Statikk elaborates on possible changes to Akali, huge talk of the future of Melee Carries, Morello discusses Sion, Rengar, Alistar and others, Scarizard with a future buff to Karma’s Renewal, jungling items on laners and more!
Akali seems a bit on the weak side in Season 3, especially on the competitive scene. What has Statikk in store for the Shadow Dancer?
The Risk/Reward ratio of Akali
I’ll start with the definition of “risk” that our team operates on:
Risk is the opposite of safety and reliability. A risky champion is one whose success and contribution to a game is volatile, uncertain, and by no means guaranteed.
Risk can manifest itself in several ways. One common way is a champion with extremely low survivability (lack of defensive capabilities), but that’s not the only way a champion can be risky. For example, a champion can be risky because they have poor end-game scaling and thus must execute their early game flawlessly in order to end the game before they fall off. Lee Sin is a champion with great survivability (via decent defensive capabilities and amazing mobility), yet is still overall a risky pick because his power curve drives him to snowball games before the late game arrives. Lee Sin may not die a whole ton, but he still has to subject himself to risk in order to suceed.
For champions like Akali and Kassadin, their intended risk is to have weak laning phases where they can be shut down by their opponents and thus unable to snowball into the later parts of the game.
To an extent, every healthy champion in the game has some form of risk built into them since they all should have weaknesses that enemies can exploit. It’s more of a question of how risky any given champion, which is dictated by several different factors (namely the reward a champion receives for incurring the risk).
How does this affect Akali?
Defining risk as strictly low defensive capability (tankiness) and reward as strictly high offensive capability (damage output) is dangerous because it constricts the potential design space we have for giving power to our champions.
What about other avenues of power such as mobility or utility (crowd control / disables)? Sure we could design a high risk / high reward champion who had 1 base Health but had 10,000 base Attack Damage, but would that actually provide a satisfying / fun experience for that champion and/or their opponent? Probably not.
There are a lot of inherent reasons why Akali was not a risky champion: having access to free Spell Vamp, having Energy as her primary resource, having access to a ranged nuke, etc. These all contribute to why pre-nerf it was extremely difficult to shut her down. You guys are definitely right that removing the requirements on her passive definitely made her less risky, but unfortunately some decisions help us in one area and hurt us in another.
At the end of the day, yes I agree we overnerfed her (I think we’ll disagree by how much though). That should be apparent in that we are giving her some buffs in the upcoming patch. At this point, it is more about re-increasing the reward for playing Akali by giving her fun and interesting gameplay tools that she can use to outplay and outwit her opponents rather than reverting her to a point where she simply has more raw stats and damage numbers to brute-force her way through games.
Are we fully getting there with the changes in the upcoming patch? Maybe not, but it’s at the very least a good start.
What changes to Akali do you have in mind?
I’d really like to see where she sits after this upcoming patch before moving forward.
As far as the nerfs we chose, we reduced her base damage but increased her ratio simply to hit her laning power but not reduce her late game scaling. Perhaps the ratio increase wasn’t enough to actually make it more of a tradeoff since it crosses old values at 300 AP. Maybe 200 was a more reasonable crossover point, but this is always a scary proposition considering Akali’s late game damage potential to squishy targets is still deadly when she snowballs.
To be honest, the ult CD change may just have been flat out the wrong direction. It was essentially an attempt to reduce her ability to use her R’s simply for free damage harass at level 6 and force her to be much more thoughtful about its use, but it seems to have had a larger snowballing effect on her power level than we originally intended. This is why we’ll try to revert back half way to the original ult cooldown along with the addition to her W.
Interestingly enough, our data shows that the 5 HP Potion limit has really had no significant effects on champion performances across the board. It might be that some other changes in the patch offset its effects such as nerfing Red Elixir, but our internal data shows very little fluctuation of power levels due to last patch. If you think about it, many of the opponents she was going up against were also abusing the mass HP Potion strategy so it may have off set this advantage as well as other factors to consider such as the relative value increase of innate Health sustain on champions (ex: her passive Spell Vamp). This doesn’t mean the HP Potion cap hasn’t reduced her power level, but it does seem to point towards the fact that it might be perceived as a bigger hit to her than it really is.
