[Analysis / Discussion] Akali - As balance dictates

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Sayath

Senior Member

05-26-2013

Given numerous responses from both Statikk and Xypherous I want to elaborate where we currently stand and what questions remained unanswered. In order to do this, I'll give you an overview of who Akali is supposed to be, what makes her unique and fun to play to me and what problems she suffers from. Then we head into a brainstorm session on possible solutions and their respective implications. I'll try to take a look at this from a design perspective (In advance, please excuse my shortcomings. I might be Diamond and spending too much time with Akali, but that still does not make me a qualified designer).

The original post (http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/....php?t=3402930) did put a high emphasis on survivability when defining risk. Instead this time we want to shift to a more generalized version also used by the live balance team, namely:

Definition Risk:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Risk is the opposite of safety and reliability. A risky champion is one whose success and contribution to a game is volatile, uncertain, and by no means guaranteed.
Examples include, but are not limited to:
  • low survivability
  • power curve flaws (late game falloff, early game weakness)
  • counterplay options for the opponent in general (skill shots, stealth reveal, etc.)
Using this definition a high risk / high reward champion is one with large, glaring strengths, but also large, glaring weaknesses [1].
Having reestablished basic terminology (all other definitions remain unchanged) we want to deep dive into the matter at hand.

Vision of Akali:
Thematically, Akali is a ninja of the Kinkou order. She's a take on the femme fatale archetype - an attractive and seductive but ultimately dangerous woman. She relies on Kamas as her weapon type of choice. Being named Fist of Shadow she preserves the balance together with her fellow ninjas Kennen and Shen. It has been hinted by Runaan that a more personal connection between Akali and Zed exists beside them being at war with each other [2].

Gameplay-wise, Akali is supposed to be an AP hypercarry - an extreme burst mage with short range [3, 4]. This requires her to excel in duels. As Phreak put it in 2011:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phreak View Post
If Akali can't kill she's useless. Full stop on that one. Her role is single target magic burst damage. She needs to be able to fulfill that role. If she can't win a 1v1, that's a problem, because it only gets worse in a 5v5.
Therefore, her strength is the ability to assassinate targets. What should she give up in exchange though?

Risks of Akali and their implications on her balance:
Akali's primary risk is her weak laning phase where she can be shut down by her opponents and thus unable to snowball into the later parts of the game [5]. This is comparable to other AD hypercarry types (Vayne, Kog'Maw, ...). However, in contrast to the gameplay of Vayne for example, Akali does not require the same level of protection from her teammates that is so vital, in order for AD carries to function. Obviously, the cause for this is that it simply wouldn't work. AD carries possess enough range to keep them safe from the enemy damage dealers. A melee cannot be protected in the same vain. Even so, melee carries are less dependent on proper team coordination.

Being a squishy, single-target-burst melee champion counterplay heavily revolves around team coordination when snowballing [6, 7, 8]. Teamplay correlates with ELO though.

In essence, low ELO teamfights play to the strength of Akali's 1v1 capabilities. Thus, she becomes problematic to deal with at lower skill ranges where teams are unable to properly focus fire. In order to fill this void, Akali requires a healthy portion of individual counterplay.

So as a summoner among the sea of noobs what can one do to counter her? Buy vision wards. Itemization in general is a form of counterplay to Akali. However, as Statikk explains
Quote:
Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Strategic counterplay via items is typically something only higher skilled players tend to latch onto.
State of balance:
In general Riot agrees that they overnerfed Akali (obviously we disagree by amount) [5]. The right direction is not, however, to simply buff her back up to old values. Instead her skill ceiling and in turn depth of counterplay needs to increase. This will fix the problems Riot had balancing her, mainly: The imbalance between high and low ELO

If we aggregate the risks, we clearly see the disparity: Team coordination and strategic counterplay via items increase with ELO. The absence of coordination does, however, not impede performance (meanwhile, a Vayne would be held back by it).

Thus, Akali is more effective at the lower levels of play. The equation needs to be balanced for all tiers though. The obvious response is decreasing power at low and increasing power at high level of play. The first is achieved through nerfing base values, the second through adding inaccessible power that unlocks via skill.

See the following plethora of comments made by Riot in this regard to understand the issue more clearly:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
We were and are still fully aware that Akali is not a strong competitive pick (she was a surprise pick before the nerfs in tournaments but was extremely rare). The nerfs were not aimed for competitive play whatsoever.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Part of the problem with Akali (and several other squishy melee DPS / Assassins) is that she provides very little individual counterplay for her opponents once she begins to snowball.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Going back to the melee counterplay discussion, you guys are right. As players become more skilled and more coordinated, they naturally execute the counterplay to squishy melee champions by grouping together, focus firing effectively, and peeling for their allies. When the only counterplay to a champion exists is solely team-based, then there are huge disparities between high Elo and low Elo play. This is not an ideal situation.

Akali is currently in the same boat as many other squishy melee champions such as Master Yi: if/when they are balanced in competitive play they become unhealthy for lower levels of play due to the fact that the majority of their counterplay is dependent upon allies not screwing up. The solution here is what Sayath has been saying: increasing the skill ceiling on these champions and in turn increasing the depth of their counterplay.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
I would say though that Akali's kit has never had enough depth and counterplay that would allow her to be balanced in a healthy way. I would say the same about Talon as well.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
You don't do numeric balance for low-level play - that's kind of rough to do. What you try to do is make sure that the power of the character scales with the skill of the environment that they're in.
Opinion:
I agree with the direction taken. Increasing Akali's skill ceiling will make her more fun to play and allow her to be viable. However, so far you only reduced her baseline capability. The change to Twilight Shroud won't do much. You haven't delivered on increasing her skill ceiling yet.

Impression of Akali:
Statikk, I know you are toying with different ideas. In this chapter I want to display my point of view in regards to what makes Akali unique and fun to play. This should help you in finding an adequate skill differentiation tool.

Strengths:
  • High offensive mobility
    High base movement speed coupled with a triple 800 range gap closer allows for excellent chasing and engaging of enemies.
  • Single target threat / Burst potential
    Mark of the Assassin in conjunction with Shadow Dance gives Akali the capability to pressure the enemy with a high amount of single target damage.
  • Very high scaling damage
    0.4+0.5 ratio on MotA, 0.5 ratio on Shadow Dance combined with a dual scaling passive.
  • Spellvamp
    While applying damage Spellvamp allows Akali to stay in the fight similarly to how Lifesteal works with ranged ADCs.

Weaknesses:
  • No hard CC
    Akali only posses a slow on Twilight Shroud, no other form of CC is present.
  • Single target oriented
    Akali's only AoE skill is Crescent Slash whose power is severely limited.
  • Melee / All-in characteristic
    With the exception of initial MotA damage, Akali has to either be in or move into melee range, in order to deal damage. Furthermore, when she enters melee range, she only has two options of disengaging: Running away from the opponent or using an offensive gap closer towards a target with less threat. Thus, she is putting herself into a high risk situation once she decides to apply significant damage.
  • Squishy
    Akali is an assassin and as such pretty frail. If you stun her out of position, she will blow up in an instant.


Using this as a starting point what is Akali about? She's a high risk / high reward assassin. Her glaring weakness: frail lane game. Her glaring strength: snowball potential. Performance in the early game sets up the pace for the later stages. If you mess up bad, you lost all impact until late game. Contrary, if you demonstrate your ability to outmaneuver the enemy at every turn, unimaginable power awaits. The charm of this power delta is mesmerizing. One game queen of the board, another game a mere pawn. What will happen next? Exciting, isn't it?

Akali also supports an all-out, aggressive mid playstyle like mine very well. The high difficulty of the early game [for me vs. Diamond players] gives plenty of opportunities for optimization. Combining high base movement speed with further movement speed upgrades (runes, boots, etc.) allows one to detonate MotA pre-6. This requires precise timing, however, since the trade can quickly turn sour if timed wrong.

