Riot releases a second Season One Blooper Reel

This is a strange bit of news, mostly because Season One is over and done with. Riot released a second Season One Blooper Reel today as a thank you for reaching 260,000 subscribers on YouTube. I had honestly all but forgotten about the first Blooper Reel, though they both made me chuckle. The Nasus gag at the end of this one is definitely cute.

I’m hoping this means there’s a boatload of content around the corner that Riot isn’t quite ready to tease. I can’t really think of another reason to revisit a cute and fun video that ultimately serves very little purpose for a second time. July looks like it will be a big month for LoL news. We should be hearing about Season Two in the very near future, and the August issue of PC Gamer promises a look at 12 upcoming champions. That’s right, 12 – as in six months worth of champion releases all in one place. If I had to guess, I’d say we’re right on the verge of some major changes to the game. Bring it on, Riot.

Champ of the Week: Pirate Power

Minute Man Gangplank.

I was pretty surprised by the number of comments and the magnitude of feeling about Gangplank with my initial Champ of the Week post. He is apparently quite the hot topic, so I’m going to try to handle this as delicately as possible. I want everyone to at least understand where I’m coming from on Gangplank’s design before we discuss the specifics of his changes and why he has suddenly vaulted into the spotlight.

I want to start by saying that Parley is just bad design, plain and simple. It is too spammable, too good for farming, and too random. No skill hits like a Parrrley crit – not even Nidalee’s spear – in the early-mid game and for good reason. That kind of damage output is just silly on such a low-cooldown, low-cost skill. Period.

That said, this patch didn’t make much of a change to Parley. Very little was changed other than his passive, which is certainly strong, but I don’t think that’s the problem. The basic issue, as I see it, is as follows. Gangplank used to suffer from the fact that he had a very strong harass but abysmal damage if you got in his face. His passive was next to worthless, only good against a subset of characters that rely on healing, and honestly, if he was close enough to apply the debuff he was probably dead. Now fighting Gangplank in the early game is basically a DPS race, and it’s one he can often win, thanks to poking harass he’ll have on his target from Parley. It all comes back to the low-cooldown, targeted harassment from Parley.

Enough hate. Gangplank is a blast to play, and it’s because he feels like it’s worth it to engage a target. I think that’s a really good thing. His damage needs some tweaking to be sure, but he’s gone from being a character that was useful every 5 seconds to a champion I actually enjoy trying to set up a kill with, which I consider a huge success. I actually think he is incredibly close to a perfect balance point. He’s still extremely soft, which makes up for his damage output in most cases. I just think Riot needs to tone down his laning against low armor targets a bit.

I’ve tried the jungle thing a few times now and been mostly unimpressed by Executioner’s Calling. I’m sure I’ll have more on that later, but for now, I think he has much better lane presence.

Is the gold-per-10 nerf working?

Jarvan dragon slayer

This latest patch saw a nerf to the gold-per-10 items in the game across the board. The items had become so core to several character builds and proved to be strong enough to merit making the passive gold gain unique to each item type. Does the nerf seem to be working?

In my experience, it’s not. While I see fewer champions taking gold-per-10 items, the champions for whom it was strongest still stack them. I think Jarvan is a perfect example, especially considering the nerf he caught this last patch. Despite the changes to both his skills and the items, I still see Jarvan totally control games, mostly because of the farm he can sustain all throughout the game. I still see him stack a Heart of Gold and a Philosopher’s Stone, too, which gives him incredible lanestay.

I’m not seeing the items on quite so many characters, which I guess is a good thing. Still, I’d like to see the nerfs targeted at the champions the items benefit most. This gets back to an idea that I’ve mentioned before – overpowered mechanics that only the best players can benefit from and overpowered mechanics that everyone makes use of. The gold-per-10 items seem to be that second type. What have you seen since the patch?

Riot previews Leona mechanics

We knew a little bit about Leona thanks to Riot’s presence at E3, but most of that information was speculative, pending some internal playtesting. It looks like the League’s first female tank is nearing completion, so Riot has released a preview of her mechanics.

It sounds like Leona is going to be a crowd control bot – she has a low cooldown stun, a skillshot gap closer, and a defensive stance. She doesn’t have a traditional taunt or positioning skill like Alistar or Rammus, but apparently uses fairly sizable damage to encourage players to either get out of her way or focus skills on her in a fight.

Here’s the official word from Morello:

Leona does this by providing a low-cooldown, low-duration, single-target stun with a skillshot gap-closer to start. After she closes the gap to the enemy, she’ll be performing regular single-target stuns that really disrupt the fight or peel off a target from an ally once a fight has begun. Additionally, she has a defensive stance that allows her to soak up punishment pretty effectively and also discharges a wave of sunlight outward that causes significant damage. This mechanic acts as a sort of “soft taunt” that causes her to have some threat when she’s about to unleash a big chunk of damage, and makes her an attractive target.

Finally, her passive, Sunlight, causes all of Leona’s spells to debuff the target, causing the next attack from an ally to do additional damage. This really encourages Leona to mark high-priority targets and let her set up opportunities for her teammates. Her power increases with the length of the fight, a common tank trait (like Singed’s Poison Trail or Amumu’s Despair, for example).

