The Big One - An Analysis of the Three Biggest LoL Patch 9.23 Changes



Fri 29th Nov 2019 - 9:59pm

Summoner's Rift in League of Legends has remained pretty consistent throughout the years. 3 lanes, a vast jungle with camps, as well as the Dragon and Baron pits. Not a lot of changes have been implemented to the objectives besides to the red/blue buffs and the Rift Herald. However, Patch 9.23 has become the catalyst of massive changes to not only the strength and effectiveness of neutral objectives on the map, but also to the basic geography of the map itself. We'll look at the 3 biggest changes Riot Games has installed this patch, and how they have changed the game as we know it.

For each change, it will be given a score from 1-10. 1 means it has no real impact to the game, and 10 means it has radically changed the game as we know it. On top of this, there will be an analysis of whether the change is good for the game, or whether it was better off without it.

Elemental Dragons

The changes to Dragons in LoL have extended the influence they have, and given them that much more importance. The advantages that each Dragon gives has been buffed, nerfed, or just completely altered in order to achieve a balance among all the four elemental drakes. This makes it so that each Dragon is of equal importance, which causes more tension and urgency between the two teams in their attempts to gain as many advantages over the opposing team as possible. Another change to note that is unrelated to the buffs the Dragons give is that the third Dragon to spawn in the game changes the geography of the jungle for the remainder of the game. Obviously, there are four different elements of the Dragon, so each element has its own different effect on the jungle when spawning.

Another important change to Dragons is the basic mechanics of the objective. Before the patch changes came in, the Dragons spawned in completely random orders. The initial spawn time of the first Dragon was 5:00, and a dragon respawned five minutes after the last was slain. This cycle went on and on until the 35:00 mark, at which point the Elder Dragon started to spawn.

With the new patch, the spawn time of the first Dragon remained the same. However, as it pertains to order, the first three Dragons that spawn in the game are always unique elements. The third Dragon that spawns determines the element of all Dragons that will spawn after it. For instance, if the third dragon that spawns is an Ocean Drake, all the Dragons to spawn after it will also be Ocean Drakes. This idea is directly complementary to the new addition of Dragon Souls.  

Dragon Souls 

Before diving into the individual elements of each Drake, it is important to understand the concept of a new idea that's been added to the game. Dragons Souls are a way to reward the team that first slays four Elemental Drakes. Regardless of whether the Dragons a team slays bear the same element or not, four Dragons must to be slain to receive a Dragon Soul. The Dragon Soul gives an additional permanent buff to that team. However the Dragon Soul has four different permanent buffs, and the determining factor of which of the four buffs a team receives is based on which Elemental Drake spawned third. For example, if a team has slain 1 Infernal Drakes, 1 Ocean Drake, and 2 Cloud Drakes, that team will receive the Cloud Dragon Soul. 


Prior to patch 9.23, the buff that the Infernal Drake offered was +10/17/24% attack damage and ability power. Riot believed that this gave Infernal Drake too much priority over the other three Elemental Drakes and nerfed its buff down to 5/10/15/20% attack damage and ability power. 

If the third Drake to spawn in a game is an Infernal Drake, the walls of the Dragon pit and around the red/blue buffs break down. The brushes around the two buffs disappear as well. This creates for more room to move around in the jungle and creates for more chaos in the teams' constant fight for the buffs. 

The Infernal Dragon Soul gives the team the following buff: Every three seconds, your next damaging attack or ability on an enemy triggers an explosion that deals 90 (+0.25 bonus attack damage)(+0.15 ability power)(+0.03 bonus health) damage to the target and nearby enemy units. 


Pre-patch 9.23, the Ocean Drake gave 6/9/12% missing health and mana regeneration for every 5 seconds that you are out of combat. They have taken out mana regeneration as a whole from the Ocean Drake buff and now it gives 5/10/15/25% missing health per 5 seconds. 

As far as geographical changes that the Ocean Drake causes go, existed bushes expand and new brushes are spawned around the Dragon Pit. In addition, Honeyfruit plants grow in each jungle quadrant.

The Ocean Drake Soul gives the following buff: Dealing damage to enemy champions heals you for 180 (+0.4 bonus attack damage) (+0.25 ability power) (+0.1 bonus health) and restores 90 (+0.04 maximum mana) mana over 3 seconds. Also, damage to minions or monsters regenerates with 30% effectiveness.


This patch has completely altered the buff that Mountain Drake offers. Previously, it would give a team +16/23/30% bonus true damage to epic monsters and turrets. Now, it gives a team +8/16/24/32% armor and magic resist. 

