It was the 2014 LEC Spring split when SK Gaming's nRated popped off on Galio. Supa Hot Crew (SHC) was pushing hard, throwing Nami bubbles and Lucian blasts left and right. At 10 minutes into the game, nRated flash ults – the classic Galio maneuver. Jesiz on Kassadin roams down and CandyPanda on Jinx nabs a double. SK beat SHC 19 to 8, going on to take first place in the LEC while SHC took seventh of eight.
SK Gaming secured first place in the EU LCS that year, but it was another team that brought Galio out on the global stage. At 2014 World’s, Samsung Blue’s Acorn got to play Galio top against Samsung Galaxy White. He was facing off against Maokai (another champion with a sordid history of re-works and modulation). Unlike SK, the pick was not successful. The Korean top laner got blasted, taking six deaths, and losing a clutch game against their sister team.
This was the state of affairs for Demacia’s late-to-arrive sorrowful sentinel: a chance for the shoutcasters to get hyped and ask “Will it work?”
In 2021 Galio is nearly as common as any other support, though his days as a top laner seem to be stuck in the past. At MSI 2021 alone Galio has appeared five times, winning two of said games. He’s even being played as both a midlaner and a support by PSG Talon’s Maple and Kaiwing! The re-work has been scrutinized and brought to task by many commentators, but the question remains:
Was it worth it?
The Early Years: Lonesome Gargoyle
Those two Galio stories? Acorn and nRated? According to 2014 data, those were the only two times he was picked that year. And he won 50% of those matches on a team that won the entire EU LCS – causation or correlation?
Galio was 55th most popular top laner out of 56. This data is from 2016 when Champion.gg published that of ranked games platinum and above on Patch 6.17. To make matters worse, he was the 43rd most popular mid laner (out of 46) and the 55th most popular top laner (out of 56).
Internet rumor has it that Galio held the number one top lane win rate for low ELO players prior to his re-work. While this could be true, it doesn’t mean much for our review of the gargoyle’s career on the rift. It’s a bit like asking why we don’t see Teemo in pro play, but then not seeing the scout in low ELO play, either. Galio had no clout in any scene, even if some say his win rate was high.
To put it bluntly, there seemed to be no place for Galio in the meta. In 2015, pre-work Galio was chosen 8 times worldwide exclusively as a top laner. Werlyb of Giants Gaming can claim to be the only player to win even one game as Galio that year – and it was indeed one game.
The data has him picked just 4 times in 2016, twice as top, one as mid, and once as support, with a 50 percent win rate. The re-work was just around the corner, and clearly necessary.
The golden years: people’s champ
Believe the hype.
In 2017 Faker-senpai graced the world with a rare sight. He played Galio five times in a row against Royal Never Give Up (RNG) of China in a tense semi-finals. T1 (SKT at that time) went 3-2, managing to get into World’s. Some of the plays were, of course, legendary.
A few pro players have made Galio their bread and butter, and the POWR shows it. While we don’t have raw data for those 2014 cameo appearances (and would we want that data? sheesh) we know the colossus is dominating the meta today.
SwordArt has won three of three games as support Galio, maxing his POWR at 61. He’s done so well as to create almost-constant second round bans. Faker’s replacement on T1, Clozer, has pulled the highest Galio POWR in 2021 at 76 – the team shut out Hanwha Life Esports 12 to 0.
Galio has become a major presence in a way completely unlike the original iteration. This is for a lot of reasons. One key trend is that the game has gotten much faster.
The game was less watchable in the early days of pro play, with six item builds and siege style ultimates. The patch history of Alistar’s ultimate is one such thermometer that shows how champions got quicker, burstier adjustments over time. An esport requires a dynamic viewing experience, and while some of us enjoyed the arduous style of old school LoL, it needed speed.
Beyond that, playstyle-wise Galio wasn’t very effective. Like Rammus of yore, Galio required lots of attention to be of any use. He had no offensive moves spare for throwing gusts of wind into the fray. The new kit is all action with some familiar use of taunting and magic resistance. Galio doesn’t need you to focus him anymore – he’ll come to you, and it doesn’t require a flash ult, either.
As a quicker, less-needy champion, Galio has dashed into the meta. It looks like he’s here to stay: as of mid-May 2021 he’s been in 132 pro games. That’s 66 times as many as 2014, which was four years after his release.
He’s been in the midlane 52 of those games, with an average POWR rating of 50. As support, he maintains a solid 40. While support suits him nicely, it looks like the magic-blocker of Demacia could venture further into the art of midlane magic himself.
Apples and oranges
Galio is one of those champs we can safely say had an overhaul more than a re-work. He’s a brand new sentinel, less monster and more protectorate. That said, his POWR is just dramatically higher now than it ever used to be.
In a way, all of the incoming magic mentioned in Galio’s new lore could be seen as an ever-quickening meta that demanded a more developed champion. The swamp in which the idol of Durand had dwelled could be seen as the earlier, slower years of League.
While Galio may have fit as a pocket pick here and there seven years ago for teams like T1 and SSB, today the would-be superhero is a boon to teams all over the world.