Season 5 is fast approaching and we’ve been given some clues as to what we can expect. I’ve organized the major events in this article; note that while these are all confirmed, there’s no timeframe, so they might not happen in 2015.
Poppy is first on the gameplay update list and likely the high priority for the rework team right now. Morello has personally stated that Poppy is in a dire spot and needs a complete overhaul, one that would keep her theme of a hammer-wielding Yordle.
Poppy is an example of Riot’s old design philosophies; making Champions that fit one purpose on the map and have clearly defined weaknesses. That was the intent. However, Poppy isn’t exactly handing out counterplay tips. Her main cons – an abysmally small mana pool and lack of wave-clear – don’t give enemies an opportunity to abuse; they just keep Poppy toned down so she doesn’t dominate. She’s more of an obstacle to play around rather than a Champion with interactive mechanics.
The main offenders are her passive and ultimate. Blocking chunks of damage innately and constantly is just raw statistical power. The enemy gets hardly any feedback, visual or number-wise, when spells hit Poppy for halved damage. It’s not really a passive you can play around in a teamfight or even in lane, unless you’ve true damage or low-cooldown spells. Worse, still, this passive defines Poppy as a bruiser, meaning her appeal lies in bad design. Not the easiest Champion to rework.
Diplomatic Immunity reminds me a bit of Magic The Gathering’s Black Lotus, in that almost every Champion can replace their ultimate with Poppy’s. It’s the best carry spell by miles, because it eliminates the threats that prevent a carry from carrying. In a game that’s focused around teamplay and Champion interactions, Poppy’s ultimate is deliberately made for zero interaction. And it’s another defining strength of Poppy’s; Diplomatic Immunity has existed for so long only because Poppy isn’t popular enough for it to be a considerable problem.
At her core, Poppy is a fearless front-liner who smashes targets with a big hammer. That’s a cool concept, but it can definitely use less ridiculous mechanics to function. I’ll aim to cover her in a future Rework Forge article with ideas that might preserve her theme.
2014 passed without an ultimate skin and I think it was a good decision. Why? Two things were clear; one, DJ Sona was meant to be the year’s ultimate skin and two, the community’s feedback on the concept was mostly negative. Riot could had gone forward and made the skin in 2014 and it would likely had sold very well, but they listened to what players thought.
With DJ Sona possibly being remade into a legendary skin, we don’t yet know who will get the ultimate skin. Rioters have teased info before, like that the chosen Champion has few skins and some have narrowed down choices to Lux or Xerath. Regardless, we won’t know for sure until the skin is patched onto the PBE. Maybe we’ll get Dragonmaster Swain after all.
Tristana is one of 16 Champions who were released during League’s Alpha in 2009. Her visuals are as outdated as they can be, so her being on the update list is great news.
Tristana’s kit may be 5-years-old, but it still holds up quite well in the meta, as we saw this year when itemization favored hyper-carries. Still, there are aging mechanics littered throughout. The obvious one is that Explosive Shot [ E ] is not a toggled spell. Since it can’t be disabled, it forces Tristana players to manage their last hits so one kill doesn’t ruin another. It also means a Trist player who has a point in E can’t freeze lanes. It’s certainly unique; no other Champion forces a player to think about last hitting ahead-of-time like that.
But this added difficulty isn’t essential for Tristana’s kit. It’s just there because you can’t have both a toggle and an active bound to a single key. It’s restricting game design, something Riot have gone past in recent years. If Tristana were released today, her E would, for example, make every X shot explode for bonus damage. It would certainly be streamlined to where players aren’t stuck with a passive they might not want.
There are technical issues to Tristana that the gameplay update will likely address. Her Rocket Jump is only visually a jump; it behaves like a dash, meaning it won’t go over Caitlyn’s traps, a Blitzcrank hook, a Bear Stance Udyr or any triggered stun. Speaking of stuns, those only affect Tristana after she’s landed, so if you Bandage Toss her as Amumu, you’ll stop at the point where you’ve landed the stun and not where Tristana will land at. Mechanically, the spell is inconsistent and just confusing for players who assume Rocket Jump interacts in certain ways, but it doesn’t.
Lastly, AP Trist. Although it’s most often a build for pub games, it will likely be gutted with the update. Riot have been adamant about multiple builds and Champions who are played in “unintended” ways usually get the short end of the stick when the patch hits. An AP build makes Tristana’s playstyle completely opposite to that of AD Trist which, in itself, is worth keeping. But, given Riot’s history with alternative builds (Tryndamere, Rengar, Alistar, Lulu, Soraka, Katarina, and, most recently, AP Rek’Sai) they likely won’t be balancing Tristana for both options.
U.R.F was a massive hit with the playerbase in April of 2014. It was the most popular featured mode and the most requested one. Its roots are in DotA’s WTF mode and it’s great fun, but was taken away just a short month after its release.
To say U.R.F was imbalanced would be an understatement. For example, Sona had a 77% winrate on U.R.F. Alistar could play tennis with your mangled corpse, Yorick was a god, most AD bruisers who are otherwise gated by CDs were ridiculous and you could watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy while being chain-snared by Morgana.
