Stop moving this thread to champion feedback. Nobody uses that forum.
Hello, I'm Sayath - Diamond III on EUW (www.lolking.net/summoner/euw/19330099). I play Akali exclusively since 11th May 2010 (her release date) and have around 3000 games with her (NA+EUW). You might know me from my successful skin transfer thread (http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/....php?t=2707151).
By this you should have noticed that I am one of those heavily invested players. The league might have more than one-hundred champions, but for me there is only one: Akali
First things first: Skill transcends champion balance. True ELO is a product of champion baseline impact and individual skill. Balance is a process of fairness. All champions shouldn't be equal, but their level of impact considering perfect play should be roughly the same. If possible, this statement should also be true for all lesser levels of play (Challenger, Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze).
Why am I writing this thread? I'm not upset about her power level (= risk / reward product). She might be on the weak side currently. Fine. I have lived through a lot of power spikes and downs. What bothers me is the direction Riot is taking my cute assassin. The issue: Akali should be a high risk / high reward champion at all levels of play. She currently is not. To fulfill this, her gameplay requires more depth.
Let's be clear on our understanding of the above statement:
Dictionary: something given or received in return or recompense for service, merit, hardship, etc.
In game context: something given or received in return for proper execution of a gameplay pattern
As I see it, this directly links to damage output and utility. Both of these I summarize under game impact. The ultimate goal of League of Legends is to destroy the enemy nexus. All other actions have to support this accordingly. In the context of Akali I define impact and thus reward by her ability to assassinate targets. She does this mainly through her damage output. The only form of CC she has is her Twilight Shroud's slow. She brings nothing to the team besides that.
Dictionary: exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance
Wikipedia: A probability or threat of damage, injury, liability, loss, or any other negative occurrence that is caused by external or internal vulnerabilities, and that may be avoided through preemptive action.
In game context: exposure to the dangers of counterplay; failure probability of a gameplay pattern
The ultimate form of counterplay is death. While in this state, you are unable to take any action and effectively removed from the game. Therefore, survivability is a key statistic. The higher the following are, the less likely death will occur: Health, Magic Resist, Armor, Spellvamp, Lifesteal. If the opponent is not within range, he cannot pressure you. Consequently, auto attack and spell range of a champion must be taken into account. Last but not least, the presence of escape abilities and the possibility of other forms of counterplay.
Fitting into the above definition of risk, we have the following for Akali:
Health: 445 (+85) – high amount of starting HP, average amount of late game HP (see: http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wik...ions%27_health)
Magic Resist: 30 (+1.25) – scaling Magic Resist like most melee champions (http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wik...gic_resistance)
Armor: 16.5 (+3.5) – above average amount (http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wik...pions%27_armor)
Spellvamp: 6% (+1% per 6 AD)
Attack range: 125 – melee range
Escape abilities: 8s position confined stealth, ultimate can be used to dash to enemy minions & monsters
Ease of applying damage: Point & Click with the following Range: 600 (MotA Initial Damage) / AA or Crescent Slash (MotA Detonation), 325 (Crescent Slash), 800 (Shadow Dance)
Note: Shadow Dance makes detonating MotA a lot easier.
Counterplay: Staying outside of range (especially while MotA is on your head). Interrupting Shadow Dance mid-air. Crowd Control (stun, silence, root, slow, knockup, blind). Invulnerable / untargetable (Popping Mark of the Assassin in mid-air). True sight against Twilight Shroud.
Dictionary: the ability to do something well; expertise
In game context: the ability to successfully execute a gameplay pattern
This divides into overall game knowledge and champion specific competence. It includes, but is not limited to: Timing (When to use an ability), Positioning (Where to be at any given moment), Proficiency (How to use an ability)
Akali supports the following main gameplay patterns:
The most basic offensive pattern. Akali simply throws Mark of the Assassin.
Q (Initial) -> AA (Detonation)
Akali throws the Mark and attacks the target enemy champion.
Q (Initial) -> E (Detonation)
Akali throws the Mark and detonates it with Crescent Slash.
