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Welcome to patch 6.5, the one where we check in with some old friends that haven’t stopped by patch notes for a while and Soraka gets some spicy healing changes. After writing that sentence we’re not really sure what ‘spicy healing’ is, but it probably tastes delicious.
Let’s go back and talk about those ‘old friends’ for a bit. Sejuani? Renekton? Jarvan? While it’s true that these champions were certainly meta-defining champions at one point or another in the game’s history, it’s important to really dig in and ask why they were so strong in the first place. For these three (and quite a few more on the list), their dominating position within the metagames of yesteryear can be easily explained: more than just powerful champions, they were powerful generalists.
Bolded text? Let’s back up and slap some context on that phrase. What’s a generalist? As the name implies, they’re champions who don’t truly excel in any one category, but check enough of the boxes that they’re always performant or valuable. While there’s definitely room for champions that are swiss-army-knives (somewhere, a giant neon sign with the name ‘THRESH’ is blinking), having many reasons to be picked shouldn’t exclude you from having to play along with League’s core value of having strengths and weaknesses. As we’ve seen recently with champions like Gangplank and Lucian, being good at a lot of things and bad at very few things is a big no-no for champion diversity and balance alike.
So what do we have in store? While we’ve got some power reductions to some of League’s main offenders this patch, much of 6.5 is a love-letter to these bygone generalists, increasing power in ways that aim to sharpen those niches as more than just ‘pretty good.’ Oh, and leveling an account to 30 now takes half the time it used to. There’s not really a cool narrative to tie that to, but it’s pretty huge for new players. A moment of silence for those of us who survived the grind.
So here’s to you, generalists. Jacks-of-all-trades. People who pick ‘Fill’ in dynamic queue (even if it really just means ‘Support’). Your commitment to providing value and bravery trying new things is an inspiration to us all. So if you get trampled by Hecarim, dunked by Vi, or diced by Renekton this patch - try not to be angry. That’s just how they show their love.
Good luck, and have fun.
Patrick "Scarizard" Scarborough
Hextech Crafting is now live in NA.
As a refresher, Hextech Crafting is one of our 2016 season update features. It's a new system tied to Champion Mastery that rewards you when you or your premade perform well. Those rewards can be used to craft, earn, or purchase content like champions, skins, ward skins and summoner icons.
Hextech Crafting is now live!
With Hextech Crafting, we’re also changing the new player reward for hitting summoner level 5. This reward has historically been 400 RP, but it’s put limits on what we can offer for less than 400 RP due to the risk of incentivizing bot account farming. We’re swapping it out for a new player chest which removes the botting risk by having predetermined content, while better catering to new players by offering a pair of familiar, accessible champions and a path to earning a free skin.
Clubs have been added to League and will be rolling out in the days following the patch.
Back in November, we announced clubs as part of the 2016 season update. Clubs are a new way to organize chat groups you create and join. They persist through login sessions, making it easy to surround yourself with like-minded League players and get into games with friends you want to throwdown alongside. Persistent chat rooms are just the beginning for clubs -- expect to see us in the patch notes again as we build out the system!
Just some birdfixes for our most glorious emperor.
Base attack damage up.
Simply put - Gnar's underperforming in the top lane, specifically in the early stages of the lane. That in itself isn't a problem - Gnar's a champion of highs and lows (on account of his rapidly oscillating 'Mega' and 'Mini' forms), so a little bit of variance isn't out of the question. What's actually worrying is that Gnar's underperforming when the majority of his opposing top laners are the very tanks he's intended to bully. Gnar's always been an important 'release-valve' pick teams can fall on when tanks get out of line, so we're tossing him the same attack damage adjustment we gave marksmen back in Preseason to help him curve smoothly into the adorable little predator he was born to be.
E moves faster and knocks back more the further Hecarim travels.
Though it hasn’t been that long since Hecarim’s era of dominance in the toplane, our little pony is struggling to be relevant after his last few rounds in the patch notes. Specifically, many of the recent changes Hecarim received were to limit the abuse cases of an early Homeguard purchase - something that’s no longer possible after preseason. A happy Hecarim is one that’s blissfully trampling the enemy’s ranks, so we’re peeling back some of our previous changes and supporting Hec’s effectiveness when pulling off his signature flanking maneuvers.
W cooldown decreased. R costs less and deals area-of-effect damage.
