The preseason wrap up of League of Legends continues with this week's patch 6.3. This is a large patch, with a lot of under-the-hood adjustments that may go unseen to the majority of users, but that doesn't mean there isn't some very vital stuff here for you. With some objective tweaks, some important nerfs/buffs, and a brand spanking new item, this patch is going to set the tone for the how some key positions get played this season.
1. Blade Running
Attack Damage assassins have been in a bit of a rut lately. After Riot turned down Last Whipser's swag last season, these characters have been grasping at straws for a real signature item for the role. Assassin's need an Infinity Edge or a Black Cleaver to call their own for two reasons. One, building an assassin with a clear signature item in mind helps to remove the sort of dissonance that comes with building an AD character with only grabbing as much damage as possible in mind (RIP Bloodthirster builds). Two, with a signature item that 90% of the role will build, it's easier to tether future buffs and nerfs around the performance of this singular overlapping point. Figuring out if a champ is above the curve or not can be based relative to its performance with the new item, and not just its own micro systems. I'm not even mad.
The item itself - The Duskblade of Draktharr - looks to wiggle its way into the hands of melee bursters as a viable alternative to the serviceable Maw of Malmortius and Youmuu's Ghostblade picks. At around the same price as both, the Duskblade stands out immediately because of its 75 attack damage and 10 armor pen. 5% movement speed is nice, but seems a bit random considering neither the B.F Sword or Serrated Dirk (the weapon's components) have movement speed components. Guess that's what an extra 850 gold on top of that buys you. Well, that and its awesome passive, Nightfall.
Nightfall applies on hit every 2 minutes. An enemy with Nightfall will take flat damage plus 25% of its missing health after a 2 second window. Suddenly, every assassin has a mini-Garen/Zed ult. Both squishies and meat shields are on notice, as dive heavy champs like Jarvan IV and Talon are back in business. It's not cheap, though. Players who want to rush Duskblade will be way behind if they can't get the farm/kills for a 1350 and an 1100 gold item early, just like Juggernauts who favor the Cleaver. Pair it with a Whisper and a Death's Dance, and let the good times faceroll. Speaking of Garen, this item might not look to bad on him, either. If you want to be THAT guy.
2. Preserving the Balance
As well as the introduction of The Duskblade of Draktharr, certain assassins have seen their sliders shifted to accommodate the new power possibilities, as well as just an overall evaluation of the certain assassins in general.
Zed's Ultimate, Death Mark, has had the reigns tugged on it a bit. The damage amplification was buffed at the end of Season 5 because of the very itemization issue that the Duskblade solves, so some of that extra stank was rubbed off. I doubt it will make Zed any less lethal.
Akali's Q, Mark of the Assassin, will now restore the max amount of energy (40) at all levels, not just 5. Her Ult, Shadow Dance, now dashes much faster. Not really related to the Duskblade, but Akali was on the low end of the power creep for awhile now. Having her bread and butter poke and her signature dash be more beneficial ensures that she'll have the opportunity to play with the new toy more often.
Xin Zhao used to be the sort of guy who could do anything. Back when roles were more simple, Xin could pretty much do it all. Now, with all of the role optimizations and the further specialization of items, Xin is left holding his polearm. Riot has decided to give this old dog a new trick, saddling another passive to his W, Battle Cry, and tweaking the existing one. Now his third basic attack heals based on attack damage as well as magic damage, as well as crits for an increasingly violent bonus. Xin may have always been the poster child of the generic ADC build of old, and that's definitely not gonna change now.
3. Unleash the Dragon
As an objective, the Dragon has always been both a mainstay, and a distraction. It's the most tenuously fought over prize in the bottom lane early game, but after a team has two stacks, it's usually a given that they'll get two more. Opposing teams quickly turn to other options and the dragon becomes that thing that Udyr solos while split pushing when he's bored. The 5th buff of Dragon is awesome, but getting there is a hassle. So Riot wants to change it. Contextually, I think Scarizard explains it best in Riot's patch notes:
We spun on potential solutions for a while, but here's what we landed on: It's not necessary for every stack of Dragon to be so powerful that contesting it is necessary. Doing so creates a snowballing vortex where each Dragon buff ensures you get the next one, focusing the game too heavily on an early-game arm's race, rather than a match-long consideration. That said, each individual Dragon should provide an advantage that feels consequential - as an opponent, the decision to give up a stack of Dragon should be based around 'we will oppose with something equally valuable' rather than 'the power of that buff is so low I can't be bothered.'
So what has changed? Dragon 2 and 4 buffs now provide burning damage to turrets, and damage reduction from turrets respectively. Dragon 4's change is most dramatic, considering the previous buff to damage towards minions and monsters was all but useless late game.
4. Bull Market
Not much analysis here, but I wanted to at least mention that Alistar's classic one-two punch of Headbutt/Pulverize has been changed again. Now you can buffer Pulverize during the charge portion of Headbutt, so that it's executed at the end of the charge every time. The timing portion of the old interaction between these abilities was tough to master and pull off consistently. After they nerfed Headbutt, slowing the charge, they made long time Ali players basically have to relearn the combo again with new timing, muscle memory be damned. Changing the charge speed would only further muck that up, so making it a more automatic thing helps everyone.
For more info on the patch, including changes to charge abilities and quality of life tweaks to Champ Select, head over to the patch notes post on Riot's website. Let us know how you feel about these changes on Twitter or Facebook, and don't forget to drop by Leaguepedia to keep up to date on the pro scene.
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.