Hey everyone, I’m Daniel “Riot Maxw3ll” Emmons, the design lead on the Modes team, and I’m here to talk to you about Arena. We’re going to include a TL;DR at the top to tell you exactly how to jump into the game. But if you want to learn more about some of the decisions we made, read on!
Arena: How To Play
- Step 1: Queue Up – You can queue for Arena solo or with a duo comrade.
- Step 2: Pick/Ban – Everyone gets a ban, and then you move into a Blind-style pick where you cannot see your enemies picks. You can face mirror matchups, but you can’t double up on your team. Also there are no Runes or Summoner Spells! (More on this later.)
- Step 3: Fight! – There are multiple rounds in each match of Arena, and each round has a buy and combat phase. In buy phases you either get to choose an Augment, or you get gold to buy items. You then enter the combat phase and fight your opponent. In each combat phase you fight 2v2—if you win, you retain your overall team health, if you lose, you lose some health. The last team standing wins! Easy, right? Wrong! There are also some surprise Cameos from the Soul Fighters who want to shake things up a bit. So watch out for errant Lux lasers and Shaco nonsense, because winning isn’t always as easy as it seems. Place in the top two teams and you’ll start climbing the Ranked ladder from Wood to Gladiator.
- Step 4: Run It Back – After your team is eliminated you can immediately leave and queue up again for retribution! But of course you won’t lose, you’re here to win the whole dang thing! So fight it out to the end, claim victory, and then keep that win streak going, baby!
To me, League has always been about exploration. Over 160 champs, 100+ items, Summoner Spells, five roles—there’s an endless number of things to try. But currently, the main way you play with all these toys is on Summoner’s Rift in the context of a 5v5 competitive game.
Summoner’s Rift is great, but it doesn’t support all avenues of creativity and skill expression. So when it was time to start on a new game mode for League, we asked a question: What if there was a version of League that let you truly explore all those endless possibilities?
Enter Arena: a mashup of League and Teamfight Tactics, focused squarely on putting you into the action faster, forcing you to respond to huge power ups, and tempting you to try truly wacky nonsense. You team up with a friend (or solo queue comrade) to fight other pairs in a series of 2v2 fights. You’ll be armed with powerful Augments that change the way your champ plays, buy items that you know and love (with a few old and a few totally new faces), and put on a show for the Soul Fighters that just want to make your match a little more interesting. At the end of it all, the last team standing wins.
Where Are Runes and Summoners?
Thanks for the question, me. You won’t be selecting Runes or Summoners. Runes ended up being fairly uninteresting in Arena, so we cut them completely. Either you just couldn’t make use of them (e.g. gold scaling from First Strike, or long-term stacking of Dark Harvest), or they just ended up without much diversity (everyone in playtests took Conqueror and just stacked it immediately).
When it came to Summoner spells, Flash was providing cool moments, but all the others were just a trade of targeted spells every round (it’s not very interesting to trade Exhausts). So we opted to keep the one that was working, and give you another small spell (called Flee) to fill out the slot, but more on that one later.
The end result is getting you into the game faster and putting more emphasis on the new power ups you can get in the match.
Powering Up with Items
Items work a little differently in Arena. For the first two buy phases, each player gets 1000 gold to buy a starter item and then boots. Technically you could choose either, but the starter items are R E A L G O O D and we highly recommend grabbing these first in most cases. After you’ve gotten your boots and a starter item, you’ll start getting 3000 gold per buy phase. Every item in the shop has had their stats adjusted to cost 3000 gold. No components, no culls, no triple longsword rounds, ONLY BIG ITEMS. This means you can buy whatever item you want at each stage and still be roughly even in power to your opponents.
While this doesn’t seem too crazy at first glance, it was actually VERY important to address a core mechanic in League that didn’t work well in Arena: Snowballing. Games of League feel good because they reward your skill in a ton of different ways, including letting your early game have a large effect on the outcome of the game.
By dominating early laning, you gain a lot of control over how the game plays out and force your opponent to try and pick up scraps elsewhere. But in Arena, there is no elsewhere. You have to fight, and fighting from a large deficit isn’t always a fun experience. So, we made all champions progress in power via items at roughly the same rate and introduced some additional strategy with a different mechanic: Juices.
Despite getting guaranteed gold in every non-Augment phase, extra gold isn’t worthless in Arena. In fact, if you manage to kill at least one enemy champion, you get 350 gold for your trouble. You can spend 700 gold to buy a one-round boost using a new type of elixir we’re calling Juices. These are your reward for playing more early game-focused champions. Stack up kills early, get the gold, and buy a few juices in tougher rounds later. Juice lasts for one round, so they’re only short-term power boosts. You can buy up to one of each type of Juice per round if you want to go all in. Or, if you want to play dangerously, you can save up the gold entirely to try and earn enough to hit your item spike one round early.
WOW, incredible pun there. People are going nuts for it, well done.
Augments in Arena look pretty similar to the ones in TFT. In certain buy phases, instead of getting gold, players will each get three Augments to choose from, each providing a different powerful ability. These Augments are separated into three tiers: Silver, Gold, and Prismatic.
These buffs are way bigger than anything you’ll find in traditional League. Cooldowns will get very low. Champions will be The Fast. Spells will crit. These Augments are designed to combine in interesting ways with champion kits, augmenting their fantasy and forcing players to adapt to some really crazy situations. Up to and including new Summoner Spells.
