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Welcome to patch 6.9, the one where it's Midseason. You may notice the sweet new layout (if you're reading this in the patcher, we recommend heading to the web) - that's because this ain't your ordinary run-of-the-mill patch!
Midseason is a time for us to reflect on what parts of Preseason worked and what didn't, and take large strides to keep League fresh. We identified two areas of improvement for Midseason: adding cohesion to the mage class, and shaking up the strategy surrounding objectives. Let's dive in.
While thematically strong (who doesn't like casting spells?), mages have historically lacked a cohesive identity beyond 'damage that's magic.' Some are long-ranged, some are short-ranged, some are Fiddlesticks, you get the idea. A lack of clear expectations combined with the sheer size of the class means there's a lot of redundancy across the mage roster. In the end, this puts mages in a spot where the answer to 'who should I play?' is always 'whoever's numerically strongest'.
That's a lot of rhetoric in one paragraph, but you get the idea. Like marksmen and juggernauts before them, mages are getting a class-wide update, drawing out their individual strengths and cranking them up to 11. If your favorite spellslinger didn't get directly changed, never fear - mage items have also been recalibrated to enable more diverse playstyles. Time will tell how impactful the changes are, but one thing's for sure: it's a good patch for folks that love ability power.
Circling back, let's talk objectives. Current balance between mapwide objectives is pretty off-kilter, with turrets taking the lion's share of strategic value. Our goal with Midseason isn't just to spiffy up the jungle bosses and buffs, but to make contesting them a viable option when weighed against sieging or defending a turret. By diversifying the rewards on the map, we create an environment where teams constantly re-evaluate the importance of objectives as the game progresses. Between controlling, contesting, and trading, there's a lot to take (and a lot to take in), but adaptation is key to coming out on top.
And that's all we have for today! Be sure to to check out the whole thing (it's a doozy) and we'll see you on the other side, Proto-Belting forward recklessly and drinking in the chaos. It's times like these where experimentation is best rewarded - just remember to credit us if Jungle Syndra really takes off.
Good luck, have fun.
Even this early out of the gate, it's clear that a few of our mage updates have fallen into 'balance outlier' territory. We're making some mid-patch adjustments to help them make it to 6.10, when we can follow up with further changes if necessary.
Malzahar is powering through both lane and jungle a bit too well. We're hitting the efficiency of his spells to slow his roll.
Cassiopeia's update shaved a little too much power off of Twin Fang. Rather than raw damage buffs, we're giving back a bit of its uptime.
Vladimir's having difficulty translating his early game strength into late game impact. A bit of love for his Q and E should help him scale out of lane and into teamfights.
We're upping Swain's rewards for good Decrepify plays to help offset the loss of reliability. Just as important: his ult's no longer bugged to stop him in his tracks mid-combo.
Click the mages to learn about their updates!
Kicking off the Mage update, Vladimir’s changes are all about embracing his love of sustain and pushing it to the extreme. While Vlad’s high-stakes health management is compelling, his lack of windows for interaction (don’t be in range of Q) leaves opponents far less enthused. This is where many of Vlad’s balancing issues stem from. If Vlad’s too strong, he stat-checks you out of the lane, nullifying your aggression and healing it all right back. Following the same vein, a weak Vlad does most of the opponent’s job for them - damaging himself constantly while desperately trying to scale into the lategame.
Enter Midseason. To support Vladimir’s eccentric tastes, we’re looking to inject more interaction into the Crimson Reaper’s rotation. Vladimir’s swings are much more dramatic - larger health costs yield greater damage and healing, but also greater risk. Timing’s more important for Vlad as well: Crimson Rush’s cadence means Transfusion’s persistent threat goes down, while Tides of Blood’s new positional requirement can make or break a close-quarters encounter. We’re all for enabling Vlad’s indulgent, drain-tanking fantasy - provided he can survive long enough for his second wind to start the sustain train all over again.
Vladimir charges up a reservoir of blood, paying a portion of his maximum health over 1 second to increase Tides of Blood’s damage. On release (or after 1.5 seconds), Vladimir unleashes a nova of blood missiles, dealing damage to the first enemy hit in a large area around him.
Malzahar faces a constant dilemma: never use his abilities in lane or push constantly. This playstyle causes Malzahar to be very binary and non interactive; either he has enough AP to drop his spells on a wave and leave lane or he slowly pushes out, leaving him exposed to constant ganks. As well, the nature of his ultimate - cancelable by any CC - makes Malzahar’s power curve binary by necessity: you either stop his channel or somebody dies.
In both cases, what Malzahar needs is leeway; a brief window of protection. Adding that window allows us to dial back on Malzahar’s burst and wave clear while giving him more sustained threat in a larger fight. Malz’s actions shouldn’t feel inevitable, but at least he’ll feel less bad about trying to make plays.
He’ll still be the consistently damaging voidling master, but he should feel better about brawling near the frontlines when he brings more sustained cooldowns and a little bit of protection.
Malzahar skirts the line between dimensions, activating Void Shift after avoiding direct damage for a period of time. During Void Shift, Malzahar takes heavily reduced damage and is immune to crowd control. Malzahar loses Void Shift 1 second after taking damage from a non-minion source or blocking a crowd control effect.
Summons a Voidling. The first time a Voidling attacks a champion, large monster, or epic monster, or assists in killing a unit, Malzahar spawns a new Voidling with the same remaining duration. When 3 or more Voidlings are active, they each gain 50% attack speed.
Malzahar suppresses a target champion for 2.5 seconds and creates a zone of negative energy around them that deals damage to all enemies inside for the duration.
True to her half-snake nature, Cassiopeia bears twin identities of “poison mage” and “lightning-fast viper strikes.” However, the high-input gameplay of Twin Fang has left Cassiopeia wanting for greater impact in her poisons, instead viewing them as a gating condition for her combo damage.