Geographically, if the third Drake that spawns in game is a Mountain Drake, rocks form up from the ground in the Jungle and Dragon Pit. These create chokepoints, which allows for more picks and different dynamics for fights in these areas. 

The Mountain Drake Soul gives a champion a bonus shield for 225(+0.2 bonus attack damage)(+0.15 ability power)(+0.15 bonus health) if the champion has been out of combat for 5 seconds. 


Like the Mountain Drake, Cloud Drake's buff has been completely altered as well. Previously, the Cloud Drake gave +3/4.5/6% bonus movement speed (tripled while out of combat). Now it gives, 10/20/30/40% ultimate CDR, while ignoring the CDR cap.

If the third Dragon that spawns is a Cloud Drake, air currents appear in the Jungle and Dragon Pit that gives speed buffs to those in the currents. 

The Cloud Drake Soul gives champions +10% movement speed. On top of this, if a champion casts its ultimate ability, they gain an additional 30% movement speed (30 second cooldown). 

Score 10 (Game-changing)


The changes to Elemental Drakes go beyond just the changes to their buffs. The entire fundamental mechanics of the objective have been altered. It gives the Dragon much more priority in the game, and changes how the game is played. There will be a lot more focus on the bottom side of the river, which can change the priorities of certain lanes. Not only this, but more skirmishes are sure to happen around the river whenever a Dragon is up. The Dragons were already a highly coveted objective prior to Patch 9.23, but now it has become almost a necessity for winning games, with the new implementation of the concept of Dragon Souls.

The fact that there is more of a balance between all the Drakes now can also be the catalyst of more skirmishes as well. Before, teams may have thought it was okay to give up certain Dragons because they were less valuable than another element. Now there is no real good reason to give up any Dragon and this causes for a greater sense of urgency. Teams will be eager to keep up good vision around the objective and be extra wary of the respawn timer.

Also, the geographical changes can play into jungle plays and overall macro. For instance, if the Cloud Drake is the third Dragon of the game, the air currents in the jungle allow for a team to easily close in on overextending split-pushers. The Mountain Drake creates chokepoints that are great for picking off enemies in the jungle. These chokepoints will at least force out a summoner spell or two if used properly. Overall, the dynamics of Elemental Drakes have greatly altered the game, making it more fast-paced and giving players a greater sense of urgency which is good for the game. 

Support Items

If you're a support player, you are most likely ecstatic about the new changes to the support items. Riot has altered and added support items so that the role is more flexible in different aspects. For one, the upgrades of the support items are free and automatic. This feature allows supports to put more gold into other necessary items for their build earlier into the game. However, everything has a price and the cost of this upgrade is that the Tribute/Spoils of War passives have been removed when the support items reach their max tier.

Another nerf to support items is that if you farm more than 20 CS per 5 minutes, it reduces the gold received from minions by 50% after. The maximum reduction is 80% of the gold you receive once you farm 50 minions. The profit gained from farming is essentially obsolete as the game furthers, so it is no longer a consistently stable source of gold for support players any longer. This also makes it so that support items are no longer able to be used for poaching, so other laners cannot use support items any longer.

Support items now cater to more aggressive playstyles, so the highly defensive route of buying Ancient Coin is now removed. Ancient Coin has now been replaced with two new support items that will be covered below.

Spellthief's Edge

For the Spellthief's Edge item, it has been slightly nerfed, but the changes also cater to the new non-poaching concept for support items. Damaging spells and attacks used on enemy champions or buildings no longer deal bonus magic damage. However, the bonus gold received when damaging enemy champions near allies has increased from 13 to 15 gold. This is a direct result of the non-poaching idea that Riot has implemented. On top of this change, the ability power gained from Spellthief's Edge has been changed from 10/20/35 to 8/15/60 AP. This allows for a huge spike in power for mage supports, once you hit the maximum tier which is Shard of True Ice.

The Spellthief's Edge line now gives 10/70/150 health, which makes mages tankier in the early game than before. However in the entire line of the item, mana regeneration and cooldown reduction have been removed entirely. Also, the unique passive of the item gets removed once you hit the third tier of the item to balance out the huge power spike in AP of the third tier. 

Relic Shield

In Relic Shield, the Spoils of War passive has been altered so that it no longer heals your ally upon executing the minion. The gold is still gained, but the entire concept of healing your ADC is now obsolete. This lessens the sustainability of bot lanes significantly, but this is not a nerf that doesn't have a buff with it as well. The new Spoils of War works for ranged champions as well which allows the ranged supports to execute now. However, while melee supports only need the minions to be at 50% of max health in order to execute, ranged champions execute minions at 30% health, so it is slightly more challenging.

