Without buffs of any kind, and in a metagame filled with tanks that she traditionally has been mediocre against, Kalista has gradually ramped up from a 4% pick/ban rate in the spring split to an 87% since patch 7.14 hit the competitive scene. How did Kalista go from MIA to one of the most contested pro picks?
One early factor was the change to Doran’s Shield right after MSI, an item revamp that shifted the entire botlane meta.
Back in spring split, botlanes focused on outpushing the opponent with wave-clearing carries and ranged mage supports. The goal was to take control of the enemy’s jungle with vision, then dive the opposing botlane once they had been poked down. This is not a strategy Kalista excels at.
Kalista’s win condition is Baron control, looking to surpass the enemy’s Smite with her stacked spears. But her lack of steroids makes her scale poorly: she needs to get out of lane even or ahead to be relevant, but will be outpushed by popular Spring picks like Varus or Caitlyn. Kalista just couldn’t compete in the Spring meta, often losing lane to their superior pressure.
Come Summer, the new regeneration from Doran’s Shield made poking much less effective strategy, opening the gate for the return of melee supports with much greater kill potential: supports like Thresh, Braum, and Alistar.
Teams now got their botlanes ahead by creating picks with heavy engage combos, and Kalista’s Fate’s Call was perfect for setting up picks, helping melee supports reach their targets, and protecting her team from similar attempts by the enemy. This was the start of her rise in the AD carry tier list.
But the real Kalista boom came after patch 7.14. The increased popularity of tanks like Maokai and Sejuani brought more engage tools into team compositions, making the game very teamfight centric and benefitting Kalista in a number of ways.
Immobile push AD carries like Ashe or Varus took a big hit - they could get picked off too easily by hard cc and became much riskier to run. Meanwhile, Caitlyn remained almost a permaban. All of this meant there was finally room for Kalista to win botlane matchups.
The increase in engage tools also made games shorter: when your tanks can more easily dive enemy teams or turrets, leads can be snowballed faster. Thanks to this, Kalista’s weak late game was rarely reached, and teams didn’t concern themselves with her getting outscaled. The engage on her ultimate can also cinch midgame fights, making early position on the Baron pit much easier to secure consistently.
And even though Kalista should feel her poor scaling against strong tanks, today’s popular builds are in her favor. Current tank itemization is centered around the Gargoyle Stoneplate, and Kalista can simply stack spears on tanks and activate her rend once Stoneplate’s active effect and shields are over.
Longzhu’s week 9 game against KT illustrates a lot of Kalista’s strengths. Fate’s Call cleanly delivers Taric into three members of KT, stacking crowd control and using her chase power and executes to secure two early kills.
Another crucial strength comes in this week 9 midgame fight between CLG and Dignitas. Despite a bad initial engage from OmarGod, Stixxay’s ultimate acts as a great follow up for Orianna’s Shockwave, and guarantees CLG a big teamfight win that translates into a free Baron.
Kalista is the perfect example of how a champion’s viability can fluctuate without any buffs or nerfs in the mix. Keep her in mind the next time you want a buff for a champion that has fallen out of favor, as perhaps you should be blaming the meta.
Footage from Riot Games, SkinSpotlights, & LoL Esports.