Oh, ARAM, you beautiful, life-destroying seductress.
I had been on a rather long hiatus from playing LoL, mostly because life changes demanded more of my out-of-the-office time to be dedicated to productive side-projects and hobbies. Even so, I was keeping up with the news and had a vague idea of upcoming changes back in the late winter / early spring, right around the dawn of the “omg official Riot support of ARAM” buzz.
Up to that point, ARAM wasn’t even on my radar as far as game modes I was interested in. Part of it was complete and utter fear of breaking out of my role, having pigeon-holed myself as a support in SR. To be sure, when I wanted a quick fix and to play something more aggressive, I’d queue up for a few dominion games until that map inevitably destroyed my will to live. The other part was fear of a player-centric game mode from a community that is notorious among gaming as overwhelmingly huge and, at times, utterly toxic.
I got my roommate and long-term buddy into LoL when we moved in together back last Sept – he is now a silver ranked player (while I’ve yet to step foot into ranked), and was still playing pretty regularly when ARAM came out. I heard a lot online, and once he insisted it was fun as hell I thought I’d give it a go.
Despite myself and my fears, I booted up the client and gave ARAM the ol Harvard try with him. I was instantly in love. Instantly. This is madness.
What is Aram?
Simply put, Aram is a game mode (short for All Random, All Mid), 5v5, where your character is randomly selected out of the pool of champs you own and whoever is free that week. You have the option to re-roll if you really, really hate your pick – but only once per game, and you get a max of 2 re-rolls stored up total. Once you use them both you have to earn them back by playing games.
There are pros and cons to this style. Of course, the most obvious is that every week’s roster of free champs are potential rolls. And if you’re like me with a very limited comfort zone such a factor can be utterly terrifying. To be sure, I have had some pretty nasty games with champs whom I had no idea how to use or build. Another issue is the tell-tale problem we all have – a handful of champs we own that we don’t’ like or never play.
And while ARAM is great, there are some very clear balance issues in regard to team comps and champions. Like it or not, Howling Abyss is a map made for range and utility, where a lot of champs find themselves utterly useless if not downright detrimental unless at the hands of a better player while others are utterly overpowered – supports among them. And if there’s one thing I’m honest about, it’s my ability in this game being completely average, perhaps better at support than many (or most) but my lack of comfort and experience in other roles knocks that down considerably.
Regardless, I started my ARAM sting fingers crossed that my large pool of support champs (I’m only missing nunu and blitz at this point) and AP carries (second role) would help me, and made generous use of the re-roll button when I landed something or someone that was utterly foreign.
Then, one day, I decided to test myself.
I’ve always felt that ADC was my second worst role, next to jungler being my utter worst. One random game I wound up with Cait and decided, hell, I played her once and she was pretty easy. That game I got my first quadrakill, ever, which may not seem like a big deal to most. But for a support player who has become accustomed to never getting the thrill of a kill (let alone several) without reprimand, it was a gaming-high like I’ve never known.
Another time I got Ashe, and carried my team to a win.
This is all extremely novel to me, and after a few similar games I decided that I was going to be on a no re-roll policy unless I got a champion that I know I both suck at and who is also not particularly strong in ARAM. No more re-rolls based solely on the newness or unfamiliarity or fear. Just pure challenge, and it has worked wonders for my overall play.
I’ve discovered at least 4-5 champions who I find utterly enjoyable – champs I would have otherwise never bothered to look twice at. I got better at the champs I had. I learned a lot more about the offensive capabilities of my support characters, too. Timing, aiming, and quick-thinking in 20 minute long team fights has, over the course of a few months, made me a better player.
In turn, my performance in SR is noticeably improved. I know how to handle enemy champs better than before – I’m more willing to play any other role (except jungle) now without as much fear as I used to. I work better in team fights and appreciate my personal skills more.
ARAM can definitely turn into a crutch – the quick and easy thrill of the game has certainly lured me away from SR where games can run 40-60+ minutes. It just fits so nicely into my schedule and, when I do get the champs I love (Karma, you fucking beast, you), I know it’s going to be a good time.
But fun and convenience aside, ARAM is a great game mode that is almost guaranteed to make people better, either directly by forcing them to learn new champions or indirectly by, well, forcing them to learn new champions.
Anyone who is worried or intimidated by the mode, or tempted to use re-rolls on cooldown, I say to you – lay to rest your woes. It’s a ride worth taking.