Wednesday, September 10, 2014

League of Legends: Ascension

There was a big patch today (or maybe yesterday) for League of Legends that brought with it an entirely new game mode. It's not clear to me if this is a temporary game mode or if it's here to stay. Ascension is that game mode, and it's a twist on the Dominion map instead of the standard map.

Dominion is a map mode where you're basically playing 'king of the hill' to control 5 towers around the map. Towers spawn minions and earn points and there's a point threshold for winning. Ascension throws that out the window by taking out the towers and the minions. The 5 points are still on the map but they don't really do anything. There's no need to fight over them. They exist solely as ways to enter the fight after you die. Each team has 3 points they can teleport to (using the trinket slot) with the top one being shared between the teams. The game is still played to a certain threshold of points but points are earned in 3 new ways on this map.

You get 1 point for killing an enemy champion.

You get 3 points for channeling on a node for long enough to 'capture' it. Capturing makes it disappear and it comes back in about a minute to get captured again. There are 3 spots where nodes can spawn and they're situated such that each team spawns near one of the nodes and the third is between the two teams.

You get 5 points for killing 'the ascended'. The game starts with a gigantic neutral Xerath in the middle of the map. He's like a Baron except he uses ludicrous versions of Xerath's spells. Whoever gets the killing blow on Xerath scores the 5 points and becomes 'the ascended'. This gives a buff that makes you awesome but halves your healing and reveals you to the enemy team. If they kill you then they score 5 points and Xerath respawns shortly thereafter. As part of the buff you score 2 points if you kill an enemy champion instead of 1 point while you're ascended.

With no minions to 'get in the way' this game is mostly about running around and killing people. Xerath seems to be a trap in that he does a ton of damage and you give up control of the map if you try for him. And he's easy to steal in that no one has smite! But he seems fun so people keep trying them and it keeps being a bad idea. I've played quite a few games and focusing on being at the nodes when they respawn to score up the 3 quick points feels like the key to the game. Having the ability to kite when you're outnumbered seems strong too, because then you can work to deny the opponent points (from killing you) while your teammates hopefully accomplish something somewhere else like capture a node or kill some champions or something.

I've tried a couple times now to have 'Xerath control' by playing one of the champions with a big neutral monsters nuke, like Nunu or Cho'Gath. It didn't really work. In fact, while the abilities work on Xerath (and it's the only way to heal if you're Nunu) it only seemed to knock him to 1, not kill him, so you needed to do more damage right afterwards in order to actually get him. Having that small burst of power (that requires you to be in melee range) didn't seem worth the downside of not getting to use one of your abilities.

There's also a challenge icon available only to people who manage to win a game, while earning the Xerath buff, without the enemy team ever getting the Xerath buff. Seems tricky since so many people are only too happy to coinflip for Xerath. But eventually I'll get it, right? Right!

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