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An attempted TL/DR will be at the very end, but the whole point of this is to provide examples and details, so a tl/dr is kindof redundant. I'm also going to apologize in advance. I did my best to keep it organized, but i am a very disorganized person. Please forgive me if it seems a little unkempt
First off, i'd like to apologize, if people checked in here for a simple "why is my favorite champ not op" rant, then please go somewhere else. Lots of people have already said that, and instead of simply repeating what they've already said, I'm going to try and give facts and examples that try and prove my point. Please forgive how long this is because i have a tendency to rant, but I'm going to try and be as detailed as possible to hopefully show that I'm not just trying to complain. Also, please note, though I will be suggesting many different changes to Poppy through the entirety of this post, by no means am I intending to insinuate that I believe all of them should be implemented. What my objective is, is to bring some of her flaws to light, and suggest POSSIBLE ideas that might help shore them up and make her viable again. I don't expect to see all of them implemented, but i believe if one or two of them were implemented, it would help wonders for her. On one other point, I'm going to try to mention something I haven't seen before. I don't claim to be a genius or mind reader, but I am attempting to get into game design, and this causes me to try and look at things a little more mechanically, and also try to look at it as "what were the designers thinking when they did this" hopefully this may also help bring a few other ideas to light, especially because poppy has no champion spotlight to introduce her to the players. (please notice all of my examples are with simple vanilla champion stats, i'm not including abilities, runes or items unless specified, because everyone has their own preference for their own setups and we could argue what is 'best' forever)
Poppy was the first champion I ever bought, and to this day she's still my favorite, but it's very depressing for me when people actually queue dodge at the sight of her, because of her abysmal early game. I believe one of the primary issues with her is that she was the second champion released after the initial 40, but she has not actually recieved any modifications since july of 2010 (http://lol-patch.com/poppy.html) while she has recieved a few bug fixes, nothing stat wise has actually been changed in almost 2.5 years, since before season 2. The game has changed considerably since then, but no one has bothered changing her. I think the biggest thing poppy might need isn't necessarily a straight buff, or remake, but a tune up. I didn't play back in season 1, but i do know that she could be very well played back then, however, with many more versatile top lane champs coming out since then, such as jayce, lee sin, vi etc, she's fallen behind the times, i think she needs some tweaking to bring her slightly more in line with other top lane champs, not a rework or a simple "increase x stat".
I'm going to start by comparing poppy's stats to some other champs I see go top lane. I'm not doing every one, because anyone can go top lane if you play well enough, but I did try to get a modest variety, just to draw some examples. (all of the stats are taken from leagueoflegends.wikia.com. and the last stat on the list is the total amount of mana required to use all 4 of the champs abilities, if they were at rank 1. EDIT: sorry i tried, for some reason this table won't align properly.)
stats: |poppy |jayce |nidalee |olaf |riven
hp/18 |423/1881 |420/2040 |370/1990 |441/2115 |414/1962
hp5/18 |7.45/17.35 |6/20.4 |5/15.8 |7/23.2 |5.5/14.5
mp/18 |185/725 |240/960 |220/1030 |225/1035 |0/0
mp5/18 |6.4/14.5 |7/19.6 |7/16 |6.5/16.85 |0/0
ad/18 |56.3/117.5 |46.5/109.5 |49/112 |54.1/117.1 |54/103.5
as/18 |.638/1.001 |.658/.993 |.672/1.04 |.694/1.013 |.625/.997
ar/18 |18/90 |12.5/75.5 |11/74 |17/71 |15/70.8
mr/18 |30/30 |30/65 (hammer) |30/43.5 |30/52.5 |30/52.5
ms |345 |335 |335 |350 |345
tmc/18 |285/345 |260/345 |170/350 |195/185 |0/0
stats: |renekton |pantheon |Jax |darius
hp/18 |426/1992 |433/1999 |463/2227 |426/2100
hp5/18 |6.7/20.2 |6.75/18.45 |7.45/17.35 |8.25/25.35
mp/18 |0/0 |210/822 |230/860 |200/875
mp5/18 |0/0 |6.6/14.7 |6.4/19 |6/12.3
ad/18 |53.12/108.92 |50.7/102.9 |56.3/117.05 |50/113
as/18 |.665/.964 |.679/1.02 |.638/1.006 |.679/.98
ar/18 |15.2/83.6 |18/87.3 |12.5/81 |20/83
mr/18 |30/52.5 |30/52.5 |30/52.5 |30/52.5
ms |345 |355 |350 |340
tmc/18|0/0 |270/290 |265/285 |215/235
Stat wise, poppy has very impressive armor, especially with her w passive. though she has low max hp, her natural passive makes up for it in cutting a considerable amount of the damage she takes, so it's understandable why she has a lower hp than average.
