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Deep Dive of Patch 9.21
League of Draven.. wait wrong game
Hallo! Back again this time with a dive into patch 9.21 after a week of playing on it. This patch has been a real doozy to learn and a lot of Challenger players, including myself, have struggled to really find their groove in it. Early player damage change has definitely caused the pace of the game to speed up dramatically in North America and most lobbies are ruthless. I'm going to navigate through each stage of the game in this two part article but keep in mind there isn't one optimal way to play it as each game is going to be different to the previous one on this patch. Each section for early game and mid game will be broken into three parts; items, units and overall strategy (including economy).
Early Game - Items

Not much as changed in terms of first carousel priority on 9.21 compared to 9.20 as B.F Sword is still the most contested item as Giant Slayer received no nerfs this patch. Giant Slayer is one of the best items all game as it provides a ton of extra damage (true damage!) and enables carries such as Kai'sa and Jinx. If you're able to grab a B.F Sword straight off the first carousel you're putting yourself in a pretty flexible place.

Unlike 9.20, there are quite a few options on this patch for components and items that aren't B.F Sword. Defensive items have really risen in the meta because they have good synergy with compositions later in the game (Yordles, Shapeshifters) and help bolster your front-line in the early and mid game. In the first few PvE rounds if you have components that can make a Redemption, Iceborn Gauntlet or Guardian Angel you should try to make those. Guardian Angel I would probably wait on until the next carousel round in case you get a Recurve Bow but! It's a good item to make if you don't want to wait.

Good units to put Redemption on early game are; Aatrox, Shen, Brawlers (Warwick usually), Kassadin and any upgraded Knight is okay but try not to put items on Darius or Mordekaiser as you may want to keep those units for later compositions (Phantom/Imperial). Shen is one of the best carries of Iceborn in the early game as his ultimate is 100% dodge so it's guaranteed to make ice zones. Otherwise you can put Iceborn on the same units you would for Redemption and stacking a unit with both items is quite good.

Guardian Angel works very well with units that have a channeled ultimate like Morgana and Kennen but also makes a unit like Aatrox reliably get his ultimate off because if he dies with mana he'll revive and instantly use it. A strong combination to do is put Guardian Angel on a unit with Redemption because when they are in the revive animation the heal from Redemption will still heal them. It's quite a reliable combo all game long but especially if you get early game for an important front-line unit.

Giant Slayer really is the best overall damage item but another item you can make early is Hand of Justice which has a chance to roll an Imperial-like buff (40% damage) or a Noble-like buff (40 life on hit) so it's useful on early carries. Note that it does work on spell damage as well if you roll the damage buff so it's useful even on an Aatrox or someone like Katarina

Spatula is fine to grab early on the carousel as it's hard to find later and makes useful items like Yuumi's, Mittens or Darkin but I'd suggest not committing to using it right away early game so you leave your options open. That said it is not terrible if you make an early Yuumi's or Darkin because Sorcerers and Demons are relevant most of the game.
Early Game - Units

Items out of the way let's get talkin' about early game units. Rule number one is; play what you're given. It's especially important in 9.21 because being greedy and sitting on a bunch of 1 star units is likely to lose you a lot of health. If the game is throwing tons of Warwick's and Nidalee's at you and you're not picking up those pairs because you wanted to play Knights, you're going to have a rough early game.

Notable 2 cost carry units to look for are VarusLucian and Lissandra. The latter two have fallen a bit off in 9.21 compared to 9.20 but if you 2 star them they are still decent item carries. Varus is likely the strongest 2 cost carry in the game as he got an auto-attack buff, his ultimate already does a lot of damage and he has really good traits. Demon is one of the strongest early and mid game traits and two Ranger got a huge buff this patch.

There are some decent early 3 cost units that are worth picking up if you have other units to pair with them. Aatrox is one of the best because he is Demon and his ultimate does a lot of damage. Kennen is decent with a Guardian Angel and same with Morgana. Last patch I'd say Poppy would be an auto-buy but if you don't have other upgraded Knights I don't think you should spend 3 gold on her. Niche units worth looking into are Ashe if you have a Giant Slayer with another Ranger as two Ranger is quite strong early and mid game or look into picking up a Katarina if you want to roll the dice on Imperial if you have a Darius

Knights are still a great front-line if you can get them 2 starred. Otherwise you can be a bit more creative with your front-line especially if you have Redemption, Iceborn or Guardian Angel. Shen is great at holding Iceborn and Aatrox is great with Redemption so you can use both of them instead of Knights. Another unit that's not bad in the front-line is a 2 star Kassadin with defensive items but keep in mind he falls off rather quickly and should look to be replaced somewhere between 2-4 and Krugs.

