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Pro Tier: Kings of the Jungle (Gragas/Rek'sai) and their Successors

In recent patches two junglers have completely dominated competitive play. Rek’sai and Gragas are present in almost every single match either being picked or banned. But what makes them so dominant and why are they a clear-cut above the rest?

 

A look at previous patches

 

In previous patches and aside from Gragas and Rek’sai we saw a lot of Hecarim. Before that, a lot of junglers in pro play were picking Nidalee, Graves and Kindred.

In lane swaps, the junglers used to be more isolated and could just keep farming for the first few minutes, skirmishes and fights were non-existent, a perfect scenario for Hecarim, who has a very weak first clear.

Before Hecarim, Graves, Kindred and Nidalee were at the top of the pick priority for junglers, but successive nerfs to their kits progressively pushed them away.

 

 

The current patches in competitive (6.15-6.16)

 

It all changed when Patch 6.15 hit. The removal of fortification from the bot lane turret essentially meant that lane swaps are defunct. Not only would the team swapping take more time to take down the turret, they would also fall behind due to the addition of the first brick gold, giving extra gold to whichever team takes down the first structure.

These changes brought a bigger emphasis in snowballing from laning phase as early kills coupled with the first brick gold can give a team a huge advantage going into mid game. With that in mind and with lane swaps fully out of the picture, junglers need to have a strong early presence, with strong clearing and even better ganking.

 

Why Rek'sai and Gragas dominate

 

Rek’sai is a fantastic early game jungler that scales well into the late game and can still pack a punch despite only traditionally building one offensive item. Her clears are fast and healthy due to Fury of the Xer’Sai and Tremor Sense allows her to control the map exquisitely. With use of her tunnels and unburrow her ganks are deadly and frequent. Post level 6, she can use Void Rush, further increasing her presence.

 

As for Gragas and while his clears aren’t as fast or as sustained as Rek’sai’s, he’s still a phenomenal ganking jungler with multiple CC tools at his disposal. Post level 6 he can use Explosive Cask to knockback enemies, making him extremely strong at picking off targets and isolating targets in fights.

 

The Nerfs

 

Patch 6.17 brought nerfs to these two dominant junglers and these changes have already been felt during the last few days in ranked matches, but they will only hit competitive at a later date.

 

Rek'sai

 

E: Tunnel

Cooldown: 20/19.5/19/18.5/18 seconds ⇒ 26/24/22/20/18 seconds
R: Void Rush

Cooldown: 150/110/70 seconds ⇒ 180/140/100 seconds

 

On 6.17, Rek'sai’s mobility with her tunnels is severely hindered and with a cooldown increase on her ultimate, her global presence is much less menacing. Maxing Tunnel second could be an option, but it would come at the expense of less damage from having to max unburrow last.


Gragas

 

E: Body Slam

Cooldown: 12 seconds ⇒ 16/15/14/13/12 seconds
R: Explosive Cask

Travel Time:  0 - 0.58 seconds (based on distance) ⇒ 0.55 seconds

 

It’s likely that these changes will completely kill the competitive viability of the champion. Body Slam is usually maxed last, meaning this nerf hits hard until late game. But the bigger nerf is the one to Explosive Cask. By making the travel time fixed, Riot end up introducing clunkiness to the Rabble Rouser’s kit. With a fixed travel time the ultimate becomes easier to predict, and Gragas’ ability of using it point blank after Body Slam to knock back a target into the claws of the enemies is much harder to do.

 

   

The Gragas Nerfs are already noticeable, as his popularity has been declining ever since Patch 6.17 hit.

 

 

The Successors

 

Nerfs to the two main junglers mean that other options will show up once 6.17 hits the rift in competitive and while Rek’sai is still probably a top tier jungler, Gragas likely won’t be played at all. This means there are room for more picks.

 

Let's have a look at some of them:

   

 

Elise and Nidalee

 

They were already the two main jungle picks behind Rek’sai and Gragas.

 

Elise is a strong, early game jungler that is extremely proficient at skirmishing and ganking, not to mention that she can pull off tower dives early on with Rappel. Overall, her strength lies mainly in pick off compositions, blowing up a target after landing a Cocoon, but she can still be a menace in skirmishes and teamfights if played correctly.

