I think Riot's intention when they took Tracker's Knife out was they felt that there was too much early vision in games, which led to really slow gameplay in pro games. So they figured with less information, more plays will happen.
Well, what can happen sometimes is, if the game is too volatile, then nobody takes risks. It kind of has to be this middle ground where, if you have perfect information of everything, a lot of times plays won't happen because no one has to take any risks. But if the risks are too severe, it's like, if you do anything, the game can explode, then people will play extremely safe. So I definitely think there's a middle ground that Riot tries to balance around. I think now it's pretty good, but it is the beginning of a patch, so we'll have to wait and see how it develops more. Sometimes I worry that, without enough vision, the game just becomes kind of slow, because it's like, "OK, I can fight this other guy one on one, but if there's a chance his jungler is here, I'm not going to do it." And as the jungler it's like, "Well, everyone's playing super safe, I can't gank anything, so I need to farm or I'm gonna fall really behind the enemy jungler. So those kind of dynamics can happen if there's no information.
JUNGLERS IT HURTS
I think that the champions hurt by the Tracker Knife change are probably--Lee Sin's the most obvious one because he relies on the ward jumps, but maybe champions that normally wouldn't want to build anything other than the completed jungle item, because I don't know too many offhand, but I think Jax was actually hurt by that. It doesn't make a ton of sense why he would be, but what actually happens with jungle is, I think it's the mana-using champs that need to start with machete get hurt, because basically you have to start a machete if you want to keep up with other junglers' clear speeds, but on your first back, once your blue buff runs off, you need to get the talisman to have any mana regen or you just go out of mana clearing your camps instantly. So those champs benefited a lot from just completing the Tracker's, because then you have the health and mana sustain that you need. And now if you still have to buy that, but others junglers have the option of getting you full Bami's Cinders, Predator, boots really early, then you're just sitting on this basically non-combat stat item. Sure, you can get a red smite, but you use them in the early camps anyway. So I think maybe Lee Sin, Jax, and some other junglers, I don't know off I the top of my head.
JUNGLERS IT BUFFS
I like Zac a lot more now because he always felt super good with blue smite. Also Rek'sai. Rek'sai felt so bad with Tracker's. But yeah, champs like those that need blue smite or even some that benefit a lot off red smite, they just feel really good.
IS THE CHANGE GOOD OR BAD?
I think I've actually liked the Tracker Knife removal. It's something that I was pretty worried about when it was going away, just because that had been the way the jungle was played for such a long time. It was like, "OK, get your seven hundred gold, go back, get a Tracker, get a control ward, and then go put wards down," and that's gone. But what it actually opened up is a lot more different build paths. It's like, "OK, I want to play Zac, and Zac's someone who's not very good with Tracker, but he can get a Bami's Cinder on his first back now, and he's really strong with that. And a lot of Predator junglers came out because it's like, "OK, on your first back, you can just get boots and then predator people." So I do think that--I like the option of opening up different build paths, so it's like, "OK , you can get this early power spike if you want, or you can still opt into the Skirmisher's Saber for better jungle clearing." And I think that build paths have definitely helped diversity a bit. I'm not sure about the removal of the wards itself, because I like the idea of being able to put wards down and get information that way. I think that maybe I would have liked them to put in more ways of denying vision. I always thought that the Oracle buff you got from smiting raptors, the removal of that kind of made it so that wards were a lot more important, because before, you almost never even wanted to drop the ward with enemy raptors because it's like, "OK, it's just gonna get cleared instantly." But now with zombie wards too, you can get so much information and you can't really deny it. So I don't know if they'd ever add more vision denial, but I guess they just took away more vision in itself. So I think the game is an OK spot right now, but obviously it's always going to be changing. People are going to optimize more, and we'll have to see how it ends up.
ARE GAMES GETTING SHORTER?
Well, in my opinion, the Tracker's Knife wasn't the main reason why games were slow before 8.4. I thought that a big thing, from what I saw, was that the Commencing Stopwatch and all the AD carries getting Targon's and having overhealing made games really slow, because AD carries with that build, they didn't get poked down too much in lane, and they didn't do too much damage, so it made it so poking down an AD carry wasn't an option, and ganking them also didn't work, so you just couldn't kill them. And then tower dives were hard, because if you dived someone with a Stopwatch, you're just gonna die to the turret. So I think those changes definitely helped speed up the game, and it's hard to say how much of it was the removal of Tracker's, and how much of it was the removal of the other system. So I don't really know if it was a good change or not, but the game has been more fun overall, I think.
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Disclosure: Riot Games, the publisher of League of Legends, is an investor in Blitz Esports.