Kayle as a barometer of support changes


I played a normal game tonight that served as a painful reminder of just how toxic support currently is to League of Legends. I’ll spare you the long and drawn out replay and just say that my opponents had a healer and my team did not. Actually, scratch that. The things the healer allowed them to do were so utterly ridiculous that I need to explain.

My team was losing the early game badly, but with some farm and a little map control we were able to regain our footing. We took baron twice, knocked down two inhibitors and I thought we had sealed the game. Not so. As we went to push the third lane, three of my teammates and I got caught in a well placed Orianna ult/Veigar cage combo. I made it out alive but three of my teammates died. The enemy team had five up, all chasing down Fiddle. There was no chance I could stop them so I tried to quickly backdoor bottom lane. I got the turret down in a hurry and moved on to the inhibitor. Pantheon was able to bring me down from the 25 percent HP I had survived with. Despite the fact that we had two lanes down, the enemy team of Tristana, Veigar, Soraka, and a very low Orianna were able to soak wave after wave of turret fire and super minion aggro, tearing down a lane turret, two nexus turrets and finally my nexus.

It sucked, and they wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support. I know Riot has said support is going to get nerfed/changed, but I think we can take the Kayle remake and use it as a barometer for the change we’re likely to support over the next 3 months.

Originally, the Kayle changes were supposed to be a serious remake, altering the way that she performs healing and shielding significantly. What we got in the end was a passive remake and some number tweaks. Though she does seem to deal damage a bit better than before, she certainly isn’t in a great position. She heals decently as ever, though, and her ultimate can still be incredibly frustrating to play against. In short, Riot decided to leave her role virtually unchanged, a role that contains some of the most problematic elements in the game.

I think we’re going to see the same thing happen with the other support characters. Riot has agreed that healing is bad for the game, but I have yet to see even a suggested solution to the problem. Chances are, if Riot is going to do anything significant to healing it will happen to all the targeted healing in the game in one patch. Remaking one champion at a time doesn’t solve the problem, it just moves the other healers up the viability list. Unfortunately, I don’t think Riot can afford to significantly change the way support works. Tournament players are too used to it, and for the time being, tournament play is the most exciting thing happening in the LoL community.

What’s more likely is that we’ll see a long string of number adjustments for the support characters in game, reducing heals and increasing the resistance buffs granted by their spells. Reducing the duration of shields and increasing mana costs. Until the launch of Season Two, I think support is going to stay as it is – frustrating the hell out of blind pick players and encouraging the passive tournament play that pretty much defines high tier these days.


Patch Day 11/16 – The nerfs that didn’t happen


It’s patch day again, a day that was supposedly going to bring some balance to the game. While I’m pleased with the nerfs Sona caught, some of the Riot posts on the forums led me to believe we’d see significant rebalancing this patch but there really wasn’t much.

That said, here’s the rundown, which, as usual, is only big picture stuff. You can read about all the little bug fixes yourselves.

Amumu got a bug fix and damage reduction to his ult, both of which look really nice. I know that Amumu is strong – anyone with an AOE disable is – but he’s often not a great pick for a team. He’s quite bad in lane, and he takes a jungling spot from your team. Granted, he’s a very strong jungler, but that leaves the enemy free to use a toon like Warwick or Shen or Udyr, all of which are strong picks as well and much less reliant on one big skill. In short, I think this is a good change.

Corki got nerfed, though not a ton. He’ll be extremely scary if he’s ahead, and I’d say, despite the nerfs, he’s still a top-tier carry. His Big Ones deal 60 percent increased damage, down from 100 percent, and Missile Barrage caught a general mana cost and base damage nerf.

LeBlanc got a buff to two of the stats that were recently hotfixed. Her ultimate now has a scaling cooldown and she gains .5 more armor per level. It’s very strange to me that she was apparently so broken she needed hotfixed but that the hotfix was apparently overkill. So why has Sona been so busted for so long? That’s another post for another time.

Lux caught some small buffs, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to make her a force in most games. Her Prismatic Barrier got a missile width increase and a slight AP buff, while Lucent Singularity has increased radius and greater slow values at all ranks. Her ultimate also now ignites her passive debuff if it’s already on the target and then reapplies the mark. Personally, I’ve never been able to make much of her passive. It’s decent against melee toons in lane, but anyone else just avoids the thing. I still think she needs some base damage buffs for her spells, even if they’re small.

Miss Fortune caught some nerfs and a strange little fix. Her auto attack missile speed is slower, though I’m not sure why. It’s not that she’s attacking slower, just that once she does, the actual bullet takes more time to land. It really makes very little sense to me. Bullet Time got some bug fixes that will result in damage nerfs and also had a significant cone width reduction. Make It Rain also got a slight damage nerf, though personally, I’d still maintain that it’s Double Up causing most of the lane problems.

Sona is probably the one place Riot delivered for me this patch. She’s still very strong, still a giant, walking Baron buff for her entire team, but she isn’t quite as easy to play. I still think her design is severely flawed, mostly because she isn’t encumbered by targeting her spells, but hey, it’s a lot better than they did on any other top-tier toon.

Here are the Sona changes:

-All aura durations reduced to 2 seconds from 3
-All aura buff durations reduced to 0.25 seconds from 1

Hymn of Valor
-Attack damage and ability power aura reduced to 6/8/10/12/14 from 8/11/14/17/20
-Mana cost increased to 65/70/75/80/85 from 55/60/65/70/75

Song of Celerity
-Active movement speed boost reduced to 8/10/12/14/16 from 8/11/14/17/20
-Mana cost increased to 65/70/75/80/85 from 55/60/65/70/75
-Aria of Perseverance mana cost increased to 65/70/75/80/85 from 55/60/65/70/75

Crescendo range reduced to 1000 from 1100

That’s pretty much it for the champions. As I said, not a lot in the way of top-tier nerfs. I think Miss Fortune is ever so slightly less problematic, as is Amumu, but Galio is still a ban, no questions asked, and you’ll probably still see Sona on the list as well. The one bright light here is that Riot has talked at length about fixing some of the frustration around the AoE metagame, so maybe those changes (which would affect every champion I’ve listed) are lined up for a later date.

