Mastering Your Pregame: Choosing the Best Keystone

Feb 28, 2016
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After the early reign of Thunderlord’s Decree over the preseason and the early parts of Season 6, the meta has shifted to a place where nearly every single Keystone Mastery sees some selection. This article will outline some of the prototypical champions that take each one, and why the choice is perhaps optimal.

Ferocity

Warlord’s Bloodlust

Early on in the preseason, this keystone actually vaulted certain champions into the S-tier, such as Tryndamere and Yasuo. Since then, the mastery has been re-tuned to only heal on champion attacks and has almost faded into complete obscurity. Though this mastery may have a place still on those crit-based champions, it’s mostly useless.

Fervor of Battle

Fervor has become the bread-and-butter for marksmen these days, especially with the prevalence of Kog’Maw and Lucian, who thrive on attack speed amplifiers. The additional per-hit damage on auto attacks make it an incredible trading tool at all points in the game. Even for melee champions such as Xin Zhao and Master Yi, it can be ridiculously powerful in all-out brawls. This keystone mastery rewards you for consistent aggression more than any other, definitely favoring the mechanically intensive players.

Deathfire Touch

Deathfire Touch applies a damage-over-time debuff. Although it is relatively unnoticeable, DFT is probably the best option on poke-based champions who do not rely on combo-burst; think Ziggs and Karthus. It also made Swain incredibly powerful early on in the preseason, before receiving nerfs. Overall, this is quite a situational choice, but almost never a useless one.

Cunning

Stormraider’s Surge

Stormraider’s is probably one of the dark-horses so far in this early season. It has yet to see prominent play. That being said, people have been experimenting with it on Nasus and Nocturne. Since the Curator of the Sands has always been inhibited by slows, this may make him stronger. The one issue is that it doesn’t make you stronger in lane.

Thunderlord’s Decree

The once king of keystones has now been relegated to a properly balanced state. Picking Thunderlord’s is almost never the wrong option. After all, who doesn’t like an additional fat burst of damage. It’s still definitely the best on burst champions, especially assassins. Zed, Fizz, and Leblanc are some of the biggest benefactors of this buffer. It’s probably the most commonly seen mastery though, similar to the ‘Ignite’ of masteries.

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Windspeaker’s Blessing

Built for supports, this mastery can be seen on the female frontier of supports. Janna, Lulu, and Nami often use this keystone. It’s an amazing addition for those who emphasize dedicated support play, however, can often go unnoticed during those high-intensity battles. At the end of the day, League of Legends is a numbers-oriented game. The 10% buff to heals and shields can really be a difference maker.

Resolve

Grasp of the Undying

Grasp saw its entrance through Gangplank at the beginning, and now is almost a must-have on bruising top laners. Fiora, Mundo, and Poppy in the top-lane are commonly seen running this mastery. Its health-scaling make it especially attractive to the ultra-tanky toplane meta that has been infesting both solo queue and competitive play over the past 2 months. Not only does it increase your damage, but it simultaneously adds to your sustain and extended trading ability. If you expect to be fighting for more than 4 seconds consecutively, this is definitely the choice for your champion.

Strength of the Ages

SOTA is the new jungler’s choice (From Nidalee, to Lee Sin, to Reksai, to Udyr, to every other jungler…). Someone recently compiled the numbers on this vs. Thunderlord’s Decree, and after a jungler’s first full clear, this mastery offers more trading power in an all-in. Not to mention, health is the most versatile stat on any champion. Especially on characters who don’t naturally build health items, Strength of the Ages can add an element of tankiness which previously didn’t exist. This is amplified by those who have natural armor/magic resist, such as Graves, Shyvana, and Rammus.

Bond of Stone

Bond of Stone is another keystone that has seen nerfs since its release. It may still have a place on bruising supports like Braum and Leona, but otherwise goes unseen. BOS is the ultimate sacrifice, taking damage for your marksman for when he/she releases an unrestrained amount of aggression (and recklessness). Personally, I never take it; I’m selfish. But if you are a real support, look to challenge your patience with this choice.

Conclusive Thoughts

Riot’s introduction of keystone masteries look to be nearly balanced out now. Games see diversity of usually 3-7 choices over the 10 champions, and they really do emphasize different playstyles. Grasp of the Undying and Fervor of Battle reward long bruising fights, while Thunderlord’s really gives that early laning burst. Supports have choices between aggression and defensiveness, as do junglers.

Riot has definitely done a good job here. Masteries are finally exciting to choose between. It’s a encouraging sign to see from their Game Design team for future implementations. We just need to make sure as a player-base to not tunnel vision onto the first choice we see.

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Jungroan Lin
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Jungroan "Jezie" Lin is a Challenger League of Legends player, former top lane player for Complexity Gaming, and former jungler for Team Green Forest. He spent 6 months of his life playing only Renekton, Shyvana, and Dr. Mundo while failing to qualify for the LCS. Jungroan is currently pursuing his M.A. in Political Science at UBC.
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