Why do you play ranked?

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I tend to go through bursts in League of Legends wherein I’ll play Ranked Solo for a while, tire of it, and go back to Normal for an extended period of time. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Ranked lately, mostly because I really don’t like blind pick, but I feel like I must be missing something. When I play ranked, I play to win above all else. When I enter that matchmaking queue, I put aside my desire to AP Trist or jungle TF or any of that nonsense and focus on doing what it takes to win the game. From what I’ve seen lately, not everyone plays ranked with winning in mind.

In the past two days, I’ve had teammates who refuse to jungle despite the fact that they’re the only viable jungler on the team, teammates who don’t know how to effectively build champions like Irelia or Ashe, and teammates who actively refuse to buy wards (seriously, I’ve asked people to help me ward and they’ve said no). If you’re going to rush Giant’s Belt on Ashe (yes, I’ve seen it done at 2200 ELO but that’s not what I’m talking about), why are you playing ranked?

I’ve heard the usual excuses – I don’t care about my rating, I’m trolling, I’m trying out a new champion, etc – but aside from the trolling excuse, it just doesn’t make sense. There’s a queue where all of that other stuff is perfectly acceptable. I try to be understanding when people in normal queue tell me they’re playing a champion for the first time. I had a Malzahar a couple weeks back take mid and feed his ass off, only to tell me he’s never played Malzahar. My response: Cool, say something next time and we won’t send you mid. I love trying silly builds and weird junglers in normal queue just as much as the next guy, but I keep it to normal. Call me crazy, but I think entering yourself in the ranked queue means you’re committing to the four other people on your team that you will try your damnedest to win the game, even if it means sacrificing a bit of fun.

What about you? Do you play ranked for the wins or do you just like to watch people squirm when you play AP Caitlyn?

No FG LoL Mondays tonight

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I hate to do it but I’m gonna have to cancel tonight. I’ve got some things to take care of and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it back for games. If I do, I’d still love to play with anyone who reads here. You can always get me in game at “The Wiggin Boy.”

Also, now might be a good time to reassess whether Mondays are the best night for it. I know my own schedule has been a bit erratic of late. If another night works, let me know. If not, we’ll stick with Mondays.

Jarvan ability list announced

Is it just me, or does the splash screen above look like it’s from a totally different game than League of Legends? Well, I promise, that’s Riot’s official Jarvan artwork (here’s the proof). With the artwork we’ve got the official skill list.

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I’m not thrilled about the Jarvan release. He looks an awful lot like another spear wielder. Though his playstyle seems a little different, he does have some basic similarities to Xin Zhao. It looks to me like he’ll occupy the same role as Xin: a carry killer with enough staying power to hang with the tanks. Yikes.

Here’s the list:

Dragon Strike: Jarvan IV’s spear extends through his opponent, dealing physical damage and lowering their armor by a percentage. If this ability is cast on the Demacian flag, it will pull Jarvan through to his Standard, knocking up all enemies in his path.

Golden Aegis: Jarvan IV calls upon the ancient kings of Demacia to shield him from harm and slow surrounding enemies.

Demacian Standard: Passive: Grants Jarvan bonus attack speed and armor. Active: Throws a Demacian flag, dealing physical damage and granting passive benefits to nearby allies.

Cataclysm (Ultimate): Jarvan IV heroically leaps at his target, dealing physical damage and creating a circle of terrain around them for a few seconds.

Martial Cadence (Passive): Jarvan IV exploits his target’s opening, dealing a percentage of the target’s current HP as magic damage. This effect cannot occur on the same target for several seconds.

Looking at his first three skills I’d say Jarvan actually sounds pretty cool. I like the synergy between Dragon Strike and the active on Demacian Standard. I’m a little worried about yet another champion getting a shield, especially when a different skill grants him bonus armor as well. My biggest concern, though, is his ultimate. I’ll have to see it in action to really know how it works, but here are a couple points of concern. First, trapping a carry with a carry killer just seems harsh. Second, what about all the different ways characters can escape from this kind of skill? There are so many dashes, not to mention Flash, that essentially negate the ability. Unless it’s some kind of stun, which sounds like a nightmare, or creates impassable terrain, which sounds like it could be buggy, his ultimate could be extremely conditional.

His passive also gives him the interesting ability to switch between targets and deal big damage. Because it deals a percent of current health, Jarvan is most deadly when switching between high health targets. It’s a weird mechanic, but it could make him much more deadly than similar characters. A champion’s ability to deal big damage to consecutive targets is typically limited by a couple factors: cooldowns or farm, and in some cases mobility. Depending how hard his passive hits, Jarvan’s passive puts him in a unique position for dealing damage to multiple enemies. Again, we’ll have to see how this plays out.

