All right, so, it's a fact that many Xerath players would prefer that he stayed a long-range burst caster (you don't need to look any further than the upvotes and the hundreds of posts to see this, so don't act like it's not true). However, as I stated in the OP, as a Xerath player I am open to possibly changing Xerath into a "siege mage" as Riot originally intended.
This post will be dedicated to showing off both my own ideas and the ideas of others with regard to Xerath as a "siege mage."
So, we know what Xerath is currently, but what exactly does "siege mage" imply in the context of LoL? Well, based on comments I've seen in this thread and what Riot is probably hinting at a siege mage is a long-ranged caster that spreads his damage out evenly over the course of a fight. This definition may sound obvious, but having a firm definition is incredibly helpful when doing any kind of analysis, so:
A "Siege Mage" is a long-range caster that deals consistent DPS over the course of a teamfight.
Bearing this in mind, we also need to consider something else before we begin to look at possible solutions. Xerath's teamfight DPS is tied inextricably to something arguably more important - his kill potential in lane. Currently, prior to level 6 Xerath doesn't deal a lot of damage in lane and is almost entirely reliant on his ult to secure a kill at level 6 and beyond (jungle ganks obviously notwithstanding). Any changes should, ideally, still allow Xerath to unleash enough burst damage to kill most squishy champions from about half health. Anything less would mean that Xerath simply could not survive in a 1v1 lane, especially against the most popular mid-lane champions.
So, our two criteria for the hypothetical Xerath re-work are as follows:
1. Must be able to spread his damage out over the course of a teamfight
2. Must be able to easily secure kills in lane
With those criteria in mind, let's begin examining some possible solutions:
Originally Posted by Possible Solution #1
"Let's just give his ult an ammo system like Akali! It'll be perfect!"
Courtesy of: Lots of folks who have posted in this thread, and others
So, let's say his new ultimate looked like this:
Arcane Barrage: After 0.35 seconds (old delay) calls down a burst of energy dealing [same damage as it currently deals] to every enemy champion within the blast radius. Every 15 seconds one Arcane Power charge is added to Xerath, up to a maximum of 3 charges. Casting Arcane Barrage removes one stack of Arcane Power.
Why 15 seconds? It's more or less arbitrary, I can admit it. But, envision yourself in the lane outside the enemy base, and both teams are poking each other before a teamfight. Would you hesitate to use an ult blast if it meant you wouldn't get it back for another 25 seconds? What about 20? 15? 10? I settled on 15 because it seems reasonable. Obviously it's subject to tweaking.
Now, an ammo system does sound nice for Xerath's ult, but here's a noteworthy point - it gives Xerath both burst damage AND slightly more sustained teamfight damage. If he has 3 stacks accumulated, his ult will work exactly as it used to - he will be able to nuke the **** out of people in lane, and will be able to insta-nuke carries at the start of teamfights. And even after nuking the carries just like he used to
, he will then get MORE ult bursts as the teamfight goes on. So, Xerath stays the same, except he gets to use his ult more often AND to poke before a teamfight.
How do we fix that? The first thing that comes to mind is to increase regeneration time, but then Xerath's ult will just look like it currently does. In fact, because his ult's cooldown is currently 60 seconds, if the per-charge timer is anything more than 20 seconds he will actually be using his ult LESS OFTEN than he currently does!
The next thing that comes to mind is to increase the delay between ult bursts - if he uses Arcane Barrage, it goes on cooldown for X seconds. Here's the problem - what do you make X so that he can still secure a kill in lane? 1 second? 2 seconds? Can a Xerath player secure a kill with just 1 ult burst, allowing you to make "X" 3 or 4 seconds? To compensate for the lack of burst we would probably have to either
increase the stacks cap to something like 5, or decrease the charge cooldown to like 10-15 seconds.
But, that actually doesn't sound too too bad. So, let's try pressing R like this:
Arcane Barrage: After 0.35 seconds (old delay) calls down a burst of energy dealing [same damage as it currently deals] to every enemy champion within the blast radius. Every 12 seconds one Arcane Power charge is added to Xerath, up to a maximum of 3 charges. Casting Arcane Barrage removes one stack of Arcane Power. If Xerath casts Arcane Barrage it cannot be cast again for 2 seconds.
