The first champion on this list has had a lot of spotlight on her recently. Karma was given significant buffs to her Inner Flame (Q) and Inspire (E) and made her into a high priority powerhouse in solo queue and professional play. She wasn't on the radar at all before these buffs, but since the release on patch 9.12 her presence in the top five regions (LCS, LEC, LPL, LMS, LCK) has increased to 100%. But this presence rate is almost exclusively bans, she has only been played three times on the patch. Though most will recognize her as a support, she can be played in every lane. In fact, Fnatic is the team who used her in the bottom lane in their upset victory over G2 Esports.
Last weekend, the LCS and LEC teams kept her on the ban bench in nearly every game. This isn't an overreaction, Karma is one of the scariest champions in the game right now. Her laning is very strong and she's able to bully out melee supports or solo laners with ease. In addition, she is a good matchup into the rising Lux support, giving her even more priority as a pick. She can clear waves relatively quickly and use her E's movement speed to turn the tides of skirmishes and team fights. If put top lane, she becomes an obnoxious tank-bully hybrid that's nearly impossible to kill. All in all, Karma's versatility and raw supportive power make her a top tier pick moving into Rift Rivals, though it's very possible she could be banned the entire tournament.
Xayah and Rakan
The famous lover's duo is next on this list. Xayah and Rakan have risen to high priority over the past few patches and appear to be quite powerful. In the five major regions on patch 9.12, Xayah has a 52.5% presence and a whopping 63.6% win rate. Rakan's presence stands at a lower 32.8% presence but a much higher 73.3% win rate. Its clear these two aren't always played together, but their individual strengths aren't to be underestimated. Along with this, their ability to alter the drafting phase is critical, as a first-round Xayah pick can force the enemy to draft the Rakan away or use a ban on it in the second ban phase.
Xayah is almost always picked before Rakan, as teams think she's the stronger part of the duo and is more independent. The meta is shifting back towards late-game, Critical Strike ADCs, which suits Xayah perfectly. She provides a ton of damage, but also safety and CC that set her apart from other ADCs. Her laning phase is decent, as she can push hard in certain matchups with her feathers, and her late game is fantastic.
That all said, Rakan is no slouch himself. He's less of a priority pick than Xayah, but teams aren't afraid to pick him even without the Xayah. His 2v2 laning isn't the best, but his gank set up gives him an edge over other supports. If paired with an aggressive marksman he can certainly have quite a bit of kill pressure. Rakan's biggest strength, however, is his mid-late game engage potential. He can singlehandedly win a game off of a great engage. If this duo is paired with each other they better each others' strengths, but they can definitely operate alone.
Aatrox is no stranger to the LoL meta since his rework, and his dominance is expected to continue into Rift Rivals. Though he only has a 48.6% win rate, he has a 91.8% presence. He has a pretty high ban rate but most of his presence does come from picks. This champion is no joke. He is one of the strongest top laners in the game and has the flexibility to played in the middle lane and jungle. Almost every team has strong top laners, and Aatrox will be a contested pick in almost every game. Many thought his changes in patch 9.9 would knock him out of the pro meta, but he clearly isn't going down without a fight.
The 9.9 changes took away the guaranteed revive from World Ender (R) but gave him the ability to snowball more in team fights. If he's behind he can struggle to find the takedowns he needs to win these fights, but if he's even or ahead he's an unkillable raid boss. Most teams aren't playing tank top laners, so Aatrox can make up for this lack of frontline with his ultimate healing and revive, as well as the zone control he creates with his Darkin Blade (Q). He has a decent mix of early game prowess, split push potential and team fighting that all the Rift Rivals team will value highly.
Shurima's Emperor has turned. At the beginning of the split, most people were expecting to see the early-game focused mid laners dominate as they had at MSI. There are still a lot of champions that fit that bill, but some control mages, such as Azir, are returning to the forefront. In patch 9.12 across the major regions, he has a 67.2% presence. The low presence is likely due to his inflexibility in draft. He has a lower presence but his 59.1% win rate makes up for that. Games have been going longer, especially in the LCS, and this is where Azir thrives.
Azir's scaling is the focal point of his kit due to his massive team fight presence. His Emperor's Divide (R) and Sand Soldiers create zones of total control for Azir. But teams aren't picking him only for his late game. Azir can bully out champions like Sylas and Akali in lane very well. This strength is made stronger with the likes of the Arcane Comet build with Luden's Echo, as it provides hefty burst damage. As a control mage, he generates a lot of push pressure, which is highly prized when paired with aggressive junglers. Most of the teams at Rift Rivals are focused more on early game snowball, so teams like Orgien and Team Liquid will probably value Azir more than the others. That said, Azir is a staple mid lane pick any mid laner can execute on well.
Last, but certainly not least, is Sejuani. Though it took her a few patches to ramp up this split, she currently is an absolute powerhouse. Her presence alone has prompted Trundle to become a premier meta pick. Her presence is among the highest, totalling 95.6%. This, paired with a 52.4% win rate, displays how strong she is. She's perfectly content being the first pick in a draft, as not many junglers can really abuse her and her kit is strong enough to duel most other junglers. Sejuani is the premier jungle in the current meta as she's strong at every point in the game.
Sejuani has a surprising amount of damage in the early game. Her damage and CC makes her a great ganker, especially with the other plentiful melee laners. This isn't all though, as she can front-line tank very effectively in the mid-late game. As said before, some teams lack front line and Sejuani fills this role perfectly. Another problem compositions face is lack of engage, but Sejuani shores that up with her Glacial Prison (R) nicely. Junglers aren't expected to be carries, rather they're needed to engage for the team. Sejuani is the best pick for that right now and will be the most highly contested jungler this tournament.
Featured image via Riot Games.