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Bruisers & AP Carries in the Mid Lane

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Magni

Senior Member

01-06-2013

Source: http://runeprison.blogspot.com/2013/01/bruisers-ap-carries-in-mid-lane.html

The Season 3 pre-season patch has brought a lot of changes that have shaken our conception of the metagame. One of these changes revolves around the middle lane. In Season 2, AP carries dominated the mid lane, in part because of their heavy reliance on levels and the safety of the short lane, but also because of the easy accessibility to the golem buff and the roaming capability that the lane's position offers.

In the current patch, AD assassins, and especially AD bruisers, have seen increased play in the mid lane. In this post, I will explore the reasons for this new trend, as well as whether we can expect AP carries to completely disappear from the lane, as some have been postulating (http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=2929471) in League of Legends forums.

THE MID LANE MATCHUP

AP carries are known for being fragile. In fact, their "squishiness" is one of the reasons they prefer the middle lane over any other lane - its short length offers more safety from ganks and chases. Their fragility is in part due to their base stats, but also because of their limited escape options. Bruisers, on the other hand, have the durability and mobility that lets them compete in the jungle or in harsh attrition lanes like top. They will almost always win trades (http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=2929471) with AP carries as long as they can get in melee range - not normally a problem thanks to gap-closers - and will have an easier time recovering after a trade.

In short, bruisers tend to dominate most AP carries in lane. Please note that I do say "most" and not all, as some mages such as Ryze or Syndra do have the kits to handle themselves against bruisers. However, in most cases, bruiser vs. AP carry matchups are fairly one-sided in the favor of bruisers. Let's look, in detail, at why this is the case.

Base Stats

Bruisers benefit from superior armor - both base and scaling - which makes them less susceptible to auto-attack poke, especially from AP carries, who have low base AD and typically do not start with any armor penetration. Furthermore, they enjoy scaling magic resist, allowing them to slowly become more resilient to magic damage even without purchasing items. They also have higher base and scaling hit points. All of these base stats are extremely important factors in the laning phase, and bruisers are the clear winners in this category.

Early Itemization

There are several great build options for bruisers looking to counter magic damage. For example, Null-Magic Mantle - a cheap, magic resist basic item - builds into Mercury Treads, Hexdrinker, Wit's End, and Guardian Angel, all of which are viable choices for bruiser champions. Hexdrinker in particular is very powerful (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yW4vfMy2AVA) against an AP lane, and builds into Maw of Malmortius. A bruiser who rushes Mercury Treads, Hexdrinker, and some HP item becomes very difficult to kill for any AP carry who doesn't have high sustained damage, at a fairly low cost.

On the other hand, AP carries have few early itemization options to help them lane against bruisers. Cloth Armor - the armor version of Null-Magic Mantle - does not build into anything AP carries actually want. Banner of Command is alone in providing AP and building out of Cloth Armor, but is designed for supports. Zhonya's Hourglass is the only good armor item AP carries will consider in most games - with the exception of Guardian Angel in some - but buying that initial Chain Vest is a moderate investment that doesn't provide any damage.

Catalyst of the Protector is a decent buy, though it delays the AP carry's damage, which may not be ideal vs. the early-game strength of a bruiser. Not every AP carry wants to build Rod of Ages, either.

Sorcerer's Shoes

I believe the existence of Sorcerer's Shoes in its current form contributes to the weakness of AP carries. Consider this: when an AD caster or bruiser wants to upgrade his tier 1 boots, he has many choices: Mercury Treads against an AP-heavy or CC-heavy team, Ninja Tabi against an AD/autoattack-heavy team, Boots of Mobility for roaming potential, and even Boots of Lucidity in some cases. There are no "core" boots on AD casters or bruisers - the only thing they lose by picking any of the above boot upgrades is the missed attack speed from Berserker's Greaves, but attack speed isn't typically that valuable of a stat to them anyway.

