State of Heimerdinger

Blast Zone Heimerdinger.

Heimerdinger has slowly risen to become one of the champions I see most in-game. Though known for his incredible pushing power, he is also an excellent defender and farmer, giving him the items needed to put out big damage over the course of the game. With yesterday’s grenade buff, I think Heimer is among the strongest support champions, despite his turret vs. tower nerf.

I was pretty shocked to see Heimer catch a little buff. Yes, his turrets deal less damage but he can toss more grenades so his net effect on towers is just about the same. The real key to Heimer is getting a strong early farm and good early magic penetration. Magic penetration, especially early in the game, increases the damage output of your missiles for some nice harass. My personal preference is to max turrets and missiles side by side and stand well back behind my creeps so that should my opponent come to harass they catch a missile in the face.

Heimer is strong in teamfights because he gives his team control over positioning. What could have been a successful chase through the woods quickly turns into death for you or multiple teammates if Heimer comes to back up his teammate. The slow from turrets is great CC and the heal his ultimate provides can keep a push alive. In short, Heimer is one of the most frustrating characters to play against if played well.

Phreak dropped into a recent forum thread to say they (the devs) aren’t quite done with Heimer. He specifically calls out the Heimer vs towers situation, which is really the worst of it. If his team has good ranged harass, he’ll stand by and lob grenades until your towers are gone and there’s precious little you can do about it.

Heimer is unique because he gets to play a different game than everyone else. While not quite the micro fun of a Chen or Meepo from DotA, he still has big control over the positioning of teamfights and the lane creeps. If you’re playing Heimer right now, enjoy your day in the sun. It won’t last forever.

Painful reminders that Riot is young, still growing too fast

Evelynn is dodge-worthy.

Today we got another patch, this one full of bug fixes and small tweaks to existing characters. It also brought some painful reminders that Riot is still a very young company and growing to fast to handle its exploding community.

I’ve written a lot, both here and on the official forums, about the queue dodge penalty system. It sucks. It doesn’t work. People still dodge and troll and do whatever they can to avoid playing with certain players or champions or whatever. This most recent patch actually increased increased the queue dodge penalty. Instead of rewording things, I’ll copy my thoughts from a forum thread I created today.

No one likes to get queue dodged. It sucks. Adding a penalty doesn’t encourage players not to queue dodge, though. It encourages people to attempt to force a teammate to queue dodge. Increasing the time penalty will only make this problem worse.

The whole point of the penalty was to encourage players to make an informed decision about whether or not to drop queue. An informed decision shouldn’t force you to always make a bad decision. I don’t want to join a game with an AFK player or a player who chooses revive/smite Eve and threatens to feed if he doesn’t get mid solo. I also don’t want to wait six or a ridiculous fifteen minutes for another game while that player gets dumped right back into queue.

And let’s say I actually start the game and our friend leaves or goes AFK or feeds or any number of things trolls do just to get to the next game – what’s the penalty for that player? He has effectively ruined the game for 9 other people and in most cases wasted at least 25 minutes of time for 9 players. Even if he leaves it doesn’t count against him in any fashion whatsoever. He gets a leaver mark that can’t be seen until he has likely already ruined a game? That’s like covering up the scarlet letter until Hester Prynne has nailed every married man in town and then telling their wives they should have seen it coming.

Get rid of the queue dodge penalty. It didn’t fix anything when the penalty was two and ten minutes. It made the game creation process much, much worse. I realize the queue dodge system sucks but this little band-aid won’t stop the bleeding. Figure out something new (new lobby system, perhaps?) that will actually address the problem.

In short, the dodge penalty is not doing its job – improving the game experience by reducing dodged games. It’s actually making things worse by incentivizing players to troll, which is terrible for a community.

The reason I think this all points to Riot’s immaturity as a company is that they’ve remained quiet about it, responding to few if any of the posts regarding the dodge problem, and there are a lot of them (posts). Riot is trying to force this system, which is a crap solution, to work when it just doesn’t, instead of implementing a new lobby system or some other player management system that accounts for things like dodging and leaving.

