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.


Caitlyn impressions, or, why use abilities when you can auto attack?

Resistance Caitlyn

When I first saw Caitlyn’s champion spotlight, I was surprised by her defensive skill set. Her trap, her net, even her ultimate to some degree, are skills to be used to get out of trouble or while you’re well out of trouble’s range. Despite her great range, she didn’t have anything that made me think, ‘oh, that’s how you get kills with her.’ I’ve played a decent number of games with her now and not much has changed.

On the surface, Caitlyn’s design concept is pretty cool. She has big range, an auto attack modifier on her passive, and her skills scale with attack damage, meaning that armor penetration you’re packing is worth something. The deeper and unfortunate truth is that Caitlyn’s usefulness is inversely related to the length of the game. The longer the game lasts, the less effective you become. Here comes the skill breakdown.

Piltover Peacemaker is a great skill in the early game. It hits hard (more than 100 damage at rank one with just a Doran’s Blade), especially if you’re packing armor pen. runes, and it helps you get a big farm going. Once the teamfighting starts, it’s a great tool for hitting multiple targets at once. Unfortunately, the one second cast time means you’ll probably miss here and there, and using it during a chase pretty much guarantees you won’t catch your target. Attack speed items, assuming you have your damage built, also steal its usefulness because it just makes more sense to auto attack after a certain point. That said, this skill is great for snagging a kill through a wall or checking brush, and it still hits a squishy hard in the late game. Of all her skills, this one scales best.

Yordle Snap Trap was sort of doomed from its inception. It’s an interesting concept, but in play, there just isn’t a good balance point. The trap never seems to arm quickly enough, and the stun has only ever helped me get away or kill a reviving Zilean. The fact that they are visible makes them easily avoidable (is she catching blind yordles?) and teamfights are typically mobile enough these days that the trap seems useless. It can be good as a sort of ward, and it will occasionally save you from a gank, but the fact that you’re limited to two of these means, more often than not, you won’t have them where you need them.

90 Cailber Net could have been a really nice skill for Caitlyn. Instead, it’s this weird snare/escape hybrid with conflicting functionality. The skill actually knocks you back when you cast it, so you have to cast behind you if you want to chase with it, wasting the slow effect. If you slow someone with it, you’ve blown yourself away from them which is pretty much only good if someone is chasing you. Unfortunately, the slow isn’t enough to save you from those people in a lot of cases, so you better have a trap ready. It can throw you over walls, like a mini-flash, but you move so slowly, both when you run and as a result of the knockback, that players rarely have trouble catching you. This is a really bizarre skill to me. I’d love to hear Riot’s design process. Were they worried it would be too OP? Look at MF. She’s got an AoE slow without some weird, compromising, ever so situationally useful secondary effect attached.

As her ultimate, Caitlyn has the poorly named and woefully executed Ace in the Hole. It’s a snipe that, though it never misses, can be intercepted by a teammate mid-flight. I say woefully executed because it was a great thought. Dwarven Sniper was a lot of fun to play, but it really sucked if he pulled out ahead of your team. Squishy toons just got bombed from a mile away with no chance to avoid death. The intercept idea was pretty cool, but it’s really frustrating as Caitlyn for a couple reasons. First, her ult doesn’t hit very hard. Even when you have a ton of damage her ultimate feels really underwhelming. Interceptors often just shrug off the hit instead of being significantly damaged as a result. Second, the projectile is slow, making it really easy to intercept. Last is the cast time. As an attack damage champion, you’re losing a lot of potential damage by stopping to channel that ult. It is good for quick skirmishes, mostly to tag a champion for some assist gold, but in a teamfight you’re losing damage by stopping to channel her ult, and I can almost guarantee you won’t hit your target.

On the whole, Caitlyn’s abilities rely too heavily on channels without the added benefit of AoE or heavy single target damage. By mid to late game you’ll be better off auto attacking than using your skills, and your skills don’t compliment an auto attack playstyle. She ultimately fails because of a confused design that is too tied to concept with little attention paid to practical application.


The sheriff gets a sheriff skin…?

The official Caitlyn bundles and champion skins included in her patch have been announced. For the Sheriff of Piltover you’ll be able to purchase Sheriff Cait…wait, what? Yes, the Sheriff has a purchasable Sheriff Caitlyn skin. It’s a good looking skin, but why on earth isn’t that her default? Her second skin is Resistance Caitlyn, which also looks really nice.

We finally get to see Surgeon Shen and, at his side, looking sexy as ever, Nurse Akali. A short note on that – Look at Nurse Akali’s outfit. It’s hot, and yet her nipples aren’t on the verge of springing loose from her top. Riot, pay attention when the artist responsible for that skin has ideas on other champions. Caitlyn seriously looks like you chopped off Sona’s top half and pasted it onto a different pair of legs.


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