League of Legends: The First 21 Days of Season 4’s Preseason

leagueoflegends-season4preseason

It’s been three weeks since Riot Games released Patch 3.14 for League of Legends. The patch brought with it all of the changes players have been waiting for since the end of Season 3’s Grand Finals. Included were changes to vision, the jungle, supports, and of course, all of the champion and item balance tweaks that come with any patch. For a quick review of what Riot’s changes were, check out my previous article “What to Expect From Season 4.” As we’d all hoped, Season 4 seems to have made significant changes to the League of Legends world, while still keeping the game true to its core. The meta has seen a bit of a shift, and will likely continue to change as the new season grows into its own. Most notable at the moment, however, is the influx of supports and support players, as well as the champions who have become extremely powerful because of various changes, such as Evelynn and Shyvana.

First and foremost comes the role that has changed the most in the new season: support. Riot made it very clear leading up to the preseason that they wanted to increase gold flow to supports and allow support players to focus more on building items and less on being ward machines. Riot has definitely succeeded in this, but it’s not entirely a good thing. Some supports just scale too well with items, and giving them extra money makes them almost impossible to deal with. Taric is a good example of this. Before the preseason, Taric was picked in less than 5% of games. In the last two weeks, his pick rate has spiked to almost 18%. His win rate reflects this as well, going from 50% up to almost 60% at the beginning of December.

In addition to supports that scale well with gold, there is also an increase in what some would call unorthodox supports, such as champions who weren’t designed as supports but have begun to find footing in the role. Annie is by far the most prolific example of this, but I’ve seen support Kennen, Lee Sin, Malphite, and even Mundo. I sincerely hope this dies down, as supports still don’t get enough gold to make champions like Mundo and Lee Sin particularly viable, but it’s nice to see players experimenting all the same.

On the flip side of the support changes, there has been a noticeable decrease in vision control on Summoner’s Rift. Many players who previously would claim they didn’t own the right champions just to get out of supporting are now requesting the role. They aren’t experienced support players, and don’t understand how to properly ward and control vision. Moreover, players who are used to being able to control vision are finding their ability to do so severely hindered. I’ve had many games since patch 3.14 went live where I lamented my ability to place only three wards. I would look at the mini-map and see only my three wards, wishing desperately that I could give my team more vision. Mid laners and top laners simply aren’t used to contributing that much to vision control, so their new responsibility to map awareness hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I’m sure this will change as people grow more accustomed to the new ward limits, but at the moment, the vision changes have severely hampered the average the solo queue team’s map vision.

In addition to teams having less vision, the ability to deny enemies’ vision has decreased as well. With the removal of Oracle’s Elixir and the permanent visibility of pink wards, stealth detection simply isn’t as user-friendly as it used to be. Pink wards are rarely worth the gold risk, as players oftentimes place the pink ward, destroy one enemy ward if they’re lucky, and then lose the pink ward to the enemy support and/or jungler. This lack of vision dominance, combined with the sweeping lens, which allows junglers to detect and destroy wards on their way to a gank, has made the jungler’s job a bit easier for the moment. Again, however, once players grow accustomed to the new trinkets and ward limits, junglers may have a harder time ganking.

On the subject of ganking, one champion in particular has benefited greatly from the vision changes: Evelynn. Before the patch, Evelynn was a bit of a low elo pubstomper who took advantage of the inexperience of less skilled players. Players who didn’t know or didn’t think to buy pink wards would be easily susceptible to Evelynn’s stealth ganks, but it rarely worked at higher level play. With the changes to pink wards, however, Evelynn is nearly impossible to control. She can see quite plainly if a lane is pink warded, and she can simply kill the pink ward that spots her and come back for a gank later. This forces players to spend large amounts of gold on pink wards that are simply going to be killed easily. It is very difficult to see an Evelynn gank coming, which is why Season 3 North American All-Star Jungler, Saintvicious, has placed her in the top tier of junglers. Her pick rate has only gone from 4% to 8%, so players might be skeptical about how powerful she really is. After all, if she’s that strong, why isn’t she picked more often? The answer is quite simple: she is banned in almost 70% of games. That gives here the second highest ban rate, right behind Kassadin.

