Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Preseason Impressions: The Jungle

I've had some time to play around in the Season 4 Jungle and with the new jungle items, and I'd like to share with you what I've found.

First, the Cliff's Notes version:
  • Smite's 40 second cooldown inhibits counter-jungling and eases clearing for tanky junglers.
  • Spirit of the Ancient Golem is still the best of the jungling items.
  • Having two "small" camps on each side helps jungle flow considerably.


Smite's 40 second cooldown is a big deal. You no longer need to worry about saving Smite for your second buff because you can have it up for both. If you Smite your first buff on spawn it's seamless (though that should obviously only be done when you're certain it's safe). Even if you don't you can just take 10 seconds to look for the enemy jungler and Smite will be still be back in time to secure your second buff.

This makes contesting an opponent's second buff significantly more difficult early on. The types of junglers who routinely have their buffs contested tend to take extra time and damage at their first buff unless they get an extraordinary amount of help. Being able to Smite that first camp means a healthier jungler will arrive at their second camp sooner. Combined with every laner having the ability to throw down early wards, early counter-jungling is going to be rare except in very lopsided setups.

Having Smite up constantly also makes clearing much easier for junglers in general, though tanky junglers tend to benefit the most. All in all it's a huge quality of life change.

Jungling Items:

All the jungling items now have gold generation passives aimed at boosting jungler income. Of these passives, Spirit of the Ancient Golem's stands out as the most versatile for fairly straightforward reasons.

Conservation, the passive in question, stacks once per second up to 80 times. Killing a large or epic jungle monster consumes up to 40 stacks granting one gold per stack. The upshot of this is you can half a minute and a half of downtime without losing incoming. Moreover, you still gain roughly 10-15 gold per camp if you're straight up farming due to the time it takes to move between them and clear. With four small camps and a low cooldown on Smite it's easy to make use of the passive even into the late-game.

Bounty Hunter, the passive for Elder Lizard and Spectral Wraith, is considerably less potent. The 10 gold bonus per camp is functionally worse than Conservation. Getting two kills/assists every 80 seconds to keep up with the potential of Conservation is basically impossible except in low level games. At the moment I question the value of either Spectral Wraith or Elder Lizard.

The new Wriggle's is potentially powerful, although the much whispered about upgrade currently does not exist. If you're straight up farming the jungle Wriggle's provides a very considerable amount of gold. The problem is that Attack Speed, while sensible for Wriggle's passives, is not by itself that great for most farming junglers. Without the upgrade Wriggle's is a little awkward.

Jungle Flow:

The new jungle camp makes a huge difference to jungle flow. Absolutely huge.

One of the biggest problems facing a jungler is balancing farming and ganking, and a large part of that problem is how their clears flow into their ganks. In Season 3 ganking the side lane closest to the wolves camp is the most costly in terms of time and farm. There's just the one camp on that side and it's fairly distant from the lane, especially if there are wards involved. It's still a gankable lane, the issue is simply that the personal cost to the jungler is higher.

The wight camp significantly helps this problem. It's positioned extremely close to the lane, allowing for quick access in case something happens. It's now easy to flow from wolves to wight to gank, or even vice versa. Moreover, if you exit the gank with a lot of health you can almost always go straight back into the jungle and have a nearby camp waiting for you. Jungling flows better in Season 4.

Overall I'm liking the new jungle, but there's a lot left to figure out. Double jungling might actually be viable with each jungler able to farm two camps. Dealing with free wards all over the map will be an interesting problem.

My only regret is that none of the jungling items are really suited for jungle Akali, alas.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Preseason Impressions: Support Items

The first wave of preseason changes has hit the PBE. It's fairly incomplete, there's a handful of blatant bugs and issues, but thankfully the new support items are in and functional.

I'm not going post the stats of the items here, but you can find them at surrender@20. Just search for "philosopher" and you'll skip down to the relevant section of their mega post.

Here's a quick fact round-up before I dig into some analysis:
  • You can only have one of the three support items (they're also exclusive with Avarice Blade and jungle items).
  • All three have a mini version costing 365g that's half as effective that upgrades into the full version.
  • The final upgrades (e.g. Shurelia's, Shard of True Ice, Martyr's Call) keep the gold generation passives.