Rather than giving her more damaging poisons (Singed has that market cornered), we’ve sharpened Cassiopeia’s poison fantasy by linking Miasma to another snake fantasy: immobilization. The new Miasma lets Cassiopeia weaponize her own immobility by bringing opponents to her level. By limiting the ability of champions to leave her kill zone, Cassiopeia dictates the ranges of an engagement, keeping foes at a distance where she can wail on them safely. Should her opponents play around Miasma, however, Cassiopeia loses that control and faces swift punishment from the champions she sought to keep at bay.
Cassiopeia spews venom in an arc in front of her, leaving toxic clouds for a few seconds. Enemies in the cloud are continually poisoned, slowing and Grounding them, prohibiting the use of movement abilities.
Zyra’s function as a zone-controlling plant mage has always been clear, but Midseason presented an opportunity to really let her playstyle bloom. Zyra’s plants are key to this zone-controlling strategy, but Rampant Growth’s seed-dispensing limitations have always left her wanting more. Zyra’s fantasy promises a sprawling landscape of minions to grow and do her bidding, but ends up as ‘grow two plants on a moderate cooldown that die pretty easily’.
Now, Zyra doesn’t just plant a garden - she is the garden. Cultivating the ‘Rise of the Thorns’ into more than just a title, Zyra’s becoming a walking zone of threat, deploying seeds that grow into explosive teamfight potential the longer she’s in an area. Combining Stranglethorns’ plant-enhancing frenzy with more plants than ever before, Zyra’s reclaiming her strategic identity as the disengage pick, making would-be divers heed the warning to keep off the grass.
Seeds spawn around Zyra periodically, becoming faster with level. If an enemy champion steps on a seed, it dies. If Zyra is hiding in brush, seeds will not spawn until she reveals herself. Casting Deadly Spines or Grasping Roots near seeds causes them to grow into Plants. Plants of the same type deal 50% less damage against the same target.
Brand's always been the guy who sets the world on fire with area damage and percent-health burns. Unfortunately for him, the proliferation of the percent-health mechanic in other spaces has robbed him of half of that identity. Even among mages, the Rylai's/Liandry's combo allows other champions to fill the same niche. This leaves Brand as a pretty generic source of damage, meaning he’s only picked when overtuned, rather than for any strategic purpose.
We're updating Blaze to cement Brand's status as the go-to battle mage for AoE damage. No one punishes a team for clumping together like Brand: the new Blaze creates a volatile chain reaction as detonations stack Blaze onto all enemies caught in the blast, hastening their own detonations for even more explosive damage. Toss in a markedly more sadistic targeting system for Pyroclasm, and Brand becomes a true living inferno.
Vel'Koz has some cool things going for him - his research-and-destroy thematic, the combo playstyle of his passive, and his giant face laser to name a few. Problem is, there's no direction to these aspects. It makes little difference how or in what order Vel'Koz uses his abilities, so long as he hits them all to maximize his passive procs. Repeated bursts of true damage are good in any situation, so where does Vel’Koz shine?
While some of our other mage updates overhaul the tools that define them, we're surgically adjusting Vel’Koz’s existing kit to accentuate his identity. Namely, Life Form Disintegration Ray's interaction with Organic Deconstruction has changed. Instead of quickly stacking his passive against anything in its path, Vel'Koz's laser now requires him to do his research first, paying off the investment with massive amounts of true damage. Where Organic Deconstruction stings, Disintegration Ray burns, making Vel'Koz is the artillery mage to pick when you need to melt through beefy tanks and fighters.
Click the mages to learn about their updates!
One of our oldest champions, Anivia’s always been a power-pick for those willing to weather the storm of her steep mastery curve. While her strategic identity as a counter to heavy sieging is already strong, we saw an opportunity with Midseason to sharpen her traits as a disruptor even further. By focusing power into her already-potent CC, Anivia cements herself as a centerpiece for teams looking to seize control of the battlefield’s neutral ground.
Annie's simplicity as one of League’s original 40 belies a surprising amount of depth, but there are a few areas where her gameplay simply needs to be brought up to modern standards. The first is the lack of clarity around her stun. A skilled Annie learns to bypass Pyromania's indicator by sitting on three stacks, then burning Molten Shield to proc Pyromania as she throws out a near-instant stun. While this lends some degree of mastery to Annie's kit, it means a significant chunk of her power has been tied to outplaying the UI. Pyromania is now tracked on a resource bar and we’re moving that power elsewhere -- more on that later.
The other half of Pyromania’s problem is actually Molten Shield, whose outdated design doesn’t offer enough for Annie to value it as anything other than a cheap Pyromania stack. Molten Shield is being modernized to a shorter, situationally powerful tool with clearer anti-burst uses against the likes of Zed ult, giving Annie a reason to feel good about it.
Returning to the question of how we’re compensating Annie for losing her invisible stun, that power is being reallocated to Tibbers, the most unrealized aspect of Annie's fantasy as pyro girl with giant bear guardian. For being such an integral part of Annie’s character, Tibbers serves little purpose outside of a safer AoE spell than Incinerate for a flash-stun combo. We're putting some fury into Tibbers’ bear swipes and smartening up his AI to make him a persistent threat until killed, befitting his status as the infernal familiar Annie's always deserved.
Fiddlesticks is a special type of immobile: he actually has to stand still to use some of his abilities, leaving him slow to respond when team fights move away from him. By giving him the tools to go with the flow as the fight moves around, we’re sharpening his role as an explosive fight-starter, surprise party enthusiast, and spooky scary... scarecrow. This also gives us room to dial back on some of the more binary parts of Fiddle’s kit, like his long-ranged fear or his permadrain. The result is a more interactive Fiddlesticks who’s better able to position himself to make plays.
Kennen's niche of "dive the enemy team and stun kids" is well-defined, but the randomness of who his ult zaps means his teamfighting impact is often left up to chance. Sometimes Slicing Maelstrom focus-fires a priority target on the far edge of its range, other times it ignores the squishy that Kennen’s right beside as they saunter off to safety. This can be just as frustrating for Kennen’s opponents; it all depends on who draws the short straw. We’re removing Slicing Maelstrom’s randomness to make it more consistent for both sides: Kennen will always stun enemies he’s allowed to stay close to, so it’s never a waste of resources to peel him off your backline.