Upon gaining ultimate Akali is allowed to have hyper-effective offensive mobility in exchange for no defensive mobility. In general, she can only escape by jumping to minions, monsters or less threatening enemies. The concept of escape via offense is simply great. It allows for lots of clever jukes and requires a high amount of map awareness.

Her reset on kill / assist mechanic builds upon the foundation laid out by Shadow Dance. It makes a lot of high moments possible. Successfully killing an enemy gives you the choice to continue with the next target or to retreat through offensive mobility. I personally love the flashiness when things pan out as planned. As Xypherous mentioned resets are more powerful at low Elo [9]. However, this power differential can be dealt with at other locations in her kit. To me, resets are a centerpiece to her AP hypercarry nature.

In teamfights, Akali is all about timing your engagements. If you go in too early, you are going to blow up. If you go in too late, your team will be dead. Thus, timing is crucial. Fighting is an all or nothing approach. I personally like this very much. If you go in, either you or them is going to die. A fight with nobody dying is quite rare. However, I can see the benefit of having a disengage, but I'm not willing to give up offensive power for it.

Itemization:
Which item do you expect Akali to build every single game? Yes, that's right - Hextech Gunblade (3400g).

45 AD, 65 AP, 12% Lifesteal, 20% Spellvamp, Active: 150 + 40% of AP, 40% slow for 2 seconds (60 seconds CD reduced by Reload)
4228g worth of stats without counting the active.

Akali is balanced under the assumption this crutch exists. I chose the derogatory wording deliberately since it captures the quintessence of the argument precisely.
On the one hand, it greatly limits build choices. On the other, Akali is dependent upon building it if she wants to succeed.

Outline of the argument:
Gunblade's justification for existing is its surplus of statistics. Why else would a champion who can buy AD and AP items consider it? However, since Akali can take full advantage of Gunblade this surplus of statistical might cannot be ignored in terms of balance. Thus, the dilemma is created: Akali's ratios can either be balanced towards normal items or towards hybrid ones. Therefore, with Gunblade in the game Akali's ratios have to take the possibility of buying it into account, creating the lock-in effect.

To gain a more in-depth understanding, please take a look at the following comments made by Xypherous:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
Sure. I don't claim that hybrid builds are bad though - I claim that focused Hybrid items are bad for the game because they lock the character in question to only using hybrid items when they are balanced *or* the character is overpowered when they aren't.

If you think about the breadth of itemization that a champion has - an item that appeals to hybrids would have to offer more statistics than one standalone AP or AD item. This means that the item in question is far more efficient for that character than any other item because it provides mixed statistics that no other character can take full advantage of.

Now think about what happens if this is a core item for the character build in question: Either he needs the increased statistics from the hybrid item (which means his AD / AP ratios are artificially low because this item exists) - but then almost every standalone AP or AD item now sucks, or more likely, the character is overpowered because he has decent ratios for AP and AD - but now there's an item that gives him a wealth of both and he now simply has more raw damage or scaling than any other character.

To put it in concrete terms: think about what Gunblade did to Akali's balance and ratios - I would rather a world in which Gunblade never existed so that Akali could simply have higher AP and AD ratios - and then she could then use more items that suited her from the normal pool of AP and AD items. However, because Gunblade exists, everything about Akali's scaling is toned down around the fact that there's this keystone item giving her 50% more statistics and thus everything that scales about her had to be toned down or she would simply be massively overpowered.

One could argue that Gunblade is the overpowered item in this case - however, break that down. If Gunblade wasn't overpowered in terms of statistics for hybrid builders - why bother getting it when you could get an AP item *and* an AD item? By necessity, in order for an item to be appealing to hybrid characters - it has to offer a surplus of both statistics.

Note that this says nothing about hybrid builds - A hybrid build consisting of getting a Bloodthirster and then a Rylai's scepter is interesting and compelling. However, focused hybrid items destroy a lot of the power of a hybrid character's dual scaling - it takes away from the character being able to build whatever they want in terms of AP or AD - thus losing the benefit of a lot of good unique passives and actives.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
I can easily point to Gunblade limiting hybrid champion build options because whenever Gunblade has been good at had to be balanced around, we've continuously nerfed the AP ratios of the characters who could use it.

If I removed those 3 hybrid options from the game and simply increased the ratios of hybrid champions, now instead of those 3 items being their only options they now have access to every other AD or AP item in the game. It's the fact that balancing around hybrid items simultaneously forces them into those items and also takes away existing items that is so criminal here.
Full talk on hybrid itemization: See Library

Given that hybrid items have shown themselves as a detriment to hybrid champions I agree fully on removing them from the game.

However, in the case of Akali I question whether the champion should be hybrid in the first place. Given her identity as an AP hypercarry the idea feels off. Furthermore, adding more AA-centric gameplay, in order to reintroduce the hybrid concept, has major issues attached to it. Mainly, melee carries like Master Yi and the like have shown that it doesn't work. Nowadays, most melee carries deal their damage via abilities, not AAs. Thus, I believe we should avoid the problem altogether and simply focus on the core vision: AP hypercarry

Kit Analysis:
Before we ask ourselves how to achieve the core vision we need to take a look at the current situation. I'll be using Xelnath's approach, namely:

  • Clarity - does the player using the ability and the victim of the ability understand what is happening?
  • Care - does the player performing the action and the victim suffering the attack care about the ability?
  • Response - does the player using the ability have a response to the ability landing? Does the opponent have a response to prevent the ability from landing or mitigate its consequences?
  • Satisfaction - does the player using the ability feel satisfied when using it correctly? Does the opponent feel satisfied when they negate or reduce its effect?
  • Theme - does this ability fit on this character in this situation?

Discipline of Force / Discipline of Might:
Akali's auto attacks deal 6% (+ 1% per 6 AP) bonus magic damage.
Akali gains 6% (+ 1% per 6 bonus AD) spell vamp.

A double-dipping stat passive coming from the concept of being a hybrid character. With the requirement for a specific runepage removed it has become pretty evident that Akali's passive is hidden power in it's truest form. It does not foster gameplay or allow for special item choices. The only AD item bought by Akali is Hextech Gunblade which has proven to create a lock-in environment. Therefore, this fails on multiple levels: Care, Response, Satisfaction

Mark of the Assassin:
Akali throws her kama at a target enemy, dealing magic damage and marking the target for 6 seconds.
Akali's basic attacks or Crescent Slashes against a marked target will consume the mark, dealing additional magic damage again and restoring energy.
  • Clarity: It is clear to everyone involved.
  • Care: Akali cares for the Mark being on the opponent, in order to followup. The opponent cares about the damage being dealt and the possibility for future damage.
  • Response: Akali will try to close the gap between her and her opponent, in order to activate the detonation damage. The response of the enemy pre-6 will be to stay out of Akali's melee range. However, the enemy loses the ability to respond as soon as Akali gains Shadow Dance. The range he needs to stay out of increases by a large margin.
  • Satisfaction: The ability is satisfying to land considering the amount of damage dealt. Enemy satisfaction when preventing the Mark from detonating comes mainly from the prevention of damage being dealt.
  • Theme: The visual works. Thematically, the idea of an assassin marking you as their target and then dealing considerable damage to you also seems plausible.

Twilight Shroud:
Akali creates a vision-granting smoke cloud in a 300-radius area for 8 seconds. While within the cloud, Akali is stealthed and gains bonus armor and magic resistance. Attacking or using abilities reveals her for 0.65 seconds. Enemies inside the smoke are slowed.

  • Clarity: It is clear to everyone involved. Akali enters a smokescreen and is stealthed because of it.
  • Care: Akali cares about not being seen. The opponent cares about seeing Akali's position and being able to attack.
  • Response: Akali's response depends on the situation she is in. Mainly, she will either disengage from the enemy or wait for Cooldowns to refresh, in order to strike again. The opponent's response depends on whether he posses a form of true sight or not. If he does, he uses it to completely negate Twilight Shroud's stealth. If he does not, he has no response.
  • Satisfaction: The ability feels satisfying as long as the stealth is not negated via true sight.
  • Theme: The visual works. Thematically, a smoke bomb is a perfect addition to any ninja.