Though she has a slightly higher than average regen, this still does very little to help her survive, as she has no form of range, and can eaisly be harassed down to low hp with little to no chance to retalliate.
Looking at her mana? Honestly i'm still scratching my head in this department. if ever someone tries out poppy, the first thing they will say is "she has mana issues". Poppy has the lowest base mana, lowest mana per level, and the lowest base mana regen, second only to darius, however, all of poppy's abilities cost on average almost 50% more than any other bruiser, the final stat in the list is the total amount of mana required to use all of said champions abilities, assuming rank 1 in every ability (all 6 of Jayce's abilities are counted). at level 6, poppy only has enough mana to use every ability in her kit once and she's oom, in darius' case, he can use all 4 abilities twice before he runs oom, yet he is the only champ in the list with a lower mana regen than Poppy, on top of her abysmally small mana pool. Personally, I think this is a huge issue along the entire game. She has no natural sustain, so she's often at low hp, and then poppy also has above average mana costs, meaning after almost every fight she's running on empty in both hp and mp. This makes it very difficult to trade with any champion because, assuming the damage is similar, everyone else will be able to keep up the harass for longer than she can, and that's assuming she can manage to get in range. So, not only is it very difficult to get in range to harass with poppy, she can't keep up with harass of almost any other champion either. While her abilities do good damage, they are very high in cost, especially in comparison to other abilities from other champions.Poppy's q costs 55 mana, and jax's empower costs 30, even kha'zix's q costs only costs 25 (with a 3.5 sec base cooldown), and it's capable of doing well more damage than her q. Ontop of that, Not only do their abilities cost less, but both jax and kha'zix start with more mana, get more mana per level, and even generate more mana than poppy passively.
Poppy's ad is fairly strong, both her base and max ad are fairly high, especially when combined with her w passive, this works well with her q for burst, but because of her lower than average attack speed, she is kept in line by not being able to deal damage as fast, though it does help harassing a bit, because often you can only get in one or two hits, but if another champ stops to fight back, often she will take more damage than she deals (using strictly basic attacks)
I've already spoken about her attack speed, but poppy's base is tied for second lowest, and this makes last hitting very difficult, especially with her small mana pool, also, even with her higher base ad, trading is very difficult, as it's hard to get in range
While poppy has average movespeed, when she came out, she was considered very quick, but with more and more versatile champs coming out, whether they have lots of movespeed bonuses like Jayce, or very mobile like Lee Sin or Riven, or Jax who is simply faster than her, she's fallen behind, and can rarely manage to chase and catch someone without considerable help from items, building extensive movespeed, or chasing her target far into the enemy territory.
