Riot started to release its massive laundry list of changes for League of Legends this week, and while players expected things to feel very different, they’ve been surprised by one thing in particular: minions. Those cutesy automated creep spawns pack a serious punch now.
Riot didn’t mention any impending changes to League of Legends’ minions in its first round of announcements for the 2016 pre-season, so the news creeped up on us all this week when the lenghty 5.22 patch notes were released. In a section about Summoner’s Rift, the main map in League of Legends and the one that all pro tournament games are played on, Riot dropped a few key bits of information about how they’re adjusting turrets and minions waves to try and influence the overall pace of League games.
Let’s talk turrets first, since they lead into the bigger minion changes. Turrets are your team’s defensive structures—the ones that stop enemy minions and champions from walking straight into your base and wrecking everything. In the patch notes, Riot’s Patrick “Scarizard” Scarborough said that turrets are now more vulnerable to enemy damage at the start of a match (emphasis added):
Lots of numbers below, but the gist is that turrets are more vulnerable on average unless you give them time to scale up. Take down an outer early enough and you’ll be able to put meaningful damage on the next (or even take it outright!) before it can fortify if your opponent isn’t respecting your demolition power.
REMOVED SHIELDS OFFLINE Inner towers no longer shield nearby players from damage
THIS IS A MAGE BUFF Basic attacks against turrets deal damage equal to base attack damage + either 1.0 bonus attack damage or 0.4 ability power ⇒ 0.5 ability power, whichever is higher
BASE ARMOR AND MAGIC RESIST1 00 ⇒ 0
NEWWE CAN REBUILDTurrets gain 2 armor and magic resist per minute, up to a maximum of 30. Outer towers begin scaling at game-start, Inner towers at 15 minutes, Inhibitor & Nexus towers at 30 minutes.
REINFORCED ARMORTurrets gain 300 ⇒ 200 armor and magic resist if no minions are nearby
OUTER TOWER HEALTH2000 ⇒ 3500
INNER TOWER HEALTH2500 ⇒ 3500
INHIBITOR TOWER HEALTH2800 ⇒ 4000
NEXUS TOWER HEALTH3000 ⇒ 4000
OUTER TOWER LOCAL GOLD150 gold ⇒ 220 gold
INNER TOWER LOCAL GOLD100 gold ⇒ 250 gold
“Take down an outer [turret] early enough and you’ll be able to put meaningful damage on the next (or even take it outright!),” Scarizard wrote, unless your opponent reacts quickly enough to protect the next turret and let it level up along with everything else.
So basically: it’s now easier to take out turrets, and do so quickly, as long as you’re quick about it. This means that a team that starts out ahead should be able to increase their forward momentum more rapidly than they could in the 2015 season.
Now the minions. Riot’s giving them a big performance boost, albeit a situational one. If a team has a level advantage over their opponents, their minions will start to get stronger and stronger—as long as they maintain their lead. From the patch notes:
Minions get combat bonuses when your team has a level advantage over the opposing team
Comboing with the turret changes above, minions now get stronger to help the winning team press their advantage and close out the game.
MINION DAMAGE BONUS If your team’s average level is higher than the enemy’s, your minions deal 10% bonus damage to enemy minions. If you’ve taken cumulatively more turrets than the enemy team, damage is further increased by 10% for each turret you have over your opponents.
ENRAGE If your team’s average level is at least 3 higher than the enemy’s and you’ve taken 2 or more towers in a given lane, your minions in that lane deal 90% more damage to enemy minions.
MINION DAMAGE REDUCTION If your team’s average level is higher than the enemy’s, your minions take less damage from enemy minions equal to (tower differential x level differential) + 1. This number can’t fall below 1.
IRONCLAD If your team’s average level is at least 3 higher than the enemy’s and you’ve taken 2 or more towers in a given lane, your minions in that lane take 7 less damage from enemy minions
INITIAL GOLD VALUE 18.5 gold ⇒ 20 gold
GOLD GROWTH 0.17 gold per minute ⇒ 0.125 gold per minute
INITIAL GOLD VALUE 13.8 gold ⇒ 17 gold
GOLD GROWTH 0.17 gold per minute ⇒ 0.125 gold per minute
INITIAL GOLD VALUE 36.8 gold ⇒ 45 gold
GOLD GROWTH 0.425 gold per minute ⇒ 0.35 gold per minute
They also made minions spawn fifteen seconds earlier at the start of a game, which (slightly) reduces the downtime at the beginning of matches. Riot ended up delaying the minion-specific buffs until the 5.23 patch, so they haven’t actually come into the main game yet.
The TL;DR of all of this is that Riot’s trying to accelerate the speed of matches and thereby decrease League of Legends’ average game length. As I’ve previously noted, the developer is similar techniques to the ones that Blizzard has applied to its new MOBA Heroes of the Storm in order to artificially shorten matches by doing things like: weakening defensive structures, making minions stronger so they push lanes faster, and cutting down on the early-game laning phase.
Riot hasn’t gone full HOTS with its changes, and I seriously doubt that they will. But League’s long-ish match times have been an issue for a while now, so it’s good that the developer is addressing them with concrete (and creative) solutions.
Early reactions from League fans have been skeptical of the sped-up matches, with many saying that they’ll end up making the game much more snowball-y—i.e., giving a team that’s ahead more and more advantages, and thus make it harder for the losing team to recover. The influential eSports analyst MonteCristo said on Tiwtter that these “brutal snowballs” could have a negative impact on next year’s pro scene.
It’s just as likely that League players—professional and amateur alike—are still adjusting to the many, many gameplay changes that Riot just implemented, so matches could end up balancing out over the next few weeks as the community becomes more attuned to the new meta.