The Nidalee changes seem to not have done much to stop her and she remains an aggressive duelist that can also gank well, provided her laners have crowd control.

 

 

 

Evelynn

 

Buffed recently. Strong Ganker.

In a meta where laneswaps don’t exist, Evelynn gets to thrive as she absolutely needs standard lanes to show up unannounced and start picking up kills. The cooldown reduction buff on Agony’s Embrace on Patch 6.17 also ensures that she’s stronger at small skirmishes and teamfights, because she can now use it more often.

 

 

 

Zac

 

Tank Jungler. Fills in the niche

With Rek'sai banned most of the time and Gragas not being an option in the future as a gank heavy tanky jungler, Zac might just be the option for teams looking for a tank from the jungle. Zac's clears are extremely healthy, but what really sets him apart from all the other junglers is his unique gank pathing. With Elastic Slingshot, Zac can gank from afar and from angles the enemy is not expecting. In teamfights he functions as a main initiator or as followup, with a barrage of CC abilities including a strong set of knockbacks from Let's Bounce!

 

New Ranked Features for 2017, High Tier Changes Soon

A new post by League of Legends lead producer New001 shows some new changes coming to the top of the ranked ladder, as well as hinting at what will be a new features for the 2017 ranked ladder.

The more immediate changes are:

  • Challenger tier going solo queue only, Diamond and Master are solo/duo.
  • Tighter decay rules in Challenger and Master.
  • Adding some sort of physical rewards for Challenger tier.
  • A new grace period on being autofilled, and players can no longer be autofilled during a promotion series.

For the rest of the ladder we can look forward to more details in September:

"We’re also currently closing in on our final designs for the 2017 Ranked experience, with the commitment to designing a system that provides legitimate standings for players of all competitive types. It’s clear we made too many trade-offs this year on the Ranked experience, but we think we’re now on a better track. Details are still being finalized, and we’ll have more in September, along with a reveal of our end of season rewards."

Be sure to check out the full post by New001 - Riot Pls: Ranked Pls

Patch 6.17 Rundown: Swarm of Changes

Patch 6.17 is bringing changes on 26 champions, making it a very wide patch. Many of them are pretty minor changes, but there are some significant ones mixed in. A lot of the utility ADCs are being brought a bit more in line and forced to rely more on that utility. We are also seeing the high mobility tanky junglers of Gragas and Rek'Sai pulled back a bit, and it might open up the jungle to some new picks.

Be sure to check out the full changes below:

Annie
 

Tibbers gets over Annie's death faster.

What's New:
  • Summon: Tibbers (R) Tibbers' bonus movement and AS after Annie's death decays 20% faster

Ashe

 

Calming down Ashe's DPS a bit because she is supposed to be more utility oriented.

What's New:
  • Ranger's Focus (Q) duration down from 5s to 4s
  • Enchanted Crystal Arrow (R) damage down at first 2 ranks

Corki
 

Zip around while clearing wards!

What's New:
  • Hextech Munitions (Passive) out of combat movement speed is no longer cancelled by attacking wards

Diana

 

We will see her in more wombo combo montages for sure.

What's New:
  • Moonfall (E) maximum pull distance increased from 150 to 225

Draven
 

Couple tweaks to the frequency and cost of ult.

What's New:
  • Whirling Death (R) mana cost down from and cooldown rebalanced from 110/100/90s to 120/100/80s

Evelyn
 

More ults!

What's New:
  • Agony's Embrace (R) cooldown lowered from 150/120/90s to 120/100/80s

Ezreal
 

Bad Ezreals won't even notice the changes, but the ones that get in there and keep it spicy can get some more late game strength.

What's New:
  • Rising Spell Force (Passive) attack speed per stack scales 10/12/14% at levels 1/7/13 rather than a flat 10%, bringing the max to 50/60/70% at levels 1/7/13 from a flat 50%

Gangplank
 

Getting hit in both his own safety as well as his early contribution to the team. Could be a pretty rough patch for ol' GP.

What's New:
  • Base health decreased from 580 to 540
  • Remove Scurvy (W) mana cost increased
  • Cannon Barrage (R) cooldown increased at early ranks and damage down

Gragas
 

I hope Gragas players will make a montage of how many ults they miss getting used to this.

