@Riot - Burst Damage Itemization Discussion
For the most part I really love all of the new item changes in Season 3. I think they will yield a game that is more balanced and fun. However, I'm convinced that the Season 3 items which best enhance damage from "burst" champions contain some fundamental problems in their current design. These problems stem from how burst damage currently works in LoL.
Burst damage champions rely upon high damage numbers that their skills come with automatically. Stacking AD on Talon or Renekton, for instance, won't offer them much more damage in comparison to what their abilities already provide. Most AP characters are also in a similar situation now that AP is more gold intensive; they have amazing base damage amounts and therefore flat AP items just don't seem very appealing. This allows another stat called "penetration" to shine and the following problems (1-3) to arise:
1. Items that benefit burst damage are unintuitive based upon champion classification.
If I'm dealing a TON of base damage, then naturally I want to maximize how that damage is dealt, not just add on a little more. That makes an item like the new Black Cleaver into one we rush to increase physical-burst damage (or Liandry's for more magical-burst damage). This is unintuitive since a beginner would naturally think that actual AP or AD is what most benefits the damage from champs that we call AP or AD, but they don't.
CONCLUSION: While this is a marginal problem, it would be less confusing if the AD and AP stat were the go-to damage items for every character we classify under AD or AP (including Mages, Assassins, and Bruisers). Sure, burst-damage champions are weird, and as such would need special AD and AP items that wouldn't be allowed to work as well with time-consistent damage sources (like auto-attacks), and you'd need a way to keep them the deadliest champs during mid-game (since that's a fun dynamic), but I can't imagine those changes would be too difficult to design. Then, only after we've purchased enough AD or AP would Armor or Magic penetration be the secondary stat to best enhance our damage. Similarly, it makes the most sense for HP to be the go-to counter for all sources of damage with Armor and Magic Resist becoming important only after you've first stacked enough health. (Albeit, you'd want all these stats close enough in effectiveness that getting armor penetration before AD or armor before health would still feel okay, just generally not as good.)
2. Items that benefit burst damage completely negate too many potential counter items in the shop (in particular the most intuitive counter items).
Now, even if burst champions are just fine relying more on penetration than on flat AD or AP, we will still have a bigger problem if their penetration items aren't properly balanced in relation to Armor and Magic Resist. Essentially, Armor and Magic Resist cost a lot more and are a lot less convenient to get with the current Season 3 items than they were in Season 2. At the same time, Armor penetration and Magic penetration items for burst champions cost a lot less and are a lot more convenient to buy. In fact, unless you're building pure tank, it feels like you're wasting your gold when buying ANY armor or magic resist against a burst champion (they'll just penetrate it). This makes for an odd situation where health is the only competitive option against a burst champion in spite of the fact that they're increasing their damage with penetration.
For instance, Brand is killing me with M-pen Runes, the 8% Mastery, Sorcerer's Shoes, Liandry's, and a -20 aura from his tank (Abyssal Scepter). In total that cuts through a flat 70 magic resist that I might have and then another 8% that remains (plus, Brand could also still get Void Staff to make that 8% into 37.8% if he really wanted and we're not even counting any penetration from champion abilities on his team). So, should I then (as, say, Tryndamere or Master Yi) buy Malmortius (+30), Wit's End (+20), and have my support buy Runic Bulwark (+30), all just so I can cause my magic resist to go up by a whopping 9 points (6 points if Brand has the VS)?! Uh, I'm sorry, but no. I'd rather stay at 0 magic resist (can't go lower!), buy lots of health (or some more damage), and then hope my team stuns Brand before he can cast anything. In practice, magic resist will only help against a tanky ap champ that isn't getting penetration items, and health will/should work better against that tanky champion anyways. As such, any attempt to sprinkle small amounts of resistance into ANY build is a totally false choice against burst champions (A.K.A. a noob trap).
