Much like with the Galio update patch, patch 7.8 is a bit lighter on the balance changes. This is in part due to the release of Xayah and Rakan, but also because Riot are planning for big changes with the Mid Season Update. That being said, there are a few interesting changes that came through this week, not just for champions, but also for the Howling Abyss and Twisted Treeline maps. I’ll be going over some of the highlights for both ends of League of Legends spectrum.
Some changes that stuck out to me are some nerfs that came through for Shen. Riot explicitly said that these adjustments were more focused on high level competitive play, where Shen is a top priority champion. In fact, in the last sixty one games played across both the North American and European LCSs, there have only been four games where Shen was neither picked nor banned. This is due to the fact that Shen can both hold his own in a solo lane, especially against other tanks, and he’s the only champion left in the game with a global movement ultimate, making him a powerful addition to any team composition. To combat his overall strength, Riot took away some of the wave clear potential from Shen’s Q, Twilight Assault, and increased the cooldown on his ultimate, Stand United. However, because Riot really likes Shen as a champion, they did lower the energy cost and increase the width on his taunt, Shadow Dash. They also made the shield granted by Stand United scale with his target’s missing health, making it an even more potent tool for saving allies from total annihilation. While I do think that the nerfs were a step in the right direction, I have a feeling that the buff to Stand United’s shield is more than enough to keep Shen a top tier pick. Players will have to be a bit more careful when using their ultimates, but the more powerful shield means that teams will be able to pull off even riskier plays because they have an even more durable safety net. Overall, I still think it’s a nerf, but not nearly enough of one to knock Shen out of the top lane meta. Which may be exactly what Riot was aiming for.
The other big champion change in this patch is for Udyr. Now, Udyr is a very old champion, and his kit reflects that. Playing Udyr requires no skillshots or even any point and click abilities, just four stance to shift between and your trusty mouse to move and attack with. Udyr players exist in a simpler time, when all you had to do to win a game was run fast and hit hard, and nowadays the champion is rarely seen outside of one-trick players. In an effort to spice things up and make Udyr players think just a fraction more than they used to, Riot introduced some changes to his Tiger and Turtle stances. Previously, Tiger Stance would apply a damage over time effect only when the stance was activated. Now, it applies that same bleed on every third strike while Udyr is in Tiger Stance. In addition, every time Udyr lands a successive third hit on the same target, it instantly deals all of the leftover bleed from the last proc before starting the new cycle. Turtle Stance also got a nice buff, where instead of granting passive lifesteal while active, now every third strike heals Udyr for 2.5% of his maximum health, scaling with his missing health. Both of these changes now encourage Udyr players to invest even more heavily into attack speed items, something that previously only Tiger Stance players did. Honestly, I think the potential damage output for Udyr’s Tiger Stance sounds absurd, both in terms of waveclear and dueling potential, but we’ll see how it actually plays out for solo queue.
Lastly, I want to go over some changes made to the Twisted Treeline. I mentioned earlier that there were also changes made to the Howling Abyss (that’s the ARAM map for those of you don’t pay attention to the names), but most of those changes were just geared towards a faster game. The changes to Treeline however, have more of an impact on the meta. For those that don’t know, the current Twisted Treeline meta is one of two team compositions. One of them is two solo laners, usually one attack damage and one ability power based, and a jungler. The other is two laners and a support. Of the two, the latter is currently the stronger of the two, utilizing tanky supports like Alistar, Taric and Braum to protect and set up kills for one of the solo laners, usually a stat efficient bruiser like Darius or Illaoi or a hard scaling carry like Yasuo or Xin Zhao. The reason this strategy is so effective, is because of how the Treeline works. It’s very easy to funnel experience into one champion and snowball ahead of the enemy team. In order to level the playing field, Riot implemented a number of changes that make it harder for one team to overpower the other and make it easier for the losing team to fight back. These include diminishing experience gains from champion kills based on how much higher of a level you are than the enemy, and shorter death timers later in the game. Other quality of life changes include decreasing the health of Vilemaw, increasing the gold from siege minions, and decreasing the attack speed of the nexus turrets. While Summoner’s Rift may be Riot’s preferred child, they have realized that there is a small, but dedicated group of players who specialize in the Twisted Treeline. These changes show that Riot hasn’t forgotten that part of their player base and hopefully they will continue to introduce changes to help improve the overall experience for those people.
If you’re curious about the rest of the changes for Twisted Treeline and the Howling Abyss, or if you want see the other champion adjustments that I didn’t cover, you can read through the whole patch notes here. As previously mentioned, this is a smaller patch, mostly focused on fine tuning things before the inevitable Mid Season Update that Riot has in store for the future. That being said, there are not one, but two new champions available for play, so go pick up one or both of our new feathered friends and take them out for a spin. Whether you’re playing on Summoner’s Rift or Twisted Treeline, always remember to have fun Summoners!