With the Bilgewater event in League of Legends coming to a close, I thought this would be as good a time as any to do some sort of mini review of Riot’s latest temporary game type: Black Market Brawlers.
Black Market Brawlers is played on the Summoner’s Rift map and is very similar to a normal 5v5 match. There are two major differences between BMB and a normal game. The first difference is that BMB introduces the game type’s titular brawlers. These are special minions that each player can buy and upgrade using a new currency called krakens. The second difference is the addition of several new items that you can buy normally.
As you play this game type, you accumulate coins called krakens through various actions such as killing opponents, counter-jungling, and slaying the dragon and baron. Once you’ve saved up five krakens, you can buy one of four brawlers, each with their own specialties and abilities. There is no reselling the brawlers like there is with items, so once you’ve bought one, you’re stuck with it. These brawlers will spawn regularly alongside your normal minions. You can also buy upgrades for your brawler to increase their offensive or defensive power.
The idea of the brawlers is fun at first. It feels like some of the other popular game types that I used to play in Warcraft 3’s custom maps, so in a way, Black Market Brawlers feels like an homage to League of Legends’ roots. After playing a few games, however, I’ve found that the brawlers system really just made the game snowball in one team’s favor time and time again. Since the team that’s ahead gets more krakens, they get better brawlers more quickly, thus they get more global lane pressure. The avalanche becomes very apparent after one team loses an inhibitor, because then brawlers get a massive buff in lieu of having super minions spawn. That essentially gives the open lane 3-6 super minions each wave instead of the usual two, making it insanely difficult to come back. Overall the brawlers are a fun addition for a little while, but they eventually just make the game more boring and predictable.
The new items, on the other hand, are phenomenal. You can buy items on the black market that build very similarly to already existing items, but have a unique effect in exchange for slightly lower stats. For example, there is an item that builds and acts much like the Bloodthirster but has an active effect that blinks you some distance from your last target. Another popular one dashes you toward a targeted ally and transforms you into them, causing an effect similar to LeBlanc’s clone passive. While I’m not sure if these items are all balanced in such a way that they could be added into the core game as is, I would love to see items like these being incorporated permanently. It adds a whole new layer of depth into League of Legends’s itemization, the lacking of which has been one of the main joking points of DoTA 2 players for a good time now.
In the end, I found myself really enjoying the Black Market Brawlers game type as well as the Bilgewater event as a whole. A lot of really neat skins and reworks have come out the back of this event, and it’s always fun to get some new lore updates. Black Market Brawlers may not have been quite as exciting or flashy as URF mode, but It was a relatively fun and unique change of pace to the usual bump and grind in the ranked ladders. The new Bilgewater skin for the ARAMS map looks beautiful as well.