I’ll have another post later this evening regarding the new item and the item changes.


Brush up on your Sona game


The case against mindlessness


I’ve written a lot of posts recently about the overpowered toons in League of Legends and I realize several of them may have come across a little whiney. I often have emotions around a given aspect of the game before I’ve really sat down to put the words behind those emotions, so you guys get to read me working through the crap to get at the heart of the matter. Well, thanks for bearing with me.

This post is a culmination of a few different posts regarding relative champion strength and the overwhelming fury I feel toward champions like Sona and Mordekaiser, so I hope it will be a little more focused and my point of view will be easy to understand.

Most of my frustration with League of Legends in the past few weeks has revolved around the relationship between a champion’s strength and the skill required to provide the maximum team benefit that champion provides. For many of the overpowered champions in the game, the problem is that the champions are both strong and incredibly easy to play. It’s something I think Riot misunderstands, as you can see from the difficulty screen above. There is literally no situation in which I would consider Sona difficult to play.

Mordekaiser falls under that same umbrella. There are players who think it’s tough to know when to fight with him, but I could not disagree more. Your team is there, you fight, and you get a ghost and murder the other team. If they aren’t there, don’t fight, unless you have a ghost with you, in which case you should kill the entire opposing team. In all seriousness, though, Kaiser’s ease of use comes from his shield, which allows him to be a serious threat to any opponent in lane just by standing in range. Consider other casters, like Annie for instance. If Annie wants to deal damage to me she has to get relatively close, giving me the opportunity to deal damage in return. Kaiser has to do the same thing, but his shield removes his personal threat, allowing him to harass at will without consequence. It’s a crappy mechanic to play against, but worse yet, it encourages players to be sloppy and lazy.

The easy to play/easy to win champions actually hurt the game as a whole by allowing players to enjoy success without the skill to back it. One of the great things about this game is that the wide variety of champions can encourage players to get better. When I saw my first good Shaco I thought, “damn, I want to be that guy.” I was horrible with Shaco when I started, but now I’ve probably played 500 games or so with him, so I’m really good. It took time. My first game with Sona, I died too much. Every game after that, I dominated with her. It was easy farming, easy laning, and once I had a locket, easy winning. When those types of champions dominate games, players don’t learn how to gank, how to lane, when to run, when to dragon, any of it, nearly as quickly as they do with a difficult champion.

Then there’s the simple fact that strong champions carry weak players to higher ELOs. I have run into at least ten different players who, after seeing their favorite champion banned or chosen (most often it’s Mordekaiser, I’m not kidding), say something like, “Shit man, they took my guy. Anyone wanna trade? I don’t have many champions.” That’s a problem. I expect players to be able to play a variety of champions and fill a variety of roles, just as I hope they expect the same from me. I know I’m a great carry, but I’m also a very good jungler, a very good nuker, and a decent tank/support player. I own every champion in the game. I can play every champion in the game with a modicum of success. The same can’t be said for the jungle Kaiser I played with over lunch who tried to gank MF middle by walking out of the mid-lane river brush with red buff and trying to auto attack her. No. No, that’s not going to work.

I want to see thoughtfully designed champions, champions with very real, very high skill ceilings. Enough of the MFs and the Sonas and the Mordekaisers. This is the same issue I used to complain about with Sivir, but back in the day, Sivir was just about the only toon with a crazy-low skill ceiling and a crazy-high impact. These days it’s like a free-for-all on high-impact mechanics that require as much thought as relieving my bladder. Biological imperatives aren’t interesting, and neither are mindless champions. Make me a toon that I want to learn instead of someone I could play with my elbows and I’ll remain convinced that this is the game for me for the near future.


Sona impressions – the gift that keeps giving if it lives long enough


I’ve seen Sona in every 5v5 game I’ve played since the patch dropped and I’ve had a chance to play her a few times myself. At the outset she looks like a pretty solid support toon, though she does seem to enforce the rule that you shouldn’t have more than one support. Her damage output is very low, but the buffs she offers her team are nice. Sona’s biggest drawback is her health pool and the fact that there isn’t a ton she can do to stay alive.

As I sort of expected, Sona plays a lot like Udyr. She’s very spammy, which is fine for a time, but in most games I felt like it didn’t matter when I pressed my buttons so long as I pressed them every time they were up. That’s not exactly an exciting way to play the game. Soraka isn’t particularly exciting, but it is nice to see that fat heal actually save someone, whereas with Sona, you get to watch your heal almost save a few people.

That said, the buffs Sona provides are actually pretty nice. The movement buff is great for running down enemy carries, or even getting in range to take them in a team fight. The constantly rotating damage and resistance buffs aren’t huge, but they’re enough to give your team that extra oomf when you need it. Think of Sona like a very tiny (but big-breasted) version of the Baron buff. Of course, you get that buff at the cost of another tank or dps toon, but in the right comp it seems okay.

The main thing that will keep me from regularly playing Sona, though, is that spammy playstyle. Because each aura persists for three seconds after a new aura is activated, it’s easy to get the cooldown reduction for 100 percent uptime, which means you can basically knuckle-roll your way up the lane. That’s not a fun playstyle, and it creates one of the most annoying mix of sounds in the game (seriously, I can’t handle the constant refresh of that harp – it’s awful).


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