Crescent Slash:
Akali flourishes her kamas, dealing physical damage and triggering any Marks of the Assassin on nearby enemies.

  • Clarity: It is clear to everyone involved.
  • Care: It's damage. Furthermore, Crescent Slash can trigger MotA from greater range than possible via AA.
  • Response: Akali has no response to Crescent slash landing. The only possible response for the opponent is to stay out of melee / shadow dance range.
  • Satisfaction: The ability only feels satisfying to use when triggering MotA.
  • Theme: The visual and theme make sense in conjunction with kamas.

Shadow Dance:
Akali uses an Essence of Shadow, dashing to and dealing magic damage to a target enemy. Akali gains an Essence of Shadow periodically, affected by Cooldown reduction, up to a maximum of 3. Additionally, gaining a kill or assist will restore an Essence of Shadow.

  • Clarity: It's clear to everyone.
  • Care: Akali cares about gap closing, the enemies cares about Akali arriving in melee range.
  • Response: Akali's response will be triggering MotA via AA or Crescent Slash. The opponent can only interrupt the dash in mid-air via knockup (for example Janna).
  • Satisfaction: The ability is very satisfying to use.
  • Theme: The visual and theme (ninja jumping at you) work well together.

So what is Akali about?

MotA being delayed damage that can be activated through AA or other abilities.
Shadow Dance being a triple, high range, resetting gap-closer.
Twilight Shroud being position-confined tactical stealth.
Akali herself being an AP hypercarry with short range sustained by Spellvamp.

That is the quintessence of what I feel is important.

The method of activating these traits is nowhere near as important.

MotA and Shadow Dance could be made into skillshots. As long as I can achieve the same things as before (and more, there is a miss chance after all now) the change is supported from my point of view.

You might have already noticed, but Crescent Slash feels like a filler. The same goes for the passive. The gameplay of both is very limited and skill independent.

Akali as a hypercarry currently requires the passive for double-dipping scaling. However, we could simply move this skill-independent power into AP ratios while preserving the Spellvamp through other means. Then we could use this space for abilities that actually foster gameplay.

In general, we have seen the following problem: Lack of response
It's present in most abilities and really highlights the problem the champion is having: Lack of individual counterplay

Suggestions:
Having seen the problems you should understand by now the need for inaccessible power that unlocks via skill. However, how to implement it? I think we need to turn to champions who already achieved such, in order to truly understand the meaning behind this statement.

A primary example is Syndra who is said to scale with skill extremely well. I guess the main cause for this is: the amount of orbs on the board has a direct impact on her damage and utility.

Her ultimate's damage scales with them, but also generates them. Q produces a single orb, W allows you to increase its lifespan. Meanwhile, E allows you to abuse your orb count by using all of them as projectiles at the same time. Therefore, the abilities fulfill a primary function and a secondary, more intricate one. Skillshots here aren't the primary cause, it's the creative freedom they enable - emergent gameplay in its truest form.

Having understood that let's evaluate some example suggestions:

Shadow Dance to allies / wards:
The idea itself is pretty straightforward. Instead of dashing to an enemy, you dash towards an ally or ward. However, the immediate first concern is the amount of disengage power this would allow Akali. Therefore, it's suggested to limit the cooldown or range of the defensive dash. This can be accomplished through a separate range for ally dashes and a special secondary ammo system.

Still, the idea adds an escape to a champion who previously had no such measure. Thus, it becomes likely that Akali's offensive power would have to be toned down, which I'm strongly against. Furthermore, using a defensive dash is by itself an easy thing to do. Also, we are not targeting the core problem: lack of counterplay

Therefore, I come to the conclusion that Shadow Dance to allies / wards does not fulfill the required criteria. It would simply be a straight buff for all levels of play which we should avoid.

Adding a Movement Speed buff onto Twilight Shroud:
The idea: “Inside Twilight Shroud Akali's Movement Speed increases by x%.”

Similarly, Talon's Shadow Assault currently combines Movement Speed with stealth. Also, Orianna's Command: Dissonance comes to mind, having a two-way Movement Speed modifier (speeding up allies, slowing enemies). Feeling wise, it surely would be a nice addition. Does it, however, achieve our goals?

It certainly fails on adding a point of counterplay for the opponent.

Yet I believe it successfully implements a more intricate use case for Twilight Shroud since correct positioning is more rewarding. For example, Akali can now decide to immediately throw down shroud, in order to use the speed up. The obvious drawback being that when she is within range of the opponent she cannot use the stealth, resist and slow provided by it. In the same vain, she could hold onto it until requiring the stealth, but giving up the close up. Even so, the most skilled use of Twilight Shroud would be using all of the above at the same time - slowing the enemy, speeding up yourself and relying on stealth when necessary. Therefore, I do believe adding a Movement Speed buff on Twilight Shroud could be a viable skill separation tool. The mediocre Akalis would hold onto Twilight Shroud to use it as an escape tool, the good ones would also use it to catch up to an enemy and the best would use all of its benefits at the same time.

However, the main concern here would be adding further complexity to an even complex ability. I do believe we could live with that poison if no better solutions are found and no greater changes desired.

Skillshot Shadow Dance:
The idea: “Akali uses an Essence of Shadow, sending out a shadow of herself in a straight line. All enemies hit by the shadow are afflicted with Mist of the Shadow. Akali can activate Shadow Dance again to teleport to the location of an enemy marked by Mist of the Shadow. This deals damage and clears all Mist of the Shadow debuffs. Akali gains an Essence of Shadow periodically, affected by Cooldown reduction, up to a maximum of 3. Additionally, gaining a kill or assist will restore an Essence of Shadow.”

That's how I envision a skillshot version of Shadow Dance. Obviously, we increased the skill ceiling and allowed for counterplay.

Let's give an example how this would look like in game:

Akali wanting to gap close towards the enemy mid laner activates Shadow Dance. A shadow starts moving in a straight line from her position. Every unit hit by the shadow will now acquire the debuff Mist of Shadow. This deals no damage and only acts as a selection tool. By casting Shadow Dance again Akali selects from the units hit the desired target. She then appears next to it and deals the original Shadow Dance damage.

Originally, I used a more straightforward version that teleported and dealt damage to the first unit hit by the shadow. However, that version had a multitude of flaws. Mainly, Akali could no longer Shadow Dance over minions or if these were excluded from the target list, exercise offensive jukes. Also, in teamfights she could no longer choose which target to attack. If the tank stood between the ADC and her, there was no way to dive the target directly. I wanted to avoid these problems of selection. Thus, I split the „hit skillshot” from the „select target” portion. Yet, it allows for sufficient individual counterplay since the original target can still dodge Shadow Dance.

First, this definitely fulfills the need for individual counterplay. If you don't want to get dashed at, dodge the skillshot. Second, it allows for some intricate plays since you can do whatever you want while your shadow is dashing. For example, if you send out Shadow Dance towards a near monster camp, you can still finish off the enemy ADC and then proceed to dash away once he's dead. Obviously, this requires a lot of timing, since the window for activating dash again is short (3 seconds similar to Lee Sin's Q?), but you can pull it off.


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Sayath

Senior Member

05-26-2013

To reiterate on the ability details: You activate Shadow Dance. The shadow begins moving, a fast skillshot, hitbox being around Akali's size. Now immediately the reuse timer (like you have on live: 2s / 1.5 s / 1 s) begins counting done. If you hit something, you are given a window of activating Shadow Dance again (similar to Lee Sin's Q). This does not impact the cooldown timer though (therefore, if you wait 3 seconds, in order to activate shadow dance, it's already up again). Once you decided on your real target (out of the ones you hit), you activate the second portion of Shadow Dance, click your target and you appear next to it, instantaneously. Thus, the time it took to move to your target did not change compared to the live version.

