League of Legends Tip of the Day: Remember, Rift Herald Exists

by James Bates

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(Photo: Riot Games)

A couple years ago, Riot finally made moves to adjust one of the most fundamental imbalances in League of Legends. For most of the game's history, the bottom side of the map was the only one with a worthwhile neutral objective that could be contested, the Dragon, while the top side had no such thing. Dragon's existence was and, to be honest, still is so impactful that the game has been eternally warped around its presence on the bottom side of the map. It's the reason why the duo lane goes into the bottom lane, not the top lane. A team that sends it's fifth member anywhere but to the bottom lane is automatically putting themselves at a man disadvantage when it comes time to contest the Dragon.
Riot's change was to add the Rift Herald, another neutral epic monster on the top side of the map that would hopefully help draw attention away from the bottom lane. The Rift Herald rewarded the team that killed it with a slight gold reward as well as a buff for one member of the team that made them dramatically more powerful when roaming around the map alone. However, it turned out that even that wasn't enough to undercut the dominance of the bottom lane, and these days it's pretty uncommon to see coordinated teams even bother to kill Herald. Even when a team wins a major skirmish on the top side of the map, they're much more likely to go for jungle camps or deep vision than they are to take down the Rift Herald. For close to a year now, Rift Herald has been a pretty much ignored objective, as it simply can't match the appeal of the bottom lane, which houses the elemental dragons as well as the most vulnerable turret on the map.
All of that came to an abrupt end earlier this morning, however. Forget what you thought you knew, because the new Rift Herald isn't just worth contesting, there are some arguing that it might be strong enough to bring back lane swapping in competitive play. Unlike the old Rift Herald, the new one translates into an advantage in map control almost instantly, since instead of getting a hard to utilize buff on a single champion you gain that ability to summon your own Rift Herald and send it charging down a lane.
For the purposes of solo queue, that can be translated to “it makes you get a guaranteed tower”, as the level of coordination that would be required to fight off an early game Rift Herald off a turret simply doesn't exist in solo queue. Fortunately for those that find themselves on the wrong end of the Herald, however, the coordination to use it to break open the entire map also doesn't exist in solo queue, so it's effect is powerful but limited in application.
The question now becomes, which is better? That Wind Drake, or killing the enemy team's top out turret for free and putting damage on their tier 2? Odds are, the first option is going to look a lot less appealing than the latter these days, a fact that junglers should keep in mind going forward. At the moment, it's a no-brainer to always gank bottom lane because there's two potential kills in the lane and a dragon to take, but that calculus gets thrown off pretty extremely by there being an objective that gets you a turret and then some on the top side of the map. Ganking top lane, where the matchups also tend to be more volatile, is suddenly going to look much, much more appealing in the comes weeks. The new Rift Herald is, most likely, the coutnerpoint to the Dragon that League of Legends has needed since it's inception, and anyone that doesn't acknowledge and respect how much it's presence changes the game is just asking to lose LP. Don't let that be you. The Rift Herald is an important objective now, and if Riot's comments on the matter are any indication, it's here to stay.

By James Bates

A wanna-be novelist turned coach turned journalist, James is living proof that you never know where you'll end up. He's in love with narrative-heavy games, which he proves by spending his days writing about a game with less lore than Doom. His greatest regret in life is not having his name in the credits of Life is Strange, and it's galvanized him to truly pursue developing games that don't begin in packed taverns and use D20s.