Granted, they might be working on something, but the dodging has been an issue for months. I wrote about my first experience with the queue dodge penalty back in February. The development cycle for these kinds of fixes is way too long, most likely because Riot is understaffed, so the company comes up with these bandages when what they really need is surgery.

Thankfully the community has started to turn around. When the queue dodge system first came out, anyone willing to speak out against it was downvoted into oblivion. Players are starting to realize, though, that the current system sucks and it really needs to be fixed. There’s a lot of support in the forums for reverting the change. Even if the old system wasn’t any better, it certainly wasn’t this bad.

Get on the forums and show some support.

Is character balance the real matchmaking problem?

Shaco.

I had this thought the other day when I got into a game with a Shaco player. That’s not really a story in and of itself – Shaco is appearing in almost every game since Zileas labeled him OP. The story is more in the way this Shaco decided to play.

Like most Shaco players, ours ran off to golem first thing to set himself up for the rest of the game. He was packing Smite, so I figured he’d spend a little time in the jungle and then, as most Shaco (and most jungle) players tend to do, hit up the lane that was pushed furthest for some early game killing. That wasn’t the case. Despite my pleading (and explanations that our lanes were suffering/being pushed and really needed to be ganked), Shaco continued jungling and only offered a phrase that completely blew my mind: “The fucking point of jungle Shaco is not to gank.”

I…was…floored. I understand that the primary advantage of a jungler is the exp. bonus for a teammate, but the secondary – and only secondary by a tiny margin – advantage is the element of surprise and opportunity to gank in any lane, thereby increasing the experience given to the ganked lane as well. My first reaction was, wow, I should not be paired with a player who so fundamentally misunderstands the game. I realized, though, that this could just as easily be a result of Shaco’s imbalance as it is the player’s ignorance.

I don’t know what your hero spread looks like, but mine is pretty wide. I play a lot of different champions, despite the bursts of new champions around patch time. I don’t think that’s the case for a lot of players, though, and I definitely don’t think that’t the case for the Shaco player in question.

This guy clearly misunderstood Shaco on a level that only someone fairly new to Shaco would. If he had been playing, say, Ashe – one of the strongest characters in the game – he could easily storm his way to a bunch of wins. That doesn’t make him good at the game, though. That makes him good at playing Ashe. The problem is that when he tries to transition to a toon like Shaco, most of his skills are lost. There isn’t the same kiting, the stun, the range advantage, the necessity to stay and farm. The game is almost entirely different, but the average player might not have that understanding about that game.

When I first started playing LoL I really liked that you could slowly build up and unlock champions. I’m starting to realize, though, that the champion unlocks coupled with the rune system means that most players will choose just a small number of champions to master and then fill out their rune pages accordingly. I actually played with a guy the other day that didn’t know Nidalee’s cat form skills don’t cost mana.

I would blame this on the character selection system, but I don’t think it would really be a problem if the characters were more balanced. Players would be less likely to change to a perceived OP toon and more likely to choose toons that they truly enjoy rather than the flavor of the month champions. Granted, not every toon can be balanced with every other toon, but when toons like Ashe and Ezreal stand as high above the pack as they have, it keeps players from being as widely familiar with the game as they could be, if only because the potentially or probably successful champion list is shorter than it could be.

More patch impressions

Spooky Gangplank.

This patch included a lot of changes, so I’ve been taking my time playing through the various champion tweaks and remakes to get a good sense of where everyone stands.

Outside Kog’Maw, I’ve spent most of my post-patch game time on Ashe, getting a feel for just how much Hawkshot would change the game. It will. A lot. I can’t believe she gets a free CV on a 60 second cooldown. Just unbelievable.

