I don't make posts very often, but I put a decent amount of effort into this particular one, so I hope it's read by a decent portion of you pals. Reddit's not quite the place for long posts concerning balance.
I'll try to split this into a few chunks so that I can highlight the problems with the game, and I'll start with the roles. If you'd like, just read for your role, or for the Keystones section at the bottom. If you plan on reading the whole thing, good luck pal.
We've all heard complaints about top laners by now, it's become quite trendy to say, "Top's garbage" or "Top's not garbage, you're an idiot". The fact of the matter is that top lane is in a hard spot for some champions, and is in a good spot for others.
The nature of top lane has generally stayed the same for years. An isolated lane, where you're mostly (hopefully) soloing against another opponent, vying for cs leads and good trades. A few things have changed this, including teleport and jungle changes over the years, but it still mostly holds true.
**For years**, however, top lane has shifted from a place for fighters and tanks, to a place for ranged poke and tanks. There are multiple problem champions that exist in the game, and it's mostly these few select champions that make top lane as awful as people suggest. Jayce, Teemo, Gnar, and Pantheon. If you're a fighter, you're not going to have fun playing against these champions because you won't be able to interact. They will poke you down, and they will push you in. If you try to fight back, just about all of those champions have resources that allow them to either out-maneuver you or out-all-in you. It doesn't help that these champions don't have any windows of weakness.
There's another, simultaneous issue that affects fighters. They have **the most** expensive builds in the game. This is a concern because you'd expect the champions with the most expensive builds to have the best scaling, and the most impact late game, but that's generally not the case for a few reasons. Some champions like Jax, Camille, and Fiora all scale fairly well, but for reasons we'll get into later on (supports and ADCs), they simply don't have a high enough carry potential in the late game, while also losing out in laning to ranged poke tops. I would rather not go into the actual costs of items, but just be aware that Triforce + Hydra + Sterak's (a common fighter build) is legitimately the most expensive 3 item build path in the game that you'll see.
Another major problem is that many top lane champions don't have a keystone that's very strong. It's fairly obvious now that Press The Attack is a bad keystone on squishier, scaling fighters, while Grasp is not very enjoyable on juggernauts, nor strong. A simple fix would be to buff PTA for squishy fighters, and give a usable keystone to juggernauts. You could always bring back fervor, which was great, but it's also a very invisible effect, not as obvious as PTA or Grasp. I'll get more into keystones and fundamental issues later on.
The last problem, which also hits fighters (although not quite as much as those ranged poke champs and build cost), is the efficiency of armor components and Tabis. Generally, if you consider fighter vs tank matchups, it doesn't intrinsically make sense that a fighter would necessarily beat a tank in a 1v1 early on. Tanks generally have early high base damages, while fighters want to get a few items and scale up. The problem is that most fights aren't even close, and fighters have little agency vs tanks who properly itemize. The best tanks have spammable wave clear, hard CC, and and good trading such that fighters can't actually interact. This is mostly because of itemization. Fighters are stuck building their first item, usually a *needed* item like Triforce or Hydra, while tanks can itemize Ninja Tabis and Bramble Vest, both of which will effectively reduce a fighter's odds of 1v1ing to 10%. It's simply impossible to beat that itemization, and it's also impossible to outshove.
I want to clarify that I think ranged poke is by far the largest issue with fighters. Most other roles in the top lane are fine. If you also factor in higher jungle presence across the map, though, it becomes easy to see why top laners are frustrated, specifically fighter players.
Jungle is strong. It's also not, according to some of the challenger junglers like IWillDominate. A lot of players will rightly point out that junglers have the most agency in the early game now, more than they ever have before, and generally I'd agree. There are a couple of problems with the role, some systemic, some not.
The most glaring issue is in the meta. Tank junglers shouldn't be outjungling skirmishers. The nature of tank junglers should be that they sacrifice some wave clear and gank pressure, and lose 1v1 and 2v2, such that they can group up with their team in the mid game and be stronger than, say Rengar or Kha'zix. That's simply not the case. Tank junglers (let's be honest, this is mostly just Sejuani, but also Skarner, Zac) have equivalent or faster waveclear, better ganking, and better teamfighting. That's enough to dissuade most junglers from picking anything remotely aggressive-oriented.
There is a more nuanced issue with the role though, and it is the result of countless changes to the jungle over the history of the game.
**Junglers don't farm very much anymore.** The days of farm-focused jungling is long gone, the only exception being Shyvana. Put simply, it's because jungle camps are easy to clear, and spawn too infrequently. Junglers have downtime, and a lot of it, to gank, or ward the enemy jungle, or if you're Shyvana, kill a drake. For junglers, it might feel good. You get to gank more often without sacrificing time to farm. But often it can feel really bad. Perhaps you have no camps to clear, you have to gank someone, or do something, but lanes might not be gankable. Invading might not be an advisable option. That downtime often forces junglers into making linear, and potentially bad choices simply because they don't want to waste that time. The fundamental issue is that junglers don't have a choice. The question isn't, "Should I back and clear more, or look for a gank". The question is, "I have nothing to do BUT gank or invade. How can I do that". Often times, those choices are plainly poor options.