As far as your ideas to completely change her E, that’s certainly a possibility if we feel that she can’t be both balanced and fun with her current setup. I’d be fairly hesitant to add another semi-ranged ability on her kit though, since she is after all supposed to be melee. I understand how it would be useful when she’s behind, but I would worry how it would function when she gets ahead in the lane as an addition to any Q harass.
Part of the problem with Akali (and several other squishy melee DPS / Assassins) is that she provides very little individual counterplay for her opponents once she begins to snowball. With the ability to long range dash up to 3 times on the same target, she just presses all of her buttons on the squishy person on the enemy team and the victim just has to hope that teammates are around to do something about it. That’s kind of the issue with squishy melee characters in general: the current counterplay is taken out of the hands of the individual getting killed and rather put upon the teammates to do something about it. That can feel really awful when Akali’s lane opponent loses and then you’re the squishy bot lane AD carry getting jumped repeatedly with no valid course of action to take.
Either way, I’m not led to believe that drastic measures are needed just yet. It feels like we messed up some numbers and we can get back to a good place if we just address that. I’m sorry if the current upcoming changes disappoint any of you guys, but I’m genuinely interested in seeing how she performs in the next patch.
Statikk: Yeah I’m not sure on exactly where we can add more interesting gameplay hooks into Akali. The Twilight Shroud giving her vision of the area is definitely a cool start which gives her vision utility and the ability to jump to stuff that was previously in fog of war.
I thought about different ideas for the majority of last weekend. Some ideas (these are mostly random ideas by the way that most likely will never be implemented) were allowing her to Shadow Dance to allies or the center of her Twilight Shroud, allowing her to have multiple Twilight Shrouds on an ammo system, etc.
I’m actually pretty happy with what is going into the next patch. Our team is currently spending a lot of time figuring out where and how we’d like to see squishy melee champions like Yi, Fiora, and Akali succeed in League of Legends.
Statikk: I think increasing her Movement Speed while within the Twilight Shroud could be a pretty cool change. It does further add complication to an already fairly complex ability (stealth, Armor/MR, slows enemies) though.
How about lowering the cooldown between her dashes?
Statikk: Although a change like that feels great for the Akali player, it reduces the time window her opponents have to react to her engaging them. Since the pace of fights speeds up as the game goes on though, it makes sense for the cooldown to scale down between dashes.
Are these changes aimed at the competitive scene?
Statikk: We were and are still fully aware that Akali is not a strong competitive pick (she was a surprise pick before the nerfs in tournaments but was extremely rare). The nerfs were not aimed for competitive play whatsoever.
Going back to the melee counterplay discussion, you guys are right. As players become more skilled and more coordinated, they naturally execute the counterplay to squishy melee champions by grouping together, focus firing effectively, and peeling for their allies. When the only counterplay to a champion exists is solely team-based, then there are huge disparities between high Elo and low Elo play. This is not an ideal situation.
Akali is currently in the same boat as many other squishy melee champions such as Master Yi: if/when they are balanced in competitive play they become unhealthy for lower levels of play due to the fact that the majority of their counterplay is dependent upon allies not screwing up. The solution here is what Sayath has been saying: increasing the skill ceiling on these champions and in turn increasing the depth of their counterplay.
Like I said before, this is something Xypherous and I have been putting a lot of effort into lately and our 2 first focuses are Akali and Master Yi.
Note that some of these comments are again tied to Akali.
Items that counter specific mechanics
* Add Lightbringer and Hextech Sweeper to Summoner’s Rift, or add alternatives. The Trap Detection aura is probably unneeded in Summoner’s Rift, and the duration of the reveal is possibly too long. I currently use Pink Wards and this might honestly be enough, but it’d be nice to have an item that fills the slot late game. (I’ve attached an image that I think appropriate describes the frustration with Oracles)
* Improve Executioner’s Calling so that it actually feels like a viable item, even if it arguably is already. Making it apply to all physical damage is the first thing I *really* want from this item, as it’s hard for melee champions to apply it to ranged champions.
Being able to see her and to cut her sustain in half are means to counterplay her.
Statikk: Strategic counterplay via items is typically something only higher skilled players tend to latch onto. This is why Evelynn’s old stealth was extremely problematic. Sure it was counter-able with Vision Wards and Oracle’s but accessing these counters were neither naturally obvious nor fun or satisfying to accomplish.