In essence, we added counterplay to the ability without affecting the feel (speed, range, etc.) compared to live. We also allowed for some intricate use cases. However, this is a large scale change. Therefore, probably won't be implemented.

Summary:

Above I have given three distinct suggestions. One of them failed to achieve anything, one of them achieved a partial solution and the other fully achieved the goal, yet is probably too large scale.

I hope given these examples you can think of your own suggestions having understood what's required:

  • depth: intricate gameplay hook
  • counterplay: allowing the opponent an individual response
  • magnitude: small to medium

tl;dr:

What is important for you when playing Akali? What issues do you have when playing against (low ELO especially)?
What would you suggest, in order to increase her skill ceiling and in turn depth of counterplay?

Community, let's have a constructive, valuable discussion. Thanks in advance!

@ Statikk, Xypherous: You wanted to see where she stands before moving forward - where are we now?

Proposed Shadow Dance changes:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Context sensitive Shadow Dance
Upon selecting an enemy affected with Mist of Shadow:
Akali teleports to the location of target enemy. This deals damage and clears all Mist of the Shadow debuffs [or: only those of the parent shadow].

Otherwise:
Akali uses an Essence of Shadow, sending out a shadow of herself in a straight line. All enemies hit by the shadow are afflicted with Mist of the Shadow.

Passive:
Akali gains an Essence of Shadow periodically, affected by Cooldown reduction, up to a maximum of 3 [maybe 4]. Additionally, gaining a kill or assist will restore an Essence of Shadow.
The ability was tailor made to support everything currently possible with the live version. However, since there's now an option for counterplay the skill ceiling increased massively. Therefore, allowing Akali to be balanced at the higher tiers.


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Sayath

Senior Member

05-26-2013

Library:

References:

[1] http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/...53161#37553161
[2] http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/...24440|Creative
[3] http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/...e=185#37709427
[4] http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/...12#post6868212
[5] http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/...32811#37532811
[6] http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/...34825#37534825
[7] http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/...38323#37538323
[8] http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/...49816#37549816
[9] http://na.leagueoflegends.com/board/...13685#37613685

In the following you'll find all relevant red posts put together:

Statikk:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Firstly, I'd like to thank you guys for putting such effort into this discussion.

I'll start with the definition of "risk" that our team operates on:

Risk Risk is the opposite of safety and reliability. A risky champion is one whose success and contribution to a game is volatile, uncertain, and by no means guaranteed.

Risk can manifest itself in several ways. One common way is a champion with extremely low survivability (lack of defensive capabilities), but that's not the only way a champion can be risky. For example, a champion can be risky because they have poor end-game scaling and thus must execute their early game flawlessly in order to end the game before they fall off. Lee Sin is a champion with great survivability (via decent defensive capabilities and amazing mobility), yet is still overall a risky pick because his power curve drives him to snowball games before the late game arrives. Lee Sin may not die a whole ton, but he still has to subject himself to risk in order to suceed.

For champions like Akali and Kassadin, their intended risk is to have weak laning phases where they can be shut down by their opponents and thus unable to snowball into the later parts of the game.

To an extent, every healthy champion in the game has some form of risk built into them since they all should have weaknesses that enemies can exploit. It's more of a question of how risky any given champion, which is dictated by several different factors (namely the reward a champion receives for incurring the risk).

How does this affect Akali? Defining risk as strictly low defensive capability (tankiness) and reward as strictly high offensive capability (damage output) is dangerous because it constricts the potential design space we have for giving power to our champions.

What about other avenues of power such as mobility or utility (crowd control / disables)? Sure we could design a high risk / high reward champion who had 1 base Health but had 10,000 base Attack Damage, but would that actually provide a satisfying / fun experience for that champion and/or their opponent? Probably not.

There are a lot of inherent reasons why Akali was not a risky champion: having access to free Spell Vamp, having Energy as her primary resource, having access to a ranged nuke, etc. These all contribute to why pre-nerf it was extremely difficult to shut her down. You guys are definitely right that removing the requirements on her passive definitely made her less risky, but unfortunately some decisions help us in one area and hurt us in another.

At the end of the day, yes I agree we overnerfed her (I think we'll disagree by how much though). That should be apparent in that we are giving her some buffs in the upcoming patch. At this point, it is more about re-increasing the reward for playing Akali by giving her fun and interesting gameplay tools that she can use to outplay and outwit her opponents rather than reverting her to a point where she simply has more raw stats and damage numbers to brute-force her way through games.

Are we fully getting there with the changes in the upcoming patch? Maybe not, but it's at the very least a good start.
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Originally Posted by Sayath View Post
"At this point, it is more about re-increasing the reward for playing Akali by giving her fun and interesting gameplay tools that she can use to outplay and outwit her opponents rather than reverting her to a point where she simply has more raw stats and damage numbers to brute-force her way through games." I really would love to be a clever ninja. Increasing her skill ceiling is the way to go. This will make her complex and thus more rewarding for heavily invested players. I already elaborated on this in the OP.

However, what kind of ways do you propose to do so? I know game design is a tricky thing. An idea you think works in theory, might not work in practice.
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Yeah I'm not sure on exactly where we can add more interesting gameplay hooks into Akali. The Twilight Shroud giving her vision of the area is definitely a cool start which gives her vision utility and the ability to jump to stuff that was previously in fog of war.

I thought about different ideas for the majority of last weekend. Some ideas (these are mostly random ideas by the way that most likely will never be implemented) were allowing her to Shadow Dance to allies or the center of her Twilight Shroud, allowing her to have multiple Twilight Shrouds on an ammo system, etc.

I'm actually pretty happy with what is going into the next patch. Our team is currently spending a lot of time figuring out where and how we'd like to see squishy melee champions like Yi, Fiora, and Akali succeed in League of Legends.

By the way, sorry I can't respond a whole lot. Things are busy around here.
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Originally Posted by Sayath View Post
However, what kind of ways do you propose to do so? I know game design is a tricky thing. An idea you think works in theory, might not work in practice. At what kind of changes are we looking at? Magnitude? Adding little tricks or changing one of her abilities / her passive?

Also could you go into greater depth why you nerfed the areas you did? Especially in connection with the 5 potion limit?
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
I think adding little tricks is a great way to start to see if we can edge Akali back into a place we feel is appropriate and where she still feels powerful.

I'd really like to see where she sits after this upcoming patch before moving forward.

As far as the nerfs we chose, we reduced her base damage but increased her ratio simply to hit her laning power but not reduce her late game scaling. Perhaps the ratio increase wasn't enough to actually make it more of a tradeoff since it crosses old values at 300 AP. Maybe 200 was a more reasonable crossover point, but this is always a scary proposition considering Akali's late game damage potential to squishy targets is still deadly when she snowballs.

To be honest, the ult cooldown change may just have been flat out the wrong direction. It was essentially an attempt to reduce her ability to use her R's simply for free damage harass at level 6 and force her to be much more thoughtful about its use, but it seems to have had a larger snowballing effect on her power level than we originally intended. This is why we're currently going to try reverting back half way to the original ult cooldown along with the addition to her W.

Interestingly enough, our data shows that the 5 Health Potion limit has really had no significant effects on champion performances across the board. It might be that some other changes in the patch offset its effects such as nerfing Red Elixir, but our internal data shows very little fluctuation of power levels due to last patch. If you think about it, many of the opponents she was going up against were also abusing the mass Health Potion strategy so it may have off set this advantage as well as other factors to consider such as the relative value increase of innate Health sustain on champions (ex: her passive Spell Vamp). This doesn't mean the Health Potion cap hasn't reduced her power level, but it does seem to point towards the fact that it might be perceived as a bigger hit to her than it really is.

As far as your ideas to completely change her E, that's certainly a possibility if we feel that she can't be both balanced and fun with her current setup. I'd be fairly hesitant to add another semi-ranged ability on her kit though, since she is after all supposed to be melee. I understand how it would be useful when she's behind, but I would worry how it would function when she gets ahead in the lane as an addition to any Q harass.

