It’s not a surprise for anyone to see Riot Games treat a pre-season as a massive playtest. Releasing sweeping changes in a form of brand-new game mechanics, objectives and items while the Ranked and competitive seasons are done and dusted is a good idea. What is surprising, however, is Riot’s seeming silence on the way these changes affect the game’s meta.
While the addition of the new items and runes is self explanatory, certain interactions elevate previously unpopular champs to the meta state. And if an already strong character gets an upgrade, all hell breaks loose.
In the patch 12.1, Riot focus their attention on four champions, four items, and the Teleport Summoner Spell.
The two winners in this patch are Gangplank and Diana
Currently, the explodey pirate of the toplane is sitting at a pitiful 46% win ratio in Platinum MMR and above. Even despite the introduction of objective bounties which benefit the late-game character by allowing them more ways to come back into the game, Gangplank doesn’t display a way to come back into the game in a timely manner. Although his chances to win increase as the game progresses, the character can’t be considered the late game hyper carry as at no point in the game his win rate exceeds 48% – stats provided by lolanalytics.com.
The previous interaction Gangplank has with the Grasp of the Undying Keystone Rune has been removed, leaving the champion without his powerful – and annoying – poke option. Seeing this, Riot are buffing his Q, Parley, in 12.1, by reducing its mana costs by 5 at each rank, as well as toning down its cooldown by 0.5 seconds.
The other champion graced by Riot’s touch is Diana. Continuing the hype around putting assassins in the jungle, Riot are improving Diana’s station in this role by increasing her Passive’s AP scaling and monster damage. As it stands now, Diana is sitting at an uncomfortable 48% win rate in Platinum and above. Diana’s massive weakness is the classic problem of assassins dropping in power the further the game progresses: she drops in WR to 47% as the match goes on.
For the nerfs, we see Rek’Sai and Sona
Rek’Sai is currently in a weird spot. Sitting at a whopping 54% WR as a jungle pick, she is nonetheless considered a niche pick at 4% pick rate. In an attempt to reign in the E max builds, Riot are decreasing its damage at higher ranks, while increasing it in lower ranks. Also, Rek’Sai gets a higher cooldown at her burrowed E at all ranks.
Sona is probably not the champion you’d expect to get nerfed right now, but… there we are. Not having a flashy kit or a popular fanbase, Sona still remains that niche pick that dies after every Thresh Q in the eyes of the majority of the playerbase. However, her stats speak for themselves: Sona boasts a respectable – and that might be quite an understatement – win ratio of 55.2% in Platinum ranks and higher. Flying under Riot Games’ radar for far too long allowed her to amass some buffs and positive item interactions, it seems.
The days of Sona being the inconspicuous support are over, however, as patch 12.1 hits both her armor scaling rates per level and her E cooldown.
The itemization shifts
As for the item changes, the long-awaited Immortal Shieldbow nerfs are here! Originally intended as the Marksman item, the Shieldbow has since been hijacked by the likes of Graves, Yone, and Yasuo, allowing them to build damage, burst survivability, and sustain in a single item. Reducing both its offense in a form of a 5 damage decrease, as well as its shield (bringing it down to 275-600 depending on champion level) is a hit to all the overperforming abusers of this item.
Next on the list is Eclipse. It seems like giving survivability on ADC and Assassin items was a trend a year ago. Used ubiquitously by the likes of Zed and Jayce, this item offers a lot of burst potential plus a pretty sizable shield on a very low cooldown – perfect for hit and run playstyle that favors short trades. Having its cooldown increased from 6 seconds to 8 seems insignificant, however, so we’ll have to see how it performs.
Another offensive defense (or defensive offense) item on the list is Wit’s End. With its low cost, high damage output, and respectable magic resist bonus, Wit’s End was a common occurrence in the auto-attack based champions inventory. The item had 10 MR shaved off of its stat list, plus a new build path replacing Negatron Cloak with a Null-Magic Mantle – but the total gold cost remains unchanged!
The only item that received a buff is the actual defensive option, Force of Nature. Underperforming compared to its counterpart, Spirit Visage, Force of Nature has been neglected for its low impact. Increasing its damage reduction capabilities to 25%, as well as the stacks duration to 7 seconds should help it out.
The roam without roaming
Next on the list is the Teleport change. Removing the ability to target anything but the Turrets prior to 14th minute will decrease the toplane’s agency over the game even further, and it’s a valid concern. However, it’s worth arguing that by taking away some of that game control from one role, you’re giving it back to other roles – and these are the support and the ADC. After all, when someone says “TP gank”, you’re thinking of 5-man diving on the bot, aren’t you?
In addition, several roam-heavy playstyle have shafted botlane’s agency too heavily to be kept in the game. Every midlaner knows this dreadful experience of laning against a Katarina one-trick – beat them in lane and watch them TP bot for a double kill. Lovely. No more of that!
Well, and that’s all for the changes in this patch. While indeed addressing some of the most common discussion topics, this patch does little to address other outrageous things about the current game flow.
Riot’s silence on the new Drake’s overperformance and stifling presense in the games has been deafening. While the Hextech Drake was received as a welcome and fun addition to the game by the players, the Chemtech is a whole different story. The oppressive camouflage zones spanning across nearly the entire jungle leave little room to breathe for the defending team. The incredibly potent, team-wide respawn mechanic that Chemtech Soul offers is even worse.
Another unforeseen consequence of the new changes is the Objective Bounty system. Intended to reduce the snowbally nature of League matches, the Bounties brought about the reign of terror of late-game scaling champions. Champions like Kassadin and Vayne boasted absurdly high win rates in Platinum+ through the sheer ability to claw back into the game with the additional gold they now receive. Both champions peaked in win rate at around 30-35th minute mark, reaching numbers as high as 58%! And let’s be real – those of us who are lower than Diamond 2, how many games are actually over before that point?
Although the itemization changes will hurt Vayne as both of her core items, Shieldbow and Wit’s End, received significant nerfs, Kassadin enjoys his untouchability. For the funny blue blink man, it seems that counter pick or bust remains the way to go.