It has been another confusing year. It seems like we’re just along for the ride with Riot Games in the ever-changing League of Legends (LoL) development cycle. After failing to produce the start of season cinematic for 2023, a staple for the series, the general fear from the LoL fanbase was that the game has been put on the backburner. The off-season did little to inspire hope as well, with Riot merely reintroducing a removed feature, the Chemtech Drake, and making changes to a few items. Suffice it to say, many were left unsatisfied.
Many questioned why there even needed to be such a large gap prior to the start of the season, and Riot’s answer was to drop a massive bundle of changes straight into the 13.1 patch. This meant that any understanding of the previous state of the game (during the three month break) became irrelevant. Pros, players, and streamers were once again left dissatisfied. Anyway, Riot are at least trying something new, as for the first time ever we will get to experience two Ranked splits in the same year. Players will have a mid-season rank reset, and there will be two sets of Ranked rewards for 2023, and it looks like the second season of the year will have its own preseason. In any case, there has been a large amount of item, champion, and systems changes that you’ve no doubt heard of by now. But what does this all mean for esports?
The return of Statikk Shiv has been well received by the community. The implications of this item coming back to the game are huge for those AD Carry (ADC) champions that lack in wave clear capability. Single target ADCs can often perform poorly in the meta because their wave clear can’t match that of a Jinx, Zeri, or Sivir. This means that they’re more susceptible to having waves stacked against them, leading to them being dived by the roaming enemy Jungler or Mid Laner. Depending on the potential uses for the item and its inherent strength, it could present more opportunities to play champions such as Yasuo, Twitch, Jhin, Vayne, Kai’Sa, or Tristana.
Something else to note about Statikk Shiv is its newfound synergy, considering some of the balance changes in the patch. Akshan, Kalista, Kindred, and Vayne all received AP scaling - or in Kindred’s case, a buff to AP scaling. This is interesting when we take a look at some of the item changes. For example, Statikk Shiv’s effect scales with AP, and Kraken Slayer, which is now a mythic Item, now provides a burst of on-hit AP damage. While this gives some ADC champions more of a use case, especially those that can now build hybrid, it does present a problem - they are now even harder to itemise against. The range of options for damage reduction on AP is even more stunted than that for AD. This hasn’t really been a problem thus far, as the general consensus has been that Mid Lane Mage champions (that are often the largest source of a team’s AP damage) are currently in their worst state ever. However, if pros are now having to itemise against ADCs doing AP damage, while also finding a way to combat hybrid builds, then we might see popularity rising for champions and items that provide shielding over resistances. Due to this, Enchanters got stronger again by default.
Speaking of Enchanters, outside of two new component items, some changed recipes, and a couple of item rebalances, the biggest thing for Supports right now is the addition of the Echoes of Helia item. This item is supposed to provide an option to poke your opponents, rewarding you for landing damage by applying more when you heal or shield your allies. This item is perfect for a range of Enchanters and other champions who can find a way to abuse it, and might even see the resurgence of Swain as a priority pick. It’s definitely something worth considering on Annie and all the usual suspects - Janna, Sona, and Seraphine. Also, the mini-rework Ivern received makes him as a big beneficiary of this new addition.
Speaking of Ivern, his changes have seen him rise in popularity in solo queue to become one of the highest win rate Junglers of the patch. While he has had big changes, it’s unclear as to whether or not he will see many picks in pro play, as most of the changes are numbers based. Given the nature of pro play and their unwillingness to play him outside of the Jungle, will this uptrend in success from the champion make up for his punishable early game and potentially predictable clear? Personally, I have my doubts that he will see play in the upper echelons of the main stage.
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Another champion facing a large rework is Rell, although it’ll surely be a little longer than Ivern before she sees popularity in the pick and ban phase of a pro play match. When she was released, she was played in both the Support and Jungler roles, and her win rate took a downfall. I feel that once she gets off the ground and her numbers are worked out, Rell’s new resistance stacking mechanic will make her a champion that pro players go crazy for. Expect to see her in rotation with the usual suspects like Nautlius, Thresh, and Leona by the time Worlds comes to pass.