Just when does drama get too dramatic?

DISCLAIMER: Potential spoilers at the end.

Over the last few weeks League players on Reddit or Twitter can’t have failed to miss the whole Ninjas in Pyjamas and Lemondogs LCS spot saga. We’ve had leaks, rumours, rule changes, conspiracy theories and a disqualification. Pitchforks have been raised, put down then raised again. Circles have been jerked both clockwise and anticlockwise. There’s been so much drama that I would almost expect a TV show about it all.

The LCS is only going into its second season, so saying this is the most drama we have ever seen doesn’t really do the situation justice. Instead I’m going to say that it’s the most drama we will see in years. That statement may end up being untrue but under the circumstances I’m happy to say it.

I certainly hope that it turns out to be true though. Not because if it’s untrue I’ll be wrong, but because I’m just fed up with it all. A little bit of drama is good. Reddit detectives hunting through match histories for potential new rosters are good, it’s something I care about and gives me potential of new teams to look forward to. Leaks and rumours about organisations doing shady backroom deals are not, they are downright toxic in my opinion. This toxic drama is not constructive, discussions about it just turn into witch hunts and in the end it doesn’t impact the community in any productive way. Then I could argue that the community doesn’t even have the right to know. But whether they do or not they certainly shouldn’t know until it’s happened.

The thing is though, this wouldn’t be a problem if such drama didn’t attract the community like flies to various not-so-nice substances. The attention-seekers who leak the leaks wouldn’t do so if people had the willpower to ignore them. If the good people of Reddit clicked that downvote button on the rumours then esport journalists wouldn’t grant them credibility by talking about them. If the community decided that they were as fed up as I am of it all then I wouldn’t have this article to write.

I’d love to not have this article to write.

At the end of the day, however, that’s not going to happen. It’s clear that the community loves drama and I doubt that will change anytime soon. There’s something alluring about rumours and leaks. It’s information that people shouldn’t know and they know that. This makes them interesting whether they are accurate or not, and causes them to spread.

Then there’s how people react when they see a leak. I would wager that the vast majority will either spread it or flame the guy who wrote it. As they say: all publicity is good publicity so either way the problem gets worse. The only way to “shut down” people who leak information is to completely ignore them, at least until all their acquaintances completely ostracise them.

Once a rumour gets enough traction the interviews and official coverage starts appearing, alongside the inevitable contradictory information which just fuels the fire. Eventually the rumour turns out to be true or false (causing some people to look dishonourable or merely stupid respectively) though the finer details won’t get released to the public. Finally you might get the people who are bored to death with it all and who end up yelling at everyone to shut up (yes, that’s basically me).

Anyway, with Riot’s new rules this exact situation shouldn’t happen again and with the LCS itself soon to start I’m personally looking forward to getting back to the analysis that I do best. I’d much rather form opinions about the game instead of commenting on how the community seems to be amused by gaming organisations stumbling along on their road to professionalism.

One final observation however: with all this originating from whether the LCS spot would be taken by NiP or LD I find it highly amusing that neither got the spot, regardless of how it happened.

Congratulations to SHC on making it into the LCS.

~Aez

P.S. Free cookies for anyone who follows my Twitter: @Seraei

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Balancing for the Spectator

My latest article, covering possibilities for Riot to improve the spectator experience via in-game balance changes. Published on Team Dignitas.

Balancing for the Spectator – Team Dignitas

Strategy Workshop: Depth vs Breadth

This article will contain lots of references to my first “Strategy Workshop” article, so I strongly advise everyone goes and reads that first: Strategy Workshop: Rock, Paper, Scissors Theory. No really, you need to read it or this article will totally confuse you.

kaylemorgana

So what do you mean by Depth and Breadth?

Depth is how strongly a strategy focuses on a particular aspect and breadth is the number of aspects that a strategy incorporates. The more champions in a composition which lean towards a specific strategy, the greater the depth. The more strategies that a composition can pull off then the greater the breadth.  If I was to use a Rock-Paper-Scissors example then a team composition which focuses only on control is a high-depth composition, whereas an Aggro-Combo-Control composition has good breadth. Simple right?

Normally when a strategy is strong at one it will be weaker at the other: a super strong teamfighting combo has good depth in its chosen strategy but little in the way of breadth, you won’t find it splitpushing much. As a result of this most compositions and strategies (even in competitive play) only effectively cover one or two out of Combo/Control/Aggro as a compromise between both.

But which is more important, depth or breadth?

A strategy which is depth-focused will have a single purpose, for example teamfighting or catching people out. With all of the champions well suited to this single strategy the likelihood of it working is higher. On the other hand if the opponent has an answer to the strategy (for example splitpushing against teamfighting strategies) then without the ability to adapt the depth-focused strategy will fall on it’s face.

A breadth-focused strategy can have answers to anything that gets thrown at them. They excel at simply adapting within game to whatever the opponent is doing then playing to directly counter it. However compositions focusing on breadth often lack strong synergy, they can be jack of everything but master of nothing. In addition to this they are extremely difficult to play effectively. Any team could run a depth-focused strategy and go into the game knowing exactly how they will play. But running a breadth-focused strategy requires the team to be able to adjust their playstyle during the game, which is far more difficult.