All in all, play what you're given. Hitting 2 star units is huge this patch because it can help stabilize your early game and make you take less damage. Look for strong traits such as Demon or two Ranger. Getting a fast item carry is helpful in winning early game so grab that Varus or if you happen to hit any two cost unit as a 2 star super early just slap them in and give 'em items (well, maybe not a Braum).
Early Game - Strategy

This will be a quick overview of what you should be looking to do with economy and overall play from round 1-1 to roughly round 3-2. 3-2 is when most of a lobby will be hitting level 6 and that's about where mid game starts.

First three rounds of PvE are pretty typical; look for pairs, play what you're given. One of the biggest changes from 9.20 is you don't want to play for 10 gold economy really early. You need to be picking up pairs and holding on to decent two cost units. If you get mostly gold drops then you can look to econ to 10 but overall buying as many units as you can to try and hit 2 stars as soon as you can is going to be the most effective early game. Don't play overly greedy.

At 2-1 I suggest only leveling to 4 if you've hit some of your one cost pairs. Reason being is four gold is a lot to spend on leveling and you lower your chances of hitting one cost pairs on the next round. But if you hit a 2 star unit and have a strong enough start and good traits to play then leveling is fine. Keep in mind if you level at 2-1 you should level at 2-4 otherwise it was a waste of gold as one of the benefits to early leveling is to have a cheaper level 5 at 2-4 since you'll be 6/10 in experience.

At 2-3 you want to be around at least 8 gold (or more is fine) so that you can hit your interest at 10 by selling a unit on carousel. I'll describe how to do that at the end of this section. Next is 2-4 to Krugs and you can roll but only if you have hit no pairs at all. If you're sitting on a full bench then roll once or twice to try and hit some of the pairs. I don't recommend rolling if you have very few pairs or a mostly empty bench. There is a possibility you have not leveled when you're on Krugs so it's advised to do that because getting behind in levels puts you at a severe disadvantage for hitting higher cost units.

Krugs will determine a bit of what you may want to do with items. If you've been sitting on a few unused components and get drops that'll make decent items then it's a good idea to make those to help your mid game. Lastly you want to level to 6 at 3-2, though some times you can level to 6 right after Krugs if you have a strong economy and want to keep a win-streak before everyone else levels to 6 at 3-2. From here on it's mid-game!

Quick side-note; carousel selling is when you sell the unit you got from carousel before the next round starts. You have a few seconds to do that so here's the process. The default hotkey to go to your board from carousel is R and spacebar will take you back to the carousel (where your little legend is). 

When there's a few seconds remaining in the carousel round after everyone's picked hit R to go back to your board and move your cursor to the left most open spot on your bench and use E to sell when the unit from carousel appears. This means you can generally always hit the next interest level for economy if you get a unit that costs enough to hit it. I have an example below of being at 8 gold and selling a Jayce (worth 2 gold) letting me hit 10 gold before the next round starts.
Carousel unit selling trick
Mid Game - Items

Items for mid game is building off of what you already have and what units you've been buying. For example it is hard to run a Jinx without Giant Slayer so if you don't have one or any of it's components it's good to look into a different carry unit, usually something that is a Sorcerer or Demon.

Wolves will determine what you'll be able to run late game. Defensive items like Iceborn, Guardian Angel and Redemption point towards Sorcerer, Dragon, Yordles and Shapeshifter. Carry items like Giant Slayer can let you run Jinx, Kai'sa or Draven. Hyper-carry units like those three basically require a Dragon's Claw in the current meta to survive otherwise they just die quickly to magic damage.

Mid game is a good time to use a Spatula (if you have one) to either make someone a Sorcerer, Yordle or Demon. Most often you'll use it to make a Yuumi's or a Force of Nature. Yuumi's is great for Aatrox, Varus and if you find Gnar. Making Gnar a Sorcerer really opens up the possibility of running Dragon/Sorcerer/Shapeshifter. Aatrox and Varus both do a lot of magic damage so them with Yuumi's in a Sorcerer/Demon composition is quite strong.

The perfect hyper-carry items for Jinx and Kai'sa are; Giant Slayer, Guinsoo's and Dragon's Claw. If you've managed to get some of these items or components for them try to grab the rest of the components on the carousel round of 3-4 and 4-4. Dragon's Claw and Giant Slayer are the most important, so prioritize those. These items also pair really well with two Rangers (Ashe or Varus) which are good units to carry the items until you find a Jinx 2 or much later, Kai'sa 2.

Draven works okay with those hyper-carry items but the most important item on him is Dragon's Claw, the rest is flexible. Infinity Edge is not bad to use and same with Rapid Firecannon. I've also seen and had success running Bloodthirster on him as there are less people running Morellonomicons but I don't think it's a necessary item on him like Dragon's Claw is.
Mid Game - Units

Level 6 and 7 is where you're really forming what you are going to run late game so begin looking for units that help with that. Be flexible and play what you're given. It's hard to force any composition and sometimes you just flat out can't run a certain unit because of items. Notably, hyper-carries. Jinx and Draven are highly item dependent whereas units like Aurelion Sol or Gnar are more flexible.