On a separate note, we cleaned up a few weird numbers in Kennen’s other abilities. Notably, Electrical Surge’s range was overly generous, so we’re trimming it to keep Kennen in harm’s way if he wants to jolt his enemies.
Despite his title, Swain’s largely failed to live up to his promise of a master tactician. Instead, Swain mains have come to embrace him as an unkillable teamfight-tanking monstrosity. Sometimes a champion having split identities can lead to balancing awkwardness (like Kalista, the solo outplay carry with insane teammate synergies), but Swain is more odd than problematic. Sure, ‘Commander Bird Monster’ is weird, but so is Shen being a tanky ninja. We’re not here to judge.
Rather than force one identity over the other, we’re looking at ways to enhance Swain overall. Regardless of why you play the Master Tactician, he’s a tanky mage with DoT’s and that’s not changing. Instead, Swain’s updates are about using his abilities in the right situations to overcome the odds. Careful optimization and placement of his bread-and-butter spells gives Swain the room to tactically outpace the opposition before morphing into an even-more-Ravenous-Flock for the teamfight checkmate.
Swain orders Beatrice to fly towards the center of target area for a short duration. While deployed, Beatrice will target the closest enemy, dealing damage per second and slowing it. Beatrice switches targets if the current target leaves or is killed.
Swain spawns lesser ravens every 0.2 seconds, dealing damage to targets around him. Lesser ravens heal Swain upon returning to him. Prioritizes champions.
The Dark Sovereign’s promise of transcendence into an ultimate being of power currently feels more like a slight upgrade than an unlocking of untapped power. Syndra’s changes are light, but sharp: shifting power into the potential of Dark Spheres. By giving Syndra more influence through Spheres, we can reward her mastery of manipulation with masterful mid-fight CC combos. Syndra still has all the power necessary to crush a single target, we’re just adding an extra layer of expression to the mix.
Veigar's potential to go infinite with Baleful Strike’s AP gain on kill is a good fit for his theme of “little ball of evil with an overcompensation problem,” but means Veigar should care more about farming pitiful minions than blasting down enemy champions. We're retooling the mechanic as Veigar's new passive and opening it up to reward the Tiny Master of Evil for constantly asserting dominance over his opponents. While examining how Veigar antagonizes his enemies, we also changed Primordial Burst to give him the pick of the litter when obliterating low health enemies. He’ll have to press more than one button to erase an enemy mage, but even the most durable tank should carefully consider their health bar before re-engaging.
Despite sporting a kit full of unique teamfighting tools, most of Viktor’s gadgets have been historically kept on a tight leash due to the efficiency of Death Ray’s infamous Augment: Shockwave. Viktor should feel rewarded for setting his schemes into motion (like trapping multiple enemies in a Gravity Field), but the ability to follow up with instant target deletion puts the ball too far in his court. By shifting Viktor’s damage to be higher over-time, we can hit two birds with one stone. Opponents aren’t evaporated for making a single mistake, and Viktor gets to carry a fight through intelligent play like the diabolical mastermind he is.
Rite of the Arcane sets up Xerath’s unique high point: a long-ranged barrage that forces opponents to dance. However, it was often Arcanopulse with its consistent poke that gave him his siege monster reputation. While Xerath should be able to effectively siege with his basic abilities, we also want his signature ability to be more impactful, giving players a reason to access its power more often and for longer. By dialing back a little on the inevitability of Arcanopulse and upping the impact of Rite of the Arcane, we’re giving Xerath more chances to succeed with his ultimate, ensuring higher highs for experienced ascendants.
What would Ziggs do? The answer should almost always be “blow everything up,” but for an impulsive demolitionist, Ziggs spends a lot of time protecting turrets with his waveclear rather than knocking them down. Dialing back on his multi-lane wave clear lessens his ability to stall out games and drives more interactive gameplay with his opponents. In exchange, we’re giving the Hexplosives Expert the power to bring the boom to his enemies’ turrets, chunking them down with Short Fuse procs before hexploding them with Satchel Charge when they’re vulnerable. Let no turret be left standing!
League’s current mana and mana regen itemization is largely focused around stat efficiency: which item gives me the best ability to ignore my mana costs? This doesn’t lead to much in the way of playstyle differentiation, meaning mages have little flexibility to buy into different team strategies or respond to the conditions of a match as it progresses. We’re strengthening the identities of the mana items to give mages better tools to alter the way they play.
Refunds a portion of mana spent.
Tear of the Goddess creates an odd conflict: it’s the mage item which gives the most raw mana (attractive to champions with high mana costs), but it has to be stacked up by constantly casting spells (something champions with high mana costs can’t afford to do). As such, it tends to be picked up by champions who can spam spells, making them effectively manaless as it stacks.We’re changing Tear’s pure regen to a mana refund, opening it up to high-mana cost champions, not just a select few spammers.
Damage taken is converted to mana. Mana spent is converted to health.
For some mages, the world is their 1v1. The current mana items don’t feel great for them, given how many options are aimed at passively surviving the laning phase. We’re making Catalyst the item for constant mage brawlers who want to shoot first, shoot later, and then shoot some more, allowing them to make full use of their skirmishing tendencies.
Restores health or mana, whichever is at a lower percent.
Chalice is the go-to pick for champions who can easily clear waves, leading to a non-interactive lane phase as they spam their skills to keep the minions fighting at a safe distance. The new Chalice is still oriented at lane sustain, but in a way that encourages taking the occasional risk. If your health dips, Chalice will switch to healing you back up, ensuring you’ve got access to whichever regen effect you need most to dig your heels in for the long haul.
As a quick point of differentiation: while the new Catalyst rewards champions while they fight, Chalice lets them stay in lane after trades, making it ideal for champions who fall on the more ‘opportunistic’ side of the spectrum.
Restores mana on level up.
