League of Legend‘s yearly goof-off, the All-Star tournament, came and went this weekend. In addition to one v. ones and battles over the Poro King, the stitched-together teams from all major competitive regions also played a few more typical games, giving us a sneak preview of what the 2017 season might look like under this patch.
The new jungle plants saw competitive play on the big stage for the first time, for starters. They seem to be, via the most indirect method imaginable, a power increase for the jungling role.
To give an example: in the previous patch, one hallmark of a powerful jungler was mobility. You can see this in both Rek’Sai, with her ability to tunnel under walls, and Lee Sin, with his ability to ward-hop over them. Mobility offers new and more creative gank paths, and allows champions to more aggressively counter-jungle with a reliable escape at hand. The Blast Cone, one of the three new plants in the jungle, ruptures in a concussive burst when hit, launching champions over terrain. This replicates abilities like Lee Sin’s ward jump, allowing for less mobile champions to outplay enemies and appear where they’re least expected.
The Honeyfruit, a plant which spawns health and mana-restoring apples, does the same thing for jungle champions whose ability to sustain themselves against neutral camps might not be as robust. The plants essentially provide a secondary kit to jungling champions on top of their primary one, giving access to sustain, mobility and vision that previously was only accessible to certain characters.
We also got a look at champions that haven’t seen regular competitive play in a long time. Over the course of the weekend, Twitch saw a lot of picks and bans for his potential as tank-buster. The reworked Rengar heralded the possibility of a strong carry jungle option returning to play, landing in the hands of both Yeu-jin “Reignover” Kim and Ming “Clearlove” Kim. Nautilus, who hasn’t seen professional play since last year, was picked into top lane repeatedly as a replacement or lane matchup for Poppy.
Of course, it’s hard to distinguish between what’s burgeoning signs of a new meta and what’s players just dicking around at a tournament that doesn’t, in the grand scheme of things, particularly matter.
As the event went on, of course, the games got sillier and sillier. On day three, in the matchup between the EU All-Stars and the team from the LCK, Sang-hyeok “Faker” Lee picked Galio against Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez’s Garen. EU lost, but not without style, as the whole team was sporting spangly short-shorts with their handles emblazoned across the crotch.
In other words, it was All-Stars, with players from all regions coming together to take the biggest competitive game in the world a little less seriously. If we got a glimpse at what 2017 might look like, well, that’s icing on the cake.