This originally started as a critique of the minion push changes, but while I was writing that I realized that my complains weren’t about the changes themselves but rather the systems(or lack of) surrounding them.
League of Legends has a problem. League of Legends is a game purely about playing offensively. Now we need to be clear, there are two sets of definitions that could come up, and the distinction between the two needs to be made. The first is the pairing of Aggressive vs Defensive. This essentially boils down to just pushing vs farming. The second if Offensive vs Defensive, where we give the word Defensive its second definition. This is the difference between making aggressive moves to elongate the game, vs making aggressive moves to shorten the game.
There is currently not one system in the game where a team can preemptively make an aggressive move in order elongate a game. Right now the methods for doing so are the same as the methods for closing a game out. Don’t lose towers. Get farm. Take neutrals. Ward your flanks. From Bronze 5 to SK Telecom, these are the methods you have in order to not lose.
Its because of this that Morde’s Dragon naturally had to be oppressive, and minion push changes had to favor winning teams. There is not a backbone of infrastructure that would enable any of these on their own to stand alone as a method to protect teams that want to opt into playing defensive. I’m using these two cases as examples not because they are the only ones I can find, but because they are two completely separate cases that have literally no gameplay interaction with each other.
The natural alternative is that Morde could be rewarded not for winning a dragon fight, but for marking the drag regardless of which team takes the objective. Suddenly, the juggernaut can chose to support a team that wants to scale with him, rather than lose access to his kit because his team’s jungler wants to farm. In its current state, Morde’s ult only rewards him for being on a team that wants to secure dragons early. This is completely independent of what lane he is in. More importantly, the reward he gets for achieving one global objective is a tool that allows him to secure more objectives. Teams that want to scale are obligated to take bad fights, because if they don’t they’re conceding much more than just a single dragon. Imagine if Tahm Kench only had access to the bonus damage on his ult after securing dragon. You’d feel neutered if you couldn’t take the objective.
The minion push changes mirror the same issues with Morde’s dragon. In order to activate them, you need to have both an XP lead, and a tower advantage. Prior to the changes, in order to capitalize on this, a conscious decision had to be made to prep waves in order to take other objectives. Now, in a move that has curiously been describe by the design team as “rewarding defensive play” by having waves naturally push further into the losing team’s side of the map, a winning player has easier access to additional objectives such as Towers, Dragons, and Heralds. If you’re a losing player who for example gets forced off of a wave, not only are you going to naturally have to try harder to get waves pushed out for you to leave lane, but you have a harder time reaching the rest of your team without risking losing the gold to your own tower.
With these examples in mind, lets discuss the greater issues at play here, which is that teams do not have a method to put resources into enabling scaling. If you pick a teamcomp that naturally falls behind early, you can’t invest your early resources into preventing snowballing. This is different than choosing not to opt into negative situations. As an example of what something that enables this would look like, lets imagine an item called a Ward Trap. It would cost something like 50-75 gold, and would count as a pink ward. If you place it in a bush, and an enemy wards that bush after the trap was set, it would destroy the ward and turn into an untargetable pink ward for 180 seconds. Of course, if you walk into the bush you could see/destroy the trap, but that carries an inherent amount of risk. And if you fail to catch a ward, not only do you lose the gold from buying the trap, but you lose the inventory slot and truevision of the pink ward. Ohmwrecker could function the same way, by having stats that enable someone being pushed in to collect gold as they leave, but of course having to invest into potentially poor early game stats. Systems like this give teams that want to take a proactive defensive step a method of doing so, and force extra risk onto the offensive team, but by delaying their own goals.
Some of the coolest moments in League come from when teams who made two different, but valid, decisions clash, but right now systems that enable this are being removed, not added.