League of Legends: In-Depth Dragon Guide
Wed 18th Dec 2019 - 6:00pm
The Dragon Buffs of Season 9 are no more. Changes have occurred on many levels that will affect how players prioritise the Dragons and behave accordingly. Throughout this guide, we’ll dive deep into the changes that you’ll see across Summoner’s Rift that will matter the most, and how you can use them to your advantage in each of your games. Let’s get right into it!
As mentioned in the notes of Patch 9.23, the buffs are “switching from the current frontloaded buff stacks back to a linear model." Simply put, this means that the Dragon Buffs aren’t going to be as substantial early on but will still add up over time.
Next, the spawn order of the Drakes is no longer random. The first three Drakes to spawn will always be unique, and every Drake after that will be the same as the Element on the Rift (until the Elder Dragon spawns). This means that these initial two buffs can only be received once, and only one team can gain their benefits; as a consequence, an earlier focus on Drake can benefit your team greatly. As an example, taking down the Ocean Drake in the early stages of the game and giving your entire team the 5% missing health regen per 5 seconds enhances your ability to sustain in lane and around the map, while simultaneously denying the enemy team that same opportunity for the rest of the game.
The Elder Dragon is mightier than ever with the changes it has been given over this Preseason. If you ever had to toss up whether the Elder or Baron Buff was the best way to seal out a game on the Rift, you’ll be able to put your mind at ease when you see just how powerful the Elder Dragon is now.
The true damage burn has been removed in favour of a lethal execution that is delivered to enemies when damaged at less than 20% health. As stated in the patch notes, this new Elder Dragon mechanic “(sharpens) its identity as the end-game teamfighting buff”, which is probably the understatement of the century. Trust me, when you get your hands on this buff, you’ll never want to let it go as you blast enemies off the map with screen-shaking force.
The last general change to the Drakes are their health, which is a simple change that can have serious implications. To match the nerf to early-game Drake buffs, the health of the first two Drakes to spawn have been lowered from 3500 (+240 per level) to 2650 (+240 per level). This is significant for Junglers in particular, as those high-damage Junglers (e.g. Olaf / Nocturne) will be able to solo the early Drakes with greater ease and provide greater value to their team. The Drakes that spawn after the Rift transforms, however, are getting an increase to their health up to 4350 (+240 per level), but this will ultimately have little effect as the game goes on and your team grows in power.
Now that we’ve covered the general changes that have been made in Preseason 10, let’s dive into the mechanical changes to the Elemental Drakes individually to give you a better idea of how they work.
The Infernal Drake, prior to change, was widely considered the most powerful Drake buff on Summoner’s Rift. The initial 7% AD and AP increase meant that early Infernal-buff wielders could dish out some extra punishment in fights, but the balance changes to the spiciest Drake have made sure that the other Drakes can be just as useful in certain situations. This being said, securing 4 Infernal buffs provides a 20% increase in AD and AP, which is still a significant increase in your damage and is a great way to maximise the effectiveness of the Infernal Soul.
Securing the Infernal Soul empowers your attacks, making your next attack every 3 seconds explode and deal extra damage to the target and nearby enemies. This can be an incredibly powerful effect for any team as the scaling of the explosion works with your AD, AP and bonus health, allowing even your tanks to dish out some punishment with this powerful buff. If you have managed to harness the power of the Infernal Soul, you should feel encouraged to take teamfights in clumped areas and chokepoints to ensure your explosions are hitting as many enemies as possible.
The Infernal Rift opens up the map in both the Jungle and Dragon Pit. Burning away brushes next to the Blue and Red buffs, creating two new pathways into those buffs from behind and expanding the entrance to the Dragon Pit creates a map that provides far less environmental safety for the player and allows for creative flanks and maneuvers on offense. While you might not need as many wards to cover the Jungle, ward placement and keeping a close eye on your defensive wards become vital components of success.
Last season, the Mountain Drake was used for sieging and melting objectives across the map with bonus true damage to turrets and epic monsters. While this was a powerful offensive tool, the new Mountain buff has the potential to be just as game-changing from a defensive standpoint. Granting a percentage increase to your armor and magic resist is powerful no matter who you’re playing, but in a meta where tanks are prevalent in the jungle, top lane, and support, the buff makes these champions even more unkillable as they go deeper into their build.
