Saving General Swain: A Comprehensive North American Study

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Mandalcio

Member

01-16-2014

“Of course. With all due respect.” - Jericho Swain to High Councilor Kolminye

Hey everyone. My name is Mandalcio, and I’m pretty average gamer who really likes to play League. Long story short, I was inspired by one of my friends to go for this year’s Game Design Internship. While brainstorming ways to impress Riot, I realized every other academic paper I’ve written ended up in a dustbin after it was graded. League of Legends is a game I really enjoy, so no matter what happened, I wanted to create something with a larger impact. Rioters regularly interact with players on the forums, so I figured this would be the best route to take. Everything you are about to read was written with you in mind, not just Riot Games.

I’m proud of all the calculations, theory-crafting, and sleepless nights I poured into making this project the best it could be. I’m hoping for the best, but if I don’t get an internship with Riot, I could live with myself. While it wasn’t intended to be from the start, “Saving General Swain” became a labor of love. So long as Swain and League of Legends are better because of the ideas presented and the discussion engendered, I’ll be satisfied with my work.

But the reality is there is no way I could have written and developed all of this content under a rock. I spent countless hours talking to other Summoners in real life and over voice clients, about everything from mathematical balance to lore considerations. I didn’t think my efforts would be thorough if I didn’t get as many perspectives on Swain as possible. To give you an idea of the scope, I kept records of every interview conducted through LoL’s client for later review. The chat logs amount to around 20,000 words, after trimming conversations to essentials to save space.

I’m taking this opportunity to thank everyone who provided insights for this project, especially the Summoners below.

Thanks for all your help!
Allorim, AsianPersuasion, BioknightX, Deftclip, Demideath95, Drakexionyx, Elipton, Elleran, FF Glubnak, GroTesQueGrace, gtAngel, Hmjtxjkcv, MrHowlett, Narpas Sword, ParadOxyMoron and Saffuran.


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Mandalcio

Member

01-16-2014

“Her melody moves the soul, her silence sunders the body.” - Jericho Swain
Multiple Ability Disorder (MAD)

In Dungeons and Dragons, “MADness” is a condition players associate with characters that otherwise may be awesome, but demand a plethora of strong statistics. Amongst 3rd Edition’s core classes, monks perfectly exemplify the MAD syndrome. Out of six primary statistics, a typical monk requires high strength and dexterity to deal damage, robust constitution to survive the rigors of melee combat, and exceptional wisdom scores to power their extraordinary, super-human abilities.

Swain is no monk, but MADness is the crux of every obstacle to the Grand General. An immobile, short-range mage, Swain requires an abundance of health, armor, and magic resistance to weather lane duels and team fights. Strong ratios and Torment’s amplification mitigate an immediate need for ability power and magic penetration. However, falling behind will eventually show, rendering Swain as little more than an over-fluffed CC-Bot. Swain’s long spell-rotations and desire for durability also make him partial to cooldown reduction (CDR) and spell vampirism.

Finally, Ravenous Flock necessitates copious mana and mana regeneration. While useful for sustaining Swain in the long term, building health is still critical for surviving burst damage. Combined with Swain’s unimpressive pushing, Ravenous Flock also upholds an unhealthy addiction to Crest of the Ancient Golem.

In essence, Swain calls for an avalanche of attributes that would even make Irelia blush, but his basic abilities only synergize with ability power. Given the Grand General’s only practical way to obtain these statistics (and by extension, relevance) is through item purchases… A typical match for Swain is often an exercise in minimizing the awkwardness of achieving late-game status.

Role Ambiguity
“Swain is a caster, who specializes in taking down single targets and disabling enemies.” - David “Phreak” Turley

League of Legends has changed dramatically since Swain’s champion spotlight in 2010. But using Phreak’s introduction as a springboard, what unique role does Swain provide for a hopeful team on Summoner’s Rift? Does Swain rush Zhonya’s Hourglass and flash-initiate like Morgana? Does he focus on durability and CDR, playing a Karma-esque disruption role? Perhaps Swain even goes for an early Deathcap, lurking until he can wipe out an enemy carry and relying on Ravenous Flock to assist the escape?

One thing I have learned to talking to so many different players is that there is no cohesive idea on what Swain's "job" actually is. This is very symptomatic of MAD. Some players see Swain purely as a disruptive bruiser, like Zac or Cho'gath. Others see him as an AP carry in the vein of Mordekaiser or Ryze, who struggles because of the aforementioned problems.

Unfortunately, MAD proves to be doubly frustrating regardless of how one attempts to equip Swain. For inexperienced players, trying to build the right items on Swain is confusing; the interaction between his kit and multitude of statistics are invisible. While experienced players may enjoy the freedom of Swain’s build options, they are simultaneously hindered by the gold required to cover all bases. To those still in disagreement about the significance of this flaw, contemplate the following.

Consider Swain and Ryze. How does the former champion outperform the latter, overall?

The question is actually rhetorical. Very much like Swain, Ryze is an immobile, short-range mage who dishes out tons of single target and area of effect (AoE) damage in the mid/late game. When we take a closer look at the Ryze’s kit, it becomes clear why the Rogue Mage is favored over his feathery colleague.