With Morellonomicon emerging as the go-to kill pressure item (spoilers!), Forbidden Idol’s safe regen no longer belongs its build path. We’re pulling Lost Chapter out of the Black Market as a component item for champions like LeBlanc who are in lane to net early kills, offering timed bursts of massive sustain to set up a full spell rotation or two.
Cost and ability power increased.
When we looked at Fiendish Codex’s upgrades, we noticed one pattern: ridiculous combine costs. With more power in Fiendish Codex, players won’t have to sit on mid-tier components for so long.
With the removal of Spell Vamp from items, Will of the Ancients is sailing into the sunset.
Less expensive. Ability power and mana reduced.
Rod of Ages has always offered the promise of a delayed but significant stat payout. These days, however, the identity of ‘big stat stick’ has lost meaning as items have evolved to serve more unique strategic purposes. The new Rod of Ages takes cues from Catalyst of Aeons: ride the efficiency of an early stat payoff (and a head start on your second item) to secure dominance over your enemies before they’ve built into more specialized item choices.
Gives mana instead of mana regeneration. Now restores mana on kill or assist.
For the duration of their existences, Morellonomicon and Athene’s Unholy Grail have had significant overlap, sharing three stats, two component items, and the same distinction of offensive mage items with best-in-slot mana regen. While they go about defining ‘offense’ in different ways - Morellonomicon makes it easier to secure kills while Athene’s gives you the mana to go for more kills - these two items just aren’t meaningfully different from one another.
Since we’re creating a split between mana and mana regen items, we’re taking the opportunity to split Morellonomicon and Athene’s as well. Morellonomicon is fully embracing its identity as an aggressive mage item, going so far as to absorb the old ‘mana resets’ passive of its former sibling Athene’s on top of its hallmark Grievous Wounds.
Heals allies based on damage recently dealt. No longer restores mana on kill or assist.
Athene’s Unholy Grail has taken on a new role as a team sustain item for aggressive supports (and off-supports) like Lulu, Morgana, and Karma. These enchantresses naturally alternate between directly engaging in combat and protecting their team; Athene’s rewards them for striking an optimal balance by granting them a bit of persistent sustain that most lack.
Mana regen up.
With mana regen’s new niche as the stat for supportive items, we’re cranking it up on Mikael’s.
Carryover from the changes to Tear.
Also affects Seraph’s Embrace.
Also affects Muramana.
Aura now scales with level and no longer affects minions. Now grants cooldown reduction.
In a mage-vs-mage matchup, the winner often comes down to who finishes Abyssal Scepter first. Its 30 ability power bump on completion synergizes with its magic resist reduction aura to create a huge combat advantage upon completion. If that weren’t enough, the aura also makes it much easier to push minion waves into the enemy turret, denying opponents the gold necessary to finish their own Scepter. We’re repositioning Abyssal Scepter to play up its defensive aspects, while tuning its aura to be less oppressive in lane but more relevant in the late game.
Less expensive, build path smoothed out. Ability power reduced and cooldown increased. Now grants cooldown reduction.
Zhonya’s Hourglass struggles to maintain two very expensive characteristics: it’s a top-tier ability power item that also boasts one of the strongest actives in the game. Historically, this duality has forced us to lock Zhonya’s behind a steep price tag or awkward build path - usually both. There are other items which offer tons of ability power, but no other item shares Zhonya’s’ active, so we’re going all-in on its identity as a defensive utility item. That decision has allowed us to drop the price of Zhonya’s to the lowest it’s ever been in League history, making it more readily available in times its stasis effect is truly needed.
No longer gives spell vamp. Now adds bonus damage to basic attacks.
Heading into our upgraded Hextech weaponry prompts an important question: why is all the spell vamp gone?
Let’s start by comparing it to lifesteal. Thematically, lifesteal gives the feeling that you’re fighting back against death, creating tense 1 on 1 duels with uncertain outcomes. Mechanically, lifesteal says ‘I may have a small health bar but you’ve got to focus me down or I’ll regenerate to full.’ Spell vamp, while sounding similar, doesn’t quite hit the same bar. Unlike basic attacks, no two abilities are the same, which makes the stat wildly variable in value.
This means that it’s functionally impossible to make spell vamp work the way you’d expect, and it instead operates on myriad edge-cases to avoid feeling abusive and unintuitive. Cut to today’s world where it’s only used on Vladimir (whose balance is kept lock-step with the stat), it’s easy to see why it had to go.
So why buy into Hextech? Revolver (and its upgrades) are all about benefitting the mid-range mages that have to scrap to survive. Like Catalyst for sustain or Tear for becoming a late-game monster, Revolver represents a commitment to securing advantages through combat. While everyone’s waiting to power-up, Hextech provides the power spike you need to get the snowball rolling.
Activate to spray enemies with icy bolts and slow them.
While back-line artillery or shield-heavy utility mages can load up on ability power in whatever combination to get by (thanks to range or mitigation), mages that get up close and personal are forced to buy whatever will give them the stats to survive combat. Following in Revolver’s footsteps, Hextech remedies this situation by saying ‘If you have to be in the middle of a fight, you should have the extra firepower to customize how your encounters play out’.
Enter the GLP-800. Targeted at CC-heavy mages that like to skirmish, GLP provides an extra spell cooldown and source of damage that allows you more in-fight flexibility. Need to peel an ally from a pesky diver? GLP’s got that. Worried you can’t land your combo? GLP can let you hit-confirm your CC and lock opponents down for good. You can even waveclear with it in a pinch! Whatever your particular in-fight need is, the GLP-800’s got your back to enable the beefier mages out there with the tools to get the job done.
Activate to dash forward and let loose a volley of fiery bolts.
Where the GLP-800 is all about controlling distance via CC, the Hextech Protobelt’s all about picking the right moment for a daring maneuver. Whether you’re extending the effective range of a Flash Tibbers stun or dodging a crucial skillshot, Protobelt improves playmaking potential for those quick-witted enough to use its active. It’s not all sunshine and dash-extensions however; Hextech’s actives all share a cooldown, and Protobelt’s the least efficient in a six-item build. This means you’ll need to make every Fire Bolt count, and hopefully close out the game before it becomes obsolete.
