LoL: Patch impressions part 1

Desert Trooper Garen.It’s been a crazy week. My sister and brother-in-law were in town for the early week and I had a crazy workday today. Luckily I have the night in, so I’m going to be doing some serious testing with all the changes with the new patch. So far I’ve made some decent progress so I’ll start with those and make another post either late this evening or tomorrow.

First, Katarina. I have to say, I’m impressed by how much improved she feels. She is by no means dominant, but she’s plenty strong if you play smart and safe with a good lanemate. Her early game harass has been slightly improved with the change to KI and the added durability from KI -> Shunpo is really nice. Personally, I think damage is the way to go now. AP just doesn’t scale as well any more and the farm required to get damage to that scary level feels much lower than the AP threshold.

Next up is Nunu. I’ve never been a big Nunu fan, but he feels much stronger than he did. The Blood Boil change is enough to make him an excellent addition to most teams. I was also noticing the Visions change much more than I thought I would. Maybe it was just the team I was against, but I felt better about my contribution to the team than ever before with the Yeti Rider.

Of course I have to talk about Garen. After a few matches I remain on the fence. Building him as a tank can be fun; his W skill makes him next to unkillable in most situations. Unfortunately, tank Garen doesn’t do much damage, and other than the long cooldown on W he doesn’t really have any other tanking skills. I’d still much rather have Shen in the mix. He does deal excellent early game damage, but if you can’t get ahead he can be very frustrating. You pop Judgement waiting for big numbers that never come. There’s also a bit of a bug with his Decisive Strike wherein critical strikes don’t appear to apply the bonus damage from the skill and don’t benefit from critical damage bonuses. In one game I was critting for 500+ with normal strikes and just over 300 with Justice rank 5, which I believe is 120 bonus damage. Something is a little off there. His ult is fine, but it’s really a kill-stealer/finisher, a type of skill that has never impressed me. Mordekaiser’s ult is very similar and provides the added benefit of a pet to go tank towers or last hit creeps and champions.

That’s it for now folks. Feel free to add me at ‘The Wiggin Boy’ for some in-game madness.

LoL: We’re just now getting the MM fixed?

Is matchmaking still dodge worthy?Matchmaking has long been one of the hottest topics of discussion around LoL. For most players I’ve talked to, the system is hit or miss. You’re either paired with a team that does reasonably well usually against a team that’s not so good, or you get the reverse, stuck on a team that has some less than skilled players playing against people that know what they’re doing. In rare (sometimes even not so rare) circumstances, you’ll matched with someone who has no business playing in your games, someone like the level 3 I was matched with just a few days ago.

The Garen patch brought with it a bunch of changes to the matchmaking system, including some optimization for level balance alongside the current ELO balance. There were also some changes made so that 5-man premades would be placed against other full premades more often. While all of this is good, I have to ask, now? We’re just now getting these changes and also getting word of them? Why hasn’t this been a part of the forum discussions for months. No doubt one of the highest contributing factors in the number of forum posts lambasting the matchmaking system is the lack of a Riot response. There was very little indication that these things were being worked on, and the general sense was that it just wouldn’t be fixed.

Now Zileas has stepped forward requesting feedback on the new changes, and he uses language that I think points at some of the design attitude around matchmaking. Take a look at his last point: “4) Any other weirdness that is obviously very bad, not just subjective “this guy really sucked’ type stories.” While a player’s assessment of another’s skill is subjective, there is also some empirical data we can look to for determining whether matchmaking is doing its job. A while back I cited a player who had a significant number of losses in his last 10 games, nearly all of which included stats to support the theory that he’s not a very good player. I’d hardly call that amount of data subjective, and it took me a total of three minutes to discover without any analysis tools.

The bottom line here is this – if you want a more accurate ELO, you need to find four friends you believe to be of similar skill level and premade, premade, premade. Riot’s matchmaking system will never be able to account for individual skill in the midst of unskilled teammates unless it moves to some sort of performance-based system, which is unlikely at best. Until then, its probably best to just keep quiet and enjoy the five to ten percent of your games that turn out to be a decent match.

LoL: Patch day (Garen)

Red Riding Annie and Grandma Warwick.The Garen patch is finally upon us and with it comes a load of changes to both the client and the game system. On the whole, I think this will be one of the better patches for the game, even if Garen is a bit underwhelming.

