Vision Quest: LoL Season 4 Brings Wards Changes

League of Legends World Finals
© Marv Watson

An overhaul to ward system should drastically change competitive play in League of Legends.

Where there’s a ward, there’s a way. It’s a truth when it comes to the way vision works in League of Legends, but it’s a system that looks to be radically altered for Season 4.

In a recent post on Reddit, systems designer Alexander "Xelnath" Brazie explained how Riot is overhauling the vision system to make the battle for map vision both more dynamic and more of a team-wide concern.

Looking at Season 3, standard competitive support play involved buying minimal items in order to spend the majority of a player's income on wards and vision control,” Brazie said. “More gold = more wards. If a team's support was unable to fulfill that role, or fell behind their opponent, the entire team suffered.

The major changes on the table right now are, first, that pink wards will be visible on the map, meaning that vision counter-play will be apparent to teams. Teams should face more interesting decisions about placement and ward-clearing. Second, a given player will only be allowed so many wards simultaneously, so one person can’t be responsible for covering the entire map in vision. Finally, every player now has access to “trinkets”, a special item slot that will allow for one of three vision-related tasks.

But the wards themselves are different than we have known them. Green wards are now tentatively called “stealth wards”, while Pink (Vision) Wards are permanent and visible on the map, with 5 HP. They are also cheaper than they have been in the past. Brazie explained the thinking behind these changes.

“In the current live environment, pink wards are clearly better than green wards in every respect other than cost. This frequently leads to games in which the only end-game approach to warding was spamming as many Vision Wards as a player could afford – in turn forcing opponents to pick up pink wards to counter enemy pinks. What should be an interesting strategic decision became a flat arms race.

“With the new setup, the choices become more nuanced: Vision Wards still detect and reveal enemy wards, but, because they're always visible, must now be actively defended.”

More tentatively, players will be limited to three active stealth wards at a time and a single pink vision ward, meaning vision is also more of a resource to be conserved.

The trinkets emphasize at-will decision making at the cost of long cooldowns. The Sweeper “reveals and disables nearby invisible units (including Wards) for a short time,” while the Totem plants a green stealth ward for free. The final trinket, the Lens, “operates like a mini Clairvoyance, revealing areas in the fog of war so teams can scout brush and other areas of the map from a position of relative safety.”

If the trinket system sounds a little bolted-on, that’s because Riot wanted some very simple costs and benefits to start with. “We're excited about the trinket system because it allows us to introduce a new way for everyone to participate in the vision game in ways that still offer specialization and customization. We're launching with a set of three trinkets because we wanted the simplest and clearest system possible, but we're open to expanding the system beyond the original three if it seems worthwhile,” Brazie said.

This should make late-game League much more exciting at the competitive level, because now a high gold-lead will no longer automatically translate to vision dominance. Gold will certainly help, but there will be more opportunities for teams to open up gaps in ward coverage, or even do battle over ward placement itself.

It’s also interesting because these dynamics are actually more reminiscent of one of the better aspects of casual play: being a good team-citizen. In friendly pickup games, players have tended to be more public-spirited about helping with map vision, so that the support doesn’t need to be buying stacks of wards and poppin them down like the Johnny Appleseeds of Summoner’s Rift. This should add a twist to how top laners and mids play their roles, one that will be interesting to see in play next season.

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