On the other hand, AP carries have a lot to lose by building anything that isn't Sorcerer's Shoes, because magic penetration is so strong that not having it is a noticeable loss in damage. When I play a bruiser, it feels good buying Mercury Treads to counter that AP champion I'm laning against. But when I play an AP carry, it feels awful having to buy Ninja Tabi to counter the AD champion in my lane. I think it would greatly benefit AP carries to offer early magic penetration somewhere else (unless Haunting Guise is enough), and change Sorcerer's Shoes to offer a stat that isn't quasi-indispensable.

SEASON 3 CHANGES

So far, everything I've said has been applicable to Season 2 as well as Season 3. Bruisers have always done well in lane against AP carries and have always had better counter-itemization options. So what has changed? Why are mid-lane bruisers suddenly so much more popular in S3?

Movement Speed

In Season 2, every champion in the game had a base movement speed between 300 and 330, and basic Boots granted an extra 50. Because movement speed is so strong, by the end of S2 every player except the support would start with Boots and three health potions. In the new patch, base movement speed was buffed across the board by 25, and Boots were nerfed by the same amount. This is important because it is a huge buff to weak early laners, who can now start with sustain items like the Crystalline Flask and wards to offset their difficult lane - even Nasus is seeing more play thanks to this change.

Crystalline Flask

This item makes lane sustain easy and cheap, and is the main reason the movement speed change was so significant to mid lane matchups. In S2, the best way an AP carry could handle a bruiser in lane was to abuse the bruiser's biggest weakness: melee range. This was done via heavy auto-attack harassing. In S3, this is a lot harder to do, if not impractical, because most melees will start with a Flask, one or two wards, and health potions.

Armor Penetration

Finally, S3 also revamped The Black Cleaver and reworked armor penetration mechanics (see my detailed post about armor penetration here (http://runeprison.blogspot.com/2012/12/cleaving-through-armor-penetration.html)). Armor penetration is now stronger than ever, and also more readily available. Consequently, bruisers and assassins are now less easily countered by armor and have the opportunity to scale into the late-game better than they ever could, which used to be one of their main weakness. This means that AP carries have lost the scaling advantage they used to bring over bruisers, and also means the necessity for magic damage has diminished.

Lategame Items

As Doublelift pointed out in this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkCuvoNZzbg), AP carries are inherently weaker than AD-based champions because they have cheaper late-game items. A six-item AP champion will have invested less gold into his build - and thus will have less stats - than a six-item AD champion. This is in part due to the Rabadon's Deathcap nerf, which hurt AP carry scaling and especially burst casters, who were already considered slightly weak in the S2 competitive scene.

PROS OF AP CARRIES

Despite all that has been said, let's not undervalue AP carries. They still bring superior crowd-control over bruisers, and even with the waning strength of armor in S3, magic damage is still a nice addition to any team. AP carries are also typically ranged, which means they are less susceptible to poke and typically better at farming and poking. If you've ever played an ARAM, you know that getting an all-melee team with no poke can be an awful experience.

Nevertheless, it is no question that the value of bringing an AP carry has decreased in S3. Many teams are now happy to let the AP champions fill the support and jungler roles - this way they can still provide the utility and magic damage for which they are valued - and to let the AD champions take over the carry roles. A few specific champions, such as Anivia or Orianna, may survive this trend by merit of their incredible kits.

CONCLUSION

AP carries are noticeably weaker than they were in Season 2. "Utility" mages may still prove to be irreplaceable assets to competitive teams thanks to their sustained damage and exceptional utility, but there is now arguably no reason to pick burst mages such as Brand or Veigar - who were already unpopular in S2 and never picked in tournaments - over AD bruisers.

Bruisers have several advantages over AP carries in lane, among which are base stats and early itemization options. Furthermore, one of the main downsides of picking mid lane AD champions in S2 - poor scaling - is now greatly diminished in S3 with the changes to armor penetration.