Although strategic item and team coordination counterplay will always exist and play a role in League of Legends, healthy champions will always have some kind of natural, individual-based counterplay to their gameplay such as having to land/dodge skillshots.
Aren’t you removing reward rather than adding risk with these changes?
That pattern exists on a champion like Vayne. It’s definitely 1 way to create risk and reward on a champion, but it’s not the only way.
For example, I would say both Lee Sin and Taric are champions who have dominant early games and fall off later in the game in their respective roles. Yet Taric is not a risky pick because he is very consistent and does what you expect him to do with little regard to external factors due to his straightforward mechanics / gameplay and generally low skill ceiling. Lee Sin, on the other hand, has a huge skill ceiling and you never know what to expect when you have one on your team — he might utilize his mobility to gank early and carry the game or he might completely fall flat and feel useless.
Lee Sin’s risk is “falling behind and being weak later on” and his reward is “extremely potent early gank and snowball potential.”
To an extent due to individual player skill / performance, all champions have some variance in success, but I would definitely say Lee Sin is a much more volatile and risky champion than Taric despite similar power curves across game time.
What changed for Melee Carries between Season 2 and 3?
Statikk: I can’t exactly pinpoint 1 reason why Akali became such an issue because honestly as you guys have pointed out there are always a multitude of factors that come into play that add up. One of the bigger shifts from S2 to S3 is that in S2, ADCs had stronger and more effective itemization, especially in terms of gold efficiency. I really do think that the extreme power of ranged ADCs kept many potentially strong squishy melee champions down. I would say though that Akali’s kit has never had enough depth and counterplay that would allow her to be balanced in a healthy way. I would say the same about Talon as well.
Breakdown of the Assassin
- High Mobility,
- Single target threat
- Very High Scaling Damage
- Burst Potential
- Little to no CC
- Longer then average CD
- Single target oriented
- Low base damage
Ultimate goal. Take out the highest threat on the opponent by either killing or crippling the target through the use of positing tools/mobility.
I think the specific strengths / weakenesses of any champion varies heavily even within the same role. Often the unique and fun aspects of a champion are when they break the mold of what their archetype is expected to do (though this can sometimes be unhealthy for the game). I think Quinn is now a great example of this.
This is, in my opinion, a unique and really well-explained post regarding a fundamental change to all Melee Carries. It’s fairly long, but I urge you to read it. Props to Summoner Absolute 42!
As a fan of melee adcs, I have a suggestion: Why not make melee adcs into reverse bruisers?
Let me explain. A typical bruiser’s tankiness is item-gated, whereas his damage/disruption is ability-gated. Why not make melee adcs’ tankiness ability-gated and have their damage/disruption be item-gated?
Basically, melee adcs would have kit tankiness/cleanses/etc., so they would be incentivized to build glass cannon adc style and still survive as long as they maximize ability usage and minimize risks of counterplay.
Riot design has tried to do this with Yi meditate, Tryn ult/heal, and Fiora ult, so why didn’t that work?
I think there are two reasons:
1. These champs actually have too much damage and attack steroids packed into their kits. This inflates offensive power at the cost of keeping defensive abilities fairly weak.
Fiora’s parry and trynd’s heal have to be weak or else they would be op because of their kits’ built in crit chance/attack speed buffs. If you went in the opposite direction and took offensive power away from their kits, you could add more powerful defensive/mobility options. This would allow melee adcs to truly be reverse bruisers with ability-gated tankiness an damage coming mostly from itemization.
2. Defensive abilities in the game tend to have low visibility and low counterplay.
This is a big one. Tryn is frustrating largely because it is so difficult to tell when his ult starts and stops. A perfectly timed Fiora parry has 0 counterplay because she can activate when the attack animation has already started. Yi’s meditate begins instantly and can only be countered with hard cc (not all champs have this).
So far, Riot design has been excellent at making offensive abilities with high visibility and counterplay. Skillshots are perfect examples, but even targeted abilities with travel time have lots of room for counterplay.
Why can’t we get defensive abilities right?
