Skarner Impressions

Earthrune Skarner

I’ve had the chance to play Skarner in a couple games now, enough to give some baseline impressions of his skills and playstyle anyway. I’m going to try to avoid comparisons to Sand King from DotA as much as possible, but I’m going to say this – Sand King had much more flavor. There, I’m done. Let’s talk about Skarner.

I’ve only played Skarner in the jungler, and I think for good reason. His kit is designed around standing on top of his enemies, but he doesn’t have the early durability or sustain to really do that. He is surprisingly fast in the jungle, though, thanks to the constant damage from his Q. It’s fairly easy to pick up both buffs and still have enough health left over for a gank. That can’t be said for every jungler, and it can throw off enemy laners if they aren’t paying attention to your time.

As good as Skarner is in the actual jungle, he’s terrible coming out of it, even at level six. Without any sort of serious dash or ranged CC, Skarner has a pretty tough time getting into position. He’s okay once he has five ranks of his shield and a Trinity Force, but by that point, lane ganks aren’t happening much. His ult also has incredibly short range. It’s fantastic for catching overconfident opponents or when used in conjunction with Flash, but it’s certainly not any sort of reliable initiation or gap-closing skill.

That’s not to say it isn’t strong. There are enough champions that are both position- and cast-dependent that Skarner has plenty of targets to drag around. My personal favorites so far have been Fiddlesticks and Kassadin, though I also snagged a Sona once or twice. I’m glad to see that the duration is pretty short. Also, I’ve heard a couple people say that his ult has too short a cooldown, but 110/100/90 seconds isn’t really anything to laugh at. Granted, he’s got some extra help from the blue buff he’s getting in the jungle, at least at early levels, but I don’t think it really needs nerfed.

If anything surprises me about Skarner it’s that there’s so little chatter about him. We’re only two days past release and already the forums seem fairly devoid of conversation about him. That could mean that people are content with him, but to me it seems as though there aren’t many people that are excited about him. I’ve been able to pick him in most games after 20 seconds or so. So why the low-decibel response?

To put it bluntly, Skarner’s kind of boring. He’s spammy, but his spammy skills don’t do anything that’s all that exciting. He also has a sort of confused set of skills. It doesn’t really make sense that his Q scales off physical damage for the first half but magic damage after. Everything else he does is magic. I haven’t tried out an AP build yet, mostly because Skarner doesn’t seem like he would fair well in lane. That’s next on the test list.

How’s the scorpion been treating you this week?

  

Skarner official skill list released

Skarner splash.

My schedule has been all out of sorts this weekend, thanks to a wedding, a trip to my beloved Cleveland, and my upcoming return trip south. Rest assured that I’m still keeping pace with the League and will try to get a little content together over the next couple days, despite my travel.

First on that list is the Skarner official skill list release. Without further ado, let’s take a look:

Abilities:

Energize (Passive): Basic attacks lower the cooldowns of Skarner’s abilities by 1 second against champions and 0.5 seconds against non-champions.

Crystal Slash: Skarner lashes out with his claws, dealing physical damage to all nearby enemies and charging himself with Crystal Energy for several seconds. If he casts Crystal Slash again while empowered by Crystal Energy, he deals bonus magic damage and slows all targets hit.

Crystalline Exoskeleton: Skarner gains a shield and while the shield persists his movement speed and attack speed are both increased.

Fracture: Skarner summons a blast of crystalline energy which deals damage to enemies struck and marks them. Any further damage dealt to marked targets by Skarner will allow him to consume the mark to heal himself.

Impale (Ultimate): Skarner suppresses an enemy champion and deals magic damage to it. During this time, skarner can move freely and will drag his helpless victim around with him. When the effect ends, Skarner’s target will be dealt additional damage.

It’s no secret that Skarner is going to be Tanky DPS, a fact that’s confirmed by his skillset. He has an activated shield with passive damage boost, hybridized damage, and a self-heal. Golly, do you think we’ll see anyone build Trinity Force on him?

Answer: Yes. Crystal Slash is pretty much designed around Sheen – cast it once to proc Sheen, get in an attack or two, hit it againfor the slow and another Sheen proc.

I want to be clear – I’m not knocking his design. As I was writing that last paragraph I was actually thinking that Skarner sounds like a lot of fun. He’ll have great sticking power and strong survivability. The one thing he’s really missing is some mobility.

I will say this: I’m a little worried about the strength of a moving suppression. The other two suppressors in the game – Malzahar and Warwick – also self-stun when they suppress, which gives the skill some sort of balance. Skarner is going to be able to move about, which will definitely cause quite a few problems when coupled with another stunner on the team. The only thing that remains unclear is whether Skarner can use different attacks while his target is impaled. I have no idea how long his ultimate lasts, but it seems easy enough to assume that his best use will be to take a carry out of the fight and continue dealing damage to the rest of the enemy team. I’m not in love with the mechanic. Imagine if he can use Flash while a target is impaled. Suddenly his ult becomes a tower hook at a huge distance.

We’re bound to find out about his power level tomorrow. I’ll be on the road all day, but I’d love to check your comments and impressions of Skarner at my rest stops along the way. Drop your thoughts in the comments.

  

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).

Mechanics
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.

Champions
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.

  

Shurelia answers your burning questions

Kayle.

I’ve always respected Shurelia for her community presence. She’s highly active in the forums and willing to admit when the community has offered up suggestions the Riot staff hasn’t considered. She’s started a thread in the General Discussion forums answering questions that typically get posted after a patch (why is so-and-so OP now, wtf are these changes, are you kidding me Riot, etc.).

Among the most notable of her answers are that Pantheon is fine, it’s just that he does extremely well against unorganized teams. There is talk of making him into more of a Spear Shot champion over Heartseeker, but from the sound of the post Heartseeker would still remain strong. I can’t really disagree more here. I think Heartseeker does way to much damage and is entirely too hard to avoid. Yes, it makes Pantheon vulnerable, but the only way to get away from it is Cleanse/sidestep or Flash. Other than that, you’re getting hit for half your health or more. It’s infuriating to lane against if you don’t have a hard stun or a silence, and even then it can be easy to stun too soon or too late.

Malzahar is also having a new mechanic built into his ult called suppression. Suppression keeps you from doing anything, including casting summoner spells. Shurelia says it will no longer stun, but you can’t move, cast, attack, or use summoner abilities. Sounds like a stun to me. It also sounds really crappy. I know it’s not fun to see your ult cleansed but it’s also pretty lame to go from full to dead in one ability (see Pantheon…). Quicksilver Sash will be the only way to get out of the ult. The same mechanic is being considered for Warwick. If this goes live, I hope to god they remake Quicksilver. It’s a decent item, but it’s way too expensive to justify in most situations for what it provides. The people who really need the item will be carries, who already have trouble scaling if they don’t get a good early farm. They’ll have to do something to balance this thing.

Last, Kayle’s ult will likely be going to an even shorter cooldown, but with a shorter duration as well. The reasoning is that it’s easier to CC a target for three seconds versus five, which is true, but if a carry takes Cleanse and has Kayle it will still be infuriating to play against. I don’t buy that 3 seconds is an easy CC even if the target has Cleanse as Shurelia suggests.

The rest of her answers have much less significant impact on the game but would probably still be of interest to anyone who follows game balance closely.

  

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