Intro to Midseason 2017

By League Gameplay Team

Midseason is an inflection point when we look back on the season to date and set things up heading into the second half of the year. More than “another really big patch”, it’s our second of two annual opportunities to make deeper improvements to the game. We’ll be highlighting just a few of midseason’s biggest features today - stay vigilant for full coverage when the update ships!

Let’s jump in.

Rift Herald

It’s been a year and a half since we introduced Rift Herald to give teams a top-side objective to play around in the early game. One of the problems we’ve consistently faced: Herald’s single-user buff has to be pretty damn impactful to compete for attention with Elemental Drakes or even a group-push in botlane. But when that’s true, the empowered champion becomes impossible to lane against. This friction has kept our mutated rift scuttler from hitting a state that delivers on her goals.

With that in mind, we're ditching the buff approach. The Rift Herald now drops the Herald’s Eye as she retreats into the Void, lasting in your inventory for a few minutes and granting Empowered Recall while held. Using the eye before it expires summons the Herald back to the Rift under your team’s banner, sending her down the nearest lane as a structure-smashing siege engine. She says hello by ramming into buildings from a distance, dealing massive damage. From there, she’ll steadily smash it to rubble before moving onto the next objective down the lane.

For opponents, fighting the Herald in lane is similar to fighting her in the pit - she’s still tanky as heck, so poking her in the eye is still the fastest way to get her gone. There are a few differences to be aware of, though. First, she no longer has an interest in fighting champions. While this means she doesn’t hit back (careful for AoE damage, though) it also means you won’t be able to deter her from her demolition work. Second, summoning sickness has left her vulnerable to crowd control. Everything from Dark Binding to Howling Gale to Headbutt will do the job of keeping her off your stuff. Finally, Herald’s damage in lane is directly tied to her health. Take every opportunity you can to whittle her down.

Riot Sotere, Associate Game Designer

Tank Updates

While many of our class updates set out to sharpen the distinct identity of their rosters, this is especially the case with tanks. Initiating teamfights is a responsibility many tanks share, but when initiation works and feels the same across these champions, they start to become interchangeable. Sejuani, Maokai, and Zac are three champions who struggled from this. We've added unique mechanics to each, giving you reasons to master them separately or choose them specifically.


Sejuani has the potential to be both barbarian warleader and heavy cavalry, but falls short of either. She’s defined almost entirely by Glacial Prison, whose teamfight-turning potential has come at the expense of satisfying power in the rest of her kit. We’re breaking Sej out of her ult-bot status and giving her more impactful things to do when skirmishing alongside her tribe.

A redesigned Permafrost comprises the bulk of Sejuani’s combat contributions and makes her the warleader she was meant to be. Passively, Sejuani and her melee allies apply Frost to enemies, and unlike Braum’s passive, Sej doesn’t need to be the one to start the stacking. Once a target’s reached max stacks, Sejuani can point-and-click stun them with Permafrost. Should she attack a frozen target, she’ll shatter them for major damage. Sejuani is at her strongest in 2v2 or 3v3 situations where she has the best chance of Permafrosting every enemy encountered.

Most of Sejuani’s other skills are getting updates as well. Frost Armor now protects Sejuani (well, her boar) as she charges into battle, granting bonus resistances and slow immunity. Flail of the Northern Winds Winter’s Wrath is a two-part swing/slam combo, letting Sejuani strike and stack Frost in any direction while Bristle continues to move around the battlefield. Glacial Prison no longer stuns the entire enemy team, but turns the battleground around its explosion into a slowing zone that gives Sejuani’s warband time to get into Frost-stacking range.

Solcrushed, Game Designer


Even among tanks, Maokai is pretty generalist; there’s no situation where he’s a bad pick, but there’s no situation where he’s a great pick either. The Twisted Treant fights the same in every situation: activate Vengeful Maelstrom, then throw the rest of your abilities at the same target. We’re sharpening Maokai’s tools to make him the right tree for some situations - but not all of them.

