Should Riot consider a testbed queue?

League of Legends.

This is an idea that came out of my latest post about Morello’s meta challenge and I’m interested in what you guys think. I love the idea of shaking up the meta – LoL grew stale for me quite a while ago – but to me that will require some widespread adjustments to the game or a professional team to win several tournaments in a row with a different comp. Riot’s current nerf/buff strategy is to move slowly and make changes over the course of several patches, which I totally understand. They’re trying to produce a consistent service without dramatically breaking the game with an overbuff or a mechanics nerf. It makes sense. I think it has some unfortunate side effects for a genre known for variability and flux.

What if Riot put together a testbed queue aimed at trying some wild play options. The idea would be to allow for changes of greater magnitude to see how the players adapt to the changes. There are definitely some issues to be worried about here, not the least of which is whether players would participate, whether it would eclipse normal queues, and what to do if it did. It could alienate tournament players along the way as well.

I think it also has the potential to breathe some serious life into the game, and to allow people to get more for the money they put into the game. Buying champions every two weeks gets expensive in a hurry. The cost is even higher if that champion doesn’t have a solid place in the current meta (and yes, I’m mostly talking about solo queuers here). A more radical approach to changes could bring more champions into the mix on a regular basis.

Obviously the resource commitment would be monstrous – I don’t even know if this sort of thing would be possible in the current server/client structure. It is interesting, though, to think of what the game would be like with more aggressive changes to the way the game works.


Patch Day 9/8 – Welcome to Rootstown

Waterloo Miss Fortune.

While we’re all patiently waiting for the servers to go live, I figure it’s time to cover the patch notes for today’s update. There are only a few serious character updates, and even those go out to mostly underplayed champions. The biggest change is the root mechanic update, which is why this post has the title it does (Rootstown is also a place near my hometown, so I chose it over Rootsville).

So let’s talk roots. Ever landed a Dark Binding on an Ezreal only to watch him Arcane Shift away the second it hits? Sure, he’s stuck for the duration, but he’s stuck off your Tormented Soil and closer to safety. It was a frustrating mechanic, but it can’t happen anymore. Every character with some sort of dash or self-hook (Bandage Toss, for instance) has been updated so that the skills cannot be cast when rooted. It’s not a huge nerf for those characters, but it is a fairly high-grade buff for characters like Morgana and, in particular, Amumu. He’s already at the top of most ban lists, due to his severe magic resist debuff and the strength of his ultimate in a team setting. That ult just got a little stronger, and when used in conjunction with an AOE like Tibbers or Kennen’s ult, or Miss Fortune’s wave of pain, you’re really going to feel that root buff.

This patch also added suppression, so you won’t be able to avoid the full brunt of Malzahar, Warwick, or Urgot when they ult you. Suppression prevents the target from casting or using Summoner Spells, which means your only recourse is a Quicksilver Sash or Black Shield/Banshee’s Veil. It’s a big buff for those toons, but could become a pain in the ass for everyone else. Is it fun to have your ult cleansed? No. But it’s equally unfun to feel like a character like Malzahar gets to one-shot a player of your team whenever his ult is up. I’ll wait to pass too much judgement on this, but for now I don’t like it.

Like I said above, there aren’t many champion changes, despite those for some of the underplayed characters. My guess is that Riot wants to see how the root change affects the game before messing with too many champions.

Corki caught a buff across the board. His attack range was increased 10 percent, his attack speed per level gains got a nice buff and the Missile Barrage reload time is down to 10 seconds from 14. It might not sound like much, but I’ve always maintained that Corki is strong (and super fun to play), so this should make him an excellent pick.

Dr. Mundo got some longevity buffs that could help him scale a bit better. His cleaver now costs more to cast but he heals half the cost when it lands. It’s basically pushing people away from free brush checker and forcing them to use it a little more wisely. Burning Agony costs slightly less to maintain and Masochism now costs more HP at low ranks and less at higher ranks. Sadism also got changed to return 40/55/70 percent health instead of a flat 50 percent at all levels. Again, nice late game buff.

The big news, though, is Ezreal. He received damage nerfs to nearly all of his skills and his base damage. It looks a little something like this:
-Base damage reduced to 45 from 47.6
-Damage per level reduced to 2.6 from 3
-Attack Speed per level reduced to 2.8 from 3.22
-Mystic Shot damage reduced to 35/55/75/95/115 from 40/65/90/115/140

Hopefully it brings him more in line with other carries, though the fact that he can still deal scaling damage to you while exhausted and has excellent escapability makes him very strong. Manamune will also be a great damage source for the emo cartographer.