Part of the problem with Akali (and several other squishy melee DPS / Assassins) is that she provides very little individual counterplay for her opponents once she begins to snowball. With the ability to long range dash up to 3 times on the same target, she just presses all of her buttons on the squishy person on the enemy team and the victim just has to hope that teammates are around to do something about it. That's kind of the issue with squishy melee characters in general: the current counterplay is taken out of the hands of the individual getting killed and rather put upon the teammates to do something about it. That can feel really awful when Akali's lane opponent loses and then you're the squishy bot lane AD carry getting jumped repeatedly with no valid course of action to take.

Either way, I'm not led to believe that drastic measures are needed just yet. It feels like we messed up some numbers and we can get back to a good place if we just address that. I'm sorry if the current upcoming changes disappoint any of you guys, but I'm genuinely interested in seeing how she performs in the next patch.
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Originally Posted by Metronomotopoeia View Post
Have you considered changes that would help dueling/juking in Twilight Shroud, like a slightly larger area, or allowing her to pass through units (big help in the laning phase), or perhaps some personal increased movement speed for that Orianna Shockwave pos/neg effect?
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
I think increasing her Movement Speed while within the Twilight Shroud could be a pretty cool change. It does further add complication to an already fairly complex ability (stealth, Armor/MR, slows enemies) though.
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Originally Posted by M3TASH33P View Post
Have you considered lowering her ults cooldown? Im not sure if it would make her too strong, but that 2 second delay makes her feel sort of clunky at times.
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Although a change like that feels great for the Akali player, it reduces the time window her opponents have to react to her engaging them. Since the pace of fights speeds up as the game goes on though, it makes sense for the cooldown to scale down between dashes.
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Originally Posted by Hexten View Post
And lastly, are you balancing Akali based on low elo or high elo? Make that clear.
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
We were and are still fully aware that Akali is not a strong competitive pick (she was a surprise pick before the nerfs in tournaments but was extremely rare). The nerfs were not aimed for competitive play whatsoever.

Going back to the melee counterplay discussion, you guys are right. As players become more skilled and more coordinated, they naturally execute the counterplay to squishy melee champions by grouping together, focus firing effectively, and peeling for their allies. When the only counterplay to a champion exists is solely team-based, then there are huge disparities between high Elo and low Elo play. This is not an ideal situation.

Akali is currently in the same boat as many other squishy melee champions such as Master Yi: if/when they are balanced in competitive play they become unhealthy for lower levels of play due to the fact that the majority of their counterplay is dependent upon allies not screwing up. The solution here is what Sayath has been saying: increasing the skill ceiling on these champions and in turn increasing the depth of their counterplay.

Like I said before, this is something Xypherous and I have been putting a lot of effort into lately and our 2 first focuses are Akali and Master Yi.
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Originally Posted by 3mptylord View Post
Several ideas for her Summoner's Rift power (I don't intend for all of them): * Add Lightbringer and Hextech Sweeper to Summoner's Rift, or add alternatives. The Trap Detection aura is probably unneeded in Summoner's Rift, and the duration of the reveal is possibly too long. I currently use Pink Wards and this might honestly be enough, but it'd be nice to have an item that fills the slot late game. (I've attached an image that I think appropriate describes the frustration with Oracles) * Improve Executioner's Calling so that it actually feels like a viable item, even if it arguably is already. Making it apply to all physical damage is the first thing I *really* want from this item, as it's hard for melee champions to apply it to ranged champions.

Being able to see her and to cut her sustain in half are means to counterplay her.
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Strategic counterplay via items is typically something only higher skilled players tend to latch onto. This is why Evelynn's old stealth was extremely problematic. Sure it was counter-able with Vision Wards and Oracle's but accessing these counters were neither naturally obvious nor fun or satisfying to accomplish.

Although strategic item and team coordination counterplay will always exist and play a role in League of Legends, healthy champions will always have some kind of natural, individual-based counterplay to their gameplay such as having to land/dodge skillshots.
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Originally Posted by Holy Malevolence View Post
Wouldn't that be classified not as risk, but instead lack of reward?
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
No, I think you're equating risk to "early game weakness" and reward to "late game strength."

That pattern exists on a champion like Vayne. It's definitely 1 way to create risk and reward on a champion, but it's not the only way.

For example, I would say both Lee Sin and Taric are champions who have dominant early games and fall off later in the game in their respective roles. Yet Taric is not a risky pick because he is very consistent and does what you expect him to do with little regard to external factors due to his straightforward mechanics / gameplay and generally low skill ceiling. Lee Sin, on the other hand, has a huge skill ceiling and you never know what to expect when you have one on your team -- he might utilize his mobility to gank early and carry the game or he might completely fall flat and feel useless.

Lee Sin's risk is "falling behind and being weak later on" and his reward is "extremely potent early gank and snowball potential."

To an extent due to individual player skill / performance, all champions have some variance in success, but I would definitely say Lee Sin is a much more volatile and risky champion than Taric despite similar power curves across game time.
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Originally Posted by Sayath View Post
Thank you for taking the time to respond. Risk definitely has multiple nuances. My definition did ignore a lot of them.

However, what do you believe changed between season 2 and season 3 that increased the problem for low ELO? Afterall, Akali was fine with Boots + 3 Pots. Why is this no longer the case in your opinion? Or was the problem just hidden from sight?
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Inaction from us does not necessarily mean that something is "fine." The unfortunate truth is that 1) we can never be aware of every problem in our game and 2) we have to prioritize which problems we are currently tackling.

For example, AP Tryndamere's out of combat sustain presented extremely unhealthy gameplay even though he was undiscovered for over a year.

I can't exactly pinpoint 1 reason why Akali became such an issue because honestly as you guys have pointed out there are always a multitude of factors that come into play that add up. One of the bigger shifts from S2 to S3 is that in S2, ADCs had stronger and more effective itemization, especially in terms of gold efficiency. I really do think that the extreme power of ranged ADCs kept many potentially strong squishy melee champions down. I would say though that Akali's kit has never had enough depth and counterplay that would allow her to be balanced in a healthy way. I would say the same about Talon as well.
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Originally Posted by PhoenixBomb View Post
Statikk, I don't mean to nitpick, but if rhis conversation is to go on in the context of "risk" and "reward", I don't think you can arbitrarily redefine them to essentially mean "pros" and "cons". By calling something a reward, you inherently are required to reveive it AFTER doing something: the risk. You cannot just have the reward.

In this case, vayne has risk/reward to her gameplay because everything she does early game is a risk to the ultimate reward of her lategame. Lee Sin, though, doesn't risk anything for his early game, it's just there. It's not a risk, it's a pro.

It's important to remind you guys of this difference because pros and cons are simply attributes of a champion. A champion's risk/reward os definitive of their gameplay patterns and how players experience them. If you think you're designing for one while actually designing from another, you're going to miss the mark.
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Hmm I see your point.

The way you put it, I do think pros / strengths / reward and cons / weaknesses / risk are very similar terms to me and in many ways are interchangeable.

To me a champion with, large, glaring strengths but also large, glaring weaknesses is someone I would consider high risk / high reward.
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Originally Posted by Sayath View Post
Statikk would you please keep us updated on the progress of adding more depth to Akali? Your posts alleviate a lot of my personal concerns. Your insight is very helpful. Please keep going. I know you are a busy, but these posts add value.

I do believe a constructive discussion with the community can help you out in your line of work.
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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
Yeah I really appreciate how you've carried yourself in this thread. I have tons of respect for everyone who contributes positively in the community, and I think you've done that here for sure.

I'll try to be more active on the forums again (it's definitely super time consuming, for example I've already spent the first hour at work here just reading and posting in this thread). This was a really insightful experience not just on what Akali players want but it also helped me better understand why we haven't had success at balancing our squishy melee champions.
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Originally Posted by Mirage Night View Post
In regards to this, I often think of these things based on what the character concept is meant to do. Lets take the assassin for example.

In general I have always believed in the following strengths ond weaknesses of the class.