R -> Q (Initial) -> AA (Detonation)
Akali shadow dances towards the enemy, throws the Mark and activates it via auto attack.
Q (Initial) -> Pause -> R -> AA (Detonation) -> Q (Initial) -> E (Detonation)
Akali throws the Mark. It will linger on the enemy for up to six seconds. She waits until her MotA cooldown is up again. Then proceeds to shadow dance towards the target, activate the previous Mark via AA and throw a new one which is detonated with Crescent Slash.
Akali uses Twilight Shroud.
W + Bush / Choke point
Akali places Twilight Shroud, in order to connect it with an adjacent bush or otherwise favorable choke point.
(Ward) + R*
Akali shadow dances towards enemy minion / monster / champion (if necessary multiple times) to escape to safety. She might use a sight ward, in order to gain vision (required for use of ultimate) of the monster camp / champion.
Dictionary: the quality of being intense or extreme; complexity and profundity of thought
In game context (champion): the complexity of a champion's kit
As I see it, depth allows differentiation between skill tiers. It simply provides more variables and thus access points for people to optimize gameplay around. For example, Orianna has a multitude of possible interactions with her ball to differentiate a master from a newbie. Yet she still remains accessible. She is easy to pick up, but hard to master. Depth is not adding complexity for the sake of itself. Depth is adding complexity for the sake of fostering gameplay.
However, it is also a great factor in the viability of a champion at the higher levels of play. Why is that? Because depth allows the game designer to split game impact (= reward) into two components. One is baseline impact. It is independent of skill. The other is skill scaling impact which increases as the skill level rises. By adjusting these two the power curve of a champion can be balanced for all levels of play.
For example, given a champion is overpowered at the low level and underpowered at the high level: We increase skill scaling impact while decreasing the baseline like so:
Vertical Axis: Impact, Horizontal Axis: Skill
Therefore, the champion is now viable at Diamond while less prevalent at Bronze, Silver & Gold!
Thus, my hypothesis reads as follows:
1) high risk / high reward dimension (under the assumption Akali is balanced)
Her risk needs to increase: Nerf her survivability / escape / ease of applying damage. In exchange, buff her reward back to the old values.
If she is OP: Nerf her survivability / escape / ease of applying damage.
If she is UP: Buff her reward.
2) power curve dimension (under the assumption she was overpowered at the low level, balanced at the high level)
Akali's power curve is skewed. Her baseline impact is too high, her skill scaling impact too low. This created the problem of her being overpowered at the low level in the first place. In order to fix this, increase Akali's skill scaling impact (her depth), reduce her baseline in exchange. Make her harder to play. This allows her to be viable at Diamond and above without affecting the lower tiers of play.
What evidence am I basing this on? What other issues am I seeing with the current changes?
Champion Kit Analysis:
a) Twin Disciplines: Removal of entrance barrier
Before you had to have 19.5 AP and 9.5 AD, in order to trigger both passives. Since such is absolutely not standard, you had to dedicate a whole page to Akali.
The removal mostly affected lesser levels of play. Before Akali was banned from the free rotation (runepage requirement a no-go). With the limiter removed she was put on rotation multiple times. With such exposure the core imbalance (9 pots / 2 wards, more on it later) caused a massive surge in popularity. Everybody could pick her up easily. Her lane game was forgiving, „easy to play” at bronze till gold (no vision wards, positioning mistakes, etc.).
Again we are talking about bronze, silver & gold. A specific runepage requirement prevents people from playing said champion. Especially when the only way of exposure was somebody else playing her (popularity was low at the time!) or straight up buying the champion [who buys a champion that is not seen being played and that requires a specific runepage (= even more IP) ?].