In terms of basic abilities, Saplings deal more damage when tossed into brush, giving ‘em strategic value as little sentries and adding new considerations to Maokai’s jungle clears and where he chooses to fight (careful with your brushes, Ivern). Meanwhile, we’re sharpening Sap Magic’s identity as a passive that saps magic. It now operates off a cooldown, and while Maokai still speeds it up through his own spellcasts, only enemy abilities that hit him grant the same reduction (once per cast - breathe easy, DoT champs). This leaves him vulnerable against basic-attack oriented champions like Tryndamere or Fiora, but even more resilient against frequent casters such as Karthus or Corki.

The biggest change of Maokai’s update is to his ult, which has been completely redesigned. Nature’s Grasp summons a lane-wide wall of roots that slowly advances forward, each one rooting (heh) the first enemy champion hit. The wall has devastating teamfight potential, but its slow speed demands that Maokai plan around it. To find success, the Twisted Treant has to corral enemies into the wall’s path and keep them there until nature runs its course.

Beluga Whale, Associate Game Designer


In terms of unique skillset and a rewarding path to mastery, Zac was in the best spot to start with. Elastic Slingshot affords Zac the ability to engage from great distances and unexpected angles, and Cell Division’s blob pickups are a form of combat regen unlike any other in League. That said, Zac runs out of cool stuff to do once he’s used the exciting parts of his kit to make his entrance. We want to bring other parts of Zac’s kit up to Elastic Slingshot’s standard, and we’re giving him two new forms of crowd control to do so.

Stretching Strikes is undergoing a big change: we’ve added an ‘s’ to the end of it. First, Zac throws out a blob hand that sticks onto the first enemy he hits. Once he latches onto something, his next basic attack becomes equally sticky, and he’ll use his noodly appendages to slam both targets into each other.

Let’s Bounce! is also getting a facelift. On cast, Zac flattens himself into a puddle and has the option to charge up for a few seconds. If he lets go without charging, he’ll bounce in place and knock back nearby enemies, similar to what happens today. If he stays in puddle form for at least a second, however, things change drastically. On release, Zac scoops up every enemy on top of him and schlepps ‘em all over to a target location.

Shrieve, Game Designer

Breaking from our approach in previous seasons, we won’t be making small reworks to other tanks. Small reworks were meant to give something to as many players of a class as possible, even if that something was just a quality of life improvement or small nod to thematics. While this ‘go wide’ approach has led to some long-term wins, we’d rather ship just the wins rather than trying to go for completion. Amumu’s passive update in 7.7 was the one small rework that would’ve come out with our three main tanks, but holding him in the chamber felt silly without a broader set of small reworks for him to fit into. So, we shipped him ahead of schedule.

Durability Items

Quick reminder: working on an entire system of items involves a lot of change to a lot of stuff. We’ve got more in store than what’s outlined below. This ain’t the patch notes!

Alongside our three tank updates, we’re looking for opportunities to clean up and sharpen the landscape of durability itemization. This means more than just tank items - every champion class has defensive needs. It also means assessing whether we need new options to round out the item shop’s offering of durability tools. (Yes, we do.)

Adaptive Helm

There’s no magic resist equivalent to Frozen Heart or Randuin’s Omen, our two armor items with passives tailor-made to put a damper on sustained damage. For lack of a similar passive against mages, magic resist has to run double duty. MR protects against all magic damage, but it’s also a tank’s only answer to high-frequency spellcasters like Cassiopeia. This leaves us in a bad spot - we have no tools to slot into “anti-sustained” defenses that wouldn’t make items completely oppressive against burst threats. We therefore end up nerfing sustained-damage mages directly because there’s nothing we can buff as a counter without shutting down every other mage at the same time.

So, we’re using midseason to create a dedicated anti-sustained magic damage item. Once you’ve been hit by a spell, Adaptive Helm reduces the magic damage you take from that same spell within a short window. This protects against super-low cooldown abilities without getting in the way of full-kit burst combos.

Gargoyle Stoneplate

While durability items give tanks the general toughness they need to survive teamfights, there’s no dedicated pickup for champs who want to itemize specifically for 5v5 moshing. Gargoyle Stoneplate is that answer. On its own it’s a hybrid armor/magic resist item with an active that grants bonus health at the expense of damage dealt (don’t buy this if you’re trying to duel people). When you’re surrounded by three or more enemy champions, however, Stoneplate truly turns on. It’ll grant you even more armor and magic resist, and the active’s bonus health goes way up.

