Patch 5.16 and Worlds - how the incoming changes will affect everyone.
The newest patch coming out of Riot is going to shake up Summoner’s Rift in numerous ways. Approximately thirty champions are going to receive tweaks, ranging from minor balance adjustments to significant changes in abilities and playstyles. Additionally, several new items will be added to the game and nearly every defensive item will see some changes.
For a comprehensive and detailed list of all the changes in this patch (some of which, as always, could not make it to the live server), you can check out this post on surrender at 20.
The most significant detail about these changes, however, isn't the sheer amount of them we're seeing; for throughout the games years of existence, League has been changed many times over. It's the timing. Summer playoffs are being played across all regions, and teams are already qualifying for the season five world championship . . . playing on patch 5.14.
Some of the teams we'll see at Worlds, like LCK's SK Telecom, have shown dominance, strong play and adaptability all throughout the season. Others, like LPL's LGD, didn't have a very good season, but they've dominated opponents throughout the playoffs. In the end, they all will have to adapt further to a potentially new metagame because of Patch 5.16. Power picks and strategies will possibly be entirely warped; so what works now may no longer do so at World’s.
Let's take a look at the different groups of people affected by these changes: professional players, coaching staff and analysts, Riot, and finally other players who will be watching the World Championship.
For professional players, these changes can be both good and bad. Most of them practice for twelve or more hours a day, so it's understandable how some are going to be frustrated by how much they learned about the game in its current state (5.15) will no longer be valid. Of course, given that the World Championship is still a month and a half away, they'll have the time necessary to practice new strong champions and learn their power spikes with the new or revamped items. (Even if they don't have a sandbox to do so, but that's an entirely different issue) As for strategies, they'll have to do some pretty intense scrimming in order to figure out what play-styles suit them on 5.16.
Here's where the coaching staff and analysts working for teams come into play. Now's the time of the year when they will truly be tested. With some of the changes pushing a champion like Mordekaiser into a duo lane or turning Darius into a late game beast that, upon killing, can clean up a fight extremely efficiently; they'll have to make sure they've got all bases covered. Figuring out what works and what doesn't is going to be extremely important, so some teams will try to cheese their way into the quarterfinals, while also trying to make sure they don't have to face a champion or strategy they haven't figured out or practiced against. Presumably, stronger teams like SKT will be able to adapt more efficiently than their competitors, yet at the same time innovative, risky strategies may come from weaker teams trying to pull off upsets.
In a way, it's sad that we'll never know how the teams we've seen play for so long would match up right now. Qiao Gu's teamfighting or CLG's early pressure (if they get to worlds) may no longer be their strengths. Juggermaw compositions may no longer work, etc. If you've been following the competitive scene with some intensity, everything you know about the team's going to worlds may no longer be valid because of just how many changes appear to be coming to Summoner’s Rift. There is, however, one group who benefits from these changes, and that's going to be the majority of the playerbase, who is also the target audience (based on the casters Riot is choosing) of the championship (and who also happen to be Riot's main source of income).
For the average player, seeing new picks and strategies will probably be a more exciting experience. Watching a Maokai vs Rumble lane for the 30th time isn't going to get fans hyped as much as an oddball pocket pick could. Observing solo queue and seeing what the pros are playing will give everyone a decent idea of what is strong and what isn't; but without seeing competitive games in 5.16, we won't quite know what to expect. Of course, hardcore viewers will still be able to enjoy that, yet some of us, who enjoy trying to understand how League functions at its highest level, will lack much of necessary knowledge to do so.
As for Riot, I suspect the reason they are pushing these changes right now isn't that they think the game really needs them. Instead, they're aiming at making the most important tournament of the year more exciting for the average viewer. While this isn't necessarily bad, considering the game is often balanced using competitive play as a reference, it's an odd decision to overhaul so many things now, when the game should be in its most balanced state for the whole season. Game balance is always disputed when it comes to League of Legends, and now Riot is putting themselves in a tricky position. Multiple patches will probably come after 5.16 and before worlds, but without any competitive games being played, Riot won't have their usual frame of reference. Blatantly overpowered champions, should they surface in solo queue, will most likely see some nerfs, but hopefully we won’t see any champions picked or banned in every game of the World’s.
In conclusion, all of these changes may give us a lot of surprises, but potentially at the cost of nullifying a large portion of what we know about the game right now. But while the timing of the patch is questionable, if it means we get to watch quality League of Legends in an exciting world championship, I'll be the first one to say, “worth”.
Image credit: Riot Games
Special thanks to Pelkasupafresh, editor of this article. You can follow him on Twitter here.