Looking back at it, we all agree U.R.F was great, but we can’t deny it was a love-hate relationship. Balance is part of the equation when playing a competitive game for fun and players naturally tunnel on what’ll let them win easier, since winning is fun for most. Featured modes are imbalanced, which is why they’re rotated out. If we want U.R.F to stay, we should view it in long terms; unfair picks would burn us out on an otherwise great addition to League.
When Riot pulled the plug on U.R.F, they did so to fix the issues the mode had. We’ll most likely see it return in 2015, if not as a permanent mode, then at least as a better, more refined version of the old crowd favorite.
It’s been 8 months since the Tribunal was brought down for an overhaul. In that time, we got Chat Restrictions, bans from Ranked, 2-week bans and bans for intentional feeding to handle the toxicity (of our city). Though reports are still handled by real people, the lack of players reviewing cases has slowed down punishment to a crawl. You could be a dick to someone and not learn of said dick behavior until a few weeks later.
The Tribunal will, above all, distribute punishments and rewards faster. It will only take a few days following a closed case for action to be taken. To contrast, punishments at the moment are handed out in “waves”, meaning negative players are clumped together and restricted at the same time. The “pardon period” will also be made a lot shorter – a punished player will only get one warning and two chances before they lose their account.
The new Tribunal will also be reviewing positive players for rewards in addition to its older features. This change may give players a tangible reason to act decent and that puts a welcome spin on how community behavior is handled. Every year the best Tribunal contributors will receive in-game rewards for their work.
This mix of punishments and rewards will, hopefully, cover all types of players. Those who want skins may, for example, receive an exclusive skin for positive behavior. Respectively, negative players may be denied the Season’s Victorious skin. Players who value in-game status may earn or lose loading screen borders, etc. To sum up, neutral and positive players will have in-game goals to strive for and remain neutral or positive and negative players will have punishments to keep them in line.
Justice Reviews will be easier to manage. These are, in essence, “scoreboards” for Tribunal users to track their contribution to solving cases. They’re a good incentive for the “jury” to remain active, so making them more accessible means more people will stick around to keep the Tribunal functional.
What’s missing from the list of features is, still, pre- and post-game chat logs. I personally think most toxicity takes place in Champion Select and if that area of player communication isn’t monitored, then the Tribunal loses a lot of its evidence for a case. I hope Tribunal users will be given access to these.
The new Tribunal is taking similar time to develop as an average game by EA. And, while relying on slow systems for months-on-end is a tad aggravating, we’ll be getting mostly every feature requested. Let’s hope we can instantly ban people whose chat logs include “X or feed”.
Fiora’s rework was an update teased too early, akin to Yorick’s rework. We know she’ll be getting a complete overhaul, but she isn’t a priority for the moment so shooting for 2015 is perhaps wishful thinking.
It’s evident why Fiora needs changes; a condensed explanation would be that she’s meant to be a Melee DPS, when she’s really a glorified assassin. Outplaying Fiora is rarely an option, since she’s effectively a lump of stats and targeted dashes. Similarly, she can’t outplay enemies herself. Put the two together and you get a one-trick pony whose success depends mostly on the match-up and rarely on mechanics or strategy.
Personally, I don’t think Fiora is a balance issue, but I consider her a failed concept. She’s the Grand Duelist, but only on paper. A duelist would time her attacks and wait for a crack in the enemy’s guard, but Fiora mostly relies on her three steroids to win fights. Her rapier could be Xin Zhao’s spear and little would change.
Game Designer Guinsoo has shared ideas for Fiora in the past and they’re in a similar ballpark – more mobility and opportunity to outplay, at the cost of burst damage. Her role would change from a top laner to a mid laner or a jungler; the latter is interesting, since Melee ADCs have never really been competitive junglers.
The rework team seems to be leaning towards excessive mobility to make Fiora viable. Given the over-abundance of mobility that’s currently in the game, it may be the only solution to make a Melee ADC competitive. But will that mobility take from the Champion’s power budget or will it just be tacked on?
The main problem with Fiora will be the problem of Melee ADs in League. The archetype is usually too risky to warrant picking over Ranged ADs and bruisers. It makes Fiora’s rework that much more important for the game, since it can be an example of how melee carries should be designed in the future.
Warwick’s rework was teased several months ago on Reddit by Champion designer ZenonTheStoic. We already saw a preview of how unfun Warwick can be if left to his own devices in Patch 4.20. He’s a simple character with simple counterplay and that’s good to have for new players, but it’s hard to make the formula competitive and fair. The suggested rework has a lot of skillshots and requires proper positioning, which would make Warwick much easier to balance, since enemies can interact with him beyond buying QSS.