What's New:
  • Body Slam (E) cooldown changed from a flat 12s to 16/15/14/13/12s
  • Explosive Cask (R) has a flat 0.55s travel time, rather than 0-0.58s based on distance travelled

Jayce
 

Losing a key AP Ratio will probably kill all Mejais oriented builds.

What's New:
  • Thundering Blow (E) changed to a flat 40 mana
  • Transform: Mercury Hammer (R) empowered attack ratio changed from 0.4AP to 0.54 bonus AD

Jhin
 

Pushing the ultimate to be used more for clean up rather than popped right off the bat.

What's New:
  • Deadly Flourish (W) ratio lowered from 0.7 bonus AD to 0.5 bonus AD
  • Curtain Call (R) missing health damage up, but minimum and maximum damage both lowered. No longer refunds cooldown for unused shots

Jinx
 

Ult booms harder.

What's New:
  • Super Mega Death Rocket! (R) minimum and maximum bonus AD ratios increased

Kennen
 

I didn't know this was an issue and it explains so much.

What's New:
  • Kennen's basic attack animation better matches when the shuriken leaves his hand and the missile speed is up from 1600 to 1700
  • Electrical Surge (W) powered attack missile speed down from 1800 to 1700

Malphite
 

Ruin the day of those dirty attack damage pickers.

What's New:
  • Brutal Strikes (W) cooldown lowered, bonus armor increased 5%, and damage ratio from armor increased

Morgana
 

Slightly more clutch saves incoming.

What's New:
  • Black Shield (E) cast range up slightly from 750 to 800

Orianna
 

Slight buffs for Ori, her father would be proud.

What's New:
  • Command: Shockwave (R) mana cost now a flat 100, and cooldown lowered 10s at all ranks

Poppy
 

Waddle into combat with more speed and confidence.

What's New:
  • Steadfast Presence (W) passive resist bonus up from 12% to 15%

Rek'Sai
 

Pretty stern nerfs here, but they are only cooldown oriented.

What's New:
  • Tunnel (E) cooldown rescaled from 20/19.5/19/18.5/18s to 26/24/22/20/18s
  • Void Rush (R) cooldown increased from 150/110/70s to 180/140/100s

Riven
 

Riven getting buffed, Riven mains probably raging in all chat about it for some reason.

What's New:
  • Blade of the Exile (R) minimum and maximum damage both increased (minimum up from 80/120/160 to 100/150/200, maximum 240/360/480 to 300/450/600)

Ryze
 

Feel less bad taking your ultimate at level 6.

What's New:
  • Realm Warp (R) rank 1 range up from 1500 to 1750

Sivir
 

Continuing the theme of nerfing the utility ADCs.

What's New:
  • Richochet (W) bounce damage ratio down 0.1 at all ranks
  • On The Hunt (R) passive attack speed while using Richochet down from 40/60/80% to 30/45/60%

Thresh
 

More boxes than a, I don't know, a box factory.

What's New:
  • The Box (R) cooldown down from 150/140/130 to 140/120/100

Trundle
 

Chilling out on the late game pillar spam.

What's New:
  • Pillar of Ice (E) cooldown rescaled from 23/20/17/14/11s to 22/20/18/16/14s

Vayne
 

A bunch of other ADCs getting the nerf bat and Vayne sneaks in with a buff.

What's New:
  • Tumble (Q) ratio at max rank up to 0.7AD from 0.5AD

Veigar
 

Ticking time bomb is going to tick a bit faster.

What's New:
  • Phenomenal Evil Power (Passive) AP on kill or assist up from 3 to 5

Vi
 

Giving her a bit easier time in the early game.

What's New:
  • Blast Shield (Passive) cooldown rescaled from 18-8s (at levels 1-18) to 16-8s (at levels 1-18)
  • Vault Breaker (Q) cooldown rescaled from 18/15.5/13/10.5/8s to 16/14/12/10/8s, and knockback duration is now a flat 0.7s
  • Excessive Force (E) now grants 2 charges on first level up
 

Yorick Champion Update: The Shepherd of Lost Souls

After a long wait, Riot has finally revealed their rework of Yorick, The Shepherd of Lost Souls

Riot opened up the champion reveal with this description:


"Yorick has always been a practical man. He knew he'd need strength to destroy the Black Mist that corrupted the Blessed Isles, even if it meant fighting evil with evil. So he harnessed a whole world of evil in the cape that now clings to his shoulders; in the unknowable depths of the cloak swirls the essence of a thousand damned souls. When the Shepherd summons forth a being from that seething miasma of lost spirits, only he hears the wretched assembly's great wailing and gnashing of teeth—this is his burden, and the source of his power. In his quest to free these souls, he'll use them (and they'll use him) to crush anything in their way. "

 

 


Let's take a look at his kit and how he will play out.

