The rumblings of big things to come have been echoing through the League of Legends community for awhile now, even before Riot officially unveiled their grand scheme a couple of weeks ago. With patch 5.22 hitting this week, the first step along their path of upheaval has been taken. In this patch, the much needed Marksmen update is implemented, giving some champions a brand new lease on life. On top of that, many long present items have been reworked or retired, and masteries have been rebuilt from the ground up. This patch is absolutely enormous, so there's no way to cover all of it here, but the highlights are covered below.
Masteries are a staple of the game, and have the odd distinction of have such a large role in the early minutes of any given League game, as well as being one of the most confusing parts of preparing yourself for battle. They provide tiny buffs to key areas of the game that you begin with at the start, so as 4% attack damage seems like a small number in the grand scheme of the game, when you and your lane opponent only have a limited amount of gold to spend on items, every little bit helps. Masteries (as well as Runes) are so important to the game, it can often be discouraging to play PVP before getting your account level to 30, because that's when you'll have the most points to spend on them. It was always a shame, then, that such a big part of the game felt so marginal and sort of obfuscated to new players.
Riot has jettisoned the old Mastery system in favor of a brand new concept. Unlike when Masteries got their last big change in Preseason 4, this adjustment does more than just change particular points on a similar tree. Preseason 6 Masteries are based on a brand new philosophy of making your investment in a particular tree have significant impact on how you play your champion. This is partly because the upgrade paths are organized a bit differently this time.
Before, the three trees were clear cut. Offense was for doing damage with attacks and abilities, Utility was for movement speed, gold gain, or buff durations, and Defense was for getting the most out of armor, resistances, and crowd control in order to stay alive in battle. For the most part, these dated concepts have been shaken up to accommodate the slew of new champions that tend to want to do more than one of those things, as well as players who want to think on their feet a bit more.
The biggest general update are Keystone Masteries, bottom tree abilities that drastically affect your champion in different ways. For example, one Keystone gives your champion a permanent buff to health when you kill a large monster or siege minion, to a max of 300. Another gives you a big lifesteal bonus and attack speed buff when you crit. There are three at the bottom of each tree, and you can only choose one.
The trees themselves have gotten smaller, as well. Each tree only has 13 choices, separated into pairs of tiers. Tiers 1, 3, and 5 allow you to split 5 points between two options. Tiers 2 and 4 let you spend 1 point on one of two options. Tier 6 is where the Keystones sit. All in all, that means you can only spend 18 points on any one tree, unlike the old 21 point standard. This implies that many champs will see a lot of overlap between tree selections. Simplifying the trees makes it easier to see bigger impacts from your choices, and it may also cut down on the amount of mastery pages you need, as it many not be necessary to have one for each of your champs anymore. Who likes paperwork, really?
The Offense Tree is now the Ferocity Tree, and is all about fighting. The concept of this being the offensively focused tree is still there in a broad sense, but some of the skills are more focused on multiple target team fighting or lane clearing. Some Masteries make the cut, like Double Edge Sword or the old Utility Tree's Vampirism, but some new ones, like Bounty Killer, look to make killing as many targets as possible more rewarding past just the gold boon.
The Utility Tree is now the Cunning Tree, and is no longer simply for utilitarian meta buffs. Now, the Cunning Tree caters to single target assassins and people who want to increase there chances of pulling off the gank or chasing soft targets. This may be the go-to tree for Junglers, thanks to Masteries like Savagery and the re-positioning of old favorites like Wanderer and Meditation.
The Defense Tree is now the Resolve Tree, and is the most like the its predecessor in that it is focused heavily on survivablity. Many of the old Masteries have been retained, at least in concept. Veteran's Scars and Unyeilding still make your champ a thick face beater when the going gets tough, and new additions like Runic Armor makes the effects of healing and shielding extra effective on you. When your tank bursts through the ranks in a team fight, you are officially a problem.
Item Shake Up
There was apparently a giant internal audit of all the weapons and items being bought during games in order to determine how often players buy certain items and why. The response from Riot was a full scale overhaul of many of the most popular shop choices, as well as minor cost and power tweaks across the board. The overall effect of this change will take time to realize fully, no doubt. Initially, though, it's a complected picture to put together.
Causing some of the most controversy are several items that have been officially retired. Mana Potions are no longer an option for mages and champs that get mana greedy early. Crystalline Flask is also gone, so recovering mana with a consumable is no longer an option. The exchange here is that the champs who would normally buy theses items for the sake of mana sustainability have just gotten their total starting mana pools buffed to make up the difference. It makes sense to me: why have a consumable that is never a first (or second) choice to players save for when they play 10% of champions? Just because? Not a great answer.
Maybe the biggest scandal in the item removal department is the retirement of the Sword of the Occult. It was somewhat of an innocuous item in the scope of game balance. It wasn't necessarily unbalanced, thanks to its heavy reliance on stacks gain by killing enemies (that can be lost by when dying) to become a true threat. Occult fans protest that the risk/reward factor was a uniquely fun, yet admittedly non-competitive, factor that kept the spark going for long time players. Without it, the game is becoming a more sterile and unwelcoming place, they say. Maybe they're right, no one likes when someone takes away the thing that made a game fun for them. That said, if a single item was the only thing keeping you around, then you were a foot out the door anyway, no?