Eternal Thirst [ Passive ]
- . AAs deal 2% of their target’s max HP as magic damage and heal Warwick for 5 flat + (0.9-1.8% bonus hp) (scales with champ level) Every time this passive is procced, WW gains a stack of Eternal Thirst (max 10). Each stack of ET increases the self-heal effect by 11%. Stacks fall off after 1.8s (just enough time to keep the buff alive at lowest AS + a fleeing enemy) (if you’re faster than them), they fall off one at a time at 4 stacks/second (sort of hyper-quick Jinx Q style).
Hungering Strikes [ Q ]
- Double-attack a nearby enemy target. Deals a total of 80-200 + 0.6 AP magic damage, but does proc on-hits (and your passive) twice. Note: it’s super weird that we have a skill that procs your AAs but ignores your AD. I know. This is a tradeoff the kit needed. Additionally, passive healing from this spell is further increased by 60-100% (so at 10 stacks you’d get 220% base heal from each proc for a total of 440% of the stated value; at level 18 that would be 5 + 1.8% bonus hp–a good value to hit here is about 35 by end game. This works out to about 180 hp healed, before spirit visage.)
This Q is also super spammable (CD 9-5, mana cost 40-60 on a kit with better base mana and better mana regen) (these numbers will definitely change as we move into tuning later in the year)
Howl [ W ]
- (all names placeholder, obviously). PBAOE terrify away from the center of the effect (NOT from WW; subtle distinction, but important for the E). 0.75s duration on the terrify and then a follow up slow, the duration of which scales with skill rank. This is how you gank pre-6 and why the enemy cannot ignore you in team fights. CD 12-8, mana cost 50 flat. Damage 70-190 + 0.6 AP.
Blood Scent / Hamstring [ E ]
- Passively this is still Blood Scent, with some tweaks (more range early on, shows an Orianna ball indicator under your feet toward the nearest revealed target, only gives MS when you move toward a revealed champ, also reveals big monsters at <50% hp (for the counter janglings), MS doesn’t all kick in at once but becomes stronger as revealed target gets lower.)
- Active: Hamstring. This is the “boomerang move”. You’re standing at point A, click B, Warwick dashes A->B->A with no pause in between. He hurts all targets touched en route and puts a strong micro-slow on them (falls off almost immediately). You CAN use W and smite during this ability, but not Q (optimal use case became too micro intensive). The micro-slow BARELY allows you to catch a fleeing enemy, but if you E and they dodge, you’ll lose distance. Mana cost 50 flat, CD 16 flat, damage 140-220 + 0.6 AP total. Does not proc passive, but keeps stacks alive. Slow 95% for 0.25s.
Finite Duress [ R ]
- Think Sejuani Q, but stun first enemy target hit for 2.5s while attacking them 6 times. Spell has its own base damage and AP ratio (180/240/300 + 0.9 AP), but also procs your passive 6 times, so it also does 18% of target max hp as magical damage.
There’s no set date for when we’ll see Warwick’s rework and no evidence that the suggested rework is anything but an experiment. He isn’t on the gameplay update list (yet), but he’s being worked on and we’ll likely see him revamped this year.
An interesting observation is that Warwick hasn’t received a texture rebalance. Given that his model and animations are outdated, it suggests a visual update is on its way to complement his gameplay rework. And it may happen way sooner than we expect.
Ao Shin was a hot topic in 2013 when he was teased, but since then there hasn’t been news on the Champion. The gist of the design is an Eastern-themed storm dragon that can both support allies and be a teamfight threat. He’s meant to fill concepts that aren’t already occupied by Shyvana (half-dragon) and Janna (storm sorceress). Being an interpretation of a Chinese dragon, he won’t be breathing fire; his powers will be based around controlling elements.
From the teaser:
“Ao Shin embodies this elemental duality, capable of raining good fortune on his allies and, in the very next breath, bringing stormy, thunderous ruin upon his foes.”
Gameplay-wise, the direction seems to be a hybrid between a support character and an AoE mage. This may mean Ao Shin will have dual-effect spells that change depending on who they target, like Lulu. Also, given that most new Champions don’t use mana, he might have a completely new resource to fuel his hybrid kit.
The teaser mentions that Ao Shin will come when Ionia is faced with its biggest crisis, so his release will likely be tied to a major lore event. Again, we may not see him this year, but if we do, we’ll get plenty of forewarning. For now, we’ve Champion Designer Meddler‘s explanation why we won’t be seeing Ao Shin for a while:
TLDR: Ao Shin someday, won’t be soon.
Slightly longer version: We spent a bunch of time working on Ao Shin but ultimately concluded he wasn’t hitting the mark so put him on hold for a while in order to figure some things out. We still think his concept’s really cool, as is some of the stuff we were trying with him, so do intend to make him someday. Don’t expect to see him anytime soon though, we’d rather be slow, but do a better job of delivering on his potential, than quick.
That’s a process some other champs have also gone through (Lee Sin, Elise and Azir for example), where it took a few different takes to hit on what we felt was the right one (Lee Sin originally as Blind Monk way back pre launch, Elise originally as Priscilla the Spider Queen, Azir originally as Seth the sand mage), ultimately yielding better champs in the long run we feel.
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Both will be available as DLC for Half Life 3.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.