 


Riot labeled him as a Juggernaut, and here is the original definition from the subclass post:

Juggernauts are melee titans who relentlessly march down the opposition and devastate those foolish enough to get within their grasp. They are the only subclass who excel at both dealing and taking significant amounts of damage, but in turn they have a tough time closing in on targets due to their low range and extremely limited mobility.

 

just like champions such as Nasus or Darius, he will have a tough time closing in on targets due to his low range and limited mobility, but when he can successfully close the gap he can be devastating. Landing Mourning Mist and Dark Procession is key to ensure he gets to be devastating though.

Similarly to most Juggernauts, his itemization will be a mix of offensive and defensive items. 1 or 2 key offensive items to help him use his kit more efficiently and the remaining slots on defense to be able to weather the storm.

 

 

 

 

 

Abilities Preview
 

Passive: Shepherd of Souls
 

Yorick can have up to four Mist Walkers in his service at once. Mist Walkers decay if they move too far from either Yorick or the Maiden of the Mist. Agrave is occasionally created when enemy minions or neutral monsters die near Yorick, and all enemy champions that die near him leave a grave.

 

Q: Last Rites/Awakening

Yorick's next basic attack deals bonus damage and restores some health. IfLast Rites kills a target, it creates a grave. If there are at least three gravesnearby and Last Rites is on cooldown, Yorick can instead cast Awakening to raise Mist Walkers from the graves.

 

W: Dark Procession

Yorick summons a destructible wall of corpses that encircles a target area for a few seconds.

 

E: Mourning Mist

Yorick hurls a globule of Mist that deals magic damage, applies a slow, and marks a target. Yorick and Mist Walkers get a movement bonus when heading toward marked targets.

 

R: Eulogy of the Isles

Yorick summons the Maiden of the Mist (at higher ranks, she'll bring some Mist Walkers with her). The Maiden moves and attacks on her own. When Yorick attacks the Maiden's target, he'll deal bonus magic damage based on the enemy's maximum health. 

 

 

 

Pre-release Analysis

 

Given his very low effective range and reliance on hitting Dark Procession and Mourning Mist to close the gap, it’s likely that we’ll be seeing Trinity Force or Black Cleaver on him as one of his core offensive items, using Phage to close the gap. Aside from that and to enhance his preferred role of a split pusher, Ravenous Hydra seems like a natural fit, giving him AoE waveclear and a ton of sustain.

In the defensive side of things, probably the usual items such as Dead Man’s Plate, Spirit Visage and Randuin’s Omen to give him more durability while being kited or chasing around enemy carries.


Speaking of Split Pushing, it seems like it will be his preferred role of playing out most games.


With Mist Walkers and the Maiden doing damage to structures and even tanking shots for Yorick, he becomes a fearsome split pusher, that will quickly wear down structures if enemies allow him to be alone in a side lane. The Maiden doesn't deal much damage on her own, but if both the Maiden and the Shepherd target the same enemy, Yorick's attacks will do bonus magic damage based on the opponents maximum health, meaning he is also a very strong duelist in 1v1 scenarios.

 

When both side lanes are unoccupied, the Shepherd has a chance to show off the most unusual ability in his kit: splitpushing two lanes at once. It works like this: the Maiden of the Mist is fairly intelligent by AI-companion standards, and she'll continue to push a lane even if Yorick is no longer there. He can plop the Maiden into top lane, then TP down south to splitpush bot lane on his own. With adequate distance between the two, both are free to raise their own armies of Mist Walkers, up to four each, and push down two lanes at once (so long as the rest of your team can just hold mid for one minute). Of course, Yorick's a lot weaker without his ghoulish sidekick, so split wisely.


In teamfights his initiation is weak and his kill potential is very dependant on how much crowd control his team has, seeing that his isn’t nearly enough for engaging and forcing fights. That said, good initiations with powerful lockdown will make it very easy for Yorick to layer his own Crowd Control, especially Dark Procession.