Don't get hard-stuck running one particular composition at this stage of the game, especially once you hit level 7. Knights are great but if you have a couple level one Knights and you're seeing a lot of Cho'gath and other Brawlers, start swapping your composition to go into that. It's easy to get too focused on one thing so that you're ignoring what the game is giving you and before you know it you're out of gold and your board is very weak.

Looking for four cost units is your priority in the mid game. Brand is amazing to play if you have other Demons so if you're finding him, play around that. Aurelion Sol is one of the best units in the game but also one of the most contested so scout around and see if other people have one and decide if it's worth going for. Draven and Jinx are great hyper-carries but again they are item dependent so don't over value them if you don't have the items to play.

It's still important to run mid game carries from level 6 to 7 so make sure you're grabbing those upgrades. Varus is one of the best but running Aatrox front-line with good items can carry or picking up some of those level one four units can be very beneficial. For example a Gnar, even level one, can be a good unit to play before you're level 7 if you find him early enough. Give him Redemption, Yuumi's or a Guardian Angel and he can help carry your mid game as a front-line. 

A few examples of decent compositions mid game would be Knights/Ranger (Varus or Ashe carry), Demon/Sorcerer, Demon/Elementalist, early Brawler/Jinx. Draven is a bit hard to run early but if you have a stacked Aatrox you can run Draven in Knight/Blademaster/Imperial. Most Sorcerer compositions do well in the mid game especially with a Yuumi's but be wary of running level one Aurelion Sol as it's a bit weak on damage. Gnar is amazing to run so a Yordle/Sorcerer composition at 7 is good while you're looking for the Dragons.

Be flexible and play what you're given. Upgraded 2 and 3 cost units are key to sailing through mid game while you're also hunting for four cost units. Definitely scout and see what other people are looking for and don't get trapped into one particular composition if three other people are also running it.
Mid Game - Strategy

Alright you just hit level 6 at 3-2 and you're starting to transition into mid game. SCOUT! Check to see if anyone is rolling aggressively after hitting level 6 and what units everyone is picking up. This is the time where more and more four cost units are going to be found so knowing what everyone else is finding or playing is really important. If most of the lobby is rolling gold heavily you should consider rolling a few times just to match their play. Being greedy when everyone else is being aggressive, much like early game, is going to get you punished.

Your goal from 3-2 to Wolves is to try and hit 40 to 50 gold as your economy. Again if other people are players are aggressively rolling you need to keep that mind. If you do roll, do not over roll. It's really easy to get caught up in trying to roll for upgrades or certain units and suddenly your economy is gone. Level 7 is the time to roll a lot, the time between 6 and 7 is to stabilize both your board and your economy. Rolling to match others is fine but don't destroy your economy for it.

On 4-1 after Wolves you should almost always immediately level to 7, there are some cases that you don't but in order to keep up with the lobby you need to be level 7 as soon as possible. At this point you'll have usually around 30-40 gold and it's time to roll a bit. Roll until you hit a few key units (four costs usually) and a few upgrades but don't destroy your economy from over-rolling unless you are around 40 health or below. At that health you need to all-in roll to try and stabilize.

Scout! It's super important to scout after everyone is hitting level 7. This is the time that everyone is going to be hitting four cost 2 stars and forming their late game composition. You need to know what everyone is going because contesting similar units can put you in a bad spot really easily. The most common compositions at this point are going to use Gnar and Aurelion Sol so if you haven't hit either of those and see multiple people already have, maybe even 2 starred them, look to play a different composition.

From 4-1 to Raptors is basically stabilize, stabilize, stabilize. Get strong enough to begin recovering your economy if you rolled a lot and as you near Raptors you're going to be nearing the final stages of your composition. Unlike 9.20 once you hit Raptors a majority of the compositions are going to be basically done because of low economy. Your goal is to get to that point with a good enough economy, health and composition so that you can transition into the late game with level 8 after Raptors. The things to help you do that are scouting and being flexible with your composition.

Thanks for reading part 1 of this two part article on patch 9.21. Part 2 will be a second post to this one so keep an eye out for it as it'll be out not long after this one! I'll be going over the more common late game compositions in it.

This patch has been really crazy to play with how aggressive everyone plays after how slow paced the game was in 9.20. It's hard to really put into words the best way to play it so keep in mind everything I write is a guideline and not a rule. I'm always willing to answer any questions on my twitter @FayeHotS and on my stream https://www.twitch.tv/faye14 So if there's anything I've overlooked in these two articles or maybe you'd like more clarification feel free to ask me!

As always, thank you so much for reading! I hope this will be useful for the last week of patch 9.21 as next week the release of Set 2 is coming. If you want to check out the site I use to make graphics you can find it here: https://lolchess.gg
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