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/dev: ARAM Changes Wrap-Up

What’s coming back with us to the Howling Abyss, and why’d we leave some stuff behind?

In our Nexus article last month, we outlined some experimental ARAM changes we wanted you to try out during our “Back to Bilgewater” mini-event. Now that the event is over, it’s time to go over how the changes fared and which ones are coming back with us to the Howling Abyss based on your feedback and our data.

What’s Going Away

Champion Bans

Removing bans was a really tough decision that we discussed a lot internally. Bans provide a real feeling of satisfaction and reduce frustration by helping you feel like you’re in control of your destiny, especially when you can remove that one champ you just don’t want to face. This was especially true before the balance changes (which we’re keeping), since certain champions were just so far out of line in terms of power.

But it also had some side effects. ARAM has always been the less competitive mode for players to enjoy League characters in a slightly more chill setting. But the bans were so targeted to a select group of champions that we saw an overall decrease in champion diversity. For players who just wanted to reroll for those champs, and didn’t care about having a perfectly balanced experience, it now felt like they were never available. Our goal isn’t to change what ARAM is to most players, and the bans almost took away the whole purpose of it to them. Finally it also adds another 30 seconds to “getting into game” time, which is something we want to keep quick for this mode.

So for now we’re going to remove it. A lot of the champs that were frequently banned (Brand, Veigar, Lux) have now been adjusted, making them more fair to play against. We’d like to give players some time to play ARAM with the balance changes and see if they feel that these ban-worthy champions are still qualified as such.

By removing bans, we can also get a better look at how the things we decided to keep affect ARAM over a longer period (champ balance, runes adjustments, anti-poke, etc.). How will these impact ARAM over the next few months? Once we see a bit more of that long-term effect, we can take another look at bans in ARAM and go from there. For now though, we think this is the right call.

Experimental Items: Mariner’s Vengeance and Ghostwalkers

Now that we’ve done mini-ARAM events twice, we’re convinced that new items are great for adding some unique flair to the mode for a short time. For example, Mariner’s Vengeance and Ghostwalkers thematically fit Butcher’s Bridge and made this event’s ARAM feel more distinct from the main-stay Howling Abyss. But we don’t think they’re great for the long-term health of the mode.

Ghostwalkers would likely need some large improvements to make sure it was much more clear where the person using them was. And Mariner’s Vengeance would have to be specifically adjusted to avoid some really odd interactions with champs like Kled and Shaco. For now these items won’t be permanent, but they might come back for future events.

Experimental Summoner Spell: Backtrack

Our goal with Backtrack was give melee champs the option to engage fights and then get back out quickly. We saw some great success here with champs like Malphite, Jarvan IV, and Talon, as well as strong-regen champs like Garen and Dr. Mundo, who’d use it to get out and regen back to full HP.

However, we didn’t want to give the already-strong ranged champions an even stronger escape or defensive tool. While weak on some champs, Backtrack was the highest win rate Summoner Spell for ranged champions like Kog’maw and Brand.

Champion Win Rate by Summoner Spell

If we revisit this spell in the future, we’d experiment with making Backtrack similar to Barrier for ranged champions, and only give the backtrack aspect to melee champions. But for now, we’ve decided to drop this summoner spell.

What’s Here to Stay

Runes Adjustment

The rune changes have been quite successful. Triumph and Presence of Mind are no longer must-take runes, and now you can actually make an argument that Magical Footwear might be more gold efficient than Triumph. Same goes for Scorch vs. Gathering Storm: If your game goes longer than 21 minutes, Gathering Storm is actually a good choice now!

We think it will take time for people to discover the truly optimal rune choices after the changes, so we’re going to keep an eye on things and give everyone time to explore the possibilities. We’re open to making further adjustments to runes as needed.

Champion Balance

Our specific goal with champion balance in ARAM—which is something players have been asking for for a long time—was to preserve the state and meta of ARAM, but make games less decided at champ select. This means that champions like Sona and Ziggs are still some of the strongest champs in ARAM, but not quite game-defining like they were before.

So how did we do? Let’s check out this handy-dandy graph, showing the number of champions at each win rate in patch 9.6 and 9.7.

Turns out, it looks pretty good! We believe reducing the range of champ win rates from 32-67% to 43-57% results in a much better world. Champions like Teemo, Sona, and Ziggs are still some of the strongest choices, but now if you play well or get a good team comp, you can actually beat them!

Now that we have these balance levers, we’ll be keeping an eye on ARAM to tune champions a little more often. We don’t want to commit to every patch or anything, but you should see the occasional balance adjustment in the Patch Notes in the future. In addition, we’ll always keep this Boards post updated with the current status of champions.

We’ve made a few more minor adjustments to balance for patch 9.8, but now we should be good for awhile.

Built-In Poke Reduction

The goal of this change specifically was to make you feel not as bad when opponents are poking you out. Many champions have the ability to poke without much counterplay, and we wanted to make it so that the game is not immediately decided at loading screen when you see five ranged poke champions on the enemy team.

From what we’ve seen, this (coupled with the champion balance changes) is working pretty well, so we are going to keep it. However, the range is actually calculated when the damage makes contact, which often led to cases where you would shoot a spell, take a step back, and then you trigger the poke reduction. To address this, we’re increasing the range required to trigger the reduction: Damage from champions further than 900 1000 units away is reduced by 15% (this excludes ultimates and damage over time abilities).

Game Adjustment: Less Drawn-Out Games

Our goal for these changes was to NOT shorten most games. Games that would normally end quickly shouldn’t have been made any faster. We were focused on the long games that went for more than 25 minutes, trying to pull those games in and make sure they actually end. With that goal in mind, it seems like we did exactly what we set out to do. The quickest 50% of ARAM games were basically the same length before and after the event, which is good. The slowest 10% of games had their length cut dramatically.

While this was a big success, we do feel we swung a little hard, as we didn’t want the change to be quite that severe. So we are going to be keeping these changes with a few small number adjustments:

  • From game start to 15:00, minion waves spawn every 25 seconds as normal. At 15:00, spawn rate begins increasing at a linear rate, capping at 25:00 when they’ll spawn every 15 seconds. (Unchanged.)
  • From game start to 15:00, minions have 325 movement speed as normal. At 15:00, they start gaining movement speed every minute until 20:00 25:00 when they’ll have 425 movement speed. (Slowed down how quickly the minions ramp in speed.)
  • From game start to 15:00, champions deal 10% 0% more damage to structures. At 15:00, that value increases linearly until 25:00 when they’ll deal 30% 15% bonus damage to structures. (Removed early tower bonus damage and halved it late game.)

Warmog’s Armor Changes

Last but not least… Warmog’s. The changes we made to Warmog’s were quite successful: They made the item not quite as strong, but still viable for champs that benefit from the repeated sustain. Unique builds like Warmog’s Soraka are still viable, but they don’t constantly keep the champion at 100% health and make you feel powerless as the opponent. So new Warmog’s is here to stay!


That’s it for now. We hope you enjoyed this mini-event and that these changes lead to a more fun ARAM! Feel free to reach out and let us know what you think. Until next time, have fun on the Howling Abyss.


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