We wanted to write some thoughts up to prepare you for some pretty hefty changes we’ll be experimenting with over the next few patches. In short, here are our goals:
We’re primarily going to talk about the second goal here: getting all champions in League to feel different from each other through unique gameplay in addition to their themes and art.
Every game of League should feel meaningfully different based on the champions in it
Now, some champs already bring their unique brand of play to League. Take Blitzcrank into a game and you’ll heavily affect the way both teams play. Instead of looking for solid initiation, your team will more likely wait for you to pull off a successful pick, while the enemy team will position their frontline in the hope of getting grabbed. And Rocket Grab is just one ability on one champion!
Plenty of other champs have similar impact, from Gnar with his rage meter, to Yasuo with his Wind Wall. But while we succeeded with some, we frankly didn’t with others (such as Darius and Garen) and, when two champs play the same way, you just end up picking the one that does the same things better. The result is the same folks played in every game (unless that power balance shifts), and each game of League feeling similar. That’s one of the main things we wanted to begin solving with this update.
Previously when balancing champs, we’ve occasionally taken the approach of nerfing their strengths so we could buff their weaknesses. We’re not doing that here. Instead, we’re often entirely refocusing each champion’s power so that their highs and lows are both deeper and more differentiated from others in the same role.
Rather than just diving in headfirst and tackling all the champions, our plan is to break them down into groups - tackling champions who share roughly the same strategic or tactical niche as others at the same time. By hitting a handful of champs at a time, we can address a few underserved groups, like the first set that we’ve affectionately referred to as juggernauts.
Caveat: A lot of the following changes may sound like net buffs--and they generally are--but often times we didn't want to only add power, so we've shifted a lot of strength around to more focus these tanky melee carries on offering more unique identities with conditional power built on their range. You'll find more information in the patch notes, but we wanted to highlight our intentions here even if we aren’t going through the full changelist.
Nasus. Darius. Garen. Skarner. When you think brute force, these champions should come to mind: powerful, durable, immobile and melee. They’re League’s hulking titans who, come late game, turn into super tanky carries who’ll pretty much destroy anyone foolish enough to get in their way. The prototypical juggernaut is Nasus, the classic one dog late game wrecking machine. The archetypal raid boss can only do his thing when he’s in melee range, and his lack of gap closer means he often has to rely on allied speed boosts like Sivir’s On The Hunt or well-aimed crowd control like a Morgana binding to get close, but once he does, he unleashes the power of his trademark Siphoning Strike.
When you think brute force, these champions should come to mind: powerful, durable, immobile and melee.
This balance of power and peelability helps keep tanky melee carries in a good state and leads to distinct playstyles that belong to each champion. What we did with this update was we took a look at some of the juggernauts that occupied the same ‘tactical space’ as Nasus (we think there are a few more than these, but settled on four for our first set) and added a little more uniqueness where we could.
Death by my hand
We’ve always thought of Darius as one of League’s strongest cleanup fighters, the pentakill machine who’d outlast his enemies’ attacks before apprehending his wounded enemies and getting his chop on. The problem was, while that fantasy is great, Darius almost never got to do any of it. Either you’d build damage on him and die before it was cleanup time, or build tanky and lack the damage to properly get your dunk on.
With this update, we’re tweaking Hemorrhage and giving the big guy’s passive a new tool: Bloodrage:
Hemorrhage: Darius cuts enemies he attacks, causing them to bleed. Hemorrhage can stack up to five times.
[New] Bloodrage: Whenever Darius executes an enemy with Noxian Guillotine or fully stacks Hemorrhage on a target, he gains Bloodrage for a few seconds. While under the effects of Bloodrage, Darius deals greatly increased physical damage and applies max Hemorrhage stacks to all enemies he hits.
The idea here is to give Darius the means to be Darius. The damage amp upon fully stacking Bloodrage is huge, but he still has to work to get it. Opponents will have to be much more cautious about letting the Hand of Noxus get his passive stacks going - preventing him from gaining stacks means he won’t go into Bloodrage which, in turn, means he’ll have a much harder time chaining his executions together. But when he does… well… there will be pentakills.
