Riot revealed its plans today to dish out balance changes over the next several weeks in preparation for Worlds 2018.
For the most part, the announcement was what we expected. Riot talked about what a healthy yet entertaining meta should look like, including what’s most important from a viewer’s perspective. The announcement mentioned that diverse metas are good as long as matches remain interesting and eventful, and that the balance team should try to avoid any major meta disruptions until the tournament is over.
Then it got into specifics, and that’s where it lost us. Keep in mind that all of these balance changes are designed with pro play in mind. Riot stated that it will attempt to avoid harming solo queue performance, but after seeing the list, we’re very skeptical.
First up, Trundle, Gragas, Gnar, Ryze, and Braum will soon be nerfed. To us, there are really only two, or one and a half, that make sense here—Trundle and maybe Braum. Even that’s not concrete, though, because Trundle was just nerfed in Patch 8.16, and we’ve barely had enough time to see how it impacts his performance. His priority in pro play has already fallen, so if another nerf arrives before Worlds, he’ll probably near irrelevancy.
Gragas, Gnar, and Ryze are the real head-scratchers. Gragas is the absolute worst jungler in solo queue right now with the lowest winrate of any champion in that role at 46 percent, according to stats site OP.gg. That being said, anything Riot does that isn’t a buff is only going to make him worse. It’d make sense, though, if he was super over-powered in pro play, but he isn’t that strong there, either. His worldwide winrate in pro play is a mere 40 percent, according to Oracle’s Elixir. Not only that, but he’s less popular and less successful than the likes of Camille, Kindred, Nocturne, and Sejuani, none of which are receiving nerfs.
Gragas is only picked when there isn’t a better tank, like Sejuani, available, so it really confuses us that he’s the one being targeted for a nerf. Ryze is sort of in the same boat, except Zoe is really the only mid laner out-performing him in all aspects, but his solo queue performance is just as terrible as Gragas.
Gnar has been fairly successful in pro play, but, just like Gragas, he has one of the absolute worst success rates in Platinum and higher solo queue in the entire game. Despite his decent success in the hands of pros, he’s still wildly outmatched by Dr. Mundo, who is curiously absent from Riot’s list. Mundo has been played in almost 100 more pro games than Gnar. What’s most confusing is that Gnar is one of the only answers to him, so if Gnar is nerfed, Mundo will fair even better than he does now.
It’s hard to take a handful of some of the worst champions in non-pro play and then say, “We’re going to nerf these without affecting non-pro players,” because, frankly, that’s impossible. These champions are all in such a terrible spot for the masses that any type of nerf will only make it worse. The only way they can be salvaged is if Riot attempts to dish out buffs in other areas of their kits at the same time, but that risks borking the meta even more.
There are other nerfs and buffs mentioned in the announcement, such as some buffs for Renekton and Vayne and nerfs for Kai’Sa and Akali, but those are mostly expected and won’t do much harm. Patch 8.19 will be the Worlds patch, so if you’re enjoying yourself on Gragas or Gnar, get your kicks in while you can.