For starters, we obviously need to cover the new champion, Garen. He’s going to run you 3150 IP or 585 RP so I hope you saved up. It’s a long, slow crawl to 3k for most people. His skill list remains essentially unchanged, which leaves him in a weird sort of melee DPS/hybrid role with very low utility. He’s still highly susceptible to hard CC (stuns/snares) but he does have a slow immunity, which will be nice for chasing. Unfortunately, chasing is usually a bad thing, unless you’re running cleanup after a teamfight, in which case its usually best to just push.

Healing got some massive nerfs this patch. Alistar now has greater self healing by 20 percent at all levels, but his allies will now only receive half the heal value. Ouch. Taric got cooldown and value buffs to his heal, but radiance no longer heals allies. Radiance also costs more mana for both startup and upkeep so you’ll probably have to break out that mana regen rune page if you still want to play him. Rally also got its ally heal removed, though the cooldown came down a full 90 seconds.

Katarina caught a big rework, giving her more base health and some survivability in the form of new Killer Instincts mechanics. The active Shunpo effect now reduces incoming damage by scaling percentage per level, giving her the durability to jump into a fight and ult when it’s actually useful instead of waiting until it’s over like she’s basically had to recently. Killer Instincts now adds a persistent damage buff and the damage ratio on her ultimate got a 10 percent buff. Overall, she should be decent now, though I doubt she’ll be great.

Morgana got some nice cooldown and mana efficiency buffs for her skills as well as the addition of a stacking MR debuff from Tormented Soil. Having played as her and also against her on the TR I can tell you she is truly horrifying. Just pray she doesn’t ever catch you alone.

Shen got reworked a bit, which will hopefully bring him out of the godlike tier on TT. The feint damage block will be excellent, but I think the cooldown increase, duration nerf, and nerf to damage blocked (now 180 at max rank) will be enough to keep him in line. AP Shen may be a bit more viable though. I’ll have to check on his AP ratios and relay what I can after some testing. Stand United also caught a nerf, bringing down the shield value, duration, and removing the refund if the ult is cancelled for some reason.

Other than that most of the changes were fairly small. Nunu got some buffs. Mordekaiser received some shield tweaks. Fiddlesticks got a long overdue nerf. Sion and Rammus got some small efficiency buffs. Tryndamere got a bit of a buff and Jax caught another small nerf (which still isn’t enough).

As for the game on the whole, there are two new items – one for tanks, one for physical damage dealers – and the assist system got a rework for debuffs on the target and buffs to the attacker. It should give support some much needed love. Matchmaking also received some changes to make things a little more smooth. Players should now be matched more appropriately by both level and ELO (it scares me that this wasn’t always the case) and full premades should be facing other premades more often (again, why wasn’t this happening or being discussed?).

Last but not least we got some skins. Garen gets the typical duo treatment, while we have yet another silly skin for Warwick (Grandma), a corresponding Annie skin (Red Riding Hood), and a skin for Sivir. I have to say, I hate Sivir – I think she is one of the most poorly designed toons in the entire game – but the Warrior Princess skin makes her look hotter (yeah, bangs are hot) and the extra armor makes her look kinda badass. If it didn’t cost 975 RP I would totally buy it and potentially right click my way to a huge winning streak with her.

Halo:Reach gets the live action treatment

Skull spartan.More and more video games are turning to live action shorts to serve as commercials in the months leading up to release. Perhaps the most notable was the Halo:ODST trailer last year, but there were also shorts for Assassin’s Creed II, Alan Wake, and Ghost Recon:Future Soldier. We can now add another to the list for Bungie’s latest and last Halo project, Halo:Reach.

The Reach short will debut tomorrow night at 9PM PST. The short, which was directed by Noam Murro, details the story of Carter 259, the Spartan squad leader you’re sent to control for the title’s campaign. More specifically, you’ll get to see how Carter evolved from your average marine into a suited-up badass Covenant killing machine.

Keep an eye on Bungie.net for more updates.

LoL: You gotta have team solidarity

League of Legends champ spread.Now that I’m back to winning, I’ve been able to spend more of my time thinking about game mechanics and less time wondering if it’s possible to set my horrible teammates on fire from great distance using only my mind. In all seriousness, though, when I’m in a losing streak I tend to lose focus on simple things, like paying attention to whether or not my opponent Fiddlesticks’ ultimate is up. I also tend to get super kill-greedy, which is why I’m making this post.

I finally had a chance to play some Arranged Team with two friends and enjoy some time on Twisted Treeline. It went well for the most part, though we did struggle in one game. Our success was largely due to our focus on team solidarity, meaning we were consistently targeting the same target, switching targets to protect one another, and generally playing as a team. It’s one of those things that’s hard to pinpoint when it isn’t working, but feels so damn good when it is.

