The Competitive season has just begun and we have already been seeing quite some interesting picks.
In the Top Lane, a very unique build from Singed has allowed him to get through lane and become a menace in the mid and late game.
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The LCS is finally restarting after several months of pause. Between Worlds, smaller tournaments and the offseason patches, quite some things have changed that are important to look at.
The assassin rework in Preseason 2017 wasn’t arguably as impactful as the Marksman Update last year or the Mid Season Mage Update. With that said, you can expect some of the reworked champions to show up frequently.
The OP tier
Rengar and LeBlanc, two of the main assassin reworks have been regarded by most of the pro scene as the OP tier and are already amongst the most banned champions over in the Korean League (LCK). Expect to see them banned frequently.
If they make it through, chances are you will see them dominating in the rift.
Will be Played
While not considered nearly as prioritary as the two champions mentioned above, there are two other assassins that have already been picked and will see games situationally.
Kha’zix is one of them. With frequent bans on Rengar and Lee Sin the jungle pool opens up and the Voidreaver is certainly one of the top champions on the list to get picked up.
Katarina on the other hand is more situational, but do expect mid laners who have already mastered her to pick her up if they see a favourable matchup. So far, Faker has played her once so expected others to follow suit.
New Ban System
The inclusion of the new Pick and Ban with a total of 10 Bans is arguably the biggest change for competitive play.
If you missed the announcement and how the Pick/Ban works make sure to click here to read more about the system, below is a simple image explaining how it works.
In essence, the first half of the draft is the same, but now there’s an extra ban phase in the middle of the picks. This extra ban phase mid draft allows to ban out counters for an existing pick, or shutting down a potential composition being built by taking away champions that would synergize well with it.
As a result, the new ban system is bound to create new situations where we would otherwise not see with the old system
Deeper Champion Pools
For the most part, the first bans are still what you would see if we were still on the old, 6 ban system. Typically you will still see teams ban out the OP and highly contested picks.
The big change lies in the second round of drafts. What’s been fairly common in Korea’s main and even secondary league so far has been to ‘pinch’ a role and ban out top tier champions from that role, especially if a team has already picked a champion from that role.
In the game pictured above, Samsung Galaxy have already picked a jungler while their opponents haven’t, so they resort to banning two more junglers (Rek’sai and Elise) to limit their opponent’s options. Similarly, Longzhu ban what looks to be two mid lane champions (Orianna and Malzahar) after locking in Ekko.
As a result, players will have to showcase deeper champion pools, as their main champions might get targeted heavily if not picked immediately.
The early stages of each season are often chaotic, with pros and trying to find the optimal picks for each role. As such, it’s natural that we see some oddball picks showing up (seemingly) out of nowhere. Some might end up being experimental and not seeing the rift again, while others might be here to stay.
So far, we have seen Malzahar being highly contested, but for the Support role. Other than that, Singed and Sion are two rather unexpected top laners that showed up in the LCK.
Given their heavy item dependency and time needed to scale and become relevant, a good workaround to this problem in the ADC role is to have some sort of utility. At least for now, it’s likely that the three most contested picks in the role will be Ashe, Jhin and Varus, who has made a comeback to the bot lane after buffs on 6.24.
All of these champions bring hard CC to the table, and even when behind or still scaling will still be able to provide utility and initiation for their teams.
There are outliers to this however. Ezreal has a very different build with Muramana, Trinity Force and Blade of the Ruined King, and is still a solid pick due to his mobility and ability to peel for himself and then there’s Ziggs in the bot lane, replacing the traditional ADC pick for magic damage in the botlane.
A lot of new faces
Finally, it’s worth mentioning there have been a ton of roster changes during the offseason, with a lot of changes inside the league and with some high profile imports joining, especially in North America. To keep up with the changes we suggest checking out lolesports, or instead taking a look at ESPN’s roster tracker.
In the current meta, an AD Carry needs to be able to fit ample criteria to be considered top tier.
Currently, for higher tiers of play and competitive, strong (or at the very least safe) laning, good wave clear, some sort of crowd control to provide utility and finally teamfight presence are all very attractive traits to have, albeit not all required.
Before Season 7 (Patch 6.24) you probably didn’t see much of Varus in your games, and if you did, it was probably not in the botlane. Prior to the most recent patches he was mostly seen in the mid lane, with a more caster oriented build, that was popularised by EU LCS player PowerOfEvil.
