I should’ve titled this “Why Tier Lists can be Misinterpreted”.
Tier lists can work in a game like Super Smash Bros because a lot of factors are fixed. The competitive maps are similar if not identical. Tournaments are 1v1 so individual matchups are a factor. However, Paladins is a very dynamic game. There are web pages online which have user tier lists, and as we observe, they can vary greatly. However, tier lists, in my opinion, are not a good way to assess the strengths/weaknesses and overall standing of champs, and aren’t a good basis for champion selection or balance related decisions.
Tier lists inherently assume skill cap is reached
They assume that every player in the game is playing 99-100% perfectly. It assumes all players on each team are of equally high skill level and that minimal mistakes are being made. Every champ is being used to the fullest and the one with a higher skill cap performs better. Professional players have the time to play a wider champ pool at a high level, and pro teams have enough talented players on it so that they’re able to play most if not all champs at a near-perfect level. However for an individual player that isn’t a pro, it’s extremely unlikely that they play every champ at the same skill level.
Tier lists don’t matter much in most ranks
Champs with lower skill ceilings that may be disadvantageous at high ELO’s, but completely viable in lower ELO’s because nobody on the enemy team will be playing a champ at a skill level above even the “worst” champ’s skill ceiling. If someone is in Diamond, they have a lot bigger flaws in their gameplay to fix than just selecting a different champion.
Following the meta may sometimes be counter-intuitive at lower ranks
Assuming a skill input/value output X/Y graph, tier lists are only assessing the rightmost end, but the left side can be completely different. Very aim-dependent champs may be great at the higher end, but in tiers in which players don’t have great mechanical skill, champs that are able to put out damage more consistently may be preferable.
Maps are a factor:
Is the map small or large? On smaller maps, champs that zone out space can be more dominant and champs that brawl close-range have less distance to close. Though on larger maps, longer range abilities can shine. Champs with CC/knockback abilities will prefer maps with cliffs, whereas they might be non-meta on maps that don’t? How much high ground does it have? Maps with more high ground can favor champs with upward mobility while making it more difficulty for close-range champs to contest threats?
Champion bans and limits are factor:
With 4 champs banned, in addition to all champs being limited to 1 between both teams results in minor to moderate changes in the meta. If Champ A, has a bad matchup against Champ B and C (but Champ B and C are banned – or not on the enemy team), then Champ A is going to be more viable. What if two champs have a synergy but one of them is banned (or on the other team)? Any basis a tier list has on champ interactions would change from game to game.
Cards, talent and items are a factor:
A player may be picking a “meta” champ but they might be using suboptimal cards/items for that champ; hence removing any competitive advantage that would be attained in an equal skill scenario.
There’s no way to fit stats that measure various aspects of the game into a completely binary scale:
Since individual experience doesn’t always tell the full story, people may look at stats like pickrate, winrate and banrate. What if a particular champ is great in some situations or terrible in others? Should the binary reward them for their highest potential skill ceiling or punish them for a lack versatility? Highly specific tier lists can make sense (i.e. best/worst champs on Serpent Beach), but aggregating a variety of different aspects into one number or letter is misleading. If one were asked to rate an ice cream sundae on how chocolatey or vanilla-y it is on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being chocolate and 10 being vanilla, it would be doable. Now, if one were asked to rate an ice cream sundae on how chocolatey, vanillay and/or strawberry-y it were from 1 to 10, it would be impossible to compute into a number on a binary scale.