The State of Skarner and S3

Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

LesLlamas

Senior Member

03-19-2013

Hey all, a quick background on me: I'm an average (statistically) player of League of Legends who mained Skarner through S2 and the beginning of S3. I'm not the greatest player out there, but I have my mechanics down well enough to make this thread. Any pro player input is certainly welcomed.



Section I: What Kind of Jungler is Skarner?

Before we assess the problems or changes to Skarner, it is important to understand what the character is designed to do. In my eye, there are three areas that junglers more or less fit into (and not necessarily just one).

First, there are the jungle camp clearers. Champions like Dr. Mundo excel in clearing the jungle, and are often potent counterjunglers. For the most part, champions with very fast jungle clear bring less utility to a team than the other junglers.

Second, there are gankers. Champions like Amumu are good at ganking lanes due to high crowd control and a debuff to the defensive stats of his enemies. These junglers can be prone to counterjungling as they are often hanging around lanes and have average clear times. It is a higher risk/higher reward style of play. Assassin junglers also fit here because of their ability to kill a priority target quickly.

Third, there are utility junglers. Champions like Nunu provide buffs to your team, have good crowd control or peel, and can do their jobs without a lot of items because of the utility built into their kit. All junglers have some form of utility, but those with the most generally deal less damage through inferior ratios or base statistics.


So What Is Skarner?
In season 2, Skarner found a happy medium between each of those three roles. He had a good AoE clear ability, good ganking that became very good after level 6, and in his ultimate he provided enough utility to a team in the teamfight phase alone to merit a pick. In all, he was a strong jungler.

In season 3, Skarner has seen both his clear and ganking diminish, while his ultimate still gives good utility (even with the bug fix, late game grabs are powerful and not impossible to execute). Beyond this, his post lane-phase presence has gotten weaker due to indirect changes in S3.



Section 2: What S3 Does to Skarner

I want to preface this section by acknowledging that many junglers have felt the impact of the changes I'm about to go in depth on, but that I will try to explain why each change affects Skarner in a unique way. What's important to note is that each of these changes are insignificant enough alone that the only way to truly appreciate their impacts is to view them in the aggregate.


Starting Itemization
This one is pretty well documented and obvious, but it's worth a mention just to get the whole picture. Consumable starts have become increasingly more common, and wards permeate the map early more than in the past. This affects all junglers except those with very creative ways to get around the map (who feel it, but to a lesser extent). Skarner is not one of those champions with a dash or a blink, so he has to take fairly traditional ganking paths. He can't start boots anymore in the jungle unless he's given a godly leash, and even then it's probably not advisable. The impact here is that Skarner cannot rely on early ganking to get ahead, even though his opponents often lack boots. Which leads me to my next point....

Movespeed Changes

This might be the longest piece of this post. It is multifaceted and I will try to give a TL;DR at the bottom of this part.


This is a tricky one to explain to people who don't play Skarner. It seems pretty straightforward on the surface: boots have reduced movespeed bonuses while champions gained higher base movespeed. So what? So, changes in the mastery trees, when champions buy boots, their effect on Skarner's ability to lock down an opponent, and the tradeoffs for using movespeed quints, have all come together to make Skarner's life a lot, lot tougher.

Let's start with masteries. In season two, Skarner was able to spec into movespeed in defense with Initiator (3% MS when above 70% hp), and in utility with swiftness (2% MS all the time). This was important because the 0-21-9 setup was definitely ideal. With a jungle that hurt less, better leashing mechanics, and reasonable durability in the camps, Skarner was able to stay above 70% hp and take advantage of both movespeed bonuses. This, on top of movespeed quints, put his movespeed at (I think) 393 with tier one boots (that were bought early on). This was clearly superior movespeed and almost no laners had movespeed even close to this high as early as level 5.

In season 3, the 3% movespeed was moved to the bottom of the utility tree, though the condition for being above 70% hp was removed. As a tradeoff, the 2% movespeed in swiftness changed to 2% movespeed when out of combat in the Wanderer mastery. I suppose this was a balancing effort to make sure that champions could not spec for unconditional free movespeed. They simply changed the conditions. The upshot is that Skarner can't spec 21 into utility without murdering his jungling durability, so he lost his ability to spec for movespeed in the mastery tree. Additionally, the condition of being out of combat hampers his ganking more than the condition of being above 70% health, as the health condition is one that can be taken care of before going in for a gank. When you're ganking, there's nothing you can do to stay out of combat, really, unless you're just showing up to let your opponent know that you do, indeed, exist.

