August 8, 2021, 11:00 AM

The inevitable rise of Kalista has come

The inevitable rise of Kalista has come
Kalista artwork courtesy of Riot Games.
By Stephanie Roehler
If you’re the kind of LoL player who doesn’t like soul spears ripped out of your chest or tanky supports launched at your face, then your worst nightmare has come to pass: Kalista is back in the meta.
Over the past month, Kai’Sa supremacy has somewhat waned to Kalista’s new rise in the ranks, with top bot-laners from the LCK, LCS, LEC, and other regions adding her to their champion rosters.
However, this turn towards Kalista is a lot less sudden than you might think. Kalista was a ranked darling during the first half of 2020, and it was only a matter of time before she bounced back to the top. After all, despite her lack of popularity in earlier 2021 seasons, Kalista has maintained a 58% win rate or higher all year. That’s higher than 80% of all champions in LoL, which means she has a better win ratio than 125 champions.
But why is Kalista such a popular champion with pros? And why did it happen now?

Kalista’s Championship History

Let’s start with a little backstory on Kalista. The spear of vengeance was released on November 20th, 2014 and didn’t quite catch on with fans. The complaints were simple: she didn’t do enough damage, she relied too much on her support, and her kit traded damage for utility. Also, she required a higher skill level with a lot of auto-attack mini games, so from 2014-2016 she was considered a middling to bad champion.
2017 was a game-changing year for her, though.
With some kit tweaking and some meta changes, the professional scene saw Kalista breakout as a frighteningly fast and mobile champion who leapt between auto attacks and was painfully difficult to pin down. Add that to her ability to launch her support or top-laner into a fight? Her ability to influence every teamfight was insane.
The event that really showed off just how overpowered Kalista could be was the 2017 Worlds Championship, and not because she had any great games during it. It was quite the opposite, actually. The players were so afraid of someone using Kalista that she was banned from every game for the entire event. It was a historic tournament where one champion influenced so many decisions despite not showing up in a single game.
Something similar happened in early 2020, when Kalista was either picked or banned in every game of the LEC Spring Playoffs. During those months, from January to April, she held a staging 61.5%+ win rate in pro leagues.
Kalista isn’t always a powerhouse, but when she’s popular, she is powerful and people either have to play her or get her out of the game.

Why Is She Such a Good Champion?

If you analyze her kit, it’s easy to see why pros favor her so much. When the right meta comes around, she’s unstoppable.
Early fans may have complained that she was too utilitarian, but in the professional leagues, that’s her charm. Their teams work tirelessly to synergize with each other and when a bot lane is in sync, Kalista thrives. Her cooperative ult, launching her support or teleporting tank at the enemy, is a perfect trump card in any early battle.
Focusing on just Kalista’s individual skills, though, she’s fast and uniquely mobile. Her passive, that gives her those little leaps after each auto-attack, makes her very difficult to pin down. Also, her E, Rend, makes it easy to mark a half-dozen creeps, pull back, and clear the wave with ease. It makes it very difficult for even the most powerful, hyper-carry ADCs to keep control of their lane and the waves.

Kalista By The Stats

Where Kalista sits currently, she’s just about to pop off and takeover the meta (as long as she’s not nerfed). She’s already bleeding into some pro games, but looking at her stats, she just works too well for the rest of LoL to start falling in line.
Now, Kalista’s win rate is particularly impressive and indicative of her power. Not only does she have a 58% win rate, but she also is a surprisingly often-played champion for those numbers. Comparatively, Yasuo has a 60% win rate, but players have only played him 15 times in ranked. Kalista has been in a staggering 215 games. The only other upper A/S tier champion with a win rate anywhere close to that is Udyr, with 54%.
Now, looking back on her stats history, Kalista was absolutely dominant until July 2020, right around when the ADC and item changes came in. This thrust LoL into a bout of tank meta and left ADCs a little desolate and helpless for a while. Despite that fall-off though, her win rate still never fell below 47%. For comparison, a current S+ champion, Thresh, has a 45.4% win rate and the current ADC all-star, Kai’Sa, only sits at 51%. If Kalista at her lowest is still only 4% below a champion that had a 75% pick rate earlier this year, she has to have a solid kit and place in professional LoL.
While her pick rate, ban rate, and general presence in LoL has been all over the place, one thing has always been consistently impressive for Kalista: her win rate. It seems that she has a decent talent for winning when people play her (and know how to do it), even if the meta isn’t in her favor.

