Hey, Agigas here!
From the various pieces of info provided earlier by Riot, the LoR community knew that the balance patch of January 5th was going to be big – and it’s fair to say that the devs have delivered on promises. With 28 changes, we have here a very large patch that should meaningfully impact the current meta.
In this article, we’ll be reviewing the most impactful changes of this update first, and then I’ll be going over all the rest. Here’s the rating scale we’ll be using to evaluate cards prior and after their respective changes:
|S||Meta staples. |
Excellent enablers and/or payoffs that allow powerful decks to exist.
|A||Powerful cards. |
Not meta-breaking, but push their archetypes and command the respect of the meta.
Mystic Shot, Decimate, Crackshot Corsair, Pyke.
|B||Neither impressive nor bad. |
Playable, quality role-players in their archetypes.
House Spider, Death’s Hand, Taric.
|C||Underwhelming card. |
Needs a very specific niche to perform, overall doesn’t get played much competitively.
Blade’s Edge, Tornado Warrior.
12. Anivia: B -> A
I will say it outright – I am biased on this one. I’ve been playing Anivia since the beta, and she is one of my favorite champions. That said, I’ve got solid reasons to think this buff is more impactful than most players think.
At first, this change can seem a bit underwhelming because Anivia’s power is not in her stats, but in her ability. While this is true, having better stats will help her deck to get a better board presence in the midgame to get better trades – which is quite important considering you just paid a large amount of mana to develop her onto the board. Her higher attack will also help the archetype finishing games faster, which has been one of the issues for the deck.
However, the biggest win is that Level 2 Anivia has now stronger stats than The Rekindler.
Zombie Anivia, the main archetype for the champion, tends to overflow the board when casting The Harrowing. Previously, The Rekindler was stronger than Anivia, which meant that you get to revive that much fewer Anivias.
Now, a leveled Anivia will be stronger than a Rekindler, and therefore will have priority over The Rekindler when you cast The Harrowing. This makes the archetype much smoother on the finishing line, and should greatly help the deck to close out games.
11. It That Stares: B -> A
It That Stares was already a solid unit in ramp decks looking for a way to take over the board, such as the Targon Peak archetype.
Its ability to deal with wide low-health boards all the while providing a strong board presence makes it a great catch-up card when you fall behind while ramping. Its alternate use as a landmark removal is also very appreciated in control archetypes.
With this buff to the damage it deals, It That Stares will be even better at stabilizing the board – a lot better. The difference between 2 and 3 damage is massive, especially when the opponent is already looking to play around Avalanche and Blighted Ravine. I expect this card to become a staple for ramp decks and to change the course of a lot more games than before.
10. Sion: A -> B-
Sion was already struggling lately and recently hit its lowest point since his release, and this nerf comes at a very awkward timing. The Draven Sion archetype was down to a 1% play rate this week and was getting outshined by the newer, more aggressive discard version playing Rumble over Sion.
With the pace of the game getting ever-so-faster, it just made sense for the archetype to adapt into more explosive builds.
With this nerf, Sion doesn’t even look like a good finisher anymore. He loses 2 damage both on Sion level 2 and on
I expect even more players to switch to the Draven Rumble version of the discard archetype, which was already doing better lately.
9. Trundle: A -> S-
With such a large health pool and the Regeneration keyword, Trundle will now be insanely hard to kill. We already know that, as this buff is a revert to a previous nerf to the champion – and we remember how tough it was to deal with 4/6 Trundle.
Giving Trundle more survivability is a very big change for the card. Where this champion really gets to shine is when he survives until his Ice Pillar comes down to level him up, at which point he will close out games very easily and quickly without requiring much of an investment.
Trundle and his archetypes were already in a comfortable position and this buff will likely push him even further. That said, his main archetype – Feel The Rush – is still counterable the same way it was before, and although the buff is important, I don’t expect that deck to take over the meta.
8. Monster Harpoon: A+ -> B
Monster Harpoon has been the staple removal for Bilgewater for quite some time now, and was a key supporting card for the midrange and control decks of the region, such as Gangplank Sejuani and Nami TF. With this change, removing the opponent’s key units gets much more expensive, and you will often have trade either down or evenly in mana.
