Midway Through League of Legends Season 9
We are currently at the halfway point in League of Legends Season 9, with the Mid-Season Invitational event having just concluded in Taiwan. With Rift Rivals and the World Championship on the horizon, now is a good time to reflect back on the changes that have been introduced into Summoner’s Rift this season and how said changes have impacted games for both the average player base and professional teams. With Riot changing the game on an annual basis, some seasons are more well-received than others, but comparatively speaking, season 9 has been one of the most positively received seasons to date and it shows League of Legends is moving in the right direction, despite the negative press Riot Games has received within the gaming media over the course of the past year.
What is the most notable change for League of Legends Season 9?
- Ranked ladder congestion issues
- New tiers and divisions removed
- Matchmaking issues
For many years, League of Legends players complained that too many people were concentrated within very specific tiers and divisions on the ranked ladder. A disproportionate number of players were crammed into the bronze tier and the diamond V division. Riot finally addressed these complaints with changes that were implemented at the beginning of season 9, namely the introduction of new tiers and the removal of the fifth division across all thresholds. Below bronze, the iron tier was introduced which became the new lowest ranking. Between the master and challenger tiers, grandmaster was added.
By introducing these new tiers, Riot hoped to alleviate the congestion problems that had previously plagued the ranked ladder. While these changes have generally been met with positivity, issues have arisen at the higher tiers, where the ranked system consistently matches players together that are not equal in terms of ability. For example, master level players and higher can be matched with platinum and diamond players. These issues are still being addressed, but it shows Riot is never afraid to change the game in what it believes to be meaningful ways.
What is the current pace of games?
- Slow in the past
- Current game state is fast
- Turret plates responsible for quicker pace
- Different approach needed
League of Legends used to be a slow game where the winning team, specifically in professional games, was the team that made a crucial mistake during late game that could then be used to quickly end. Korean teams excelled at this type of game state because being aggressive early was not in their wheelhouse and they were used to scaling comps that relied on being patient to receive key item spikes. Season 9 further pushed League of Legends into a quicker game state and one of the most notable ways they achieved this end was by introducing turret plates.
Plates are an additional influx of gold that can only be obtained prior to 14 minutes. In the current state of League of Legends, each outer turret is equipped with five plates and after a plate is destroyed, 160 gold is distributed to those near the turret. With a maximum of 800 gold potentially up for grabs, the early game has become all too important. As a result, games are being decided faster than ever before. The plate gold has put a strong emphasis both on early game champions and the killing of rift herald. Rift herald essentially guarantees plates and gold and can be a great way to funnel gold into a specific player on your team. With such a different change of pace compared to previous years, many players have failed to adapt. With not being able to wait out bad matchups considering how quickly games can snowball in one direction or the other, a different approach must now be considered by all players.
How did season 9 impact MSI this year?
- Korean teams no longer dominant
- Priority on plates and rift herald
- Proactive decisions rewarded
The Mid-Season Invitational tournament which only very recently concluded was one of the most exciting tournaments in recent memory, a large part of that being owed to the ways in which season 9 changed League of Legends. Beginning with the World Championship last year, Korean teams no longer experienced the dominance they once had. In 2018, Korean representation at Worlds was poor, with SKT experiencing a down year and being noticeably absent. The teams that went in SKT’s place had poor showings, and it created additional pressure on the Korean region as a whole. Many people expected MSI to be a return to form for SKT, a team seeking to avenge not only its mistakes from the year before but also the mistakes of the Korean teams who represented Korea on the international level in 2018. Unfortunately, SKT ultimately failed to adapt to the game state created by League of Legends Season 9.
Season 9 has awarded teams that are aggressive from level 1 and that was on full display at MSI. Teams were very eager to seek out plates and first turret gold, and rift herald was a high priority for teams throughout the tournament. Teams like SKT that opted into scaling compositions were heavily punished and early team fights and skirmishes made for more exciting games overall. Riot’s intention to push League away from a game of wait and see to a game that rewards proactive decisions was apparent at MSI. The most striking example of this phenomenon is the 16-minute defeat of SKT by reigning world champion IG, a game that became the fastest international game of all- time. Faster games retain viewers and retained viewers equates to more money for Riot. While all decisions are motivated by a desire to make a profit, season 9 has been beneficial to the overall health of League of Legends.
Riot Games can never be accused of being a stale company. The changes it has made to League of Legends shows it is concerned about the longevity of the title. While a long lasting game means more money for the developer, it also shows a concern for the product and the player base. Even though it is not the sole contributor, season 9 has changed the way League of Legends is played by introducing the turret gold and making small changes in patches along the way. This playstyle change was seen at the Mid-Season Invitational this year. While other changes have also been made to elements outside gameplay such as the introduction of new tiers and removal of divisions, it is a change-up as to how the game is played that makes League of Legends Season 9 exciting and this trend towards faster, more exciting games is likely to continue well into the future.