Even in season 2, resistances felt like they were only good for forcing your opponent to get some penetration (and thus less pure damage). Now, however, your burst-y enemy is rushing penetration and so you know that resistances will be hard countered almost from the start. However, if penetration items could be rebalanced to soft counter resistances (as apposed to hard countering them) and resistances could more softly counter flat damage (from base numbers, AP, and AD), everything would make a lot more sense and a lot more items would be viable. The only remaining problem in that instance, then, would be how full tanks would be able to dwarf penetration too much, but re-balancing their items or offering more % pen should be able to balance that.
CONCLUSION: If burst champions are going to get most of their damage from penetration, then regaining that lost armor and magic resist should actually offer some cost effectiveness against that (at least a little). It is confusing to have health and only health (A.K.A. Warmog's) be the counter for damage that primarily comes from penetration: it leads to boring item builds, creates false item choices, and just plain feels awful.
3. Items that most benefit flat burst damage also simultaneously benefit a burst champion's ability to deal consistent damage over time. This makes those items too easy of a choice in comparison to all others.
Burst champions are scary because they deal a lot of damage in a very short period of time (often, one full combo of their skills will kill a squishy enemy). Giving burst champions items that further increase that quick burst of flat damage (before retreating) is fine and fun, but then using those same items to give them the ability to cast their spells sooner (or deal an extra burning over time effect) is so good they'll never buy anything else first and never skip it unless it's nerfed into underpowered status. The reason is because that combination basically gives burst champions everything they need in one place. They will not only hurt more, they will hurt more often and continue to hurt throughout a fight. Black Cleaver and Liandry's Torment are the only real offenders here so far (though perhaps Youmuu's CDR could also be abused by some champs), but that's still enough of an issue that it could harm a healthy item system. Even worse, this combination can easily be overpowered since the two types of stats multiply each other. Getting both early creates a much larger increase in damage than if they were separate, making a smooth increase in deadliness into a sudden spike.
CONCLUSION: Basically, if healthy build options or build-order options for burst-y champions are a concern, I'd separate the stats that increase penetration onto different items than the ones that offer cooldown reduction and consistent, periodic damage. Smoothing out the rate at which burst champions increase in deadliness would also be a concern solved by this approach.
Anyways, I thank anyone who took the time to read this. Hopefully Xypherous or someone else at Riot could share their thoughts, but I'm interested in what anyone has to say on this matter. Please feel free to post replies.
If Brand has Void staff, our melee attackers actually have less magic resist they started the game with. This is odd since they and their support just built 3 magic resist items. This just proves even more that we should rely on the zero magic resist limit than waste gold on those defensive items. That doesn't feel right at all.
A simple understanding would say that less flat pen would prevent the overpowering negation that "sprinkle" resistance items (like Malmortius or Zhonya's) currently experience. Meanwhile more %-pen could be just as powerful against full tank builds. But, I'm not sure if that's as all-encompassing-ly healthy as I think. Like, for instance, would stacking all the flat pen be too tempting against squishy enemies?
Perhaps if %-pen were generally always sprinkled with a little flat (other than on Runes), healthy item choices would still exist, but I worry that change alone might not be enough. Actually tweaking the system of damage+penetration vs resistances might be required for burst champions beyond that. But, perhaps at least changing some of the flat pen to % pen might be a good place to start.
MP is supposed to counter MR, not the other way around, if you try to do the reverse, you will fail. On the other hand. Building pure AP is to counter HP stacking, if you stack HP while he's getting scaling AP, you will not survive either.
Building penetration is technically a gamble, since MR cannot go below 0. If you only have 30 MR while he's getting both Liary, Abyssal and Void Staff, he's wasting his money which he could spend to grab more AP and thus, dmg. Again, if you stack a lot of MR just to negate his penetration, it's also a waste of money, and since MP is cheaper, you will lose regardless. If he stacks MP, grab more HP, if he stacks AP, grab MR.
Mindlessly stacking MR and be able to counter whatever build they do is the one that doesnt feel right.
So, then, the remaining question would be if Brand wants to pick up Void Staff or wants someone on his team grab Abyssal Scepter. Usually that would be too much and we'd just skip those items as far as Brand is concerned (since he's already got the enemy team at or close to 0 most of the time). However, if the enemy team's tank is stacking magic resist, their support has Runic Bulwark, and their squishy champs are buying some damage+MR items, then either Void Staff or Abyssal Scapter would be very well spent (on rare occasions you'll actually want both).
