Mastering the Midlane with Zyrhoes
Tue 12th Sep 2017 - 8:42am
The recent changes to Smite have affected the game in a big way and every role has seen quite a shakeup to their importance and their godpools. The midlane has seen some of the biggest changes, to both godpools and tactics required to win. At the beginning of the season, the meta was extremely snowbally, which meant that winning the early game was incredibly important. However, due to HiRez's efforts, games have slowed down now and therefore the midlane is no longer focused on dominating the early game. This guide will discuss the current role of the midlaner with some insight from our pro midlaner Joakim "Zyrhoes" Verngren, one of the best midlaners in the pro league right now.
The first and most obvious thing to discuss is that, if the midlane is no longer early game focused, where is its focus?
On the subject of early, mid, or late game focus, Zyrhoes said, "All three matter but in my opinion having a strong late game is the most important because most games reach late game now."
HiRez's effort to slow the game down has caused a complete 180, as now the late game is the main focus. However, this doesn't mean you should pick gods that outright lose the early game, as losing the early game too hard can mean you don't even reach late game. Gods like Scylla, Thoth and Vulcan have good early games which allow them to make it through unscathed, while also having the damage to win fights singlehandedly in the late game. At the same time, it isn't so cut and dry.
The midlane's weird balance situation right now is personified by Scylla, who can carry late game but still has the capability to bully early game provided she buys the correct items.
According to Zyrhoes, "The balance for mid gods is in a weird spot right now, though, and has been for a while where some of the strongest early game gods are also the strongest late game."
The reason for this is that items for midlaners are stronger than they've ever been. This results in midlaners who are strong in the early game due to their high base damage also being strong in the late game because the items they build are so powerful. This, admittedly weird, situation means that even if you pick a god dedicated to winning the early game such as Isis, your damage in the late game will still be enough to win fights, even if you could be doing more damage by playing a different god.
Items like Spear of Desolation are so powerful that they allow any midlaner to potentially carry in the late game due to its high power and snowbally passive
Additionally, the biggest mistake midlaners make according to Zyrhoes is "Playing bad gods. Obviously, you can make pretty much any god work if you're good at it, but it doesn't change the fact that some gods are just better than others."
While these 'bad' gods are not too common right now, there still are some and with the midlane being as competitive as it is right now, playing them is just straight up a disadvantage, no matter your skill level. Gods like Raijin, Zhong Qui and He Bo just don't have the assets necessary to be successful in the midlane right now.
With this shift to late game focus, the skillset required to play the midlane also shifts. Whereas previously midlaners were most worried about rotating quickly and controlling their jungle, the most important skill right now is "good positioning and being able to survive in team fights when the enemy frontline is diving you", according to Zyrhoes. One thing that has remained consistent from the start of Season 4 is the popularity of dive gods. If you can't survive a dive by the enemy team, all your other skills are for naught.
Interestingly, Zyrhoes also says, "I think most people think that a midlaner’s main job is to deal a lot of damage. In my opinion that's one of the least important things."
While damage is obviously a part of the role, one of the biggest jobs of midlaners right now is setting the tempo of the game. When each ability you use can swing a fight, it falls to you to set the pace and speed at which your team takes the game. For example, full committing your abilities every time will set a faster pace, which has the advantage of possibly overwhelming the enemy and bringing a swift victory. On the other hand, being more conservative will lead to a slower pace, which will allow you to be more careful and take fewer risks.
This is a screencap of a fight from the Team Dignitas vs Team Rival Summer LAN Finals. Zyrhoes' position is indicated with the red circle. We can see that he is safely out of reach of any enemy abilities while also being able to still hit them. This is the kind of positioning which allows him to effectively dictate the pace of the fight.
Another thing that remains the same is the midlaners connection to the jungler through the early and mid game. Roaming together with your jungler can lead to greater jungle control, which is extremely valuable. As Zyrhoes says, "If your team is having pressure on the map/jungle control, it makes it a lot easier to make aggressive plays as a midlaner. Usually if your team has the pressure it's you who decides where and what you want to fight for which in most cases will lead to you having superior positioning."
As he mentions, jungle pressure directly affects the midlaners ability to set the tempo of the game, which is one of your main jobs as we mentioned above. Jungle control allows you to not only gain a substantial lead over your enemy but also position yourself more aggressively, allowing you to win more fights and gain more from any fights you win.
A lack of jungle control affects the midlaner in a different way to the jungler and could potentially be worse for the midlaner. A jungler with a lack of jungle control will fall behind, which is bad, but they can still sit in a lane and leech experience from the lane minions. A midlaner with a lack of jungle control will not fall as far behind, due to their ability to farm from the midlane.