Defensive abilities are missing two crucial mechanics:
Time delay: It’s rare for an offensive ability to deal damage instantly. Spells and skillshots almost always have travel time, meaning there is a crucial delay between firing an ability and achieving an effect. This delay allows for counterplay and satisfaction from hitting a difficult skillshot. However, almost all defensive abilities take effect instantly. If Fiora’s parry created a 2s delay timer over her head before it activated, it could afford to be a whole lot stronger and more satisfying. If Yi’s meditate had a visible 5s delay, maybe it wouldn’t have to be channeled.
Positional sensitivity: Skillshots have to be aimed and they depend on your position and that of your opponents. Most defensive abilities are personal buffs that do not care about positioning/aiming. Maokai ult is the best example of a defensive ability that is positionally sensitive. What if Tryn’s heal instead triggered a roar with a cone skillshot that healed him more depending on how many champions he caught in the cone? What if Yi’s E instead sent out a Wuju shockwave in a circle around him that gave him more defensive stats based on how many champions in the circle were facing him? What if Fiora could create a dueling ground area where she received cc mitigation? These are just spitballed suggestions, but the point is that there is much more room for interesting defensive abilities that rely on positioning.
TL;DR If defensive abilities’ underlying problems were fixed, we wouldn’t have to push melee adcs into assassin or bruiser roles. We could instead make their kits largely defensive, and they would get damage from items. With what you propose (erasing melee adcs as a class or leaving them in their their current state), the problems of defensive ability visibilityand counterplay will not be solved.
Morello: This is the route I’ve been investigating, though that so far hasn’t worked. I don’t think it’s a fatal flaw, but definitely harder than advertised. The root of this problem is that Ranged Carries do so much damage that “more damage” isn’t a sufficient reward for melee ADC. The tools listed here (and the examples on our melee carries) let them get closer to doing their jobs, but the reality is that the risk isn’t worth it in many cases.
I’ll post more on this later, but your analysis on this matches up a lot with my own. Xypherous is exploring a different approach so we can understand more about this and try alternatives.
A few words on Akali, Master Yi and Fiora since they’re among my favourite champions. As Statikk explains, currently, the risk they take is often too great to justify the benefit of playing them. While some may disagree, on the competitive scene that is absolutely true and in fact, the balance team is working on future improvements to these champions. Some of the ideas discussed by Rioters for Akali include an ammo system for Twilight Shroud where she could lay multiple cloaking fields quickly and hop between each one’s center using Shadow Dance or even the ability to dash to allies! For Fiora we have the long-awaited promise from Morello to allow Riposte to repel on-hit CC abilities. No word on Master Yi, since he’s an odd case, being able to build AP instead of AD.
Riot is still looking for possible nooks to fit Melee Carries in. Obviously, in the current meta, without looking into specific comps, they’ll require something grand to become competitive picks, be it a new item or a mechanic. The issue is these champions are supposed to be the epitome of crushing power, but power levels in the League have generally been reduced, leaving only the glaring issue that Ranged Carries perform just as well, but from a safe distance.
One mechanic I’ve seen many MMOs implement to combat this is added buffs to melee champions – things like reduced crowd control duration or % Damage Reduction from the get-go. Rioters have stated they don’t want to just up the stats on Melee Carries, but right now, they lack the hook to be picked on a consistent basis. They have great mobility and solid upfront damage with no way of mitigating damage other than perhaps a short invulnerability or stealth. All this melds into a kit that’s fun to use, but highly situational – not exactly a favourable choice.
So you have an inherently weak champion with abilities that can lead to heavy snowballing but can also be countered effortlessly by an organized team. That has “pubstomper” written all over, as people generally lean towards picks that are strong during all stages of the game. The weak laners are most often found in the jungle and are rarely relied upon for hard carrying. With that being said, maybe we’re playing these carries wrong entirely? Wouldn’t Akali benefit from a CC-heavy support? Doesn’t Fiora fare infinitely better on the bottom lane? At the very least, these champions could use a team composition that helps them snowball. Squishy melee assassins slaughter individuals, but can be camped easily by junglers and get shut down in larger fights. Not saying champions such as Akali, Fiora and Yi are in a good spot in terms of viability, but then again if you have a team-reliant champion on your team and you’re not assisting him in any way, that’s solo queue mentality.