Moreover, Monster Harpoon is a card you want to hold as a reaction to an opponent’s play – and keeping 4 mana open is much harder than keeping 3, and this change will make the card much more clunky.
Monster Harpoon is still likely good enough to see play in Bilgewater decks without another access to midgame removals, but it won’t be a driving force of those decks anymore.
7. Bandle City Mayor: S -> A
With a permanent cost reduction on top of card creation, Bandle City Mayor just had too much of everything.
While he wasn’t hard to remove, letting him live even a single turn would often mean the opponent is able to fully make up for its cost by playing a bunch of cheap multi-region units.
With this nerf, Bandle City Mayor won’t get to be a win condition on his own, which seems to be a healthy change. This is still a good card – you still get to Manifest a unit, accelerate your tempo, and often play a 1-cost multi-region follower on the same turn you play him.
But this change does end the reign of terror – where everybody knew that unless you instantly remove Bandle City Mayor, the opponent will flood the entire board in no time.
6. Curious Shellfolk: S -> A
Curious Shellfolk has been very successful lately in a lot of different shells. You don’t need much to make Curious Shellfolk an oppressive value AND tempo engine, and with its very high health stats, a lot of decks were simply unable to do anything about it.
With this nerf, a lot more decks will be equipped to kill or run over this 6-cost unit – there’s a lot more room for counterplay.
That said, Curious Shellfolk still keeps its powerful ability – if the opponent can’t deal with this engine right away they won’t be able to keep up all the same way. Moreover, the combo between Shellfolk and Trinket Trade is still unchanged.
5. Lecturing Yordle: S -> A-
What made Lecturing Yordle particularly oppressive was that it used to give the first Poison Dart immediately on-summon, and this change goes a long way to make this card more bearable to play against.
The card’s play patterns also become much clunkier. Now, the opponent always gets ‘a memo’ when seeing Yordle come down onto the board and can proactively trade 1-health units in combat before you get a Poison Dart, and there is no way for you to generate a Poison Dart on a defensive turn anymore.
This is a really sizeable nerf, and while the card still is good, it doesn’t look like the all-star Bandle City unit it was. It is still strong and versatile enough to likely see play in a large variety of Bandle City archetypes, but I don’t expect Lecturing Yordle to be the kind of supporting card to single-handedly push an archetype into competitive play anymore.
4. Hidden Pathways: A+ -> C+
Out of all the ‘draw 2’ spells in the game, Hidden Pathways was arguably the best, as its condition was easy to fulfill and drawing 2 cards for 3 mana is exactly the right spot you want to be in.
With this nerf, Hidden Pathways suddenly becomes the worst draw spell of its kind. Salvage and Whispered Words barely see any play, and Hidden Pathways is now in the same range, but without their upsides AND locked behind a condition.
4 mana has shown time and time again to be too expensive of a cost to draw cards, and I don’t expect Hidden Pathways to see a lot of competitive play anymore, unfortunately.
3. Iceborn Legacy: C -> A+
The most important weakness of Iceborn Legacy was its spell speed. This card is often better used on small units that you can summon in vast amounts quickly – but when casting it on such units, the opponent could easily answer by killing said units when the spell was Slow speed.
With this change of speed, there will be no window to react to Iceborn Legacy, and you can even use it as an answer to make a unit win a combat or survive a removal.
While Iceborn Legacy went from underwhelming to very powerful, it getting into competitive play isn’t a sure thing because it needs to be played in a very specific archetype. That said, it will now be a major driving force of those archetypes instead of holding them back with its clunkiness, and I would not be surprised to see some Iceborn Legacy deck being pushed into the meta.
2. Vengeance: B+ -> A+
Vengeance struggled lately to keep up with ever-so-cheap threats and this buff comes to rectify that. Control decks tend to be very mana-intensive, and having such a high cost on a key spell to their strategy was making it hard to keep up with the opponent’s tempo plays. At 7 mana, Vengeance was often your only play for the turn, which made it very clunky as a reactive spell.
