League Of Legends: Riot Shake Up The Lane Swap

League Of Legends‘ [official site] annual World Championship is fast approaching and the team at Riot have just detailed a few changes they’ll be making to the game in advance of the tournament. It primarily revolves around the laneswap meta so if you have no idea what one of those is or why this matters, read on!

Okay, so. League Of Legends is a lane-pushing game with five players on each team. You’ll pretty much always see the players arranged so that there’s one in the middle lane, one on the top lane, one in the jungly bits between the lanes where the neutral monsters live and two in the bottom lane – one who gets super powerful later but needs babysitting early on, and the babysitter. There’s a lot more to it when you’re looking at actual matches, individual champions and metagame but that’s the very, very basic setup.

At the moment laneswapping is very much the done thing in professional games. You’ll not see it often in solo queue or low-level games, though as it’s really hard to pull off without a lot of teamwork and communication. Laneswapping pretty much does exactly what it sounds like. When your team is the one instigating the laneswap the duo who would usually be in the bottom lane head to the top lane and the top laner goes to the bottom or joins the jungler for a bit or both.

Obviously this puts the ousted top laner at a bit of a disadvantage but it puts you in a stronger position to push into the enemy team in that top lane with your duo because you’ll presumably have a 2v1 match-up. I mean, the whole lane swap thing started as a way to avoid unfavourable match-ups in particular circumstances, shuffling lanes to give yourself an advantageous match-up.

A team can then use that advantage to demolish the enemy’s top tower before the opposition can do the same to one of theirs. This rewards you with some gold, can help keep their top laner at bay, and also helps with map pressure, which is basically your ability to control and aggress into the play space. The fewer buildings you have, the harder it is to keep up map control and map pressure. Taking that tower also gives the duo lane an advantage in terms of gold and thus items which help those champions scale up in terms of what they can do. Then they can swap back to traditional lane positions.

But… nowadays the laneswap is kind of standard and people know how to play it and you’ll sit and watch a professional match where one side takes a tower on top lane at pretty much the same time as the other side takes a tower on bottom lane and the whole thing is a relatively passive exercise in accumulating gold and faffing about for a decent chunk of the early game. Again, that’s a really simplistic explanation but it should give you enough understanding that you can see why Riot want to shake things up in advance of a tournament they want people to be excited about spectating.

Right, now I’ll list the changes. Before I do, though, the basic idea is to make laneswapping about strategic choice and risk and reward rather than that passive farm-a-thon. I’ll explain how the changes might start to do that in a sec but here they are as per the Riot forum post:

First, incentivize attacking and defending turrets. The first turret taken now grants a ‘First Blood’ reward, but turrets are now better at defending their allied champions.

  • New: “Turret First Blood” gold: +275 local, +25 global (400 total gold across the team)
  • New: Turret AI has been updated, and are better at defending allied champions (coming in 6.16)
  • Second, target a lane that’s ideal for fast push strategies. Bot lane’s outer turret defenses are no longer identical to the other lanes, and cannon minion spawns now rotate between lanes.

    Fortification (temporary damage reduction buff on turrets) changed

  • Duration: 7 minutes -> 5 minutes
  • Damage reduction: 35% -> 50%
  • Fortification removed from bot lane turrets (we’re investigating a more nuanced approach to this)
  • Outer turret HP: 3300 -> 3500
  • Cannon minions now spawn differently

  • Each team gets one cannon minion per wave, rotating lanes.
  • Specifically, Bot gets a cannon minion in lane at wave 3, Mid at wave 4, and Top at wave 5. This then repeats.
  • Post-20 minutes, Mid has a cannon in wave 40 then both Bot and Top get one in wave 41. This then repeats.
  • Post-35 minutes, all lanes have cannons in each wave.
  • Hopefully, what with the earlier explanation of basic laneswapping, you’ll understand the first one. It’s about making those struggles to take down the first turret of the game more meaningful. The first blood gold is important here because the situation where one side took a bottom turret and the other side took a top turret is more lop-sided in terms of the rewards the sides get. You really want to be first rather than just trade one building for another.

    The second part is basically about making turrets unequal in their defensive capabilities – bot lane is more vulnerable – so teams will need to consider which one they want to focus on. Again, it’s not just a case of trading one building for another and the risk/rewards being equal.

    The changes to cannon minion spawning are just about which waves of those little minions are better able to put pressure on the other team’s lanes. Keeping track of the spawns should let you plan ahead in terms of how you’re apportioning your resources in each lane.

    The timing of the changes has come under fire because it’s a big-un and teams will need to adapt to it ahead of the playoffs for the massive annual tournament which dominates the whole League of Legends pro scene. Riot acknowledges this in the forum post, claiming that making the alterations now was preferable to waiting for the offseason:

    “We know the timing’s not great and ideally this would have landed sooner to give teams time before playoffs to adjust. With that said, we think it’s important for the state of the game and something worth implementing now versus waiting until the offseason. We also want teams to qualify for Worlds in the same general meta that they’ll be playing in this October, meaning now’s our only chance to make these changes. While we’re be iterating over the patches to come, these are the last major changes coming to the game before Worlds.”