Currently, Varus is becoming more and more popular. The champion is considered to be top tier by a lot of professionals and as leagues start all over the World it won’t take long for his popularity to rise even more.
Recent passive buffs
On Patch 6.24, Varus got a small buff to his passive, but one that allowed him to move away from a caster oriented build to more traditional AD Carry builds.
Passive - Living Vengeance
- Bonus Attack Speed Ratio added: +50% bonus attack speed on champion kill/assist (halved for minion/monster kills)
- Duration: 6 seconds for champion proc, 3 seconds for minion/monster proc ⇒ 5 seconds in both cases
Making his passive scale with bonus attack speed made AS oriented builds much more attractive, while increasing the buff duration granted from killing minions allows him to go for favourable trades more often.
In later stages, getting a kill or assist can translate into a huge DPS buff for the remainder of fight.
Need for CC
Given the very high item dependency and low impact in the early stages of matches for AD Carries (which we talked about being a problem recently), having reliable Crowd Control is an extremely good trait to have.
Why? Because if worse comes to worst, an ADC with CC can set up teammates for success until they eventually become the major damage threat on their team.
To give an example, Jhin’s Curtain Call is best used against low health targets given the ability’s missing health component, but you will still frequently see it used early on due to the potent slow it has, allowing teammates to follow up.
Varus works similarly in this regard and despite lower range, he has very useful and strong crowd control.
However and unlike Jhin, Varus is a much better tank killer. Each stack of Blighted Quiver applies a stack of blight that can then be consumed by using another ability. Consuming the stacks does a percentage of an opponent's maximum health.
Even though it’s magic damage, up to 15% of a tank’s maximum health still makes a dent.
In addition, the buffed passive also makes the recently buffed Blade of the Ruined King an attractive buy. We will touch on that a bit later.
Piercing Arrow, Varus’ main damage ability allows him to quickly dispatch whole minion waves once he has enough Attack Damage. The range on it allows Varus to consistently throw it from afar, giving him one of the safest and reliable wave clear tools in his role.
Teamfight-wise he’s extremely versatile. In sieges or defenses he can keep his distance and poke key targets with Piercing Arrow, but he’s also dangerous in auto attack range, where he gets to quickly stack up Blight stacks and where a kill or assist will grant him a massive attack speed buff.
Lastly, it’s worth looking into something else that makes Varus fairly unique currently. Most AD carries have a set build path and skill order, but Varus actually gets to switch it up.
Essence Reaver Build
This is the most popular build currently and the one that has been used on Varus since the 6.24 buffs.
When it’s safe, he can move forward to auto minions and regain mana with Essence Reaver’s passive. This build spikes hard if you get to follow it up with an Infinity Edge third and will do short work of more fragile opponents.
Blade of the Ruined King Build
This build recently surfaced in Korea and is quickly catching up. Recent buffs to the item make it more attractive, especially when having to deal with tanks. The %current health damage on basic attack alongside the self peel and extra ‘oomph’ from the item's active are strong arguments in favor of picking the item up.
With Blade of the Ruined King, Varus won't be doing as much damage with Piercing Arrow as he would with the Essence Reaver build, but he’s a bigger menace with his basic attacks as it becomes easier to stack blight. If he ever activates his passive with a kill or assist, he will gain a significant DPS boost.
Piercing Arrow Max
The more standard option currently, maxing out Piercing Arrow first increases the ability damage as well as massively decreasing its cooldown.
What to max second is optional and playstyle based too. Maxing Hail of Arrows (E) second is useful as the skill’s slow potency increases and the cooldown decreases. A lower cooldown means Varus has the skill available to consume Blight stacks on a target.
On the other hand, going for the Blighted Quiver max second increases the percentage maximum health damage per blight stack, ranging from 2% to 5%. Maxing W earlier also has more synergy with the BotRK build, since it’s a higher attack speed build.
Hail of Arrows Max
Maxing Hail of Arrows first is definitely less popular, but it does have its merits. As mentioned above, maxing the skill reduces the ability cooldown from 18 to 10 seconds and increases both slow potency and base damage. Maxing the ability is mainly used as the skill is a more reliable harass tool during laning and does best when going for short trades.
