The dynamics of the game have completely shifted and a huge impact will be felt when Season 6 competitive play starts in the Spring Split. The first taste of competitive play, with all of the latest changes, will occur at Riot’s inaugural All-Star Event starting on December 10th (check back for an eSports betting guideline article for the tournament), but we can already get a feel of the meta shift from top competitive streamers and high elo pick/ban rates.
While this article will be somewhat subjective, we’re primarily focusing on the top changes/champions at the higher elos (Challenger+).
The AD Carry position gets a reboot
Perhaps the biggest change heading into the offseason was Riot’s balance changes to the ADC position.
The position was quite stale last year, with the rise of the juggernauts and high damage mid laners outshining the ADC position. Only a few champions could actually fulfill the keyword of ‘carry’, with most picks being more team utility oriented (like Sivir/Ashe’s ult to engage or Kalista’s unique passive).
The three true high damage ADCs that could actually carry were Jinx (who saw numerous nerfs throughout the season), Vayne (who started to become a popular pick at the end of the season), and Tristana (an early game carry that could take down turrets extremely efficiently).
Kogmaw was considered a late game ADC pick who could shred through tanks, but most games were ending before he could become a viable damage dealer. As a result, we often saw Jinx, Vayne, and Tristana frequently banned in competitive play.
Another reason for the offseason ADC changes was to diversify the roles of champions that play that position. Before, the key component was which champion scales the best to late game and provides an adequate early game. Only those champions were being picked, and it led to nerfs of many of the high scaling champions (looking at you Jinx and Tristana).
Five ADC’s were particularly targeted during the offseason, with three of those now rising to the top.
Graves completely had the basics of his kit remodeled, with his auto attack now being tied to his theme of carrying a shotgun. The player is allowed two quick autoshots in succession, dealing area damage to targets directly in front of him. The player then has to allow Graves to reload his gun to further proceed (Graves also gains an additional autoshot when he uses his dash spell).
His Q spell was remade as well to deal a quick amount of damage, and paired with his ult, Graves can burst down a target very quickly. A hotfix had to be released soon after the offseason patch dropped just to rein in his damage.
Since Quinn’s inception, she has suffered from identity crisis issues. She isn’t your typical ADC, and often times she has been featured in the top lane. Her role border lined as a semi-assassin with the capability of silencing high priority targets.
The new version of her ult has some of the same characteristics (high roaming capability), but is togglable. Her silence is also gone, replaced by a blind similar to Grave’s W spell.
Miss Fortune has also become a top pick at all levels of competitive play. Here ultimate’s functionality hasn’t changed, but the damage has been significantly increased.
The passive on her W spell provides a constant attack speed buff, and her normal passive now scales into the late game, providing even more map presence.
Item changes for ADCs
Another key component to the ADC position has been the numerous items changes (and the introduction of new items). The goal was to provide different build paths for ADCs instead of everyone essentially going Infinity Edge first, Statikk Shiv/Phantom Dance next, and then Blood Thirster.
The item changes were also targeting the ADC position in general, making it more glass cannon, high damage oriented. Items provide the style of gameplay fulfillment that most players are seeking when they play ADC.
Ultimately these changes were to provide players with choices, both with the champion they select and the way they build that champion. Early indications point to Riot hitting that mark.
ADCs are currently strong damage dealers, but they have obvious weaknesses, such as the glass cannon builds they need to utilize in order to achieve that high damage capability. They’re still reliant on gold and items, but they’re more impactful because of the changes.
The biggest change to vision has been the removal of stealth wards from the shop.
The previous two seasons, vision has fallen primarily on the role of support and occasionally the jungler. Trinkets (free wards, essentially) have been upgraded slightly (players are now able to hold two trinket wards at once and the elapsed time they’re on the map scales with the game).
The centric goal around these changes is to make the game within the game, that being map control with vision, a more team-focused agenda. It also provides more strategic thinking into when and where to place wards. Overall, this should make teams more aware of where the enemy jungler is.
Another slight change will be the priority for vision wards. Vision wards are now the only purchasable wards in the game and the price has been dropped slightly (from 100 gold to 75 gold). This will make clearing wards one of the top priorities for junglers and supports now (instead of only placing wards). This also makes defending vision wards a huge priority for teams.
How will these changes affect the upper echelon of competitive play?
Overall, we should see more face checking into bushes without vision, more pick potential from a degradation of vision, and more team fights from the essential need of grouping to lay down vision. This should allow for more skirmishes, more gank potential for junglers, and more exciting plays on the map.
The vision changes also will have a correlation to the average time of each game (games are currently ending three minutes sooner in the offseason).
The introduction of the Rift Herald
The meta shift last season for the top lane position was essentially taking teleport and making impactful plays at dragon or bottom lane. For the most part, the top lane became a farm fest that was largely neglected by the jungler/rest of the team.
Riot wanted to make top lane more interactive, so they introduced a new minion that spawns in the baron pit (he despawns right before Baron enters the pit). This new element is aimed at making top lane less of a farm fest, and more oriented towards champions that can control their lane and the vision in river.
Essentially, the person that lands the killing blow on the Rift Herald will receive a solo man Baron buff. Junglers have another element of the map they must focus on, especially if the enemy top laner is winning the lane.
The final offseason update we want to cover are the numerous changes to masteries. While theorycrafting and hotfixes are still underway (we already saw a hotfix to Warlord’s Bloodlust after high crit champions, like Tryndamere and Yasuo, were able to abuse the on hit heal effect in lane), overall the changes have been beneficial to the game. Base stats have largely been removed, and mastery paths are more subjective to the way the player enjoys the game.
For instance, ADCs that build high critical strike chance items will prefer Warlord’s Bloodlust, while ADC’s that prefer high attack speed will be more inclined to pick Fervor of Battle. Also the support tree has been diversified, allowing for more unique playstyles. Windspeaker’s Blessing is a huge benefit to healing/damage mitigation champions (such as Soraka, Nami, Janna, and Sona. Sorry Taric, you’re still a poor choice for support.)
Not to be forgotten are the new tank masteries. The main choice here is whether you want to buff yourself with Strength of the Ages, or provide more support to your team with Bond of Stone.
While it’s still too early to expertly determine how all of these changes will impact next season, the potential for a new meta is starting to take shape.
Split pushing looks to be coming back with the introduction of the Rift Herald, towers now being weaker at early levels, and the minions of teams that are ahead being more powerful (the intended design was to allow teams that are behind to have access to more farm, but it appears to be aiding the split pushing playstyle).
Riot has stated a lot of these changes are aimed at creating more exciting games and eradicating the starving playstyle seen in competitive play last year. While it’s still unclear if last year’s playstyle of slowing the game down and starving the opposition will still be prevalent, these changes will no less make competitive play all the more enjoyable to watch next year.