Preseason 2015: Forging a Diverse Armory

By Riot Ypherion

It’s preseason, and that means changes to items! When we looked at all of the high-level strategic opportunities in League, some questions arose. Through items, could we follow the same path as objectives in allowing teams to opt into different strategies? Where would the meaningful choices be found? What would they be? Could there be a method to protect yourself against opposing strategies?

Ultimately, the philosophy we’re pursuing with preseason items feeds into the same goal: strategic diversity - increasing the paths to victory your team can take. As such, we want to create and retune items with a specific focus on macro-level value (meaning pre-fight, or out of combat value) over micro-level contributions. If more teams can pick up the items they need to change course in a game (by which we mean switching to split-pushing or sieging through item purchases rather than relying purely on champion composition) we hope to provide the right tools for strategic innovation to prosper in League of Legends.

Diversifying Item Strategies

Many items in League just add champion power with passive stats. This is important because it's one of the key ways teams have to leverage gold advantages. However, in addition to these kinds of items, we think there is room for more strategic items that allow you to support a particular strategy or counter an enemy strategy. By their very nature, these items won't be must-buys every game, but in certain situations they should be very useful.

As we mentioned in the first Preseason Dev Blog, we want to make sure that most team comps can react to specialized strategies brought by the enemy team. In that blog we mentioned an item that would help you engage on a slippery opposing team: enter Righteous Glory. In addition to giving a pile of health / mana / health regeneration, Righteous Glory’s active gives a large movement speed bonus to both its user and nearby allies when moving toward enemies (or enemy turrets!) before emitting a large, high-impact shockwave that slows all nearby enemy champions.

By granting high toward-enemy movement speed (think Vayne’s Night Hunter passive) to your team at the right time, you can quickly position for a fight. Add to that a powerful area-of-effect slow and your ability to force fights becomes formidable against all but the most evasive teams.

We’re also looking at existing items and seeing what we can improve. For example, Ohmwrecker is an interesting item that occupies a unique strategic space but seems a little undertuned relative to its cost. We think Ohmwrecker has the potential to be a powerful tool to fight against teams that are able to endlessly leverage the power of the new inhibitor turrets to stall out games, so we’re re-doing this item (yes, again…) as a pure tank initiation purchase. In addition to granting bonus health, health regen, cooldown reduction, and its active turret disable ability (we’ve upped the duration by 0.5 seconds), Ohmwrecker now builds up to +30% bonus movement speed over 2 seconds when near enemy or ally turrets. This movement speed bonus isn’t cancelled by combat, so whoever owns an Ohmwrecker will be a significant tower diving threat at all times.

It’s worth calling out it’s not only active items getting a pass with strategy in mind. We tuned Warmog’s Armor so it’s a bit less about being an unburstable meat-wall and more of an anti-poke buy. We’ve kept that +1% maximum health per 5 second regeneration, but it’ll triple to regenerating 3% of the holder’s maximum health if they haven’t taken damage within 8 seconds. The intense out-of-combat regen allows for powerful sustain in long standoffs, helping teams adapt against strategies that rely on endless posturing and poking.

These aren’t the only changes incoming, but are solid examples of the design philosophy we’re following. We’re looking forward to seeing their effect on games as players develop strategies and counter-strategies, and we’ll use the early results to inform future changes and new items.

Drink Up Me Hearties! YO HO!

Because consumables are relatively cheap and last a short duration, we thought they were naturally suited to support dynamic strategies. As your team changes strategies, you can also change which consumables you’re buying.

Elixir of Fortitude and Elixir of Brilliance have been replaced by a set of mid/late game consumables:

  • Elixir of Ruin
    • Grants bonus health, bonus damage to towers, and the “Siege Commander” buff
    • Siege Commander: Nearby minions gain bonus damage to towers. Minions also gain movement speed based on your own movement speed.
  • Elixir of Sorcery
    • Grants bonus ability power, mana regeneration, and the “Sorcery” buff
    • Sorcery: Damaging a champion or tower deals bonus true damage. This effect has a cooldown against champions but no cooldown against towers.
  • Elixir of Iron
    • Grants increased size, slow resistances, tenacity, and the “Path of Iron” buff
    • Path of Iron: Moving leaves behind a path that boosts allied champion movement speed
  • Elixir of Wrath
    • Grants bonus attack damage and the “Bloodlust” buff
    • Dealing physical damage to champions heals for a % of the damage dealt. Scoring a kill or assist extends the duration of this Elixir by 30 seconds.

These are more expensive than the Elixirs they’re replacing and you can only have one active at a time. These new Elixirs are primarily a choice of what is most valuable to your team’s strategy. We’ll be watching these carefully to gauge their effect on the game and will react accordingly. The power level and/or effects of these will almost certainly change over time while we all learn what strategic consumables do for League.

Streamlining Reactive Builds

When you’ve just been evaporated by LeBlanc or cut down by Riven you tend to want to adjust your build appropriately by buying Armor or Magic Resist as soon as possible. However, with the current state of items there’s often needless complexity in deciding what to pick up. Depending on the final item you’re going for, you should be building Cloth Armor instead of Chain Vest (Glacial Shroud vs. Warden’s Mail) or Negatron Cloak instead of Null Magic Mantle (Banshee’s Veil vs. Hexdrinker). Depending on how much gold you have on hand, this can force strange decisions around what is ultimately a reactive purchase.

To smooth this out, we’re changing Chain Vest to build out of Cloth Armor and removed Negatron Cloak from the game (replacing it with Null Magic Mantles earlier in item build paths). This makes the “I need Armor NOW” case much cleaner, no matter what final item you’re aiming for with minimal loss of depth in the decision making.

A number of recipes have been tweaked accordingly but overall the power level of these items is largely the same.

Health and Mana Regeneration: Not Just for Early Game!

Making regen a more regulated stat is important for us to be able to properly support and control poke / siege comps (and any other fight / flight comps that players may create) as well as defenses against them. However, it has been historically challenging to create and maintain compelling health / mana regen items in League for two reasons:

First, flat values that are relevant late are super-oppressive when rushed early, and values that are fair early aren’t that interesting in the late game. 50HP/5 if rushed on a first big item would be absurdly powerful but would be interesting later; 10HP/5 is reasonably strong in lane but once you’re a tank with 3500 health, it just doesn’t mean much. Second, flat regen affects all characters equally, making it hard to target on champions where it can be strong and healthy (as opposed to strong and silly-overpowered).

To address the above problems, we’re changing regen items from flat values to percentages of a champion’s stats. The benefits of a design like this are twofold. By having regen scale throughout the game we can create items providing meaningful benefits early while still remaining relevant late. We also get the benefit of being able to tune regen more effectively champion-by-champion, meaning we can focus strong regen items onto champions where they can be powerful and healthy. This’ll be a new balance and tuning point for us, and will almost certainly be a bit wonky at first. We believe that percentage-based regen will ultimately address the problems we’ve had with regen items, but we’ll need to iterate on these significantly with your help.

Iterating Toward a New Season

We’ll be looking to keep exploring this space in the future, so expect more items along these lines and changes to existing items in this vein.

We’ve mentioned this in the previous Dev Blogs, but it probably can’t be said enough: all of these changes are subject to a lot of tweaking which’ll be heavily informed by player feedback and what players are able to do with these new tools. It may happen between now and when they hit live servers and it’ll happen over time as we all learn how to best use items (as well as the jungle, objectives and other areas) to enhance strategic diversity in League of Legends.

4 years ago

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