And finally, a quick summary of Absolute 42‘s idea of giving Melee Carries enough defensive abilities so they become self-sufficient and competitive. The big thing here is making these visually distinguishable. Most defensive spells feel really lackluster in terms of animation cues. By giving players a clear warning of when, for example, Fiora will parry, or specific mechanics so that Yi and Tryndamere healed in a more obvious way, it allows the balance team to make bolder choices in terms of spell numbers and higher reward mechanics. Another potentially revolutionary idea is to make their kits more defensively-oriented. This would again allow them to stack up on damage items without being a detriment to the team versus competent players.
So we have stronger abilities for sustaining in a teamfights, while having a delay on casting and relying on positioning, and a defensive kit with the intention being on building glass cannon. And as we saw, a lot of this matches Morello‘s opinion! In closure – because Ranged Carries deal so much more damage, simply dealing even more damage isn’t enough to make Melee Carries viable.
Since Karma’s remake, all her Mantra abilities feel significantly more powerful and worthwhile. All except one… What’s Scarizard‘s opinion on the currently underwhelming life steal from Spirit Bond?
Scarizard: Looking at tackling this in the next patch. Overall, i’m pretty happy with how Karma’s been playing on live, with the W2 being the only sore spot. We have a QoL fix for her Soulflare coming in 3.7 (it’s not going to pierce minions or anything wacky) but should definitely help the spell feel better.
In the 3.5 Balance Update, we made a change where Inner Flame and Soulflare both would detonate at the area of missile impact instead of auto-locking to the center of the area hit. This was a pretty nice fix for Inner Flame, making it easier to both farm and harass champions near minons (previously, you would Q 3 ranged minions in a line – and instead of exploding and hitting all three, the impact zone would lock onto the left-most or right-most minions, meaning you’d hit two of 3. Feels bad, man.) However, in the case of Soulflare this has kind of been a nerf – you clip more people with that radius than you did before, but it increased the ability for champions hit spot-on to walk out of it due to the zone spawning with them mostly outside of it already. It’s small, but it’s something we could easily change and have.
Looking to the future, though (as this thread is about W2), i’ll be working on and testing an iteration of Renewal that hopefully makes the healing more reliable and useful in the dueling scenarios. She’s getting a lot more mantras than before, but with 1 of her 3 choices feeling ‘wrong’ even when the situational read was correct, it’s certainly not helping her play experience.
Do you think Renewal (R+W) needs a buff?
Scarizard: The change the W2 isn’t intended to be a huge increase in power, but most likely will be a buff due to the fact that W2 isn’t used/is underpowered right now. We’re pretty much on analysis watch for Karma at this point (we don’t usually give two rounds of significant buffs to a champion and then keep going), and W2 is the last thing on my plate currently in terms of Karma.
This isn’t to say she won’t get buffs in the future if she’s consistently weak. This is true of all our champions – but Karma’s seen a spike in power with recent buffs and sometimes champions who aren’t in the limelight sit at a lower winrate until discovered. I remember a certain Void Mantis, Shadow Ninja and many others who had a ~45% winrate until seeing play.
I’m not just going to turn off my karma-sensors after the W2 fix goes out, so don’t worry about feedback going unheard. We just want to make sure we understand that if she -is- still weak after all of the changes that we don’t just give her ‘more buffs’ (which the community has said they don’t want) and instead are able to pump power into the parts of her kit that players enjoy, or that are defining to her.
Update on the Rengar changes, talk of Sion’s rework, Alistar, the concept of a healing champion and more!
How’re the Rengar changes coming along?
Community ideas for the upcoming Sion rework
Here’s my own input:
1. Visually/Artistically/Thematically: I think this guy fits in the Shadow Isles theme more than he fits the Noxian theme. I wouldn’t mind seeing a drastic rework on his base skin and analogies to make him fit there even more thematically. What do you think of this?
2. Gameplay: To be honest, there’s not much to say here since our opinions coincide quite a lot. I like him as what he was designed to be, and I don’t like his AP gameplay. I would like to see him in line with the new champions though, I think that not giving him new mechanics will make him feel -or be- outclassed.
Regarding the AP thingy: As I said, I don’t like it. But there’s people that are heavily attached to him, and I do think that his kit can be remade to contain both the AP and AD gameplay. If you would like to hear my idea, I’d gladly provide it (actually, I’m not posting it straight out because I want to know you saw this, and because I want to know whether you’re interested in something like this.) What you’d do with that from that point and on would be totally up to you.