Strength:

High Mobility,
Single target threat
Very High Scaling Damage
Burst Potential

Weakness:

Lower then average defence
Little to no CC
Longer then average CD
Single target oriented
Low base damage

Ultimate goal. Take out the highest threat on the opponent by either killing or crippling the target through the use of positioning tools/mobility.

Am I missing something? Is my concept and belief of what an assissn is incorrect?

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Originally Posted by Statikk View Post
That's definitely a solid start to carving out what is the expectation of the Assassin role.

I think the specific strengths / weakenesses of any champion varies heavily even within the same role. Often the unique and fun aspects of a champion are when they break the mold of what their archetype is expected to do (though this can sometimes be unhealthy for the game). I think Quinn is now a great example of this.


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Sayath

Senior Member

05-26-2013

Xypherous:

Xypherous talked this time about hybrid itemization and its effect on Akali:

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Akali's was intended to be a hybrid champion, but hybrid itemisation is not exactly great right now. Any plans for the near future?
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
In my opinion, focused hybrid itemization is kind of a misstep, overall.

The advantages of having both AP and AD ratios is that any item is good for you - not that there's a specific class of items with 30% more stats because no one can use it correctly and thus it is good for you. When hybrid items are in vogue, like gunblade - it simply leads the detriment of any champion that can use it well.

The end result of that is that once you're balanced around hybrid itemization, you have 70% of the ratios of any other champion *and* you've effectively locked yourself out from any cool AD or AP itemization, defeating the point of being hybrid in the first place.
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I've read some decent arguments against having hybrid builds in the game, but here you don't do a very good job of supporting your claims in this post. After reading this I don't see how hybrid builds are effectively bad for the game at all.
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
Sure. I don't claim that hybrid builds are bad though - I claim that focused Hybrid items are bad for the game because they lock the character in question to only using hybrid items when they are balanced *or* the character is overpowered when they aren't.

If you think about the breadth of itemization that a champion has - an item that appeals to hybrids would have to offer more statistics than one standalone AP or AD item. This means that the item in question is far more efficient for that character than any other item because it provides mixed statistics that no other character can take full advantage of.

Now think about what happens if this is a core item for the character build in question: Either he needs the increased statistics from the hybrid item (which means his AD / AP ratios are artificially low because this item exists) - but then almost every standalone AP or AD item now sucks, or more likely, the character is overpowered because he has decent ratios for AP and AD - but now there's an item that gives him a wealth of both and he now simply has more raw damage or scaling than any other character.

To put it in concrete terms: think about what Gunblade did to Akali's balance and ratios - I would rather a world in which Gunblade never existed so that Akali could simply have higher AP and AD ratios - and then she could then use more items that suited her from the normal pool of AP and AD items. However, because Gunblade exists, everything about Akali's scaling is toned down around the fact that there's this keystone item giving her 50% more statistics and thus everything that scales about her had to be toned down or she would simply be massively overpowered.

One could argue that Gunblade is the overpowered item in this case - however, break that down. If Gunblade wasn't overpowered in terms of statistics for hybrid builders - why bother getting it when you could get an AP item *and* an AD item? By necessity, in order for an item to be appealing to hybrid characters - it has to offer a surplus of both statistics.

Note that this says nothing about hybrid builds - A hybrid build consisting of getting a Bloodthirster and then a Rylai's scepter is interesting and compelling. However, focused hybrid items destroy a lot of the power of a hybrid character's dual scaling - it takes away from the character being able to build whatever they want in terms of AP or AD - thus losing the benefit of a lot of good unique passives and actives.
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Then please fix it. I would love to be able to play Akali, have mutliple build options and not be binary (less so now, it's more you lose 60% of the time because you can't contribute late game due to dead or low damage).
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
Convincing people that the best thing for their hybrid characters is to have no hybrid items at all is difficult at best.

The other aspect of this is that the hybrid characters we have don't actually take advantage of hybrid scaling - they need a much heavier focus on basic attacks if they were to dip into the advantages of AD.

You have a handful of characters who hybrid scale - but don't actually benefit from a hybrid playstyle of attacks and spells - hence the drive for sheer raw statistical power. They don't actually benefit from building any of the AD items - nor does their playstyle synergize with some of the more focused AP items like Zhonya's and the like. If you take a look at the line that connects Kayle, Akali and Jax, the common thread is that they almost all rely on going nuclear at some point through sheer statistical might.
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Hmm... what you say seems to make sense, and yet also seems not to. How is this problem fundamentally different from characters with only AD ratios being locked into only using AD items, characters with only AP ratios being locked into only using AP items, etc.?
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
It's not a fundamental difference in the problem. It's a difference in expectation.

When you pick a ranged carry - you expect to do ranged carry like things. Kill dudes with your ranged attack - harass with spells - train on people. You have a specific set of needs and you are trying to accomplish them.

Similarly, when you pick a mage - you want to kill people with abilities. You could care less for your basic attack. You hit buttons - they die in a wildfire.

However, what do you expect out of a hybrid character? The flexibility to do both - or run a range from whatever you want it to be. Focused hybrid items kill that - because they demand that you build them. You don't get to choose what range you are from 'burst caster' to 'sustained drain-tanker' - you only get to build the hybrid items because your ratios have been tuned around these inflated items to exist.

It goes against the base expectation of flexibility or 'jack of all trades' nature that the hybrid scaling seems to promise you in the first place.
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What is the Ideal Hybrid like? How does their playstyle change when this Hybrid picks the AD-heavy build? What about when they go AP? When they go half-and-half?
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
If you want the bluntest expression of a hybrid character - recall Kayle's old passive which I will always miss even though it made her explode and hyperscale.

You *could* not be anything but a hybrid character with that passive. Your attack damage was ability power and vice-versa. Every item improved every facet of your character, whether you wanted it to or not.

It's blunt, crude and possibly the purest expression of what it means to be hybrid to me.

As for playstyle changes - it depends on the passives and statistics which you favored. A hybrid playstyle looks remarkably similar to every hybrid character - except for the player playing him who is familiar with exactly how he wants to build or play.
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Then there needs to be a reason for people like Akali to like AD. Right now Akali recieves three benefits from AD. Passive, E and obviously AAs. AAs isn't very big and her E is mostly for wave clear or a last resort to get a kill on something.
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
I agree with you on that - Akali as a hybrid character, is really odd because she really doesn't want to autoattack much. Nothing gives her a chance or an opportunity to - which is why I suspect the AP build is the default - and that any hybrid items created simply augment the AP build, if they're good.

I'm not sure what you could do to change that - or if making Akali more AA focused would be a good change now. It certainly doesn't fix her current problems if you made AD stronger on her.
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This argument hinges most of its strength on the incentive to go hybrid being ap/ad ratios. The man incentive to build AD shouldn't be ratios, it should be autoattacks. So Kayle / Jax should buy it because they want to have a balance of ability and autoattack damage (presumably burst vs sustained damage) The fact that most hybrids are incentivized to go hybrid to maximize both (I think Kayle avoids this, as do some pure melees, but those mostly build tank anyway) is more of a problem with bad hybrid design rather than bad items.
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
True but items don't help bad or good hybrid design. My argument mostly rests on the fact that hybrid items hurt a well-designed hybrid rather than help it by restricting the pool of items that the character could build to have a balance of both (if that's even a goal of 'good' hybrid design.)
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Also, btw, I get that it's probably prohibitive to do so when the only hybrids are Jax, Kayle and Akali. I guess I'm just asking the question of whether or not more items would help solve the problem, so that Gunblade isn't the only thing to build and it doesn't have to fill all the roles that other items would have to fill. If Gunblade was, say, the Rabacap of hybrid builds, providing the most efficient stats, but without any of the bonus survivability or utility of, say, Rylai's or Zhonya's, maybe then it wouldn't be super strong. And, at the same time, it'd provide for more survivable versions of hybrid items.
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
More hybrid items would definitely make hybrid characters stronger - which means you'd have to go back and nerf all the scaling on these characters to the point that Jax would never ever consider picking a hybrid item that wasn't from this hybrid set.
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Hmm, then in the spirit of allowing hybrid characters the flexibility to build to various points in that range, wouldn't it make sense to tune the hybrid characters to be viable with non-hybrid items, and then tune the hybrid items to be balanced against those characters to fit in the middle of that range, rather than trying to tune the hybrid characters to fit the hybrid items?
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
That's definitely a good approach to take - the issue you run into there is that any hybrid item will then be seen as prohibitively weak by any non-hybrid character. How big an issue of that is up to you to decide - but they'll be seen as dead items by a majority of the character pool.