If you’ve been having trouble stacking up some wins lately, try to get back to teamfighting basics. Always stick with your teammates, and try to position yourself so you can be most effective. For support, that usually means away from the action. DPS and tanks can be in the mix, trying to rip down targets as fast as possible. Whatever you do, though, make sure you move as a team.

LoL: Finally getting some wins

winning_againI promise, guys, I’ll stop bitching about my extended losing streak soon. It’s actually starting to look like things might come around. I had a really nice string of games tonight, highlighted by an exciting Kennen victory in which I picked up a quada-kill. It was good times.

Bitching aside, I am curious what your experience has been lately. For a long while there, and I mean 150 games or so, it seemed like matchmaking was treating me just fine. I was getting the occasional player I thought was probably out of his league, but for the most part games were won or lost based on errors and poor judgement, not a complete lack of skill.

Lately, though, it’s been a wreck. I had my bout with seriously noob teammates who were still level 30, but my experience since has been punctuated by anomalies like a game earlier tonight in which my team’s Warwick had played just 33 games. As someone with approximately 1500 games under my belt, I was more than a little surprised. We dominated that game, pushed to nexus in 20 minutes legitimately, but it still made little sense considering my opponents were all level 30.

A good friend also reported a game on TT recently where he was matched against two level 1 characters, both of which had zero wins. Granted, they were a premade with a friend, but even then, should they be paired up against a guy I regularly play and win with? They were beaten soundly, 13-0 in 18 minutes. That’s hardly even fun for the winning team, much less the losing side.

So how have things been – average, good, or much worse than normal? I know my ELO is headed back in the right direction, but even the matches I’ve won have had their share of what I would call mid-tier/average players on both teams.

LoL: Are the spotlights helpful or misleading?

Phreak owns some noobs.Since Ezreal’s release, Phreak has been taking time out of his busy pwnage schedule to bring the community some Champion Spotlights, short videos aimed at increasing the understanding and visibility of certain, difficult champions. I really enjoyed the first – Ezreal was such a different playstyle that it seemed appropriate to highlight his strengths, particularly when played against good players. We’ve since had spotlights for Shen, Pantheon, Kennen, and now Anivia and I have to say, I’ve been less and less impressed with each subsequent spotlight.

To be fair, I think the Champion Spotlight accomplishes part of the goal – it does good job of detailing the basic mechanics for a hero and offers at least one perspective players can use to build the hero if they’re just learning. The problem, though, is that Phreak’s last several spotlights have been played against far less skilled players, which makes the champions seem godlike if you can just follow a few simple steps. Granted, he never says those words or even alludes to them, but he does talk about the relative “strength” of a champion when he’s sitting on an unstoppable streak or better.

As an example, this most recent Anivia spotlight included a kill montage in which Phreak takes down a Yi with little trouble (anyone surprised?). That Yi player has 179 wins, 159 of which are with Master Yi. That wouldn’t be a hard kill for 80% of the toons in the game. In another scene, Phreak gets an easy kill on a Shaco, who tries to jump him as he recalls. In Phreak’s words, Shaco couldn’t withstand Anivia’s “basic spell combo.” Look at the stats, though. At that point Phreak is legendary and four levels above his opponent. The “basic spell combo” far outranks anything Shaco has, not to mention the well-beyond-basic damage output of a legendary mage with 12 stacks on a Soulstealer.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have a problem with Phreak or his narration. My beef is that these spotlights are supposed to highlight a champion’s abilities for an average game, to display their place in a team. Any champion would looks appealing when they’re legendary and grossly outlevel the opponent.

The even bigger problem, for me anyway, is that I immediately write off any player who plays a toon Phreak has recently spotlighted, particularly if they use Phreak’s build. Is it fair? No, of course not. Is it possible these people are experienced with that given champion? Of course it is. Unfortunately, I keep getting burned and burned badly. I just got out of a game with a Flash/Ignite Anivia who was 2-5-0 and diving into packs of three enemies at a time. He claimed he played Anivia long before the spotlight. Right.

LoL: Still no Garen patch?

Garen looking scary.I’ve been keeping an eye on the announcements forum for a while now, wondering when we’d finally see the server maintenance for the Garen patch. As it turns out, it probably won’t be until next week. There’s still no word, and in case you’re unaware, it’s Friday people. You know they aren’t patching over the weekend.

