Patch 5.1: Baron Nashor changes
With patch 5.1 there were some profound changes to the early combat strength of Baron Nashor. Now that the Baron is so much easier to kill earlier in the game, how should that change strategic priorities around mid-game objectives?
The data for this weeks post is a set of around 100,000 NA solo-queue matches played by diamond, master, and challenger elo (MMR) players. These matches are split approximately evenly from late in the 4.x cycle and from patch 5.1. This is pretty much ideal for measuring changes in player behavior due the changes in patch 5.1.
The first question is, 'are these changes leading leading to more Barons being taken per game?' Surprisingly, the answer is no. Both before and after patch 5.1, in games where at least one Baron is killed, solo-queue teams take about 1.33 Barons/game. I thought there would be some shift in this number since taking an earlier Baron is easier. But, as per the usual, I was wrong.
The second question is, 'are Barons being taken earlier?' Just before patch 5.1, the average Baron was being killed at around 32:11 (with a standard deviation of about 6 minutes). Since patch 5.1, the average Baron is now killed at 31:39 (also with sigma = 6m). This difference of about 30s is small, but stable over different random samples of the data. It may not be super-significant, but it does provide some evidence that Barons are being taken earlier.
Perhaps if we slice the data another way.
That makes it a bit more clear. Before patch 5.1, only about 23% of first Barons came between 24 and 28 minutes into the game. After patch 5.1, the number for that interval is up to about 29%. So, teams are taking their first Baron Nashor earlier.
Here is a similar plot for all Baron kill times
There is a similar effect here where the Baron kills were (pre patch 5.1) more concentrated around the 30 minute mark. Since the patch, the times are shading a bit earlier.
This is all well and good, but what does it say about our original question of objective priorities? A few weeks ago, in the inaugural LeagueMath.com article on win condition analysis, I found that taking the first Baron affects your chances of winning not at all. That is, if all you know about a team is that they took the first Baron, you cannot do better than flipping a coin to predict whether they won the game or not. (!)
I ran that same analysis again on the set of matches played on the 5.1 patch. That is, I counted games where the team that took the first Baron went on to win, and I divided it by the total number of matches. Drum roll please... 51%. Still not a great predictor of team success (I guess it is at least positively correlated now, ha!).
Here is what I get from the analysis in this article. (SPOILER ALERT) Significantly reducing the Baron's combat effectiveness at 20 minutes when it spawns makes it a lot easier to kill. This leads to more kills of the Baron early. However, those early Baron kills still do not translate directly into wins.
In the end, I do like this change. In my own games played building up to the 5.1 patch there was a bad pattern of teams trying an early Baron and failing. This was often catastrophic for morale, sad, and frustrating. In the How to win at League of Legends article I gently recommended not wasting your time looking at an early Baron. Now, at least, the penalties for early-Nashor-attempt hubris should be reduced. However, I think the best bet in solo-queue is still to push lanes. Nothing wins like taking inhibitors and the nexus.
There you have it; a quick and fun look at the interesting changes to early Baron Nashor strength in high-level solo-queue games on patch 5.1. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. And, as always, thanks for your time.
Though I do not think it is available, I would love to have the match data from the professional league games. These analyses would likely all have to be thrown out the window in the face of the changes in competitive play. I think with the new Baron buff pushing mechanics an organized team with Baron is almost unstoppable. I personally cannot wait to see how these changes play out in the LCS.
Be sure to let me know what you think, and I'll be seeing you soon for the most league'n and math'n on the web here at LeagueMath.com.
No 20 minute Baron feels were harmed in the making of this article.