Justice, by law, or by sword
Garen’s an interesting champion to work on. He’s League’s preeminent “spin to win” champion, but doesn’t really bring enough uniqueness to the games he’s in. What’s more, when late game comes around, the Might of Demacia turns into the Meek of Demacia and falls off so hard he doesn’t do much other than occasionally tell people - very loudly - where he’s from. We wanted to balance Garen out a little, so we tinkered with his power curve to make him weaker early but stronger come late game, and then added a fancy new passive to the big man’s ult.
[NEW] Passive: Garen identifies the enemy champion with the most recent kills as the enemy team’s Villain. Judgment ticks and basic attacks on the Villain deal an additional 1% of their max Health as true damage.
Active: Garen calls upon the might of Demacia to deal a finishing blow to a targeted enemy. The more health they’re missing, the more damage Demacian Justice will deal. [NEW] Demacian Justice deals true damage to the enemy team’s Villain.
Now Garen has an active and unique role in every game: to destroy any foe, regardless of how tanky they are, so long as they’ve recently killed one of his friends (champions on his team). This isn’t just cool in design terms, it’s also super fitting to his character’s fantasy: now Garen’s a protector of the weak both in and out of game, and has a kit that directly opposes Darius’. This isn’t a static rivalry either - Villainy will adapt as the game progresses, changing Garen’s target as his enemies rise to - and fall from - power.
Fear my sting
Skarner has one of the coolest ultimates in the game and we think that’s A Good Thing, but we also wanted to give him a few more toys to be excited about when kidnapping isn't on the docket. We wanted Skarner to have something truly unique to him - here’s where we ended up:
Whenever Skarner is in a game, six crystal spires appear on the Rift. They’re located by red buff, blue buff, Baron, and Dragon.These crystal spires are capturable, just like the altars on Twisted Treeline. When someone on the lonely scorpion’s team captures a spire, it creates a zone that gives Skarner (only Skarner!) pretty significant boosts to his movement and attack speed. The enemy team can capture them too and, when they do, they gain gold, a short burst of vision, and temporarily lock Skarner out from his super meaningful buffs. That’s the key - with these changes, Skarner becomes a neutral objective control king, and super useful for teams looking to overcome their enemies with buff and map control.
Misery loves company
Last but certainly not least, we took a look at ol’ Morde. Over the years, he’s been a consistently difficult champion to balance thanks to his pretty unique mechanics. League’s very own man of steel is a shielded and manaless AP burst mage who’s super slow, lacks crowd control… and is often played in a solo lane. So, rather than committing to balancing him in a patchwork fashion for the next few years, we decided to try something a little crazy. Here goes…
We’re trying Mordekaiser out as a duo lane juggernaut, intended to step up in lieu of a regular marksmen pick.
Morde’s rework has some pretty unique aspects. For starters, Creeping Death now only deals damage if Morde and his targeted ally stay near each other, a change intended to help entice Morde into duo lanes the way we mentioned. Secondly, even if he’s playing in lane with a support, he’ll earn full experience from any minion he’s able to last hit (support will get their usual half share of xp). This means that Mordekaiser, unless he dies horribly beforehand, will always hit level six way before his lane opponents, and will always have a pretty handy advantage when it comes to bot lane battles and early game dragon contests.
Speaking of dragon, check this out:
Whenever he deals damage specifically to the dragon, Mordekaiser curses it - if his team’s then able to kill it, Morde summons a specter of dragon that follows him around and fights for him. If you’ve ever thought about watching dragon and Baron duke it out... well... now you can.
Obviously these are some pretty significant updates that are, as ever, subject to change, but hopefully we’ve shown you some unique and different angles for the juggernauts we’re looking at and how we’re looking to diversify champs in similar spots. We’ve plans for other tanky melee carries (specifically Shyvana and Olaf), and broader plans beyond that for the entire champion roster. Again, our goal is that every champion in League has specific reasons to be picked, or brings a unique and awesome thing to each game.
There’ll be more info in upcoming patch notes, but in the meantime, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.