At low levels of play depth rules supreme, but when you get to high levels of play then the reality is that a strategy needs to do both. I said earlier that most run a dual format, for example Aggro-Combo or Control-Combo. They will have a primary strength (in these cases Aggro or Control) and a secondary strength (Combo). This means that they go into the game with a plan, but if the enemy counters it then they have room to switch it up. The reason only two not three traits are used is that finding a composition which is effective and strong at all three is virtually impossible and playing it successfully is even harder. I say “virtually” because I have seen it pulled off a total of one time, at Worlds.

So what’s this strategy which is perfect?

Well it isn’t perfect, but it’s the certainly damn close. Out of all the games I saw at worlds the closest-to-perfect strategy  was run by Fnatic in their first game against Cloud 9. Just take a look at this:

ultimate comp

So what is so mind blowing about this? Well lets analyse how well it does each of Combo, Control and Aggro…

Combo? Every single champion has AoE; there’s tonnes of CC; there’s strong initiation; there’s extremely strong chasing/cleanup potential and it all scales well. There’s no big or easy “wombo combo” but if needed this composition could teamfight all game and win.

Control? All I need to say regarding this is “double teleport”. That instantly gives the strategy tonnes of  objective control. Add in the extremely strong disengage (4 highly mobile champions and then Zyra ultimate) and the waveclear on Corki and you have a very strong splitpushing and objective taking strategy, albeit lacking in sieging power.

Aggro?  The catch potential is super strong with a team with this much CC and mobility. With double-teleport the whole team can be there in moments to take follow-up objectives after catches, which is the key to aggro. Oh and did I mention Jarvan? Arguably the best aggro jungler in the game with his early ganking power and awesome initiation.

This composition covers all three aspects so that it can adapt to any opponent but it also does them all well enough that it can’t be abused for lack of synergy or purpose. Notice that the strategy doesn’t do everything perfectly. This is a good thing, if ever a strategy arose which could do everything perfectly then Riot needs to fire their balance team.

So just play this to win, right?

Well, no. My brain hurts just by thinking about how hard this is to execute properly. Switching between two playstyles in game is hard enough, switching between three is a nightmare. Then there’s the added difficulty of managing two teleports.

Strategy and execution are two entirely different things and next time I will be considering each and their importance while playing the game. As usual this article doesn’t cover the whole story so feel free to continue the discussion in the comments or on Reddit.

~Aez

Strategy Workshop: Rock, Paper, Scissors Theory

Strategy Workshop: Rock, Paper, Scissors Theory

This article will include some topics covered in my last article so you may want to check that out: Free vs Forced Adaption.

Today’s topic is “Rock, Paper, Scissors theory”. Once again I will be talking about what this is in general terms then applying it to the current League of Legends metagame.

Everyone knows how Rock, Paper, Scissors works. Rock blunts Scissors, Paper envelops Rock and Scissors cut Paper, simple right? Well there are similar interactions to this in lots of games in throughout all gaming genres. For the rest of the article I will be referring to these “Rock, Paper, Scissors” interactions as “RPS”.

Rock, Paper, Scissors in Gaming.

 gamingrps

RPS in gaming is rarely as simple as “Rock beats Scissors”. The most well-known example has to be in Pokémon where Fire beats Grass, Grass beats Water and Water beats Fire. This is as close as you will get to a “perfect” RPS and then think of how this then applies to all the other types of Pokémon in the game.  In many Real-Time Strategy games RPS is included in the form of damage modifiers for weapons against different units (think rocket launchers vs tanks and then vs infantry in Dawn of War). Another classic example is in Trading Card Games where decks are built with mixes of Combo, Control and Aggro types which have an RPS interaction. Then there are simple examples in League of Legends. In general Tanky beats Bursty, Bursty beats DPS and DPS beats Tanky. As an example of this Kassadin straight up kills Karthus, Galio is near invulnerable to Kassadin but Karthus out-farms and out-scales Galio. As well as counter picks you can have RPS apply to team compositions, playstyles and even item builds.

Remember earlier when I mentioned the TCG RPS example of Combo, Control and Aggro? Well it applies to MOBAs as well. Each team composition and playstyle can be described as having a combination of those three traits. I didn’t explain each one from a TCG point of view but I will now do so from a MOBA angle.

Combo, Control and Aggro.

comb-control-aggro

“Combo” teams have a focus on teamfighting. They use potent combinations of champions with strong synergy to have immense teamfight power. This is commonly a number of strong AoE ultimates such as Cataclysm and The Equalizer or even Curse of the Sad Bullet Time. It’s not all about AoE though, Cassiopeia+Yorick, Kayle+Lulu+Karthus or Protect the Kog’Maw are all examples of combo compositions. These teams will often want a long laning phase to “farm up” their combo so lategame they can force fights and win.

