My Nautilus design dilemma


After reading Nautilus’ skillset, I thought he was OP. At the very least he had too much going on. Berseking was kind enough to point me to Xypherous’ dev diary for the League’s new champion, a post that broke down the design decisions behind the champion’s design. After reading through it I still think he has too much going on, and the method by which Riot might keep him from being OP–a crappy attack animation/speed and movespeed–are an unnecessary frustration. He needs a limitation on the number of things he can do, not a mechanical throttle on his power level.

I’ll be the first to admit that Xypherous and I have different philosophies when it comes to champion design. He does make some interesting champions, but at least in the case of Nautilus, he is willing to overload on mechanics. If you read his dev diary and watch Phreak’s champion spotlight, you’ll notice there isn’t much talk of weakness. Any talk of a potential downfall in his design is met with “so we gave him X.” Notice the following:

One of the strongest downsides to a self-only shield is that it is effectively ignorable by the enemy team. Unless you are threatening enough so that you must be killed on sight, defensive shielded targets are generally ignored as there isn’t a point to attacking him.

Which was preceded by:

However, if he’s left alone, Nautilus can contribute heavy damage to the enemy team.

This is one major design decision that I just don’t understand about this game. Why does a tank need to deal big damage? Even solid damage over the course of a fight? Isn’t the fact that he has four CC skills enough? Isn’t the disruption caused by his presence enough? Xypherous talks about Wrath of the Titan being a “soft-taunt” because it adds damage if players don’t attack Nautilus. Why does a character with four CC skills need a soft-taunt? This doesn’t make any sense.

What about this – what if the tank was designed to control opponents, either by creating openings for his teammates to get kills or preventing the other team from attack. He would have very limited damage, relying instead on CC to keep his enemies alive. His enemies would then have to make an interesting choice – attack the high damage people in the back and risk getting stuck in Nautilus’ CC or burn skills on Nautilus so that the high priority targets are vulnerable. Instead, Nautilus forces players to burn skills on him or suffer huge consequences. That’s not interesting. It takes away the opponent’s ability to make an interesting choice but, more importantly, it takes away Nautilus’ ability and incentive to make interesting, epic plays.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’ve been playing DotA. I have a ton of fun playing support and tank champions in DotA, mostly because I’m not stuck spamming heals on my lanemate. I get to harass a lot. I set up kills a lot. Most of all, I get to make big plays during teamfights. Timing a stun for the perfect moment to save my carry from an enemy stunlock, using Force Staff to move my allies out of harm’s way, landing the perfect Shallow Grave to prevent death – these are all things I’ve pulled off or seen pulled off in ways that make me want to play support and tanks. Because those characters don’t often have big damage, they have a chance to move within a fight and have a serious impact on its outcome. Fights feel extremely dynamic because there is a constant target shift going on – players are trying to burn the big damage dealers while avoiding the crowd control of supports and tanks.

I can think of one character who has both big damage and big utility without any real sacrifice and he’s the most broken character in the game: Invoker. Pretty much every other character suffers from some setback, whether it’s mobility, lack of crowd control, position dependent skills, and so on. The game allows players to shore up those weaknesses through itemization, which obviously comes at a cost. On the whole, it’s the constantly sliding scale of damage, control, durability and mobility that makes a teamfight in DotA interesting. Only one character in DotA has all of those attributes without a truly godlike farm. I certainly can’t say the same for League.

I don’t peg all of this on Xypherous – that would be really unfair. He is working within a metagame and a design philosophy that obviously values Nautilus-style design. Personally, I wish Riot was doing more to change the game, but they’re trucking ahead with the current philosophy. For me, that has meant a serious decline in the amount of enjoyment I get from the game.


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: The new armor/magic penetration system

Last Whisper.One of the biggest changes in this most recent test realm patch was a change to the way both magic and armor penetration affect damage. This is possibly the biggest change to the game that I’ve seen, so I’ll try to cover it in as much detail as possible over the course of the next few days.

First, you need to understand the current system. The current system is based off a couple stats. There’s flat penetration and percentage-based penetration. Flat penetration reduces defensive stats by the same amount regardless of how much defense your target has. Your runes are flat penetration, in the case of armor giving up to 29 armor penetration at level one. That’s a big deal considering most toons have 25 or less armor at that point in the game. That’s also the reason for the change. Riot didn’t like that you could potentially deal “pure” damage to another level one player, so they changed it. The old system also worked based on your armor number. If you got an item like Last Whisper, it would reduce your target’s armor number by 40 percent. If he had 25 armor, he would now effectively have 15. If he had 100 armor, it was down to 60. That’s important because the amount of damage reduction given by armor does not scale linearly. At 100 armor you take 50 percent of the damage dealt. It takes 300 armor, though, to bring that number down to 25 percent. In the new system, penetration affects defense differently.