In the case of an AD burst champion like Wukong or Xin Zhao, stacking armor pen will basically never waste gold except in extreme cases. Even Heimerdinger, who basically has the lowest armor in the game, will have over 60 armor by level 18. Sure, stacking Black Cleaver and Last Whisper would usually be dumb (since the former would reduce the effectiveness of the latter), but otherwise you'll never really have more Armor Pen than your enemy has armor.
All I'm pointing out is how incredibly worthless it feels to stack small amounts of armor or magic resist into champion builds. It currently costs a lot and is very inconvenient to itemize in comparison to how effective it is for you. By contrast, penetration is much cheaper and much more convenient in comparison to its effectiveness. I don't see how its extreme to want splash-resistance items to have some use for you (other than in games where your enemies are clueless).
Let's look at the specifics:
1. Flat Resistances and Flat Penetration cost about the same in terms of shop gold, mastery-points, and rune slots when considered overall.
2. For any starting value, you'll take a lot more damage when you're moved closer to zero resistance than any you'd prevent by moving yourself further from zero. This makes penetration more powerful from the start.
3. Penetration will ALWAYS work on you and ALL of your allies from the start of the game (up to a limit), but a given resistance item will only block damage coming from HALF of your enemies.
4. It's very easy to stack large amounts of damage (from flat AD/AP & penetration) into a single item slot, but its very difficult to stack a lot of resistances into a single item slot.
5. Penetration is a damage stat mixed onto almost-pure damage items. Resistances are defensive stats mixed onto a lot of damage items (particularly for auto-attacking squishies). This implies that it should be at least somewhat effective to slow a damage-stacking build with small amounts of resistances (but, against a burst champion, it's not).
6. Health currently gives you more survivability for the gold against both stacked damage and penetration damage when compared with resistances (and two of the best penetration items actually offer some health).
In light of all that, it's easy to see why it seems like buying a little armor against a Xin Zhao with a Black Cleaver actually set you back more than it helped you. You've actually delayed your ability to do more for your team for a high gold cost while at every step he's gotten usefulness out of his gold. When you buy a little magic resist against a champion like fiddlesticks, you risk wasting even more of your time and gold since you can easily be brought below zero magic resist (where adding resistances actually does nothing).
Essentially, from the start of a game to the very end, buying ANY armor or magic resist on a champion that can't stack a lot of it (or can't tank for that matter) is a HUGE, HUGE gamble. That makes a lot of really neat items in the shop into things we "mindlessly" ignore. Meanwhile, burst champions are "mindlessly" stacking penetration because it's never a gamble. I'm not sure why you'd think that couldn't be changed at least a little.
Now, obviously I'm not saying certain champions or the HP stat is overpowered (if that's what you're worried about). I'm just seeing issues where certain items and builds are limited into boring territory because of how strongly they are countered before they're even purchased. I think a healthier system where those items are a little viable would be more fun. (Either that or they should be removed from the game or changed to give health/shields only.)
On #2 penetrations were better than AP for tanky champions and supports in terms of ramping up damage. Most actual tanks and supports tend to not have the greatest ability power ratios, but magic penetration increases damage incandescently of what your ratios are. This was especially true for building supports in Dominion - you'd go tanky penetrations for the best effect. Flat penetrations are inherently fantastic against low-resistance targets as well, so they were always a solid choice early on in season 2. The only reason they didn't see as prominent play as they do now has more to do with the incredibly limited itemization options paired with flat and percentage values working against each other rather than with each other.
#3 isn't really something that benefits burst casters that much, Liandry's doesn't get more powerful with each application - the only thing that happens is that the duration is re-set. Which heavily favors periodic or damage over time applying it, not burst. The duration isn't even that long, so you're not pumping out much between bursts either. The magic penetration is the only reason to get Torment on a variety of burst-casters, not a lot of them actually deal periodic damage or have low enough cooldowns for the burn to count for much. Brand, Cassiopia, and Ryze are the only burst-casters that come to mind in that regard.
