Does LoL need an ‘easy mode?’

Easy Button.

I have a couple good friends that I frequently join up with to play Twisted Treeline. It’s not a perfect experience by any means, but it allows us to play a draft mode together and the games are relatively short. The best part about TT is definitely game length, but the map leaves an awful lot to be desired in terms of balance.

The time issue actually carries over to Summoner’s Rift for me. I rarely queue for 5v5 unless I know I have an hour to spend and even 3s can take 40 minutes if the game goes long. That’s a pretty long chunk of time to commit to a game, especially if it ends up being a loss. I’m sure we’ve all had games that are going so poorly that there’s no hope of victory but teammates hang on and refuse to surrender. Those types of games make me long for a quicker experience.

DotA had an “easy mode” toggle that could be used with each gametype, granting bonus gold per second and I believe extra gold for towers. It increased the pace of the game by allowing players to passively reach a level of farm more quickly, similar to the way Twisted Treeline generates per-second gold faster than Summoner’s Rift. I actually think it would be cool to have an “easy mode” playlist in League of Legends, a mode in which the XP and gold rewards were tuned so that 30 minutes looked like 70 minutes does now.

That mode wouldn’t work very well on Twisted Treeline. The 3v3 map just snowballs out of hand far too quickly. Games would likely be decided by the first fight (and in some cases, they still are). For Summoner’s Rift, though, I think it would give casual players more opportunity to fire up a game while the baby’s napping, in between classes, or just before heading to bed. Speaking of which…

Champ of the Week: Early Malzahar impressions

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I got to play a few games over the holiday weekend with this week’s Champ of the Week, Malzahar, and I’ve been having a really good time. Malzahar is an incredible farmer, and when left alone for too long, he becomes an incredible pusher as well.

My basic strategy to this point has been simple: build enough survivability to get by and then stack up mass amounts of AP. In about half of the games I’ve picked up a Rod of Ages early (12 minutes in one case) and moved to Deathcap from there, but in others I’ve been less worried about the health stack and just picked up Catalyst before moving on. I’ve had roughly equal success both ways – the basic lesson seems to be ‘don’t overdue the survivability.’

I had sort of forgotten the massive buffs Malzahar received since his release. The last time I gave him any serious attention his ult could be Cleansed, it had a much shorter range, and it didn’t have the suppression bonus. Those changes have given Malzahar the ability to fight at great distance with devastating power.

If I’m having trouble with one thing, it’s remembering to keep my Malefic Visions up in team fights. The cooldown gets very short with a golem buff or enough CDR, making it totally feasible to have a couple spells ticking at the same time. I’m slowly improving on that, though.

I’m really curious where Deathfire Grasp could fit in a Malzahar build. I don’t know that it’s any more efficient than a raw AP stack, but the active and the extra cooldown reduction could be interesting with enough AP. I think I underuse Deathfire, even though it is one of my favorite items in the game. If I can get ahead of the enemy farm and pick one up, it’s an almost Veigar-style insurance that one of my enemies won’t get to participate.

Check back later in the week for more Malzahar impressions.

The E-Sports sportmanship problem

Over the weekend Riot set quite a few E-sports records with its Season One Dreamhack qualifiers, the most notable of which is likely the 60,000+ viewers that tuned in for the qualifying matches. It was a clear marker of the popularity of E-sports in North America, not to mention League of Legends as a game.

There was an ugly side to the proceedings as well. The whole tournament started under the drama umbrella that is Couter Logic Gaming and Team SoloMid. If ever you needed evidence of the age demographic of competitive gamers, just read a few threads between these two teams and their supporters. It won’t be interesting, I promise. It will be full of petty insults and the kind of high-school-grade trash you’re probably reading so often in the Tribunal.

I think I was fortunate to hit my competitive gaming peak before any of these big tournaments got popular. The Halo 1 competitive scene was remarkably friendly, and I spent loads of time on message boards working out reload mechanics and powerup spawn times with the same guys I was playing against. We were all in love with the game and, frankly, stakes were pretty low. I was never up for $100,000. I think the biggest prize package I was ever competing for was a flat CRT TV (yeah, that’s right – like a bulky TV with a flat screen), a new Xbox, and a copy of Halo. Sure, it was nice, but it wasn’t going to make my life dramatically different (and I was playing against the Ogres, so…).

