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Red Posts: Why Did You Nerf My Champion?

April 15th, 2013



Have you been wondering why the latest updates have brought so many nerfs? Morello has stepped up to answer this and to share some insight on the recent power reduction in the League and the issue with power creep!



What’s with the constant nerfs?


morellovatarRiotlink Button Morello: Let me answer, in some detail, why nerfs have been heavier overall more recently.

The first high-level point to reconcile is that power creep has gotten out of hand. Much of our Season 3 initiative was directly centered on letting us fix that exact problem – which may be unintuitive at first.

Power creep? What does that matter?

Power creep is very insidious over time, because it happens slowly and gradually – and a game with new content has greater risk of succumbing to it than more static games. This leads to a problem to where power gets in the way of decision-making an counter-play by creating an arms race between competing factors (champions, in many cases).

Arms race?

Basically, to compete with the most powerful characters, you have to bring better/more/faster/etc. We really saw this between Fighters, tanks and AD Carries in Season 2 – carries were doing such explosive DPS, that defensive itemization had to be tuned to allow near-invulnerability to anything else just to live for a few hits from an ADC. Fighters had to have overtuned everything to both live and do noticeable damage.

But you changed the items – why nerf champions?

Changing the items was step one – get the right baselines for these values. Now, with that settled, we need to undo the arms race by bringing total power in League of Legends down. Some of that was done with AD items, some of that is nerfing fighters and doing other changes. Many of the sweeping changes you’ll see are revolved around these classes as we get their power back under control, or enhance gameplay/counter-play loops.

Why do you not buff champions too?

We actually do quite a bit, but these tend to be more easily-forgotten than nerfs. Additionally, some really outdated champs (Heimerdinger, for example) need heavier work to get them up-to-par. We have a relaunches team who is focused on just that!

One other factor is when a champion being good creates poor gameplay or interactions. League’s design direction involves a heavy dose of decision-points and counterplay. And not just countering like champ X beats champ Y, but action A can be responded to in skilled and interesting ways. Nerfing AP Tryndamere is an example of this, where gameplay fidelity is extremely diminished if that concept is powerful.



Who causes power creep and are nerfs the appropriate response?


button2 Ralik098: I don’t understand why you think nerfs are a good way to counteract power creep. Correct me if I’m wrong, but power creep occurs as you introduce new champions into the game and their new mechanics push older champions out as they just can’t keep up. For example, what happened with Udyr, the mobility in the game just made him irrelevant since it was so easy to just kite him. Nerfs will do absolutely nothing to solve that, no matter how many little 5-10 points of damage you shave off of other champions, Udyr never would have been viable without the increased mobility that you gave him. The only way nerfs will counteract this is if you change how the skills of other champions function, which is an even bigger mistake than just buffing the UP champions imo as you are then changing their style of play and feel.

Again, I have to say that your obsession with fighters is really worrisome considering they are still one of the only classes along with assassins that you can leave out of your team comps and expect to win with. You can’t go without other classes and expect to have the same degree of success. AD carries are still broken, both ranged (OP) and melee (UP).


morellovatarRiotlink Button Morello: Because, like in my example, new champions are only one source of power creep. In many cases, this creep occurs because of the underlying concepts that create the arms race. Fighters were tuned to the point of being so strong that “being strong” is all they could do. Either they were straight-up more powerful than another choice, or worthless. In some cases you’re right that heavier work is needed as opposed to buffs or nerfs.

In Udyr’s case, we buffed him, so we agree nerfs weren’t the answer there 😛



What are some of the other sources of power creep? (Ralik098)


morellovatarRiotlink Button Morello: Player skill and optimization is really the other big one. When players get better and discover more optimal strategies, they unlock new potential and find new interactions that increase overall power. We obviously don’t want to stop players from learning this stuff, but we do need to react to new information presented in this way. Players’ skill ceiling going up raises the skill floor slowly, when the skill floor increases, the baseline power increases as well.

No mistake; champions contribute and we have to deal with that as well (the Mobility Creep is valid), but manytimes it’s a nuanced interaction of systems and mechanics.



Any plans to fix the currently underplayed junglers? (Shyvana talk)


button2 Krimson62: But what about the jungle changes in Season 3 and champions who have obviously needed help for months – something that most players agree on!

Champions like Shyvana, Rengar, and Mundo in particular have been behind the curve for a while with all the new changes.

You can nerf Zac, Shaco, Amumu, Jarvan IV and Xin all you want without completely changing their kits and you’d be hard pressed to make these three champions listed above more tantalizing to pick simply because the new itemization and jungle changes left them behind.

Look at shyvana after her last nerf… less resistance on ult and a “bugfix” that made it so she lost two seconds from her W despite it matching the tooltip. Season 3 lifesteal nerfed, HoG removed, FoN removed, attack speed items nerfed, counterjungling less profitable…. every single one of her core items was nerfed… and she got the Blade of the Ruined King as the only “compensation” item for all that was lost…


morellovatarRiotlink Button Morello: But buffing them before establishing baselines just makes more champions broken, not bringing more champions to a good median comparable power level. This would be the case for why nerfing other fighters takes precedence over buffing a champion who is a bit weak.




