With a new season rapidly approaching, Riot has release patch 5.1 to start off the new year. As we all know, new season patches commonly shake up the scene, not only in solo queue, but in the professional scene as well. This latest patch is no different, bringing sweeping changes to champions and items alike. All these changes means there is a lot to talk about, so for the time being, I’ll be covering the champion changes and the impact they will have on the professional scene. Part 2 will follow shortly to discuss the item and gameplay changes.
Azir– The only change to Azir this patch is a bug fix. Prior to the patch, when casting sand soldiers and attempting to auto attack, if the player attempted to orb walk just on the edge of the soldier’s usable range, the attack animation would trigger but do no damage.
- I don’t see this having much impact on the usage of Azir in professional play. That being said, Azir’s kit is incredibly strong. Every bug fix released for Azir increases the frequency he will be played. With his damage and utility potential being so high, I would wager it is only a matter of time before he is a higher priority pick. With pros in all regions starting to experiment with the champion, I look forward to seeing what he can do in the hands of a professional.
Corki – Corki is seeing a relatively small nerf in my opinion. Valkyrie (w) is changing from a 50 mana cost at all ranks to a 100 mana cost at all ranks.
- Like the Azir changes, I doubt this will have too much impact on the professional scene. The change is irritating for heavy Corki users but ultimately shouldn’t cause his play frequency to drop. Doubling the mana cost of his escape will decrease the safety that Corki has traditionally enjoyed without ruining the champion. Essentially, the pros will simply need to plan the use of the escape more carefully. Corki’s base strengths in mid game team fighting remain unchanged.
Elise– Elise is finally getting some love. Elise’s Q in both forms is receiving a buff. With the damage of Q being increased by +25 against monsters at all ranks, Elise should have a bit of a better time with the jungle. When the jungle was updated, Elise fell a bit by the wayside as her clear wasn’t particularly fast and her spiderlings could no long efficiently tank dragon. The buff in this patch will hopefully help her clear times, as well as helping her sustain the jungle because of the clear speed.
- As for the pro scene, I’d say this is likely to be one of our first relatively influential changes. While Elise will still be lacking the ability to do early dragons like she used to, the buffs will likely cause her pick rate to increase again. After all, this buff means Elise’s objective securing is getting buffed to be stronger than it already was. For the past year, Elise has been an important part of nearly every professional jungler’s pool. I don’t know that I would say she’ll be returning to her former glory, but I can say, with some confidence, that I see her finding more playtime in the coming weeks.
Evelyn- Evelyn is getting some rather major buffs. Prior to the patch, when stealthed, Eve would regenerate 1% of her missing mana per second. This mana regeneration rate has been increased to 2%, when stealthed, in the latest patch, giving her a more consistent mana pool to draw from when ganking. Her E (Ravage) is also gaining the ability to proc on hit effects such as: Blade of the Ruined King’s % hp damage or sheen procs from any of the sheen items (i.e. Trinity Force, Lich Bane or Iceborn Gauntlets)
- Eve’s future in professional play is still a bit hazy. On one hand she is incredibly strong with these buffs and still provides some of the best lane presence because of her stealth nature. The simple fact that an Evelyn is on the enemy team can cause all lanes to play more cautiously. However, it remains to be seen if she will return as a power pick. With the dragon being a bigger objective than ever, her inherent map pressure is second to none. The current Meta, however, is trending more towards carry top laners, forcing junglers to build a bit more tank oriented. Evelyn is certainly capable of building tanky, and personally I enjoy tank Evelyn. The question is whether the pros will decide to build her that way. Either way I anticipate seeing a decent amount of Evelyn this season sooner or later.
Fizz– There really isn’t much happening with Fizz. Patch 5.1 fixed a bug on Fizz that caused Urchin Strike (Q) not to apply sheen procs if the enemy was too close to him.
- I don’t personally see this bug fix influencing Fizz’s pick rate in the slightest. The few pros known for their Fizz play will continue to use him as a pocket pick, the players who generally don’t use him will likely continue to not use him. This minor bug fix isn’t enough to overcome Fizz’s weakness in lane to any champion with range.