Another point I'd like to bring attention to, is Poppy's lack of mr/level. Poppy is 1 of only a handful of other melee range champs in the game who do not get mr/level. The others are gragas, maokai and shen. All of which have a passive heal for sustain, and a form of damage mitigation. (gragas w grants % damage down, shen has his shield, and maokai has his ultimate, + he can turn untargetable) As well as galio, who is often expected to build mr thanks to his passive, and singed, who is well known for killing everyone simply by running away, and is almost never seen meleeing. Though Poppy does have her passive, which can make it very difficult for her to be burst down, with champs like rumble and elise able to constantly harass at range with short cooldown spells, Poppy's passive is almost useless here, because her passive is weakest vs low cooldown, spammable spells, even if they do low damage. Second, though her w does give her some armor, Poppy has no passive sustain, no auxiliary form of damage mitigation and no ranged attack, so in comparison, she's suffering here. (jayce is not included because he does have mr in hammer form, though it technically isn't /level)
Ok that's her stats, now let's take a look at her kit
Passive: Valient fighter. I've mentioned it several times before, this skill is great at frustrating enemies because it takes just a little bit more than they think to kill her. Though she has no passive sustain, her natural regen and the frustratingly low damage she takes can keep her hp frozen at 10-15%. This used to be her niche for quite a while, she just wouldn't quite die without her opponent commiting to a towerdive or getting help from the jungler, however, thanks to almost every champion taking ignite, which ignores her passive, all a smart player has to do is harass her down to about 15% and ignite her, then laugh as she burns to death. Ignite is the perfect counter to poppy, champs like mundo or swain may have some issues with the spell, but it simply makes their game harder, a smart player with ignite can literally shut down poppy without letting her even retalliate, no matter what she does.
q: devastating blow, in short, deals poppy's ad, + a small amount of bonus damage (20-100 at rank 5) + 8% of the target's hp up to a modest cap, as magic damage, this is poppy's hardest hitting skill late game, and it gets a very short cooldown, 4 seconds without any cdr at max rank. Approximately, the cap is 1 rank per 1k hp of your target to ensure no wasted damage, unless you're laning against a tank, 2 ranks will last until an average of level 13+ for most champs, however, as this is her best damage ability, it makes sense to max it early, yet with her small mana pool, it becomes very difficult to use in any form of extended harass or against anyone who has some form of sustain or shield. It is also one of the most costly of the 'next hit' abilities, mana wise. several of the more costly ones, such and gangplank's parrrley, refund mana when he kills a unit, considerably helping the higher cost and making farming eaiser.
w: paragon of demacia. honestly this is one of poppy's best skills, going just by the numbers, at max rank, it gives 35 armor and ad, almost the equivalent of a bf sword and chain vest (45 and 40 respectively) at max stacks. as well, when activated it gives a modest movement speed bonus of up to 25% for a modest duration of 5 seconds, the skill gives an amazing amount of stats in one package, and while the movespeed isn't the best, it has a fairly short cooldown of 12 seconds, which permits it to be used more than once while chasing. While this skill is great, it's also poppy's most costly basic ability, and how often it needs to be activated will cause a severe drain on her resourses. also, the stacks are honestly very punishing. they last for about 5 seconds, the same duration of the speed boost, and refresh whenever poppy hits something or gets hit, however with the current meta of keeping the lane frozen near the middle, it becomes very difficult for poppy to try and keep her stacks up without pushing the lane against a passive opponent, which makes her eaisly gankable. if she doesn't have her stacks up, then she takes considerably more damage, and deals less too. While Graves has a similar passive, even though his only lasts for 3 seconds, his dash and longer melee range makes this much easier to maintain. Occasionally, poppy can't even remain fully stacked between minion waves because of her melee range. Generally, it feels like trying to keep them up has too high of a risk, for the lower reward. Often, poppy can simply be poked away from the minions with some sort of ranged harass, and while the bonus armor does help mitigate some of the damage, if she can't hit back, all it does is delay the inevitable. What would, I think, make the skill much eaiser to keep up, is for the stacks to not wear out instantly after 5 seconds, I can understand the need for the time limit, if it was a permanent steriod, she would be completely broken (similar to how Garen was with his w, except she still uses mana). but what if, after the five second timer, she lost one stack every .5 seconds or so, instead of losing all of them at once? Thanks to her low attack speed, it's difficult for her to build them quickly without burning her mana. This solution would still punish her for being passive, but she wouldn't be as weak if she gets caught on minions or can't reach her target for a moment. In season two, it wasn't uncommon for a Poppy to poke The enemy champion and let the minions build the stacks for her, but with the removal of the minion specific defensive masteries, often this can lead to her taking more damage than she's dealing, even with the enhanced armor. Another possibility, is for this ability to remove all slows when activated, similar to evelynn's w. I hesitate to say this, because this skill already grants an incredible amount of stats, but as i said earlier, with more and more champs coming out with slows, stuns and other forms of disengagement, it's very hard for Poppy to get close to her target or keep up with it, because the 25% isn't quite potent enough to help her catch up if someone has thrown a slow at her.