In a world where there was many hybrid champions - that'd definitely be the ideal approach to take. In a world dominated by more standard scaling champions - it'd be mostly taking up space in the item store.
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Wait, what on Earth is Nashors for then? It's attractive to a very narrow band of champions.

Would it be that brutal to have a simple dual penetration item for hybrids? It's not like massive itemization effort is mandatory, they are missing essentially one basic hole in their arsenal.
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
Nashor's tooth allows the potential for a large group of existing champions to branch out into a subtype (autoattacking) and synergizes with champions that work well with it.

However, core hybrid itemization, when balanced, does not allow either AD or AP to branch out in such a fashion. A balanced gunblade does not help any AD or AP character aspire to any aspect of their character.

As for dual penetration %, think about how much % penetration it would take to rival Last Whisper or Void Staff. You are dealing split-damage already. Thus, any advantage of % penetration is cut in half. This is mitigated somewhat by lopsided resistances of the opponent - but then it's hard to argue that Last Whisper or Void Staff wouldn't simply be better in that regard then.
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What does a world in which existing hybrid champions want to build "normal" items look like? If Rageblade and Gunblade didn't exist, can you picture a sustained-damage Akali with a BotRK and a Ravenous Hydra who spams Crescent Slash (instead of Mark) for the physical damage? A Katarina who puts emphasis on her W (instead of Q) for lots of physical PBAOE with Hydra and a Black Cleaver?

Could those designs (hyper-mobile AD near-carry, or nimble, AOE-spamming AD burster) have value in a world where Lee Sin and Zed exist?
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
What you're describing isn't a hybrid build - what you're describing is something closer to the split between AP / AD Tristana than a true hybrid build - and no, I don't think they have a ton of value because we have champions that do similar thing.

The challenge of a hybrid character is that they still have to use their complete kit in order to function - but that they also have a drive to increase both AP and AD statistics. Hybrid design is tricky and often what we think of as hybrid characters were just characters whose had two "designed" AP / AD builds but ended up with the same gameplay.
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So rather than take the position that these items are detrimental to these champions because they prevent you from making more interesting choices, isn't it more correct to say that there simply aren't any other choices available?
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Originally Posted by Xypherous View Post
I can easily point to Gunblade limiting hybrid champion build options because whenever Gunblade has been good at had to be balanced around, we've continuously nerfed the AP ratios of the characters who could use it.

If I removed those 3 hybrid options from the game and simply increased the ratios of hybrid champions, now instead of those 3 items being their only options they now have access to every other AD or AP item in the game. It's the fact that balancing around hybrid items simultaneously forces them into those items and also takes away existing items that is so criminal here.
Phreak:

2011:

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Originally Posted by Phreak View Post
The logic of my post is, "What's out of line?"

If Akali is by far the best at one single thing, it's an obvious point of power. If she's the best at two or more things, she's probably way overpowered. Look at Irelia. She had the best sustain power of probably anyone in the game, maybe second to Vladimir. She had probably the most damage of anyone who built pure tank. She had top 5% mobility. She was almost impossible to itemize against. We toned down the mobility, sustain, damage from pure tank, and itemization hurdle. She still has these features in moderate-to-powerful amounts, but they were the largest factors. And she's still good.

What I see in Akali is that her laning is strong in certain matchups, but that's pretty much equivalent with other champions. She has some strong matchups. She eats a lot of melees and a lot of melees eat her. Garen and Renekton can out-trade. Nasus can't. Karthus can.

Akali is burst damage. Her sustained damage isn't that high. Unlike Nocturne who can get by on sustained auto-attack damage, Akali isn't prone to itemize significant AD. Certainly Gunblade and her passive help, but she's not Nocturne level sustain damage. Certainly not Vayne or Corki level. Her burst is high. It's entirely single target and it's without CC. If Akali can't kill she's useless. Full stop on that one. Her role is single target magic burst damage. She needs to be able to fulfill that role. If she can't win a 1v1, that's a problem, because it only gets worse in a 5v5.

The cool thing with that is there are two levels of counter-play. If you're laning against Akali, buy some MR. If you have enough to survive the burst and actually trade back, you've basically won the exchange. It takes 75 seconds to get 3 ult stacks back. Continue laning, etc. This is pretty much fair.

Akali players get to choose another opponent in teamfights. This works out pretty well for her and we have the standard scaling offense vs scaling defense item game.

I've been playing a lot of Karthus and have had to fight a lot of Kassadins. I get a Negatron Cloak as my first or second major item. Then I do well in teamfights because Negatron builds into decent Karthus items and we win. You have the same kind of thing here. Item builds to beat lanes; transition into teamfight choices.

The issue I see with Akali is if she gets one kill, she gets 3. It isn't difficult to hit 50% spell vamp, and since all of her major damage sources are single target, she basically heals 500 health per champion kill. This goes back to Evelynn of yore, where sure sometimes she gets shut down. Then sometimes she rips apart a squishy and just won't go down because she just healed half her HP and got her ult back. That's the major issue.

---

On another point, the poster ~5 above who said "Akali bursts less but sustains for less."

You aren't looking at the picture correctly. Yeah, Akali is on energy so she has the ability to Q every 6 seconds forever. Annie has a mana pool. Disintegrate is very similar to Mark of the Assassin in damage and cooldown. Annie also has enough mana to throw like 12 of those. Casting Incinerate doesn't cripple her DPS for the next 10 seconds. It cripples it if she keeps chain casting for 1200 mana or so. Tibbers doesn't come back up mid-fight, but it does STAY up and keep dealing damage.

Really, Akali's damage isn't that far out. People need to buy MR against magic burst and people need to not derp in lanes and feed her. Akali snowballs really hard, both because of ulti refresh in fights, and because she has a stat conversion passive, so once she gets ahead, she gets to the point where she ends a teamfight at full health. IMO it's fine that Akali gets like 50 health back on a level 6 trade from her combo. That's not really that high. It's when it hits 500 health that it's kinda silly.
Ezreal:

2011:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ezreal View Post
No plans for Akali love/buffs in the near future, she is still one of the best burst champions in our game and is one of our few hyper carries.
Xelnath:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xelnath View Post
We did not have the code to do it. I totally faked it with minions, tibbers controls and some client-side-only control hacks. Totally not shippable, but enough to prove the concept.

Here's a summary of my experimental notes so far:

Experiment 1
Swap W and R. W becomes charges.
  1. This proved to be a reasonable direction.
  2. Lane harass is a slightly too dangerous due to decreased Q range.
  3. The constant ability to detonate Mage Chains due to presence of W on charge system is annoying, yet not satisfying.
  4. 3 Charges of W was way too much burst. Required either a huge cooldown or the meteors to do trivial damage.
  5. Not enough to do during siege mode. Still a bit boring. Orbital laser cannon mode turned out to be *too* busy.

My next goals will be to figure out the following:
  • Determine a better way to increase engagement when spells are on cooldown during locus of power
  • Hypothesis: Augmented auto-attacks may increase interesting activities and target choices.
  • Risks: Long-range auto attacks present an unstoppable, free harassment / AD tower killing frustration which may compromise character intent/integrity.

