The latest League of Legends patch hit servers on Tuesday, featuring the usual slew of champion buffs and nerfs. But it also contained a number of changes to the jungle that made the difficult task even tougher, causing an uproar from the competitive community.
Fans and players usually tend to be overly dramatic about patch release changes, but Patch 5.4 seems to have inspired an unusual amount of vitriol.
Champions like Kassadin and Veigar received nerfs that likely remove them from the metagame, while changes to switching jungling items and smite limits options in a jungle metagame that’s quickly being centered around a few powerful champions.
Kassadin is one of the most polarizing champions in the game. Swinging over the years from guaranteed ban to priority pick, Kassadin can’t seem to avoid being a key metagame staple despite Riot Games’ constant tweaks and even a retool of his kit. In 5.4,Riot gutted Kassadin’s signature ability Riftwalk, which allows him to teleport every few seconds, by reducing its range from 700 to 450. That’s a major nerf to the mobility of a champion defined by mobility.
“I believe that should be a big enough nerf to kill the viability of that champ,” Cloud9 mid laner Lam said. Team Liquid’s top laner Ruiz agrees: “Overall it’s going to be a big nerf. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a lot of top Kassadin.”
Another controversial change is a soft rework of diminutive supervillain Veigar. Recently entering the metagame as a support thanks to his powerful stun Event Horizon, Riot gutted his viability by adding a delay to the cast, giving foes plenty of time to dodge. That, combined with turning his Baleful Strike into a skillshot, narrows the capability of an already niche champion.
“I believe that should kill him as a mid laner and the E nerf is enough to kill him as a support…” Lam says. “He’ll probably be super weak.”
Other champion changes include a buff to Mordekaiser’s viability as well as an interesting change to Zilean, making his Q, Time Bomb, a skillshot with the potential to stun.
The Zilean edit is the kind of change Riot Games should be making—adding skill and counterplay to the game. But the jungle changes, the most controversial of Patch 5.4, seemingly do the opposite.
The biggest one? Adding a 255 gold cost to switching your jungle item.
“We probably overthought on this one,” Riot Games explains in its patch notes. “Our initial goal was to let you change strategic course in the early game without incurring a setback, but most were just using it to switch to the ‘best’ lategame smite before picking up their enchant. Well then.”
According to Team Liquid jungler Rivera, that means no one will ever switch items in competitive games—the opportunity cost of that 255 gold, or about three wards, is simply too high. Well then.
“This is a massive nerf to jungle power,” he says. “There are some people that would change 2 or 3 times a game.”
Instead, people will simply buy Ranger’s Trailblazer and stick with it, he says. Each jungle item adds a different buff to the jungler’s Smite ability. Rangers, for example, turns Smite into Blasting Smite, which deals area damage, restores health and mana, and stuns minions with each Smite. It’s strong for clearing and sustaining through the jungle.
Other Smites include Chilling Smite, which allows it to be cast on enemy Champions and slows them, and Scavenging Smite, which grants a huge bonus for Smiting a monster in the enemy jungle.
One problem with Poacher’s Knife, which gives that counter-jungling Scavenging Smite, is that it’s predictable. The enemy can see the Knife in your inventory once you’re seen on the map, and it’s a dead tell that you’ll be somewhere in their jungle. With the previous system, where players could sidegrade their jungle items at no cost, Poacher’s Knife was an option when a jungler backed and knew they would make a quick strike into the enemy’s jungle. Now, it’s all but dead; no one starts the game with the item.
That comes in addition to other jungle nerfs. Smites that target champions like Chilling Smite received a range nerf, because they essentially increased the engage range for certain jungle champions. That forced players into Rangers builds even more, Rivera says.
Also, the Warrior jungle enchant received a five damage nerf, because Riot says it outpaced the other options. Rivera agrees—every jungler save full tanks like Nunu and Sejuani use it—but that means the change is essentially a damage nerf to every jungle champion.
“A confusing nerf considering junglers are probably at their weakest state in the history of competitive League of Legends,” Rivera says.
That statement sounds like hyperbole, and professional players, who have the most at stake with every patch change, are notoriously dramatic and sometimes wrong about the effect any change has to the game. But he seems to have a point, based off the community’s general reaction to the changes. The jungle already feels limited and weak to the majority of players, and this just makes League’s most complicated role even more difficult to handle.
Image via Riot Games