“Control” teams control the map and the opponent. They prioritise map control and objectives but without teamfighting. This is normally done through combinations of poke, push, disengage and mobility. These teams will lose straight up 5v5 teamfights but excel at avoiding them. If they take a teamfight it will be on their terms, normally after having poked the enemy very low or a 5v4 by utilising a splitpusher with teleport. Twisted Fate is the ultimate example of a control champion with strong pushing, damage to structures and a built-in teleport. Nasus jungle is another example with his strong waveclear for his 2v1 lane and insane level 6 Dragon speed. Remember when M5 popularised counterjungling in Season 2? That was another example of a control team.

“Aggro” teams are the third type of team. The Aggro team is one which will take any advantageous fight throughout the whole game. These usually come in the form of 2/3-man skirmishes or by catching someone out. This is done by using champions which are strong early and mid game in combination with very strong pick potential and hard engage. These teams are best at getting fights when the opponent doesn’t want them, and more importantly keeping the enemy in the fights. The ultimate of these pick/engage champions is Ashe but prior to her buff Varus was used similarly. Others include Zac, Jarvan IV, Blitzcrank and once again Twisted Fate.  If you get engaged on by these teams it will be exactly when they want it and you won’t be escaping easily.

It’s not as simple as it seems…

Notice how Twisted Fate was mentioned twice? Well that is because no team (or even individual champion) will ever only have one of these traits. The theoretical perfect team could perform each of these three equally and switch between them at will, but that should never happen either. The reality is that most teams will have a focus on two of the traits. For example an Aggro-Control team would be tower diving for early turrets and kills. The cheese teamcomps for 5-man pushes in a single lane are an example of Aggro-Combo teams. Teams which win teamfights by kiting backwards from an opponent trying to hard-engage on them are Combo-Control teams (think champions like Blue Ezreal and Ahri). Then there are teams which might start off Control then end the game Combo (for example running a 2v1 to put your Hypercarry-Marksman in a safe lane). There are tonnes of possibilities with as many interactions as the types in Pokémon.

But how does it apply to the metagame?

There will normally be a single overarching type which dominates the metagame. Throughout Season 2 it was Combo, the vast majority of the time both teams just went looking for strong teamfight combinations and were happy farming until lategame. As has already been mentioned M5 emerged with their counterjungling style and completely stomped everyone. Well that is a Control strategy and Control has the advantage over Combo because it doesn’t give Combo the time or opportunity to pull off its combo.

Then came Season 3 where Control has reigned supreme. We have had splitpushing teams, poke/push/siege teams, 2v1 to get early turrets and an increased focus on objectives and map control overall. It’s all strong against Combo and it’s all Control. When teamfights happened very often the winner was simply whoever could run away better, or whoever could lock the enemy in the fight better. This leads me nicely onto Aggro…

Before Worlds, we were beginning to see the beginning of Aggro to counter the Control. Welcome to the rise of hard engage. All those champions I mentioned being used to good effect, the top two being Ashe and Jarvan IV. Remember when jungle was all about the trinity of bruisers: J4, Xin and VI? They all got nerfed and only one of them is still flavour of the month: Jarvan. The reason for this is because he is balanced and strong in the meta. Unlike the other two he can engage on a team and keep them engaged on. He may only be the Prince of Demacia but he is the King of Hard Engage. And if J4 is the King, the Queen is Ashe (sorry Tryndamere) all because of her Enchanted Crystal Arrow. It provides not only the best engage in the game (more or less) but also extremely strong pick potential, the two most valued qualities in any Aggro team. Add this to her perma-slow and no one will be escaping anytime soon. The change to her passive may have spark to get people playing her again, but it’s the arrow that has been winning games.

Final Thoughts.

If you apply this theory to the metagame it is possible to find counters to any team composition. The only problem is that you need to know exactly how the opposing team composition works which is a lot easier said than done.

If you’ve enjoyed this article please also follow me on Twitter for notifications of when I do more.

Oh I said I’d link it in to my last article… notice how the metagame has shifted from Combo to Control and then (nearly) to Aggro? Well that is Free Adaption for you.

~Aez

State of the Meta: Forced vs Free Adaption

In a League of Legends (and lots of other games) the metagame is constantly shifting and is different week from week. The reason this happens is due to players adapting to changes within the game. The majority of the time this adaption is caused by either a new strategy emerging or a balance change. Now both of these are fundamentally different causes for adaption so I will give each a separate name. Adaption due to a balance change can be called “Forced Adaption” and adaption due to a new strategy can be called “Free Adaption”. All adaption can fall into one of these two categories. I will now explain each in more detail using an analogy taken from Physics.

Free Adaption

Think of a pendulum swinging from side to side. Consider every swing to be a change in the metagame. If there are no new forces applied it will swing from side to side forever without any need for external help. In Physics this would be called “Free Vibration” and it is perfect to describe “Free Adaption” in games, if the developers don’t interfere it will just happen on its own.

Any new way of playing the game will cause Free Adaption, whether it’s an unorthodox champion pick, a new team composition or a whole new way of playing (think of all the things the recent 2v1 lane trend caused to change within the meta). Free Adaption even happens in response to Free Adaption. The meta may be high-mobility push comps, people will adapt and run hard-engage comps to counter it. Then people may run teamfighting compositions to counter the hard-engage comps and the cycle continues. This is the essence of Free Adaption, a constant cycle.