I'm not happy about every change, either. The Brutalizer was my favorite weapon, ever since the days where it built into The Black Cleaver and it was THE Pantheon item. When it lost that build path, people began just buying it and keeping the Tier 2 item without any intention to upgrade. The Brutalizer was that good. Now it's gone, its stats and effects split up and assigned across two new items - Serrated Dirk and Caufield's Warhammer. I am willing to admit, though, that most of my affection for The Brutalizer is tied up in nostalgia; it's one of the few items from when I started playing (around when Graves debuted) that has been a consistent go to for many of my builds for years. I'll miss it more than i've ever really needed it.
Jungle starting items got reworked, as well. Now tier 2 items all start with the same two items - the reworked Hunter's Machete and the brand new Hunter's Talisman. Each have new passives (Tooth and Nail, respectively) that combine and carry on into your third tier options, which are all pricier. The way I see it, the less jungle items to choose from, the better. Junglers, though many are different, have the pretty much the same basic needs in the early game, and how you come about clearing camps quickly, and getting good ganks and vision, shouldn't be muddled in the item selection process. In truth, lots of items to choose from is fun in theory, but there really is a finite number of ways to be truly effective when it comes to competitive games. And, with this patch especially, League wants to be a more competitive game.
Support Items have gotten a bit more interesting. Sightstones now have way more options as far as tier 3 upgrades are concerned. No longer do supports just have to sit on their Sightstones and treat that item slot as a necessary sacrifice for wards. Besides the Ruby Sightstone path, which now gives more health, less charges, but reduces cool downs on your active items, blue Sightstones can be mixed with your standard tier 2 support items in order to make one of three "eyestones." This new subclass of item sacrifices some of your team supporting utility provided by tier 3 items like Face of the Mountain or Frost Queen's Claim in order to give the support some new, more self-centered tricks. This really helps supports dabble in both being map controlling vision barons without having to feel like they're being eclipsed on the gold curve. Hallelujah!
Make The Rift Great Again
A great many tweaks have changed most everything in the main map of League, Summoner's Rift. The bulk of them are just nominal adjustments to numbers, sliding the scales in order to better receive the bigger shake ups more amicably. Some are big deals, in and of themselves, and could really changes how games are won this season.
Turrets now gain magic resistance and armor in timed intervals. Every minute, a turret will add to a cumulative total until they reach a max of 30. This scaling starts at different times for different tiers of turret. First tiers start immediately, second at 15 minutes, Inhibitor and Nexus towers at 30. The stilted buff timers reward aggressive siegers who push their lane and put hits on the turret early. If you fell a tower quickly, you are in an advantageous position not just from a score sense, but in the purity of the damage your doing to the next one for a limited time. The moments between the first turret pop and the 15 minute mark (or second turret and 30, etc) have the potential to be hotly contested ones, which serve to keep the laning phase interesting for far longer. It may seem to be playing right into siege team composition's hands, but the turrets now have much more health, and receive huge armor and resistance buffs when no minions are present. Just having the tank or support absorb turret damage while the carries go at it may not be the best option after a wave clear or team fight, any more.
Bounties are a different animal now. When a champion is on a streak, they tended to become a source of abject fear. Instead of ending the streak and gaining an individual gold boon, it was more likely that any given player would just ignore the high profile player completely. Better to focus on objectives than risk feeding this snowballing champ out of hubris. To turn that dynamic around, bounties are now awarded to the whole team when a runaway enemy is finally slain. If the whole team can get almost 100 gold for the effort, chasing around that trolly Teemo might almost be worth it now. Bounties payout depending on how many kills the target has, which now fall into tiers of their own. How high the bounty is on a character is clearly denoted by a little banner on a character's life bar. Characters with high tier bounties don't lose their bounty completely when they die. Instead they just fall a few tiers. Because someone who got five kills in a row is still dangerous.
The most conspicuous and potentially game changing addition to the rift is a new monster, the Rift Herald. Sitting in the Baron's lagoon during the first 20 minutes of a game, it waits and watches stoically for interlopers. To counter balance the well accepted notion that the bottom lane is the most important lane, Riot has added a top lane objective that really takes commitment to dispatch. Slaying the herald is a tough task for a solo laner. It has a pretty large health bar and deals some pretty solid damage. Backstabbing it in its giant eye can add to your damage output, but a melee character has to be pretty confident in their DPS to take it on alone. Ranged champs are at a bigger disadvantage, as their attacks do less damage to it thanks to its passive Void Armor.
Every attempt I made in games to kill it alone have failed miserably. It's worth trying, though, because upon its death it grants the killer a miniature version of the Baron buff. Instead of just roaming into other lanes via Teleport, staying and dominating top can be a priority, again. The reward for playing well being an opportunity to counter play in other lanes more devastatingly. And since the Herald isn't getting soloed very early, the often isolated top lane has more opportunities to coordinate with the rest of the squad.
This was a lot of information, but I assure you, it's just the tip of the iceberg. For the full list of patch notes, check out the League of Legends update guide on their site. Don't forget to stop by the Leaguepedia and keep up with whats going on in the world of competitive League, like the 2015 LoL KeSPA Cup. Tweet us your war stories from the 5.22 update @CurseGamepedia.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.