*Posting for **Riot Jag** while he's in preseason patch rundown shoots!*
By **Riot Jag**
Hey summoners, **Jag** here to tell you all about the newest resident to Summoner's Rift.
**The Problem Space**
For a long time, the asymmetry of the map for Summoner's Rift gave structure to how teams would arrange their lane configurations, and deepened the range of early game strategic options. At this point in time, however, League’s probably the most objective-focused it’s been in a long time, with Dragon buffs skewing the map to be bottom-heavy. A symptom of this, of course, is that almost all top laners (and now some mid laners) are taking the summoner spell Teleport so they can meaningfully interact with the ‘objective game’ before the 20 minute mark. If a top laner *doesn’t* do so, they usually feel like they’ve made the wrong choice. To combat this lack of strategic diversity, the most obvious options would be to either a) nerf Teleport, or b) make Dragon irrelevant.
Oddly enough, the answer was a bit of both.
During our preseason development time, we first played with ways to make Ignite or Exhaust more compelling summoner alternatives to Teleport. In doing so, however, we found that dominating map movement in an objective-based game is just too broadly applicable in its use that trying to “match” its strength with other combat spells becomes a terrifying proposition. We could also make small adjustments to the power level of Teleport itself - which we are definitely going to do - but wanted a better long-term solve.
On the other side of the coin, the most organic solution we could provide without just crushing Teleport was to give you a reason to *not* want to teleport away from the top side of the map. One method of doing that would be to remove Dragon’s relevance in the early game, but for many reasons we feel like having the Dragon objective anchor action was valuable for controlling tempo and game flow. We still want top laners to feel like they have a reason to win their lane beyond arriving at the Dragon fight at the perfect time.
So in light of that...
**Enter the Herald**
… We put a competing objective in the top side of the map - the Rift Herald.
The Rift Herald is a neutral monster that will hold down the Void Pit for Baron Nashor before 20 minutes (before being permanently replaced thereafter). The Herald is a void-mutated scuttler and has armor that can shrug off ranged attacks particularly effectively (so if you do swap your lanes for it, there are some inherent penalties). That said, Herald’s got a pretty significant soft spot at the back, so make sure you bring a friend to help before taking it on. If you're successful in defeating Herald, your team will be rewarded with 50 gold each and the killer will be given a pushing buff that also enhances their minions. Don’t worry, the minions won’t get extra defenses, so you won’t have to deal with last hitting DR’d up minions in lane, but they will get a lot of offensive power, so teams will have to find a way to deal with the push or risk losing turrets.
**Long Term Goals**
With Rift Herald in the game, players will have a more interesting range of choices to make. Should your jungler focus your top laner and their half of the map to get them snowballing early? Should the top laner opt for Ignite or Exhaust over Teleport to double down on that strategy? Are you a team that's opting into the 5 dragon win condition, or are you looking to push turrets down by 10 minutes? Our hope is that there is no clear answer until your team has figured out what they've picked and how they want to win the game.
A closing note: while this is a neutral objective that is easily accessible by mid lane (and therefore is heavily subject to the influence of the jungler and mid laner), we really wanted to give top laners a reason to feel good about winning the "1v1 me bro" island and being able to show their team why it was worth making sure they succeed. Consequently, there are several mechanics on the Rift Herald that may result in that split pushing top lane fighter (talking to the Rivens and Tryndameres here) getting some big leads early on in the game. We don't want that to get out of control but, to be clear, we know what we're signing up for. We're giving some room back to the dudes who are brave enough to fight top lane without bringing a Teleport to fall back on.
*So beware, cowards.*