Relic Shield has been a less tanky item due to the reduction in health given from 50/125/350 health to 30/100/300. However, supports that go this line of item now receive ability power at a rate of 5/10/40 ability power depending on which tier you are at. Cooldown reduction and health regeneration have been completely removed, which is similar to the nerfs of the Spellthief's Edge. This makes the items lose a lot of its value as it pertains to tanky supports, but mage champions that want to get a bit tankier such as Brand or Bard should be happy.

Steel Shoulderguards

Steel Shoulderguards is a new support item implemented into the game that caters to champions that are looking to beef up their health, but also gain a bit of attack damage. The Spoils of War passive is exactly the same as the Spoils of War passive for Relic Shield. Another statistic that this item is identical with Relic Shield in is the rate of health you gain per tier at a steady 30/100/300 health. You also gain attack damage, as mention before, at a rate of 3/6/24 attack damage depending on the tier of the item.

This items seems rather insignificant because it is essentially just Relic Shield, but you gain attack damage rather than ability power. However, the attack damage you gain is a lot less significant than the ability power you gain from Relic Shield. It is hard to see why Steel Shoulderguards is the most favorable support items even for cases where the support may look to gain health and attack damage. The other options would seem to be more beneficial.

Spectral Sickle

Spectral Sickle is for champions that aren't exactly looking to be tanky but want to deal some decent damage to harass. It is very similar to Steel Shoulderguards for many reasons. For one, the Spoils of War passive for executing minions is identical to Steel Shoulderguards. The Sickle also gives health, but as you would imagine from what was said in the previous sentences, at a much lesser rate. You gain 10/70/150 health depending on what tier you are into for the item. However, you gain a significantly greater amount of attack damage than Steel Shoulderguards at a rate of 5/10/35 attack damage. 

The early stages of this item are quite similar to the Relic Shield, but the differences are most significant at the last tiers of the items as you would imagine. This item would be great for AD support champions looking to do some hurt such as the new champion Senna or Pyke. 

Score: 8 (Very Significant Change)


Whether this change is beneficial to the game or not from a biased standpoint is entirely dependent on your playstyle as a support. Most defensive and sustainability-based supports are probably saddened by the removal of Ancient Coin. However, this makes sense in the grand scheme of things seeing as a lot of the changes in Patch 9.23 seems to be in an attempt to quicken the pace of the game. More aggressive playstyles are warranted, and almost essential now.Bot lane sustainability has taken a huge hit, and the laning phase is more of a do-or-die situation now with the healing aspect of the Spoils of War passive being removed. 

As it pertains to the new pace of the game set forth by other Patch 9.23 changes, this change makes a lot of sense. It helps with the fluidity of the game with implementation of the other new changes, and it seems like Riot had a well-thought out gameplan for this new Patch. Bot lane most definitely needed a faster pace, because of how much more important it has become as a lane with the new Dragon changes. This further quickens the pace of the game and skirmishes will become more important. 

If you are an aggressive support who loves to harass, this patch is great for you. The early games of supports have now become more powerful, and patience is no longer as important anymore. Gold income has been greatly reduced as you further into games so the early game is where you should look to shine. However, the differences between two supports will most definitely stand out in the late game, when power spikes are hit, and the tools that may have evened out two supports are now taken away.

Side Lane Alcoves

In the top and bottom lanes on Summoner's Rift, there have been alcoves implemented to alter the geography of the lane itself. Where there was once just a wall indicating the ends of the map, there is a hidden C-shaped lane that hides behind a singular boulder with some brush in front of it. 

Score: 2 (Weak impact, almost insignificant)


Because it is a visual change, the implementation of the Alcoves was quite a shock to most players on first sight (at least to players that care about the top and bottom lanes). One could argue that the Alcove presents a new way for junglers to gank lanes, or for sneaky plays to be enactd but the likelihood of that to happen is so low that it makes the Alcove seem a bit useless. If it is unwarded, and the enemy champion(s) haven't arrived yet to spot you, and you have patiently been waiting for a significant amount of time, THEN you can possibly make a play happen. Again however, this is quite unlikely and has little difference to junglers just lane ganking before the patch.

The implementation of Alcoves seems like a change that is just for show and doesn't add any significant or necessary changes to the game. There isn't a radical change to the way that the lanes are played because of Alcoves now, and it seems rather insignificant. Players seems happier without the Alcoves, and many are starting to question whether it should be removed or not. In conclusion, the change seems forced and rather unnecessary. If it were to be removed, there would be little to no resistance to the decision. 

All in all, there were tons of huge changes that came to Patch 9.23. However these three are deemed the most impactful or the most notable. Each change has, in its own way, changed the game as we know it. Not every change may be great in the eyes of some or most of the community, but they are most likely here to stay so it is time to adapt.

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