Junglers and Dragons
With the recent update coming to League of Legends in patch 6.9 and beyond, just in time for summer split of 2016, Junglers were given a wealth of new objectives and choices to take as the game progressed. Mages, Dragons, the jungle itself, and everything in between are only a few of the changes that will take place over the weeks to come, but whether the changes themselves are good or bad has still yet to be decided.
With Riot trying to find new ways to make mid game objectives other than towers relevant, dragons were given another change in recent history in the form of the newly announced Elemental Dragons. I have to wonder though, why is it that Riot felt it would be a good idea to bring in a random number generator for dragons? (For those unaware of what a Random Number Generator is, also known as RNG for short, it is basically a program that determines which item, or in this case a particular dragon, gets dropped for the player to collect or fight.)
For those that do not know, the four new dragons are based on the elements of fire, water, earth, and air who each give different stackable buffs for the duration of the game with the inclusion of an Elder Dragon spawning in the late game. But why? Why did Riot see this as the next step to take in a game like League of Legends, which is so heavily influenced by a player's skill and decision-making on a particular champion in the game at hand. Especially with the Jungler position, which relies a lot on objective taking with these players sometimes having to prioritise certain objectives at the loss of others.
Some professional Junglers have come forward with their opinions on the dragon changes, with Origen's Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider bringing out the biggest criticism at the time of its announcement on twitter. He had this to say:
“Riot is trying way too hard to achieve unique solutions to certain game mechanics instead of just going back to the roots. Give dragon gold; buff turrets-. -Every pro will tell you that the constant changes kill the incentive to prepare for a split. We never know what's going to stick. Might as well just get to playoffs and peak there. Just admit you done goofed and stop trying to be fancy with the changes.” Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider April 20th, 2016
So then, why bring in an element of luck to the game? It seems trivial to me at least. It’s a cool concept and a sound idea but was executed poorly because of the random factor the dragons have when spawning all the way up to the 35-minute mark when the Elder Dragon appears. Perhaps if there was a particular order for the elemental dragons to spawn in it would make more sense, but I imagine some dragons will be prioritised for certain team compositions if this idea of mine were to become a reality. Meaning certain dragons would only be taken to continue the cycle while they wait for a new type to appear. Not really because they want the buff that comes with the kill, but because they have no choice but to take it in order to try to acquire a new stack from the dragon they do actually want when it appears before the elder dragon finally makes an appearance.
It is also worth mentioning that at the time of writing, some colour-blind players are finding it increasingly hard to tell the difference of the dragons. I hope to see riot fix this issue in the future to help players who are struggling.
Bring on the Herald
Dragons aren't the only big change to come from the mid-season announcement; the Rift Herald is having a big change mid-season. For the longest time, the Rift Herald was not considered a priority option,which is an objective that has only become relevant in the past month or so. However, this portion of the game has now changed dramatically. The Rift Herald is now a one-time 20-minute buff that stays with the champion even after death. This gives the champion damage reduction against enemy champions as well as aiding the building of Corruption stacks. At 100 stacks, the champion with the buff’s next attack will discharge all the acquired stacks to deal bonus magic damage. The Corruption’s stack rate and damage are scaled to the champion’s level.
Once the Herald is gone it is gone. Junglers could, therefore, begin to prioritize this buff over all else because of what it brings to the table. It could be seen as a win all objective allowing junglers to gank more frequently or allowing allied champions to win their lanes outright. It is now a buff worth fighting for. A buff that can make or break a game.
This buff alone, in my opinion, is simply overpowered. It is a buff that is for split-pushing; there is no other way of really looking at it. In the long run it invites split-pushers to just keep pushing because even if they die they retain the buff. You as a player are guaranteed to keep this buff no matter what with the only risk being gold gained to an enemy champion. A big risk sure if the gold is given to specific champions or if a bounty is claimed, but most split pushers will not care if you get a kill or two off of them when they have a buff that is sticking around for the long run. They are looking to maximise the buffs efficiency before time runs out. Give this buff to a Jax or a Marksmen and see how long you can keep your towers alive, let alone other objectives on the map.
Management, Monsters, and Mages
With all these changes coming into the mid-game, management of the jungle, prioritization, and overall vision control will be very important for Junglers. It will test the very limits and mental strain of the pros going into the summer split. Which objectives to prioritise, how to prepare for each game, who gets what buffs, and jungling as a whole will see routes change and counter jungling heightened in order to be one step ahead of the other. In short, I believe the Jungler position will be an even more vital role going into the split as we head towards the 2016 world championships, for even one slip up could be costly in the long run.
This is because jungle monsters have also received an increase in Experience given for kills. How this will affect hard farming junglers is hard to tell at this point in time, but some have theorized that this could lead to hard farming jungle champions being an impossible to play (obsolete?) concept if most Junglers now are able to gank over and over with little farming time invested and yet still be the same level as someone who has farmed efficiently all game in other lanes. Then again, this is not to say that hard farming Junglers cannot take advantage of the new jungling system. They could possibly farm, out level your opponents in their lanes, gank lanes, and profit from the overwhelming level advantage.
With all of the changes specifically in the jungle, there is still one major change to the mid-season that I feel needs to be discussed: Mages. The enticement for Junglers to play mages since the recent buffs, as well as the introduction of many new mage items (along with the deletion of devourer), can only entice players back to the days of fiddlesticks and co. wreaking havoc on summoner's rift. As we have grown into a tank based jungle meta in recent splits, the prospect of high ability power mages excites me more than it should.
Regardless, the changes that come into effect with the recent 6.9 patch and many patches to come will probably not remain the same. Buffs will be nerfed, things will change, and I am almost certain that a lot of the current choices such as Rift Herald and ability power item buffs will be nerfed or removed eventually as the outcry of the community flows far and wide. It goes without saying though that Junglers have a lot to look forward to in the recent patches, and I for one look forward to see how the LCS changes as a whole to encompass these new objectives and challenges that Junglers face.