This preseason, in preparation for the next season (8), League of Legends has begun transitioning from their traditional runes and masteries, to a single “Rune Reforged” option. This transition impacts every player, from bronze to professional, as they must adapt their pre-game preparations to the new system.
This change is different from those in the past. Rather than an addition of concepts added to the groundwork that is League of Legends, this one seems like the first that genuinely changes how the game works. Not only how it works within the confines of the Rift, but within the client as well. This preseason, League has managed to both make the gameplay itself feel dynamic and fully integrate the loot system into the client.
From the aspect of user experience, the new system feels incredibly streamlined. The abandonment of both masteries and the transition of IP to Blue Essence brings everything in the client to a point. Blue essence no longer is only to purchase champions once unlocked in the loot system, but has now fully replaced the traditional IP. RP is still available for purchase in the store for those wanting to purchase skins.
I personally think this essence switch has made the client more approachable by reducing the amount of “currencies” a player maintains. Orange essence is still used, but this transition has reduced the client from four currencies to three. Orange essence and RP are both still used for skins, while blue essence has taken over just about everything else. Unfortunately, the ‘old guard’ of players has spoken out on Reddit and social media against blue essence. Saving up for champions will take longer with BE than it did with IP, but I’m willing to give it a bit of time to see how Riot responds to these issues.
As far as the new Runes Reforged aspect of the preseason updates…
With the removal of runes and masteries, for this new singular Runes setup, Riot has streamlined the process of pregame preparation. In addition to this, runes now give bonus abilities/synergy with different champs and play styles, rather than being just glorified stat boosts.
This does have the drawback of being a little less advantageous for newcomers. The runes now require a bit more game knowledge to fully realize their power. Specific combinations of runes can greatly improve the feel of a champion while hindering another. The runes can even be used by summoner’s of all levels to play favorite champions in different roles. Rather than having at least four separate rune/masteries pages so as to be able to play my Elise in the jungle as either a tank(y) champ or burst mage, I can now just have two separate rune pages, allowing for much quicker transitions prior to the start of the game. I also think this may lead to some crazy mash-ups of champions outside of their traditional roles (for better or worse).
The best way to look at this? With the old system, unless you were among the elite, there were only two ways to build your runes/masteries, the right way, or the wrong way. Unless you built the right way, your champion/role would be at a disadvantage during a game. Sure, sometimes you could put together a combination which might work, but was outside of the norm; but those builds, over a long enough measurement of time, would almost always prove less effective than following the meta/correct build.
Under the new system, runes have become much more champion and personal playstyle dependant. What works for a tank jg Gragas, might not be the same as for a tank jg Poppy. What works for a mid laner with lots of movement/dashes like Ahri, may be completely different from a more immobile champion such as Syndra. Rather than just setting the rune page to give yourself some random stat bonuses, then choosing masteries to give your position the best advantage you could, now only one set of options allows a summoner to do both at once while taking their own playstyle as well as their champion’s abilities into consideration.
The best thing to come from this updated system though is not the reduction of currencies, nor the dynamic feeling of the Runes Reforged vs the runes/masteries system, but that League of Legends feels new again. While the game is still all about two sides, duking it out in battle to attempt to destroy each other's Nexus, everything feels just a little bit new. Like returning to an estranged friend who's taken a new look at life, League of Legends has managed to maintain its identity, while adapt and evolve in the ever-changing video game universe.