With the beginning of a new year always comes the start of a new competitive season in esports. As strategic partners of both Riot Games and ESL, that means there are a lot - and I mean A LOT - of tournaments and leagues that we keep track of over the course of the entire year. Riot Games alone will host about 46 different tournaments this season and we expect over 3400 matches to be played on a professional level.
A year chock-full of League of Legends action - and it all starts right now!
But what can we expect from season 12? Let's take a look at five of the most noteworthy changes that happened during the offseason!
Two new Drakes were introduced during the offseason, the Hextech and the Chemtech Drake, both bringing unique features to Summoners Rift. While the Hex-gates that appear while the Hextech Drake is dominating are interesting, it's the Chemtech Drake that might influence competitive League of Legends the most. The Chemtech Rift sees both jungles getting covered in gas, causing all champions that move within it to be camouflaged and be undetectable by regular vision wards. Truly elite teams will surely be able to take great advantage of this once they get ahead, disallowing their opponents to take any sort of control over their own jungle and using the camouflage to move undetected from lane to lane. With the threat of being ambushed ever-looming and wards being a lot less useful, teams might just see themselves slowly getting choked out of the game, or risking it all on a coin flip. (Edit: The Chemtech Drake has been disabled by Riot Games as of 24.01.2022)
Season 12 also saw changes to some of the Keystones. Completely new is the “First Strike” Keystone that rewards players with bonus gold and damage when they, as the name might imply, get the first strike on an opposing champion.
“Lethal Tempo” also got reworked. Champions that use this Keystone will now have their attack speed increased after each basic attack against an enemy champion, stacking up to six times. At maximum stacks, they get additional range and have their attack speed cap increase to up to ten attacks per second. Caitlyn and Jinx, two Champions that already have great range and benefit immensely from additional attack speed can make excellent use of Lethal Tempo and can be extremely difficult to go up against, even in the early laning phase. Expect to see both of them getting picked and banned regularly during the early stages of the season.
But it's not just Marksmen that can take advantage of Lethal Tempo. Champions like Jax, Tryndamere or Gwen might also see a resurgence in competitive play.
Contributing to the possibility of these champions coming back into the meta is another change that was added rather quietly shortly before the new competitive season has started. Teleport, the most commonly used summoner spell by solo laners (next to Flash, of course), can now only be used on allied turrets for the first fourteen minutes of the game. This will make it a lot more difficult for solo laners to participate in skirmishes in the bottom lane and might see them be stuck in their isolated 1v1 matchups for more extended periods of time. So not only will more vulnerable bottom lane champions like Jinx or Aphelios be a bit safer to play in the early game, but it is now more important than ever for teams to have a strong top side of the map, as there really is nowhere else to go for a struggling top laner.
It's not just the game that has changed. Many teams made some moves and switched up their roster in an attempt to make it to the World Championship come Fall of this year. Some of the biggest changes were made by two of the biggest and most successful organizations in the western League of Legends esports scene: G2 and Cloud 9.
After dominating Europe year after year and making it to the World Championship finals in 2019, G2 being beaten out by MAD Lions, Rogue and Fnatic and not even qualifying for Worlds 2021 was one of the biggest shocks of season 11. It comes to no one's surprise then that the team basically hit the reset button now for season 12. Jungler Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski and mid laner Rasmus "Caps" Borregaard Winther are the only players that remain from last season's squad. With “Victor "Flakked" Lirola and Raphaël "Targamas" Crabbé G2 will field an entirely new bot lane with little to no experience on the big stage. Both have looked mighty impressive in some of the minor LoL Esports leagues in Europe, but it remains to be seen whether they can get G2 back to the top of the LEC.
Across the Pond, Cloud 9, who even made it to the knockout stage of Worlds 2021, decided to go shopping in Korea. Park "Summit" Woo-tae, who was a standout performer for Liiv SANDBOX in the LCK, will be their new top laner, Kim "Berserker" Min-cheol, who used to play for the T1 organization, will be their starting bot laner. Supporting him will be Kim "Winsome" Dong-keon, an american-korean rookie, who played for an amatuer Korean team in 2021. These moves also see star player Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami role swap from top to mid lane. Perhaps the most interesting move is the acquisition of Nick "LS" De Cesare as their new head coach. Known in the League of Legends community for his controversial takes and his love for unconventional champion picks, it will be exciting to see how this brand new Cloud 9 is going to perform under his guidance.
If 2021 is anything to go by, however, 2022 will above all be one thing: Unpredictable. From the aforementioned G2 not making it to Worlds, through teams from Brazil, Vietnam and Oceania giving the teams from the major region a run for their money during international tournaments, to Edward Gaming shocking everyone by beating DAMWON KIA in the World Championship finals: 2021 was a year full of upsets, drama and fantastic League of Legends action. Teams from all over the world are improving their game and a supposed skill difference is becoming less and less apparent. Sure, the Chinese and Korean teams are still going to be heavy favorites in every tournament they enter, but I would not be surprised if some of them were to stumble over some western roadblocks somewhere along the road to the Summoner's Cup.
So here's to 2022! Let the games begin and let them be great ones!
See you all on the Rift!
Niklas is a working student here at Bayes Esports. Having started playing League of Legends back in season 1, he is one of our resident LoL Esports experts. If he is not at his PC playing games, chances are he is either sleeping or watching football.
Insights, ideas, and stories for esports enthusiasts