Remember how we mentioned the default Summoners outside of Flash were a bit boring in Arena? And that we gave you a kinda weak Summoner Spell called Flee alongside Flash at the beginning of the game instead? Certain Augments will swap Flee out for any variety of cool new spells: some familiar and some not so familiar. These are called Active Augments, and they are intended to change your character’s entire approach to fights. Grab Zhonya’s Epiphany and dive without fear. Pick up Now You See Me and never worry about full-committing again. You can do some truly wild stuff with these new spells, and utilizing them to their full potential will require some out-of-the-box thinking.
Another build you may find revolves around specific keywords. There are Augments that trigger Automatically and ones that apply Burn, for example. But we didn’t stop there, it’s Augments all the way down! We added certain Augments that improve other Augments of that type.
These can get really nuts if you find multiple of them in a game. Trust us, we’ve seen it (even if it is rare). There used to be an automatic Augment that randomly blinked you around the map and turned you invisible. It got down to a 4-second cooldown creating what was essentially a randomly but powerfully blinking Kennen finally getting to live his ninja fantasy. It was the hardest I’ve laughed in a playtest in a long time. I can’t wait to see what insane combos you all come up with. If you stumble upon any really wacky combos make sure you share them with us!
Enter the Arena
With such epic fights in store, we realized we needed a worthy arena for these fights to happen. Creating unique spaces for 2v2 fights was a difficult problem we had to solve for this mode. Early prototypes of Arena used small sections of older game mode maps, but we quickly realized that we needed something more custom-made. The end result was four very distinct combat spaces with a couple new mechanics added to push gameplay in the right direction. This led us to a new terrain type called Deep Water and a new plant called the Power Flower.
Deep Water works like other solid terrain except for two key differences: it does not block vision and it counts as water for things like Qiyana’s spells. We found we wanted terrain that was less aggressive about blocking player vision and more about creating interesting situations with the closing ring of fire. It was important to make sure players felt like they were fighting each other, not the map, so we used Deep Water to create space without creating pockets of vision that players could abuse.
The Power Flower is a plant that has several functions and a unique trigger mechanic. It grants a heal, shield, and some flat cooldown reduction directly to the player who attacks it. The reason why we moved away from League’s traditional plants was to help out ranged champions. In closed arenas, melee champs are highly favored, so we had to do a lot of work to give ranged champions angles to play around in a world without turrets to keep those pesky melee champions away. The benefit of being able to grab the flower from range meant that these could be desirable objectives without creating huge melee brawls.
Arena also features some brief appearances from champions in the Soul Fighter thematic to help mix up fights. While testing the mode, we realized that with only four unique arenas, we weren’t really hitting the round-to-round variation we wanted. Players tended to move around the map the same way every round and the same areas were the most important every time. We wanted to add another mechanic that would change them up. That’s when the designer in charge of this problem space, one of the other designers, Stash “Riot Stashu” Chelluck, came up with a solution that also tied in the Soul Fighter theme in a neat way: Cameos.
Much like an unrelated fighter coming in from the top rope, Cameos feature the 10 champions that have Soul Fighter skins randomly choosing a fight to affect. Each champion has their own unique mechanic to keep each fight interesting. Lux sweeps the arena, ulting the first person she finds. Sett takes damage until he runs out of health before punching at the enemies of the team who last hit him. And Shaco? Well, he just runs around and does Shaco things. Our goal is for these Cameos to introduce even more game-to-game variance, which should help make Arena fun to play whether it’s your first or twentieth game.
But what happens when the other teams in your lobby get super lucky or your Augments just don’t come together the way you planned? Well, this mode features an early exit mechanic. This means that if you lose, you’re out and can go queue up for another game. This way you won’t be trapped in the game until the very end. You’ll get an exit prompt and can queue right up for the next one. I’m super excited about this feature because it should reduce the stress of needing to perform every game. If something doesn’t go your way, there’s always the next game.
Being able to leave the game after I lose is cool and all, but I don’t plan on losing. And neither should you! We definitely encourage experimenting with wacky Augment combinations, but we know zero stakes Augment theory crafting isn’t for everyone—some people play for the thrill of the climb. In order to make this game mode appeal to both types of players we drew some inspiration from our neighbors on TFT and added a ladder that players can climb like they have in Hyper Roll. The ranks are as follows going from lowest to highest:
Do you have what it takes to become an Arena Gladiator? Jump in and find out! You can gain points by placing in the top two teams, and you’ll lose points by placing into the bottom two teams. Don’t worry about needing to win right away though, because we’ve added loss mitigation for the first five games you play meaning during those games you can only gain points.
We do want to drop a quick disclaimer here. It’s been a long time since our last new mode, and you all have made it EXTREMELY clear that you care about them, which led to us doing everything we could to get it out in time for the summer event. You may notice some jank and a missing feature or two, but we wanted to get Arena into your hands as soon as possible so you could all enjoy it instead of polishing it up to the nth degree. But rest assured that if you all like and play this mode, we’ll bring it back again with another pass to get those missing pieces in.
The entire team has been working super hard behind the scenes to bring this game mode to life, and we think we’ve made a really special experience that most League players will enjoy. Our hope is that you’ll have as much fun playing it as all of us have. Thanks for gaming with us and we’re looking forward to seeing you in the Arena!