Preseason 2022: Intro to First Strike

A quick introduction to the new Inspiration Keystone, First Strike.

(Don't let the title fool you, this is your biweekly Quick Gameplay Thoughts. We just want to make sure everyone looking for Preseason stuff can find it!)

Preseason 2022 is right around the corner, and we're excited to introduce with it a brand new Inspiration Keystone: First Strike.

A First Look at First Strike

The numbers below were what we shipped to PBE on the 19th. They may already be out of date by the time this article goes live!

Damaging an enemy champion with an attack or ability before they do, or within 0.25s of the start of combat, grants 5 gold and First Strike for 3 seconds, causing your attacks or abilities to deal 12% bonus damage against all champions, and granting (100% melee / 70% Ranged) of bonus damage dealt as gold.

Cooldown: 25-15s (based on level)

First Strike is a new Inspiration Keystone that gives you a huge advantage when you strike an enemy champion first (or, technically, within a very short window time at the start of champion combat). In addition to the extra damage, the extra gold lets you reach item breakpoints at unexpected times. It's designed for players who want more strategic, long-term output from their runes in addition to an immediate mechanical boost.

To get the most out of it, you’ll need to beat your opponents in a test of reactions to get that initial hit and follow up to deal as much damage as possible during the 3-second buff. The rune has been great for artillery champions who can land their spells first, as well as for assassins who do their entire damage output within a short amount of time.

Why the Inspiration Tree?

The Inspiration rune tree is designed to be all about creative tools and rule-bending. Many past Inspiration Keystones haven't really delivered on that and instead became highly specific to particular champion synergies. This didn't really fit the Inspiration theme: You don't feel clever when you're simply doing what's always best for your champion, after all.

You also might notice that we've historically shied away from putting damage options into the Inspiration tree. That's because damage is a fairly standard output—it doesn't really come across as a "rule-bending" optimization. But we're bending our own rules-bending rule a bit here for First Strike because starting combat is a harder decision to make than the choices most of our other damage-focused runes ask of you. Evaluating whether you might initiate a suboptimal fight to ensure First Strike, versus letting an opponent poke it off you and forfeiting the ability to go on the offensive for at least 15 seconds, isn't a straightforward choice. A risk like that needs an equivalent reward, and the increased damage you get is clear and appealing.

We also hope that First Strike will provide value to a broad range of players rather than a specific class. Some will benefit more from the burst damage, others will love it for the gold rewards, and still others will enjoy the intellectual puzzle of figuring out its most strategic use cases. By delivering on multiple angles, we hope to garner appeal to a wider audience.

More Design Thoughts

One concern with First Strike's design is its effects on mindshare. When runes get too hard to track, they risk feeling like minigames that distract you from the "real" game going on. We’ve successfully reduced this in the past by making the rune's early lane interactions less influential (think Fleet Footwork). Because its benefits are granted in gold and percentage damage, much of First Strike's value is deferred until later in the game where getting that first jump on your opponent is crucial, regardless of rune choice.

We also incorporated our learnings from Kleptomancy, which was frustrating for enemy laners who would get poked to death with little opportunity to fight back. Champions who remained loyal to Kleptomancy only did so if they could benefit from it without taking any damage in return, effectively getting to spin the consumables roulette for free every 2 seconds. First Strike not only forces you to engage but also encourages you to commit to your engagements to get any real benefit, especially with its much longer cooldown. It'll give Ezreal a taste of that "Lee Syndrome" when he lands his W - Essence Flux rather than passively poking away with his Q - Mystic Shot the entire time.

Removing Prototype: Omnistone

With the introduction of First Strike, we’re also removing Prototype: Omnistone, which never really found its place in most players’ hearts. Its rules and optimizations were too complex and tinkering with it any further risked making it even harder to master. This left us in a tough spot where we couldn’t safely buff it out of fear that it would become a standard in Pro play. While Prototype: Omnistone was a decent option for champions who didn't really love any one particular Keystone, over time, most have discovered at least a couple that suit them best. And for players who want to opt out of Keystones altogether, Unsealed Spellbook provides extra access to Summoner Spells, allowing users to spend their Runes power budget in a different system entirely.

From the Summoner’s Rift Team, we hope you enjoy this sneak peek into First Strike and the other Preseason 2022 content we've announced this week. There's plenty more in store, and we're constantly monitoring the current state of the game and listening to your feedback to make improvements this preseason and beyond. Good luck out there and stay safe!