LeBlanc impressions

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A good friend of mine has long been in love with Kassadin. He loves the playstyle, but he really hates Kassadin’s early game. You know, that long, slow period before you hit level six and really get to have some fun.

We spend a lot of time talking about game design and champion design and what could be done differently. For Kassadin, we often return to the idea that his ult should be one of his three main skills, giving him the ability to blink earlier in the game, albeit with some reduced effectiveness.

Enter LeBlanc. LeBlanc is the kind of toon design that rubs me the wrong way because it borrows an existing paradigm and vastly improves upon it. Every game I played Leblanc I was shocked by how much she feels like Kassadin. Granted, she can’t teleport quite as far, but I think she makes up for it with her insane burst and the added control from her Ethereal Chains. In fact, I played Kassadin against a LeBlanc and got schooled during the laning phase for a couple reasons.

First, she’s ranged. It’s a huge farming advantage against a melee toon like Kassadin because it keeps her at a safe distance. If Kassadin wants to farm, he can either last hit with Null Sphere at the cost of mana, or he can get into melee range and get his ass handed to him. The LeBlanc Sigil -> Distortion combo is nasty against melee toons if done right, and unfortunately, Kassadin is a melee toon.

The thing is, LeBlanc is a lot of fun to play. She’s highly mobile, and it feels great to land your combo perfectly. It makes me sad that they haven’t put more effort into Kassadin’s design because they are so similar, but LeBlanc is just a stronger toon.

As much fun as LeBlanc is, I think Riot dropped the ball in a couple places with her design. First, the fact that she can blink to a location, deal big damage, and immediately blink back feels like really bad design. There’s virtually no risk, unless you manage to get silenced/snared in the .2 seconds you’re at your target location. That kind of mobility should come at some sort of cost, like it does for Kassadin.

The second problem is her passive, which I think fits really well into Zileas’ “or we could just fuck the player” design theme. LeBlanc’s passive isn’t all that effective at fooling the player. Once you know what it does, or know that you can ping LeBlanc before the passive procs and the real one will still be marked afterward, it’s just a matter of waiting the .5 seconds for her to reappear. For melee toons and auto attackers, the passive is actually a bit worse. Those kind of champions right click the enemy a lot, and when LeBlanc disappears it breaks both their auto attacks and their movement path. The players haven’t been fooled – LeBlanc can only be running just a few steps away unless distortion is off cooldown – they’ve been screwed by a mechanic that breaks the way the player plays the game, not the game itself. It’s the same reason Mind Control is such a frustrating mechanic in WoW, or the trick in a lot of games where suddenly your controls don’t work like they should (up is now left, left is now right, right is down, etc.) – those things artificially limit your ability to play the game as well as you otherwise could.

There is a way around it, but it’s something a lot of players either won’t know about or rarely use. When I chase champions, I click the ground ahead of them and use attack-move (press ‘a’ and left-click a spot on the ground) to land my auto attacks. It’s an old Dota tactic similar to orb-walking, and it makes LeBlanc’s passive as useless as it is against a caster.

Overall, I still like LeBlanc. I think she fits into the game much better than a lot of recent releases. I wish she wasn’t so much like Kassadin, and I wish her passive was different, but in the end she’s fun to play and not horrible to play against unless she’s hugely fed.

LeBlanc Champion Spotlight

It’s patch day, and Riot has once again put together a detailed spotlight video for the new champion, LeBlanc. LeBlanc is an all out nuker, to the degree that her ultimate just lets her cast another one of her nukes again, though for increased damage the second time around. From a flavor standpoint, I can’t say I’m all that impressed. When I play nukers, like Annie or Kennen or even Ryze, I like to know that my ultimate is going to cause mass carnage. LeBlanc’s ult only effects one ability, and since most of her skills are single target, I think she’ll end up feeling more like a carry killer – Akali, anyone? – than full on mage.

I’m also a little concerned about her passive. Granted, I’ll have to see how it plays, but the clone idea already exists for Shaco and is fairly easily countered if not for the damage the clone deals. Any time I’m playing against a Shaco, I make sure mark him with a ping before a fight starts. When he hits Hallucinate, the ping stays on the real Shaco. I’d imagine LeBlanc works the same way, although her clone deals no damage, and will likely just stand there auto attacking most of the time. So what’s the benefit? A half second of stealth that will only confuse people who haven’t watched her spotlight/read her skill list? It works for her thematically, but the mechanics are only effective/interesting so long as your opponent doesn’t know how it works. Sounds like weak design to me.

On the whole I’m excited to try her. I do think using her ultimate to chain root someone will be a lot of fun

LeBlanc is on release notice

It looks like LeBlanc is ready to go live early next week which means we finally have an official skill list for one of Riot’s best kept secrets to date.

Sigil of Silence: LeBlanc projects an orb towards her target, dealing magic damage and marking the target for 3.5 seconds. If the target takes damage from one of Leblanc’s abilities, the mark will trigger, dealing damage and silencing the target.

Distortion: LeBlanc rapidly moves to a target location, dealing magic damage to nearby units. In the following 3 seconds, she can activate Distortion again to return to her starting location.

Ethereal Chains: LeBlanc flings illusionary chains towards a target location. If it hits an enemy unit, it will deal initial magic damage and slow their movement speed by 25%. If the target remains shackled for 2 seconds, the target takes additional magic damage and is unable to move.

Mimic (Ultimate): LeBlanc can cast the previous spell she cast. The mimicked spell deals significantly increased damage. 30 second cooldown.

Mirror Image (Passive): When LeBlanc is brought below 40% health, she instantly becomes stealthed for half a second. When the stealth fades, she creates a Mirror Image that deals no damage and lasts for up to 8 seconds. This can only occur once per minute.

I’m always a little nervous when Riot introduces new mechanics. It seems like the total impact is much greater than can be fully realized by just a few games. Miss Fortune remains a great example. She has insane harass and a crazy strong laning phase, giving her the ability to farm without penalty in most cases. I’m hoping LeBlanc won’t be the same.

LeBlanc sneak peek

LeBlanc concept art.Today, Riot gave us the first look at another new champion. Right on schedule, LeBlanc shows up as some sort of sorceress, looking both very reminiscent of Swain and an awful lot like the Sorceress class from Warhammer (seriously, google “warhammer sorceress” – you will be shocked by the lack of creativity).

Here’s the official text:

If you’ve been looking to add a little bit of high society to your League of Legends lineup, this next patch is the one you’ve been waiting for. Allow me to introduce the talented and graceful Emilia LeBlanc, a stately sorceress ready to round out your champion selection. In addition to being extremely attractive, the Deceiver comes primed to fuel your most megalomaniacal of desires. If you’ve got a bit of mischievous thread to your personality, you’re definitely going to want to make sure to pick up LeBlanc in the upcoming patch. Would I lie?

I haven’t been able to find anything significant with regard to skillset. It seems Riot has put forth some serious effort to button down the early champion leaks, which is probably for the best.

I know this isn’t a blog about game art, but really Riot? This is about as uninspired as design gets. A tall, slender chick in a bondage suit with phallic headgear. Color me unimpressed.

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