Passive
  • Establish a passive which achieves endgame AP carry hyperscaling feel (Risky!) and makes mana-based builds a viable option.
  • Hypothesis: Increased mana burn rates + increased damage may achieve this goal.
  • Risks: Throttle laning phase bonuses and reward late-game skillful execution during teamfights.
  • Risks: AP Hypercarries are historically extreme burst mages (Akali) with short ranges. This potency level may be too much at long range.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xelnath View Post
There are about 30 posts from people saying "Don't change him." Several of them are duplicates from the same posters. Yet those threads have not said "Don't change X about him."

This generic feedback says either: "I'm comfortable with him." "I like playing a champion other people don't understand" "I like playing him as a ranged assassin." or just "I like playing a champion who is hard to control".

It's impossible for me to tell from the "Don't touch him!" feedback. They need to be able to explain what aspect of his character they like. Then I can better understand which features of Xerath are:
  • Memorable
  • Unique
  • Overtuned
  • Lacking Counterplay
  • Well done

Then I can make sure we're preserving the right things, changing the bad things and creating a better Xerath experience for *everyone* in league. Including the pro-Xerath fans. (Of whom I count myself.)


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Mirror

Senior Member

05-26-2013

Yeah, that movement speed was all me.


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Sayath

Senior Member

05-26-2013

Yeah, you did bait it out of Statikk!


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Hexten

Senior Member

05-26-2013

Nice this is finally up. Your other post talked about balance. This thread should not be of balance but ways to improve Akali's counterplay.

Points
Step 1: Fixing Akali's design flaw: Hybrid vs. AP
Passive scaling from AD
Crescent Slash doing physical damage.
Step 2: Remove Gunblade
Step 3: Determining if she's an assassin/hypercarry. Alot of evidence points at the latter.
Step 4:Giving Akali skill combos. Additional effects if skills are chained, skills must lead in order to use next skill, skills cannot be used unless debuff is applied, etc.
Step 5: Step 4 leads to increased depth, therefore increased counterplay.

Step 1: She's an AP hypercarry, this is obvious since her early game is extremely weak, and gets power spike once she hits 6. This is further supported as she has a stat conversion passive. The problem is that she was released as a hybrid, which by today, she is of not. The two things in Akali's kit that make her hybrid is her passive, Twin Disciplines, and Crescent Slash. First obvious step is to make Akali AP-centric. Remove any trace of AD scaling in her passive, scaling only off AP, and Crescent Slash should deal magic damage -> Base damage, AD and AP ratio should be adjusted as well.

Discipline of Force — Akali's auto attacks deal bonus magic damage equal to 5% of your ability power, increasing by 1% for every 10 ability power gained thereafter. (Magic damage affects all structures.)

Discipline of Might — Akali gains 5% spell vamp, increasing by an additional 1% for every 20 ability power gained thereafter. Breakeven to get 35% spellvamp with this is 200AP with WoTA instead of Gunblade(removed).

Crescent Slash
Old:
Physical Damage: 30 / 55 / 80 / 105 / 130 (+0.6 per attack damage) (+0.3 per ability power)

New:
Magical Damage: 60/90/120/150/180 (+0.6 per Bonus Attack Damge) (+0.5 per ability power)

This fixes Akali's design flaw and gives her the promise of a late-game hypercarry. Crescent Slash doesn't scale with total AD anymore, so base and ratio are compensated for this fact as well as dealing magic damage. Her passive does not require any use of AD, therefore this points to step 2: removing Gunblade.

Step 2: As Xypherous has pointed out, Akali's base damages and ratios are balanced around the fact that she will always get this item as a core. With the passive fix in step 1, she no longer relies on the combination of hybrid stats given on Gunblade, thus she will not need to be buy it anymore as a core. The choices here are obvious, either leave it in the game incase other champions want to buy it, or just remove it.

Step 3: Akali has a double-stat passive. That means she's a hypercarry. The only problem is that she never makes it to late game, and the stats it scales from are not what Akali builds typically. Step 1 already outlines a fix.

Step 4 and 5: Her kit in general:-

Passive - Problem is scales from wrong stats. Should scale both with AP, with Discipline of Force dealing flat bonus magic damage based on your total AP, rather than a percentage of her AD. This with the fact that Discipline of Might scales with AP, means absolutely no reliance on AD, and possbility of removing Gunblade now. This only requires number tweaking. Mentioned in step 1.
Q - Fine as it is.
W - Stationary and gets countered by true vision is what I really don't like, but things like these need counterplay, so it's here to stay. If Akali's reward doesn't increase then R should interact with shroud. Dash to centre.
E - Filler skill. Needs major interaction with Akali's other skills, as well as with enemies. Any ideas would do, just keep in mind, its to improve her ability to kill better, skillfully.
R - The only skill that has no counterplay is her ultimate Shadow Dance. For her to be viable in high elo and low elo at the same time, her ult needs individual counterplay for players vsing against her. Others have mentioned a skillshot, which originally was one during her beta stage. You cannot stop a high 800 range, point-and-click gapcloser. Any ideas here to add counterplay to her ult while still retaining the feel.

Please only constructive discussions. Anyone can join.

If you have trouble dealing with Akali, its okay. Please tell us why you think she is problem. What skills do you not like? What would you like to see yourself do in order to stop Akali from killing you? Anything you find that is a problem in a constructive manner.


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Siriner

Senior Member

05-26-2013

Well a fresh new thread on it is nice as it will have a easier time catching the main points into the OP.

Now we just have to see where Sttatik thinks Akali stands now.


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Caítlyn

Member

05-26-2013

I really appreciate the effort you put into all these posts. However I very highly doubt Riot will do anything since they very rarely buff champions, especially if they consider them "toxic" whatever that means. This is of course ignoring the fact that her stealth is the most easily countered stealth in the game.

If a champion is all single target burst he/she better have at least 130% of the damage of an AOE mage because there would be no reason to pick the single target mage (Akali). As she stands now her damage is low enough where she is out-traded by nearly all champions levels 1-7. Because she is the last champion in the game to actually get to use her ultimate (3 dashes) she was already at a disadvantage and if the opponent is smart they would simply all-in Akali as soon as they hit 6 because she only has one dash, which is useless.


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Mirror

Senior Member

05-26-2013

As I mentioned in the other thread, I think any counterplay changes will have to adjust her pattern of damage, as she just doesn't have a lot of room for any more "tricks" or evasion/pursuit mechanics. Phasing stealth, long-range dashes, AOE slow, kill/assist momentum, defiant spell vamp numbers, and now scouting over walls. Short of some extremely situational tactical changes (I'm sure we can all think of a million fun things that could be triggered when she Shadow Dances into or out of Twilight Shroud), I think it's going to have to be power tuning for mastery and judgment.

Near the end of the life of the other thread, I suggested having the proc damage on Mark of the Assassin build over the duration of the Mark, but only be triggered by other abilities. I imagine this would encourage similar play/counterplay as Lee Sin's Q. Akali players would be discouraged from proccing it immediately with a basic QR except on targets at critical health, in a similar manner to how LeBlanc doesn't really just want to QR unless someone's low enough that the finesse with follow-up spells isn't necessary.

Targets would recognize the debuff as a true "Mark" of Akali's intent, and try to stay out of Dance range, or use the knowledge that she'll be coming to set up some bait with the team. I think this would also solve some minor Akali issues:

- Because she'd be more dependent on Crescent Slash to trigger the Mark, Crescent Slash could have a real identity on her kit other than being the dead ability that scales mostly with AD.

- It would create a wider gulf between Akali's "I need to kill you now" and "I just need to make sure you leave" play patterns in duels and fights, and create room to give her back some Q damage. Taking today's values as the baseline, Mark of the Assassin could start at something like 80% when triggered immediately, climbing to ~130% if Akali waits the full duration.

- It gives the proc on R that it feels like she was always supposed to have, which is a nice QoL bone to throw Akali players.

Finally, it would be a change that would have high optimization/skill ceiling impact, with low actual playstyle disruption. It's not on the level of making Shadow Dance target friendlies or giving Twilight Shroud impunity to pink wards.

TL; DR: Give Akali a reason to let her Mark hang out for a bit, beyond just mechanical burst.