Gnar– Now this is actually an interesting change. Gnar has had his lane bullying potential nerfed. Pre level 6, Gnar’s Boomerang Throw (Q) has had its cool down refund on catch reduced from 60% cdr to 45% cdr. Along with this nerf comes a buff on his ultimate, “GNAR!” This buff creates tiers of cooldown refunds for his Q. The refund increases to 50%, 55% and ultimately ending at his original 60% at levels 6, 11, and 16 respectively.
- This change will certainly impact Gnar’s ability to bully. In the past 2 weeks we’ve seen Gnar be nearly 100% pick or ban in Korea. He’s currently being used in an attempt to keep down the ever prevalent Jarvin/Rumble combination, and is doing the job very well. I’m not sure I see the matchup between Rumble and Gnar changing very much, but his matchups with other champs could be in danger. Generally speaking, his range gives him an advantage in most matchups, but with the sudden resurgence of Lissandra or Lulu tops coming back into play this could be an issue.
Hecarim– Hecarim has had a couple changes designed to help his jungle clear. The mana cost on Rampage (Q) has been lowered in the early game and his Spirit of the Dead (W) has had its healing cap increased by 30 at all levels.
- The obvious idea behind this change is to make Hecarim a more viable jungler. With these increases, his clear would be faster and his sustain better. The problem is, I’m not sure I see him being played at the pro level still. Besides Gravity’s mid laner, Keane, we haven’t seen Hecarim much in the professional scene. The pony may yet see more play, I’m just not sure these slight buffs will be the push he needs.
Janna– Howling Gale’s (Q) width decrease by 30, moving from 150 units to 120 units. The intention is to somewhat mellow out Janna’s lane dominance.
- Honestly, I don’t see this change effecting much at the pro level. Janna comes and goes in the Meta, but will likely continue to be a strong pick. It’s hard to balance a champion with a knock up (Q), a slow (W), an AD boosting shield (E), and an aoe knockback and heal (R).
Jayce– Jayce is getting his Hyper Charge (W) toned down a bit. At max rank, doing 130% of base damage with increased attack speed is bit over the top. Because of this, the damage at max rank has been reduced to 110% in an attempt to keep him from blowing enemies up without even swapping forms. At rank 1, the damage is the same 70% still, allowing him to still lane with relative ease.
- This is another change that I don’t see having much of an effect. Jayce has seen an increase in popularity for mid lane since just before the Season 4 World Championships. The damage reduction on his W may make him less dominant in close quarters, but it does nothing to his obnoxious poking power. Poke and siege comps will likely still use Jayce on a frequent basis.
Kalista– Kalista is in an awkward stage as a champion. The changes to the champion are fairly miniscule, and probably won’t have much impact. There is a small change to the way her passive functions, allowing her to select a different target as the attack animation winds up. Her W (Sentinel) has had its passive changed slightly to increase the benefit of coordinating with her soulbound partner.
- The biggest issue with Kalista for the pros is also her greatest strength. Kalista’s built in mobility from her passive makes her one of the most slippery adc (marksmen…) in the game. The downside being, this mobility comes at the cost of her ability to cancel auto attack animations. At the pro level orbwalking, cancelling attack animations by moving, is a valuable and important skill. Unless of course you’re playing Kalista. This champion’s mechanics are different from every other champion in the game. Learning to play her is almost like learning to play the game again. I see Kalista being a power pick a little ways through the season, but right now she seems to be stuck in the same situation as Azir. Potentially very strong, but mechanically very awkward. Unfortunately it appears that the changes to her passive have actually made her mechanics even more uncomfortable than they already were.
Nautilus- Nautilus got a buff to his Titan’s Wrath (W)… kind of. Ultimately the changes to his W will make him stronger as the game continues. However, the changes seem to have weakened his already poor early game.
- I would be very surprised to see Nautilus become a popular pick in the pro scene. He still suffers from a poor first couple jungle clears, and is still vulnerable to invade because of his slow clear. I don’t blame the changes, I just don’t think they particularly helped him.
