Deathcap and the state of the game: I never saw this coming


I’ve been hesitating to write this post for a couple days now. I keep waiting for inspiration, some sort of clarity, but it never comes. There’s a lot to say about this patch, but I’m not sure I can derive any kind of coherent point about it all. Things are different. The game is different, and it’s different in ways I definitely didn’t see coming.

I’m going to completely ignore the champion changes. The significant buffs are all reverts of former nerfs or changes everything knew was coming. Also, the real game changes are in the items.

Zhonya’s is gone, as I’m sure you noticed. In it’s place we have Zhonya’s Hourglass, an AP item with armor and the old Zhonya’s invulnerability, and Rabadon’s Deathcap, the mother of all, rush-this-first-with-every-AP-toon monster of an AP item. It grants 155 AP plus a 30 percent AP boost for 3300 gold. I realize the old Zhonya’s wasn’t wildly more expensive, but 3300 gold for what becomes 200 AP and that 30 precent boost is UN…REAL. I don’t really want to talk much about what this will do to balance because frankly it’s too early to tell, but I can tell you I have seen a huge increase in the number of casters on the board in any given game.

I do have a few bits of anecdotal evidence that I think deserve some airtime. First, I saw a Veigar at level 14 with more than 1000 AP the day the patch came out. Second, the Deathcap is way too good on Vladimir – his passive gets way too much out of it when added to core items like Rylai’s. Rylai’s plus Deathcap is like 500 AP for him. Lichbane tower pushing is insanely good right now. Lichbane in general is insanely good right now. Lastly, if a caster gets ahead of you, well, be prepared to die a LOT.

All that said, I kind of like the changes. Deathcap needs to be toned down in some way, but it’s really refreshing to see people mix up their choices a bit. It’s not 3 tanks a support and a carry anymore, and that’s a good thing. The downside is that a sweeping change like this is like pressing a reset button on the metagame, mid season no less. Some would say that’s a great thing, but it’s a strange move in a game that’s trying to make a name for itself on the competitive scene. I’m fine with changing things up in the middle of a season, but make the changes small. The big picture stuff is good – the metagame is changing, different champions are being played, different builds hitting the drawing board – but the game has changed so much in the last two months that it’s starting to feel a bit like a beta test.

You can find evidence of the dramatic change in the pace of the game. Over the past week both the length of the game and the victor at any moment has varied dramatically. I had my first 60-minute game in ages earlier this week. I also had at least one that was over in 20 minutes. I saw kill counts swing between teams more heavily than I have seen since well before season one launched. Again, these aren’t bad things per se, but to have them all happening at once, all in the middle of a season, all in big bursts is probably not the best thing for the game.

The most definitive thing I can say about the changes is this: I think Riot started to feel the pressure of a restless player base and made radical changes as a stopgap until Magma Chamber and more game features could be released. Again, this is not to say I think the changes are all bad – some of this stuff may have been on the test docket for quite some time – rather, all of the changes at once is too much strain on an experienced player base. As much as people cry for change, it’s a fact of life humans will always resist. We are creatures of habit, and when you mess with the habit too much we tend to freak out.


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