Wow, talk about an overhaul, right? I was playing the beta so I knew League of Legends' Season 3 would be different, but it's absurd how much different it feels once you get out of beta and into the actual game-game, where people actually try to win. I've been trying to play it for the last week, and I have a lot of thoughts thus far. In no specific order...
It's A Gangplank Patch
This is just kind of a personal note for the best character ever made ever, but seriously, everything done in this patch is hilariously Gangplank oriented. That's partly because of his versatility, but each of his roles just got better. The new jungle specializes in farmers who can do a lot of single target damage. Early Brutalizer endorses stronger top-lane harassing. Default sustain is down since Doran's got nerfed and Vamp Scepter is 900 gold, so his oranges are a little stronger.
Plus, all the items. Avarice Blade is a GP/5 item that gives you bonus on-hit gold, plus it builds into Executioner's Calling for a pesky Vladimir or Atma's Impaler. Frozen Fist is a crazy strong item because of Gangplank's Q on-hit. Warmogs is strong again. Brutalizer into Black Cleaver is crazy strong. Spirit Visage for bonus Oranges and CDR and magic resist. Tiamat/Hydra for Splashplank on Q. Critplank can now build Statik Shiv for on-the-move damage. Like, everything is good on him. There's a reason he and Udyr appeared in the Nami spotlight - don't be surprised if he ends up curb stomping for the coming weeks.
The Jungle Kinda Sucks
It's becoming very noticeable that the experience rewards for the new jungle are way, way lacking. Even if I'm playing a fast, strong jungler like Rengar, or a single-target focused champ like Warwick or Kha'Zix, I just can't seem to keep up in experience and I always end up 2-4 levels behind everyone else come midgame. It's not as bad as the pre-banking system in the S2 jungle overhaul, but it's kind of annoying.
I think it's an issue of the difficulty – the monsters are much harder to take down, and with Superman Leashes being destroyed, your first monster takes longer to kill. All the creeps are slower to fight. By the time you get to midgame, even if you successfully gank and farm the minions quickly, your presence everywhere is longer. With how they take more time to farm, it reduces the speed of the jungle and the frequency at which you can gank (Say, for example, Lee Sin).
The gold rewards are good, but need a bit more added to make up for the drop from the banking system. The ambient gold increase is nice, but there's still very little incentive to just farm the jungle. Adding a smaller banking system, or possibly just increasing the overall gold values of each camp by 5-10 each, would do a lot to give the jungler the gold that he wants to try and farm.
Wraiths, I think, would be excluded from this, because the wolves/golems are a bigger nuisance to kill and more inconvenient for the mid lane to farm. Morello has noticed this, so trust me when I say it's on the way to being changed.
Some Of The New Items Are Really Strong
Black Cleaver is probably the best example of this, because it's now useful on just about everyone, assassin, top laner, or ADC, and it offers a bucketload of fantastic stats in addition to the passive. You can buy three of them on most assassins and come out just fine. Given that it's granting you health, it's probably a great idea too. Kha and Talon are absurdly strong because of this, but it can also be built on virtually any AD carry, bruiser, or jungler. The old gag for pure damage was to stack bloodthirsters, like on Zed – you genuinely do want to stack Cleavers on anyone with AD ratios.
It's not just the fact that subsequent hits give you more punishing power – it's the teamfight capability AND the ability to win trades. With a skillshot or attack speed steroid champ like Ezreal or Tristana, you can pump out four shots lightning fast, rack up max stacks, and then your opponent suddenly can't duel with you. It's just outright overpowered – it will be nerfed, mark my words.
EDIT: Fittingly, just before I posted this, both Brutalizer and Black Cleaver had the base armor pen dropped, and the % pen dropped.
Liandry's Torment is stupidly strong. A lot of mages are going to want it, because it gives you health, penetration, and Brand's passive. Kat will want it for spell penetration and health, and it gives her ult bonus burn damage, securing escaped kills. It's not a perfect item, but it is a very strong competitor with the Deathcap and the Grail as core AP items. Might get some number-polishing, but it's strong as hell.
Blade of the Ruined King is, again, crazy strong. I don't know if they planned on this kind of item to go on Kog'Maw or not, but Xypherous mentioned old Bloodrazors were a trap. You'd think it was a tank-buster, but it turned into the opposite. What worries me is that's exactly what happened to this item too. It's good on Vayne, but it's even better on someone like Olaf or Jax. And it's another “virtually anyone” item, like the Black Cleaver. Just buy it and go to town murdering everyone.