I can understand the intention behind the change (making entry easier). However, why are you trying to do this to a snowball champion who reigns supreme at the lower levels of play where kills are plentiful? The passive was a great tool by Coronach to prevent the pub stomp aspect of her. In essence, this change was very counterproductive for her viability at higher levels of play. You buffed her skill floor unnecessarily.
b) Mark of the Assassin: Reduction of reward
- Initial damage: 35 / 55 / 75 / 95 / 115 (+ 40% AP) down from 45 / 70 / 95 / 120 / 145 (+ 40% AP)
- Detonation damage: 50% AP up from 40% AP
Total damage is equivalent at 300 AP. Anything beyond exceeds the old version. Obviously, 300 AP is hardly ever achieved on a hybrid champion. Just by building Gunblade you forfeit achieving this until late game. Does it matter then? Is her late game vastly improved by this? Of course, it is not. At that stage in the game it's all about CC and positioning. Damage is plentiful already (tanks will melt versus ADCs). Basically, it is a straight decrease in reward. If they really had to decrease the ranged harass (it was pathetic before!), why not move the damage from initial to detonation instead? Even though CSing with throwing Mark would still be annoying.
If Riot really wanted to incentivize building Ability Power over defense items, they missed the mark on the ratio. Why is that? Let’s take a look:
Damage compared to the old version at various AP levels:
0.5 ratio: 300 AP: +0 / 400 AP: +10 / 500 AP: +20 / 600 AP: +30
My proposition - 0.55 ratio: 200 AP: +0 / 300 AP: +15 / 400 AP: +30 / 500 AP: +45 / 600 AP: +60
Vertical Axis: Damage, Horizontal Axis: Ability Power
[Graph moved to attachment; problems with text at lower resolutions]
The more I favor Ability power over Defense the riskier jumping into the enemy team becomes. Therefore, an adequate reward should be given out for going glass cannon. With the current ratio the exorbitant risk I am taking does not justify the reward. Therefore, the optimal build does not change. Instead you are touching the damage the champion relies on to function.
The concept of an assassin implies - in my opinion - high risk / high reward. For Akali this translates to high risk / high damage as outlined above. Hence, if the champion is overpowered, you should focus on increasing risk. Yet you focus on decreasing damage.
You shouldn't. Her damage numbers were fine. You should touch her risk as defined above instead. Nerf her survivability.
Also, if you wanted to adjust her level power curve, you missed the mark. Mark of the Assassin should be either one of the following:
1) original version:
Initial / Detonation: 45 / 70 / 95 / 120 / 145 (+ 40% AP)
Comment: This version has superior CSing and harassment.
2) base damage shift:
Initial: 35 / 55 / 75 / 95 / 115 (+ 40% AP)
Detonation: 55 / 95 / 115 / 145 / 175 (+ 40% AP)
Comment: This version reduces CSing & harassment. The damage output remains the same when activated.
3) base damage into ratio:
Initial: 35 / 55 / 75 / 95 / 115 (+ 40% AP)
Detonation: 45 / 70 / 95 / 120 / 145 (+ 55% AP)
Comment: Damage output before reaching 200 AP is reduced. However, output increases after that turning point.
c) Twilight Shroud: Increase in risk
- Akali is now immediately stealthed/revealed upon entering/leaving the Shroud zone
- Akali is now immediately stealthed when casting Twilight Shroud directly on herself
- Akali is now revealed from stealth upon casting a spell or beginning an attack rather than upon dealing damage
- Delay on re-stealthing increased by 0.15 seconds
This mainly reduces the safety in lane, also getting away (clutch escapes) became harder to pull off. Attack animation start now reveals and the restealth time got increased as well. Therefore, if you attack, you are longer exposed to harass. The only benefit of the change: Instant stealthing upon throwing.
I agree with these changes.
PBE changes: Twilight Shroud now gives vision for the duration.
This allows for some neat tricks, increasing her skill ceiling. However, this won't alter her power curve by much. I like the direction this is going though.
Use cases are as follows:
Bush Checking (http://youtu.be/oLOH5tovwow).
Drake vision (http://youtu.be/koCACh9s_4c).
Escaping via monster camps (http://youtu.be/BTk0YCwEwm0).
Baron vision (http://youtu.be/lDEw8Jx23fw).
Watching enemies passing through (http://youtu.be/o-UjIL98mFc).
In essence, Twilight Shroud is now a 8s ward (except ward hopping - Lee can't use it to jump!).