The early stages of each season are often chaotic, with teams, pros and even the average player trying to find the optimal picks for each role. With lane dominance becoming the name of the game, ranged supports became more popular than ever, in favor of tank picks such as Alistar or Braum.
These ranged casters, designated by Riot as Controllers, have two subclasses.
The enchanters (or utility supports) who focus mainly on defending them from threats with shields and heals.
And the disruptors, champions that specialize on locking down opponents and create great zones of threat their enemies can’t or shouldn’t get close to.
Unlike enchanters, disruptors can dish out a lot of damage. These are often called mage supports too.
Joining them now is Malzahar. The Prophet of the Void has recently been played in the support role and shown to be a very successful pick in the highest tiers of play across multiple servers.
If you would like to learn him yourself, be sure to check our Featured Guide by a Challenger Support Main
There are many upsides to using Malzahar in this role, but it’s important to understand why the pick is suddenly optimal to use and what changed from previous patches.
Back on Patch 6.23, Malzahar’s Void Swarm was changed, as the way Voidlings worked lacked clarity and made it overwhelming for an opponent to react to them and deal (or not deal) with them.
Patch 6.23 - Void Swarm (W)
- Mana cost lowered to 40 from 80
- Now works on a recharge system instead of a cooldown system.
- Recharges every 20/19/18/17/16 seconds (max 2 stacks) instead of a 20/19/18/17/16 second cooldown
- Voidling spawn on attack changed
- Voidlings no longer spawn other Voidlings by killing minions
- Voidlings can spawn other Voidlings within 8 seconds ⇒
3 seconds of W cast
- Voidlings now need 3 hits to die (similar to wards)
- Voidling damage changed:
- Physical Damage: 30/35/40/45/50 + 40% of bonus AD from 30/32.5/35/37.5/40% of total AD
- Magic Damage: AP ratio increased to 20% from 10%
The changes hurt mid lane Malzahar a lot, as a huge part of his pushing pressure came from the voidlings multiplying themselves after killing minions. However, the lower mana cost and charge system benefits him greatly when he’s not using it to push waves, which is in the support role.
They also swarm faster than before, multiplying after 3 seconds instead of 8, making it a stronger skill for trading early on.
Finally and as an additional bonus, the charge system makes it so Malzahar can now use the ability to spawn voidlings to block incoming skillshots, which is incredibly useful against Thresh’s Death Sentence or Blitzcrank’s Rocket Grab to give examples.
Single Target Damage
One of the main reason why Malzahar is strong right now is due to his damage, right from the get go. He opens up trades level 1 by walking up and using voidling charges and auto attacks to force them away from the minion wave, gaining the immediate lane advantage and ensuring his bot lane reaches level 2 before his opponents.
From level 3, 4 onwards is when Malzahar becomes really dangerous as he can fully unload a double voidling combo with Malefic Visions and Call of the Void on top of it. If used correctly, this will usually do more than half of an opponent's health bar, and if your AD Carry follows up it’s very likely you will blow their summoner spells, if not get a kill.
It’s worth mentioning that all this damage and especially the voidlings, are incredibly useful for neutral objectives. They will tank up Dragon and Baron, making it a less risky call, as well as speeding up the whole process.
The other big reason why you pick up Malzahar is because of his Crowd Control. Between a 2.5 second suppression from Nether Grasp and an AoE Silence scaling up to 2 seconds at max rank from Call of the Void, Malzahar brings a lot to the table to be sure he can set up kills for his teammates.
In addition, Rylai’s is also a frequently buy for him and he was one of the biggest winners with the 6.24 changes to the item, especially in the support role, traditionally a more gold deprived position. Using Malefic Visions on a target will constantly re-apply the slow, making it easier to then chain that with his own silence, or his teammate’s Crowd Control.
Similarly to other mage supports such as Brand and Zyra, Malzahar is very strong at picking off isolated opponents but unlike those two, he doesn’t need to hit skillshots to do so, as his ultimate is a targeted ability. This makes him much more reliable in this regard and makes it easier for teammates to follow up on his suppression.
A Durable Disruptor
Fragile and immobile is the description Riot uses to describe the disruptor class and while Malzahar is definitely the latter, he is much more durable than others in his class.
Void Shift provides a frequent, banshee-like shield that blocks the next damage or crowd control effect and also giving him a very short window of 90% damage reduction.