However, Zyrhoes highlights that "if the enemy team has pressure and you're the one having to play defense, it's way easier to get picked while you're rotating". Because of the fact that the midlaner will be anchored to the midlane, it will be easier to intercept their rotations, especially with the advantage of jungle control. The reason for this is that jungle control also dictates ward coverage, something that is often overlooked when giving it up. If you die once or twice in a row due to an intercepted rotation, the setback can be so great that it could lead to you being entirely useless until much later on.
Intercepted rotations are an issue because right now the midlaner rotates a lot. Because their items are cheaper than the ones for other classes, they hit big power spikes faster which allows them to make incredibly impactful ganks and rotations. Therefore, it is beneficial for you to make sure you can pull off these ganks by controlling your jungle and keeping on the ward game.
One of the biggest recent changes is the itemization in the midlane. Midlane items are some of the most powerful in the game right now. Items such as Spear of Desolation, Chronos Pendant and Bancraft's Talon allow midlaners to have a much higher power level than other roles and, more importantly, achieve it much earlier. ADCs may be the kings of late game damage, but midlaners can get it at a much cheaper price, meaning they reach full build near the end of the mid game, allowing them to dictate pace of the late game. While all these damage items are all well and good, defensive items have recently been put into the spotlight, even for high damage gods.
Bancraft's Talon has been rapidly rising in popularity. When picked up early on, it allows midlaners to gain a lot of power very quickly and the lifesteal attached to the item allows them to survive more ganks.
For example, Zyrhoes believes the "sleeper hit" item for midlaners right now is Hide of the Urchin. "This item can help a lot of low mobility, low tier gods such as Vulcan, He Bo, Zeus and many more to be able to do their job more effectively".
Urchin's cheap price and natural synergy with the midlaner's constant participation in fights makes it quite a good item to pick up to keep yourself alive longer. This is especially important because, as we mentioned before, diving gods are very popular in the jungle and solo role right now. Extra protections could give you the additional time you need to get another cycle of abilities off to either escape or kill the enemy gods harassing you.
Some of the biggest changes to itemization are the changes to magical power items which relate to basic attacks, such as Shaman's Ring, Telkhine's Ring and Hastened Ring. These items have brought up the possibility of two basic attack based mages coming into the midlane: Freya and Chronos.
According to Zyrhoes, "Not sure if they can become a lot more viable than they already were but yes, the new items might make them even stronger."
While these new items are good, Freya, Chronos and any other basic attack based mage suffer from issues of consistency and a very weak early game. Therefore, new late game power items might make them carry even harder in the late game, it does not help them get through the early and mid game, where they are the most vulnerable.
Out of all of them Zyrhoes believes Freya will benefit the most from these item changes. "New/changed items such as the Emerald Ring tree will help Freya out the most. With triple rings she has 517 base movement speed or something crazy like that."
Freya built with the new and improved 'rings' allows her to melt anyone who tries to box you while also giving you utility, survivability and better damage against objectives
If the team can work on protecting Freya through the early phases of the game, her build in the late game will mean she becomes largely self-sufficient and will be able to carry your team to victory.
Magical ADCs, as they're sometimes called, will always be the ultimate late game carries but are currently marred by their difficulty and their vulnerability. If in the future, cheap and efficient items are released that benefit these gods, they could easily become some of the best.
But what about actual ADCs? ADCs in the midlane have always been a thing, going from extremely popular to pocket picks depending on the meta. Considering the current meta, ADCs do fit a lot of the required characteristics required for midlaners.
Most importantly, if you ask Zyrhoes, "Hunters always bring a strong presence and a lot of early game pressure." Because of their ability to combat mages at range, they can often be immune to a lot of their damage. Furthermore, ADCs have very good clear by default, which allows them to push out mages who might have weaker clear in the earlier levels.
Ullr's high base damage and good scaling in conjunction with his incredible poke means that he can often outclass most mages during their vulnerable early games
However, too often people swap mages for ADCs without making an adjustment to their overall draft. Zyrhoes puts this simply, saying "You need to build your team comp around it. If you have a Hunter in mid you need magical damage from somewhere else".
Too much physical damage can mean that the enemy team doesn't have to invest in magical defense and can buy more physical defense items, simultaneously giving them more build space and seriously mitigating the damage your team can do.
A lot of the most recent changes to Smite have had profound changes on the mid role and understanding these changes and their impact is key to continued success in the role. A big shift like the one that happened this season can leave a lot of people out of touch, so staying ahead of the curve will allow you to dominate the midlane effectively and efficiently. I hope you enjoyed reading and thank you to Zyrhoes for his valuable insight!