Have the changes in League’s 2021 preseason been good or bad for the game?

Riot achieved its goal with this year's preseason.

Image via Riot Games

It’s been several weeks since the preseason began in League of Legends.

Like every year, the preseason offers a major patch that involves a lot of changes for League. And this year, the update was focused on revolutionizing the items in the game and doing something completely different from what fans are used to seeing, giving players a large number of different builds for every champion. Many items that were previously in the game have been eliminated, redesigned, or simply had their category changed to become a part of the new group of mythical items. 

In addition to the revamped items, there have been other relevant changes, like the new store interface, the new icons for items, and important changes to the ranked queues, such as the elimination of the duo queue in Master rank and above.

There’s still time before season 11 begins on Jan. 8 and some things may continue to change. In fact, and as is usual with major patches, many aspects of the game have been polished so far throughout the preseason. These balance changes were focused on the new items and how some champions (such as Amumu with the Sunfire Aegis, who was able to almost one-shot Baron alone at 20 minutes) interacted with them.

Now that we’ve had time to thoroughly test the changes, here’s what we think about the decisions Riot made in the latest League preseason.

New items

Items were the clear main course of this year’s preseason. Thirty-three percent of the total items in the game have been maintained compared to season 10. Another 33 percent received changes to their statistics, actives, or passives, while the remaining 33 percent were completely removed or replaced by new items.

There’s no doubt that changing all the items in the game is something that affects all roles and champions—and some have suffered more than others.

New mythic category

Aside from the changes to the items themselves, there’s also a new item category: mythical items. These items are stronger than legendary items (generally), have unique active and passive attributes, and you can only have one of them in your inventory.

These items have also achieved their objective of giving an extra layer of depth to the game and contributing something new and fresh that stands out from everything we’ve previously seen in Riot’s MOBA.

How the new items affect every champion and role

In the case of mages, the new items have been a success. This type of champion has always had a poor variety of viable items. But that’s completely changed with items like Horizon Focus, which offers attributes that were never previously seen in mages.

Lethality has been greatly enhanced thanks to the new Draktharr or Eclipse. Thus, assassins and lethality ADCs like Jhin or Draven are now stronger. But critical strike marksmen haven’t had the same luck and they’re one of the biggest losers from the introduction of these new items.

Within the support category, the balance sheet is also positive. Mage supports have been improved mainly thanks to the Imperial Mandate, which marks an enemy for four seconds and ally champion damage detonates it, dealing additional damage and giving both the user and their allies 20-percent bonus movement speed. Playmaker and tank supports, meanwhile, are in a similar state to how they were before the preseason changes. Champions like Leona and Nautilus are still good options in the support role.

Tanks and bruisers have achieved something similar to mages: a greater variety when making competitive and optimal builds.

In general, the items have served their purpose of adding more variety to the game and refreshing the playing experience. But Riot still has some work ahead of it to make the whole game balanced. The developer also needs to make sure that all champions and roles are affected positively by these changes—something that hasn’t been completely achieved so far.

New shop interface

This is the new aspect of the shop interface. | Image via Riot Games

The new interface for League’s store is one of the best compliments to the new items. Although this redesign initially caused a bit of controversy due to the lack of some features, it’s been improved throughout the preseason. Features like being able to keep the menu for boots or potions open have made the store a bit better.

One of Riot’s main goals with this redesign was to make the store much more intuitive for all types of players, whether they’re new or experienced. Some other features, like the recommended items, have been tremendously improved since they can be seen more easily and are much more precise and adapted to the metagame at the moment.

Although the general balance of the shop changes is positive, there are still small features that Riot can improve on and make even more intuitive. In terms of the speed of item purchases, for example, the top priority for more experienced players is to spend as little time as possible inside the store and the base.

New item icons

The changes to the items and in the store have been accompanied by a renewal of the item icons. | Image via Riot Games

The icons of the items in the new store interface have been one of the most controversial changes in this year’s preseason patch.

But as with the store interface, Riot has made an effort to listen to community criticism. The company has substantially improved the icons to make them more chromatically diverse and easier to distinguish from each other.

Removing duo queue in Master and above Elo

Not all of the changes in the preseason were focused on items. Riot made some major adjustments to the ranked queues. | Image via Riot Games.

Not all the changes in this preseason have been related to items, though. There were a couple of big modifications that affect ranked matches. The first is the elimination of duo queue in Master and above, something that’s generated mixed opinions among professional and higher Elo players.

The general opinion among pros is that this change is negative since they can’t train normally with their teammates or create synergy with them. In addition, this change is especially bad for players in the bot lane since it’s the lane that requires the most synergy in the competitive landscape.

Pure solo queue players, on the other hand, believe that this change is good because they won’t have to deal with “duo queue abusers.” They think that through this measure, you can see how good of a solo queue player someone is.

This change will likely cause more controversy when season 11 kicks off and people get back to taking solo queue seriously. The community will only be able to draw real conclusions about the ramifications of these ranked changes when the next season kicks off.

Removing promotion games between divisions

One of the most relevant changes that the ranked system will undergo for season 11 is the elimination of promotion games between divisions, keeping them only when a tier is changed (for example, from Gold to Platinum). This is a measure that’s been well-received by the vast majority of players since this system could even be frustrating in some cases. Now, the progression system in League’s ranked queues will be more similar to what’s already used in Teamfight Tactics.

It’s difficult to measure if this is positive or negative for the game since the season hasn’t started yet, but everything indicates that Riot has made a great decision in this regard to improve the competitive experience of League.

Overall, most of the preseason changes have been positive for the League player base. Riot has managed to give League more variety and renew everything that has to do with the item section, including its icons and the store. In addition, ranked changes like the elimination of promotional games have turned out to be a success so far if we take into account the reception of the community.

Riot has also managed to correct some errors that the first patches of the preseason had, considerably improving the experience for players. Although there are still new features to polish, it seems like the 2021 preseason was a success.

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