At the height of his power, Jarvan excelled at everything. He could snowball games early, and yet scale hard into the late game. He brought burst damage, initiation, peel, tankiness… you get the point. We’re in no hurry to return players to the terror of his glory days, but right now Jarvan players don’t really feel good about doing, well, anything. We’re sharpening Jarvan’s identity as a top-notch teamfighter by giving him the tools to perform better when more enemies are around. Jarvan won’t feel much different in 1-on-1 situations, but he’ll feel more impactful when he wades into the thick of things, fighting harder for Demacia the more enemies - or allies - are around.
Attack speed per level up. Q cost down. W has a base damage, but no longer grants any attack speed per rank.
Before we talk 6.5, let’s talk about how we got here.
Kog’Maw’s identity is one of the clearest we have in league - a baby voidling that if sheltered and protected, grows into a hyper-carrying win condition all his own. Historically this has been done through balancing his laning phase to a state where it’s nearly impossible to withstand aggression, given that the rewards for succeeding were that you’d have an extremely powerful Kog’Maw on your team. Cut to the Marksman Update for Preseason, and now Kog has an additional tradeoff for his power - specifically ‘can you engineer a fight such that he can stand still and obliterate everything in sight’. Granted, the tradeoffs between high damage and mobility isn’t actually ordinary for a Marksman - they usually kite and fight simultaneously. Understandably, the early days of Kog’Maw’s update were a rough learning time for us all. We had a glass cannon that was all glass and no cannon.
So we thought, ‘If he’s not performing, let’s give him some love in a way that boosts his laning phase!’ That was 6.3. Terror ensued.
Back in the present, we’re looking to make a sustainable Kog’Maw for the long-term, free from the binary teeter-totter of ‘really strong or really weak’ that hypercarries tend to fall into. The changelist below represents a shift in thinking about Kog’s power curve - he’ll still scale incredibly with items, but that curve is now more even across the game (rather than spiking at any one particular point). Smoothing this curve means that Kog’s lane can be in a state that’s relatively normal compared to his peers, but the ‘race against the clock’ should feel less harsh for those that fall behind. Kog’Maw may always be the posterchild for what the term ‘hyper-carry’ means in League of Legends, but the hope is for that term to extend beyond just ‘bad lane, great late game’ and into meaningful interactions between the champions and their environments.
E damage down.
If you remember our Malphite changes from 6.4 this one’s going to sound familiar. Top lane’s a tank-friendly place these days, and Nautilus has resurfaced as the anchor-wielding lane-bully of choice. Given Naut’s level of reliability as an initiator and overall teamfight nuisance, we’re cutting down on his damage output and (literal) wave-clear in lane to give opponents a shot at getting ahead.
E damage down. R costs less, but gives no mana back and has a greater cooldown when canceled.
While Pantheon’s always had ‘these numbers don’t even look real’ levels of damage, it wasn’t until the changes to Aegis Protection’s block mechanic in 5.22 that he started really taking off. We’re digging how those changes have made Pantheon more flexible in top and jungle, but his damage output is simply too high for that level of consistency. Heartseeker Strike’s important to give Pantheon something to do in fights that isn’t just stun + spear, but its current power level makes him nearly impossible to fight solo. Pulling back Heartseeker’s damage and cleaning up how generous Grand Skyfall is when fishing for engages should combine to make Pantheon’s risk in line with his incredible rewards.
While Blinding Assault doesn't truly blind anymore, there was a nasty bug that would make key abilities like Udyr's E- Bear Stance or Twisted Fate's W - Pick-A-Card miss while nearsighted. That's pretty frustrating, and also just not how the ability is meant to work. Fixed!
E generates less fury on minions, but you can now gain fury on first cast. R has more health early.
Once heralded as the preeminent lane bully, Renekton’s struggled to keep up with the top tops as the seasons progress. When we last saw Renekton’s reign of anger, teams were picking him as the one champion that could reliability ‘do it all’, giving equal parts damage, defense and crowd-control to anyone that needed it. Not wanting to reinstate Renekton as the go-to top lane generalist, we’re looking at his ability to secure advantages via skirmishes and laning prowess to really drive home his identity as the early-game croc on the block.
Shen's still a little too subtle when letting his allies know he's coming to save them in the heat of battle, even for a ninja. Clarity!
W animates faster. E deals more damage early.
Sejuani hasn’t been feeling like her teamfight-dominating self ever since Cinderhulk’s rise to prominence last season. Given how she’s fallen behind her beefy initiator brethren (like Amumu or Gragas), we’re boosting Sej’s performance in the earlier stages to bring her scrapping back up to a level befitting the barbarian queen.
Q always slows and gives Soraka a heal-over-time and movement speed when not running towards enemies. W heals for less, but copies the Q buff onto its target if Soraka is affected by it.