Changes in the metagame are healthy and welcome. However, the decreasing popularity of AP carries is alarming. One of the main reasons AP carries were played mid was because they were, in most cases, already outclassed in other lanes. If they suddenly cannot perform in the safest, best-located lane in the game, what will become of them?


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ArcStar

Senior Member

01-06-2013

Bump


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MaybeitsMalzahar

Senior Member

01-06-2013

Lik dis if u cri evrytim!


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Magni

Senior Member

01-06-2013

Bump.


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Kadajko

Senior Member

01-06-2013

I don't know OP... You can tell me I am wrong of course, but I usually play mid, that is my favorite role, and I like burst casters too, my favorite is AP Ezreal, though he is a mix of burst and DPS. Now if we look at AP Ezreal's kit, he doesn't have any CC or control what so ever, so everything he brings to a team fight is damage, which you were talking about. I feel like Season 3 changes to penetration affected AP chars as well, as awesome as are the new Armor penetration options, things like sorcs and void staff now stack too, also magic pen runes are more viable.
Playing an AP Caster I feel like my damage output is very powerful in a team fight, I heavily damage bruisers if they don't go heavily on the tank side, the fact that they have a Maw and Mercury threads and maybe even + wit's end + health from BC + health from say mallet, this all only means that I don't instagib them, like I do the AD Carry and Support, but I still damage them for like half or 3/4 of their HP in a fairly short rotation.
I had a game where I was the only AP on the team, and 2 people at Bot went Garen + Jarvan, and everyone had Black cleavers. Well the enemy team build mostly armor, and some didn't even have bonus MR at all, I did instagib those bruisers in that game.
The final Graph showed my damage as all of my teammates combined.


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Magni

Senior Member

01-06-2013

Kadajko, you're using just one game as your data. Odds are you just got fed and snowballed. AP Ez is actually pretty damn good at doing that, especially because people aren't used to playing against him mid.


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Slinkywheel

Senior Member

01-06-2013

Cho'gath, Nautilus are two champions I can think of that can go mid as ap bruisers


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Kadajko

Senior Member

01-06-2013

Quote:
Magni:
Kadajko, you're using just one game as your data. Odds are you just got fed and snowballed. AP Ez is actually pretty damn good at doing that, especially because people aren't used to playing against him mid.


No I am not. I swear, EVERY TIME I play AP Ezreal and don't feed ( aka not snowball, just don't feed ), whether I have lost the game or whether I have won the game, my damage output is ALWAYS the highest. Every time I play Dominion, my damage output is ALWAYS the highest.

I do a squishy build, and if I make a mistake I usually die in half a second, but the idea is Glass cannon AP role is not dead.

I usually get fed, and we usually win when the team realizes what I am, and start to actually protect me.


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Ahri Main

Senior Member

01-06-2013

bump; well made and constructive post.

I dislike that the meta is basically becoming. bruiser top bruiser mid jungle support adc. i think the main problem is the annoying crystaline flask + 7 health pot start. it is the most forgiving and annoying thing to lane against. you can take insane amounts of harrass and turtle for a little bit to regen and come back just as strong. if you are playing a champ who is bound by mana (like most midlaners are) you will end up fighting a losing battle by harrassing.


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Magni

Senior Member

01-06-2013

Quote:
Kadajko:
No I am not. I swear, EVERY TIME I play AP Ezreal and don't feed ( aka not snowball, just don't feed ), whether I have lost the game or whether I have won the game, my damage output is ALWAYS the highest. Every time I play Dominion, my damage output is ALWAYS the highest.

I do a squishy build, and if I make a mistake I usually die in half a second, but the idea is Glass cannon AP role is not dead.

I usually get fed, and we usually win when the team realizes what I am, and start to actually protect me.

Nobody is saying the glass cannon AP role is dead, but it certainly is struggling to make itself heard. It just depends on the AP. Ezreal is pretty good at sustained damage. Burst AP carries have a harder time.


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