Open Forum: Rift Herald
Preface: The purpose of this article is to foster discussion and discuss theory. As such, it may be premature in its analysis, light on data, and partly based on anecdotal evidence.
The Rift Herald is a new objective introduced in the most recent preseason of League of Legends. There have been relatively few professional games with Rift Herald, and not enough to determine what the optimal strategy for playing around this new objective is. As such, the purpose of this article is to theorize on the use case of the Rift Herald buff.
Getting the Buff
Rift Herald is placed in the Baron Nashor Pit prior to 20 minutes, and was created by Riot to balance the map so that Dragon around the bottom lane can be balanced out by an alternate early objective around top lane. Naturally, this means that Rift Herald is not a one-man objective, a feature further emphasized by the Rift Herald’s eye, which can only be attacked when there are two players fighting the Herald, and does significant true damage.
We can compare killing Rift Herald to killing Dragon in terms of investment. They are both multi-player objectives which are relatively dangerous and placed in neutral positions, susceptible to interruption if the team trying to take the objective is caught. In professional play, Dragon is generally only taken in one of three situations in the game. Either a team has won a teamfight but is unable to take a primary objective (tower) and opts for Dragon, a team has been out-rotated and is using Dragon as compensation, or a team has out-rotated their opponent and is taking Dragon as a primary objective.
We consider the opportunities to take Rift Herald as identical to those to take Dragon. This assumption may not be ideal, but we use it for the purpose of theory crafting. The first situation comes off as the most plausible scenario, where a partially damaged team takes Rift Herald after winning a teamfight because they do not believe they can safely take another tower. We discuss this scenario primarily in the following section on using the Doom’s Eve buff. The second situation, in which a team takes Rift Herald as compensation after being out-rotated, is already a sub-optimal situation. Taking Rift Herald and turning that into a push when the opponent is already a tower up seems like a recipe for disaster, leading the team going after Rift Herald to lose a base race as they are already down on towers. The third situation suffers from a similar fault, in that if you are out-rotating your opponent, it would likely be better to rotate and go straight for a tower, instead of rotating for Rift Herald and giving your opponent time to set up a defense for the inevitable following siege.
Doom’s Eve: A Poor Siege Tool
Riot initially compared Doom’s Eve to Hand of Baron, as a smaller replacement which would allow early game sieging and tower pushing. The problem with using Doom’s Eve is two-fold.
First, Doom’s Eve is only a two-minute buff, in comparison to a three-minute Hand of Baron. In addition, Rift Herald is killed before the Homeguard buff and does not provide empowered recall to the entire team. Assuming a team kills Rift Herald pursuant to the first situation described above (after winning a team fight), this means that if the team wants to use Doom’s Eve as a group and siege tool like Hand of Baron, they are granted closer to a minute to siege, after going back to heal from taking the buff. Given that minion waves spawn every thirty seconds, this means Doom’s Eve really only affects two minion waves, which may be insufficient to for an effective siege.
The second problem is that Doom’s Eve is purely an offensive minion buff. That is to say that Doom’s Eve provides offensive statistics to minions, but does not provide the same defensive statistics Hand of Baron does. This is important because Hand of Baron is a powerful sieging tool not because of the increased minion damage (players should be dealing the primary tower damage), but because it makes minions significantly harder to wave clear. This gives the sieging team an opportunity to let minions tank tower hits, while the sieging team lays hits on the tower or pokes the enemy team. Doom’s Eve leaves minions open to being cleared prior to reaching the tower, meaning it does not help break towers against high wave clear teams.
An Alternate Use Case: Split Pushing
So far, the purpose of this article has been to criticize using Doom’s Eve as a conventional sieging tool, in comparison to Hand of Baron. Conventional in this case refers to using Doom’s Eve in the same way Hand of Baron is used, i.e. getting the buff and grouping for a siege. Instead, I propose an alternate use which may be more optimal. Instead of using Doom’s Eve as a group and siege tool, use it as a split push tool. Out-rotate your opponent for Doom’s Eve, but continue to play the lanes instead of grouping.
There are two proposed benefits to using Doom’s Eve as a split push tool as opposed to a group and siege tool. The first is that this strategy overcomes the low time limit on Doom’s Eve. By giving the buff to a laner who did not tank the Rift Herald and allowing the laner to return to lane, the laner is able to use the entirety of the buff, stretching it to four minion waves instead of just two. The second is that using Doom’s Eve in a single lane can create significant global pressure. By remaining in lane or in a split push format, the sieging team forces the opposing team to be unable to rotate their wave clear champions to defend against the buff, at the risk of losing wave clear against the primary siege. As a result, the offensive team is able to overcome the lack of defensive statistics provided to the minions and make greater use of the offensive minion statistics.
Obviously Rift Herald has not seen enough play in a professional setting to determine what the ideal use of the buff is, or whether it should be prioritized over other objectives. However, the nature of the buff makes it seem like it should not be used as an early game or poor man’s Hand of Baron, for grouping and sieging, and instead may be more useful as a split push tool.