Explanation & Examination
Lane swapping has become a common strategy in competitive League of Legends over the past few seasons of play. The arguments over whether lane swaps are entertaining for fans or allow for greater champion diversity at the top levels of play are ongoing and have been covered previously on the site here. The Riot balance team have now decided that lane swapping within the parameters set by previous patches did not come with enough downside though, so the new pre-worlds early game update to discourage lane swapping will undoubtedly lead to new debates over the issue.
Riot Scarizard stated in the announcement post that the goal was not to completely eliminate lane swaps, but rather to prevent lane swapping from being the default style of play in competitive matches. The changes proposed to facilitate this transition are listed below in quotations and the full post by Scarizard can be found here. Remember these changes are tentative. Riot is actually holding a meeting today, (07/22/2016), with NA LCS coaches, analysts, and players to discus the topic, and their feedback will likely impact the final changes implemented.
“First, incentivize attacking and defending turrets. The first turret taken now grants a ‘First Blood’ reward, but turrets are now better at defending their allied champions.
- New: “Turret First Blood” gold: +275 local, +25 global (400 total gold across the team)
- New: Turret AI has been updated, and are better at defending allied champions (coming in 6.16)”
The addition of “turret first blood” gold adds a nonequivalent aspect to taking turrets. In the past if one team earned gold from destroying turrets, the opposing team could always balance that gold lead later in the game by destroying the same number of turrets. The addition of turret first blood makes destroying the first tower more important, but at the current reward of 400 total gold, the incentive may need to be increased for teams to prioritize turret first blood as a game objective. The 400 gold does still reward early game aggression though, so team compositions that attempt to win before the late game should benefit from this system if executed properly.
The update to turret AI will cause turrets to attack opposing players in turret range who are attacking friendly players outside of turret range. This update will make diving players near their tower and finishing off low health players running from their tower without dying more difficult. It gives players a modest reason to stay near their towers if they have low health or there is the possibility of being dived by multiple players in hopes of trading a kill.
“Second, target a lane that’s ideal for fast push strategies. Bot lane’s outer turret defenses are no longer identical to the other lanes, and cannon minion spawns now rotate between lanes.
Fortification (temporary damage reduction buff on turrets) changed
- Duration: 7 minutes -> 5 minutes
- Damage reduction: 35% -> 50%
- Fortification removed from bot lane turrets (we’re investigating a more nuanced approach to this)
- Outer turret HP: 3300 -> 3500″
Fortification being removed from bot lane turrets would make those turrets the easiest to destroy for the first 5 minutes of the game. In conjunction with turret first blood gold, this would encourage teams to put their ADC and support in the bot lane to ensure their tower is not destroyed quickly. It also makes early ganking and diving more attractive in bot lane since the tower will be easier to destroy and have more reward, if you kill the opposing bot lane.
Increasing the damage reduction on fortification from 35% to 50% also deters lane swaps by making turrets in other lanes more difficult to take for the first 5 minutes of the game. This change punishes tower trades with the 3 champion top lane push vs the 3 champion bot lane push especially hard, since the 3 champions bot should always get the tower first, earn their extra gold, and be able to rotate across the map before their opponents are finished.
“Cannon minions now spawn differently
- Each team gets one cannon minion per wave, rotating lanes.
- Specifically, Bot gets a cannon minion in lane at wave 3, Mid at wave 4, and Top at wave 5. This then repeats.
- Post-20 minutes, Mid has a cannon in wave 40 then both Bot and Top get one in wave 41. This then repeats.
- Post-35 minutes, all lanes have cannons in each wave.”
Bot lane spawning a cannon minion 2 waves earlier than top lane paired with no fortification on bot lane turrets means bottom lane should fall even faster in a turret race scenario. It also means if a team destroys the outer bot lane turret in a lane swap scenario prior to wave 5, they can then rotate top with an unanswered turret and extra gold to prevent the opposing team from using the cannon wave to help destroy the top lane outer tower.
By addressing lane swapping with 3 different game changes, the Riot balance team is making a concerted effort to reduce its occurrence. The question that remains is how far these changes go toward discouraging lane swaps. Will they be so ineffective lane swaps remain the primary plan for competitive play, effective enough that lane swaps are still implemented occasionally, or too effective to the point in which they prevent lane swaps from ever occurring? Ineffective or over effective are easy to hit, but balancing the advantages and disadvantages of lane swapping perfectly to allow for lane swaps in certain instances but not others is extremely difficult.
The effect of decreasing the viability of lane swapping will be minimal outside of professional play. Players are typically not skilled enough and/or coordinated enough to adequately utilize lane swapping in dynamic queue. The only ramifications of these changes average players may experience will be the ability to take the bot lane outer turret faster if the opposing laners leave lane or die and the impact of the additional gold from turret first blood, which should be nominal.
The largest impact will be on the entertainment value of professional games. Many in the community have complained about lane swapping causing games to be less compelling. Others have argued that lane swapping actually adds value to the game by increasing the number of viable champions at high level play by allowing those champions to escape bad lane match ups. If instances of lane swapping are significantly reduced or eliminated outright, the question can finally be answered. At that point, If viewers complain that only a small number of champions are played in professional games, we will know that lane swapping was actually beneficial to the game by preventing confined champion picks specifically for lane assignments.