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What is gold funneling in League of Legends? | Gold funneling in LoL explained and why Riot wants to stop it

One of the most hated strategies in League of Legends has once again reared its ugly head—gold funneling.

If you started playing the game sometime after 2018, you may be asking yourself what funneling is. Our sweet summer child, let us introduce you to one of the most toxic metas in League history.

The origins of gold funneling

This strategy originated on The Twisted Treeline map, the now removed three-vs-three queue. It was then picked up and perfected by boosters on the Chinese solo queue ladder. It was still fairly uncommon until the midseason Patch 8.11 dropped in May 2018, the patch that saw Pyke added to the champion roster.

This patch was significant for funneling for a few reasons. First, it added more experience from killing the Krugs, Gromp, Razorbeaks, and Wolves camps, and the respawn timer on the Scuttle Crab was lowered by 15 seconds. The marksmen class was given a systematic nerf and many of their core items were tweaked while having their cost increased. Ultimately, this meant that ranged ADCs were weaker in the early game and took longer to scale into relevancy. Related changes made it more difficult for the popular mid lane picks to clear minion waves.

On the surface, these may seem like a series of tangentially related buffs and nerfs, not so much different from any other patch that Riot Games releases. The raw stats belie the horror that it would give rise to, though.

The basics of the funneling game plan are as follows: First, pick a character that has the potential to hard carry and scales well (think Kai’Sa, Tryndamere, Master Yi) and have them run Smite. They are the “jungler” for all intents and purposes. Second, surround them with supportive picks meant to buff them up and make them stronger (Soraka, Taric, Braum), and have one of them hold the mid lane minion wave while avoiding taking any of the last hits. Finally, have the hard carry run around the map farming all of the jungle camps while catching the enemy minion waves when they crash into your turrets.

That is funneling in a nutshell. Four players work together to sacrifice their own resources to catapult one carry ahead of everyone else in the game. Eventually, the carry gains so much gold and experience that it’s nearly impossible for the enemy team to fight them at all. Sounds really fun to play against, right?

With those changes, the stage was set.

Master Yi and Taric, a diabolical duo

Enter Master Yi and Taric. They were the original dynamic duo of funneling due to innate synergies in their kits. Master Yi has always been one of the highest-damage melee carries in the game. His biggest weaknesses were both related to crowd control—lacking any himself while being highly vulnerable to it. The counter to Master Yi had been the same since season one: “Just stun him, bro.”

That is where Taric steps in. His ultimate ability, Cosmic Radiance, makes him and any allies around him invulnerable for 2.5 seconds after a short delay. You can already see where this is going. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was an exceptionally not-fun interaction involving Master Yi’s ability Alpha Strike and Taric’s stun, Dazzle. The counterplay to Dazzle is simple—you can dodge it. The Taric player has to aim the stun, wait one second while it winds up, and then it stuns in a line wherever they aimed. When used in combination with Master Yi’s Alpha Strike, however, it was completely undodgeable if timed correctly.

That was a lot of technical information, so let’s recap it in simpler terms. 

  1. Master Yi does big damage but has low range and survivability with no way to lock down enemy champions.
  2. Taric both makes Master Yi invincible and gives him an unmissable 1.5-second stun.
  3. Free LP.

This is the crux of why gold funneling was an extremely toxic strategy and hardly anyone liked playing against it. Thankfully, that specific interaction with Taric’s stun and Master Yi’s Alpha Strike was removed from the game in Patch 11.9. Don’t take our word for it, though. Superstar ADC Doublelift shared the same sentiment back in 2018 when funneling first took off in popularity.

“Basically, the entire point of gold funneling is to interact with the enemy team as little as possible and to just put all of your resources into a champion that can hard carry,” he said. “I feel like it’s not fun to watch, it’s not fun to play, and it’s especially not fun to play against.”

That quote and interview get at the core reason why funneling is not only anti-fun to play against but also unhealthy for the game as a whole. The key is the lack of counterplay or interaction. Even with full information of what the enemies planned to do, there was almost nothing to be done if the strategy was executed according to plan. Banning out the individual champions didn’t provide much relief either since the core gameplay could still be done with any champion that fits the mold.

While it started as a solo queue tactic, the worldwide audience would soon be introduced to its strength.

Gold funneling goes pro

It didn’t take long at all for teams to start to catch on to the potency of funneling. Organizations such as G2 Esports and Fnatic used it to secure victories in the 2018 LEC Summer Split. It was clear that the strategy was becoming the global meta when we had a funnel-vs-funnel game in the first week of the 2018 LCK Summer Split. Of all the teams that committed to it, G2 were the masters of gold funneling. Their dominance in part forced Riot to examine the power level of funneling and the massive changes made in response show how much Riot disliked it.

The most drastic change was the introduction of the Monster Hunter passive debuff in Patch 8.15. If you had a jungle item in your inventory while having the most gold on your team, it heavily nerfed the amount of gold you would get from minions. While it did successfully kill off funneling for the most part, it was also a big hit to junglers overall.

In response, Riot removed the passive in Patch 8.23 as the 2019 preseason was drawing nearer. Unsurprisingly, gold funneling sprang back up like a stubborn weed and prompted Riot to reintroduce the passive in the first official patch of season nine. This is how the cycle has gone ever since, and we see it being repeated even in this preseason. Riot makes changes in an attempt to nerf funneling and cheesers find a new way to make the strategy effective.

The future of funneling

The good news: the strategy is no longer meta in professional play and you’ll rarely ever see it pulled off successfully in solo queue unless you find yourself in the highest ranks.

The bad news: that could change based on Riot’s preseason jungle changes.

The addition of jungle companions has allowed champions like Taric to once again head to the mid lane with Smite at the ready and cause immense suffering for those unlucky enough to play against him. Fortunately, it is on the devs’ radar and Riot is already looking to make adjustments.

“This is known and we have mitigating tactics in mind,” Riot RayYonggi confirmed in response to a Reddit thread complaining about funneling. He also shared how the devs plan to combat the issue in another reply: “Likely we will do something like: If you don’t have jungle item, you get no cookies.”

This would prevent the support in the mid lane from upgrading their Smite, reducing a great deal of the duo’s power.

While the viability of gold funneling in the 2023 season remains to be seen, it’s clear that the community, pro players, and Riot would rather not have it become meta once again.

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