While 6 mana still is costly, it is a very meaningful change and will make it much easier to cast something else on the turn you play Vengeance to avoid falling behind.
Vengeance was already being played regularly in control Shadow Isles archetypes, and therefore this buff will without a doubt have an impact. I don’t expect control to take over the meta as they still have a lot of problems, but this buff goes a long way to make them feel smoother and will likely push them to see more competitive play.
1. Kindred: B- – > A+
Kindred was one of the most hyped-up cards at the time of her release – her removal engine is pretty impressive, and I was myself very high on Kindred’s future. However, because of her high cost and clunkiness, Kindred ended up being a very slow engine – too slow to perform against the top competitive decks.
That said, I should add that she was still not as bad as most players pictured her to be. The card has been played alongside Nasus and more recently in the Sentinel Control archetype, and while she was never part of the most popular versions of those archetypes, she wasn’t doing too bad performance-wise either.
With this change, Kindred comes down a turn earlier, and an early Kindred can be on-time to deal with the opponent’s plan and snowball away the game.
To compensate for the mana cost decrease, Kindred loses a health point, making her way easier to deal with for the opponent. All in all, this change to Kindred is clearly a huge buff, as Kindred’s extra health point didn’t really matter in the first place when she was coming down too late to take over the game anyway.
Kindred is now gonna be a must-remove threat in the right deck, and I believe she can now see competitive play – and she will be particularly good in matchups with a low number of ways to remove her.
|Sion||A||B-||Sion was already struggling lately and hit its lowest point since his release, so this nerf comes at a very awkward timing. I expect even more players to switch to the more aggressive Draven Rumble version of the Discard archetype, which was already doing better lately.|
|Darius||B||B+||I’ll start by saying that Darius is better than what most players give him credit for. He often overperforms in aggressive decks as a top-end finisher. This buff is not big, and Darius is not gonna take over the meta, but you shouldn’t sleep too hard on him either.|
|Ashe||B||A-||Ashe is a good champion and will continue to remain so with this buff. This will slightly accelerate her archetypes, making them more in line with the speed of modern games. That said her archetypes still are a bit behind and unless the meta calls for it I don’t expect her to see too much play – at least not in her current Noxus builds.|
|Trundle||A||S-||We’ve already experienced a 6-health Trundle in the past and we know how hard he was to kill. This addition of 1 health point is pretty big – if the king of trolls survives until his pillar hits the board the game will finish pretty quickly.|
|Anivia||B||A||This buff is bigger than it seems for the champion – not only Anivia will be a better mid-game presence and will finish the game faster, but she will also get revived over The Rekindler, making the Harrowing turn much smoother.|
|It That Stares||B||A||It That Stares was already a solid unit in ramp decks looking for a way to take over the board, such as the Targon Peak archetype. The damage buff on it is really big and will make this card a much more effective sweeper.|
|Voices of the Old Ones||C-||C||This is still very expensive – there are very few matchups and archetypes where you can afford such a high amount of mana for no direct board impact. If the meta becomes a ramp battle it will shine, but I don’t expect things to go this way anytime soon.|
|Iceborn Legacy||C||A||The change of speed makes this card much easier to play and takes away from the opponent any counterplay. There are some very interesting targets for this spell in the game, such as Daring Poro or Spiderling.|
|Rimetusk Shaman||C-||C||While the change makes this card less vulnerable to being removed, it doesn’t change how slow and weak it is for a 5-cost unit.|
|Poro Herder||B-||B+||This change will make Poro Herder more consistent, and help the archetype to cycle through its deck to get to the critical mass of Poro needed.|
|Kindred||B-||A+||The main thing holding back Kindred is how slow they are. This buff is a huge leap in the right direction for tehm and I’m very excited to test decks with the champion.|
|Maokai||B-||B+||Maokai being unable to trigger his passive right away on turn 4 was a big downside for the champion. The combination with Vile Feast will now be very strong.|