So, let's see how this would affect Xerath in lane: With a delay of 2 seconds, an E-R combo would function just like it used to and (barring tenacity) the target would be held there for 1.5 seconds. Before the ult nerf every good Xerath player would use an E-R-Q-R-R combo to secure a kill. A lot of the time, the third R actually wasn't necessary (especially if you started the combo in ignite range). So, after you have basically guaranteed hitting the E-R-Q, the target has 0.85 seconds to run/flash/dash out of your range, otherwise they're getting hit by ult burst #2. Remember though - unlike how it currently is or used to be, Xerath can't chain more than 3 spells together. So, from 0:01.5 to 0:02 (when his second ult burst is ready) they aren't sure which way to juke, as no spell is being casted. This second ult burst isn't any harder to dodge, BUT it is more likely that they will be out of range!
Oh, and you can pretty much forget about hitting burst #3 unless you are playing against a brain-dead lemming.
In teamfights? Xerath can't really insta-nuke carries anymore unless the carry has no MR (i.e., they're brain-dead) and the enemy team's healer is either nonexistent or AFK. He always needed the full E-R-Q-R-R to kill an enemy carry, especially if they had any MR or they had a summoner heal or a Janna to shield them or a nidalee to heal them or something. The 3rd R would basically always be necessary to negate the shield/heal and deal the finishing blow. Also, his damage per second is going to be nowhere near it's previous maximum with the 2.5s burst, although in general it will go up, and his total damage over the course of a 12+ second teamfight will go up. That's always helpful, but at the risk of letting the AD carry survive and possibly be healed / instantly lifesteal all their health back?
In all, I feel like an ammo system could definitely work, and I would be open to trying it. As you can probably tell from the above, I really really really like nuking people, so I'm having a hard time detaching myself from that, and let's be honest - if we go to an ammo system, there's no way to make it balanced without removing part of his ability to nuke people. It's just not gonna happen. And, of course, he can still nuke people, just not as hard as he used to and it'll take a little longer. In all it feels kind of "meh" at the moment
Maybe it's about this time that we say you know what, maybe the changes we made to his ult weren't drastic enough. Maybe we reduce the damage it deals and reduce the usage limits (any combination of increase max stacks / decrease usage delay / decrease stack timer). That could certainly work as well. In the interest of not writing a novel I won't give examples of this simply because this post is already getting out of hand. (If anyone wants to create some we can definitely talk about it.)
But wait, there's more! As I was typing this I actually just had a brilliant idea. Quick timeout for a moment, I guess:
One of the most critical skills many people don't have? The ability to find and challenge assumptions. When doing any kind of analysis, you need to realize that certain assumptions need to be made, and often times you make assumptions without realizing it. The ability to find those assumptions and decided whether or not they matter is critically important.
So, what does that have to do with anything? Well, who is to say his damage has to scale linearly? Xerath players are so used to the fact that he is very consistent in damage between level 6 and level 18 that we just take it for granted. In other words, all of the above rests on a critical assumption - that in order to burst someone mid game AND burst someone late game, he needs to use E-R-Q-R or E-R-Q-R-R. However, thanks to the magic of scaling in this game, that doesn't have to be the case!
Imagine this: Xerath gets an ult like in the second example above. He can't really nuke anybody with E-R-Q-R anymore, all he can realistically hit is E-Q-R. But, what if we gave him insane base damages his R, I'm talking like 200 base damage, really really crappy scaling on that spell (like 0.2 AP), and even more passive magic pen on that spell alone (like 50% or 40 flat for that spell alone, but only at at max rank
). What this would mean is that his burst at level 6 two R hits is pretty much exactly the same as it used to be with 3 R hits! So, he retains that laning kill potential. However, in team fights, the poor scaling prevents him from instantly nuking carries, so he's going to want to spread his damage out. The fact that it has massive spell penetration by itself at max rank, however, means that he is still going to be extremely relevant late game.
I like it.
A few notes, now:
1. This post ended up way longer than I thought it would. I guess that's what happens when thinking about this stuff makes you think even more about this stuff.
2. As a result, I'm going to cover other suggestions some other time. Yes, I realize some parts of this post imply that I'm covering multiple solutions now. Well, this took a lot of time, and I'm gonna play some League now. I'll get to other solutions when I get to them.
3. I didn't talk much about how this would work with his W in this post - if anyone wants a long explanation I'll do so, but the long and short of it is, because it would no longer matter exactly when he used his R, he wouldn't have to worry about optimizing the timing of those with his W. In other words, if he's not nuking a carry, it doesn't matter whether he uses the second and third ult blasts 2 seconds into a teamfight or 10, so we don't have to worry about reconciling this ammo system with his W.
An ammo system could definitely work on Xerath
It could likely be made to allow him to win lanes at 6 but still be suited to sustained DPS in teamfights
It would likely require significant changes both to the function AND damages/scaling on his ultimate.