There's one more mastery change that affects Skarner. Top laners (who are very important to gank, seeing as they ward a bit less than bottom, have a longer escape than mids, and are very snowball-prone) usually spec 9-21-0 into the mastery tree, and a couple masteries in the defense tree really screw with Skarner more than others. The Relentless and Tenacious masteries provide 15% reduced slow effectiveness and 15% tenacity that stacks with other tenacity, respectively. This really takes a massive dump on Skarner's life.

Out of all the ways junglers lock other champions down, Skarner's chosen method is being really close and spamming out that slow. It feels great when done successfully, and is a great design in the kit. It's been directly countered by these masteries, though, because each successive slow is directly dependent on the effectiveness of the prior slow. In order to land another Crystal Slash before the original slow wears off, you have to take advantage of Skarner's passive and autoattack the champion to quickly refresh the cooldown. This pauses Skarner's movement momentarily, and the ability still does have a short cooldown to go through. He used to make up for this delay by having an effective slow and drastically higher movespeed than his opponent, resulting in him being close enough to land the short range slow. Lather, rinse, repeat. With the slow's effectiveness being largely mitigated and the movespeed gap greatly closed, I (and I think many other Skarner players are too) am noticing more and more opponents simply getting out of range of my next Crystal Slash before I can cast it, thus breaking the chain of slows. I cannot stress enough how much this hurts Skarner's ganking ability.




Whew, now that we've explained masteries, it's time to get on to a couple, more simply explained concepts. To be brief, movespeed quints have always been good on Skarner because (as I explained above), he gets a lot of benefit from running really fast. Even if your W gets broken (as it often does), movespeed quints can mean the difference between a good gank or a failed gank by keeping you moving at a tidy pace. Basically, this used to not hurt Skarner as much in S2 because the jungle was more cushy. Now, Skarner's clear needs more single target damage, so you have more of a sacrifice to make by grabbing movespeed quints as opposed to AD quints or any other quints (I think movespeed is still better, regardless).


Last, with the Machete being mandatory and laners often picking up boots on their first back, Skarner loses the old window of opportunity he had to grab early boots and punish anybody who didn't start with them. Beyond this, it's costly to itemize for early tier 2 boots in order to make up for this, because you delay other essential parts of your build like philo stone (I think it's still smart to pick up philo fairly early, please let me know if this is wrong).

Another quick note maybe worth mentioning is that Zeal/Triforce also gives less movespeed now, so that's just one of many reasons why it's less of a good buy on him anymore.


TL;DR Skarner has a much more difficult time sustaining his spammable slow due to mastery changes, movespeed quints are more costly to use now, and Skarner can't itemize effectively for movespeed to regain this lost advantage.



Section 3: Itemization and Penetration Changes


Transitioning from movespeed, I'll jump right into my biggest problem with Skarner in Season 3: Iceborn Gauntlet.

This is, no doubt, the most essential buy on Skarner. And that sucks. Why? Because it provides a utility (aoe spammable slow) that was previously built straight in to Skarner. It provides a good mix of stats for Skarner, sure, but in S2 I feel that the unique slow might have been seen as superfluous on Skarner. The item itself shouldn't be changed--it's a cool and good item. The problem I'm highlighting here is that Skarner is literally the ONE champion who should NEVER have needed this item. It's like a mini Skarner on other champions. Skarner shouldn't need a mini Skarner item. When that happens, the most important thing to do is deal with the champion to make sure that they don't need to buy an item that's a microcosm of its own kit.

Next, and this should be quick, Skarner's only offensive options from S2 got nerfed: Trinity Force and Wits End. There's not much reason to build either anymore, and so Skarner's build paths have become less diversified, as opposed to more (which is what S3 itemization hoped to accomplish).

On the defensive side, Skarner can still build quite tanky, but penetration changes have made him a little less so. Skarner wants to keep his W on as long as possible, so itemizing for resistances has always been attractive. Building health (which penetration changes have made the better option) doesn't help the persistence of the shield/AS steroid, so we can pretty safely point out an indirect nerf to Skarner's W within S3 itemization. That said, Skarner still gets good use out of old staples like Frozen Heart and Shurelia's.



Section 4: Now What?

Hopefully I've shown clearly that Skarner has some issues. He's not an awful pick, and maybe he shouldn't return all the way to his S2 power level, but I think there is some room for improvement.

In my eyes, the biggest problem is that he's been forced into a utility role (used basically just for his ultimate and peeling) when he doesn't provide as much utility to a team without gold. He'll always have his ult (I hope it never gets reworked), but he needs to be exceptionally tanky to take advantage of his peeling capabilities, and he needs gold to do that. In order to get gold, he either needs to have his ganking improved a bit, or have his clear improved so that counterjungling is a very real and attractive choice for him.

