Another year, another preseason. With League of Legends being now over 13 years of age, Riot Games are looking to make sweeping changes to their most successful title. When it comes to the most successful esports titles in the world, you adapt or you die.
With a game like LoL, the best way to keep people coming back and keep the game fresh is new content and balance changes that mix up the balance of the game, rotate the meta-prevalent champions, and switch up how the game is played. Riot Games are no stranger to this, with their fortnightly balance patches and their seasonal rework of the over-arching game.
It's important to present new features and act on or respond to feedback to create a connection between the developer and the player base. Especially at this time of year, as Riot's biggest tournament on the calendar, Worlds, comes to a close.
Worlds 2022, in particular, was an epic event, with the return of Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok and T1 making it to the finals (an organisation that hasn't made it there since it was called SKT1). There was also the underdog fairy-tale story of Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu and his team DRX, with Deft winning his first Worlds title nearly a decade into his career and being five years older than the previous oldest ADC player to ever do it.
It's very rare that a feature is so problematic that Riot backtrack on it subsequent to release. Usually, they will commit to a change or a new item or champion until they find a way to make it work. Examples of this include Mordekaiser, Senna's stacking mechanic, and most recently, Zeri, who was so unbalance-able that it received the pre-rework Yorick treatment of getting nerfed into oblivion and left there until further notice.
So, after the removal of Chemtech Drake, with its camouflage zones that restricted vision and masked team movement and with its notorious zombie-manifesting soul buff, the whispers of it coming back were met by a level of apprehension from the community.
However, it is in fact back – the new-and-improved Chemtech Drake makes its return. Be careful when securing this objective because once below half health, it starts doing increased percentage health damage, which can lower your chances of completing it before it completes you. The new stat package a team with Chemtech Drake receives is a lot less situational – 5% tenacity and 5% healing and shielding power. Tenacity will improve the effectiveness of roaming assassins, predominantly Katarina, Diana or Akali, but fighters as well.
The healing and shielding power gives enchanter supports exceptional valuable. You can imagine this will have just as much an impact on a champion such as Lulu as Infernal Drake would on an ADC champion.
The Chemtech Soul, once locked in after the first two drakes, will transform the rift in a similar way to any variant of drake. However, after its removal, the Chemtech Soul rift no longer grants the suffocating invisibility that puts pressure on an already losing team.
It will be interesting to see how powerful vision cones will actually be thanks to the Chemtech Soul, especially in higher levels of play.
Chemtech Soul's new effect is to engorge plant life. Honeyfruits become stim fruits, no longer slowing consumers down and instead granting them a bonus shield. The Blast Cones range is also doubled and the Scryer’s Bloom becomes the Firelight Bloom, granting short-range AOE vision alongside the usual cone while giving movement speed in that direction and reducing enemy wards to one health. With this effect on umbral glaive, along with its cost making it a dominant early-game jungle item last season, it'll be interesting to see how powerful these vision cones will actually be, especially in higher levels of play.
Finally, the Chemtech Soul itself grants 10% damage resistance and 10% more damage while below 50% health. At full HP the soul seems weaker than most and with merely 10% damage resistance, it simply makes everyone a little more resistant. However, for champions that aren't often going to be in possession of mid-range HP, the soul becomes a little situational – ADC's and squishy champions that, especially in the later stages of the game, are expected to get focused on and blown up or manage to be positioned well and not suffer too much damage, are going to find it harder to make use of the additional damage.
Area and role changes• Mid/Top/Bot lane
Solo lane experience has been increased in both the mid and top lanes, while the bot lane is experiencing a reduction in experience after being centric to the meta for the entire year. The increase in experience earned in the top lane has been done in order to give it more power and to increase its relevance to the game as a whole. The mid lane has also had the gold from minions reduced prior to 14 minutes.• Jungle
The jungle has had a heavy rework. The jungle items of last season have been replaced and pets are back in League of Legends, though this time, Riot has drawn from some familiar sources for their inspiration. As a Jungler, you now start the game with a choice of starting pet: green Mosstomper, red Scorchclaw, and blue Gustwalker.
The green Mosstomper grants a shield after killing monster camps and also while outside of combat, providing tenacity while the shield is active. The red Scorchclaw stacks up to 100 – three are garnered per second and 100 are granted by killing a camp, and when at 100 stacks, your next attack applies an AOE slow and burns for a percentage of a target’s max health. The blue Gustwalker grants move speed when entering a brush, which increases after killing a large monster.
No matter which you pick, all of the pets provide a protection buff which means you take less damage near allies. Throughout the course of the game, your starting pet will evolve. For each monster/champion takedown, every 60 seconds, and when large monsters are killed, the companion is provided with a treat. These are used to progress the evolution and increase your Smite from its new base of 600 to 900 and 1200 respectively.
Camps have also been changed for the coming season and the jungle has been opened for a lot more variance in picks. The ability to clear two camps at once for a champion is no longer a requirement, as new leashing ranges prevent you from pulling camps out to the adjacent ones. Camps are, however, now individually harder to clear, but each one restores mana and HP via the new companions which will assist you by attacking the camps themselves.
It’s no secret that each time Riot updates the jungle, they manage to break something... so it might be pertinent to remember the picks that have been nerfed out of the jungle for being unhealthy in previous seasons.
This means sustaining through your clear is a lot less of an issue, but to make up for this you’ll notice Gromp no longer heals and nor does Smite. Another change made to open the jungle pool is the removal of the shield on the river scuttle, it merely has more health now to allow for more jungle champions without stuns to be put into play.
It’s no secret that each time Riot updates the jungle, which is where the most frequently adapted role resides, they manage to break something. So, it might be pertinent, if the jungle is left in this state, to remember the picks that have been nerfed out of the jungle for being unhealthy in previous seasons.
