Blood Moon Akali and Shen now live

If you played Shen or Akali this past week, you probably noticed some incredible skins in the skin selection screen for each champion. Both Shen and Akali got Blood Moon skins, which are now available from the store.

That Shen skin is definitely one of the best skins I’ve seen in this game, to the point that I hope Riot can find a way to balance him so that I see him in the game more often. I don’t really think he’s OP, but he does seem to get banned an awful lot and I can’t stand his global ult.

I like the Akali skin, though I wish she was actually wearing the mask. I’ve actually been playing Akali quite a bit, to the point that I might have snagged that skin at full price with a full mask cover.


Reducing global ult range doesn’t solve the design problem


Among the big changes slated for upcoming League of Legends patches is a rework to the global ults in the game, most notably the ones that that teleport the player to a new location. Riot has said in several places (none of which I can seem to find, though this quote from Phreak serves as an indicator of the design decision) that they want to limit the range of what are now global ults so that they work more like Nocturne’s Paranoia. The problem, of course, is that this doesn’t solve the problem with global ults.

Globals suck because they allow players to effectively be in two places at once. As Phreak mentions in the quote linked above, TF and Shen can go push bot during a mid stalemate, all the while planning to port mid when needed. They present all the defense necessary for mid lane while still being able to push bottom. This scenario isn’t completely fixed by limiting the range of those ultimates, but teamfights aren’t the only thing affected by semi-global ults.

When players can gank in a 3500 unit radius around them, they don’t have to play with any kind of foresight or worry about positioning. They can linger longer in the jungle. They can finish that dragon before defending a tower. They can spring out of the jungle from beyond ward range for the gank. In short, it encourages lazy play from less skilled players and offers masters of the game an easily exploited advantage. It’s also just not a lot of fun to play against.

Personally, I’d love to see the global ults removed. They’re too strong for skilled players and don’t provide the learning hurdle for map positioning that new players need.


Are tanks too tanky?


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: State of Shen

Shen.If you’ve played ten games over the course of the last week, you’ve probably seen Shen in nine of them. He’s one of the most popular toons in the game, and probably the best tank around. It seems timely to give some discussion to his strength and the path development around him will likely take.

First off, Shen’s a tank. Anyone who tells you otherwise is nuts. I played a game recently in which the Shen on my team got a malady. Malady for god’s sake. His passive gains more damage the higher your health pool, so you’re best off building for health. Building items like Sunfire Cape and Aegis can give you the health you need along with resistances to beef up your tanking.

Shen’s real strength a this point comes from his ability to avoid damage. His W skill can reduce huge amounts of incoming damage. Pop it when you’re about to take damage from multiple sources and you can laugh as your health goes nowhere. With the ability to both taunt with Shadow Dash and run from a fight, it’s pretty easy to escape death.

On top of his ability to avoid/mitigate damage, Shen has surprisingly high damage output. His Ki Strike hits hard, and the fact that you can dash to catch/taunt a running target gives you unparalleled chase.

From a development standpoint, Shen poses a unique problem. The shield design went from being a static shield to blocking damage from all incoming sources. It took his shield from being next to worthless to extremely overpowered. I could see Riot reducing the amount of damage blocked, or turning it into a percentage damage block. The percentage seems to be the best fix, but I’m guessing it will probably going back to a static shield. I think Shen’s biggest problem, though, is that he works on the energy system. With a passive heal and his incredible ability to mitigate damage he has virtually unlimited laning potential, giving him the farm required to become unkillable. He needs to lose one of those benefits – the infinite spell casting, the healing, the damage mitigation, the dash – in order to fall in line with other champions, or he’ll still be sitting head and shoulders above every other tank in the game.


LoL: Akali skill list and impressions

Akali, the Fist of Shadow.If you’re keeping up with the announcement forums you know Akali is upon us. She’ll finally be joining her brothers, Shen and Kennen, for battle in the League of Legends. The Test Realm has been absolutely packed with players trying to get a look at her. I was lucky enough to get several games in so I thought it would only be fair to give you guys my impressions. As we now have the “new champion approaches” post from Riot, I can also offer the official skill list for your perusal.