I’m guessing her ultimate has some sort of channel component, something sort of like a Nunu ult, though maybe more mobile. It would encourage players to save a stun for her or stay out of her range, which pretty much achieves the taunt function. I’m definitely glad to see a pure tank instead of the tanky DPS that has been filling the role. I just hope she doesn’t deal too much damage.

Champ of the Week: Gangplank

Spooky Gangplank.

The latest patch brought another change to Gangplank, a character who has seen more changes in the last month or so than he has in the probably the last year. I really miss the days of Spell Pen Gangplank, back when he used to deal magic damage with Parrrley. Obviously it was problematic in design, but oh so much fun to play.

I’m really happy to see him get a new passive with the latest patch, even if he’s probably a little OP in lane now. Okay, he’s a lot OP in lane, at least against your average matchup. Still, I think it will be cool to take a look at what needs tweaked about his design, why the passive changes make him problematic, and the types of builds he can use to maximize his damage output. I’m especially interested in the latter. A lot of people think it’s Infinity or bust, but I’m a strong believer in Sheen, especially if you’re up against a softer target like Ashe or Lux.

I might take him into the jungle if I have a chance for enough games, but I’m already seeing him banned in the ranked/custom games I’ve been playing, so Jungleplank may get pushed aside. Check back later in the week for more on everyone’s favorite pirate.

FG LoL Mondays are on – 9:30PM EST

FG LoL Mondays

We are once again on for Fearless Gamer League of Legends Mondays. At 9:30PM EST I’ll be firing up some games with anyone who would like to play. Jump into the “Fearless Gamer” chat room in the PvP.net client and we’ll set up some custom matches or head into queue. The last two weeks have been a lot of fun – I’d love to see more people sign on to play.

Jump online around 9:20PM this evening to get in a few games with your fellow readers. Hope to see you tonight!

Champ of the Week: Akali Wrapup

Nurse Akali

I wrapped my Akali Champ of the Week with four losses, none of which made me particularly happy. Two of the games featured serious trolling by my teammates, once in the form of AP Pantheon, once a Singed who intentionally fed. In another, the enemy team had Orianna, Janna, and a hugely farmed Irelia, not to mention a very farmed Gangplank. If I remember correctly, the final game my team had a leaver. In short, it was not a fun way to wrap what had been a mostly enjoyable week, but it did highlight some of Akali’s weaknesses.

I’ll start by saying that I think Akali is almost always a strong pick for a team. She has incredible burst and, provided your teammates can provide a little initiation, she can bring down a carry faster than anyone else in the game. She has a very strong laning phase, thanks to the cover provided by Twilight Shroud and the burst from Mark of the Assassin. With boots at level one, she can almost always get in range to nuke off some enemy health while staying healthy in the cover of Shroud.

That said, she can be countered, but that counter often leaves a team vulnerable to their own counter strategy. Akali does struggle against teams that can mitigate her burst. It isn’t healers – it’s the shielders that give her trouble. Orianna, Lux, Janna and Jarvan can all eat a significant chunk of her burst up front, which means she needs to slowly wear them down over the course of a fight. That’s okay in lane, where there’s plenty of time to set up a kill, but in a teamfight someone else needs to nuke those shields so that Akali can get down to business. If your team can’t do that for you, it’s going to be a tough game.

In my game against Janna, Orianna, and Irelia, there was so much shielding on their melee carry that it was impossible to burn her down. Also, Orianna does quite well against Akali, thanks to the combination of her shields and the AoEs she can use in Twilight Shroud. It takes some very careful play to outlane Orianna.

On the whole, though, I think Akali is among the strongest champions in the game. Once farmed, she absolutely melts anyone with less than 3000 health, and even those targets drop alarmingly fast. If I could change one thing about her, it would be to limit the refresh mechanic on Shadow Dance. As it stands, Akali refreshes her Essence of Shadow every time she gets a kill. I’d like to see it have some sort of activate, something like Master Yi’s Highlander. The skill could refresh Essences only while active, maybe for a period of 15-20 seconds. It would force Akali players to carefully plan an attack, instead of freely dashing all over the map. It would also limit situations in which Akali can get a kill, duck into brush to wait on a Shroud cooldown, and then blow anyone up that comes to find her. She wouldn’t snowball nearly as hard, which I think is exactly the kind of thing she needs.

How many tribunal cases do you judge per day?

When the Tribunal first launched, I was pretty impressed with the whole system. The reports were and still remain easy to read, easy to understand, and it was novel enough to keep me coming back, for a time anyway. Well, that time has passed, but I’ve lost interest in the Tribunal for another reason – I’m not sure I have the same standards as many of the people both reporting and judging cases.

I logged into the Tribunal last week to find a case of reported Verbal Abuse. The chat log was three lines long, with only one word from the player in question. Yes, the reported player said one word that match – “shitbags” – seemingly unrelated to the other chat in game. Without any context, it was impossible for me to punish the guy.