Malzahar got buffed – Another range buff on his ult, up to 750. Null Zone is more mana efficient at lower ranks, Call of the Void got a slight CD buff and his Voidlings now attack his most recent Malefic Visions target. With all of these buffs, along with the suppression buff, Malzahar is going to be one annoying bastard on the field. I really think the ult buff is way out of hand if he gets suppression. He should at least be put at marginal risk when he casts it if it completely disables his target (I know, it does disable him too).

The rest of the changes are small, so I’ll leave you to read those for yourself. The one thing you may have noticed is that Garen isn’t on that list. I was expecting some significant changes for him, but all we got was a little reduction on the passive component of Courage. So he now gets slightly less amor and magic resistance from killing creeps but it still blocks big damage when activated, and his hybrid of magic and physical damage when wearing Sunfire Cape is still too high for me to feel comfortable with him as an opponent. You may have heard Phreak say in the Miss Fortune spotlight that Garen should never be focused. It’s true, but he doesn’t have any trouble rushing your carries/casters, and a Decisive Strike -> Judgement -> Ignite -> Demacian Justice is typically way more than a squishy toon can handle. Hopefully the next page will have a little more in store for Garen. Same for Kog’Maw – he remains unchanged and could use a slight nerf to either the damage from Bio-Arcane Barrage or the attack speed buff from Caustic Spittle.

That does it for the patch. I’ve written a short post covering the new item, Manamune, and I’ll be posting my Miss Fortune impressions as soon as I have a chance to play her.


Patch Day 7/17: An OP champion approaches


It’s patch day once again folks, this time heralding the release of Vladimir, the League’s first true vampire champion (sorry, Eve, kicking people with spiked high heels makes you ridiculous, not vampiric). This patch is also highly anticipated because of the Xin Zhao nerf.

First things first, let’s talk about Vladimir. I am nervous as hell about his position in the game. Any time you give a toon the ability to increase multiple stats by buying one item, I’m concerned. That was (and to some extent continues to be) the problem with Jax, and it will almost definitely be a problem with Vladimir. If you haven’t seen his Champion Spotlight yet, you should. It’s a little unnerving to see how early he can ignore towers and just how much damage he can deal with literally zero ability power.

The other big news is the Xin Zhao nerf. His attack speed scaling is getting a serious reduction, the AOE on his slow has been significantly reduced as has the magnitude of the effect, and his ult got a 20 percent reduction in percent-based damage and a slight nerf to base damage. He’ll still be disgustingly strong, mostly because his mana costs are so low and the fact that his ult is always up from the Battle Cry synergy.

The rest of the champion changes are either bug fixes or very minor. Kog’Maw, of all champs, got a small range nerf to his Bio-Arcane Barrage and a bit of a buff to Caustic Spittle. Comparing him to someone like Xin Zhao it seems ridiculous that his mana costs are still so high. Heimer got a little grenade nerf and Shaco took a small Deceive CD nerf. I don’t think either change will be enough to bring them off the permaban list, but with Vladimir almost undoubtedly filling one of those spots we might see a little more variety.

Other than that this patch is pretty unremarkable. My guess is Riot wants to wait out Season One a little longer to see which champions need a shift.


LoL: Patch day 04/08 (Kennen)

Deadly Kennen.Another patch day is upon us, bringing another ninja to your summoner’s pane in the form of Kennen, the Heart of the Tempest. As with every patch, there’s a host of balance changes and tweaks along with the usual skin release and random audio updates.

First, let’s talk Kennen. I’m pretty excited about him, though he probably won’t hit his stride for a couple weeks. There was more active discussion on the test realm forums about his AP ratios and skillset than I’ve seen for any of the other recent heroes so I’ll be curious to see where he ends up. For now it seems he’s somewhere in the middle of the pack with regard to viability. His ult needs some considerable work to be truly powerful (personally I say drop the CD down to Ryze levels and he’s good).

Jax is finally catching a nerf, though not to his obscene survivability. His AP ratios have been lowered across the board, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, Ninja Tabi got a small buff to both armor and dodge and Phantom Dancer caught a dodge/movespeed buff as well. I see more scary AD Jax players in my immediate future.

Other than that things mostly remained the same. Anivia got a small movespeed buff, Ryze got a little nerf, and Janna caught some much-needed love with a slightly tweaked ult to include a slow for targets who reenter the heal and some mana efficiency improvements. The Item Shop UI has been tweaked and several items have been changed, perhaps the most significant of which is Haunting Guise, which now gives lifesteal on spell damage.

Overall I think this should be a pretty sweet patch. I’ve got 7300 IP banked for the Kennen purchase and 3900 RP to spend on some new skins. Hello, Swamp Master Yod…err…Kennen.


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