Nasus Quote

Forced Adaption

Now imagine that someone is repeatedly giving the pendulum a push. It will keep swinging from side to side but it won’t be as consistent as before, each swing will be different. I’m sure you can guess what this is called in Physics by now: “Forced Vibration”. Any changes done to the game by the developers will cause Forces Adaption: new champions, balance changes, jungle respawn timer changes, new items. When these changes happen they are the quickest and easiest to adapt to for players and often the best way to deal with “overpowered” things. The most common cause of Forced Adaption are nerfs.

It’s not all good though, to an extent these changes will always disrupt the cycle of Free Adaption. For example consider that Champion A is overpowered. It might take two weeks for people to realise that Champion B is strong against him (this is Free Adaption) but in only one week the developer nerfs Champion A (causing Forced Adaption) so the Free Adaption never happens.

urf not nerf

Free Adaption vs Forced Adaption

As I just mentioned Forced Adaption can completely prevent any Free Adaption from happening, so the natural conclusion is that Forced Adaption is bad so developers should leave their games alone, right?

Wrong.

Consider the freely swinging pendulum again (this analogy really is perfect). In a perfect world it will swing forever, but the world isn’t perfect, it isn’t possible to have no external forces acting on it. Air resistance will gradually slow the pendulum down, the swings will get smaller and it will stop. Just like the world isn’t perfect no game is perfect. In a perfectly balanced game Free Adaption will keep going, and going, and going. But if the game isn’t balanced at all then the proverbial pendulum will slowly stop . When this happens in the game you will encounter the best strategies in the game, they may be uncounterable, they may do everything very well, they may just be unbeatable cheese. These strategies will exist in any imbalanced game, and since no game is perfect that means every game. These strategies perfectly fit the definition of “Overpowered”. It’s not even the case that there only has to be one strategy which is best. There may be three: A, B and C. Let’s say A beats B, B beats C and C beats A. This is still bad, no adaption will happen, if you are against A you have to play C. Of course this doesn’t take into account skill but the metagame would be stale, which is good in no way whatsoever.

Alternatively you can look at it this way. Without any changes from the developers (and thus no Forced Adaption) there is a finite amount of depth within the game. Eventually players will learn everything there is to know and hit the depth ceiling. They won’t be able to strategise further, the meta will stop evolving  and Free Adaption will die a slow and painful death because all adaption will already have been done.

What I am trying to get at here is that a game like League of Legends needs both Free AND Forced Adaption to have a fluid and interesting metagame. At the same time Forced Adaption shouldn’t be overused, if a champion is seemingly overpowered give it a while before nerfing it. It may just seem overpowered because Free Adaption hasn’t had a chance to happen yet.

dianaleona

Specifically on the League of Legends metagame…

That brings me nicely onto what made me want to write this article in the first place. Recently some people have been of the opinion that Riot may be making too many changes to the game too quickly and not giving the players a way to adapt on their own. More specifically the rapidfire balance changes to nerf OP champions and strategies. I mostly disagree with people saying that, in my opinion Riot aren’t far off getting it right.

The large nerf of 2v1 lanes coming up would be the example that I would cite. 2v1 has dominated the laning phase for most of the season, players have had plenty of time to try to counter it. We have had early 3v1 turret dives, junglers helping the solo laner keep their turret alive and poor 1v2 champions not being played. These are all Free Adaptions that have happened but they haven’t stopped the strategy being used. There was even the blue-side golem nerfs to encourage duo lanes to go against each other which didn’t stop it. This all indicates that lane swaps are indeed an overpowered strategy, everyone has had time to adapt to it and it’s still used nearly every game. Now is the time to directly nerf it.

In terms of champion nerfs though I think Riot has room to improve (not much though). Often nerfs are on champions because they are flavour of the month, not because they are overpowered. Consider back when Volibear and Nasus were both must have junglers. They got nerfed extremely quickly. Nasus was nerfed but is still played indicating that he truly did need the nerf and it wasn’t a case of players needing to adapt to him. Volibear got nerfed and hasn’t been seen since, this indicates that it was simply a case of people needing time to adapt.

volibear

To conclude…

Free Adaption vs Forced Adaption is just a case of getting the balance correct. Too much Forced Adaption and you eliminate Free Adaption, too little and players will find and begin to use the unbeatable strategies.

If anyone from Riot happens to be reading this, great job! You get it right the majority of the time, the game is very well balanced. I would suggest waiting longer before flavour of the month nerfs in general. If a champion has spent ages without being played and is suddenly considered really strong, that champion is probably balanced and is just strong in the current metagame. *cough* Ashe *cough*.

This brings this article nicely to a close and introduces the next one to come in the series nicely… State of the Meta: rise of hard engage.