The Mountain Soul, similar to the buff, increases the player’s defensive capabilities with a chunky, refreshing shield. After not taking damage for 5 seconds, you gain a 225 point shield that scales with bonus AD, AP, and bonus health, which works well for tanks, supports, and carries alike. As well as being a useful tool for an all-in teamfight, this can provide great use for extended trades in the late game; as the shield refreshes every 5 seconds you don’t take damage, you can lay some poke into the enemy team and then back off until the shield regenerates before you go back in to whittle them down some more.
Working inversely to its Infernal counterpart, the Mountain Rift builds up new bluffs of rock in each Jungle quadrant and a rock formation in front of the Dragon Pit for a more tightly-packed Elemental Rift. By narrowing the areas through which players can move, the potential for insane wombo combos increases drastically, so ensure you don’t bunch up against a team that can punish that kind of movement. Additionally, the new terrain on the map creates new blind spots that your team needs to be aware of, so you’ll need to maintain vision over a few more spaces if you’re going to play confidently through the Jungle.
The Cloud Drake has changed to deliver more of an aggressive punch to the wielder of the buff than ever before. Where previously the buff would give an increase in movement speed, the new version grants Ultimate CDR%, even ignoring the CDR cap, so that fights can be picked more frequently by the owner of this powerful buff. Players who manage to get to 40% ultimate CDR will be put into a position of power that the enemy team will struggle to match, as they effectively get to decide when the next fight will be based on their cooldowns.
If you were missing the movement speed provided by the old Cloud Drake, fear not! You’ll be able to move around quickly by securing the Cloud Soul; yielding the owner 10% increased movement speed and a 30% movement speed boost for 3 seconds after casting their ultimate, the Cloud Drake remains just as swift as ever. This works exceptionally well for all teams. If you’re struggling with mobility, the Cloud Soul allows you to make up some lost ground in essential fights, whereas highly mobile teams will be allowed to zoom around even more than before after casting their ultimate abilities.
Continuing on with the pattern of movement speed boosts, the Cloud Rift creates channels of wind throughout the area around the buffs that grant speed boosts to everyone inside. Dragon Pit gains the same effect as well, becoming a “speed boosting wind tunnel” for anyone moving through, creating a few new opportunities for players on this Elemental Rift. Teams that are considering a sneaky Dragon or Baron takedown need to be more conscious than ever of the enemy team, as they can come flying out of the Jungle at a far greater pace than normal to stop them in their tracks.
In terms of a comparison between the old and new buffs, the Ocean Drake has very little excitement to offer. The missing health regen provided by the old buff is nearly exactly the same, until the 4th Ocean buff, and the mana regen has been completely eliminated. This means that the lane-sustain provided by an early Ocean buff is not nearly as strong as it once was, so the early priority that many Junglers placed on an Ocean Drake will not always be seen for this new version. Oceanic Will has been weakened considerably, but once you see the effects of the Ocean Soul you might begin to understand why.
The Ocean Soul may just be the most powerful Soul in Preseason 10 of League of Legends. While the mana regen was removed and the health regen remained effectively unchanged, they both come back out to play with the Soul on your side; dealing damage to enemies will restore health (scaling with bonus AD, AP and bonus health) and mana (scaling with maximum mana), which is 30% less effective against minions and monsters. Wow. This allows for mid-fight sustain and efficient pre-fight trades more than any other buff, benefiting everyone thanks to the wide range of stat scalings.
When the Rift goes Oceanic, you begin to travel through a seriously overgrown version of the map we’re all used to. Most of the brush in the Jungle grows larger and new brush grows around the Dragon Pit, meaning you’re freer to sneak around the Jungle and ambush unsuspecting enemies, and more Honeyfruit begins to spawn near the Blue and Red buffs for a little more sustainability. Water puddles begin to flood the Jungle as well, which can be utilised by Qiyana and the Waterwalking rune as interesting but relatively minor interactions. Where wards were important before, they’re vital with the amount of brush cover that you’ll be facing on the Ocean Rift.
With all this in mind, you’ll be well and truly equipped to face any Elemental Rift that League of Legends throws you into. Harnessing their power is more relevant than ever before as they are more relevant late game in this exciting new Preseason, so make sure you stay on top of them before your enemies can. GLHF!
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