Thanks to Hexten for providing these.
d) Shadow Dance: Reduction of reward
- Essence of Shadow charge rate increased to 35/25/15 seconds from 25/20/15
40% CD increase at 6, 25% CD increase at 11.
The ubiquitousness of the ultimate allowed a lot of harassment plays. Mark -> wait -> Shadow Dance -> Trigger -> Mark -> Trigger mainly. The amount of times you can do this now got decreased heavily (40%! CD increase).
Previously, it also happened sometimes that you were chasing an opponent at zero stacks and you could actually wait for your ultimate to come back up. Such "four" stack plays required a lot of timing - currently the cooldown is way too high to pull this off before reaching level 11 / 16.
All in all, you have to itemize for CDR or convince your jungler to give you blue buff, in order to still function.
PBE changes: Shadow Dance: Essence of Shadow charge rate reduced to 30/22.5/15 seconds from 35/25/15.
Cooldown for three stacks:
old version: 75 / 60 / 45
live version: 105 / 75 / 45
PBE version: 90 / 67.5 / 45
CD nerf is now 20% @ 6 and 12.5% @ 11. Now at least I won’t have to feel totally retarded for Shadow Dancing towards a minion.
Some of you might be wondering why I labeled this as a reduction in reward. First and foremost, if you increase the cooldown of a damage spell, maximum possible damage over time goes down. This is the case where you use the spell every time it comes off cooldown. So the more correct term would be: Reduction of reward over time
Leaving designator aside I keep wondering what the intention behind this change is. Yes, you want to reduce her power level. However, why did you choose to reduce damage over time instead of increasing risk?
One could argue by heightening Shadow Dance’s cooldown getting in range for engagement becomes harder and not using Shadow Dance charges becomes more rewarding.
Yes, that is definitely the case. Does it make sense though to reward these type of situations even more? After all, the difficulty of match ups where gap closing is a requirement increases by the same amount. Just try going against any anti-melee mage. For example, Lissandra can keep you at bay multiple times: First, there is Ice Shard. You have to dodge that, else the slow is enough to keep you from walking up to her. If you achieve that, she still can root you in place and get away. If all fails, she can still stun you via ultimate or just jump away through glacial path. I’m not making a point whether these champions are balanced or not. I’m simply asking myself: Is the CD increase the right nerf?
Lane Game / early itemization: 5 pots limit & Elixir nerf
Once upon a time there was a clever ninja girl. She always bought boots and three health potions. Laning in mid was exciting and fun. Surviving against the evil mages required a lot of skill. Dodging skillshots mattered. Everyone thought the poor girl was insane to go up against a ranged opponent. Many tried to imitate her, but no one was able to. They all got zoned from the minions and lost their lanes. She did not. Through clever positioning she could keep even with the evil mages in terms of CS and health. Once she gained her ultimate she taught the evil mages a lesson they would never forget.
It was a time of the few. She was congratulated for her play, honored even. She could do what others couldn't.
Then came a new season - itemization changes. Boots got nerfed. Everyone started now differently: 9 pots / 2 wards - the holy grail for lane dominance emerged.
People caught on quickly: Laning against the evil mages became a walk in the park. Dodging skillshots? No need, I tank that. Clever setup and execution? No thank you, I bruteforce my way through. Map awareness? I have my wards.
And so the Gods intervened to end the madness: Seeing the girl - the most successful - they punished her swiftly. Her attacks got weaker and jumping around took more time for preparation. The real issue, the holy grail, was ignored. Instead they made her dependent on it.
Some weeks later the Gods readjusted their thinking, realizing the true problem. They limited the number of health potions to five. They had already forgotten the poor ninja girl though.
Do you see the problem? If not, I will try to explain in greater detail:
Lane game with Boots & 3 Pots was complex, deep and skillful:
A part of the finesse in playing Akali is a proper execution of the early game. She's melee and requires you to exploit the positioning mistakes of your opponent. Until you can do so you need to prevent taking damage and CS properly. This is the risk. In mid pre-season-3 you were playing mostly against a ranged opponent. This still holds true (Kha / Zed being the exceptions). Therefore, the enemy's goal is to punish you for CSing and hit skillshots. That way he can zone you / force a kill. Guess what, with old Boots + 3 Pots on both sides this was a war of dodging skillshots and following up with mark detonation.