I'm sure not the most qualified person to be suggesting changes, but I'll offer two small changes here that I think would help Skarner players immensely while keeping the champion balanced. One change would help his ganking, and the other would improve his jungle clear.


Ganking change: Make Skarner's Fracture (E) apply a mark to hit opponents that, if consumed by a charged Crystal Slash, applies a 10% (number should be tweaked, just offering a simple one) greater slow on the subsequent slow. Additionally, allow him to cast it while moving. This would slightly nerf his clear by making him put a point in E first if he wants a more potent gank. I think this would avoid unintended consequences for lane Skarner, but please let me know if that's wrong.


Clearing change: Make Skarner's Q apply amplified damage to monsters and minions if it only hits one target. It's a simple change, but one that is easy to balance.

Making both of these changes would be too big of a buff for Skarner, in my opinion, but alone I think they stand to help him in subtle ways that make him fun to play and don't break the game.

Those are just my ideas, and I highly doubt Riot would implement them, but I think it gets the point across





Throwing out Red names who I'd like to see comment on this:

Statikk
Classick
Morello
Xypherous
Scarizard
Anyone on live balance




Leave a comment and let me know if there's something I got wrong, something I missed, or even if you completely agree. Input from everyone welcome.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

LesLlamas

Senior Member

03-19-2013

Quote:
Originally Posted by eaTHAN View Post
...
Sorry, tried to segment it out for you....


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

iJamioo

Senior Member

03-19-2013

The only champion to have ever been considered for deletion was Sion.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

LesLlamas

Senior Member

03-19-2013

Bump for feedback.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

iiQuantuM

Junior Member

03-19-2013

Bump, great information and thought behind it.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Orivar

Senior Member

03-19-2013

I wish I could help but didn't start buy or start using Skarner, or even really get into ranked a little before Season 3 started. So I know absolutely nothing about his nerfs / buffs really besides the mastery changes. As for Iceborn, I personally think it's a great item for Skarner as it works well with his Q (aoe inside an aoe) while giving some nice stats.

Wit's End from my experience is still useful however rarely see a reason to go Trinity. And while I can't speak for higher levels as I'm only in Bronze (where there are mistakes galore), he can effectively gank the enemy jungler early. Usually what I attempt to do almost every game. My only real annoyance is the ult delay and how his E is mainly useless unless go AP or fleeing enemy is very low on hp.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

LesLlamas

Senior Member

03-19-2013

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orivar View Post
I wish I could help but didn't start buy or start using Skarner, or even really get into ranked a little before Season 3 started. So I know absolutely nothing about his nerfs / buffs really besides the mastery changes. As for Iceborn, I personally think it's a great item for Skarner as it works well with his Q (aoe inside an aoe) while giving some nice stats.

Wit's End from my experience is still useful however rarely see a reason to go Trinity. And while I can't speak for higher levels as I'm only in Bronze (where there are mistakes galore), he can effectively gank the enemy jungler early. Usually what I attempt to do almost every game. My only real annoyance is the ult delay and how his E is mainly useless unless go AP or fleeing enemy is very low on hp.
Why do you feel Wits End is still useful/more useful than a tankier item?


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Zeraphicus

Senior Member

03-19-2013

I was a skarner main in s2 and into s3. Now your post is great and you make excellent points, I felt exactly as you did and quit skarner because he was boring as a full tank.

I randomly watched a stream about a month ago because there was a skarner in it (diamond elo). He was played by good guy garry. He built skarner offensively first and spec'd 21/0/9, and rushed spirit of the lizard elder sheen and kindlegem. Something I and I think a lot of skarners got trapped in is "skarner is a tank". Early game rushing his offensive core can snowball you. He does a lot of damage in duels and during ganks. You just need to make good decisions before you go in because you can't take much damage.

21/0/9 is also super
rough first clear but it pays off later. And he can carry.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Dr W

Senior Member

03-19-2013

so much words


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

LesLlamas

Senior Member

03-19-2013

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeraphicus View Post
I was a skarner main in s2 and into s3. Now your post is great and you make excellent points, I felt exactly as you did and quit skarner because he was boring as a full tank.

I randomly watched a stream about a month ago because there was a skarner in it (diamond elo). He was played by good guy garry. He built skarner offensively first and spec'd 21/0/9, and rushed spirit of the lizard elder sheen and kindlegem. Something I and I think a lot of skarners got trapped in is "skarner is a tank". Early game rushing his offensive core can snowball you. He does a lot of damage in duels and during ganks. You just need to make good decisions before you go in because you can't take much damage.

21/0/9 is also super
rough first clear but it pays off later. And he can carry.
Do you know what his end itemization was?