Oh did I forget to tell you that this was going to be a series of articles? Sorry for that. If you want to get notified the moment the next one goes live just follow this blog or follow me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading folks.

ashe

State of Mid Lane: The AP Mid

 

Mid Lane has been a hectic place to make your home recently. There have been invasions of AD champions such as Zed, Jayce and Kha’Zix which at times have completely invalidated the traditional AP pick. Mid-to-Bot lane swaps have become more common putting a Mid-laner into an uncomfortable 2v1 situation. Having said that everything seems to have calmed down recently. Plentiful use of the Morello Nerfhammer ™ is probably to blame as well as the simple fact that players adapt. What this means is that once again the majority of champions in Mid are the APs, much to the delight of AP players. It also means that there are clear patterns in the common AP picks which I want to go into today. As you will already have seen above is an infographic of the most commonly played AP Mids in weeks 5-7 of the LCS in NA and EU. It’s worth noting that these are the picks that were taken by the Mid-laner and not the picks which went into Mid Lane.

TF

It is my opinion that all of the champions I list here today are well balanced, with the exception of Twisted Fate. Always banned or always picked and probably the single most contested pick in competitive play right now this guy is without a doubt the king of Mid Lane. During weeks 5- 7 of the LCS he was let through to be picked more than any other AP Mid. He also has a reputation of being the single best champion to carry in ranked with, but why?

Well I could write a whole other blog regarding why Twisted Fate is so strong but I will keep it relatively brief here. In the hands of a skilled summoner Twisted Fate has the unique ability to control the game through his Destiny/Gate ultimate throughout the entire game.

  • Early game he can just push, look for opportunities, lock a gold card then teleport to another lane for a kill or two. It works well in solo queue because little team coordination is needed but in competitive play it is even more lethal with good team coordination to follow up.
  • During the sometimes chaotic mid game Twisted Fate has excellent potential to catch people out of place with his ultimate and short-cooldown gold cards. A single kill like this can start the snowball of objectives and lead to a win.
  • Late game he turns into the splitpushing monster. With a team who can apply pressure elsewhere as he does his thing he can be a constant and annoying pest anywhere on the map with the possibility to instantly be with his team for a teamfight. He pushes fast with his Wild Cards and (even more so with Lich Bane) his Pick-A-Card ability shreds down turrets.

ORI

If Twisted Fate is the king of the AP Mids, Orianna is the queen. She is the one who does everything. She is an extremely safe lane, very difficult to directly counterpick without leaving holes in a team composition and even if she gets counterpicked she is very difficult to shut down. She is excellent at harassing, farming and zone control. She has a very strong shield, can slow down enemies and speed up friends. Her straight up burst damage may be weak early game but late game she is a terror to anyone squishy. She even has autoattacks which hurt throughout the whole game. The only things lacking are sustain and a gap-closer but we can’t have everything can we?

All this just makes her strong and consistent however. What really sets her apart is her ultimate. In the hands of a skilled summoner her Command: Shockwave is a tool of limitless potential. A 3000-elo Shockwave may be difficult to pull off but, as has been shown time and time again, it only takes one to win a game. Then there’s all the synergies and “ball delivery methods”. Shield an Elise, Zac or Nocturne. Let them fly or jump into the enemy team. Press R. Win. With or without good team coordination Orianna can be a game changer.

It isn’t possible for Orianna to be in a situation which she doesn’t have a response to. On top of this she is strong in nearly any team composition, particularly with the rapid increase in gap-closers as “ball delivery systems”. In short she is incredibly flexible and safe with the possibility to be game changing; no wonder she is so popular.

AHRI

Ahri is on this list because of MYM Czaru. In the LCS Spring Split she just wasn’t played, it was almost as if she was forgotten about. Then came the new teams and Czaru’s “always-with-teleport” Ahri was hurting dominating. People quickly realised her strength and started playing her again. Ahri is another champion who is an extremely versatile pick. Like Orianna she farms and harasses well whilst being very hard to shut out of lane. Unlike Orianna, Ahri has very strong kill potential in lane post-6. With her ultimate up Ahri can turn a single hit Charm into a kill and becomes impossible to gank. In fact it isn’t uncommon to hit a Charm during a gank and use her 3 dashes (4 with Flash) to get a 1v2 kill then escape. When Ahri “gets going” she is hard to stop, she snowballs crazily well.

On release she was a “build-tanky-kill-everyone” type of champion. Nowadays I would class her as “opportunistic”. In team fights she hangs back getting as much damage on everyone as possible without using her ultimate. Then the moment there are 1 or 2 enemies who are low she goes for it, using up to two charges of her ultimate to dash around dealing damage whilst avoiding taking much then if necessary another to escape or chase. Outside of teamfights an Ahri player will constantly be looking to hit a charm on a key target or catch someone out of position and kill them before escaping.

I can’t really mention Czaru and his teleport without talking about teleport on Ahri. In short, it is really scary. With her ultimate and charm there is no chance to escape a tele-gank. Late game she can splitpush in complete safety and just ultimate away if things go badly. I would consider her to be one of the strongest champions to run teleport on in the game.

RYZE

Ryze is one of the oldest champions in the game but is still one of the most popular AP mids. Before you get all pedantic, yes I know “AP” isn’t his primary method of scaling but I say he still goes into the category.

