Season 4 introduced a lot of changes to League of Legends. These changes are massive, and will affect the way everyone plays the game.
The meta doesn’t change easily or quickly, though. People get comfortable with a way of playing the game, and it’s hard both mentally and psychologically to change the way you do something, especially when it is quite drastic. However, players of all skill levels will have to adapt their play if they wish to have any success in Season 4.
A Quick Recap of Season 3
A season is a long time and a lot of changes happen from the beginning of the season to the end, from a meta standpoint. However, some things remain a general constant. Season 3 was about high aggression and securing objectives. The risk of charging a low enemy under their turret became much lower, and three vs one dives stopped being an “OMG” moment and quickly became a regular event in the game (not a question of if, but rather when). The focus also shifted from five vs five teamfights to objectives. Teamfights still happened, but it was no longer simply a matter of killing your opponents, but of capitalising on success by destroying a few towers, or killing Dragon or Baron for the huge injection of gold/global buff to everyone on your team. Many teams didn’t teamfight at all, and instead focused on attacking multiple lanes at once - split pushing - to force the enemy to divide their attention or lose key objectives. The end of the season also saw a rise in the assassin champions; Kassadin, Ahri, Zed and Fizz. All high damage and high mobility champions, who became the most hotly contested picks in champion select. Catching out an enemy player alone and proceeding to vaporise them makes everything else much easier, no matter how much stronger or better at fighting the enemy team is, a 4v5 is still a 4v5.
the Changes of Season 4
Season 4 has brought in drastic changes to the game, especially to the Jungler and Support positions. The changes to these staple positions increases their gold flow as well as, in the case of supports, seeing many of the traditional support champions given scaling to their abilities in order to properly benefit from this increased gold (before, they were designed to operate with minimal items, as they did not have the money to purchase them). The first changes to their cash flow is items. Both roles have received new items (or changes to existing items) that increase their gold flow in different ways (one of the support items, for example, gives gold every time an enemy minion dies near you). These items also have strong stat lines and/or utility, making them worth buying for more than their gold advantage (they’re also surprisingly well balanced, making them nearly useless for the other roles).
Another change is how warding mechanics work. Before it was the supports' job, with a small amount of assistance, to ensure that the map was covered in wards so that the enemies' movements could be tracked properly. This was a huge gold drain to an already money-taxed position. Now, however, each player can only place three stealth wards and one invisibility-detecting ward. This means that the team has to work together to keep proper vision on the map. New free items called 'trinkets' have been added to help with this.
Three trinkets now exist. They are free for the base versions (they improve at level 9, and may be upgraded further for a small amount of gold) and are invaluable. The Ward Totem is a free ward whenever the cooldown is up; extremely useful with the limit on individual warding and allows everyone to help with warding without affecting the items they can build. There is also the Sweeping Lens, which is now, other than pink wards, the only way to remove enemy wards from the map (Oracle’s Elixir was removed). The third trinket, Scrying Orb, allows for a player to reveal a section of the map for a few moments. It has seen very little play, but recent buffs may change that.
A few other changes have occurred; these aren’t as sweeping, but are no less important in their effect on the meta:
- Towers and Dragon give less global gold to the team as a whole.
- Many of the top assassins saw nerfs to bring their power in line with other champions.
- Inhibitors saw a nerf to their power. Minions in other lanes are no longer affected, and super minions saw a nerf to their health and damage.
What does this all mean?
These are some really big changes. Some teams have already taken drastic steps to adapt to these change, but many are still playing as if it is still season 3 and will quickly find themselves outmatched by the better prepared players.
Support and Jungle Changes
Junglers and supports are going to do important actions more frequently. They have more gold, which means more items, and the support scaling is going make them a lot more dangerous. Catching a support in the jungle 1v1 might no longer be the easy pick-off it once was.
Warding Changes and Trinkets
This is an interesting change. The limitation on wards means that the whole team has to get involved, and you also have to be more strategic with your warding. Sight Stone got better, and once supports get that, they can switch for the Sweeping Lens. Ganking is also more difficult, as everyone has a ward. Vision wards being visible makes their use very tactical; however, if you can find the right locations or protect them, the change to make them last until destroyed makes their gold value very high. This led to a resurgence in Evelynn, League's only permanently stealthed champion, as she can now roam the map invisible and remove the only wards capable of spotting her.
Global Gold Changes
The change mostly affects the hyper-aggressive nature of Season 3. Before, turrets and dragons were all important. Teams that didn’t manage to secure these had a very difficult time keeping up with their opponents; the global gold simply snowballed them way ahead. However, both dragon and turrets had their global gold reduced. Taking a turret now has to be calculated, as the farm lost will not be outbalanced by the global gold for the team. In addition, dragon is worth far less as the gold it gives is much lower early on. Although hyper-aggressive, fast pushing is still an option, it now has to be calculated, and losing a couple towers early in the game isn’t going to mean your opponent snowballs ahead with a huge gold lead. This also means laning phases will get longer. Taking turrets is less profitable than killing minions for their gold in lane.
The changes of Season 4 have opened up more possibilities. Playing a slow, farm-centered game is now much more possible, and hyper-aggressive playstyles shouldn't run away with every game, but still remain viable. The warding changes spread the responsibility of map vision out, and also strengthen tactical ward placement. Supports and junglers now have much more gold to play with, and this will mean these positions have more impact on the game. Season 4 seems to have made all the right changes to make the game more balanced, more competitive, and more entertaining to play.