By giving junglers the option to hardfarm, to scale without forcing fights or skirmishes, you give them less linear paths, more nuanced gameplay. This helps laners, because they might not have to complain as much, and it helps junglers, because they can prioritize themselves more often.
I want to preface that I'm not very knowledgeable with the role as a whole.
The largest problem with mid lane ATM is AP itemization, but because that's being changed soon™, I won't talk much about it (hopefully you won't be forced into penetration anymore, guys).
There is another major issue though, which is keystone. A lot of mid laners don't have very useful keystones. Arcane Comet is only good if you can utilize slows, otherwise it's unreliable. Some mid mages could probably take Electrocute, but its long cooldown means that you can't use it very often, and it might be hard to proc. Aery is good, but far too boring and not impactful. And the last hope, Phase Rush, is just godawful. A lot of mid laners have the same problem that top fighters do, in that they don't have a strong, reliable keystone to take, and so instead they spec into Inspiration (mostly Unsealed Spellbook). Giving mid laners better keystones, or buffing certain keystones to scale more effectively or work more reliably would probably be the best option.
That being said, I think mid lane is still in a great spot. Some champions certainly need some buffs, but otherwise mid is probably the healthiest role in the game.
ADCs are too strong. Long gone are the days where ADCs had the most expensive builds, were easily killable, and took 40 minutes to finally scale. Now, ADCs tend to have relatively cheap items, even relatively cheap *crit* items. They have a multitude of options for safety, in runes, itemization, and in supports. They also have remarkably strong mid game potential. Meanwhile, they are some of the best scaling champions in the game.
There are a few build issues with the role, specifically. Both of which mainly break down into crit builds, and on-hit builds.
Crit builds are cheap, and not strong enough late game. The entire point of critical % as a stat is that it's supposed to be a weak, bad early game buy such that when you build enough of it, you become a late game monster. While this is still sort of true, it's not nearly as true as it used to be. Now, most crit items give you high attack speed, movement speed, AND a special effect. That's a bit much, the MS in particular. ADCs shouldn't be faster than every other role in the game, but their itemization effectively forces that stat onto them. ADCs should be slow, they should be catchable. They should **scale late**, but instead they're strong after their second item and remain that strong throughout the rest of the game.
The only balanced crit item is Infinity Edge. It's really expensive, and doesn't give crazy actives or passives. ADC should by nature be a simple, skill-based role where it's very easy to die, and very hard to play successfully. Let it be that role. Simplify items, make crit more expensive, and give room for other builds to exist, like AD builds, where mid game is a more realistic option if they want to itemize into it.
The other itemization option is on-hit. The majority of problems are with Varus and Kog'maw, because of ~~Runaan's~~ Guinsoo's (edit because I'm dumb). In what world does on-hit Varus outdamage Crit Tristana late game? In League of Legends, somehow. I'm going to continue to harp on the fact that critical strike builds should scale best late game, because crit should be the most expensive option. On the other side of the coin, on-hit should give a stronger mid-game, while falling off late. Unfortunately, that doesn't really happen. On-hit users often do more damage, because they're difficult to itemize against. Critical strike gets reduced by armor, whereas on-hit does a load of AD and AP damage. That's tough to itemize against. Put simply, these items shouldn't scale so well, and should do only AD damage.
Honestly, this is the most broken role in the game. Not because it's particularly overpowered, but because it's actually quite equal in power to the other roles.
Support, as a role, has always been given the resource shaft. This isn't by accident, the role was literally designed to be resource-lacking. The entire point was that you were a fairly useless player, who could ward, and maybe engage. But you didn't do a lot of damage, you were never tanky, and you had to devote most of your gold (and you got just about no gold) to wards. Over the years, though, Rito has decided to give support more gold, and more items. This causes two issues.
The first is that support items are really strong. So strong, in fact, that other roles STILL try to take them when possible. Gold generation as a stat is good. Not to mention a sightstone, and decent stats, for a cheap price.
The second is that supports can do one of two things.
A) They can get tanky, *really tanky*, tanky enough to be considered full tanks, in the ranks with Maokai Top or Sejuani jungle. Some of this is because of the kit, Alistar should be tanky, because his ult does that. But other champions are tanky because of itemization. They get a plethora of shields, loads of hard cc, and hard engage potential. This isn't inherently bad, supports SHOULD be useful in the game, and I'm not directly opposed to this form of strength. My only real concern is that a lot of tank supports actually have too much CC to justifiably be so tanky. Alistar has 3 hard cc tools, all of which are easily usable, whereas Maokai has 3, one of which lasts only a fraction of a second, and the other of which requires a lot of set-up and planning. Ornn is in the same boat, where he has 3 forms of cc, but one only lasts a fraction of a second (his Q), while his ultimate requires a lot of setup and can be counter-played with opposing hard cc. The only other really strong tank support is Braum, and that's likely because his shield is too strong. It should have a lower duration, put simply.