I hate to sound like some harbinger of doom lately, but the design on these kind of big DPS melee champions is a little confusing. Check back on Tuesday for my full impressions.

Blitzcrank legendary skin on the way?

Piltover Customs Blitzcrank.

Riot posted one of the cryptic announcement threads that typically lead to legendary skins this weekend. The post was titled “Blitzcrank Makes the Cover of Mid Lane Magazine.” Obviously, that’s a fake magazine, but the post goes on to describe a Crank skin made by Piltover Heimer.

Here are the details on “Piltover Customs Blitzcrank:”

We took our largest, most gigantic Great Steam Golem down to the Custom Shop to see what the Revered Inventor was really made of. We expected him to be intimidated, but the moment we walked in the door his face lit up. From that moment we knew he was up to the challenge, and we just couldn’t wait to see our old friend Blitzcrank get the royal treatment.

The first thing that we noticed was the finish. Gone were the dings and soot-stains that come from a career of heavy lifting, replaced by a superb paint job that positively emanated speed and performance. A shiny chrome grill glinted in the sunlight, a great compliment to the sleek new exhaust systems.

But the real test was yet to come. We fired it up and the exhaust just roared, giving you that satisfying feeling of a true performance machine. A set of performance tires had replaced the legs, and they gripped the lane for a silky-smooth ride, even when we kicked it into full overdrive.

Our brand new Piltover Customs Blitzcrank hit the mark across the board. If you were still skeptical about whether or not Heimerdinger could live up to his reputation, allow me to put your mind at ease. Take your Golem in for a tune-up today!

With all the model changes and the fact that Riot made a special post about it, you can bet this is probably the legendary Blitzcrank skin. It does sound cool, but I’ll have to see it in game before I decide whether or not to pick it up. I love Blitzcrank, as I may have mentioned, but I already really like Boom Boom Blitz. It would be tough for me to justify buying his legendary unless it’s significantly better than that skin.

How are slimes treating you in 1.3?

Slime troubles.

I’ve enjoyed just about everything in the Minecraft 1.3 update. The new lighting looks awesome, beds work fantastically, even in multiplayer, and I’ve even used the new half blocks on a couple structures. There is one thing that has plagued me to no end: slimes.

Slimes used to be fairly uncommon creatures. They got removed. They got put back in the game but were super rare. The 1.3 update, though, made them extraordinarily common. I had to decommission one of my mob spawners because the design was getting horribly clogged with slimes. The former mob spawner seems to now be a slime spawner. I snapped the image above last night after I noticed my new mob spawner upstairs had slowed. Gee, I wonder why?

I’ve read in several forum threads that slimes are buggy in multiplayer, but I’m hoping we see some sort of hotfix soon. Unfortunately, the entire Mojang team is at GDC right now, so we’ll be waiting at least a couple weeks before any kind of fix can be issued. Are you seeing slimes everywhere or are they a rare sight?

Few champions are as fun as Blitzcrank

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Last week I spent most of my League of Legends games playing Blitzcrank. The Crank, as I lovingly refer to him, has long been one of my favorite champions. I was just getting a handle on Pudge when I started playing LoL, so Blitz seemed liked a natural transition.

There’s been a lot of debate about Blitzcrank’s relative strength in the game, but for my buck, he’s as strong a toon as you could hope to have on your team. Blitzcrank dramatically changes the way the game is played for the people playing against him. The ability to remove an enemy from the safety of his team or turret while simultaneously pulling him into lethal danger is a mechanic no toon in the game can answer. Add to it the fact that he can silence his prey as they come in for a landing and even elusive targets, like Kassadin and Shaco, get turned into cash.

The real key to success with Blitzcrank is encouraging your team to push and push hard. If you can organize a five man rush down mid around level eight, you can cripple the enemy’s ability to farm. That kind of push typically results in a stalemate. Rocket Grab gives your team a massive advantage in that situation. Even if the push stalls, chances are you can pull a couple kills for your own carry while forcing the enemy team to defend a turret instead of farming their jungle or pushing your lanes.

If you’re in a funk or just need someone new to try, give Blitzcrank a shot. Be ready for criticism, though. As fun as it is when you land that hook, it’s also painfully obvious when you miss. For every “lol, bad blitzcrank,” I’ve heard, though, I’ve also seen “gg blitz” or “blitz won that one” in the post-game lobby.