Unlike everyone else on this list, Ryze isn’t burst or cooldown dependent, he is more of a DPS turret. Also he isn’t as safe or versatile a pick as Orianna or Ahri. He can’t push at all which makes his roaming weak, since he doesn’t stack AP his turret damage is terrible and early game he is weak abusable. It’s not all bad though.

Remember I mentioned players adapting to all the AD champions in mid? Well that’s why Ryze is picked. His snare makes the life of anyone with melee-range autoattacks hell and he isn’t penalised by stacking armour as much as other AP Mids.

One other thing, he is one of the best scaling “mages” in the game (with the possible exception of Karthus). He scales with mana so builds items like Rod of Ages, Seraph’s Embrace and even Frozen Heart. Notice something about those items? Well noticed, they all scale exceptionally well into lategame teamfights and make him harder to kill. He gets harder to kill as he builds damage, nice right? You do not want to be against a lategame Ryze without a team with really strong scaling to back you up, trust me on that.

KASSADIN

Out of all of the champions on this list, Kassadin is the one who doesn’t fit into the utility-DPS category. He is the one who is easiest to counter. He has little CC. He is weak pre-6 due to his melee auto attacks. However post-6 he turns into an extremely strong lane bully against mages due to his long duration silence. With his Riftwalk he is an extremely strong roamer and ganker if he hasn’t been shut down totally in lane. Lategame he uses his Riftwalk to dip in and out of fights dealing huge bursts of damage on isolated targets whilst being very difficult to pin down and kill. Oh and did I mention that he can splitpush well also?

A late game Kassadin can almost be described as being a combination of Ryze and Ahri. He combines the scaling and tankiness of Ryze (but toned down) with the high-mobility and opportunistic playstyle of Ahri. Ouch.

Fear not though. If you find yourself facing a Kassadin who your Mid-laner doesn’t want to face, consider a lane swap to put your Marksman and Support champions against him. A 2v1 lane is the thing Kassadin players have nightmares about, his silence is useless against Marksmen and he has no good early farming tools (especially since Void Force pulse requires spellcasts to
“charge up”). He doesn’t even have ranged autoattacks to farm with.

LISS

I was originally going to keep this as a “Top 5” list, but then I read into Lissandra a bit more and changed my mind. Lissandra only has 5 picks (in Mid Lane) over the 3 weeks and all of them are in EU. She is also a common pick in Top Lane and is a common ban whilst still being relatively new. To me this makes her worthy of a mention.

Just like Czaru bought Ahri into play, Lissandra was bought into the scene by Alternate’s ForellenLord. From the first weeks in the LCS he used Lissandra for scary engages making use of her Glacial Path (or “Claw”), her AoE root and of course her stun/Zhonya’s ultimate. This is what Lissandra excels at. She doesn’t do huge damage, even when built glass cannon but she is one of the few extremely strong  engagers who can be found in Mid Lane. Her Ice Shard is very strong at pushing and farming which she can do in complete safety due to her Claw. Ganking her is nothing short of incredibly difficult. Not only do you need to get past her Claw but also her root and if things to especially bad she can stun you with her ultimate. The only silver lining is the is likely to be very easy to kill if you manage to get to her.

Since Lissandra is still new to the game arguments are still raging regarding build (What damage-to-survivability ratio is best? ) and playstyle (Frozen Tomb yourself to stay alive or someone else for extra damage after diving in?). My personal build involves building the more tanky-AP items to make yourself very difficult to kill and get multiple skill rotations off during fights. As for who to cast the ultimate on it is really situation dependent, there is no best way. I could write a whole new article on just Lissandra, in fact I might just do that…

As ever, thanks for reading and feel free to discuss this article. Constructive Criticism is always appreciated.

New LeBlanc: First Impressions.

RIP LeBlanc

Well where to start, LeBlanc is without a doubt my favourite champion. I picked her up around level 15 and dominated with her up until my first ranked games. Then I discovered the magical world of “Flavour of the Month” and stopped playing her seriously. A while later (mid season 2) I theorycrafted her in a “support” role to get around her terrible late game but I won’t talk about that here (I was actually writing the theorycraft blog for this when the new update was announced which put that idea on hold). But you’re not here to read me talking about Support LeBlanc (stay tuned it might still happen), you want to know my first thoughts on her changes, right? Well I hope so anyway.

Before I go any further if you haven’t already done so have a read of the LeBlanc Patch Notes taken directly from the full 3.9 Patch Notes.

Now that that’s out of the way here are the early conclusions I have drawn:

Still max Q first?

Yes. It’s still your primary source of damage, despite all that Riot has preached about flexibility they haven’t done anything to make me do anything different other than in the most situational circumstances.

  • E has lost it’s scaling root and the utility nerf on it means it’s just mediocre now.
  • Max W? Why on earth would I do that?

W or E?

