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A subtle shift in the damage output of a certain ability may cause one of the largest impacts the League of Legends jungle has seen in some time. In a quiet patch for the game’s Public Beta Environment, Riot Games seems to be experimenting with an overhaul of the jungle summoner spell Smite, and the rework makes dealing high damage with the ability accessible far earlier in the game.

As it currently sits on live League of Legends servers, Smite’s damage to jungle monsters scales based on champion level. When a player is level 1 in-game, Smite does 390 true damage to monsters. The damage increases throughout the game with each level, until reaching a max of 1000 true damage at level 18. The new reworked Smite on the PBE does 450 damage flat until evolving to Challenging Smite or Chilling Smite. At that point, it does a flat 900 true damage for the rest of the game.

While these changes look subtle in execution, the impacts on the game and on the jungle meta specifically could be significant.

Potential impact of Smite changes

With the new Smite rework on PBE, champions in the jungle will now be on perpetually even-footing. No longer can players blame missed Smites on a level deficit or teammates feeding the enemy jungler.

This also opens up the possibility of certain champions becoming meta strangleholds. With everyone doing the same amount of true damage with Smite, will champions like Cho’Gath and Nunu suddenly become more valuable for their ability to pair the summoner spell with a major chunking ability like Consume (Nunu’s Q) or Feast (Cho’Gath’s R)?

And that doesn’t even broach the possibilities created by an end-game level Smite becoming accessible so early on. Currently, players need to reach level 16 in-game in order to get 900 damage output on the spell. If this Smite rework goes through, players will get access to end-game damage output on Smite mere minutes into the game. Could this allow champions with weaker clears a path into the jungle?

At the very least, this rework should almost definitely increase the frequency of fights around objectives like Dragon. 900 damage smites being available by the time most people go for Dragon will make it a viable solo objective for far more champions early in the game. This will create more opportunities for stealth Dragon solos, early steals and finding picks. It will also put a heavier onus on early game bot-side vision.

Why Riot Games is reworking Smite in the first place

Players may be asking why a Smite rework is in testing in the first place. These changes may offend experienced junglers as they bite into their ability to outplay their opponents. After all, one of the biggest benefits of gaining an early jungle lead is having that edge in Smite-fights. That extra bit of damage can be the difference-maker in securing Baron or working towards that Dragon soul.

The reasons listed above, which make this an annoying change for experienced junglers, are all the same reasons why Riot is looking into reworking Smite to begin with. As it stands, jungle is a role with a gargantuan impact on the game. It’s also the role that often carries the largest skill deficits between players. An experienced jungler holds an incalculable advantage over one that’s been auto-filled and playing the role for the first time. This is made worse by the fact that jungle is the most auto-filled role to begin with.

With these potential changes to Smite, as well as exploring systems like catch-up XP, Riot is looking to ease the barrier of entry into the jungle; making the role more beginner-friendly and giving jungle mains fewer tools to stomp less practiced opponents. Take, for example, a player new to the jungle suffering a large level deficit as a result of suboptimal pathing or an opponent stealing their camps. Having uniform Smite damage gives that player a shot at contesting neutral objectives and finding a way back in the game.

It’s still just on the PBE

Before lighting torches or sharpening pitchforks, players should remember this is still just preliminary PBE testing. The chance always remains that any potential PBE reworks are dropped or receive significant alterations before shipping to the live game.

In fact, a tweet by Gameplay Design Director Mark “Riot Scruffy” Yetter earlier today shows the team is already iterating. The breakdown by Yetter showed proposed damage values for Smite at 500 base and 1000 after evolving. Through first-hand testing, we can confirm that these have already seen edits down to 450 and 900 respectively.

The tweet by Riot Scruffy contained many other proposed jungle changes. Jungle monsters will now deal less damage and take slightly longer to respawn. Gold from non-buff camps is going up. The reworked Smite will also remove the Scuttle Crab’s shield and will give more health back on each cast. Perhaps the biggest change in these notes aside from the Smite rework is the reintroduction of comeback XP, a mechanic that allows players to more easily get back in the game after suffering an early level deficit.

For the full details on all of the changes to jungling on the PBE, check out the tweet linked above.