|Vengeance||B+||A+||Vengeance struggled lately to keep up with ever-so-cheap threats and this buff comes to rectify that. Making control decks less mana-intensive is a huge change.|
|Diana||B+||A||Diana was already a pretty good champion and this buff is not insignificant. That said, level 1 Diana is still a small unit. If you play a lot of Nightfall cards she will level up anyway, and if you don’t – you won’t trigger her a lot. What this change really means to Diana is that she gets to become a Nightfall activator right away at level 1 instead of only being a payoff in the Nightfall archetype.|
|Xerath||B-||B+||Xerath still is slow and clunky even with 1 more health point – landmark decks seem to perform better with Taliyah and Ziggs, combining them with the Overwhelm keyword. The change on level 3 is pretty huge, and the Sun Disc archetype gets several buffs, but likely still won’t be competitive.|
|Ascended’s Rise||C||C+||This is a helpful change for that card in the Sun Disc archetype. That said, the problem is that it is still unlikely still to make it into competitive play.|
|Buried Sun Disc||B-||A-||This change is really huge for its archetype. That said I am still not sold on the archetype becoming competitive, but if it ever happens – this change will be a major reason why.|
|Bandle City Mayor||S||A||Bandle City Mayor has been one of the most terrifying cards of Bandle City for a long time. You would either remove it right away or lose tempo to the opponent flooding the board with discounted units. The card is still great but won’t single-handedly win the game anymore.|
|Curious Shellfolk||S||A||Curious Shellfolk has been very successful lately in a lot of different shells. Its high health combined with its power as a value and temp engine was quite oppressive, and with this nerf, a lot more decks will be able to kill or run over this 6-cost unit. Curious Shellfolk still keeps its powerful ability, but will now be more open to counter-play.|
|Lecturing Yordle||S||A-||This is a pretty sizeable nerf. Lecturing Yordle will be much clunkier as the opponent always gets this ability to trade 1-health units in combat before you get a Poison Dart, and you won’t be able to remove a 1-health unit on your defensive turn anymore.|
|Hidden Pathways||A+||C+||Hidden Pathways went from one of the staples of drawing cards to one of the worst draw spells in the game. This is now a Salvage or a Whispered Word behind a condition and without any upside.|
|Monster Harpoon||A+||B||The cost change is huge – this is the kind of card you want to hold as a reaction to an opponent’s play, and keeping 4 mana is much harder than keeping 3.|
|Ruined Rex||C+||B-||The card isn’t about the stats at all and drawing more than 5 cards over a turn is extremely rare. I don’t expect this buff to have much of an impact.|
|Coral Creatures||B-||B||Pretty helpful to slow down board pressure, but the card still is in an awkward spot when it comes to finding an archetype.|
|Chump Whump||C||C+||Chump Whump is pretty dedicated to the Shroom archetypes since Ezreal was reworked. A better body won’t help synergies, and although the buff is helpful I don’t expect it to change things too much whether it comes to the card itself or its archetype.|
|Corina Veraza||C||C+||Corina Veraza’s problem is not about stats at all, and I don’t expect the card to see more play or success than before.|
|Back Alley Barkeep||C-||C||The stat buff makes it a slightly better card, but still a bad card.|
|Golden Crushbot||C-||C||This unit becomes really huge and hard to deal with when it gets to benefit from Tech buffs, but it doesn’t help the archetype to enable its synergies so I still doubt it will see play.|
Overall there are a lot of impactful changes in this patch. Some of them do feel kind of ‘too much’, but most are very healthy for the future of the meta and we get to experiment with very exciting cards such as Kindred and Iceborn Legacy.
With Ahri Kennen and Pantheon Fated not getting hit by the patch, there are a lot of questions on how the meta will evolve – I will try to answer those in a Winners and Losers of the Patch article later today, so stay tuned if you’re interested in that!
If you have a question, want to share feedback, or discuss this article, I’ll be happy to answer you in the comments below!
If you like my content and don’t want to miss out on anything, you can follow me on Twitter, where I share every article I write, but also my tournament performances, my most successful decks, etc…
Thanks for reading!