I’ve also been playing a bit of Morgana to test out the Dark Binding changes. I really like having the damage upfront. It doesn’t change the fact that her ult is totally cleansable, which sucks, but it’s nice to have a bit of burst for a last hit and some lane damage.

I played one game as Gangplank and remembered right away what I don’t like about a lot of melee toons – they have no way to close the gap. Toons like Jax and Pantheon have leaps to get on top of the target. Hell, even Yi has Alpha Strike. Without a similar skill, melee just takes an eternity to farm to the point that they can be useful. Even with the Raise Morale changes I found it extremely difficult to contribute against Kog’Maw, Ezreal, Pantheon, Kaiser, and Shaco.

Pantheon is still crazy strong, as I mentioned in a post about Shurelia’s Q&A. Heartseeker damage is so high and so hard to avoid that it’s easy to get him rolling early. From there you just need to pick your battles wisely and it’s pretty easy to get a win. He still struggles against tanky teams because his DPS won’t outscale their health in the late game, but if you get a good enough farm in the first 20 minutes or so, the game won’t be lasting much longer.

The only major rework I haven’t messed with is Veigar. He’s still ultra-squishy with low mobility, putting him about the bottom of my barrel.

Shurelia answers your burning questions

Kayle.

I’ve always respected Shurelia for her community presence. She’s highly active in the forums and willing to admit when the community has offered up suggestions the Riot staff hasn’t considered. She’s started a thread in the General Discussion forums answering questions that typically get posted after a patch (why is so-and-so OP now, wtf are these changes, are you kidding me Riot, etc.).

Among the most notable of her answers are that Pantheon is fine, it’s just that he does extremely well against unorganized teams. There is talk of making him into more of a Spear Shot champion over Heartseeker, but from the sound of the post Heartseeker would still remain strong. I can’t really disagree more here. I think Heartseeker does way to much damage and is entirely too hard to avoid. Yes, it makes Pantheon vulnerable, but the only way to get away from it is Cleanse/sidestep or Flash. Other than that, you’re getting hit for half your health or more. It’s infuriating to lane against if you don’t have a hard stun or a silence, and even then it can be easy to stun too soon or too late.

Malzahar is also having a new mechanic built into his ult called suppression. Suppression keeps you from doing anything, including casting summoner spells. Shurelia says it will no longer stun, but you can’t move, cast, attack, or use summoner abilities. Sounds like a stun to me. It also sounds really crappy. I know it’s not fun to see your ult cleansed but it’s also pretty lame to go from full to dead in one ability (see Pantheon…). Quicksilver Sash will be the only way to get out of the ult. The same mechanic is being considered for Warwick. If this goes live, I hope to god they remake Quicksilver. It’s a decent item, but it’s way too expensive to justify in most situations for what it provides. The people who really need the item will be carries, who already have trouble scaling if they don’t get a good early farm. They’ll have to do something to balance this thing.

Last, Kayle’s ult will likely be going to an even shorter cooldown, but with a shorter duration as well. The reasoning is that it’s easier to CC a target for three seconds versus five, which is true, but if a carry takes Cleanse and has Kayle it will still be infuriating to play against. I don’t buy that 3 seconds is an easy CC even if the target has Cleanse as Shurelia suggests.

The rest of her answers have much less significant impact on the game but would probably still be of interest to anyone who follows game balance closely.

Rise of the initiators [metagame]

Ashe.

The Kog’Maw patch brought with it two skills that make ganking much more difficult than it has been in the past – Hawkshot and Living Artillery. Both skills grant vision of nearby areas, including brush, making the bait-to-buff ganks much more difficult to pull off. As long as Kog’Maw is new, and Ashe is in basically every game, these skill will be so prevalent that they will tip the game to favor the teams with the best initiators.