To begin, here's a quick comparison of the maximum gold generation each item provides.
  • Philosopher's Stone: 10.4 gp10
  • Kage's Lucky Pick: 20 gp10
  • Reaper's Emblem: 13.3 gp10
These calculations are for ideal scenarios, and this is important. All Philosopher's Stone has to do for its ideal scenario is stay in lane (although I didn't count Z. However, Kage's Lucky Pick's ideal scenario requires you to harass two targets every 10 seconds exactly. It's fairly obvious that won't happen often. Your opponents are not going to open themselves up for harass at exact 10 second intervals, if they're even in lane at the same time you are. Reaper's Emblem requires that you're in lane and can safely Execute minions, otherwise it has no gp10 generation at all.

Kage's Lucky pick is thus the most iffy of all three items. To match Philosopher's Stone you need to be landing 5 valid harass hits every minute. That's a little dicey, and if you fall behind (or even if you get too far ahead) you won't have the opportunities you need to make that quota. Shard of True Ice, despite its changes, is still somewhat questionable in usefulness.

Philosopher's Stone is obviously the safest option, so long as you aren't losing the lane so horribly you can't even get near minions. Of the items it's got the most solid performance throughout the game, generating gold in siege scenarios just as well as in laning scenarios. It also builds into Shurelia's, which is still a reasonably useful item.

Reaper's Emblem is unique in that its functionality doesn't preclude last-hitting. You can last hit all day while waiting for your next charge, and as long as you're using charges on melee minions you're still generating 10 gp10. For this reason I suspect we may seem some interesting duo setups involving one or more of these. Most importantly, it upgrades into Martyr's Call.

Martyr's Call is, in fact, probably overpowered at present. If it was merely a shield it might be roughly equivalent to the others, but the shield can be self-cast and works like a Zilean bomb. Breaking the shield doesn't stop the damage from occurring four seconds later, and the damage is AoE. The power this can represent in both skirmishes and teamfights is huge.

I don't know if it will bring about the return of double-bruiser lanes or bruiser-support lanes, but in any matchup I can get away with it I'm planning on grabbing Reaper's Emblem (which incidentally also scales as minion values go up).

That's it for the support item review. There's a lot more preseason stuff coming, but with the jungle changes incomplete and some trinkets outright not working, it'll have to wait for a later date.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thought of the Day: Lucian

It's been a while, but I had a epiphany about Lucian.

If Ardent Blaze, Lucian's W, could be cast while moving he'd be a competitive AD carry.

Right now Lucian is considered terrible for a number of reasons:
  • He's a short range AD carry without a powerful steroid.
  • His W isn't an effective tool for either chasing or kiting.
  • His E is a relatively weak escape/gap closer.
  • His ultimate is difficult to aim and doesn't do much damage.
At first it looks like Lucian has multiple issues that need to each be resolved individually. Upon closer inspection, however, it's clear that three of the purported issues are actually symptoms.

  • Lucian's short range is an issue because he can't chase or kite effectively.
  • Lucian's E is underwhelming because it's insufficient to make up for his chase/kite deficiency.
  • Lucian's ultimate feels week because he's often forced to use it mid-fight when he's been zoned by the tanky front line due to his range and chase/kite issues.
It all comes back to the fact that Ardent Blaze fails to be more than an additional damage skillshot. If it provided the kite/chase potential it was supposed to, all these dominoes would be knocked over and he'd be much, much better. Perhaps not perfect, but far closer.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Update: Plans

So I've been absent for quite some time and a few people have been asking me to update my blog. Here you go.

I've been thinking about my Mondays with Monte show. It was a lot of fun to do, and I'd like to start it back up again, but I need to find ways to attract more viewers. Unfortunately, people aren't very interested in the advice of Gold or even Platinum players. As such I'm putting my money where my mouth is and hunkering down to play all the ranked games I should have been playing months ago. The goal is to reach Diamond, maybe even Challenger, in order to better attract viewers.

So in the meantime I'll be streaming my misadventures during the day, and occasionally updating this blog with thoughts on my progress. Enjoy.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Update: Life, the Universe, Everything

It's been waaaaay too long since my last blog post, and not without reason. Unfortunately I've had a lot on my plate, and it isn't looking to let up anytime in the near future.

As a result updates to this blog are likely to be incredibly sporadic. What time I do find available to me is most likely to be consumed playing League instead of writing about it, though occasionally some idea or thought may excite me and spur me to post.