This has actually changed now. I used to be of the opinion that E was the skill which differentiated the good LeBlancs from the great LeBlancs. Blowing up one person with Q>R>W>E or even blowing up one person with Q>R>W whilst peeling for your ADC with E. Now E is just lackluster until lategame. I used to max E as it was also her highest damage ability and because the root duration scaled so well. Now maxing it just puts the cooldown back to what it was before and nothing else scales. Now I max W first for the 2 seconds reduced cooldown per rank, since W is so important for harass getting it on a lower cooldown is so much stronger. The only problem with this is that unlike E, W has upward scaling mana costs so by doing so I remove any benefit I gained from the other mana cost reductions.

Level 1.

Start with W. Don’t fall into the trap of taking Q. W does more damage and could save your life early on. All in all with only W at level 1 she is now utterly useless at this level, gone is the “Try and get 1 Q harass in at level 1” now it’s “Try to get to level 2 as soon as possible because she is useless level 1.”

Verdict: Weaker.

Level 2.

Take your first point in Q, no argument here. You need to start your harass as soon as possible. Q>W>W as much as possible, which is not much, once every 15 second or so. Try not to W into minions because the lane will push and you will die because your W will be on its huge early game cooldown, this shouldn’t be new to LeBlanc players though. What is different is that Q harass is a waste of mana, your autoattacks will do as much damage. In fact you are going to need good autoattack harass if you want to be the same bully LeBlanc used to be.

Because you will normally W back immediately the effectively reduced W cooldown is meaningless UNLESS you are able to get free autoattacks in after your first W before you W again.

Verdict: Weaker.

Level 3.

Put your third point into E. Extra points into Q are pointless since it’ll still be a huge harass cooldown and Q-only harass will still be bad. Putting the point into E theoretically doubles your harass with 2 spells to proc Q, at the very least when you get ganked with W on cooldown E could save your life.

You also get access to your basic 3-spell combo. Q>wait 3 seconds>W>wait 1.5+ seconds>E>Q. You need to wait as long as possible before you W onto them to let you Q cooldown tick. After you have W’d wait for as much (if not a bit longer) of the 1.5 second silence duration as possible before E’ing. If you have timed it exactly right your second tick of E will proc your second Q. Before the silence and E nerfs this was merely difficult to do, now it is virtually impossible so props to you if you can do it.

In theory the “reduced cooldown” W is put to use here, in reality, nope. If you go for the difficult “Q>wait 3 seconds>W>wait 1.5+ seconds>E>Q” your W will time out before you can jump back. Sorry folks.

Verdict: Weaker.

Level 6.

You still have big level 6 damage, but your old Q>R>W>E>Q combo is comparatively underwhelming. Assuming you have 3 points in Q, the mimic’d Q is basically just another Q instead of a higher-damage Q whereas it used to be way higher with a rank 1 R. Again thanks to reduced silence and E slow times getting your second E proc to proc your second Q is harder and requires you to actively time stuff when before you could roll your face on the keyboard to do it.

On the plus side her mana cost buffs become noticable here, it’s nice but it’s hardly gamebreaking.

What the changes have done to her at level 6 is drastically reduce her kill potential since you need to harass more before you can kill someone. Because of the mana cost reduction by level 6 harassing may be easier but to actually get the kills your opponent needs to be stupid and stay in lane when they shouldn’t. Relying on your opponent being bad isn’t a good design paradigm in my honest opinion.

Verdict: Weaker.

Lategame.

Basically she has more damage withthe possibility to actually do tonnes of damage in a small AoE. BUT she loses her utility. Riot has taken away the ability to actually peel very well for the carry and said “DIVE IN AND DO DAMAGE UNTIL YOU DIE.” Mimic’d Q now does roughly double base damage (on both procs) and has 50% increased AP scaling. A double-distortion does roughly 700 base damage +1.6AP scaling in a small AoE. Yes that hits like a brick (actually make that the whole wall) but getting it on more than 3 people is very unlikely and the chances of having it up at an opportune time is ever rarer since normally you will already have had a chance to instagib someone.

Lategame she can wipe creep waves well with W but she could do that anyway.

Overall her lategame is stronger BUT the increased “flexibility” Riot talked about doesn’t seem to exist. She gains high damage but mediocre AoE at the cost of what in my opinion was her actual flexibility: her utility. Her problem of dieing the moment anyone looks at her is still there.

Verdict: Marginally stronger.

Passive.

The passive change is the only one I like, right now people fall for it left right and center. It’s awesome early game and mid game but lategame both are normally squishy enough that both die instantly. Right now when no one is really expecting it the change is saving me around one death per game. When everyone learns the new passive however I expect it to become less useful.

Verdict: I love you Riot.

Conclusion.

My final, complete, ultimate conclusion is… that I’m going to sit on the fence. It is still patch day, these are my first thoughts so I’m not really in a position to tell the world that the new LeBlanc is way weaker or way stronger. What I can say is she is weaker if she is played the same. I’m hoping myself or someone else finds and tells the world about a new playstyle, item build or setup which makes these changes click together.

