In a normal game of League of Legends (that is, Summoner’s Rift), your team splits up to one of three lanes (or in between them) and clashes with the enemy team one by one, who are all doing the same thing. There is a variation of this called All Random All Middle in which everyone picks a random character, ignores the top and bottom lanes, and dogpiles into the middle lane to slam against the enemy team like gangs of white trash moshing at a nu-metal concert. The “Proving Grounds” map simply codifies this fan gimmick into a mode that doesn’t rely on the honor system for everyone to have a good time.
There’s a completely different set of strategies involved. The majority of contact with the enemy takes the form of 5-on-5 team battles, so this is not the place to be a solo queue superstar. All fights are team fights, so you better work with your team and not rage like a… like a League of Legends player. ARAM players seem to understand this, resulting in a mode that is significantly chiller than Summoner’s Rift, Dominion, or new Twisted Treeline (they really should have kept the old one as an option). You’ll still get your AFKers, ragers, whiners, and other assorted internet jerks, but they’re in much smaller numbers and severity than the normal mode.
There’s an explicit understanding that when you get a random character from the stable of champions that you own, you might not get one you’re good with. So if you get Nasus and you’re bad with Nasus and get an endgame score of like 1-10-8, you’re not that likely to have a jerk teammate say “gg, this nasus” five minutes into the game. ARAM is an opportunity to try out a character you don’t know much about, or players who are burned out with the same old LOL.
Some champions are obviously going to be overpowered. Anyone with long-range harass, pokes (especially aimable skillshots), heals or other team-boosting buffs, and/or good initiation spells like Malphite’s ult; these are the characters that are overpowered in ARAM. If your team gets lots of them, you’ll have a greater chance of victory. No, it’s not fair if your team gets 5 melee fighters and the enemies get Heimerdinger, Yorick, Lux, Soraka, and Caitlyn. And Blitzcrank is just a groan-inducing unfair bastard. But the random nature makes for an intriguing game that is never the same as the previous one.
Another unique aspect of this mode is that you can’t go back to base to heal or buy. As a result, you have to build your items and pick your runes for the long haul; buying health regeneration items and suiciding to turrets to keep the enemy from getting a kill are valuable tactics. This also means that if you don’t have a lot of sustain, you’ll probably need to hide behind your teammates that do, resulting in a completely different type of team fight than you’re probably used to. The linearity of the map means that there are no places for ganking, few escape routes, and no getting behind enemies unless you have a teleport-type skill.
You can also play ARAM with blind pick or draft, meaning that you can deliberately pick one of the overpowered characters, but the enemy team will have the same opportunity. If everyone is overpowered, then no one is overpowered. It’s like two teams with god mode on trying to one-up each other with their crazy game-breaking powers, outsmarting each other and thinking ten steps ahead like characters from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Unfortunately, ARAM mode is plagued with queue dodgers who are butthurt that they didn’t randomly get one of the game-breaking champs. They are not only obviously missing the point, but they also make it harder on everyone, though at least they’re leaving before the game actually starts and not in the middle of it. Lots of players have been crying for Riot to include matchmaking and a penalty for dodgers, so by the time you read this the problem may have already been solved. Regardless, don’t be a leaver.
ARAM is so bloody fun that it makes me wonder why there aren’t more methods of play in this game. League of Legends simply needs more maps. I was playing the MOBA Demigod the other day and it has lots of maps despite not benefiting from hundreds of millions of dollars poured into its production. Starcraft and Warcraft III gave us a staggering amount of maps and even allowed for user-made maps, giving us the legendary Defense of the Ancients, to which League of Legends owes everything.
Why can’t a company as rich as Riot branch out and give us more modes of play for what is supposed to be the most-played multiplayer game on the planet? Then again, this is the same company that didn’t think to buy tarps to block the vision of players looking at a screen containing compromising information. Or maybe Riot doesn’t want to experiment with new things too frequently when they’re already bleeding money like Uncle Scrooge with hemophilia. I know they’re already shaking things up with the new items, masteries, and jungle in Season 3, and I appreciate them going out of their comfort zone, so why can’t they do it some more? Give us more maps, please. Break out the Magma Chamber and make the old Twisted Treeline a separate map. The pros can still have their Summoner’s Rift which has already been heavily tested and balanced while all of the playerbase can still have fun trying out newer things. Make it happen, Riot.