Though Soraka isn't overperforming like she was at the beginning of preseason, she's still seeing too much success hanging back and passively heal-botting her marksman. Without windows of interaction with Soraka, opponents don’t have much choice other than to try and focus down her lane partner, which is the exact scenario Soraka is built to counter. Starcall is supposed to create these windows of interaction via its shorter range, but its payoff isn’t exciting enough to justify its risks given how much general strength Soraka gained from preseason.
The below changes have a lot of moving parts, but the gist is that Astral Infusion is now far less effective at undoing enemy aggression unless Soraka’s backing it up with frequent Starcalls. Starcall itself has been played up as a kiting tool to make it satisfying for Soraka on its own merits, and not just a prerequisite for impactful healing. Put together, Soraka should now be more accessible to her opponents, but in a way she can feel good about.
R costs more and has a higher cooldown.
Talon’s one of the most unstoppable champions when running with a lead. While some assassins might effortlessly pick off single targets in the backline, snowballing Talons kill that single target… and just about everyone else in the fight. We’re not taking away Talon’s blades (he’s very attached to them), but increasing the windows between his ‘outbursts’ so his victims can catch their breath between respawns.
Base damage up. W duration down, but can be cast during R. R now fears in a small area after finishing.
Piloting Urgot successfully is a lot harder than it looks, often forcing you to make tough decisions around positioning. Do you wait to reverse yourself out of harm’s way, or do you isolate a key target and put yourself at massive risk? We don’t want to remove the weight of this decision, but adding some fear-inducing spice to his Hyper-Kinetic Position-Reversing ways should help the ability feel more ‘ultimate’ when you successfully pull off the big plays. Add in some light numbers tuning and you’ve got an Urgot that’s a little cleaner, a little fresher, but still terrifying in every way you’d expect a machine-man hybrid to be.
E costs less and deals more damage.
Picked for her ability to reliably dive priority targets, Vi’s been reliably warming the bench more often than not in 2016. Vi’s ganks have always been high-impact thanks to Vault Breaker + Assault and Battery, but it’s when she fails to convert those ganks into kills and objectives that the Piltover Enforcer finds herself in huge trouble. Compared to her peers, Vi can get out-paced pretty quickly - ‘high cooldowns and high mana costs’ don’t exactly combine for the fastest clear-speed. Pumping power into Excessive Force’s usability and output mean that Vi’s more comfortable when she’s forced to take a time-out and farm if the game isn’t going her way.
Rift Herald grants less stacks.
It’s that time of year again, when auto-attackers rampage through the jungle, farming until the 20-minute mark and coming out stronger than the rest of their team. When we first released Devourer, we gave devourer junglers extra stacks for two types of monsters. Contested objectives - like Red Buff, Blue Buff, and Scuttle Crab - became worth two stacks, while team objectives like Dragon and Baron yielded five stacks. When we added Rift Herald to the game, we tagged it as an epic monster. Rift Herald, while contested, has not consistently drawn team pressure, and as such we’re aligning its stack reward with other contested objectives.
In addition, Devourer junglers were merely trading Dragon for Rift Herald, or vice versa, giving opposing teams no clear plan for shutting them down. With this change, Devourer junglers will still be able to stack up, but their opponents will feel better about denying them dragons.
Costs less and gives more health to squishy champions.
Guardian Angel’s effect is a game-changer in the right circumstances, but its incredibly high price tag makes it hard to feel confident you’ve made the right choice. It’s expensive for good reason, too - when GA is the go-to defensive item, the game state becomes one where almost every champion buys it after a lead, making it next to impossible for gold-starved opponents to break through all those extra lives. That said, squishy champions (primarily marksmen) have been feeling the pressures of being annihilated by assassins and spell-combos lately, so we’re making Guardian Angel more efficient when it’s the right call.
Experience required to reach level 30 reduced by half.
We’ve thought for a while that it takes too long to hit level 30. A leveling system should create a sense of growth and accomplishment, but the reverse happens when the system is overtuned and game-to-game XP gains start feeling like mere drops in the bucket. Though “make leveling faster” sounds like a simple solution, we needed to be certain a shorter road to 30 wouldn’t introduce worse problems. Chief example: last year’s permanent discount on a bunch of Tier 3 runes was necessary preparation to ensure new 30’s will still be able to afford viable rune setups.
A few months of observation (and a live test in Russia) later, and we’re confident that the updated account leveling curve will provide a markedly improved experience for new players!
We're back with a round of usability improvements and bugfixes!