Why Are People Playing Her Now?

So, if her win rate’s been so good, why didn’t Kalista become more popular until last month? Before June 20, she had an abysmal sub-10% pick rate. However, she’s now hopped up to A-tier with other top ADCs like Tristana and Kai’Sa.
Well, when LoL’s bot lane was based on Galeforce or Kraken Slayer meta, that worked better for fast AND high damage champs. That’s not quite Kalista. She’s fast, yes, and she does her own kind of damage, but straight, hyper-carry level damage is not her forte like Kai’Sa or Tristana.
But if hyper-carry ADCs are popular and Kalista has a viable build, she’s an obvious choice to push them in, counter them, and oppress them in lane so they can’t do their job.
This is where Immortal Shieldbow comes in.
For a long time, it was the lesser AD item, always falling flat compared to Galeforce or Kraken Slayer. Then, in Patch 11.3, Riot buffed it, only to become oppressive on Yasuo and Yone. Patch 11.6 saw the change that would thrust Kalista into the top of the pro-meta again, because they basically made the item perfect for her. They nerfed the melee potential of the item, but they gave ranged users just what they needed.
That new passive, where the champion gains 25-50% attack speed on proc, is exactly what the fast, attack speed happy Kalista needs. Mix that into a hyper-carry bot lane meta with thick supports, Shieldbow gives Kalista a great foundation for a perfect attack speed/life steal build. Then she can toss her CC-heavy, tanky support in for the best engage in the game or clear the wave faster than the enemy laner can cope. Kalista becomes the exact champion to beat down on these hyper-carry ADCs that have been bulldozing games.
How could she not shine in conditions like these?
And since the Shieldbow has not seen any changes from Patch 11.6 to the current 11.15, she won’t be going anywhere for now.

Who’s Playing Her?

Obviously, many pro players have caught on to Kalista’s potential and started using her in tournaments. For example, Lost, TSM’s ADC, played Kalista in 5 out of their last 15 games (and they won 80% of those Kalista games).
Let’s take his July 4th game against Cloud9. Cloud9’s Zven played hyper-carry Aphelios and that played right into Kalista’s strengths. Lost’s Kalista was always a little ahead in farm, but by 11 minutes he was ahead by 25,and that gap only worsened until he ended the game with 389; 69 more farm than Zven. Lost was so effective at pushing his lane that TSM won their first tower in bot lane by 14:55. Their lane pressure was just too oppressive for Cloud 9 to handle. Kalista is just way too effective at making life hard for hyper-carry ADCs, and Lost used her to execute Zven’s chances masterfully.
And Zven particularly must have been kicking himself, because this loss came after him playing two very successful Kalista games against Team Liquid and Immortals. She’s his second most played champion in the 2021 season, after all. He knew what he was getting into and yet Lost’s Kalista still ran his bot-lane over.
Across all the LoL leagues, there have been many ADCs that have found recent success using Kalista. Giving some rough numbers, there have been 8 from the LCK, 6 from the LCS, 3 from the LEC, and one from each of the TCL, CBLOL, and LLA (with some variation).
If Riot isn’t careful, this Worlds might look familiar...

Conclusion

Some champions fall in and out of favor because of meta items, meta comps, changing ability stats and tweaks, etc.. However, Kalista is a champion that is always relatively good, she’s just sitting around waiting for the perfect item or meta change to turn her from a solid utility ADC into the terrifying powerhouse she can be.
If the meta keeps heading in this direction countering the hyper-carry ADC and lasts until November this year (AKA Worlds), we might have another Worlds 2017 on our hands. Keep an eye out for Kalista, because soon enough she might become the name of the game and no one can do anything to change that.

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