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The moments that defined League of Legends in 2016

Competitive gaming in 2016

Over the course of Christmas and New Year, PC Gamer Pro will be exploring the moments that defined all of the biggest competitive games in 2016. Check back every day for another look back at this exciting, vibrant and growing aspect of PC gaming.

Summoner’s Rift looks positively festive as we look ahead to the New Year. It’s safe to say that 2016 has had its fair share of drama and many will be glad that it will be over. However, it certainly hasn’t been all doom and gloom. For Riot, 2016 was a year of celebration and reflection as it marked League’s ten year anniversary. It’s been a journey that has been filled with its own trials and tribulations, but this year proved that Riot and its community have no plans of slowing down. Here are some of the moments that defined League of Legends in 2016.

New champions

This year saw Jhin, Aurelion Sol, Taliyah, Kled, Ivern and Camille join the Rift. However, fans were most excited about the arrival of the new dragon, Aurelion Sol. Ever since League of Legends was released, players have been asking Riot for a dragon champion and this year fans finally got what they asked for.

Riot had teased a champion named Ao Shin in the Spirit Guard Udyr Comic and subsequent concept art back in 2013. Ao Shin was meant to be a powerful storm dragon and guardian of the natural world, but his development proved problematic for Riot as production difficulties held back Ao Shin's release until 2015. His release was then further delayed to early 2016 because of kit, tech and theme difficulties regarding the champion. It seemed as though we would never get our hands on this elusive dragon, but Riot surprised us all with the release of Aurelion Sol. The Star Forger was confirmed to be the spiritual successor of Shin. His release has been one of the most problematic and hyped launches we have ever seen in League of Legends. "There simply are no other dragons like me."

The Nautilus reef project

Back in 2015 Riot held a contest on the Oceanic server that awarded players in the region points for playing Ocean Week champions. They needed 275,000 points in order to get Riot to construct the artificial reef, and the response was massive. Players who contributed at least three points had their Summoner Name etched onto the statue before it was plunged into the watery depths below. In 2016 we finally saw the giant artificial reef shaped like Nautilus descending into the ocean off the coast of Moreton Bay, Australia. Over time the League-inspired reef will become a home for marine life and a monument to those who participated in its construction.

Champion updates

Some of the Rift's oldest champs received a much-needed makeover this year. Taric was given a complete overhaul and his abilities were changed to better reflect his new look. The former ‘Gem Knight’ can now partner up with his laner to simultaneously cast all his abilities from both himself and his ally, while his ultimate shrouds those near him with a brief spell of invulnerability. Taric oozes synergy and is hugely improved from his former playstyle.

Ryze underwent yet another rework as Riot aimed to once again redefine the Rune Mage. Originally, he required the player to quickly push all his buttons in the correct order to deliver tons of damage. His rework still revolves around his combos, but he now must compose spells that complement the problem at hand. This gives the 'Machine-Gun Mage' further decisions to make when it comes to taking down his foes.

Lastly, we saw League’s resident gravedigger receive some love, proving that even the most unpopular champs get to have a makeover. The Shepherd of Souls is still bad at engaging fights due to his slow movement speed and lack of gap-closing ability, but once he is in the heart of the fight Yorick can really unleash his ghostly ghouls to full effect. Yorick's passive and ult gives his team a unique way to capitalise on kill advantages. His ability to split push with Eulogy of the Isles and his trusty swarm of Mist Walkers makes him an absolute nightmare to deal with. He may be one of the most unpopular champions, but 2016 was a good year for those who main The Shepherd of Souls.

2016 Mid-Season Invitational

The Mid-Season Invitational was held in Shanghai this year and was the competitive scene's most ambitious undertaking to date. The event gave us eight days of nail-biting play and more hours of play than ever before. Fans from all over the world tuned in for 119 million hours of live broadcast content, which at its peak had over six million viewers tuning in concurrently to watch the drama unfold.

The finals saw the Korean champions SK Telecom T1 battle it out against the North American champions Counter Logic Gaming. SKT went on to sweep CLG 3-0 giving them championships in every possible competition: Worlds, the LCK, IEM and MSI. While CLG lost the final they did become the first NA team ever to make a major Riot final. The 2016 Mid-Season certainly was an event of firsts and one which will be remembered by fans for years to come.

Mid-season magic

The end of the Mid-Season Invitational gave Riot the chance to give some of our magic wielding friends a much-needed update. Over the years their strategic identities had become lost and mage play struggled to keep up the rest of the Rift’s changes. To combat this stagnation, mage items received a bewitching transformation. Before the update, mages would pick items purely based on stats alone with only minor changes to their build paths throughout the game. The update sought to focus on each item’s tactical impact, instead of offering up a bunch of stats on a platter. Six mages received major reworks, while a further eight received eight mini reworks. The most notable were Swain, Malzahar and Vladimir who wreaked havoc across the Rift for many a patch.

Elemental dragons

The mid-season magic certainly didn’t stop there, though, as the fire-spewing fiend of the jungle received a dramatic overhaul. Riot had set out to create a unique ecosystem where adaptation, team compositions and strategies were at the heart of each game. To achieve this goal they introduced the four elemental dragons, and their big daddy the Elder Dragon. These new dragons introduced controlled randomness that helped to create healthy game-to-game variety.

Doom Bots of Doom

League’s most hated champion finally unveiled his true nature in Doom Bots of Doom. The Halloween event saw players teaming up to overcome the cursed champions and their evil overlord Teemo. Players had to survive for 15 minutes as the cursed champions continually laid siege to their nexus. If you could hold off the Doom Bots long enough a gigantic Teemo dressed as Satan would appear to wreak havoc on his foes. Killing the demonic Yordle was no easy task and only the strongest could overthrow his tyrannical reign. "All shall hail me! My darkness will sweep across the world!"

 The 2016 World Championship 

For the second year in a row, Korea's SK Telecom T1 claimed the Summoner's Cup, defeating Samsung Galaxy in a tense 3-2 series. At the core of each victory lies the most accomplished duo in League of Legends history. Both Faker and Bengi have set the bar incredibly high once again and their team continues to ward off would-be challengers. However, this year’s final wasn’t an easy win for SKT as SSG weren’t going to go down quietly. Game 3 started with SKT methodically destroying each lane and turret. It looked as though SSG were beat, but they managed to win a teamfight and take Baron. SKT’s grip over SSG had been loosened and both teams traded blows for over half an hour. But it was SSG who went onto win as they stole Dragon buff and transformed this into a game winning play.

It was clear this wasn’t going to be the sweep SKT were hoping for. With the series pushed to Game 5 after another win for SSG it became apparent that both teams were evenly matched in the final three games. However, there was to be no miraculous comeback this time for SSG. The glimmer of hope had been snuffed out and SKT were once again crowned as champions.