The new system allows for percentage-based penetration only (current runes will be changed to a percentage to adhere to the new system). This system also affects damage reduction based on the percentage of damage reduced, rather than the defensive stat number. This means penetration scales more quickly the more defense your target has. Here are the new stats according to Phreak:

Against 100 armor, the old Last Whisper had you deal 62.5% damage (from 50% without). The new one has you deal 63%. Void Staff is slightly higher.

Against 200 armor, old Last Whisper dealt 45.45% damage (from 33%). New one deals 50.67%.

Numbers aside, the point is that you will not hit squishies as hard in the early game because you will not be able to reduce their armor significantly but you will hit tanks harder the more defensively they build. Does this seem problematic to you? It should. The whole balance of the game rests on the fact that the greatest threat – carries/casters – are also the easiest to kill. Tanks exist to provide a point of initiation and control for a fight so that those squishy damage dealers can stand back and deal damage from safety. This change dramatically shifts that balance.

Now granted, making the the squishies less so doesn’t exactly mean they’ll be incredibly durable. They will be durable enough, though, to discourage many of the early game shenanigans that make this game fun, particularly if they stack health. Imagine that you hit that level one Ashe at 15 percent reduced damage. If she gets any health beyond her base you will have a very tough time bringing her down unless you were annihilating her before this change.

The real problem, though, is for the tanks. Because of the way the new armor penetration works, tanks become essentially as squishy as everyone else as the game wears on. The only champions that won’t be affected as heavily will be tanks like Shen or hybrids like Garen, who have flat or percentage-based damage reduction with no counter. Effective HP tanks, tanks like Rammus and Mordekaiser, will have a very tough time against this change.

This change is also a nerf to caster damage. One of the best ways to currently improve caster damage is by purchasing early magic penetration. Magic penetration doesn’t scale per level as armor does, so players who don’t invest in MR items are highly vulnerable to magic attacks. With the new change, magic pen will be garbage against most targets, making pure AP the best way to go, which already scales fairly poorly if you can’t get fed.

Maybe the biggest problem with this change, even bigger than making tanks feel very obsolete, is the fact that this pushes people away from variety and toward sameness. HP is now so much better than MR or armor that most tanks will probably just stack it instead. DPS toons now have virtually zero incentive to choose an attack damage item that isn’t Infinity and an attack speed item that isn’t Last Whisper.

I’ll be playing a lot on the Test Realm to get a better sense of how this actually affects the game. In the meantime, enjoy your rune pages while you can and start saving IP for some new ones.


LoL: Learning the tanks

Alistar base pic.In my opinion there are very few pure tanks in League of Legends. A lot of characters can tank, but that doesn’t make them the best for the position. Tanking is also a bit of a strange concept in LoL because there isn’t an aggro mechanic forcing players to attack the thickest guy on the team. Tanks do pose significant threat to a team, though, not because of their damage output but because of their control skills.

Take Alistar, for instance. If the opposing team is rushing your inhibitor turret with Alistar at the forefront, do you try to focus him down while the rest of the team is out of range, or do you let him beat on the tower and focus the weaker targets, hoping he won’t land a crucial headbutt combo? As negligible as his damage may seem, he can quickly put you in a bad situation.

When I see a tank played well it makes me want to tank. Since I’ve been seeing a lot of solid Alistar players lately, I decided to give him a shot. In my first game I had a lot of trouble. I was blowing through mana, despite my manipulator and a few regen runes. What it all came down to was an overuse of skills, particularly for the item build.

Playing a tank is all about picking the situation. Despite your thick exterior, smart play and attentive farming still works best. With Alistar I focus on last hitting exclusively until level 5 or so, stepping in and out of the brush to keep control of the lane. From there it’s just lending support to your carries. Keep building toward survivability until you’re meaty enough to take a solid beating from a couple opponents. When you’re headed for towers, don’t be afraid to rush in and smack the tower while your teammates handle your opponent. That’s the paradox a tank presents to an opponent. Do they deal with you, in which case you can blow your mitigation skills and back up to prep for some control, or do they let you continue to beat down the tower and try to deal with your opponents.

As with all things in this game, discretion is best. If you’re picking your fights wisely, using lane position and teammates to your advantage, and saving your mitigation skills for moments you truly need them, you should be just fine. From there, it’s all about experience.


Related Posts