Jarvan IV to join the League next week

Jarvan IV Sneak Peek.Riot has released the champion sneak peek for Jarvan IV, the prince of Demacia who was previously leaked in PC Gamer. There isn’t much official information about him, other than the fact that he wears some thick armor. I’m a little bit worried about his release, to be perfectly honest. Tanky DPS characters tend to make the game very unenjoyable for the softer characters out there. The potential skills PC Gamer previewed make him sound like a 1v1 duelist with high survivability and damage output. That’s not exactly what the game needs.

Here’s what the PC Gamer leak had for his potential ultimate:

Jarvan’s ultimate has him leap into the air and slam down lance-first into an enemy champion within range. Upon impact, an arena springs up from the ground to create a one-on-one duel between Jarvan and his unfortunate nemesis. This sounds like a combination of Pantheon’s and Poppy’s ultimate abilities, although it was undecided if the ultimate will be global or how long the duel would last.

That. Sounds. Terrible. DotA players may remember this sort of skill from Clockwerk, a robot champion that could trap enemy or allied units in a cog prison for some 1v1 action. Though it was pretty fun to play, it was infuriating to play against. If the skill is global, it becomes even worse. I’m really hoping Riot reconsiders this skill.

I’m also curious to see how Jarvan will be differentiated from Xin Zhao. We already have a spear-wielding locomotive of a carry killer. What makes Jarvan different? Keep an eye out this weekend for the official skill list. Hopefully we’ll be playing him by Tuesday.

Vandal Twitch and High Command Katarina skins available

Vandal Twitch and High Command Katarina skins are now available from the store. Somehow I managed to miss the Twitch skin when digging through the data files for unreleased skins, and honestly, I mistook the Kat skin for Buccaneer Kat or whatever it’s called.

I really like the Twitch skin – it’s much better than Vandal Vlad. Kat, on the other hand, seems to suffer from Xin Zhao’s fate. Her skin selection lacks creativity in a big way, with the possible exception of the Kitty Kat skin (though really, who didn’t see that coming). I saw a thread a couple weeks back suggesting School Teacher Kat. She could throw rulers instead of daggers and still keep her sex appeal. Dig up that thread, Riot, and give the player that came up with it some bonus RP.

Minecraft beta 1.3 is live

Minecraft 1.3

As promised, Mojang released the Minecraft beta 1.3 update to the masses today. So far, things seem pretty good. There were some save folder issues for about a half hour after the launch, but Notch quickly patched and things have been running fairly smoothly since. The authentication server does seem to be under some load, but enough about that. Let’s talk changes.

First, lighting. I know you probably thought I would talk about beds first, but that addition pales in comparison to the new lighting engine. Yes, it was available as a mod prior to the release, but it’s really nice to have it built in to the game. Basically, light doesn’t render in blocks now, so surfaces look much smoother. The world looks much, much better. It does seem to have reduced the effectiveness of torches by a little bit. I’ve had mobs spawn in places I’ve not had problems before. Maybe we’re getting close to the lantern update?

Next, of course, is beds. Yes, beds are now in the game, allowing players to “sleep” through the night. I didn’t think beds would work in SMP, but they do, so long as every player gets to a bed. I’m glad to see that SMP is a development priority as I think that’s where the real beauty of Minecraft exists. Come March, beds should also set a players spawn point, which should be another nice addition.

We also got three new half blocks – cobblestone, wood, and sandstone. The update also added a redstone delayer/repeater for those of you redstone geeks.

Overall, it’s a very cool update. I can’t wait to see what the March update brings.

Magma Chamber delayed by the ‘Shiny’ update

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This past week’s patch fueled a surprising outburst of rage, mostly centered on the IP system remake. Of course, any time Riot makes an unpopular decision, the forums explode with demands for Magma Chamber and general unrest. Phreak responded with a fairly lengthy post, covering most of the features Riot has yet to release. It’s not really news, but he did reiterate the fact that Magma Chamber is being delayed until the graphical update, which Riot calls “Shiny,” is released.

In short, that’s a huge bummer. I know that Shiny is meant to improve the graphical experience on both the low and the high end, but it means very little for veteran players. Newcomers might be slightly more impressed, but what we really want is features. I read an article in a digital media class in college about the intersection of graphics and gameplay. Though I can’t find the article, a simple search for “graphics vs gameplay” brings up scads of blog posts, articles, and forum threads dedicated to the discussion, most of which lean in favor of gameplay. That’s no surprise – I think almost everyone could agree that gameplay makes the game. It’s interesting to see developers then go for graphics in many instances.

Now, I don’t really think that’s what Riot is doing. Riot’s growth has been something of an anomaly in the development community, so as a company, they have to focus on the total package experience and getting that total package to as many players as possible. That includes the people playing at the low end of the hardware spectrum. It just sucks that veteran players are still waiting for a compelling feature release, and the thing that’s holding it up is a graphical overhaul.

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