Statikk Shiv, as much as it's a great replacement to the Ionic Spark, has eclipsed Phantom Dancers easily. The nerf to it was fitting, and Statikk Shiv has less attack speed, crit chance, and movement speed, but the unique perk on the Shiv is far, far better than the one on Phantom Dancers, and the Shiv is bought out of an item with an Avarice Perk and a Greed perk. You can pick up an early Avarice, farm up after getting a Zeal, and buy a Shiv after the laning phase ends. The Shiv needs a small nerf to the attack speed, because right now it's just eclipsing the other item outright. Anyone who would get Dancers would not gain anything from the unique passive (save maybe, say, Vayne).
Frozen Fist, similarly, is just downright ridiculous on someone like Gangplank. It's a great item already, but on GP you get a ranged AOE slow nuke with defensive items, mana, armor, and CDR. I'm almost betting this one is going to be nerfed.
But Not All Of Them
Manamune was considered a joke on almost all champions save, say, Yorick, because as I've said before, even if you farm it all the way up, you'll just get to lategame and have a bucket of mana and nothing to use it on. This is why it was always a confusing recommended item for Gangplank – if you need mana, just get a Chalice. Farming a Manamune will give you maybe 30-50 AD, and lategame it won't mean anything.
The new Muramana is an improvement, but now I'm reaching a different problem, as it does bonus damage based on a percentage of your mana, but it's magic damage. This means it can't crit, so it ends up in a similar place as it used to. Who do you build it on? Yorick, obviously, he needs to tank and hurt, and damage type is kind of irrelevant, but who else? AD carries like Ezreal can't get it because they'll do better with a standard speed/AD build. Few others can charge it fast enough for it to matter. It's not that it's bad – in fact, the Manamune is actually useful for the first time in forever – it's just I don't know what to do with it.
Similarly, the rest are great items, but I'm still not sure what to make of items like the Zephyr or the Scimitar. It might partly be the roles I like to play – the Scimitar is brilliant for AD assassin mids, like Talon or Zed, and it would let them build damage with an escape item for dealing with AP mids. It's essentially a Wit's End for Mages with CC, but since I don't play those roles often, I don't know what to make of it.
The Zephyr, meanwhile, comes with a boatload of attack speed, a little damage, and CDR, but it also has Tenacity. It's 3k gold almost, so I start to wonder what kind of character, besides maybe Teemo, would want it as anything other than a lategame item, in which case as the AD carry you're getting focused anyway.
On Hit Builds Rule
They honestly do – with all the numbertweaks, on-hit is awesome. Teemo is still the best with it, obviously, and he's the best way to try it out, but he's not limited. Teemo with a Malady, Wit's End, Blade of the Ruined King, and Runaan's Hurricane can dish out an incredible amount of punishment to a teamfight. And honestly, the Hurricane is one of the main reasons on-hit actually works now.
There's still a question of on-hit builds on melee champs, but the Hurricane does it for ranged. Get it for Graves, do even more area damage than he already could and build up his passive super fast. Get it on Twitch or Varus, liquefy an entire team with your abilities. It's fun as hell.
Support Rules Hard
Oh my god support is so fun now. I've played a few games as Nunu and Taric, and as a support main already, I knew how things would go, but it's still ten times more fun than before. Let's say I'm, say, Alistar or Nunu. Now, if I get the Pick, do I go for the Shard of True Ice, or do I get the Twin Shadows? Either way, I'm suddenly turning a jungle into a bucket of CC. I can chase down fleeing enemies, or just Ice the Nocturne before he ults. The other day a teamfight went wrong just after Cho showed up, so I popped my Shurelia's and my Shadows and the whole team fleed while Cho sluggishly tried to follow, slowed by the Shadows.
There's just so many more options. Sure, it's mostly actives, but the kits just let you do what you already were supposed to do, and the actives just add to the flavor. Plus, with the tweaks to passive gold gain, you actually can buy cool stuff to play with, rather than buying gold passive items and hoping for the best.
Plus, just theorycrafting all the item combos with champions is so fun! Imagine like, Alistar with Twin Shadows – pop Shadows, walk to them, ground pound them, knock them back. Don't need to burn Flash unless you want to surprise them! You can also upgrade the Aegis into the Banner or the improved version, the Bulwark.
Or imagine, say, a Soraka build – get Heal or Clarivoyance, then build a Philo into a Elisa's Miracle, build another for a Shurelia's, then get a Pick and build it into a Shard. Shorter cooldowns, a buttload of regeneration, strong-as-hell heal powers, and an easy team-advancement for someone like Darius while the area is slowed for all enemy teammates. Just imagining it makes me want to do it! Like, it's the same kind of build-theory I do with all other lanes, but for support. It's incredibly cool.
Obviously, there's some serious balance issues, and there's the hanging question of when someone's going to jump 1k elo with a total broken combo. But for now, the game has just gotten a serious adrenaline shot right to the heart of creativity. It's fun as hell for everyone. I love the S3 fixes even more than I thought I would.