Yesterday, Riot confirmed a rumor that was first reported back in December: for the 2017 Spring Split, teams will get to ban an additional two champions each during the drafting phase, for a total of 10 bans per game.
The new system will not only add two additional bans per side (again, only in professional play), it will add an entire new banning phase to the middle of a draft. In the previous format, teams were limited to locking in bans before anyone had picked a champion. Now, after the traditional three bans at the start of a draft, teams will get an additional two bans after picking their first three champions. If you’re a visual person, this graphic lays it out:
The purpose of the change, according to Riot, was to hopefully see “an increase in champion diversity and strategic play.” The announcement went on to say that Riot believes “offering more bans will encourage deeper champion pools with more individual champions seeing the Rift – and that it’ll make a fun and engaging draft phase for fans to watch.” With 10 bans total per game, players will be forced to reach outside of their comfort zone, playing champions that they might not be comfortable with, or that might not be ideal in the current meta.
It will also add another strategic dimension to consider in the draft phase. Since the new banning phase comes part of the way through picking, teams can use it to close off the options available to one another. Fail to select a jungler in the first round of picks, and a team could be looking at two more bans to the role, forcing them into a champion they don’t want.
Enthusiasm for the new system has been high in the community, with many players hoping it will fix the stagnant meta in professional League of Legends. Of the 132 champions in the game, only 56 were picked or banned at least once at Worlds 2016. 36 of those were picked or banned at least 10 times over the course of the tournament, meaning that by the end of the 2016 season, a little over one quarter of the overall champion pool was seeing regular play.
Some players have even requested that the developers implement a similar system for the rest of League’s player base. Riot has said that the idea of one-ban-per-player is appealing for the agency it provides during the pick/ban phase, but are worried about adding an additional step between queueing up for matchmaking and actually playing the game.