This would include champions with hard CC and mobility such as Sylas or Camille who were notably played in the jungle on release but removed for balancing reasons; champions who can use it to free farm and scale, like Ezreal or Nasus; and then characters who weren’t built for the role, such as Twitch or Akshan, who can appear in a lane and dominate it early with their invisibility.
With the hype around Arcane, the induction of Lil Nas X into the League of Legends library of musical collaborations, and the outstanding storylines at Worlds 2022, it’s no surprise that new players are still giving LoL a go to this day. With the new accessibility changes in this update, it’s arguable that there has never been a better time to get into League of Legends.
If you’re playing the Jungler role, you’ll get recommended jungle pathing, which is so useful for new players who will find it so much easier to get into the role.
There is a new communication wheel. On it, the old icons have been redone and four new pings have been added: Push, All-in, Hold, and Bait. Another wheel has also been added – a vision wheel with three pings: Enemy vision, Vision cleared, and Need vision. All of which significantly help with communication.
A lot of third-party clients have been providing services for players willing to download them alongside the game, suggesting runes, skill-levelling orders, and jungle pathing. Riot have looked to mitigate this by providing their own versions.
For example, once you lock a champion you’ll now get three suggested rune pages and upon levelling up, you’ll get an indicator showing which ability other players generally go for on the champion. And if you’re playing the Jungler role, you’ll get recommended jungle pathing, which is so useful for new Jungler players who will find it so much easier to get into the role, especially when they also utilise the new camp range indicators.
In regards to objective planning, prior to this change, the only vote you could make in League of Legends was to surrender. Now if you ping an objective, you’ll find you’re presented with a new voting system, which offers up the objective. You can pick to “Take” or “Give” the objective and it’ll display the team’s consensus, allowing quick communication around whether to fight or not and the team’s opinion on it as a whole.
A smaller objective is wards, which are part of a larger objective of contesting vision – when an enemy ward has been spotted, it’ll maintain a visible ward timer until it is destroyed (visible while it is itself in vision).
There has been a focus on tank items in this year’s preseason. The new mythic options include Jak’Sho the Protean, Radiant Virtue, Heartsteel, and Iceborn Gauntlet. Jak’Sho benefits from being in extended combat, stacking MR and armor before draining nearby enemies and increasing resistance. Radiant Virtue increases max health, grants ability haste to nearby allies, and heals them when you cast your ultimate. Heartsteel is similar to the Demolish Rune, but against champions that grant permanent increased max health per Proc. Iceborn is a reworked Frostfire that applies slowing effects.
It’s generally accepted that Heartsteel has been the strongest of these items, manifesting unkillable goliaths out of tanks like Sion, K’Sante or Maokai. But it has also found its way onto champions like Vayne, Swain, and Kog’Maw. The second list of champions is likely to get the item changed or nerfed in the not-so-distant future, so abuse it while you can.
Turbo Chemtank and Sunfire Aegis have both been demoted to legendary items, which means that Sunfire is losing its Flametouch passive and Chemtank is losing its Refuel passive, but both can be built alongside the new tank mythics, allowing for some very dangerous combinations. It also means champions like Diana can go ahead and build Sunfire which was relevant in some cases last season.
Navori Quickblades, Ravenous Hydra, and Randuin’s Omen are all returning AD items that are being changed, and they are also being joined by a returning item, the Spear of Shojin. Navori Quickblades now acts as an alternative to Guinsoo’s Rageblade or Infinity Edge and has been given good synergy with things like Kai’Sa passive, Kog’Maw W, and Vayne W providing them with amplification.
Ravenous Hydra has been given a new passive that likens it to an AD variant of Dark Seal, providing stacking AD. Randuin’s Omen now lessens the effects of critical strikes and slows nearby enemies. The Spear of Shojin is an item that is rife with nostalgia, Jax players have been dreaming of its return since the day they lost it nearly four years ago. Granting extra ability haste to non-ultimate spells, less if they have a stun, and providing increased movement speed based on missing health, this item is perfect for fighters generally found in the top lane, such as Camille, Jax or Riven.
Lastly, we have the changes to AP items and a returning component item. The Catalyst of Aeons is returning with an all-new look – built with a ruby and sapphire crystal, it restores mana when you take damage and restores health when you expend mana, making it easier for champions with resource limitations, such as Ryze or Kassadin, to trade blows in the lane.
This is handy, considering that the new mythic it builds into is another familiar item, the Rod of Ages. This is an item that scales, which complements champions that also scale – stacking health, mana, and AP for each minute after its completion, up to 10 stacks, at which point the wielder gains a free level-up. Sharing effects with Catalyst of Aeons but also providing move speed, this is an item that complements champions like Zilean, Ryze, and Kassadin.
The last item is Abyssal Mask, which has been changed to have Catalyst of Aeons in its build path and include its passive. This is useful for magic resistance and health, and good for supports or front-line tanks, although it is generally a situational item for champions like Leona, Nautilus or Taric.
There are a couple more small changes that fall outside of general categories. Turret plate gold has been increased but has become stronger, meaning lane dominance is rewarded a little more. Rakan and Lillia have been adjusted from ranged to melee. For Lillia, this buffs her interactions with conqueror and items like the Demonic Embrace. For Rakan, this makes him less awkward to play with the Relic Shield. Cho’Gath’s R has been buffed on non-champions to match the new Smite values and Nunu’s Q has been buffed in the same way for the same reasons.
AFK surrender is now available from three minutes, a remake is available if a player doesn’t move for 90 seconds in the fountain within the first three minutes, and all players are now anonymous during champion select, meaning they can’t be scouted and dodged due to their match history.