Lane game with 9 Pots / 2 Wards was completely flat. Everybody just sustained through the damage until the opponent ran oom. No skillshot dodging, no need for clever plays.
After all, both sides have ample sustain. People only die through focused full to zero burst. Since no champion can do such alone in early game, dying in 1v1 is a pretty hardcore mistake. Successful ganks decide the lanes. However, with 2 wards even that can be prevented. Given that the lane is pretty stale. All in all, even if your champion has a weak early game, surviving is very easy. Hence, it feels like skill ceiling equals skill floor. Since risk / reward ratio needs to be balanced, Riot nerfed the reward.
This was adequate for that type of playstyle. 9 pots / 2 wards was ridiculously strong.
Some weeks later, Riot makes their next move: 5 health potion limit / elixir nerf
I applaud this change. Lane depth is back. You finally correct your mistake. However, did you nerf Akali with this change in mind? I believe you didn't.
Let's take a look at the possible starting builds now (475g to spend):
- Boots + 3 HP (unchanged)
- Flask (345) + 3 HP (unchanged)
- Cloth (300) + 5 HP (unchanged)
- Faerie Charm (180) + 5 HP + 1 MP + 1 Ward (unchanged except starting 6 HP no longer possible)
- Rejuvenation Bead (180) + 5 HP + 1 Ward (6th pot cannot be bought)
- Elixir of Fortitude(350) + 3 HP (obviously nerfed)
- 5 HP + 4 Wards (2 more wards / vision ward)
If you take a quick glance at the possible starting items, the impact of the nerf heavily points in the direction of non-mana characters. Early itemization became a lot worse. Mana champions also started 9 pots / 2 wards sometimes, yes. But they always had alternatives that had advantages and disadvantages. Now they simply fall back to those starts while non-mana has to take the hit.
The following starting options are left:
Boots + 3 HP, Cloth + 5 HP, Rejuvenation Bead (180) + 5 HP + 1 Ward, Elixir + 3 HP
Neither of these starts has the old inherent power of 9 pots / 2 wards.
Let's take a look at the sustain numbers:
- 9 Pots: 1350 health (no longer possible)
- 5 Pots: 750 health + 60 health / minute = ~900 health (relevant period)
- 3 Pots: 450 health
Remember, mana user starts hardly changed. Only you are left with 450 less health at the minimum. Therefore, risk with non-mana champions increased.
As said earlier, I believe 9 pots / 2 wards was a very problematic start that trivialized the lane game. Superfluent lane sustain (independent from champion) is bad for the game. No issues with removing it.
Your job as a balance team now should be to adjust all champions to these new starting builds.
Champion Depth Analysis:
Why is balancing Akali for all levels of skill so hard? Reset on kill comes to mind. It allows the champion after a successful assassination to continue on towards a new target or retreat from the fight. This is a core part of Akali look & feel. Therefore, changing it is not an option. However, it does set the stage for her power curve. Its effectiveness improves with the amount of kills in the game (low Elo: many; high ELO: few). Consequently, the other parts of her kit need to counteract this.
Another point of concern is Spellvamp. The ability to leech back large amounts of health requires a fine line of balance by itself. In the past especially the lane sustain part was an issue. However, I do not believe this to be the case at the moment. The respective items (Hextech Revolver, Hextech Gunblade, WotA, etc.) have been balanced accordingly. It also heavily depends on her ability to apply damage in the first place. Hence, it shouldn't be a problem.
Maybe its the combination of the two? Again, I believe that Reset on kill and Spellvamp can happily live together. In order for it to be balanced at all levels of play though, we need a counteracting element. The pub stomp aspect needs to be suppressed.
That's were depth comes in. It takes the skewed power curve (op @ low ELO, up @ high ELO) and balances it out. It shifts baseline impact to skill scaling.
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