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.