Item Health vs. Resistances

The giant health numbers on some of our completed defensive items allows tanks (and non-tanks: Ekko, Fizz, you get the point...) to spike harder off their first big purchase than damage dealers can keep pace with. While these items should be powerful against the intended damage threat, 500 health confers a ton of survivability against damage of the other type as well. We’re converting some of that health on Spirit Visage, Sunfire Cape, Dead Man’s Plate, and Randuin’s Omen into their respective resistances, leaving them roughly as effective against the intended damage type but less so versus the other. To compensate for the lower health, we’ll also be decreasing the health threshold for Warmog’s Armor.

This also means that some of our armor penetration items need to be adjusted. With greater importance placed on armor, the value of penetration naturally goes up a bit. We’ll be bumping down the amount of percent-penetration on items and funneling that strength into other parts of the physical damage ecosystem, such as crit and lifesteal items.

Defensive Items for Carries

Tanks aren’t the only champions who might want defensive items. Guardian Angel, for example, is a powerful item for carries staring down burst threats. However, most of those items bear a defensive statline, making them more logical purchases for tanks - and a bit odd for carries to build. We’re re-statting some of these items to be more appropriate carry purchases, focusing their defensive value on their passives, rather than baseline stat durability.

RiotRepertoir, Game Designer

Team Contributions

League doesn’t do a great job of rewarding or recognizing the contributions of non-carry roles. Supports are the poster-children here, but the problem extends to groups like tanks and split-pushers as well. Doing the best thing for the team often means giving carries all the glory (and gold), leaving everyone else feeling like second class citizens.

Contribution Clarity

KDA and damage dealt to champions are the most commonly-celebrated measurements of success among players. We’re leveling up the way other forms of team contributions are measured and broadcast in order to create similar moments of recognition.

In-game, we’re adding new VFX to spotlight the caster of summoner spells and active items such as Exhaust and Mikael’s Crucible. Crowd control effects are also getting a visibility bump: in addition to reworked status icons, effect types are now spelled out as text above champion health bars, overwriting summoner names until the effect subsides. Finally, players are getting better feedback about the work their active items are doing, similar to how Locket tracks how much damage its shield has absorbed.

We’re also adding new end-of-game stats for how long you CCed your enemies, how effective your warding and counter-warding was, and how much damage you mitigated via shields and resistances. We’ll continue our expansion of end-of-game stats throughout the season, hitting stuff like deaths prevented, healing done to allies, and damage mitigated on allies.

Rayven, Senior Experience Designer

Support Quests

Playing well as a support often means intentionally foregoing actions that grant gold or experience - the two things that generally make people stronger in League. In the past we gave supports their own unique items to prop up their lower gold income, but that led to problems (and subsequent nerfs) when other positions found ways to abuse them. This time around, we’re cutting out gold and experience as middlemen and directly rewarding supports with powerful benefits for mastering the gameplay of their items.

These quests share the same structure. After earning enough gold with your support item’s unique passive, it’ll evolve to grant a new effect:

  • Ancient Coin line*: Gain an elixir that instantly grants a skill point when consumed (you still have a max of 18 skill points per game, meaning you’ll finish leveling your abilities at level 17). Takedowns on enemy champions grant gold and restore mana.
  • Relic Shield line: Gain a shield that regenerates out of combat
  • Spellthief’s Edge line: Tribute procs grant a burst of movement speed

*Ancient Coin’s existing passive - being near a minion when it dies - is pretty boring and offers nothing to build a quest around. So, we’re redesigning it. Nearby enemy minions occasionally drop coins when killed by anyone other than you, either restoring mana or granting gold on pick-up. (After one coin type has spawned, the next is guaranteed to be the other type.) Collect these coins to complete your quest.

Riot Colin, Associate Technical Designer & Limely, Game Designer

That’ll do it for our first look into midseason. We’ll be back next week with a big, fancy website!

2 years ago

Tagged with: 
Supports, Maokai, Sejuani, Zac, Tanks

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