Patch 4.20 (blaze it?) went live about a week ago, and boy, it did blaze pretty well. With a plethora of drastic changes implemented in one new patch, the forums all but burst open with new threads complaining severely about the new jungle, the new champion released (Kalista) or the new gameplay changes. Everyone had read up on what was going to happen in the preseason, but nobody had expected how the actual changes will feel in real time, and when players got to experience that, we can safely tell you, they weren’t very happy in the first few days…
Incidentally, this was also the biggest patch ever to League of Legends; with patch notes almost taking a full hour to read through and understand, as such many players simply didn’t bother reading to the end and got a nasty new surprise when they went into the game.
We have already discussed the intended major changes to the game (read more about LoL Season 5 changes here), however, this article will delve further into some specific changes and discuss their impact on the overall gameplay while also speculating about their reception in the competitive scenes like LCS, OGN, GPL and the other major LoL leagues. Most likely we can see the Patch 4.20 during the upcoming Round 3 of the League of Legends Expansion Tournament and at the LoL Tournament at IEM 2014 in San Jose.
Per level stat changes
One major change coming out of patch 4.20 is the “per level stat” change. Health per level, mana per level, heath regeneration per level and mana regeneration per level all have been tweaked. Let’s take a look at what these changes are first.
First of all, all champions got their base stats raised by 168% and the term growth statistic was introduced into the game instead of per level statistic since now stats will increase exponentially instead of linearly. This means that at each level, you will have a greater amount of per level stats than the level before, and these will be increasing by a set % rather than by a set amount. This is why the name was changed to growth statistic as well, reflecting the shift towards exponential stats from linear stats.
Why was this done? Riot says they are trying to balance the level advantages disparity between champions, since stats should not be something that should be lead to an advantage in early game. Levelling up should mean experience advantage and spell advantages only, not a higher level of stat advantage which leads to insane early game snowballs.
The effect? All over the map. The all in at level 2 when your opponent is level 1 has been slightly nerfed since you gain less stats in the beginning but more towards end, and as such laners tend to be a bit more cautious in early game trading, especially top and mid who are 1v1 during a much bigger part of the game. The effect to the jungle has been hazardous as well, coupled with the general strengthening of the camps, now junglers have an extremely hard time clearing camps early due to reduced stats of junglers and enhanced stats of camps, resulting in many executes. This also indirectly affects their ability to gank early, since if they clear late, they will also gank late; more on this later. On bot lane, the early game comps have received a slight nerf, such as Leona/graves level 2 feels less like a hammer now, but eventually they catch back up. This change also affected many champions who relied on per level stats (Gnar, mundo?) but those champions have been slightly adjusted to compensate them.
Overall, picks have fallen for champions based on stat reliability, and shifted more towards champions who hit harder through their spells early on.
Mana Regeneration changes
Apart from the growth statistic change, mana was also adjusted separately since many mana regeneration items have been modified, so it was necessary to balance base mana stats in order to balance the overall gameplay. A whole list of champions now have base mana per 5 stat of 6 and a growth rate of 0.8, while Sona, Nami, Soraka and Janna have a base mana per 5 stat of 9 and a 0.4 growth stat.
These changes did not have a direct impact, rather were made so items could not be abused by some specific champions easily.
The jungle has been a hot topic. Literally hot. Even now, the forums get dozens of threads daily complaining about how hard it is to jungle, and how the role is not fun anymore. However, what is important to note is the direct shift in Meta in the jungle, which is huge and will affect the competitive scene as well.
As we all know; the camps were changed, a new camp was added, the bonuses of smiting camps were added, camps were made stronger, dragon was changed to give no gold and baron gives no buff now as well. Instead of listing all the changes that took place (which you can find in our preseason article or the official patch notes), let us go over their effects.
First of all, a sharp fall in carry type junglers was felt while junglers like Amumu came back to the spotlight, since their sustainability allowed them to stay in jungle longer, The item changes also meant that there were less pots to chug during the initial stages of the game, which also helped in junglers picking tanky champions. However, the most important shift has been in the pathing of the junglers, which has changed from starting at the buffs to starting at the grump, whose new bonus allows junglers to clear the blue buff easily while smiting the grump also gives them access to level 2, which is the main aim in many cases. Rather than doing red buff during the initial clear, many junglers have opted to rush to 400 g, go back to base and buy one of the new jungle items and go back to do their red, after which they usually gank top or mid with their new smite availability.
This pattern has led the revival of jungle invades as well, since junglers are usually pretty low if they do not go back to their base and start their red, which leads to easy first blood and 3 buff start for the opponent jungler. This has been answered with mid and top laners keeping a keen eye on the red buff and hopping over to kill the opposing invader.
This shift in the meta is huge and opens up many dynamics of the game as well. Rather than following a set pattern, players now have choice and a strategic depth to their initial start, which allows them to get creative and take more risks – adding to the fun of the game as well. It will be interesting to see how professional junglers react to these changes in the LCS, since these changes will mean that both the players will change their preferred junglers and opening patterns which will affect their gank patterns as well, giving something new to the fans to cheer about.
The item changes
Under jungle changes, lies another new dimension of the gameplay. The jungle item changes. 4 new items have been added, which complement the style of different junglers and as such enhances the ability of different junglers to become adamant in their style, making clear their plans for the entire game.
Junglers now have a choice in which path they want to pursue; whether they want to consistently gank, or farm up, or sustain through the jungle, allowing uniqueness in each game and once again adding to the depth of gameplay.
Each jungle item now allows a differentiating function of the smite, allowing junglers to smite players (dealing damage and slowing them, or enhancing their damage against them, or reducing enemy damage to them) or smiting camps (receiving lower smite cooldowns, stunning camps and healing up), which is a new dimension to the game in itself and is still getting explored. The possibilities are endless, and junglers have a new motive to play different junglers to explore which setting suits their playstyle best.
Moreover, the enchantments to these items also mean that an item slot is not wasted, since each enchantment gives a set number of stats, competing against any other good item.
What has resurged though, is the constant use of the item Stalker’s Blade, which allows extremely good gank potential (since it slows AND deals true damage to enemy champion) making itself a default choice for many carry type junglers such Lee sin and Evelyn. It will be interesting to know how the professional junglers adapt to this change, whether they use this item in the LCS or go for the other more “strategic” alternatives.
How do these changes affect the Professional Scene like LCS?
Well, that is hard to answer. For once, there are multiple logical paths that new junglers can take, each purely based on the individual player’s preference and playstyle. What can be determined is the fact that junglers like Evelyn, Lee sin and Khazix are going to be less dominant in champion banning stages, since junglers like Amumu, Jarvan IV, Warwick now offer a more direct threat (Incidentally, Warwick is being perma banned in ques right now). This also signals that junglers may pick new champions entirely, which will be extremely healthy for the game in itself.
With so many changes, it is hard to assume anything concrete yet. It is the preseason, which means changes, and there will probably be more changes in the upcoming patches as well, and maybe some nerfs to the jungle items as well which will affect the outcome of the decisions that junglers make.
One thing is certain, Riot has finally managed to achieve the Strategic diversity they were talking about, now it is only for them to make sure no imbalances occur.