Deals more damage and slows instantly.
We’ll square with you - Gunblade hasn’t changed much. Its ‘Omni-Vamp’ passive sidesteps a lot of spell-vamp’s issues, proving effective on a wide range of mixed-damage champions. Instead of rocking the boat, we tied it to a lightning mechanic (and made the active match) so it plays nice with the other Hextech upgrades. If you’re looking for pure, hybrid offense - look no further.
Dragon has now been replaced by four Elemental Drakes. Slaying each provides your team with a powerful permanent bonus that stacks on multiple kills of the same type.
Ever since launch, Dragon’s been an iconic objective to control in League. Whether it gives buffs or gold (or that time it spawned before minions did), Dragon’s purpose is to give people something to take risks and make decisions around. Fast forward to today, and while Dragon’s certainly very cool, it has its share of problems.
First, the static value of Dragon’s stacks allows you to answer the question of ‘Which stacks do I want and when?’ long before you ever have to make the decision to fight for them. This devalues individual Dragon spawns - why rush the 1st stack now when you can just get it later? Furthermore, denying at least one stack virtually removes the threat of Aspect of the Dragon's game-ending power, making it more of a pipe dream than a path to victory.
Our goal is to raise the cap on strategic mastery when it comes to playing around Dragon. With the advent of the Elementals, your ability to adapt on the fly becomes much more important. Questions change from a pre-solved ‘How much do we care about 1st stack, 2nd stack, etc?' to a situational ‘How much do we care about each element right now?’ Trading and denying become much more important (and realistic) possibilities as well - making sure the split-push team from hell doesn’t get access to the Mountain Drake’s turret-taking buff, while the Cloud Drake’s movement speed buff could be what you need to out-rotate them. Navigating these situations will take time to get used to, but pushes the dragon conversation to one of constantly shifting values instead of how much a certain stack is worth.
Click a drake to learn more about its buff!
Increases turret and epic monster damage. Augments your ability to take objectives.
Increases champion killing power. Augments your dueling and team fighting abilities.
Increases out of combat movement speed. Augments your ability to outmaneuver opponents on the map.
Restores missing health and mana. Augments your ability to siege and poke.
Grants a powerful burn-over-time on spells and attacks. Increases the strength of your Elemental Drake buffs.
Previously, Aspect of the Dragon was a powerful closing tool - assuming the game ever hit a point where you could get it. Part of the promise of Elemental Dragons is that no matter which spawn in what order, controlling them is always valuable for you in the long run. Elder Dragon lets us kill two birds with one buff - cashing in on your hard-earned stacks and ensuring that both teams can leverage its strength (or steal it) to close out a game in style.
Now only spawns once. Rift Herald’s buff lasts an incredibly long time, persists through death, and provides amazing dueling power.
Now that Rift Herald’s been out for nearly half a year, it’s time to reevaluate our goals. Originally added to introduce a new dynamic between both halves of the Rift, Herald hasn’t quite made the splash we hoped for. Instead of driving action to the top side of the map, the Doom's Eve buff comes with too many conditions to be universally appreciated. Do I take this before or after taking a turret? Do I take it instead of a turret? When you trade lane pressure to take something that gives lane pressure, things get pretty muddy.
That brings us to today. When optimized, junglers solo Rift Herald with very little help or notice from their team and power farm camps until it’s time to group. This wouldn’t matter much, except that no one seems to care about taking it. ‘Are they bot? Eh, we’ll take a Herald I guess.’ Even after RH falls, there's no clear game impact - someone’s just ambiguously stronger for a short period of time. With Midseason incoming and an objective falling short of strategic significance, we went back to the drawing board.
With 6.9, we’re eliminating the confusion and refocusing Rift Herald to be an objective you really don’t want to give away for free. Enabling snowballing and split-pushers alike, Herald is a one-time event that puts the team it falls to firmly in the driver’s seat for the early stages of the game.
Nothing too fancy, just amping Baron’s buff duration to ensure it’s worth consideration when trading end-game objectives (like maybe an all-powerful Elder Dragon).
Red and blue buffs scale better, but expire faster.
Similar to our goals for the epic monster changes, we want red and blue buffs to be worth contesting. Ol’ Sentinel and Brambleback already had clear reasons to be taken, so we’re compressing their buff durations to accentuate the strengths they offer and scale them better into the late game.
Camps with timers indicate to both teams when they're close to respawning, via timers and the minimap.
We want to facilitate more engaging objective play. A big part of accomplishing that is making them more worth contesting, but we also want them to be more contestable, especially in games that are at a standstill. Clearly communicating respawn timers will facilitate more buff steal plays and objective fights, particularly in mid-late game.
Turrets are more durable, outer & inner turrets are more threatening, mages and assassins are better able to damage turrets.
As players have gotten better at diving turrets, the structures have ceased to be defensible locations where teams can make a stand. We want to tone back on the perception of turrets as eventual sources of gold and instead let players feel good about defending the outermost reaches of their base (especially early game). Aggressive dives to punish laner mistakes should still be a part of the game, but we're balancing out the risk/reward distribution.
On the other hand, we want more champions than just marksmen to interact with the turret killing game. We’re rebudgeting turret defenses so that other champions will feel better about their ability to play demolitionist.
Outer turret early-game defensive buff now applies to non-champion sources as well.
Turret backdoor bonus now grants damage reduction instead of resistances.
Team gold rewards reduced.
The previous section covered our general thoughts on turrets, so we'll keep this short. Team gold rewards for outer and inner turret kills are too high compared to the payoff for anything else teams can invest in during the early game. While we've got changes to make the "anything else" more attractive (see: everything in the Jungle Bosses category), we want to make it clear that turrets are just one piece of the overall objective puzzle.
Monsters grant more experience to junglers but less to non-junglers.
