Zileas comes clean on the Gunblade nerf

Nurse Akali

I’m not happy about the Gunblade nerf. It’s not that I don’t think the item should have been nerfed – it absolutely should have been – but rather that the item nerf didn’t solve the problems with champions that use Gunblade. The most obvious offender here is Akali.

Zileas posted on the forums this weekend, claiming that Akali “WAS toned back by gunblade nerf.” That could mean a lot of different things. It might mean Riot thinks her damage is now at a reasonable level. It might mean she’s being banned less and running away with fewer games. It might mean all of the above and more, I can’t really say. I will say that I disagree. I don’t even build Gunblade on Akali in most situations. She doesn’t need it in order to be successful. Plain and simple, it’s just bonus damage.

Zileas said a bit more about the nerf, and it’s his latest statements that really have me confused. Here’s the quote, answering the question, “Why did you decide to nerf gunblade instead of akali directly?”:

Because [Gunblade] when stacked was causing the majority of the problem due to the stats being of such high value relative to other items.

We believe in taking the minimal effort required to adjust for OP situations, and a number of OP situations were coming out of gunblade. Rather than get into the hazy territory of nerfing several of champions who would then use gunblade as a crutch, we just did that. Less undesirable side effects.

First of all, stacking Gunblades have absolutely nothing to do with Akali’s current state. Was it problematic on Dominion? I don’t know. I never saw it. But I have never seen a Gunblade stack on Summoner’s Rift on any champion other than Kat. Never.

And Gunblade is hardly a crutch for Akali. It’s more like the minigun that gets strapped onto War Machine in Iron Man 2. He already had a massive arsenal. Did he really need that minigun? Same goes for Gunblade on Akali.

Most importantly, though, I really dislike the whole “minimal effort required” when it comes to nerfs. I’m not saying “you guys aren’t trying,” because I know that they are. But to see a problem with multiple solutions and say, “which one is easiest?” is shoddy balance at best. This would be a fine approach if the easy solutions were actually solving problems, but they just aren’t. The Gunblade nerf is almost perfectly analogous to the age old “attacking a symptom instead of curing the disease.”

Akali is a plague on this game in her current state. I know she has counters. I know there are plenty of bad Akali players. But for every Akali I see play poorly or get countered I see another 20 run away with games they had no business running away with, securing double kills and triple kills with ease, and essentially ruining the game for at least five other people involved.

I understand you guys don’t want to disrupt the game too much, Riot, but an Akali nerf is long overdue. Her combination of burst, mobility, and survivability is just too high, even for an assassin. Stop doing the easy thing. Stop attacking the symptom. Cure the disease.


How do you define OP?

I found an interesting thread on the forums that made me ask the question in the title of this post: how do I define OP? The author of that thread thinks an OP character is one that defies countering, a champion that doesn’t require teamwork in order to perform well. I can’t really agree with that version of OP, if only because so much of League of Legends happens in the laning phase of the game, where champions are essentially on their own.

My own version of OP looks more like something I saw a Rioter say about Irelia. To me, overpowered champions are those that, regardless of the odds, rarely find themselves in bad situations. Irelia is a perfect example of this problem. In lane she has excellent farming skills and a powerful nuke that becomes a stun once she’s in trouble. Once the teamfights start she gains CC reduction for every enemy around her. She farms well enough that she’s never hurting for gear in that situation either. But this version of OP doesn’t cover everything, either.

Let’s look at Akali. Once Akali hits level three she produces burst unlike almost any champion out there. She also has her Shroud to keep her safe from enemy harass in lane, all the while gaining ground toward level six, which is when things get particularly ugly. Because Akali can solo so well, she ends up several levels ahead of bottom lane and often the enemy jungler. With that level gap her burst can almost always guarantee a kill, but the damage doesn’t stop there. Her ult, which is one of the longest-range dashes in the game (of which she also gets three), refreshes when she gets kills and assists, further increasing her mobility and killing power. She’s very different from Irelia but I would still consider her seriously overpowered.

This will always be the problem with OP champions – there is no one way to define them, no one skill that unifies them. There’s also the fact that not all players can effectively utilize OP champions, which makes for a mix of data on Riot’s end. Certainly they have a lot of highly ranked players that can accurately assess these kinds of champions, but when the champions are being used to great effect across the board, what’s the sense in nerfing them?

My main point here is that OP can start to look pretty subjective when you consider all of the variables that determine whether a champion needs a change or not. It’s why we still have champions like Akali and Irelia at their current power level.


Patch Preview includes Skarner buffs, Gunblade nerfs

Riot posted the patch preview for the upcoming Graves patch some time last night. The video includes some decent champion changes, including Skarner buffs, but it’s missing some key champion nerfs that are long overdue. Gunblade is getting some nerfs, which are aimed at “hyper-carry” hybrids like Jax and Akali, but the changes will only really affect Dominion.

Skarner is getting across-the-board buffs – attack speed per level, mana cost reduction on Crystal Slash, duration increase on Impale. It’s a nice set of buffs that should make him much less mana dependent. Honestly, I think he might become the flavor of the month with these buffs. Skarner was in a decent spot, I think he just needed some mana adjustment. Now I can see him as an overwhelming solo top or jungler.

Corki is getting an adjustment to Gatling Gun that should make the damage output from the skill more consistent. I’m not sure why Corki is on the change list, though I haven’t seen him in many games recently. In fact, the only ranged carry I see with any consistency these days is Caitlyn. I would love to know when we’re going to see a couple adjustments to her kit.

The other serious changes made to the game all have to do with Dominion. There’s less ambient XP so the “hyper-carries” get to endgame more slowly. Gunblade spell vamp no longer stacks, and Gunblade is getting stat nerfs to bring the power benefit more in line with the cost.

I thought it was funny that Phreak played Akali for a large portion of the patch preview and yet there was no mention of nerfing her. I’ve thought Akali’s burst was broken for a while now, and after learning to play her using Westrice’s guide and some practice, I can’t believe she’s remained in the game in her current state for as long as she has. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the hesitation to nerf her is that a lot of people are playing her now and a lot of those people don’t know what they’re doing. A big part of Akali’s playstyle is wrapped up in prepping her lane opponent for a kill before level six. At level six she outlanes virtually every single character in the game. This isn’t just on Noob Island either; it’s at every level of the game. Akali was used to devastating effect in the New York tournament this weekend and was the biggest reason Team Dignitas beat CLG.

It looks like the most exciting thing coming this patch will be Graves, unless of course you’re a Skarner devotee.


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.


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.


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