A Quick Look at the Rift Herald ft. Team Dignitas and SKT
Mon 12th Jun 2017 - 6:55am
The LCS and other regional leagues have just started their Summer seasons. Alongside roster changes, there were major changes to the game — most notably item changes and the updated Rift Herald. This article examines the implications of the latter by analyzing two competitive games in the recent weeks. How has the Rift Herald changed the competitive game?
The new Rift Herald spawns at 10 minutes, and lasts until 19:45 when it despawns. If you are currently in battle with the Rift Herald, it lasts for an additional 10 seconds. Upon killing it and picking up the buff, it replaces your trinket item and becomes a usable item for up to 4 minutes in your inventory. While carrying the item, it also gives its holder Enhanced Recall. Using the item spawns the Rift Herald which charges down the nearest lane destroying turrets.
Dealing with the Rift Herald is fundamentally the same both when fighting it in the pit and once it is summoned. Every few seconds (10 seconds when in the pit, 3 when summoned) the Rift Herald opens its eye on its back which if struck deals massive true damage. Taking advantage of these windows is critical when taking down the Rift Herald.
2017 LCK Summer Week 1: SK Telecom T1 (SKT) vs BBQ Olivers (BBQ) Game 1
Let’s first look at SKT’s set up to ensure capturing the Rift Herald. Essentially, SKT played to give top priority for most of the early game. Peanut’s jungle route ensured that Huni’s Lucian Top could push and control the lane. On top of this, SKT secured deep vision in the bot side jungle netting first blood on the enemy Kha’Zix and further relieving jungle pressure from the top lane. Lucian is not particularly a strong laner if he is constantly ganked or feels jungle and/or mid pressure. However, Lucian can take over the lane if given the freedom to do so. This was SKT’s strategy, especially because Huni’s Lucian is apparently quite good (he even won a 1v1 on Lucian against his teammate Bang).
It’s likely that top priority was the main strategy, not the Rift Herald. It seems that Rift Herald is not nearly an important enough an objective like Dragon or Baron that teams feel the need to ensure that they can get it. Rather it seems like a nice addition to a preexisting early game strategy. SKT would have been fine with not taking the Rift Herald if they were not given the chance. It was not something they felt pressured to force by any means.
However, the opportunity presented itself around 13 minutes. Vision allowed Huni to see a rotating Kha’Zix in the top side jungle, and chunked him out with his ultimate. Forcing the recall, SKT quickly rotated to the Rift Herald and captured it.
Peanut ended up picking up the Rift Herald buff. This seems to be the common choice in most teams. Giving the jungler the buff gives some secrecy about where it will spawn. Of course, good teams will have no trouble deducing where it will go, but it might provide some additional flexibility for the team with the buff.
SKT decided to use the buff at 16 minute mark after a top turret dive which kills Kennen. By this point in the game, SKT had already taken the other Tier 1 outer turrets. With the last turret remaining, and only a minute or so left to use the Rift Herald, SKT drops the Rift Herald in the top lane and secures the top lane turret.
This use of the Rift Herald seems rather modest compared to how we might imagine its uses. Its pushing power when left on its own is undeniably strong. The Rift Herald could easily push down two or more turrets on its own. However, SKT saw it as a guaranteed turret kill without much effort. The Rift Herald is almost guaranteed at least one charge attack on a turret. As the photo above shows, the one attack took down the turret from nearly one quarter health. Instead of forcing a play with the Rift Herald and getting more turrets, SKT smartly used it only to secure one turret.
This type of play might be quite common in the future. Because the Rift Herald is relatively easy to take down, forcing plays around it might not be worth the risk. In the case of the SKT game, SKT valued the openness of the map with all tier 1 turrets taken down more than a risky play that may have given up their lead. The simply summon the Herald, let it take down one turret and leave it alone. Because the benefit of taking down the Rift Herald (it is only worth 25 gold) is so low, they see no reason to devote resources to protecting the Rift Herald and set up for future plays and a better mid game with this trade.
Week 1 NA LCS Summer Split 2017: Team Dignitas vs. Flyquest Game 1
Dignitas’ usage of the Rift Herald is slightly different. For one, they committed all 5 members around the Rift Herald to secure it. After a big skirmish at the 13 minute mark in the bottom lane, Dignitas sent its duo lane up to the top lane to catch the top wave. This is largely because they were able to kill off the opposing top laner. Ssumday’s Lucian (Yes, I know its Lucian again but that’s not the focus) pushed out the bot wave and recalled. Instead of continuing to push the bot wave, Ssumday regroups to the top lane.
Dignitas clearly sees the value of the Rift Herald. Rather than immediately going for the low health turret in the top lane, Dignitas goes instead for the Rift Herald. There are two explanation for this line of play. The first is vision. FlyQuest barely has any vision in the top river except for a Control Ward sitting in the Blue buff bush. Big’s Zyra and Chaser’s Ivern go on a warding mission as the classic Jungle Support duo to secure vision in both the river and the enemy top side jungle. This ensures that the play is a safe play given how quickly Dignitas can take the Rift Herald. In fact, it only took Dignitas about 25 seconds to take the Rift Herald. Similar to the SKT game, the jungler Chaser picks up the buff.
Take a look at the FlyQuest's Vision on the mini map.
The second the potential payoff for capturing the Rift Herald. Knowing how low the top turret is, Dignitas might have seen value in quickly taking the top turret and pushing for a second.
It seems that the play was determined by a combination of both as well as a timely catch onto WildTurtle’s Varus. LOD landed Ashe ultimate on to WildTurtle which quickly netted a kill which opened up a prime opportunity for the Rift Herald. Chaser chose to summon the Rift Herald behind the top turret. Dignitas was able to take down the top turret before the Rift Herald hit the tier 1 turret, but the play likely would have been the same even if the turret was higher health.
Because they were able to secure a kill, Dignitas decided to escort the Rift Herald to take down the second turret in the top lane. Its pushing power was clearly demonstrated by how quickly it took down the turret.
Dignitas effectively secured two turrets with the Rift Herald. Had Dignitas not killed off WildTurtle, it may have been likely that they would have gone for a similar play to SKT in which they traded the Rift Herald for the top lane turret. However, they were able to be greedy with it because of the nice arrow by LOD.
The Rift Herald is definitely a powerful new objective that forces teams to put more focus and resources into the top lane. It is certainly not a Dragon or a Baron and teams are not prioritizing nearly as much as those two objectives. However, effectively used it does open up the map quite a bit. SKT used it and walked away as they did not have a play set up to continue pushing it. Dignitas was able to get a catch and thus escort it for more turret taking. While we will have to monitor its effectiveness in future games more closely, for now we can see that teams are still using it in order to secure at least one objective for “free.” Let’s hope to see new and unique uses for the Rift Herald.
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