The tactic of a solo player abandoning lane to farm monster camps with their jungler (we call it 'buddy jungling') evolved in response to the 2v1 lane swap. Rather than sit under tower, zoned out of experience, top laners ditch their lanes for safer prospects. Buddy jungling is enabled by the 'comeback' mechanic, which increases monster experience for lower-level champions. Though the jungler and top laner are both constantly underleveled due to splitting camps, comeback experience softens the punishment by adding net experience versus a solo clear.
The casualty of this technique is the early game itself: buddy jungling puts eight of the ten players on the Rift into a pure PvE situation. That leads to an incredibly stale opening phase of the match and eliminates the lane dynamics many of League’s early-game champs (Renekton!) rely on to make their impact.
We're putting a damper on buddy jungling by removing the experience efficiency granted to the buddy. That’s not to say it isn’t still situationally viable - having two people in the jungle can offer strategic value - we’re just ensuring it’s a careful decision rather than default behavior.
Death timers reduced between 20-35 minutes.
We last checked in on death timers back in 6.7, shortening them in the 30-55 minute time frame. Results look positive, so we’re making another small nudge.
Homeguard duration and speed reduced, particularly early on.
Back in preseason we baked Homeguard into the standard Summoner’s Rift experience for two purposes: to create better boot enchantment diversity and to counter-balance increases to death timers. More on boot enchantments later in these patch notes, but let’s talk about Homeguard’s coexistence with death timers.
Time spent dead creates a window of safety for teams to act, knowing that dead enemies are gray-screened in the fountain. On revival, Homeguard catapults champions out of base and into position to counter enemy sieges or rotations. Aside from just getting somewhere faster, the haste adds flexibility: if the enemy team appears bot as you’re heading top, Homeguard allows you to adjust before too much damage is done.
That flexibility creates a stalling effect as death timers tick down: “Can we take this turret before the enemy zooms in and dives our backline?” That unease shortens the window of safety to act, magnifying the effect of actual death timer reductions: 2 seconds off a 30 second death timer is actually 2 seconds off a ~25 second window. This is particularly true at earlier stages of the game, thanks to Homeguard’s static effects.
So, after leaving things untouched back in 6.7, we’re now toning Homeguard’s haste down to account for both rounds of death timer reductions and scaling it with game time to ensure its impact doesn’t choke out early aggression.
R no longer pins targets to walls
The flashy playmaking nature of Azir's ult befits his status as ruler of an empire, but Emperor's Divide becomes oppressive when it pins enemies against terrain for 5+ seconds. We're removing the abuse case to keep Azir honest.
Vessel debuff greatly shortened, but spawns tentacles faster.
Despite being Illaoi’s most interesting ability, Test of Spirit mostly ends up testing the patience of those involved. Being tested forces a tough choice onto Illaoi’s opponents, telling them fight or suffer the consequences. This choice is usually a trap - fighting Illaoi in close quarters is a death sentence given her massive area damage. Escaping the zone means slogging through waves of tentacles, which isn’t much better most of the time.
On Illaoi’s side, turning someone into a vessel is really only a consideration for the laning phase. Once you’re testing spirits in teamfights, the minute-long debuff rarely matters. We want all participants of the Test to feel like they’re getting a fair shake, so we’re shifting around some mechanics to compress what it means to be a vessel. Illaoi gets to pressure opponents in a way that’s meaningful in teamfights (her forte), but her victims don’t have to deal with her lectures for an eternity.
Q cooldown up while in Wolf’s Frenzy. W lasts longer and deals bonus damage to monsters.
Let’s call a wolf a wolf - Kindred’s early game is out of line. We want Kindred to be able to pressure the map (especially through expert control of their Marks), but invading top-tier duelists with impunity is pushing it. We’re adjusting their clearing ability to stay roughly the same, but Kindred will need to pick their battles a little more carefully if they want to start scaling out of control.
Elder Dragon ghost is stronger than Dragon ghosts.
As one would expect.
Takedown’s execute now scales with ult rank.
While we’re on the subject, you can’t mention powerful early game junglers without mentioning the Bestial Huntress herself. Another outlier, we’re taking a crack at Nidalee’s early kill pressure while ensuring she has the bite she needs for her risky late-game assassination plays.
E no longer flies in random directions.
These are mostly bugfixes, with the exception of Bola Strike. Previously, Bola Strike would always try to fire at the location Rengar targeted once its cast delay completed. When targeting distant points, Rengar's movement (ex. a jump strike out of ult) during Bola Strike's short cast time wouldn't change much. When targeting a nearby spot, however, Rengar could suddenly end up in front of the target location he had previously been behind. Bola Strike would then fire in the complete opposite direction it was cast. We're changing Bola Strike's targeting system to fix that unreliability.
Q slow and movement speed down. No longer refreshes Windspeaker’s.
Soraka’s changes are all about injecting more risk when she wades into the fray to provide assistance. For a champion that already pumps out amazing heals, the strength of Soraka’s kiting doubles up on denying any sort of aggression that comes her way. By cutting down on Starcall’s over-the-top protective tools, Soraka becomes less of a one-stop-shop for protection without losing the healing potential she’s picked for.
Lastly, a quick note on Rejuvenation’s on interaction with Windspeaker’s Blessing. Windspeaker’s was made in a world without any healing over time effects - and as such, wasn’t really balanced around high uptimes. Enter Soraka’s Rejuvenation mechanic back in 6.5 and now she’s tossing around 6-8 second armor and magic resist buffs off of a single spellcast. It’s possible that we revisit this mechanic and work on clearly defined rules about how HoT’s (and other heals) should interact with Windspeakers, but for now we’re not comfortable with the amount of strength it’s adding to a single champion.
Base mana up, mana growth down. W range down. E is shorter and narrower.