Without further ado, the Akali skill list:

Mark of the Assassin: Akali throws her kama at an enemy, dealing damage and marking her target for several seconds. If she hits a marked target, the mark will deal additional damage. This is your bread and butter AP damage skill, even if it is inappropriately named (seriously, what assassin lets you know you’re marked?). It scales with ability power at a .4 ratio for both the initial strike and the secondary hit. This is what a fed Akali will use to cut you in half.

Twilight Shroud: Akali throws down a smoke bomb at a target area. While in the area, Akali becomes stealthed. Performing an action breaks stealth for a second. Enemies in the area have reduced movement speed and attack speed. This is the most “ninja” of Akali’s skills. It drops a circle on the ground about the radius of Nasus‘ Spirit Fire, visible to all players. When Akali is in the circle she cannot be seen for the duration that the circle is active (I believe it’s 6.5 seconds at rank 1). It also slows attack and movement speed of all enemy units in the circle. It’s not a bad skill, but it’s not great either. I haven’t played it much on 5v5 but on 3v3 I used it mostly as an escape mechanic, though occasionally the slow would get me a kill. I would love to see them give this a small (maybe 15%) movement speed boost for Akali as well. The slow improves along with the duration as you rank up.

Crescent Slash: Akali hits all units around her for damage scaling off both her attack damage and ability power. The bread and butter damage skill, this thing hits in about the radius of Malphite’s Ground Slam. It gains 60% of your AD and 30% of your AP along with a base damage modifier. It’s great for picking other Akali players off in the Shroud when they’re low.

Shadow Dance (ultimate): Akali moves through shadows to quickly strike her target, dealing damage and consuming an Essence of Shadow charge. Akali recharges Essence of Shadow charges periodically, max 3 stacks. This skill gives Akali all of her feel. It has great range, is up – typically with 3 stacks – every time you need it, and can be used for farming, harassment, whatever. Much like Ezreal, Akali can be tough to target when she’s using this skill. It’s only on a two second cooldown and it improves from there, making this your go-to skill for dishing out quick damage. Coupled with Mark, most targets won’t get away from Akali over 40% after a full combo.

Twin Disciplines (passive):
Discipline of Might – Upon obtaining 20 ability power, Akali’s melee attacks deal additional magic damage. The bonus magic damage is increased for every 5 ability power gained afterwards.
Discipline of Force – Upon obtaining 10 attack damage, Akali gains spell vamp. She gains additional spell vamp for every 20 attack damage gained afterwards.
I’m completely unimpressed by this aspect of Akali’s playstyle. Might only hits hard if you have high attack damage (it’s a percentage based increase on your AD). Force only heals well if you have high AP. This doesn’t encourage one build over the other, it encourages a strict hybrid to maximize both your damage dealing potential and your survivability. This is further emphasized with the damage scaling on Crescent Slash and the fact that Mark scales by AP only. If there was one thing I would change it would be her passive. The Mark/Slash issue just points to viability for both builds. Adding another level of dual-scaling encourages those weird hybrid builds the new champions seem destined for. It’s not that I’m opposed to hybrid builds, but that there aren’t enough items to support it. Guinsoo’s, sure, but what then? Until we have better itemization for true hybrids I’ll remain displeased with the effort to push players in that direction.

Despite my distaste for her passive, I think Akali will be a lot of fun She still has excellent damage output, and her twitchy playstyle is something I’ve really enjoyed on Kennen. In fact, I’ll probably build her a lot like I do Kennen – heavy magic penetration with enough early AP to completely carry a team. From just a few practice games I get the feeling that she’ll snowball fairly well as AP but has the farming capability to make AD viable. I still think AP is the spec, though. Ranged damage dealers far outshine their melee counterparts in most situation. Yes, even on TT. There are a select few melee toons that do well there – I don’t think Akali will be one of them. Not as AD, anyway.


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