How is nerfing FotM champions justified?


button2 Isist: Lux being the same for 8 month, suddenly OP as hell. Akali doesn’t need special runes anymore, suddenly OP as hell. Morello, please explain, how are people going to develop new champion playstyle and meta if Riot nerfs everything that stomps because the opponent got caught in surprise?

If the player refuse to counterplay a certain champion, it is the player’s problem.


morellovatarRiotlink Button Morello: Because you’re equating a nerf to “it won’t be good anymore.” These characters being good is awesome, but small nerfs to good champions rarely kick them out, just make them less ubiquitous.




Wasn’t it obvious that fighters were going to be overpowered eventually?


button2 Zerglinator: Okay, I have to ask, but how did creating a champion who scales damage off of building HP, True Damage, Free Armor Pen, and CC Immunity not signal any warning bells when he was made?

Seems like an example of power creep.


morellovatarRiotlink Button Morello: That whole period was a desperate attempt to answer, in the wrong ways, how to make melee good. We learned a lot since then, though those fighters made us in the arms race already. Irelia and Jax are other good examples of this.




Will you be fixing Irelia? (Ralik098)


morellovatarRiotlink Button Morello: I want to really badly, hard to prioritize vs bringing up some of the other really outdated folks and doing things like the events. Eventually, but not likely as soon as I’d like.





Did you remove the CC reduction from Trundle’s W from fear of power creep?


morellovatarRiotlink Button Morello: Nah, it was basically very powerful and had no gameplay, so we thought we could trim there to add to other areas.




Personal thoughts on Fighters and Power Creep in Season 3



A little background for those who are unfamiliar with how the fighter issue came about. I’m sure many of you know, but back in Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2, the AoE meta was incredibly popular. The so-called “R button champs” (Morgana, Galio, Kennen), the bane of squishy champions, ran rampant and that’s when bruisers began to shine. They could take the brunt of the initiation and destroy these comps after their ults were down. That’s when the meta you see today began to form, as a counter to those burst-heavy picks. There had to be a healthy mix of tanking and spanking – a comp you can’t beat with just five ultimates and one that scaled harder than bruisers in the late game, due to AD carries. This is the key word here and the reason why melee fighters were so crazily buffed in Season 2 – if you’re going up against a champion who hits you for roughly 1000 damage each second. you had to be way better statistically to even stand a chance.

The issue transitioned into Season 3, but by then some fighters were so rigged skill-wise (Jarvan IV, Xin Zhao, Vi and Hecarim are the most obvious examples) that they could single-handedly deal with the ranged AD. They had to, with armor being shredded left and right and carries still hitting for absurd amounts. As health became the dominant survival stat, it meant these champions would become an even bigger nightmare for the rest of the team to deal with them. What followed was the Riot standard – targeted nerfs to reduce the popularity of FotM picks, mainly fighters. Those stats they got for free from skills in Season 2? They had to go. As a side effect of these modifications, many champions had to gain % Maximum HP damage to remain strong in the current meta. This is an artificial mechanic, one we’ll hopefully see go away, but we can’t currently do without.

So why did champions such as Shyvana and Mundo become undesirable? Simple, they failed at their job of initiating the carry and killing him before he killed them. They had no reliable CC and burst, which is what pushed certain bruisers above others in the fight to be competitive. Newer champions were built around this design to circumvent the issues that plague older champions lacking the mechanics to be strong in Season 3.

Of course, this isn’t just about fighters. As you’ve seen so far during Season 3, many forgotten champions suddenly gained popularity only to have their fame quickly extinguished by nerfs. Like how Katarina was picked up by the competitive scene or that DFG made Evelynn the single most destructive force on the playing-field. Play Miss Fortune, buy a Cleaver, press R! The end result of these experiments was that champions became overall weaker and this reduced the fun factor. Can you really pick up this guy/girl/amorphous blob/void monster after what Riot did?

You have to understand the philosophy here- it’s not without flaws by any means, but it’s obviously the one the balancing team have endorsed. To keep champions in line, they nerf those who are obviously above others. This is problematic, mainly because players constantly improve their skills and so they find these avenues to success that other players aren’t yet ready to deal with. Riot most often choose to listen to the majority in these cases, who are in favor of nerfing this new-found winning strategy. On the one hand, it keeps the pressure away from the developer- they’ve done their part, they’ve listened to the community and they’ve fixed the issue without causing further damage (this is why considerable buffs are so rare nowadays) But at the same time, you can’t constantly be trimming champions’ power or else you make the gameplay stale.

Is the right decision to nerf these strategies? Very few are actually considering counterplay – the act of thinking, instead of complaining.



What do you guys think is a good method of solving power creep issues?


Share below!