An old champion with a new coat of gems, Taric’s tearing up the battlefield while keeping his teammates spotless. A protector in the truest sense, the issue of Taric’s current power level isn’t how well he saves his allies - but rather the considerable range at which he’s able to influence the fight. This doesn’t come up much in lane (as Taric’s usually next to his bastion-buddy), but once ganks and teamfights start entering the picture things get messy. We’re trimming Taric’s excess power and focusing him around being the dependable shield you carry with you to a fight, committing him to stick close to his team if he wants to have the same impact.
Alright. We know people are going to come into this section thinking ‘Why buff Teemo?’, but let’s be honest with ourselves. While Teemo’s always been a serviceable laner, the Swift Scout has been on the weaker side of the spectrum for a long while. The root causes are many, but we’re targeting two: Teemo’s awkward mana usage, and his inability to set up the mushroom fields he’s known for.
Getting into specifics, Teemo players find themselves opting into sometimes ranking up W - Move Quick not because it’s particularly good, but so the costs of his other spells don’t go through the roof. Similarly, a Teemo that’s behind is pressured against laying traps due to their high cost and cooldown, making them lackluster when the enemy team’s already gaining control of the map. Releasing the mana pressures across Teemo’s kit allows him to spend more time thinking critically about when and where to use his abilities.
Revives faster at higher levels.
Most tanks have been excited to jump into the fray in 2016, but Zac’s been unexpectedly absent. Zac’s already best-in-class when it comes to getting into sticky situations, but Cell Divison shifts dramatically from an early-game boon to a limp extended late-game death. Considering long-range initiation is kind of Zac’s thing, the fact that he tends to land in risky situations shouldn’t feel as punishing as it does later on. We’re tweaking the Secret Weapon’s specs to help him maneuver the backlines and to give him a fighting chance of bouncing back into action (should his team provide the necessary assistance).
With Homeguard no longer being tied to the enchantment system, almost all of the remaining options are very broad bonuses to movement. As seen earlier this season, bonus movement speed is a dangerous thing to stack, with boot enchants being a major contributor. When considering how warping Alacrity’s been toward introducing movement speed into the item system (and how potentially warping Captain or Fervor can be), we’re pulling the system to put a tighter leash on the ways champions can gain extra speed.
It’s possible that we’ll revisit the concept of boot enchants in the future, but only after we find ways for it help dodge mobility creep - not enforce it.
Goodbye, Ghost Dog.
For years we’ve tried to provide junglers an item that helps them burn through the jungle, but despite multiple seasons of iteration we’ve failed to find an incarnation of ‘stacking jungle rewards’ that wasn’t problematic. While Devourer is an incremental improvement over past incarnations (shout-outs to those who remember Feral Flare’s insane healing and vision control), the primary problem with ‘farming junglers’ is that you don’t see them for half the game. Junglers are an integral part of how teams in League operate, and incentivizing them to AFK for the 15 minutes is too high a cost to be healthy long-term. We still want to support junglers that like high attack speed and on-hit builds, but this isn’t the way to do it.
Everything old is new again.
Bloodrazor’s back from its years of traveling the world to be the jungle item we deserve. Attack speed junglers break down into different audiences, and Bloodrazor caters to both. Tankier on-hit champions (like Shyvana and Warwick) will find it an appropriate centerpiece to their natural synergies, while Kindred and Master Yi can pair it with Blade of the Ruined King and armor penetration for scaling builds.
The removal of Devourer and the inclusion of Bloodrazor means that junglers will feel better about jumping directly into battle after finishing their item rather than waiting for it to power up. There will always be junglers who prioritize farming, and there will always be junglers that will rarely gank your lane - the key is that these decisions will be up to the player and their champion’s kits, not forced by the items they buy into.
Upgraded to an end-game item. Now has Sated Devourer’s Phantom Hit passive.
We couldn’t have a section with Devourer without addressing Guinsoo’s Rageblade as well. Rageblade’s a controversial item on live, but we’re convinced it feels far more overbearing than it actually is. Its power blooms specifically in the hands of basic-attack focused champions looking to snowball a lead, versus being generically too powerful. Even when it’s played on other champions (shout-outs to Tristana), it’s to fill a specific early-game niche.
That said, a large part of Guinsoo’s balance depends on it being kept behind a few really unsatisfying barriers. For instance, it has the worst build path in the game - creating a low point of power as you struggle to accumulate its exorbitant combine cost. On the flip side, finishing Rageblade spikes you far harder than most items at that price point, creating a race to keep Rageblade users down before they can become relevant. When the correct play against Rageblade is ‘snowball incredibly hard or lose,’ we can do better.
Our solution is to upgrade Guinsoo’s into a top-tier endgame item for the champions who value hybrid stats and on-hit builds. This allows for a more steady progression of power, as well as allowing us to put the much-coveted ‘Phantom Hit’ passive within arm’s reach of non-junglers. We’ll let you think of some of the more powerful combos (Aatrox?), but rewarding champions with access to top-shelf on-hit insanity once they’ve committed to combat feels like an appropriate gate for skirmishers and divers alike.
Cost reduced. -5 AD.
For those keeping up with recent top lane trends, builds have skewed toward the tankier end for the majority of 2016. Black Cleaver is a natural ‘release valve’ to help counter these champions, providing necessary shred and sticking power to run down even the beefiest defenders. When we noticed that its primary users (Renekton, Gnar, Riven to name a few) weren’t in the best spot performance wise, it made sense to bring the item that binds them together down to the price-points of other important powerspikes.
Costs more. More health, less magic resist.
After reshaping and reinforcing the equipment mages have at their disposal, it stands to reason that we’d bolster the options to defend against them as well. Maw and Abyssal Scepter are solid purchases for the damage-minded, but the marquee tank options of the magic resist family need some work.
All of that begins with Spectre’s Cowl. Funnily enough, Cowl actually has the opposite problem of its upgrades - it’s too efficient for its cost, to the point that tanks are often happy leaving it un-upgraded far into the game. We want them to feel good about sitting on Cowl in lane, but tinkering with its efficiency should pressure tanks into spending more gold to get their desired magical defenses.
Health and cost down. Recipe changed.