e: Heroic charge, this is a 2 part dash that hits a target, knocks them backwards, and stuns them if they hit a wall, doing app 150% damage of the initial hit. while this is a decent damage hit, it is the shortest targeted dash in the game at 525 units. Though the total distance, assuming she doesn't hit a wall is app 825 units, the initial range is extremely short. Interestingly enough, if poppy is played as a very offensive support, the range on bot lane between the outmost bushes and the inner wall. is almost exactly the range needed to stun someone against the inner wall. While, since top lane is a little bigger, even that small increase in range can be punishing. Not only is this the shortest targeted lunge in the game, with the exception of caitlyn's 90 calibur net, and renekton's slice or dice (both together still escape), every other ground targeted dash that can cross walls also outranges it. Even though she has both a distance closer and a speed boost, unless she is considerably faster than her target, Poppy has severe issues chasing down a target with her teammates, if she and the target are almost the same speed, her speed boost will help her catch up, but she won't have enough to maneuver for a wall stun, if she uses her charge, she'll be right ontop of her target, but if she doesn't stun them, the most she can manage is to push them farther away from her team. Because of it's shorter than average range, it's very difficult to land a stun against someone who knows how it works if they are running away, more often than not, without flash or a movement speed boost from somewhere else, such as an ally or item, Poppy will end up helping her enemy escape instead of ensuring the kill. I have yet to figure out how or why this occurs, but there seems to be a known glitch where poppy's charge can occationally stun a target, even without hitting them into a wall (in my testing, minions didn't do it either, which is the common theory) but no bonus damage is delt, considering the number of champs who have point and click stuns which out range even her charge, i think the stun being 100% on the charge isn't too much to ask for, but bonus damage only occuring on a wall hit, possibly even lowering the base damage to compensate for the guaranteed stun, while upping the colision damage to reward good positioning. Another alternative would be to simply extend the range on the dash a bit, so that poppy has more options to get a stun.
R: diplomatic immunity, heaven help me this ability is amazing, and probably one of the reasons poppy hasn't really been touched, this is a very difficult skill to tweak without completly destroying her, at rank 3, poppy gets 8 seconds of invulerability to anything except her target, and deals 40% bonus damage to her target. there is truely nothing i can say about this skill that hasn't already been said. as a poppy user, i'd like to see it last a little longer, so she could hit a target more than twice with her q, but obviously that's asking too much, almost 10 seconds of invulerablitity is far too much to ask for. what i would like to see, maybe, is the shield lasting for a moment or two after her target dies, if it still had some of the duration left. for example, poppy uses her ultimate on a target and bursts it down to half, then a greedy teammate snipes the kill or sometimes, her target can simply die on accident from a lucky skillshot. Either way, poppy is left helpless in the middle of the enemy team, personally, i think it would be nice if half of the duration of the shield remained so she could get out. (say the shield was up for 4 seconds before the target died, poppy has 1-2 seconds to get out, because she has no form of escape besides summoner spells) I can understand if this is frowned upon, this is simply an idea that would help poppy players survive through a teamfight instead of their target dying and her being screwed, though i completly understand if this is overkill. Honestly my only real complaint with Poppy's ultimate is it almost seems too useful. When it's up (and it has a fairly long cooldown of 100 sec, though I know some are longer) she can decimate 1-2 targets, but she feels completely useless when it's down. Unfortunately I don't know of a good way to fix this, but it would be nice for Poppy not to feel completely helpless without her ultimate.
