It has been a few weeks since the pre-season patch of S4 has been released. I’ve taken the time to play solo queue and now have a pretty good feel for what the changes have been. These are my opinions, and may change as they are based on two weeks of solo queue play. Before diving into the lanes specifically, I will be talking about other aspects of the game.
Vision has changed a considerable amount. Since each person has a cap of three wards, supports are no longer burdened to ward the map. This divides the responsibility amongst everyone. Combined with the vision ward change, the map is now considerably darker than it has ever been. This leads to easier ganks and a less controlled laning phase as enemy junglers are less visible. Due to the vision ward changes, it has become incredibly hard to secure free barons with baron standoffs. With scrying trinket and the inability to control large areas via vision ward spam, doing baron is not as safe as it once was. Also, all stealth units are now much harder to deal with as pink wards must be used as an active item in teamfights. Flanks from characters like Evelyn or Twitch are much harder to deal with as they know when they can be seen.
Thoughts: When the game goes mid-late, gaining complete map control is difficult. When sieging/pushing as five man, generally our flanks are never perfectly warded and my team could be ambushed at any time. Stealth characters are pretty busted because vision wards can be cleared whenever and most stealth characters have an annoying upfront burst that has no counterplay. The trinkets are a nice addition but they are a bit frustrating to use. Scrying trinket seems to be a waste as not many champions can utilize the CV-like ability. The CD is far too long compared to the advantages a ward gives you. The sweeping trinket is great also, but I feel the cooldown for that trinket is also too high. The 475 gold upgrade is also not very good because whoever buys the Oracle’s lens can at most clear around 2-3 vision wards during one duration of the active. This is incredibly annoying as solo queue is uncoordinated and you can never gain proper control of an area.
Jungle is in a very good place right now in the pre-season. It is the definition of high-risk high-reward as early game ganks are much easier to pull off but have dire consequences should you fail. With the additional jungle camp, AFK farm of the jungle becomes viable. With this possibility in mind, ganking becomes easier for junglers as the laners tend to think non-optimal pre-level 6 champions will not try to gank. However, if you gank a lane with level 3 and double buffs but fail to get a kill/significant lane advantage, the AFK farming enemy jungler will now be level four and roam freely. This leads to a much more dynamic early game where players can cater to their own playstyle. Make big plays, or go slow and steady.
Thoughts: This double-edged way of jungling is a good concept. It opens up more playstyles that were previously lacking as certain junglers just couldn’t farm fast enough or skirmish well enough in the first three levels (too much emphasis on buffs). The fact that doing Red and Blue no longer make a jungler level three is huge. Now slower junglers like Amumu can do a full clear and not be behind even if they lose one buff. I am never really scared that someone will counter jungle me because I know how much they would lose if they failed, and if they succeeded it would be a small victory. The first three minutes of jungling is very carefree unless I were to play something fragile like Fiddle. Ganking bot lane has become incredibly easy as bot laners no longer spam wards and run sweeping lens constantly. Top and Mid have been roughly the same.
Top lane itself has not changed too much. The addition of trinkets are just a small change to the overall nature of top lane. The biggest change at the beginning of the patch was the ability to dual targon with the jungler and have semi 2v2 lanes. Although still viable, people have stopped running this since the nerf of targons. As a result, top lane remains roughly the same.
Thoughts: Top lane remains mostly the same. Other than fotm champs being played, the only interesting addition to Season 4 so far was the appearance of double targon melee lanes. With the recent nerf, these have ceased to exist although I think they are viable.
Middle lane has become more dynamic. With the idea of junglers being able to power farm, teams that field dominant laners have a much stronger impact than before. Other than that, middle lane also remains roughly the same. Mid laners generally do not spam three wards at a time, so the vision changes did not affect them much.
Thoughts: When playing middle lane in pre-S4 vs S3, I feel like I can get away with playing more aggressive. This is because most junglers get the impression that an incredibly aggressive player is baiting a gank. While this was true in all season of League play, it has a bigger impact in today’s game due to the nature of the jungle. The game seems to favor incredibly safe lane bullies like Syndra and Riven, who can output kill pressure and still survive a gank while overextended.
Bottom lane is the lane that has changed the most. Gold income items have become a great item choice for ranged supports and a must for melee supports. Trinkets make bottom lane into a vision war as champions can easily carry sweeping lens to clear out the single ward you buy from base (if you start an income item). Melee supports are no longer terrible as the culling affect of targon can make up for their rougher early game. The gold income items are able to generate enough money for supports to become semi-carries and have a direct influence in the game through damage dealt. It is not rare to see double AP bot lanes or bruiser bot lanes in solo q. The new masteries also benefit supports so that we don’t see level seven supports running around warding the map when everyone else is level sixteen.
Thoughts: The changes have shaken up bottom lane. Supports are no longer so generic as you can play a multitude of bruisers and AP champions alongside an ADC, or even ditch an ADC entirely. I like that as an AP champion you can actually buy scaling items like DFG or Deathcap whereas before you would need a ton of kills to get the core items. Playing support no longer feels like I’m playing a ward baby. I can roam around and actually make plays on a support that isn’t Thresh/Leona/Alistar. Playing ADC remains the same, although you have the ability to ward for yourself freely with the trinket. Scrying trinket really comes in handy for bot lane when the enemy takes control of an enemy brush and seems to be scheming something.
All in all, the changes to pre-season 4 have been pretty good. There are some frustrations trying to balance the usefulness of the trinkets (Oracle’s Lens and Farsight orb seem a bit UP) and some of the stealth champions have too strong of an interaction with the visible vision wards.
Now that you know what I think of the patch, let me know what you think of the changes and what did you like/hate about it!