That’s exactly the situation that likely prompted Riot to include multiple matches in each Tribunal case, but what about the players with just a couple matches. I had an Alistar the other day with 3 matches in his case. Now granted, sometimes three cases is plenty to merit a punishment, but those players also typically rack up far more than three cases. I pardoned the guy, but it made me wonder why he was in the Tribunal in the first place. I also had a few cases that were less than clear for punishment. I pardoned, and later found out that I wrongly judged a couple cases. Most of my punish cases are so clear that I can only imagine it was the pardons.

The Tribunal is definitely a cool idea – giving the community a chance to weigh in on behavior management is pretty fascinating – but without a focused, clear definition of what is acceptable and what isn’t, Tribunal cases can take a decent amount of time to judge. Intentional feeding and blatant racism are obviously punishable, but someone saying “shitbags?” There’s a language filter and an ignore function, and I don’t think doling out a ban for something a player can easily avoid makes much sense.

Champ of the Week: g-g-g-godlike

An Akali Champ of the Week is exactly what I needed after the mess that is Mordekaiser. I’ve been spending some good time on the melee ninja, darting around the map and dominating my opponents. Where Mordekaiser felt dependent on my enemies, Akali allows me to focus on my own play. Every fight feels like a puzzle, working out just how hard I can hit an enemy to grab that last hit, refreshing my Essence of Shadow for a dash out from under turret fire and back to safety. I’ve only lost one game with her so far, thanks to a Singed player who thought he needed to troll. I was 20-4.

I have a couple buddies with whom I often chat about game balance. Whenever we’re talking about whether a champion is OP, we always talk about the two tiers of OP. The lower tier is a champion that is godlike in the hands of a skilled and attentive player. The upper tier is champion that any player, regardless of skill, tends to have a good game with. Akali is absolutely lower-tier OP. With even the most moderate farm she becomes a wrecking ball at level six, able to burst down just about anyone that isn’t a true tank. With a little bit of map awareness she can quickly take over a game, cutting down squishy champions and building a massive item farm. Once she has Rylai’s and Lichbane, very little can stop her.

I think I’m going to save the Akali counter discussion for another post. For now, I’ll leave you with my rune and build choices so you can start tearing up Summoner’s Rift. I use the runes pictured above, taking AP quints, 7 physical damage marks and two magic pen., flat armor seals, and flat AP glyphs. The total stat bonus is 6.6 physical damage (rounded to 7), 1.9 MPen, 13 armor, and 24 AP. With the 3 damage from offensive masteries, this gives Akali both her passive bonuses without any items, allowing me to take boots and three pots at level one.

As for build, I now rush Rylai’s exclusively. I tried Gunblade a few times, and though it was fun in the early game against single targets, Rylai’s gives her much more survivability along with a slow on every skill, not just a targeted nuke on a 60-second cooldown. From there, I take Lichbane followed by Deathcap unless I’m having serious survivability problems. As for boots, it’s really up to you. I like Sorcerer’s Boots, but I take Merc Treads often for the added survivability.

Check back this weekend for more on this amazing assassin. I’ll cover the characters that counter her best and some methods for being successful against a tank-heavy team.

Yorick Impressions: He needs that buff

Undertaker Yorick.

I saved my Yorick impression post for late in the evening because I figured Riot would have to weigh in on his current status. Most everyone is claiming that he is horribly underpowered, and for the most part I have to agree. His early game is incredibly lacking and he is highly reliant on a strong team comp to maximize his potential. That said, late in the game with the right comp he does pump out some damage. Riot recognizes his relative weakness and has already stated that he’s going to receive a buff, but we all know that won’t stop me from sharing an opinion or three.

One of the biggest problems I’ve had with Yorick is his damage output from level one to eleven. The burst from his ghouls seems just barely too low, mostly because he doesn’t have the damage to improve them for quite some time. They also die fairly quickly, which isn’t a big problem when they don’t deal much damage but becomes a larger issue in the mid game. I think a mana cost reduction would also help a lot here, and I’m glad to see that Riot is considering that sort of adjustment.

The other major issue plaguing (yeah, I did it) Yorick is the design around his ultimate. Pet design that is based around champion clones feels misguided at the very least. The scaling gets really hard to manage late game and can even be overwhelming in the early game. When a jungler comes around for a gank and Yorick also ults, the 4v2 is frustrating. I haven’t felt outplayed by a Yorick yet, just outnumbered (only by his ult, the ghouls die too fast to really matter), which is pretty boring. Getting outplayed is a good thing – it teaches me how to play better. I wish he had something that felt more skill based.

One of the biggest problems facing Yorick, at least for me, is that he’s following Orianna. I’m starting to realize just how perfect a champion release Orianna was. She’s a blast to play, fairly difficult to pick up, and strong with a quality team around her. She takes more than one game to learn and a whole bunch of games to master, both of which are great things for a champion. Her design makes me want to get better with her, while Yorick’s design just makes me wish he was better. Hopefully the upcoming buff will give him a little boost in the early game.

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