Because she scales with ap, and her q indirectly scales with ad, because it's an auto attack, poppy can be built a number or ways, looking at her basic kit, a few things stick out, first, she has only conditional crowd control, so she can only stun when she can punish her opponent for poor positioning, but otherwise does not initiate well without her ultimate. She is a rare case when a champion has a speed boost and a distance closer, allowing her to chase extensively, however her speed boost is modest in both effect and duration, meaning most other champs with a speed boost can outrun her. This also is an issue because her w is often needed to position for her charge, which means both are on cooldown at the same time. This can often lead to champions with a blink or dash ability being able to escape, and requires poppy to overextend/chase extensively in order to finish them off.
at max rank with a small amount of cdr, poppy can charge one target and q them twice before her ultimate wears off, generally, against a carry, this is enough damage to drop them critically low, however, if the carry has some form of disengage or forced movement, most often this can lead to them escaping, and poppy left helpless near multiple enemies with no method of saving herself or even ensuring the kill.
Looking at her kit, I believe poppy was designed to be a pure burst assassin, relying heavily on her abilites and not her auto attacks. One of the biggest reasons i think this is her lack of an attack speed steriod like other top lane characters. (rengar, lee, xin, etc) Because she lacks an attack speed steriod, it's often inefficient for poppy to trade blows with an opponent, however her small mana pool and high costing abilities make it very difficult to keep up any form of harass for long without having to simply turtle for lack of health or mana. Because her passive makes her unusually tanky at low hp, meaning she has a higher effective hp while low, she can build slightly less resistance than other bruisers to get a similar effect, and gives building hp a lesser impact, as it takes longer for her passive to kick in. Especially in the beginning of season 3, with hp being the most cost effective stat as a whole, this punishes her severly, for her passive is less useful the more hp she has, and she has no natural sustain, meaning she's unlikely to ever remain at full hp and both her slow attack speed and small mana pool also make it very difficult to use any form of early sustain via spell vamp or lifesteal. Though her passive is nothing to be overlooked and can eaisly help her survive, it's completly useless against true damage. Origionally, this simply meant a few champs such as olaf and cho'gath would not have issues finishing her off, but now, more and more, i see almost every top lane champion taking ignite. this permits most champions to safely harass her from range, then walk in and ignite her, rendering her only method of survival useless. another thing to note with poppy is her high base movement speed, it's average for many assassins, but it was very high when she came out, but now she's fallen behind, with many champs being given a form of disengage, or increased mobility, such as darius for his passive movespeed, olaf with his ranged slow, jayce with his transform, and accelleration gate, or simply champs like jax who not only can leap strike to get in and out of a fight, but is simply naturally faster than poppy, again she's simply fallen behind everyone else and no longer has a niche she fills properly. She does have extremely high base armor, but with the inability to harass at range, most opponents barely notice as they simply poke her to death with little danger for themselves.
summary: though poppy origionally had a niche where she was annoyingly difficult to kill at low hp, the fact that any champion can counter her simply by taking ignite is, in my opinion, a severe issue, especially when she has no alternate form of survival besides her passive.