Banshee’s Veil offers an entirely unique effect in the item lineup, but its similar price-point and statline to Spirit Visage do more harm than good for BV’s chances of actually being purchased. Normally too expensive compared to its cousin, we’re shrinking Veil to be the earlier buy that guards against a burst mage gone wild, with an accordingly slimmer stat line. This makes it less effective in a full item build if you’re aiming for pure defense, but more accessible for those in need of a spell shield on a budget.
Combine cost and magic resist down. Regen and healing up.
On the other side of the Spectre’s Cowl, Spirit Visage is a popular pick-up that’s purchased for its pure protective stats. To differentiate it from Veil’s more immediate benefits, we’re pushing Spirit Visage to more comfortably fit within final builds by emphasizing its synergies with other tank items (like Warmog’s).
Cost and magic resist reduced.
Despite our changes in 6.5, Guardian Angel’s still not pulling its weight as a reactionary defensive buy. Putting it on sale at the cost of a bit of mitigation helps cement GA as the go-to item when looking for life insurance against physical divers and assassins.
Active now only removes crowd control debuffs.
The QSS and Mercurial Scimitar active has two uses: cleansing crowd control (Amumu ult) and purging combat debuffs (Zed ult). These cases differ in that crowd control is setup, while combat debuffs are the payoffs to such setup. When you cleanse CC, the enemy needs to lock you down again to aggress on you, but that tends to be a pretty reasonable ask. By contrast, cleansing a combat debuff wipes the applicator's primary means of fighting you. So, those champs are pressured to snowball before their effects become meaningless, while their opponents are forced into buying QSS even if it's incredibly inefficient to do so. This leads to destructive effects on game balance which we've left unanswered for too long. With the understanding that there may be outliers we need to address, we're unshackling combat debuff champs from their quicksilver collars.
Sterak’s Gage and Maw of Malmortius shields no longer stack. Sterak’s Fury and Lifegrip now both proc when Lifeline is triggered.
Maw and Sterak’s have complementary defensive triggers: Maw cares about how low you are while Sterak’s cares about how fast you’re dropping. This presents an interesting choice in lane: which item is best for the situation you’re in? Unfortunately, that choice becomes meaningless as the game progresses and beefy champs stack both items to cover all their bases. We’re tying the shields of Maw and Sterak’s together to ensure that picking one is a choice, not just the earlier of two purchases.
Compared to Giant’s Belt, Bami’s Cinder provides everything you want and more out of a defensive component. Given that it’s already got the offensive edge, we’re pulling back on Cinder’s efficiency so it’s not always a no-brainer.
Similar to Bami’s Cinder, Sunfire’s efficient stats and hybrid offense/defense means it’s just the best early buy in most cases. Nudging it back to the price point of the other big Health/Armor makes it easier to pick the one for the right situation, not just whichever’s the cheapest.
Aura scales better with levels.
For an item meant to help tanks scale into the lategame, Cinderhulk’s been all but forgotten next to the shiny base damage of Runic Echoes. With Cinderhulk’s intended role as an investment toward a tank’s endgame statline, it didn’t make much sense for it to end up weaker than Sunfire Cape’s aura (considering they don’t stack). We’re fixing things to break even with old Cinderhulk at level 6, around when most junglers are completing it anyways.
Less health, but regenerates health while out of combat.
Yes, this is technically a Jhin buff.
With their rise in popularity (ever since Stealth Wards sold out), the prevalence of Vision Wards has highlighted how cumbersome it is to clear them out. In keeping with the themes of Midseason, we’re easing the burden of cutting down successive pinks while making them more valuable to defend. Vision Wards have always been a mini-objective, so now we’re formalizing it.
When it comes to diversity of Trinkets, Farsight’s been on top of the vision-throne for long while. Come mid-game, stacking Farsight trinkets changes the vision game drastically - rendering certain strategies revolving around making picks or ambushing virtually obsolete. We’re happy that Farsight’s more flexible in a wider number of vision-control strategies, we’re just adjusting so it’s not also crowding out the space entirely.
No longer speeds up allies. Active speed amount and duration increased.
In its current incarnation, Righteous Glory presents us with a few balancing troubles. When it’s too strong, it replaces traditional initiation and warps the environment to be ‘who are the best carriers of Righteous Glory and why aren’t you playing them?’ We’re removing that consideration altogether and really pushing its synergies with individual champions. It’ll be easier than ever for Righteous Glory users to run down fleeing targets, but they'll need more clever coordination than just ‘run as 5 in a straight line’ to start off a chaotic brawl.
Health slightly reduced, now grants cooldown reduction.
Despite its game-changing out-of-combat regeneration, Warmog’s Armor struggles to find a spot in builds for tanks and juggernauts alike. It’s not that the item’s subpar, but it simply doesn’t fit what most champions in these classes really need out of a gold investment. Tossing in a Kindlegem should help Warmog’s feel comparable to say, Spirit Visage when planning out your needs in a 6-item build.
While not specifically tied to any of our other systems changes, botlane’s feeling a little high on resources these days. The botlane meta’s always lived between the extremes of being an all-in lane with low tolerance for mistakes and a sustaining paradise where poke and attrition mean very little. The pendulum’s a little too far on the ‘poke matters less’ part of that spectrum, so we’re toning back sustain from some of the more common purchases.
Less mana regeneration.
Regeneration overall is a bit too free, so we’re taking some of botlane’s mana as well.
It’s a creepy eyeball. Was this ever really hextech to begin with?
Reverted to affect all healing, not just self-healing.
Sometimes, changes don’t really work out. This is one of those times. Grievous wounds working off of self-healing created a sense of hopelessness when facing stronger healers and general confusion about what applying it would functionally do. We’re reverting it to make sense with the expectation of what a healing debuff should do.
Like our recent work on Underworld Twisted Fate, we're revisiting eight skins whose VFX were pretty far below clarity standards. (Fun fact: all eight skins were disabled in competitive play.) Skins should be fun, alternative fantasies, not competitive advantages, so we're bringing their visual effects up to par.