For the most part, Malzahar’s weaknesses are the same he has in the mid lane role. The Prophet of the Void is not very mobile and in the support role he doesn’t realistically have the option to run Ghost as a second summoner as he does in the mid lane.
He also has relatively low range on his spells. Despite Call of the Void being a 900 range ability, he needs to get closer to cast Malefic Visions (650 units) and his Voidlings only have a 450 cast range, so in this regard he has to expose himself much more than other mage supports.
Finally, in the support role, his build doesn’t really allow him to itemize for Cooldown Reduction easily.
Malzahar will usually grab Eye of the Watchers and Ionian Boots of Lucidity early on, but after that he needs to buy key items such as Rylai’s Crystal Scepter and Liandry’s Torment, meaning there is only room for extra Cooldown Reduction later on in his build.
He has relatively long cooldowns, so it’s a much needed stat that he will only get to max out in later stages.
Synergies & Counters - Interview with a Challenger Support
To learn more about Malzahar in the Support Role, we talked to Erik "Treatz" Wessén, Challenger Suport Main and substitute for the EU LCS Team ROCCAT.
You can follow Treatz on Twitter here
1. Aside from solo queue popularity, we have already seen Malzahar show up as a support in the EUCS Qualifiers, do you think we will see him in the LCS?
Yes, definitely. The meta still favors poke and utility ranged supports due to their lane dominance. I think that Malzahar fits this role well and he will show up as a lane neutralizer and outshine other picks from mid game onwards.
2. When playing Malzahar, who are your three favorite bot lane picks to have alongside you?
When I play Malzahar Support I like to have AD Carries that have good follow up or initiation to my all-ins with Nether Grasp (R).
- Jhin can easily ult from range to initiate and slow down targets so I can close the gap and use my own ultimate. He can then follow up with Deadly Flourish to lock them down for even longer.
- Ashe essentially has a free hit with her Enchanted Crystallized Arrow after my Nether Grasp. If timed and layered correctly a target won't be able to move for 3.5 seconds and you will just burst him in that timeframe.
- Caitlyn gets to follow up Nether Grasp with guaranteed Traps, meaning you can get a total of 4.5 seconds of lockdown on a single target. In addition, she has a very safe lane due to her high auto attack range.
3. If you're against Malzahar and you or your AD carry have the opportunity to counter pick, who are 3 champions that you think can really do well into him?
In my opinion, the best ADC counters to Malzahar would be either Draven or Miss Fortune.
Draven can easily out-trade Malzahar throughout the game, and his build path usually involves Mercurial Scimitar which hard counters Malzahar's Nether Grasp. Blood Rush's Movement Speed Buff makes it easy to kite the voidlings too.
Miss Fortune is good because she can reliably proc Malzahars passive with Make it Rain, making him much more exposed to incoming damage and Crowd Contol. She can also quickly dispatch Voidlings due to her Love Tap passive which will oneshot his voidlings. The idea here is very similar as to why Miss Fortune was good versus Zyra Support and why you saw her as a situational Support pick, you can use her in that role as well if you wish.
- Finally there is Lulu. Similarly to Miss Fortune, Lulu's pix empowered auto attacks can one shot voidlings. Besides from this, Lulu can also use her shield to block most of Malefic Visions damage, use Whimsy to kite back or help her ADC kite back if being chased by voidlings. Lulu can also cancel Malzahar's Ultimate with Whimsy or Wild Growth.
It's the first patch of 2017 and to open up the year Riot brought key nerfs to some of the most popular champions such as Camille, Poppy, Lee Sin and Syndra as well as some love to AD Carries such as Draven, Kalista and Lucian.
In addition, big changes to jungle camps, reducing early experience during the first clear and shifting the experience from 4 camps into the raptor camp.
Check out the full changes below to get ready for the patch to hit live
Murkwolf, Raptor, Krug, and Gromp camps grant 25% less experience on first clear (stacks additively with Ancient Krug’s 50% reduced experience on first clear)
The PBE was updated and not only did it have the Warwick gameplay update, but also his updated skins as well as a few new skins with Sewn Chaos Amumu, Sewn Chaos Blitzcrank, Popstar Ahri Chromas, and Prestigious LeBlanc Chromas.
Click the previews below to check out the skins in full 3D!
Sewn Chaos Amumu
Sewn Chaos Blitzcrank
Popstar Ahri Chromas