As for abusing Youmuu's, that item is only really good on melee carries - Master Yi, Tryndamere, and Fiora. To a lesser extent it's good on auto-attack reliant bruisers that aren't reliant on critical strikes like Xin Zhao, Nocturne, Irelia, Olaf, and Jax - but they aren't reliant on critical strikes. In general melee carries are so unviable being able to abuse it is more or less a good thing, though while it's certainly effective I wouldn't really call it an abuse case. Anyone else who could potentially abuse the armor penetration and CDR generally won't put the critical strikes or active to much use, as burst-casting implies abilities, which don't benefit at all from critical strikes or attack speed, with so few exceptions they're not worth mentioning.
I'll agree armor and magic resistance offer rather unimpressive counter-build options now though, but at least there's unique effects on items. Banshee's Veil is still amazing at stopping a variety of burst casters from doing anything, Quicksilver Sash can cut out the nastiness of a variety of others, and Guardian Angel can help against getting dove on.
i would just like to to point out because it seems a lot of guys / gals don't get this ...
i play tank i play tank most of the time . there is more than just cost ... don't forget we will never have the gold . tanks have to use other methods gold gain items and/or runes, kill assists .. a tank shouldn't have near the gold as a brand or riven . i am not complaining just saying . you have to take this and a couple other things into account . one stat that wasn't mentioned health regeneration . i have found i have been using that a bunch lately . some of the classic items like a banshee's veil / guardian angel / aegis of the legion are still really good ...... and good on any champ not just a tank. there are a couple ap /ad defensive items not really enough to complain about though , heck some i consider rather good .
Ouch! The other day I faced a Teemo while playing a tank and that hurt even more than my Brand example since he could throw a Malady into the mix too. Since Malady is flat reduction, it stacks perfectly with Liandry's and Sorc Shoes. I even bought two negatron cloaks, but they only helped for a couple minutes before he could plummet me back zero MR again. Eventually I sold the cloaks and bought a giant's belt and that tanked him and his team better than 100 MR (which is strange, but whatever). Not sure if that'll work again now that Giant's belt is getting nerfed, but I hope so since I believe Tanking should be a viable role in every game (it's very fun). I don't want to be required to go damage on Singed.
You're right about penetration items being useful on tanks and supports with poor ratios and/or low-gold income, but, in my thinking, they wouldn't bother with that unless they already had good base damage in some form. (A champion with both poor ratios AND poor base damage would be better off ignoring penetration.) As such, I'd still classify that under the kind of "burst" I'm talking about here. Still, it's probably confusing for me to single out "burst" champions when any champ that relies HEAVILY on penetration should be the subject of this thread.
I also suppose you're right about Liandry's and Youmuu's not being as abusive as I was thinking. Though Brand or Malzahar love Liandry's, three seconds isn't that long for most other bursty mages. But, still, in theory it's probably best to keep that sort of stat on a separate item from one that enhances burst damage. (Like, what if the burn on Liandry's lasted longer but was given a cooldown like Sheen?) And, yeah, Youmuu's isn't an issue since I can't really think of a burst-y champ that could really benefit from its total stats (other than maybe Xin Zhao or Irelia), but maybe someone could figure out a way. Again, it seemed more like a principle thing to me more than a problem.
And, lastly, yeah, I believe resistance items are still great. Even items like Malmortius and Lich Bane. The question is if you can use resistances in small amounts enough for the other stats/abilities of an item to shine. Tanky champions can usually stack enough resistance to make them work (except maybe against AP Teemo, ehem!) and it never hurts to reduce damage from sources that rely less on penetration.
Gold is a huge concern for tanks that can't farm well (or aren't allowed to farm). In particular, I can see how a situation where having penetration hard counter resistances might lead to fed burst-y champions snowballing too much against tanks that are trying to compete using resistances. That said, HP and HP/5 are still very useful, but once those stats are nerfed enough (Giant's Belt just took a hit), will full tanks have any options left when their team is behind and trying to recover? We shall see.
Not to mention the income in jungles has increased and passive gold per 10 has been increased, so income is much closer between all the champions in the game.
So you really should have the gold under normal circumstances.
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