Ahri is a champion that has been out of the Meta for a while. It has not been picked competitively in season eight yet and by the end of the previous summer split it was only a niche pick that appeared a lot in wildcard regions.
For newer League of Legends players, it might be a surprise to hear that Ahri was almost the face of the league for a while.
It is one of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s preferred picks and it dominated the rift in Season Three World Championships. Prominent mid laners like Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon, Aleksei “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin and Enrique “xPeke” Cedeno Martinez picked Ahri during the competition.
Since then, she has been in the spotlight a few times both in competitive play and especially in solo queue.
Ahri has only seen considerable amount of play in season five and the start of season seven since. It became a consistent pick for respected players like Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and Song “Rookie” Eui-jin.
In total, she was picked in 250 games with a 54.4 percent win rate, only third amongst mids with over 100 games.
Nonetheless, nobody played Ahri more and to a greater success than H2K’s Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. He played 16 competitive games with the champion and recorded 14 wins.
While Ahri had fallen out of Meta, the champion had a big resurgence in the early stages of season seven.
It was a particularly popular pick in North America. Even when Ahri fell out of the Meta during summer season 2017, she was picked 30 times in NA. Players in the four other major regions (TW, CN, KR, EU) only picked Ahri 13 times during that same period.
During that time, the likes of Son “Mickey” YoungMin, Eugene”Pobelter” Park and Ryu, by this time at Phoenix1, showing what Ahri can do.
In a bid to break back the fox, Riot is considering revamping the champions kit.
Given that Febiven is now with NA side Clutch Gaming and Ryu stayed in the league with 100 Thieves, it is highly likely that, if Ahri does get reworked, NA will be the first region to bring this champion into competitive play once again.
What you need to know about Ahri
Ahri is part mage, part assassin. Her skill set consists of an orb that travels in a straight line before returning to her, with more damage dealt during the journey back. While the orb is travelling, Ahri gains movement speed.
W is a skill that does damage in waves. It prioritises the closest enemy in range or the last champion that Ahri attacked.
E is the infamous foxy charm that deals some damage and slows the enemy too.
The ultimate provides the nine-tailed fox with increased mobility, giving her three dashes within ten seconds, each of which deals some damage to opponents.
In past seasons, this was a rather unique skill-set and it had a lot of upsides, while its weaknesses were not accentuated enough.
This champion was one of the first assassins that had good wave clear. She also had the potential to roam a lot since she could push her lane.
Her mobility is also unparalleled, which provides access to unexpected flanking patterns.
Finally, her engage tools with Spirit Rush and Charm are a non-committal way of engaging and this gave her a safer game pattern.
While her sustained damage is not that high, she used to have easy access to the backline and more than enough damage burst to take it out.
Her high baseline consistency made her a very consistent mid pick in solo queue. Some competitive mid laners even used it as a crutch pick. For example, when Piglet transitioned from ADC to mid he played Ahri in nine games.
Why did Ahri fall out of Meta though?
Initially, there was a change to her kit in Patch 7.11 that made her much more reliant on landing the charm to deal damage.
Furthermore, the Meta used to favour a less tanky frontline. The changes after the Lethality Meta and the predominance of tanks meant that Ahri had more difficult access to the backline.
Towards the backend of season seven, the changes in support items meant that ADC’s had a lot more shekels and buffs. This meant that it was difficult to assassinate them with one rotation of spells, even if one landed the perfect charm.
The incredible gold efficiency of ardent censer, redemption and locket of the iron Solari (+60 MR on a squishy support can make wonders!) made nuking a priority target a dream of the past.
In general, AP itemisation did not play towards Ahri’s strengths. Liandry’s Torment was a very gold efficient item and was a necessary buy on almost any AP champion.
While the additional Magic Penetration is useful and the passive gives Ahri more impact when dealing with the frontline, the health component of the item feels awkward on an assassin and Ahri has only one crowd control element built into her kit.
Finally, the changing landscape in mid lane also had an impact.
Since her inception, champions like Syndra and Orianna had increased waveclear and a rather good laning phase compared to Ahri, leaving her struggling and searching for a play to become relevant in the game.
Other picks like Malzahar, Ryze, Galio and Taliyah have increased waveclear and do not let Ahri impact other lanes, or they have a much easier setup.
In the end, gank setup boils down to having point and click cc like Ryze and Malzahar…
Riot to rework Ahri
Riot plans to rework the champion and reduce its consistency. However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that Ahri is currently completely overshadowed by Zoe.
Zoe has very reliable waveclear with her q, a drowsy interaction that has a much more forgiving hitbox than Ahri’s charm. Likewise, she has a gap closer that makes it easy for her to oneshot priority targets.
Thus, Zoe has taken a big part of the niche characteristics of Ahri both as a character and as a champion.
Riot is considering making changes to Ahri’s q, but the biggest change will be to her w mechanic. Subsequent hits of W will deal less damage.
Changing the damage distribution towards the last charge would make Ahri’s play pattern more complex and would force her to weave in successive Spirit Rushes.
Another possible change would be one of the form of Evelynn where the W spell is a form of debuff that amplifies the damage of her other spells when charged.
There could be several other changes. Riot has shown its desire to innovate with champion kits. However, all of them will rotate around keeping the power of the champion in check while making it feel riskier to play, which will feel more rewarding when played right.
Can Ahri break into competitive play once again?
There are already some masteries that give bonus movement speed and AP based on movement speed (Celerity and Waterwalking, for example) that could prove situationally very good on Ahri. Together with the Perfect Timing nerf (aka Stopwatch mastery) there could be more chances to catch opponents by surprise and snowball the game.
New AP items will also be hitting the rift in 8.4. There will be many more mobility sources among these new items an the new GLP and Liandry’s Torment will make Ahri builds much less awkward.
It is hard to predict where the reworked Ahri will stand in relation to the other changes, but it is certainly not out of the question that we will see her terrorising the rift once again.