The KeSPA Cup is one of the most important and impactful events outside the normal two-split League of Legends season because of the top LCK teams in attendance. With season 9 due to start on Jan. 23, the KeSPA Cup gave us the best look into what the next season of League of Legends has in store for us. So far, this off-season has not brought as many game-changing mechanics compared to prior off-seasons. Other than champion balancing and the addition of Neeko, the changes to towers were by far the most impactful so far.
Turret plating changes
In patch 8.23, Riot Games added turret plating. This makes it so that turrets start with five plates that have 1000 HP. For every plate that is broken, the player is give 160 gold, or it is divided by the nearby players. Every plate that is broken temporarily increases the armor and magic resist of the tower by 25 for 20 seconds. This passive can stack if multiple plates are broken within the 20-second span. At 14 minutes into the game, turret plating falls off and all towers are back to normal. It is also important to note that towers do more damage. Instead of dealing 180 at 7:30, outer turrets deal 278 damage at 14 minutes.
The immediate impact was shown at the KeSPA Cup; it made it so there were almost no ganks prior to hitting level 6. More often than not players had to be grossly over-extended to be punished at all during lane phase. It did not look as if there were any real threat of a full two-or-three-man tower dive, and any attempt of a dive would most likely result in a trade kill at the very least. Due to these changes, players opted to play champions that could control lane because there was much more incentive to stay in lane until the 14-minute mark.
Top and jungle
The most-picked champion in top lane was Urgot, which averaged a 33 percent win rate and a 1.9 KDA during the playoffs. Other lane bully champions like Irelia and Aatrox were mostly banned, but both had two games in top lane. In the jungle, champions like Lee Sin, Gragas, and Kha’Zix were all picked five or more times during the playoffs. When the jungler hits level six, they can pick a lane to all-in to get a lead on the map. In most team compositions, the jungler needs to be the primary source of the engage early on, whereas that mostly transfers the support when it hits the mid-game.
Mid lane is very different compared to solo queue play; teams often prefer to select utility mages like Lissandra and Galio who were picked eight and seven times respectively. On the flip side, there were actual mages that did a lot of damage like Cassiopeia and Zoe. The issue is that Cassiopeia only got through twice, and it was only picked by Park “Viper” Do-hyeon against Gen.G in the finals. Zoe however, was picked seven times but went 2-5 with a disappointing 1.8 KDA. Zoe’s only two wins came from Song “Fly” Yong-jun in their 2-0 destruction of Kingzone DragonX. The mid lane has not changed since last year’s Worlds apart from a few new champions. Galio and Lissandra still mostly make their way into the game and are safe picks. Pending any major nerfs, these two champions are going to be the two most-picked mid laners come spring split.
ADC and support
In the bottom side of summoners rift Ezreal, Lucian, and Kaisa made up 79 percent of ADCs during the playoff stage. It was very clear that there was a need for mobile ADCs just due to the rest of the map being able to mostly dive on you. Ezreal was a clear favorite with his highly mobile kit, and Kaisa and Lucian were both very contested because of their movement abilities. Kaisa only had a win rate of 25 percent in the playoffs. Her only two wins had come from Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk against Kingzone DragonX. On support, protecting the support was the primary job and then engage when it goes late into the game. Champions like Tahm Kench, Alistar, and Rakan were popular picks. The most surprising of which was Tahm Kench, a champion who has a solo queue pick rate of 1.7 percent and a win rate of 44 percent according to u.gg, whereas in the KeSPA Cup, he had a pick/ban rate of 84 percent and a win rate of only 33 percent.
The games at the Kespa Cup were very eventful in all stages. The race to level 6 was very much felt, and the pressure was always there to get a lead before laning phase ended. With the current set of champions that were picked, all of them shared a good amount of lockdown that helped to give the first team to get their ultimates a clear advantage in the way of summoner spells or kills. Turret plating has forced teams to go for early Rift Heralds and Dragons to potentially extend a lead or create one before the 14-minute mark. Dragons mean much more than they used to (except Cloud Drake), so we will start to see more and more contests around Dragon Pit come spring split.
The kills were much higher. The average kills per game during the KeSPA Cup was 21, higher than the 2018 LCK summer split that had 18 total kills per game. While the LCK showcased the best of the best in the world during this event, every mistake and kill was punished much more than you would traditionally see in other regions. While the aforementioned LCK summer split had 18 kills per game on average, the NA LCS and EU LCS (now the LEC) summer splits had 22 and 23 kills per game. Judging by this event, the kills in the Western region’s will also go up by a substantial amount. The new meta is going to be a slaughter fest, and that is fun to watch!