Prior to the Hawkshot/Living Artillery, the only other skills that provided this utility were Twisted Fate’s ultimate and the summoner skill Clairvoyance. Now, though, you can bet those skills will be in every game. When Season One finally drops, I’ll be begging my teams to ban Ashe in every game, mostly for Hawkshot. To me it seems a little crazy that you would give one of the strongest carries in the game such a great skill. Kog’Maw’s is weaker, but still great for scouting before you rush into a dangerous situation.

I’ve already noticed the average length of my games going up because of these skills. Teams that are short on initiation are forced to the woods to try for ganks. The reveals start and both teams dance away from each other, waiting for the other to make a mistake. The standoff is insanely boring and prolongs what could otherwise be an exciting situation/game.

I do appreciate the attempt to move the game away from poking, but the move has taken the game beyond poking range to a standoff in which everyone waits for the reveals to wear off and the best initiator tends to win the fight.

Kog’Maw Impressions

Caterpillar Kog'Maw.

As with every new patch, I’ve been spending my time in game playing with the new features and the new champion, Kog’Maw. From what I’ve seen so far, Kog’Maw is a heavy-hitter with an excellent chase ability whose balance lies in his slow movement speed and low damage resilience. Oh, he’s also a load of fun.

I started out a little unsure how to build Kog’Maw, but after seeing the incredible range granted by his Bio-Arcane Barrage it seemed like attack damage would be great. I’ve spent most of my games since playing AD builds so most of these impressions will be about his position as an attack damage character. There are definitely some situations in which hybrid is probably best, and I’ll cover some of those in another post.

I think Kog’Maw’s great advantage is his ability to deal heavy damage from range. With just a little bit of attack damage and the percentage based buff from Bio-Arcane Barrage you can deal heavy damage from long range. I’m a personal fan of rushing an Infinity to get your early damage up nice and high. My basic method is to position myself lateral to the target and either hit him directly with my slow or land it behind him. From there I attack with regular attacks, using my ultimate for vision if the target runs into brush. It’s important that you save the active on Bio-Arcane for when your target is leaving. A combination of long-range shots and your ultimate should be plenty to finish off a running target. Always make sure you lead the target by just a hair. The blast radius of Living Artillery is big enough that you can miss behind your target. That’s important because it makes it that much harder to avoid for your target.

For teamfighting, Kog’Maw has to stay as far away from the fight as possible. He is extremely squishy, and while your passive can be nice in the midst of a fight, it’s not nearly as effective as your regular damage output. Another thing to remember is not to spam your artillery, at least not when you’re starting a fight. You need that mana for your percentage based damage and your slow (which is a fantastic control mechanism for any fight). Save the mortars, which get costly after a few casts, for chasing down anyone that runs or dropping on compact groups of enemies.

Overall, Kog’Maw is a very strong carry – among the strongest in the game – but he is so squishy and so easily killed that you need to have a strong team in front of you, and more specifically a team with good croud control. It’s very easy for your opponent to rip you down if they get close, so you need a team that can keep you out of trouble. If you have that, you’ll have a blast playing the newest creature from the Void.

Patch rolls out, server set to ‘Busy’ all day

Server Busy.

If you tried to log in yesterday, chances are you were met by a menacing image of Blitzcrank before you even logged in. Shortly after the patch went live, Riot had to set the server to ‘Busy’ to manage the traffic when the servers popped up.

That’s how things stayed for the rest of the day. I followed the Server Status forums hoping for a fix, but nothing came until 1AM EST when they shut the servers down for a full restart. Yesterday also marked the first time I’ve seen Riot completely shut down a matchmaking queue. I wasn’t able to queue for 5v5s for a couple hours, which meant queueing in 3s with a pack of players unfamiliar with the map. It was…interesting. I actually saw something other than the usual 5-8 characters on that map, so that was kind of nice.

Everything seem to be working properly today, though, which is good. Can you imagine the backlash if servers were down for the two days directly after a patch?

LoL: Patch Day 06/24 – Kog’Maw

Kog'Maw.

