Dark Harvest was reworked in last week’s first pre-season update, Patch 8.23. Its new iteration was so strong that Riot needed to push out a hotfix nerf for the rune later that same day. It’s great that Riot tried to balance it so quickly after the fact, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Dark Harvest is still reigning as one of the supreme winning runes of the 2019 pre-season, alongside Kleptomancy on certain champions. Tons of players are running DH on Karthus, Brand, Zyra, and many other supports and mid lane champs. It really shines in ARAMs, however. Even after the hotfix, you can run it on every single type of champion if you really want to, even if it’s not an ideal one, and you’ll still get away with it. Here’s where the real problem comes in—if your team can use the rune better than the enemy team, you have a way better shot at winning.
For those that don’t follow the patches closely, the change in last week’s patch essentially turned Dark Harvest from a “farm all the time” rune to a “fight all the time” rune. Instead of stacking it through farming, you stack it by hitting enemy champions who are below a health threshold. And when you gain a stack from a champion, you also deal a big ol’ chunk of damage. It’s now on a pretty big cooldown, but essentially, it provides you a big damage burst in fights, and it promotes you fighting often despite having a significant cooldown. The hotfix nerf last week lowered both the stacking and base damage, because it was just too much.
In ARAMs, you can pop Dark Harvest a lot, and very easily. One of the major changes to the rune is that it now also triggers on abilities, no longer just basic attacks. So in an ARAM, if you’re one of the best champions in the game mode (AKA a very poke-oriented mage), you suddenly have tons more damage to add to your long-range poke. And likewise, if your team happens to be in the favor of the RNG gods and lands more long range poke mages than the enemy in the draft, you now have a larger advantage than you would have had before.
What’s worse is the fact that the rune’s cooldown resets every time you get a takedown. In ARAMs, there are a ton of takedowns—far more than your average game on Summoner’s Rift. And that means this massive burst of damage, far larger than Electrocute and Arcane Comet and one that scales way harder, is available a lot more often, too.
So what’s the solution? To us, the rune is just flat-out too effective. It’s played in nearly a quarter of all games at the moment, and its winrate hasn’t suffered at all for how many players are locking it in. If Riot wants to keep the damage and effectiveness the same, the takedown reset will have to be removed. And if Riot wants to keep the reset mechanic, its effectiveness will need to be lowered, it can’t keep both, especially on Howling Abyss.
We expect more nerfs to follow last week’s hotfix, but until then, get in all the Dark Harvest you can, because this rune is really, really strong.