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The Summoner's Guidebook: League of Legends' Season 3 imbalances -- good or bad?

Patrick Mackey

If you've played League of Legends for a while, you were probably shocked at the launch of all the new Season 3 changes. They're absolutely crazy! When I first saw them, I couldn't make heads or tails of them. What's the new best item builds? What's the best path to making them? I seriously had no idea.

Things have settled down a little, but items are still a little chaotic, and MLG is already hosting Season 3 qualifiers. This can't be right! I've covered before why tossing around the metagame is bad, but hosting tournaments that will affect entry into the Season 3 Championships with the game in this state is outrageous. I'm sure LoL will recover and things will get iterated on, but what are things going to be like in the meantime?

My head hurts from thinking about it

It's hard for anyone to adapt to the new changes. The most frustrating thing for me is that gold curve and good buys was a natural thing that I developed over a lot of practice. You can do a little bit of theory fighting to determine when you should build defensive items, but in actual practice those things are highly instinctual. You learn when to build items based on feelings and experience that you've chunked over dozens or hundreds of games.

When it changed the items and adjusted gold income, Riot dramatically changed how item buying works. I'm no longer sure what the best items are to buy at any given time, and it's a frustrating situation to be in. Following an optimal item path is not really acceptable to me, as I prefer to counter-build or build to support my team. The current item changes leave me shaking my head, and my only real option is to watch featured streams and see what experts do and why.

It's not all bad, though. Because the actual items have changed so much, it's helping to improve my cost-analysis skills more, which is helpful when I go to play other MOBA games. Unfortunately, I feel so confused in LoL right now when I need to visit the shop. What's the best buy? When is it a good idea to buy Liandry's Torment? What do I do when I want efficient health sustenance?

The Summoner's Guidebook League of Legends' Season 3 imbalances  good or bad
Teemopocalypse 2012

Astute observers will notice that Teemo got a massive nerf in the latest patch. I think most Summoner's Rift players will scratch their heads and wonder why. Surely Teemo wasn't very strong? It's true that Teemo is more of a mascot character, but I've written before on specific situations when he can be good on the Rift. However, on TT and CS, it was a whole different story.

In the new Twisted Treeline and on the Crystal Scar, Teemo was automatically a good pick simply because wards don't exist in those modes. In a gametype where wards don't exist, Teemo is insane. I already wrote about how he was way too good on Twisted Treeline, but it was just as bad in Dominion, too.

The worst part about Teemo was Blackfire Torch. This item was introduced at the start of the new TT launch and was ported to Dominion soon after. This item was absolutely ridiculous. It deals a portion of the target's max HP in magic damage over time every time you deal spell damage. Prior to the recent patch, this item was completely off the hook. It gave everything a mage-type character might want, with no wasted stats such as mana regeneration (so manaless casters love it and normal casters can get it from other items) on top of its ridiculous passive. This item was way too good. When you stepped on a Teemo mushroom, it could slice off as much as 50% of your HP with BFT and a Void Staff. Ouch!

Teemo became a meme on the Dominion forums. One user asked people to post their most memorable Teemo kills. Everyone raged about how the best way to balance Dominion was to remove Teemo from the map. Even with the recent nerfs, he's still pretty good -- probably still too good.

Armor of -10 defense versus axes

Worse than Teemo was Black Cleaver. When the full Season 3 items were launched, this item absolutely ruined gameplay. Bursty physical damage assassins like Talon became ridiculous. Black Cleaver's new armor shred stacked with itself, so players would arm themselves with two or even three Black Cleavers and completely ignore enemy armor.

I definitely thought that armor was very strong in the Season 2 metagame, but Black Cleaver was way over the top. Players joked that the new tier lists had physical damage dealers with Black Cleaver on the top, mages with Black Cleaver in the middle, and people without Black Cleaver at the bottom. It might have been a joke, but it didn't feel that way. I would see five or six Black Cleavers per team in many games.

It was nerfed in the latest patch, but the effect on the game in the interim was horrible. I almost didn't want to log in because I didn't want to play in the horrible Cleaver metagame. The item is still incredibly powerful, and people are still running Ghostblade, Cleaver, and Last Whisper and ignoring nearly 200 points of armor as though they weren't there.

The Summoner's Guidebook League of Legends' Season 3 imbalances  good or bad
Why a tournament now?

I'm a big advocate of e-sports, and I love to watch LoL events. However, I think that running an event that gives qualifying points for Season 3 in this environment is absolutely crazy. Unfortunately, that's what is going on right now at MLG.

We definitely shouldn't be running tournaments with the old Season 2 ruleset; the point of Season 3 tournaments should be to see how players perform in the new, dramatically different environment. Testing Season 3 players on the Season 2 metagame is a bad idea. However, because the Season 3 changes are not ready for competition, testing skills in that environment is even worse.

This isn't really MLG's fault; Riot has to approve any tournaments that grant Circuit Points, and if it allows this, MLG should go ahead. This is really Riot's fault for jumping the gun on the tournament season. There's nothing wrong with running a tournament that's not part of the official season (such as IPL5), so why rush it?

I don't want to be too harsh on Riot because making big changes toward making League a better game is a great idea. I'm sure Riot will iterate heavily on these changes and eventually push out a League of Legends that is more strategically interesting than before. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the imbalances in the meantime, and the situation we're in is not conductive to a good start for the tournament season.

We understand what it's like to climb the skill ladder in League of Legends. The Summoner's Guidebook teaches you the tools you need to get a competitive edge. Whether you're climbing the ranked ladder, playing Draft Dominion, or getting crushed by intermediate bots, every enemy has a weakness. And every Thursday, Patrick Mackey shows how you can improve improve on yours.

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