For now, at least. Who knows where things will go from here.
League Legends is, generally speaking, a game about winning. You’re supposed to try your hardest at every possible moment—always be climbing up the next impossibly high mountain to hone your skill and, eventually, better your competitive ranking. There’s one main exception to this rule: a game mode called “ARAM.”
Short for “All Random, All Mid,” ARAM is the closest League of Legends gets to a Super Smash Bros.-esque party game. It’s the single permanent fixture in League that can’t entirely be a game of skill, because as the name implies, the characters people play as are assigned randomly at the beginning of a match. And while most League matches are played on the three-lane Summoner’s Rift map, ARAM battles are waged in a single lane. It’s actually just a big bridge with the two teams’ bases on either end.
The randomness and simplistic structure of ARAM makes it far more chaotic and silly than normal League games. With nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, all five players on each time have to just dive straight into all-out team fights from the very first moments of the match. That’s the thing that’s always given ARAM matches the potential to be really great. But, a lot of times, they weren’t. Certain champions—especially melee tanks—suffered from a unique disadvantage in the mode because they didn’t have much of a chance to level themselves up until their legitimately tanky, and therefore viable opponents. Any ranged champion with a strong poke had a corresponding advantage since they could just keep chipping away at their enemies from afar.
League developer Riot finally set about repairing this fundamental problem with ARAM this week with its 5.8 patch to the game. The patch tweaks ARAM in a few different ones. Above all else, though, it adds a magical snowball called Mark / Dash that you can throw at enemies (the “mark”) and then teleport over to them(the “dash”).
Originally introduce to League for a temporary game mode released last year, the snowball is a feature that amps up the silly factor by tossing champions around the map willy-nilly. Like this:
via Surrender at 20
ARAM’s new magic snowball does wonderful, wonderful things to the game. How? By allowing tank champions to quickly close the distance between themselves and their target, it grants a spectacularly new tool for engaging with opponents. Rather than being forced to pace back and forth anxiously until you have enough minions or teammates nearby to risk rushing into battle, now you can just dive straight in.
Doing so is still a risky maneuver, of course. You have to properly aim the snowball to hit your target and time your ensuing dash to make it an effective tactical maneuver. Otherwise, you might be leaping headfirst into a death trap.
When used properly, though, it can be a devastating and enormously satisfying move to pull off.
via Refuel Gaming
That’s the whole reason playing around with Mark/Dash is so fun. Like anything in League, the spell introduces unique nuances to the way you position yourself and attack your foes. It’s fun to use because it adds yet another interesting wrinkle to ARAM’s moment-to-moment gameplay that doesn’t exist without it. It’s also an adorable mechanic, both in theory and practice. I mean, it’s literally adding snowball fights into League of Legends.
I’m worried about the future of this amazing magical snowball, though. Mark/Dash is one of those rare things that’s been added to League purely to increase the game’s “fun for fun’s sake” potential. Things like this are great whenever they appear. But as Riot’s running April Fool’s joke URF shows, they don’t usually end up sticking around for that long. Soon enough, players begin to obsessively League-ify the new features: picking them apart, dissecting their inner traits to discover their true potential, and develop a new, hyper-specific meta-game.
It’s no surprise, then, that I’ve already started to see criticisms pop up that mark/dash is ruining the game by either a) making it too crazy and random, or b) making tanks overpowered.
If the rumblings against mark/dash grow loud enough, Riot is bound to change the feature as it usually does.
But who knows what’ll end up happening with the magic snowball? For the time being, I’m just gonna keep enjoying these wonderful snowball fights as much as I can.