As 27 teams from Europe and North America finish up their preparation for a last shot at qualifying for the premiere League of Legends competition in North America and Europe, many have just learned of a game-changing update set to affect the game halfway through the season.
This month’s Expansion Tournament is the last shot for any challenger team to qualify for the League Championship Series, the top league in the West. Those 27 teams will compete for two spots that are up for grabs in both Europe and North America. The tournament starts online in November before the best teams move on to offline play in a studio in December.
But between the offline and online portions of the event, Riot will release its Patch 4.20, which will include a massive re-working of the jungle, the game’s central battlefield. Riot refers to this as its “pre-season patch, and it will introduce a slew of changes to the game, which will eventually be fine-tuned and implemented for the next season of the League Championship Series.
The first part of the tournament, however, will still use Patch 4.19, the current patch.
Players will at least have some time to get used to the updates. The new patch will be available on the live servers two to three weeks prior to the offline matches in December, Riot Games’ esports coordinator, J.T. Vandenbree, told the Daily Dot.
Players and coaches still feel that’s not enough time to prepare.
I’ve been part of every single spring promotion tournament save the most recent, but I guess the expansion covers it. Every spring promotion tournament, a new massive change is brought in, mostly, one that covers changing the jungle. I’ve always sucked it up and just roughed through with minimal practice and very little idea on how to play the jungle. Its happened for a 3rd time now, and every single time a majority of people have expressed great distaste at it. It basically nullifies any previous practice, and turns it from teams who have had good disciplined practice regiments, into teams who can race to figure out what’s [Overpowered] in two weeks. In my honest opinion, this is not a smart idea, and I greatly oppose it.”
For Josh “Nintendude” Atkins, a jungler who will participate in the expansion tournament with Fusion Gaming, the new patch’s pitfalls include the potential for major balance problems.
“It is known that even with the hotfixes,” Atkins said—referring to a small update intended to fix major problems with a a patch after release—”the preseason patches are notorious for having big problems balance-wise. But it’s just part of being a pro.”
Atkins says he expected the change, and the best thing he can do is “buckle down” while the patch is on the live servers prior to expansion.
Vandenbree tried to address some concerns in a Reddit comment today. Riot, he said, “spoke to a number of players about their thoughts on the matter,” and that a majority concluded three weeks was ample time to prepare.
The time between the launch of Patch 4.20 and the tournament will allow Riot to fix any major bugs or balance issues.
Patch 4.20 includes a complete overhaul of jungle items, jungle camps and objectives—three elements that help define a jungler’s role.
Team Coast’s jungler, Matt “Impaler” Taylor, opposes the change too, though he says he’s ready to adapt to any problems it brings.
I think a lot of junglers from both [Europe] and [North America] will feel like a lot of their practice time has been wasted. However being able to adapt is part of being a professional.
William “scarra” Li, former professional mid laner and current coach for Counter Logic Gaming, added to the chorus of complaints in a tweet last night.
Expansion tournament is on the new jungle offline… That’s kinda crazy I’m not really comfortable with that.
— Scarra (@dscarra) November 11, 2014
Riot’s decision to roll out the patch mid-tournament will only add to the event’s unpredictability. A new wave of professional players may find a quirky strategy inside the patch’s wealth of changes, propelling them into the next season of the LCS, even as others who’ve been dominating the amateur scene may find themselves shut out.
For the players, the patch is ultimately just one more layer of stress heading into the most important tournament of their lives.