As the competitive scene gains ground, the prizes have ratcheted up, which seems to somehow inversely proportional to player attitudes. Jon Tran at Top Tier Tactics put together an awesome piece about the effect player attitudes is having not only on competitive gaming but on the form’s mainstream acceptance. It is absolutely worth the read, but the basic gist is this: competitive gaming has a mainstream ceiling until players can learn to respect one another.

If you want proof, consider Grackis. He is one of the most infamous LoL players, mostly for his insane fits of rage, but also for his skill. He was recently asked to commentate a competitive match at NESL and the LoL community went batty with indignation. If the very community playing the game doesn’t want this guy casting because of his bad behavior, do you think the gaming community at large wants to hear him rage?

Of course not. In fact, I’m willing to bet the only reason people pay attention to any of the high tier players is because of the desire to be those players. They are the masters of the craft, so people are willing to take a little abuse if it means learning at the feet of people like HotshotGG. Unfortunately, exposure to the kind of “lol ur bad, kid” has infected most competitive gaming communities to the point that they’re nearly unbearable to be a part of. Review a few Tribunal cases and you’ll know what I mean.

I’m hoping things improve, but as long as we continue to offer up celebrity status to players with an attitude, I think it will be quite some time before there’s a shift in tone.

Champ of the Week: Malzahar

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The more I play League of Legends lately the more I’ve fallen in love with AP characters. There’s something so satisfying about using a skillset to melt opponents that doesn’t quite translate in the auto attack kills of physical carries. Every team in the Dreamhack qualifiers relied on an AP champion for the utility, control and incredible burst potential those champions offer. This week, I’ll be playing a champion that has long frustrated me as an opponent, one that I have rarely played at length, and a champion that many believe to be underrepresented This week, I’ll be playing Malzahar for my Champ of the Week.

I’ve always been frustrated to play against Malzahar, largely because it’s so hard to shut down his farm. He’s not particularly deadly at early levels, he’s just super deadly to minions and has nearly infinite mana thanks to the kill bonus on Malefic Visions. Malzahar can also melt champions like no other, thanks to the percentage based damage of Null Zone. When coupled with AoE CC like Amumu or even Jarvan, Null Zone absolutely shreds the enemy. To round out the kit, Malz has an AoE silence and a pet for extra damage. Malzahar punishes enemy mistakes with devastating efficiency and provides both push and anti-push to his own team. In short, he’s a great pick.

I’ll be focusing on build order, Summoner Spell selection, and relative power on low-CC teams. Obviously Malzahar shines when his targets are held in place, but how well can he perform in less than ideal circumstances? My guess is extremely well. I think it’s safe to say that the only caster I fear more than Malzahar is Anivia.

Champ of the Week: Teemo Wrapup

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The Teemo champ of the week has been one of the toughest yet. Teemo is missing a lot of the mobility and survivability that other champions have, not to mention that he has one of the weakest passives in the game. He can still have an excellent early game, though, as long as you’re willing to play carefully.

I started the week trying to tweak my typical Teemo build to take advantage of Trinity Force and Wit’s End. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of gold to put toward items that best augment a naturally high attack damage or a naturally higher attack speed. Teemo’s poison certainly gives him a lot of damage, but it adds magic damage to each shot, both when the attack lands and in the damage over time. For that reason, Malady/Bloodrazor seem to be the best way to go, with a little survivability as you need it. I’m not typically a fan of Frozen Mallet, but it really is a solid item for Teemo if you don’t need a Banshee’s Veil.

The strangest thing about Teemo is his secret taunt passive. For whatever reason, players love to kill Teemo. Even in fights in which I thought I was second or even third priority, I often found myself getting focused immediately. In a weird way, this can absolutely help your team. Teemo’s damage output is great once he’s farmed, but depending on map position, taking the priority off your carries can be effective.

For the most part, I think Teemo is in a pretty good place. He needs a team with enough crowd control/peel to help keep him alive, a favor he can return with the exceptional map control offered by his mushrooms. If I could change one thing about Teemo it would definitely be his passive. His passive has essentially one use and one use only: level 1 harassment. It can be helpful when setting up a teamfight, but unless you’re well ahead of your opponent, it usually doesn’t make sense to stand still long enough to take advantage of the passive. I’d like to see him get some sort of damage or utility, potentially giving him the survivability to make it into the jungle. My few attempts to counter jungle were met with almost immediate failure. Counter junglers really need to be able to control creeps, not champions, and Teemo just doesn’t have that power early in the game.

Stay tuned later today for this coming week’s Champ of the Week.

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