The servers are back up (and set to busy to throttle traffic) and Kog’Maw has finally made his way into the League of Legends store at a whopping 6300 IP. I’ve been dying to give this little monster a go and I’m hoping he’s a solid addition to the champion lineup. Healing has also gone through yet more changes so the game will hopefully feel a bit less like a kite fest.

As always, new champ first. Kog’Maw is really frackin cool. His skillset is actually pretty nice, and makes him extremely adept at tearing people down from great range. I think I really surprised the Veigar I faced in my first game when suddenly he was at 20% health at his turret and all of my damage had been done from extreme range. I have a feeling he will be infuriating to play against, much like a well played Ezreal. I’ll have a full impressions post up later today.

Ashe finally got her Hawkshot, so look forward to seeing her in even more of your games. I can’t imagine why they thought one of the strongest characters in the game needed to have the best map awareness in the game. It’s on a long cooldown, but it’s like having free wards with a huge radius. Her other skills did catch some minor nerfs, so hopefully it won’t be too ugly.

Gangplank got a bit of a buff. His Parley can no longer be dodged or blinded and his Raise Morale now grants additional attack damage instead of attack speed (though I’d imagine the active buff will still be speed). His ultimate has also been changed so that each individual cannon ball deals less damage but the radius (of the cannonballs, not the ult) has been increased so you should see more hit.

Pantheon’s Heartseeker Strike has been both fixed and modified. It should deal less damage in the early game but with itemization it could actually deal about the same, which seems fine. I never had a problem with it past level 11, it was the level one 400+ damage nuke that killed me. His spear also received a bit of a buff, which could make him just as scary in the early game.

Veigar is the last of the major reworks. He got a new passive, which is half of a Chalice for mana regen. He also now gains ability power for any champion killed by an ability. Event Horizon got some mana and cooldown tweaks, but the biggest change is to his ult. It no longer deals damage based on mana but instead takes the sum of his own AP plus the targets and deals 80 percent of that value in bonus damage. It also no longer refunds mana on kill.

Among other, smaller tweaks, Blitzcrank’s ultimate now silences for .5 seconds. I don’t know if that includes the passive, but certainly on active. Morgana’s Dark Binding now deals damage like a nuke, which should help with her damage output in the prevalence of Mercury’s Treads/Cleanse. Akali’s attack timing has been fixed and Corki should more consistently generate rockets and now has a counter to indicate the “Big One” rocket. Shaco’s Jack in the Boxes should also be fixed for targeting and the visibility bug. Kayle also caught a few damage nerfs but a reduction on her ultimate CD at level one and two down to 90 seconds.

As for healing, Soraka’s ult has been significantly nerfed, both in the amount healed and her AP ratio. Ezreal’s heal has been completely removed and his attack speed buff/debuff has been significantly reduced. It should bring him a bit more in-line, though he still has obscene attack range/harassment ability. Innervating locket also no longer heals minions.

I’m a little sad to see that Janna didn’t receive any significant changes. She is crazy out of line when it comes to kiting and harassing, and though her knockup has a 33 percent shorter duration, she still has too many escape tools to be considered truly balanced.

I’m sure you’ll see more posts throughout the week on this patch and the new champion. So far I’ve only had one game with him but it was a lot of fun.

Kog’Maw releases tomorrow

Kog'Maw, Mouth of the Abyss.

The champion spotlight video is officially up for Kog’Maw, as are the patch notes for a patch tomorrow morning. This one includes the new champion, a pretty large batch of skins, and some decent healing nerfs (though unfortunately Janna remains almost completely unchanged).

After watching the Kog’Maw video I can tell you my impressions about him were way off. He seems to be a hybrid caster with skills for armor penetration. It’s a weird mix, and I wonder if he won’t lose some damage in the confusion or just be too strong in one direction or the other. His ultimate actually looks pretty cool – it’s a mortar style spell, much like Veigar’s Dark Matter though it can be cast from a long ways off.

As always, I’ll have full impressions for you in the morning.

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