Runes Reforged: A Change For The Better

It’s been two weeks since the preseason of League of Legends started and the new rune system, marketed under the name Runes Reforged, has been in effect. This total overhaul of the old rune and mastery systems into one unified system is probably the largest scale change Riot Games has implemented since League of Legends was first released back in 2009. Besides being the reason why playing League of Legends became enjoyable for me again, this new system is the change League of Legends deserved and needed.

The Problem With The Old System

The previous runes and masteries systems.

When I first tried League of Legends back in the latter half of 2010, one of the things that attracted me to the game was the runes and masteries systems. The masteries system was familiar to me, as I had played World of Warcraft during its The Burning Crusade expansion. The rune system, and also the summoner spell system, was a newer function to me. These two systems interested me greatly because I felt that it added an additional layer of depth and customization to the game. Being fond of theorycrafting, I enjoyed thinking of different strategies possible with these systems. And for a limited time, I did feel that the previous system did add an enjoyable level of strategic depth to the game. That quickly changed for me as the competitive seasons of League of Legends passed.

As I once aspired to play competitively and become a professional gamer, it wasn’t long after I started playing League of Legends that I would research on how the very best would play the game in order to learn the various skills and strategies that I needed to improve. This was where I began to see the flaws of the previous runes and masteries systems.

At the highest level of League of Legends, there was little room for innovation and variety in the game’s runes, masteries, summoner spells, and items. In almost every high ELO and professional game, the pros would almost always end up using the same sets of runes and masteries and it became obvious to me what the flaws of the old system were: Because runes before offered raw stats only, and so did most of the previous masteries, the system ended up being pretty inflexible as only the most mathematically efficient set ups were acceptable in the highest level. While this problem is present in every game in the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre, it was more pronounced in League of Legends because of the way the game is designed.

The way Riot Games’ had designed League of Legends and the direction they go with their balancing has limited something I value in professional play: competitive diversity. In comparison to League of Legends’ closest competitor in the genre, Valve’s Dota 2, the game has historically had worse competitive diversity, at least in terms of the two games’ equivalent of a grand championship. The old runes and masteries systems, while not the lone culprit behind this deficit, did not help solve the problems with lack of diversity.

How Runes Reforged Is An Improvement

The different paths in Runes Reforged and their selection of keystone runes

League of Legends’ 2017 preseason introduced a complete overhaul of the runes and masteries systems by unifying them into one system with Runes Reforged. This change introduced five distinct paths which offered players a selection of runes that provide benefits related to a path’s specific theme.

The five paths introduced in Runes Reforged and their specific themes are:

  • Precision: Improved attacks and sustained damage
  • Domination: Burst damage and target access
  • Sorcery: Empowered abilities and resource manipulation
  • Resolve: Durability and crowd control
  • Inspiration: Creative tools and rule bending

Runes Reforged is ultimately a unified, simplified version of the previous two systems. Similar to the previous masteries system, players choose up to two paths: A primary and a secondary path. Still present are the Keystones which have the biggest effects and serve as the anchor that defines one’s play style. Afterwards players choose three minor runes from their primary path and two minor runes from their secondary path to further complement and define their play style. The only similarity to the previous rune system is that players also get additional raw stats depending on which primary path they choose.

While there are still runes that give raw stats, many of these benefits start out small and players must fulfill specific conditions in order to maximize what they get out of them. Additionally, a wide variety of runes that have effects that trigger off different situational conditions were also introduced.

So how exactly does this make League of Legends better? It does so by simply providing increased variety. Unlike the old system where majority of the choices of runes and masteries were pretty much set in stone, I find myself running different setups fairly often depending on my team’s and the enemy team’s drafts.

There are of course some runes that are more optimal for certain champions than others. For example, majority of marksmen in the game would opt to go for the Precision path because of its focus on improving a champion’s sustained damage. Unlike the previous systems however, I find that there is a greater degree of flexibility in one’s options, especially in regards to what secondary path they take. While increased variety in viable options certainly does not fix all of the problems I have with League of Legends, it is definitely a step in the right direction in making the game better.

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