solution: there's lots of things that could be done here, but it would be very difficult to do without making her completly broken, or going against the way she was designed. One idea i had was simply that her passive would work on true damage, ignite would still work well as a dot, but it wouldn't be the easy, automatic win that it is now, it would also give her some resistance against cho'gath, darius and olaf, though these 3 champions can eaisly harass her even without their true damage. Yes, i know it's called 'true' damage, because it's an absolute, but just because something is standard doesn't mean that exceptions can't be made for a single champion. It's happened plenty of times in the past. If this solution doesn't work, another idea i had would be to give poppy's w an additional passive ability that would increase her health regen by a % of her missing hp while she's below 50% hp. Unlike mundo or garen, whose passive can qualify as a form of sustain, this would be an indirect counter to all the champs who can so eaisly harass her. Because the passive only kicks in below 50%, it would not be a method of infinite sustain, but if, for example, her average hp while being harassed is 15%, this would help it go up to maybe 20 or 25%, still low, and still able to be burst down with a little effort, or a gank, but at least killing her would not be as simple as casting ignite and watching as she burns to death.
Summary: It's eaisly understandable why Poppy doesn't have the standard 1.25 mr/level most other champs do, because her late game is incredibly potent, and she can often burst down an unsuspecting ap carry. If she got the standard 1.25, she would be too tanky without building any resistance, however, because she lacks anything more than the standard 30, she's eaisly getting pushed around in the early-mid game.
Solution: Because she would be too tanky with the standard 1.25, what if poppy was given a lesser scaling amount, similar to nidalle or kayle (who only get .75/level) or, what if she started with 40 base mr, but had no scaling resistance? This would help colossally in her early game, especially because most champs with ap can easily zone her with some form of ranged harass, but she would still fall behind other melee champs by level 9. another possible idea would be to grant her some form of natural sustain, but because of her low attack speed, life steal would not help very much, and her small mana pool makes spell vamp almost worthless early game too.
Of course, a champion cannot be simply broken down into numbers, that's part of why league is so fun, but i would also like to draw attention to a few other things which many seem to overlook.
Poppy, along with vayne, are the only 2 champions in all of lol who are unable to get an assist without directly clicking and attacking on a specific enemy champion. Every other champion in league has some form of aoe, multi target attack, or buff they can cast on an allied champion to help them get assists. because of her range (though short) vayne has a somewhat eaiser time with this than poppy, but i personally still view it to be an issue. Because of her kit, Poppy is able to lock down a single target and deal out incredible damage, but that's all she can do, generally speaking, if she decides to try and assassinate a carry, she can contribute almost nothing to the rest of the teamfight. If she does not manage to kill the carry (often very difficult as most have some form of escape/disengage) she can at least push them away from the fight, but then she's either a: in the middle of the enemy team, or b: far away because she chased the carry away. and often, in the 5-10 seconds it can take her to get back, the fight has already been decided. The argument can be made that she contributed a lot because she chased the carry away, but she also had to remove herself from the fight in the process, meaning she simply changed a 5v5 to a 4v4. Though, depending on if said carry is fed, this can be a great boon to her team, if she doesn't manage to secure the kill, Poppy can walk away from a successful fight without a penny to show for it. Again, this may help her team, but if she's unable to get any money, even via assists, by helping, she can quickly start to fall behind and be unable to even chase away the carry during the next fight, simply turning into a free kill if she can't do her job.
I recently had a game which can show this example very well. I caught the enemy carry (sivir) out of position and pounced, she flashed and used her ultimate to get away, i started to persue, but the rest of her team showed up to protect her. I used my ultimate on sivir to ensure i could get away, but her team chased me into my own team. when my ultimate wore off, they focused me with everything, i was crowd controlled 5 times, only managing to get off barrier and not even a single auto attack. (yes focusing me was a bad choice on their part, but that's not the point of this example) thanks to the support shielding and healing me, i managed to survive and their entire team died. a free ace. however, I did not get a single assist for their entire team dying. I had already had a difficult game up to that point and was somewhat underleveled and underfarmed. Because i didn't manage to get even a single assist, or even a single point of experience, I was suffering even more after the fight, because while my team pushed, i had to go b and heal up, and when the next teamfight came around, i got eaisly picked off simply because i was underleveled, and lacking in equipment, and therefore, no longer a threat. (for those who do not know, using Poppy's ultimate on a target does not grant an assist)