Patch Preview shows off Alistar, Fiddlesticks, Gangplank reworks

The patch preview for next week is live, giving us a look at what’s in store for several of the game’s most neglected champions. Alistar, Fiddlesticks, and Gangplank are all due for reworks this week, all of which should be significant improvements on their respective playstyles.

If you follow Guinsoo on Twitter, you know the Alistar remake has been in the works for several months. A few times it even looked like it was patch ready and then got pulled. Basically the changes will give Alistar a lot more farming potential as well as a few more ways to use his skills that aren’t so Flash dependent. I’m really excited about this remake – Alistar was such a cornerstone of LoL at launch that it has been tough to see him slip into obscurity.

Fiddlesticks is basically having his damage normalized, which is exactly what he needs. His early healing has been nerfed a touch, but with an armor buff to keep his jungling strength. His Dark Wind bounces 5 times at all levels and now has scaling damage, which should improve his presence in both lane and coming from jungle, and Crowstorm has been rebalanced to account for the damage shift. Again, I’m really excited about the changes. I was a huge Fiddlesticks fan for a very long time. A little consistency will go a long way for him.

Lastly, there’s Gangplank. Plank has long been a problematic champion for Riot. He’s randomly bursty, has the only deny in the game (which is absolutely broken in some situations), and has a hugely unreliable ultimate. Pretty much all of that is being addressed with the patch, which I can only imagine will mean good things for the champion. He’ll be able to make better use of Raise Morale, his ult is much less of a guessing game, and his Parrrley shouldn’t be quite such a gamble. Again, excited to see this play out.

  

Are tanks too tanky?

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This isn’t exactly a revelation, but it’s something I’ve been seeing a lot in my past few games. I’ve spent a lot of games playing Corki and Tristana recently, and I’ve been horribly frustrated by how well a tank can scale.

It actually seems to be a really complicated problem. At first I wanted to blame it on items – Warden’s Mail/Randuin’s Omen is crazy strong against ranged DPS. If you’ve ever chain-slowed yourself against a fleeing Mordekaiser you know what I’m talking about. But it’s more than just the fact that defensive gear (Randuin’s) is arguably much stronger against DPS than the DPS anti-tank item (Madred’s).

There’s at least one more issue, though, and that’s the conflicted itemization between carry items and carry runes. Most DPS players run flat armor penetration runes, which are great early and later against casters, but actually kind of terrible against tanks. They reduce the total effectiveness of Last Whisper, which is a big deal. Last Whisper is still a great item, particularly for the cost, but the fact that you lose any effectiveness whatsoever kinda sucks. You also have to consider that most ranged DPS try to get an Infinity Edge as early as possible. It’s a huge DPS bump, but many of the popular tanks in the game are so good at farming that they’ll have close to 4000 gold by the time you get IE, which means they’ll probably cut your damage in half with items.

The other thing that bothers me is that tanks also have incredible control on top of their high damage and survivability. Taunts, snares, stuns, slows, often a combination of these things, plus very respectable damage output with a Sunfire Cape or two.

I actually miss Alistar these days. Yes, in his heyday he was obnoxious to play against, but it was because of his control and pretty much nothing else. Alistar can take a beating and a half, but you rarely had to worry that he was going to kill you right out. I always thought it was kind of cool that he could pop his ult and rush a turret to push, even if he wasn’t going to bring down your carry. It made him seem nuanced and interesting – a playstyle that was tough to master. The best tanks in the game now are great farmers, great gankers, excellent pushers, and huge damage threats. That’s not really all that interesting, and it’s certainly not very fun.

  

LoL: The push strat

Heimer doing some jungling.It can get a little boring running the same teamfight strategy over and over, so I like to switch things up. Lately I’ve been running a heavy push strat with a couple friends, and though we’ve been taking our time learning it’s still been a lot of fun. Here’s a quick run down of a few of your options.

When you’re going for a push strat you want to have at least one tower down under the five minute mark, but preferably a second if you can manage it. Your team comp focuses on early game durability and push. When four people surprise push a lane it’s very hard to counter without a lot of ports or quick action. Alistar is a must for keeping creep waves healed and his ability to rip up a turret. You should also take Sivir along for obvious reasons. Personally, we’ve been rolling with a Heimerdinger as well to keep up the push. He is great at mowing down minion waves to set things up. From there it’s pretty much your pick. Janna is great for AOE crowd control on your opponent and her AOE heal can grant you some extra push time. You can take Warwick then for his global attack speed buff or Taric for heals/aura and Radiance for pushing.