It’s important to note that the new Yorick needs good setup to thrive, he won’t always have enough graves available to summon Mist Walkers. That said, Eulogy of the Isles in higher ranks will bring Mist Walkers with the Maiden, so he can maximize his DPS in fights.

 

 

For more information, including video previews of Yorick's abilities, make sure to check out the Champion Update Reveal!

 

Pre-Season Pick/Ban Changes - Potential Ban Increase

Champion Select is a huge part of League of Legends and before each player locks in their own champion they get to ban certain picks as they see fit.

 

Even in ranked games there is strategy behind banning champions. Usually the most banned champions are characters who are strong in the current meta, but players will often opt to ban out champions they aren't good against or champions that counter intended picks.

 

Recently, Riot Games admitted that they are looking to increase the number of bans from 6 up to 10. These changes will only be tested in pre-season, later in the year. But it's still huge news as the amount of bans has been the same for years. In past seasons it didn't make as much of a difference as the number of available champions wasn't so large.

 

 

 

Riot Meddler:

 

After the pre-season, we’ll look into potentially changing to 10 bans in draft games. We’re just starting to gather feedback on that from both regular players and pros. We know there’s some definite interest in more bans. There are some potential issues we’d want to make sure we were able to address though before adding extra bans, including:

  • We feel champ select’s too long already. We’d want to find ways to not increase its duration further as a result (e.g. multiple people from the same team banning at the same time?).
  • We want to ensure that increased ability to target ban a position doesn’t create issues with how many champions a player needs to be able to play well (extreme scenario, 11 champs for one position - is that appropriate?)
  • Adding four more bans increases the number of champions needed to play ranked by four. Is that a problem? A benefit?

 

Impact in Ranked Games


 
The number of bans being increased by 4 means that the number of champions needed to play is also increased. For the most part this is a benefit, as newer players will have to play more normal games to accumulate more IP to then buy the extra 4 required champions. Some rookie players have the tendency of jumping straight to ranked games and this change makes this slightly more delayed. This is a positive aspect as most newly turned level 30 players are not experienced enough to play ranked.
 
More importantly, the addition of extra bans in ranked games allows for players to go for niche bans, such as counters of champions they intend to play or just champions they dislike playing against.

 

   

 

Currently, with only 6 bans on the board there are a lot of limitations and players are frequently pigeonholed into banning the meta picks, as leaving them open might lead to the enemy picking them and even eventual grief from teammates. With 5 bans on each side, players will have more flexibility and be able to mix between meta and niche bans.

 


Impact in Competitive Play

 

Pro play is a complete different beast and a much more delicate subject. In professional play, while “banning the OPs” or meta picks is still a thing, there’s much more room to go for target bans, as teams scout each other and study each other before matches.


 

Increasing bans to 5 per team in competitive could result in teams using them to target ban a star player that performs exceptionally on certain picks or conversely, abuse a player’s smaller champion pool to completely ban him out.

 

That said, Riot has admitted that they’re also looking to change champion select if they increase the number of bans. To give an example of a different and successful system, DotA 2’s Captains Mode allows players to pick heroes before they are all banned out, allowing for unique strategies. Teams can figure out what kind of composition the opponents are trying to go for and ban it out mid way, for example.

 

 

The big advantage of increasing the number of bans would be champion diversity. Currently and while the Mid Lane champion pool is quite diverse, the other positions tend to be quite stale. In the jungle, Gragas and Rek’sai are present in almost all games and banning one meaning the other is usually going to be banned as well. The AD Carry pool is dominated by Ashe, Jhin and Sivir and top lane is only currently seeing Ekko, Gangplank and Gnar as primary picks.

 

The ban increase could result in a more role targeted ban phase, meaning other champions could start showing up more. For example, if Jhin, Ashe and Sivir are all banned out in a professional match, teams will likely start picking up Caitlyn, Tristana, Ezreal and maybe even Twitch. More bans could allow for the champions who aren’t top tier to show up more often and thus have a more diverse meta, with more diverse strategies.

 

An argument can be made that this would require professional players to have bigger champion pools, but this already is the case with professional players, that dedicate their time learning and mastering most if not all relevant champions in each meta, for their position.

 

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