Last month we talked about the new features and gameplay updates headed to ARAM during the Curse of the Drowned event. Now that the waters have settled, we’re here share how these changes went: What was good, what wasn’t, and what we learned—and which of the changes are here to stay.
Here to Stay
We’re quite pleased with the reception of the Bench and the larger Free to Play pool. One welcome side benefit is that we saw ARAM queue dodge rates drop by about half. We think this is because players are more likely to find a champion they’re willing to play.
One question we saw players ask was, “Does the Bench cause teams to be ‘better’ on average, with more high-winrate champions per team?” The short answer is no. While the ability to select a teammate’s rerolled champion does increase team quality a little, this effect was compensated for by the expanded F2P rotation, causing overall champion diversity to remain steady.
Other Quality of Life Changes
We’re pleased with how the changes to surrender times, base gates, and in-game experience have gone. In particular, the Level 3 experience fix has caused games to be slightly faster (about 20 seconds on average) and allows many champions who are heavily dependent on their ultimates to come online sooner.
Some players have raised concerns about games snowballing harder as a result of this change. This seems to be true, but only mildly so. For example, games where the losing team destroys no towers are about 2% more common. We’ll keep an eye on these effects as time goes on.
Dark Harvest Nerf
We originally introduced the nerf to Dark Harvest as a temporary change, but its reception and effect on the game have been positive enough for it to become permanent. Dark Harvest is still a viable keystone; it remains a powerful pick for a handful of champions like Nasus, Graves, and Gangplank, but it’s no longer the top-winrate rune for unintended champions like Maokai and Brand.
AOE Health Relics
The Health Relic changes were pretty popular. In particular, the new healing behavior helped spice things up and give teams a small objective to fight over while also smoothing over internal struggles about who gets the health. For these reasons, the new Health Relic behavior will come to the Howling Abyss.
They’ll work the same way there as they did on Butcher’s Bridge, with one small exception: We’ve reduced their radius slightly, making them a little more dangerous to contest. The tab menu timers for health relic spawns will also remain, so you can keep tabs on when to prepare for a brawl.
Gone For Now
We introduced Ghostwalkers, Bloodletter’s Veil, and Spectral Cutlass for two reasons: We wanted to give the event some unique thematic content, and we wanted to test out ways to make assassins more successful and fun to play in ARAM.
The latter goal has had mixed results, with AD assassins’ win rates creeping up only a tiny amount. Mage assassins like Diana and Katarina improved a little more, but Bloodletter’s Veil also proved useful on some mid-range mages like Mazahar and Viktor.
Thus, these items will set sail for now, but we’ll continue looking into ways to help Assassins find more success in ARAMs in the future.
We were overwhelmed by the reaction to the new Butcher’s Bridge. We heard a lot of calls to keep the map permanently in some way, so we’re looking into options. It’s too early to make any promises about when or how we’ll return to the Slaughter Docks, but we’re looking into it.
Warmog’s Armor Removal
And last but not least, Warmog’s Armor. There was a lot of discussion about this item in the wake of its removal for the event, both supporting and opposing its absence. Many of you raised the valid concern that poke is still a very dominant strategy in ARAM, and that Warmog’s Armor was one of the few ways to itemize against it. In an environment without Warmog’s, we did in fact see win rates for mages go up, by about 2 percentage points across the board.
We still believe that Warmog’s Armor in its current state does not belong in ARAM, but it’s become clear that we should change it or replace it with a new anti-poke item rather than simply removing it. In the meantime, Warmog’s will return.
That about does it for the ARAM roundup. Thanks so much for the feedback, and if you have any other suggestions about how we can improve the mode in the future, we’d love to hear them. See you out on the Abyss!