I’ve not tried a game with Taric yet, but the Warwick game does seem to work well. I’m planning to try Taric at some point this evening and I’ll drop some comments when I know a little more.

As for summoner spells, you need to have a few rally flags for the early game push. It keeps everyone healed up and gives you the extra damage you need to push. Taking Clarity and Heal can also keep a push alive. Basically you want your mid toon, in this case Heimer, to push the opponent back to turret. At level three you rush four people middle to take the first turret and the second if you have the health. Then it’s back to lane for farming and leveling until you have a minion wave prepped to take another turret.

If you can get an inhibitor down in 15 minutes you’ve done your job. The super minions are extremely difficult to manage at low levels which forces the other team to clear them, giving you the time to push at will. In the end it’s all about coordination. If you communicate well and move as a team you should be able to give your opponent a painful game.

  

LoL: Where are the competitive champs

One of these toons doesn't belong.I understand that balancing a game like League of Legends must be pretty tough. If you cater too much to the best players you’ll make a lot of casual players extremely unhappy. The skill ceiling for many toons will simply be too high, exacerbating the gap between competitive players and casuals. Too far in the other direction and the game seems to lack a team dynamic.

As things currently stand, most players organize the champs into tier lists to give a sense of where they fit within a team dynamic. Since the holidays, Riot has released a fair number of champs, only one of which really makes the highest tiers – Nidalee. She’s often first pick in competitive play and typically swings the battle in a big way. With every new champion announcement I always wonder if we’ll see a new competitive champion, but it has yet to happen. Ezreal is probably the closest, but next to Nidalee he seems fairly lackluster. She has many of his benefits plus better map control and more gankability. She’s also much more mana efficient.

In part, I think the lack of more “top tier” champions is that competitive play typically involves a ban system. Implement too strong a hero and it gets banned immediately. Since the Jax buff I see him banned first in every draft game I play and for good reason. If he gets any farm at all he kills entire teams. I would like to see the release of a some top tier champions, though. Currently the best picks for tanks are Alistar, Taric, Malphite and Amumu, probably in that order (Taric and Alistar could be reversed depending on your team). Most games see two of those banned, leaving few options for either team.

I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for the next champion release after Shen. Shen, like Gragas, will likely be in an odd position with regard to a team. He could fit well with other AOE disable toons, like a Malphite, but there will likely be better options. Malphite ult with an Annie ult is infinitely better because of the AOE damage from Tibbers. More often than not, if you’re living for more than 10 seconds or so in a team fight it’s because your team is dying or the other team is woefully low on DPS, in which case you were likely going to win anyway.

  

LoL: Learning the tanks

Alistar base pic.In my opinion there are very few pure tanks in League of Legends. A lot of characters can tank, but that doesn’t make them the best for the position. Tanking is also a bit of a strange concept in LoL because there isn’t an aggro mechanic forcing players to attack the thickest guy on the team. Tanks do pose significant threat to a team, though, not because of their damage output but because of their control skills.

Take Alistar, for instance. If the opposing team is rushing your inhibitor turret with Alistar at the forefront, do you try to focus him down while the rest of the team is out of range, or do you let him beat on the tower and focus the weaker targets, hoping he won’t land a crucial headbutt combo? As negligible as his damage may seem, he can quickly put you in a bad situation.

When I see a tank played well it makes me want to tank. Since I’ve been seeing a lot of solid Alistar players lately, I decided to give him a shot. In my first game I had a lot of trouble. I was blowing through mana, despite my manipulator and a few regen runes. What it all came down to was an overuse of skills, particularly for the item build.

Playing a tank is all about picking the situation. Despite your thick exterior, smart play and attentive farming still works best. With Alistar I focus on last hitting exclusively until level 5 or so, stepping in and out of the brush to keep control of the lane. From there it’s just lending support to your carries. Keep building toward survivability until you’re meaty enough to take a solid beating from a couple opponents. When you’re headed for towers, don’t be afraid to rush in and smack the tower while your teammates handle your opponent. That’s the paradox a tank presents to an opponent. Do they deal with you, in which case you can blow your mitigation skills and back up to prep for some control, or do they let you continue to beat down the tower and try to deal with your opponents.

As with all things in this game, discretion is best. If you’re picking your fights wisely, using lane position and teammates to your advantage, and saving your mitigation skills for moments you truly need them, you should be just fine. From there, it’s all about experience.

  

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