    As per any changes to the game I’m interested to see how it impact the matches I watch (i.e. the pro scene) but there are some interesting comments on the forum thread from people trying to work out how it will impact their own play (I stick to ARAM nowadays so how this stuff impacts the majority of 5v5 players is a bit outside my realm!). Here’s the link.


    1. fuggles says:

      Also new character:
      link to riftherald.com

      I don’t even play lol, why do I know or care?!?

    2. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      This is interesting. I’m curious to see how this will affect low level play – it will either remain a neutral aspect of the game that goes largely ignored, or it will start encouraging players to attempt a bit of strategic diversity. God knows I’ve spent the many years in Gold and Silver (yes I’m bad, no i don’t believe in elo hell) banging my head off the keyboard trying to get people I play with in solo queue to recognise the importance of objectives and timely sieging.

      • Newt says:

        You say it’s hard in your limited experience to get teams which push objectives, then say you don’t believe in “ELO hell”?

        It’s a team game mate, you are one person. In a scoring system based around wins and losses rather than individual performance, if the team fails then the individual fails. That’s how this works. Even chess acknowledges the impact that a comparatively minor thing like getting Black has on win rate (going second means you’re always a move behind), yet League players still refuse to acknowledge the impact that four more people a side have on the game.Weird.

    3. Gothnak says:

      I played a bunch of LoL vs bots a few years ago because i liked the game but hated the competitiveness of it.

      When talking to my hugely competitive friends, i never got a good explanation from anyone why EVERY TEAM does 2, 1, 2, or 1, jungle, 1, 2.

      If you know that every team you will be facing will have the same number of players in certain lanes, surely like football, you can set up differently?

      For example, why don’t some teams play 2, 1, jungle, 1? At least your guy at the bottom will be expecting to play vs 2 whereas their person at the top won’t.

      Seems weird to have a best tactic which is ‘play the same as the other team’.


      • Maltose says:

        The lane swap this article talks about is the 2-1-1 you’re looking for. 1-2-1 isn’t played because the middle lane is the shortest, and is therefore the safest lane for your most vulnerable characters as they’re closer to their defensive towers.

      • Ninco says:

        Sure, the reason is and to really understand would require a lot of unpacking but the sort and sweet of it is, that the 1-2-1 and 1 in the jungle Meta, is favored by the way the map is laid out, and the design of the champions in game.

        So yea you could set up differently but you will likely given the design of the champions and layout of the map from the length of the lanes, to the tower positions, to number of creeps in the jungle etc. you would be at a disadvantage.

        There maybe is a Meta out there that is better,but the probability of it working and the work it would require to find it and perfect it, if it is out there at all would be too great.

      • Galorin says:

        The preferred setup is the 1-jungler-1-2 because of the dragon. Basically the teams needed a duo at bottom lane because it was easier to protect it.

        Anyway, there is no good explanation nowadays because of the rift herald.

      • Newt says:

        The game design, both map and champion, make certain arrangements more efficient but more importantly, as you may have noticed reading the article, Riot tries very hard to make sure people play a very particular way. Teams in the past have ran double jungle or skipped it or put two mid or three bot or just done non standard things and unlike Dota 2 where that sort of thing is rewarded, it’s inevitably patched out in the next major patch.

        Some of those are mentioned in this article. Towers get bonus armour at the start of the game so you can’t rush them, towers have more damage so you can’t 2v1 and crush them nearly as easily, basically all the strategic tradeoffs you might make have to be either 1) completely original so Riot hasn’t patched it out or 2) chosen from a set list.

        Which makes a lot of games terrifyingly predictable.

    4. Chicago Ted says:

      Wow, League’s competitive play, or at least the laning phase, sounds really static and inflexible compared to Dota’s. Why is this, exactly? Is it just because of the lack of TP scrolls, or what?

      • tetristhemovie says:

        I’ve played a bit of both; it basically comes down to the uneven map objectives. League has the dragon, which, last I checked, provides an escalating stacking buff every time your team kills it (and global gold? It might have been removed). This means it’s pretty much contested on every cooldown, meaning you want more people in its adjacent (bottom) lane.
        Aside from some camp placements, Dota’s map is far more symmetrical, and Roshan isn’t taken nearly as early, aside from specific heroes.
        The hero design also allows hardlane heroes that can survive against two, allowing you to run a jungle, or an extra support that can stack and pull; contrast with League where there isn’t space for a second support since clearing jungle is the only option, as well as highly offensive-natured champions that have already created a prior problem of ‘tanky bruisers’ in the top lane that hit hard and are harder to kill.

      • Newt says:

        Lack of TP scrolls and VOIP doesn’t help (ever tried to do something novel by typing? Not going to happen that easily), and the map layout and champion design doesn’t help, but it’s mostly because Riot wants the game to be played a very particular way and changes anything that allows innovation.

        Throw two people into top lane against the solo top in order to trade a disadvantage elsewhere for an advantage top? Towers now do more damage and prioritise enemy champions so as to make 1v2 stallouts possible. Take TP, wait for a bit, then all dive into a lane so as to pick up some kills and a tower early on? Towers now have bonus defense for the first seven minutes. And on and on it goes.

        Do something cool and you’ll win the series, but next major patch you won’t be able to do it anymore. Welcome to LoL, just play Dota 2