Oh one conclusion I can make… Support LeBlanc got DIRECTLY nerfed. Expect more to come soon from that angle, even if it’s just a Support LeBlanc obituary blog…

Theorycrafting Evelynn

eve

The reworked Eve quickly became one of my favourite champions. As a former LeBlanc player Eve was like an alternative who was actually viable. Then came the nerfs, mine and everyone else’s immediate opinion was that they simply demolished her. Way higher mana costs, reduced ult range, reduced ult damage, huge ult cooldown. I was sad, but I never really gave up. Since then I’ve been theorycrafting her. I’m going to present my theories and conclusions in this topic for everyone to discuss.

The Current State of Eve.
In her old role of mid laner, where she survived in lane and roamed to kill everyone else, she is no longer viable in my opinion. There are a number of reasons for this, the main one is simply her laning. Previously she had a fairly tricky time against most mid laners, now she gets pooped on by nearly everyone. She can survive by just farming under turret, but that makes roaming near useless since she would lose her turret instantly. Also she used to be able to deal with this simply by applying SO MUCH PRESSURE elsewhere that the opposing mid laner had to leave lane, her ult cooldown now means all she can do is gank occasionally but spend too much time in lane to have a good time.

The ult range and damage nerf has meant that in teamfights she has been forced into being the initiator, which is mutually exclusive with her old role of assassin. She can initiate and get good ult damage but then get CC’d and her target would be gone OR she can hang back, have worse ult damage then go in and hope she doesn’t get CC’d.

So, full-AP Eve DOES NOT WORK ANYMORE. Fear not I have a solution.

The Theorycraft.
Let’s follow through the logic…
Riot has shoved her into an initiator role…
Initiators need CC and need to be hard to kill…
Eve is normally neither, EXCEPT with her AoE slow and massive shield ult on a LONG cooldown (until lategame).

Ok, so let’s fix her problems…

  • She has mana-problems now, especially in long fights. Build Mana.
  • She is very ult-reliant late game, her DPS also scales amazingly with CDR. Build CDR.
  • She needs more CC than she has. Build some of: Rylai’s, Frozen Fist, Randuin’s.
  • She needs to be pretty hard to kill. There are plenty of tank items but which work on an AP-Offtank/Initiator and fulfill the above criteria. Rylai’s, Frozen Fist, Frozen Heart, Seraph’s Embrace, Zhonya’s, RoA.
  • She still needs to do SOME damage, but can no longer build pure AP to do this. Frozen Fist, Seraphs/Muramana, Liandrys.

That’s a lot of items, many which people simply won’t have considered on her. Now…

The Solution.
Let’s take a fairly balanced selection of those items and some boots(in no particular order):

Mercs, Frozen Fist, Frozen Heart, Rylai’s, Liandry’s, and Zhonya’s.

Things too note from this build:

  • Lots of Mana, no Mana regen. Her passive gives % mana regen therefore scales with mana.
  • Lots of Armour, moderate health and MR. Good vs AD laners/teams, weak vs lots of magic damage. Also the high resists scale with the massive shield from her ult.
  • Slowing machine, she can chase and run away from virtually anyone with full build. Add in the spellblade from frozen fist, and you have a god-tier splitpusher.
  • She can run in, ult, then Zhonya’s when the shield is down.
  • Low-burst. HUGE AoE DPS, good at diving ADC.
  • Max CDR without blue, I am expecting her to not get blue for reasons explained later.
  • One of the following can happen depending on preference/situation. Swap Liandry’s for Muramana or Zhonya’s for Seraphs.

How to play the build.
TOP LANE…
The build is Poor vs AP,  a strong pusher but poor ganker, scales very well later game and worse mid game compared to more most AP champions.
VERY strong vs any bruiser without a gap-closer AND easily applicable CC (aka Panth). From testing I  can confirm it beats Garen, Olaf, Nasus (especially nasus), Xin (should’t even get his knockup), pre-nerf Singed (he can’t catch you, you can catch him), Udyr. It MIGHT do well vs Kayle and Rumble but will take clever playing and very good micro and I don’t have much experience in the actual matchup.

Build order, I would suggest going Sheen, Glacial Shroud and Seekers as your core (adjust the order to suit the situation. If you go Sheen first the damage spike is MASSIVE, glacial is most survivavility, seekers is mixed. Go tear after 1/2 of those if you are needing it and guise if you aren’t going tears. When you have your 4 core items start upgrading, ideally: Frozen Fist > Frozen Heart > Rylai’s > Liandry’s > Zhonya’s.

Late game you can splitpush or countersplitpush very well, but you are still very strong in teamfights. Teleport/Flash summoners are viable.
In lane focus on farming and harassing, you will struggle to kill your opponent and will likely OOM if you try too hard.

One last thing. 
The build order and items are probably not completely optimal. For example I foresee Randuin’s soon becoming the new flavour of the month item so people may prefer it over Frozen Heart. In easy lanes it might be better to forgo anything defensive, rush damage with sheen/haunting guise and only build tanky later on. Doran’s Ring/Shield combinations may be the key to this build. I simply can’t test it enough solo (or in all elos). This is still (mostly) theory. I am completely confident that an offtank Eve is viable right now, but the build is still fully up for discussion and optimisation. Feel free to experiment and report your results if you wish (I won’t blame you for keeping it secret though).

Most importantly, have fun messing with top-laners minds.

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