I’m a little surprised to see such a long wait, but there is a little more to the story. Both Sion and Katarina have been up for remakes for a while now, and it seems both toons are getting at least a little love for this upcoming patch. Katarina’s had a fairly significant rework that should improve her quite a lot, while Sion got some small changes to improve his survivability and mana efficiency in the early game.

If you’re interested in giving the new changes a shot and have a Test Realm account, you should jump on for PTR Fridays tonight. Sadly, I’m out of town so I’m going to miss it. If any of you jump on for the Q&A following tonight’s play session, email me any significant updates and I’ll make sure to credit you in the post that details Shurelia’s responses. You can reach me at jmorgan2 at gmail dot com, or feel free to drop a comment here.

LoL: I won’t play TT without a premade

Leaver stats.A couple weeks back I decided I was going to take a long break from Twisted Treeline. I like the map, but when I wasn’t playing in a full premade the huge variation in game quality was frustrating. One game my team would win in 18 minutes, the next my team would feed for 18 minutes. I assumed people just didn’t know the map and needed more time to learn.

I made my foray back into the winding woods yesterday and quickly remembered why I had quit. My first game had a feeding Nunu so we lost. The next I had the same Nunu on my team, and though we won (which took far too much “can we please group up” from my end) it was a long and arduous process. The next several games were leaver after leaver, feeder after feeder, save the one game in which I was paired with a duo that had beaten me the game before. I got one leaver who had 10% of his wins in leaves. There should be some pretty harsh penalties for that crap.

Despite my long losing streak from a few days back, I had turned things around. I was back up to 68 games above .500 and winning a decent mix. The TT experience took me down to 61 games but created an even bigger problem. My ELO has now dropped to the point that I’m playing with some seriously inexperienced players. My most recent game was host to a TF that was 0-6 at 15 minutes and a Jax that had 8 creep kills by 20 minutes. There is just no way I can possibly carry that game.

I’ll be spending my time in game over the next week or so trying to get my ELO back up in the hopes of playing with some decent teammates once again. It’s been a rough few days.

LoL: A day of comebacks

Highland TryndamereAfter that big string of losses I had to do something to make a comeback. Luckily, a buddy of mine logged in just as I was about to pick up some late night games. We queued up for Summoner’s Rift hoping for the best. It went surprisingly well. Our first game was a nice long back and forth with a pretty solid opponent. We had the AOE advantage, though, and my survivability as Nidalee kept me on top of the kill charts and at the bottom of the death count all game long. It was a long fight, but a good one. Our second game our opponents had a Nidalee DC, so we had an easy victory.

Another friend logged in and we started 3-man queueing, though still on Summoner’s Rift. I thought I recognized one of our teammates as the DC from the previous game. As it turned out, the two just had similar names. We went in rolling Tryndamere, Janna, Blitzcrank, Tristana, Karthus. It was an admittedly strange team, but I’d been wanting to play Trynd ever since I bought his Highland skin earlier in the day.

Things started out rough – our two randoms were feeding pretty hard and one of my buddies couldn’t get traction because his lanemate was dying just about every 3 minutes. We were getting outpushed as well, though I was farming well bottom and getting a few kills. Around the 20-minute mark I was up 7-0, but my team had died something like 12 times with no kills. We were also down four towers.

By 35 minutes things looked grim. Our Karthus was now 1-9, Janna was something similar if not worse, and we were down two inhibitors. I still hadn’t died, though, and was flying high on a good farm with 12 or so kills. We kept trying to defend, and though my team was dying often, we were steadily holding them back. They did get one break and bring down all the inhibitors. From there we decided to just stand and fight at the nexus. They would rush in and beat on a tower until Janna could blow them back and we’d get a few kills. Eventually, though, they brought down both towers.

What I’m about to tell you is a little surreal, and I don’t mean to suggest you can win every game if you just stick it out. Sometimes it’s just lost. For whatever reason, though, we decided to stay and fight. After they killed our second nexus turret, we managed an ace. Obviously we couldn’t push, so it was back to defense and trying to let inhibs respawn. Time after time the other team would roll in and time after time Janna would blow them off nexus and we would somehow manage to ace them (I think my massive farm had something to do with it). Slowly our inhibitors respawned and we kept acing them further and further toward the base. In the final fight, our opponents had to split to protect two lanes that were being pushed by creeps. We killed two of their teammates and pushed straight to nexus for the win. It was one of the most satisfying victories I’ve had (ending 25/0 as Trynd certainly helped).

As much as it hurts to lose those epic fights, it feels just as good to be on the winning side after a long losing streak, which is a big part of my continued enjoyment of this game.

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