B) This is the serious issue with support; shield supports. They have the same gold efficiency as the tanks. They're easier to play. What's the tradeoff? Theoretically, laning phase. But because they can create a zone of safety for them and their ADC, it's often hard to capitalize. This isn't inherently bad, but like I said, shield supports literally don't take much skill to play. This leads to a massive power problem with the bot lane. A good ADC, with a shield support, will win late. Always. There's no other role in the game that can beat that duo. A lot of this is because of itemization. Supports have far too many options which buff up their ADC that it becomes overbearing. Locket, Ardent censer, Redemption, on top of exhaust, kit shielding, healing, slow cc, hard cc. It becomes almost impossible to reach the ADC as long as he positions properly. Even if you get through all that, the ADC might still have heal and flash, as well as kit dashes in some cases. It wouldn't be so awfully annoying if any of those items or abilities took skill, but they don't require any at all. Locket is a one-hit AOE, Redemption is a massive AOE. The shield isn't a skillshot, Lulu R isn't a skillshot, Janna ult is an AOE, the list goes on. These champions aren't hard to play, and buff their ADCs too much. Perhaps if any of their items were expensive, then they could argue that they scale late. But locket, redemption, ardent, are all cheap, because they're designed to be built by gold efficient supports.
Notice, I didn't mention Soraka. She's also quite strong, but there is a counter. Grievous wounds. It's a hard counter, too. Not to mention Soraka doesn't have any hard cc aside from her W, which is really difficult to actually root with. Compare that to Lulu polymorph, or Janna Q, both of which are very easy to cast and hit.
**Riot, if you're going to make backline supports with shields and heals, don't give them a plethora of hard cc to boot. Learn from Soraka, the banana thrower.** As well, create an effect which can nerf shield strength by, say, 40 or 50%. Give players the option to counter that annoying Janna, she already has so many resources at her disposal in her kit and her itemization. And while we're at it, why does Lulu's ultimate give a health buff? If it's already knocking up the divers, don't make the ADC tankier as well. Specialize her ultimate as a diving assist, to be used on Zac or Irelia. Not a health-granting, peeling one-click cast to use on the ADC.
Keystones have a few problems. The first problem is that not all champions have a rune. Too many, in fact. So many that Inspiration is one of the most used paths to take, when it was intentionally designed to be niche, mostly unused except by those who dare to cheese or experiment.
But instead, unsealed spellbook is everywhere. It's because your other keystones are garbage, Riot. They don't fit on every champion, and even on those they do fit, Inspiration is often simply stronger.
Riot has decided to nerf Inspiration as a tree, which isn't a particularly bad decision. It was likely too strong. The other option was to buff every other tree, but they were already well balanced. Hopefully the coming nerfs go a long way to shutting down annoying kleptomancy users such as Gangplank.
The reason why Inspiration is so strong is because it inherently solves the problems you should expect to have if you take an inspiration keystone. If Fiora wants to opt in for Kleptomancy, then you should expect her laning phase to be quite weak. She might lose trades, be down CS, but all for that gold generation. The problem is that she gets free boots, another 300g free of charge. And she gets biscuits, meaning that even if she gets punished for taking Kleptomancy, she has sustain filling her inventory slot every 3 minutes. On top of that, her health potions are more potent, because of the Inspiration passive stats. It can become fairly obvious to the user that Inspiration as a path is far too strong, so strong in fact that it's not worth taking anything else, because "anything else" doesn't beat kleptomancy in any world.
Jax is the best example of the broken keystones. In theory, Jax has a fairly great keystone to use in Press The Attack. It gives him bonus damage on the third auto, which isn't TOO hard to proc because he has hard cc and an auto reset. He also gets bonus 12% damage on the target he procs, also great because he already benefits from long trades innately. PTA might just be Jax's dream, you might assume.
Instead, he takes kleptomancy. He gets increased healing from corrupting bot, free boots, and some gold gen. Sure, he can't proc klepto that often, but it does give him something, and that *something* is better than PTA to most Jax players. Does that mean Inspiration is too strong, or that Press the Attack is too weak on melee champions? Probably both. Some of Jax's issues with PTA involve other top lane specific issues, not simply keystone issues. But it's worth noting.
*This was a very long post, probably my longest to date.* Thanks if you read this far, or even just read for your role or for keystones. I'm certainly no saint, and I have an above average chance of being wrong on some of these points, so if you disagree, voice your concern.