Thanks for hearing me out, I hope I get to discuss with you.
1) I think Noxian or SI could work. Depends on what story there is to tell – the undying, revered champion of Noxus, or something more supernatural?
2) Yeah, I just think for this character to have any cohesion, this is where we need to go. It’s a cool direction, but a character that has two gameplay attachment styles will always have to pay a sacrifice to be fixed.
If you’re unfamiliar with this discussion, you can check out my article on it here.
Why not use Dota’s itemization for Melee Carries?
For those confused by the post, BKB (Black King Bar) is an item in Dota and Dota 2 that grants magic immunity for a few seconds.
Why not make a healing champion? Like the Monks in Guild Wars?
Morello: And Monks are the most fun healer design to play that I’ve seen, agreed. Monks also dictate everything about Guild Wars’ PvP. The whole game IS the Monks. Monks being fun comes at the cost of every other class feeling way worse.
That’s why dedicated healers are not a good design in PvP.
Why did you let AP Yi exist for so long? He was incredibly toxic.
Morello: You’re right – it is toxic and we agree. It’s not overpowered, but it’s definitely bad gameplay interaction. We’re working on something a little bigger to fix Yi more, so we’re waiting for that (which shouldn’t be too much longer).
Alistar is incredibly powerful by design. What’re your thoughts?
Alistar is by far the best peeler in the game. 7 second CD (max cdr) on W and Q makes it almost impossible to “dive” his carries during a lategame teamfight. Knockback and knockup CC’s are invaluable, partially due to how tenacity works. Because of this, it might as well be impossible to “nerf” this aspect of Alistar without remaking the champion. You can lower the stun duration, you can raise the mana costs, you can raise the CD’s, and Alistar will still do the very same thing.
This is why you are correct to assume that the imbalances reside in his E. I would argue that his ult could also use a change. When Guinsoo remade Alistar, I urged him to leave the flat AD on Unbreakable Will. This is because I was an advocate of AD Alistar (trinity+CDR). Nowadays, the usefulness of the flat 60/75/90 AD has phased out. If I’m going to build a Sheen, it’s building into an Iceborn Gauntlet. Rarely do I even complete that item in the first place, because I find myself buying Sightstone, Kindlegems, Boots 5 and oracles.
To sum up what I’m trying to say – it would be pretty hard to ruin what “Alistar is”. If you are going to nerf/change his sustain (and rightfully so), please take a look at mana costs and how it will affect his laning phase vs long range poke. If you change his ult (I urge you to), consider removing/changing the AD portion of it. AD Alistar simply isn’t a viable build at any respectable elo where your gold income is spent on health, wards and utility. His abysmal attackspeed is only alleviated by items like Trinity and Zephyr – items that supports simply don’t have money to buy.
Morello: Great feedback – Statikk and I will discuss these specifics. I’m likely going to make E not a lane sustain tool, but maybe something else helpful when aggression and peeling is what’s happening (Alistar needs the risk of being worse when he’s behind, like other good tank supports).
Lastly, we have Statikk discuss laners building items suited for junglers and whether or not that’s an issue.
If the item is simply being bought because it is extremely overpowered, that’s not ideal. On the other hand, if it’s being bought because it provides unique strengths that aren’t offered by any other items, I think that’s really cool. Interestingly enough, I think all 3 of the Spirit Stone upgrades currently provide unique niches in the game.
For example, I think a champion buying Spirit of the Ancient Golem in order to open up the potential buy Boots of Mobility instead of Merc Treads is great. I think a champion buying Spirit of the Ancient Golem because it’s just more stat efficient than a Warmog’s is not great.
I do think we need to do a deeper analysis in terms of how much junglers should be benefiting more from these items as opposed to laners, but I think it’s fine as long as they are only alternatives to different strategies and not just strictly always superior choices.
Aren’t Spirit Items too strong right now?
To be honest with you, yes I do think that there is a good possibility that the Spirit items are a bit too good right now, but I don’t think at a fundamental level it is bad if laners ever buy them. As with any item in our game, it’s a problem when any item becomes the only dominant choice, but it’s awesome when they are an alternative.
Heavily edited icons and splash arts from LoLWiki, all of which belong to RiotGames.
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