanied this ongoing preseason, she has yet to truly make an impact as the wielder of the Demon of Joy.
5. Zeri, the Spark of Zaun
A handful of champions created over the past few years, such as Yuumi and Aphelios, have remained subjects of debate over their potential to truly be balanced, as their convoluted—and often overpowered—kits have been difficult to tune in ways that stick to the champion’s original design.
Yet to mark the start of 2022, Riot added Zeri, the Spark of Zaun, into League as the game’s newest ADC, complete with new types of basic attacks, immense mobility, and absurd damage ratios ultimately creating this year’s balancing nightmare. For nearly ten months, Zeri was the defining part of both the solo queue and professional metas, acting as part of an essential combination with Yuumi—that would eventually be usurped by Sivir—that possessed little to no counterplay.
Most of this year’s patches involved Riot attempting to adjust Zeri’s kit in some capacity, oftentimes to no avail. It wasn’t until August that potent-enough nerfs completely removed the Spark of Zaun from all levels of play, leading to one of the worst modern win rates in the game. Those nerfs kept the champion who had staked such a massive claim throughout the year completely away from the World Championship.
In the span of just one year, Zeri took complete control over nearly all areas of League in a way that only a handful of champions have done in the game’s history. While she may certainly be a fun champion to play due to how different she is compared to all other ADCs, Zeri has already proven to be yet another balancing headache that Riot will likely continue to struggle with far into the future.
4. K’Sante, the Pride of Nazumah
It’s been difficult to judge whether or not League’s newest addition, K’Sante, has had a substantial impact on the game. While lore-wise the Pride of Nazumah breaks barriers previously untouched in Runeterra, his rather unique kit and alternating playstyles have made him a difficult champion to fully understand.
K’Sante is the first true top lane tank to be released since Ornn in 2017, and like so many other tanks in League, possesses a kit prepared to completely disrupt opponents even outside of his ultimate ability. The only glaring weakness in his basic kit is his range, though a combination of a pull, an unstoppable, and a decent bit of mobility more than make up for that.
But what makes K’Sante such a complex champion is his ultimate, All Out, which not only brings him and an enemy away from the action, but transforms his ntofos into blades, thus changing the effects of all of his basic abilities for a short duration to make him deal a considerably larger amount of damage.
K’Sante can’t just enjoy this form change freely, as he loses half of his remaining health and a large portion of his defenses after the initial attack concludes. While K’Sante most certainly is a powerful champion capable of game-changing plays, not enough time has yet passed since his release for a majority of players to comfortably use the Pride of Nazumah effectively.
3. Udyr, the Spirit Walker (rework)
Just a year ago, pre-rework Udyr was terrorizing the jungle meta, chasing and slapping enemies as he saw fit—despite the fact that a only a few months prior, he had emerged as the winner of the 2021 rework poll, and would soon be modernized with a new look and abilities.
Riot was very transparent with fans throughout both 2021 and the start of this year in regards to the journey of revamping the Spirit Walker. While it did want to avoid the choppy animations that plagued the champion for years, Riot was focused on bringing the powers of the Freljordian gods into the hands of this singular man. Thus, the new Udyr was born.
Though reworked Udyr struggled to find a niche immediately, shifting around both the top lane and the jungle with tank and AP bruiser builds, it didn’t take long for Riot to step in with a post-launch hotfix that repurposed the damage around Udyr’s kit. Since those initial changes, Udyr has remained a decent pick within the jungle, but has never reached that “OP” status that reworks sometimes bring.
Now, Udyr players are attempting to increase the champion’s priority through testing the abundance of items introduced in the ongoing preseason, such as Jak’Sho, The Protean, alongside the changes to jungle pathing and clearing. Thanks to this successful rework, Udyr remains in one of the most stable and consistent states he’s ever been in.
2. Bel’Veth, the Empress of the Void
Void champions, despite being a crucial part of the established lore of Runeterra, make up only a handful of the playable cast of champions. Those that do exist are recognizable monsters that have amassed large, passionate fan bases, providing players with bits of information regarding this mysterious part of League that has gone relatively unexplored.
Earlier this year, players had the opportunity to finally meet the Empress of the Void, Bel’Veth, the manifestation of an entire city set on restructuring the world into her perfect vision. Her rather unique playstyle and movement initially pushed players away, though as the value of her hypercarry potential became apparent, her pick and win rates soared.
Bel’Veth, while not the most oppressive force in the jungle, remains a strong pick that has enjoyed the various jungle-centric changes that accompanied the ongoing preseason. Should players overestimate the sheer amount of damage she can inflict in seconds, they’ll soon find Voidlings swimming through their lanes and reaching their inner turrets in minutes.
1. Renata Glasc, the Chem-Baroness
Riot introduced Renata Glasc as League’s first “corrupt” enchanter, bringing a ruthless businesswoman with a passion for vengeance into the support role. With that thematic design alone, she instantly became a popular champion among fans—but it was the uniqueness of her enchanter abilities that truly made her a staple meta pick and ultimately the best-designed champion released this year.
The Chem-Baroness has a variety of tools at her disposal that separate her from the typical healing and shielding supports, most notably a revive attached to a basic ability, and the debut of the “Berserk” status effect on her ultimate. While players anticipated that such a convoluted kit would result in consecutive patches of nerfs, the champion remained around a 50 percent win rate across all levels of play ever since her release, leading fans to praise Riot further for her design.
Though most paired with Kalista at various points in 2022, Renata Glasc functions well with nearly any team composition, providing an ample amount of sustain to her allies while disrupting any opponent that dares to step in her way. Thanks to her low barrier of entry yet high skill ceiling, it’s likely that Renata Glasc will continue to cement herself as one of the most powerful enchanters in League, possibly growing to popularity levels rivaling Nami, Janna, Soraka, and more.