Thank you all for reading, and best of luck in League.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Patch Day: 3.5 Balance Update

Some new balance changes have arrived, and as usual I'll give them the old analysis once over.

The changes to Akali will have a semi-significant impact on her laning. While technically speaking she'll do more damage part 300 Ability Power, most games are decided before Akali could reasonably acquire that much power. You basically need a 3-4 item build finished before you cross that threshold.

Corki hasn't seen much play as of late. These changes help him a little, as missiles have been a limiting factor for him for some time. His lack of play is really an oddity in any case, so if you were on the rocks about playing him before now is as good a time as ever to pick him up.

Karma sees a few adjustments to her abilities. These are almost entirely quality of life buffs. Beyond making her Mantra easier to access through buffs to her passive and its activation, her most important change is to her Focused Resolve. Now that using Mantra charges automatically gives the 60% speed boost she no longer has any abilities who gain Mantra benefits for being skilled up.

The cast range reductions on Kayle's abilities are steep. Dropping her utility to 900 range forces her to stay much closer to a fight in order to ensure she can save or aid allies in need. However, this primarily affects Support Kayle, as any other form of Kayle is already going to be in the thick of it or near a needy ally.

Lux will no longer be able to instantly clear a creep wave every 24 seconds. Instead, she'll be able to clear a creep wave every 30 seconds. Ultimately (har har) she hasn't been significantly hurt, save for those foolish enough to consistently overextend while laning.

Morgana, Nami, Nautilus, and Nunu all got minor tweaks to make them more competitive. I'm of the opinion that it's largely unnecessary in Nami's case. Nami is good, but before anyone could get used to her Thresh (who is clearly amazing) arrived. Morgana and Nautilus' changes are mostly friendly bumps to remind you these champions exist and are good. Nunu, however, is still on the edge of competitiveness.

Quinn had a few significant playability issues which have now been addressed. Valor's mark timing was such that it was extremely common that you would start to attack a target, and before you finished Valor would have started to mark it. However, because your attack was in the air before he finished marking you'd fail to get the proc, resulting in no benefits and a 10 second wait for the next mark. This is a little more rare now, and along with her Vault change should improve her popularity slightly.

Volibear got a slight nerf. He's still extremely strong, especially when ganking, so don't freak out if you love jungling as a bear.

Jungling is now different, thanks to changes to the items which build out of Spirit Stone. They now all cost 2000 gold. In order to effect this change, Spirit of the Elder Lizard received a slight nerf, and Spirit of the Ancient Golem traded its Armor for Cooldown Reduction, with a slight change in recipe. This will incidentally also make it easier for jungle tanks to get the Cooldown Reduction they need to spam their utility.

Overall there were any crippling nerfs or incredible buffs, nor was there anything out of the ordinary. However, there were significantly more buffs and quality of life changes than nerfs this patch, which reverses the previous, concerning trend where almost everything was a nerf. Good show.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Patch Day: Zac & Karma

The patch is actually here, and with it comes Zac and a remade Karma.

Karma's remake is interesting in that it makes her much more of an offensive caster than a support. While she can support, she'll likely be played as a straight carry more often than not due to her high damage and survivability.

Nerfing Akali's Twilight Shroud through its mechanics is painful, but only for those overly reliant on it. The truth of the Shroud is that beyond the laning phase its usefulness drops due to pink wards and Oracle's. In fact, in high level play pink wards are par for the course when it comes to ganking Akali.

Hecarim gets another bout with the nerf bat. This dramatically affects his survivability in longer encounters, especially at low ranks. He'll still be played, but his popularity is likely to decrease as will his chances at competitive play.

Rumble's ultimate is now entirely damage over time without any special upfront burst. Using it to catch people who were nearly dead was apparently too strong. I'd be interested in seeing the analysis which lead to this change.

Everyone's favorite gap closer-less jungler, Udyr, has essentially been given a minor rework. This should help his jungling and distance closing issues, though he loses a bit of tankiness, mana sustain, and longer duration mobility as a result. Chances are he'll still be very strong both top and as a jungler.

The changes to turret damage will make early dives harder, but in the end it's mostly going to make foolish junglers accidentally kill themselves more.

A decent patch overall, and nice in that it had a fairly even share of both buffs and nerfs (even if I didn't discuss them all). Hopefully this balance will continue in future patches.