Rek’Sai– With this patch comes what is sure to be the first of many nerfs to Rek’Sai. These nerfs will likely effect solo queue, but I doubt they’ll have much effect on the pros. Q in both forms (Queen’s Wrath and Prey Seeker) and Unburrow (W) have both had their damage reduced.
- I have no doubt in my mind that once Rek’Sai has been practiced and mastered, she will be a very powerful pick for the pros. Her ability to give vision on stealthed units will make her invaluable. I expect to see her picked as counter to not only Evelyn, but Twitch as well. As stealth champions make their way back into the Meta, I would be incredibly surprised if she doesn’t become a high priority pick.
Renekton– This is probably the biggest champion change in this patch. The only ability untouched was his ultimate. For these changes, it’s probably best to just show the notes themselves.
- These changes have the potential to be amazing for Renekton. The change to Cull the Meek (Q) will, in my opinion, really help his late game issues. It has long be said that Renekton falls of in the mid-late game. I believe the change increasing the healing of his empowered Q on champions will give him the staying power he lacked previously. I expect to see a resurgence of Renekton in the pro scene, and personally, I’m excited.
Rumble– Just a bug fix on his Super Galaxy skin. There was an issue with the cooldown between harpoon casts being shorter on that skin than others.
- Nothing overly notable for the pros. Rumble is still good, and will likely see a lot of play in the coming weeks. Though I’m eager to see if NA and EU conform to the current Jarvin/Rumble combination seen in the early weeks of the Korean season.
Sion– Minor bug fix. Prior to the patch, when Sion would revive in his passive form, if he was affected by Grievous Wounds at the time of his death, he would revive in zombie form with less health than intended.
- Again, no real change for the pro scene. Sion has seen a fair amount of play in the last month or so, between the preseasons for each region and the first couple weeks of LCK. The bug fix most likely won’t change how frequently he’s picked at all. The teams that are comfortable play with him will continue doing so, those that aren’t comfortable likely won’t.
Skarner– Skarner got a few buffs. Crystal Slash (Q) had its mana cost cut down ranks 2-5, and Fracture (E) had its cooldown reduced at ranks 2-5. The idea behind the changes is, like the other junglers mentioned above, to bring him to a more viable standing. The changes will inevitably make jungling easier, but he still suffers from the same issues as before the patch.
- I would be incredibly surprised to see Skarner picked with any sort of frequency in the pro scene. While he can be a solo queue steam roller, at the pro level he doesn’t appear to be much of a threat. Skarner suffers very much from the same problems Warwick has. His engage, while incredibly powerful, is relatively easy to counter with items and even easier to simply avoid.
Sona– Sona got nerfed. No nice way to put it. Her base movement speed went down by five points, and the damage amplification on Hymn of Valor (Q) dropped from 50% to 40%.
- If anything, I see this as the final nail in the coffin for Sona. She already wasn’t seeing any professional play (outside of the two or so times she was played at worlds), and all this did was make her worse. I’ll miss the Flash Crescendo engages.
Syndra- Syndra is seeing some pretty influential changes. Dark Sphere (Q) has had its damage reduced a fairly sizable amount (70 to 50 at rank 1) in the early game, though it will still be the same as it has been at rank 5 (230 Damage). Syndra’s Scatter the Weak (E) has been toned down a bit by making the Dark Spheres pushed by it follow their hitboxes more strictly.
- This potentially could cause a drop in the frequency we see Syndra in pro play. With her early damage being reduced, and the already challenging E getting a little more challenging, it will be interesting to see which pros still use her. End game, her power will be the same, but the accuracy with knocking back the Orbs of Deception will be more important than ever. I imagine the high tier mid laners will continue to play her for her pick and burst potential, though some of the league’s lower tier mid liners will likely work around her more than pick her.
Xerath– Tool tip change. No actual change to the champion, just the description of his Shocking Orb (E)
- No change for the pros, unless they were boycotting him because of the tool tip. Which I doubt.
That’s it for the champion updates in 5.1. I’m eager to see the coming weeks and how these changes will unfold in the pro scene. Part 2 of the article will be released soon, and will cover the map, item and gameplay changes introduced in this patch.