While Kassadin has always been strong in solo queue, he became the top priority ban near the end of Season 3. The changes didn’t affect him much, so players shouldn’t be surprised to see him hold the top ban rate. But there are other champions who have suddenly become much more dangerous due to the mastery changes. Two prime examples are Nasus and Shyvana. While Nasus was gaining steam near the end of Season 3 for his hyper-carry late game potential, the new defensive masteries seem to have made him nigh unstoppable. I’ve seen Nasus players reach Q stacks of over 400 only 25 minutes into the game. He’s simply too tanky to bully. His ban rate is now over 50%. With a peak pick rate of 47%, he is one of the strongest and most contested picks in the game.

Just behind him at a 49.8% ban rate is Shyvana. Made popular by Diamondprox in Season 2, the Half-Dragon was once the terror of the jungle. A series of nerfs and shift in meta saw her popularity decrease significantly in Season 2, but so far in Season 4, she seems to be coming back in a big way. She takes second place on Saintvicious’s tier list due to weak ganks, but she also makes a decent top laner. She is so inherently tanky that building any form of health and damage mitigation makes her almost indestructible. Combined with her surprisingly high damage output, she is capable of dragon diving into an enemy team and wreaking absolute havoc. Strangely, Shyvana’s pick rate seems to increase with skill rating. Her pick rate in Bronze and Silver leagues is below 12%, but as you climb the elo bracket, she becomes picked more and more often, reaching a pick rate of over 25% in challenger tier.

Despite receiving very little changes mechanically, the Marksman role has seen a significant shift in power. Near the end of Season 4, Corki, Caitlyn, Vayne, and Ezreal were all extremely popular picks. In Season 4, according to Season 3 North American All-Star, Doublelift, the aforementioned champions fall into the “[****] tier” category. While some of these changes undoubtedly have to do with increased gold flow to supports, Doublelift seems to think that the largest factor is the rise of Lucian. Upon his release, Lucian was considered laughably underpowered. Despite having a KDA of 3.7 and doing well in nearly every game I played with him, I was still told in champion select that he was a troll pick. I always thought he was fun, though, so I played him. Now, through a series of huge buffs and serious item changes, Lucian has become, according to Doublelift, “massively overpowered.” That was sarcasm, by the way.

Lucian has received no significant buffs, and the common AD Carry items were changed very little, if at all, in patch 3.14. For reasons that nobody can quite explain (except those of us who played Lucian and never saw what was wrong with him), Lucian has now become the god of all things bot lane. According to Doublelift, “it is impossible to [****] up on Lucian.” In fact, he bases his entire tier list on other champions’ ability to lane against Lucian. It’s as though Lucian is the nucleus of bottom lane and every other champion revolves around him. Much like Shyvana, Lucian holds a low pick rate of 8% in Bronze League, but by the time you reach challenger tier, his pick rate has spiked to 58%.

Season 4 definitely hasn’t seen as many changes as Season 3 did, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had a significant impact on the game. The changes to supports and vision have placed a greater emphasis on team cooperation when it comes to vision control, and teamfights also tend to be much more hectic. The addition of a fifth champion with two or three items has had a large impact on the way fights progress. While the jungle used to be dominated by bruisers who were strong early, it’s now shifted to favor junglers who can gank from unusual paths and scale well into late game. The heavy CC junglers who dominated Season 2 have all but fallen off completely if Saintvicious is to be believed. Slippery AD carries like Ezreal and Caitlyn, who were extremely popular in Season 3, have fallen off in favor of lane bullies like Jinx, Sivir, and Lucian.

Finally, support is no longer a punishment bestowed upon last pick, but an interesting role with untapped potential. People are still trying to figure out the best way to play the role and what champions fit it best. I predict that as Season 4 progresses, the support role will be the most interesting to watch. Teams will be experimenting with all kinds of possibilities.

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