Overload produces CDR that scales with rank while Spell Flux yields Ryze substantial magic penetration. Desperate Power’s movement speed bonus allows Ryze to temporarily overcome his range, while the spell vampirism combined with AoE keeps him going in team fights. It can also be used in lane to quickly push or sustain. The tertiary stats granted by these abilities are crucial for allowing Ryze to more easily adapt and itemize.

Furthermore, all of Ryze’s damage skills scale with mana in addition to ability power (AP), so his damage remains considerable whether building as a mana tank or hard carry. Arcane Mastery neatly ties the kit together, rewarding players who efficiently chain spells like a real mage. Some Summoners are whining about Patch 3.10 nerfs, but Live-Ryze could be interpreted as a better “Swain” than Swain may have ever been.

Thematic and Mechanical Dissonance

Technically, role-playing is not a factor for someone interested strictly in balance on the Fields of Justice. Nevertheless, I believe the League’s finest champions harmonize fantasy/lore with mechanics.

Draven is an arrogant and absurdly narcissistic warrior, showing off his ability whenever possible. Leona is literally a knight in shining armor, bold, strong-willed, and unafraid to fight with anything threatening those she protects. Well-designed champions reflect visual presentation and personal story wholeheartedly through mechanics. What about the Master Tactician?

Jericho Swain is Runeterra’s Hannibal. This isn’t exaggeration. This individual overcame ruthless cultural norms and physical disability, becoming the greatest Noxian Commander that ever lived. His meteoric military career has shaped Runeterran politics since the League’s inception. Commanding Officers regularly requested demotions, because they would rather serve under Jericho Swain.

Although renown for peerless cunning, Swain’s current abilities involve a level of processing comparable to Garen’s. “Will using this leave me with enough mana to sustain?” is the only question players really ask themselves before activating Decrepify or Torment. Nevermove is typically held for ganks; otherwise it is used for aggression/wave clear. Ravenous Flock entails resource management, but at most, lets players situationally bait with “unexpected” sustain.

At the end of the day, Swain has one real combo, incorporating two point-and-click spells with a toggle. For someone claiming to be a master strategist, this feels awfully underwhelming. If Swain is going to be rehabilitated, tuning this aspect is definitely a priority.


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Mandalcio

Member

01-16-2014

“If you haven’t yet lost the ability to ask, you may not yet ask for relief.” - Swain, the Master Tactician

While Swain certainly has issues, the Master Tactician is not bereft of phenomenal ideas. It is important to keep in mind what draws players to pick Swain. Karma’s and Trundle’s respective revamps made this very apparent. What aspects of Swain should we preserve moving forward?

Avian Metamorphosis
Ravenous Flock is Swain’s highest profile ability. We might have to change how the ultimate functions, but retaining Swain’s ability to become “Big Bird” is a must.

Disruptive Crowd-Control Mage
Intuitively, as with his original design, I think providing Swain with crowd-control (CC) and debuffs is the best way to demonstrate his savvy as strategist. Reconstructing Swain as an unadulterated nuker in the style of Brand or Syndra would not only be ill-received, but undeserved.

Damage-over-Time Mage
League has plenty of burst and sustained-damage casters, but damage over time (DoT) effects are surprisingly rare. Ironically, the few champions possessing them tend to be known for bursts of damage instead, such as Brand, Cassiopeia, Darius, Fizz, or Talon to name a few. I don’t think this is actually a central part of Swain’s thematics. However, it is definitely a mechanical avenue worth exploring to make Swain stand out from his peers.

Durability
If executed correctly, this could be the lynchpin of the Grand General’s new niche. “Tanky AP” hardly means what it used to. Modernizing Swain could be a fantastic way to reinvigorate the term.

“When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.” – Otto von Bismarck


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Mandalcio

Member

01-16-2014

But Live-Swain is really strong (52% Win-Rate ☼.☼); why are you trying to change him?
Swain’s patch history is at the bottom of this page. Can you find another champion over 2 years old that hasn’t received a single nerf? Swain seems “fine” because preposterous base damage/AP ratios combined with damage amplification camouflage the flaws, especially when he is ahead. But in games where Swain can’t bully or is behind opponents? The drawbacks of MADness are readily apparent.

So what? Does this matter if you don’t have any solutions?
Actually, I wrote so much about Swain, I was afraid of packing it all into one thread. You can find my solutions HERE, IN THE CHAMPION FEEDBACK SUB-FORUM.

Why are you trying to change how Swain fits into the meta-game?
Precisely what I am trying not to do. With each design, I essentially asked myself three questions.
1) What role did Riot Games originally envision Swain to fulfill?
2) What issues are preventing Swain from reasonably doing so?
3) How can I innovate and make achieving that role a better experience for every Summoner?
That’s it. Meta-games come and go, so attempting design a kit around one will inevitably fail.

Why didn’t you just tinker with Swain’s base/scaling statistics?
1) This method is unlikely to succeed with multifaceted issues such as MADness.
2) When altering a champion’s stats, you need to do so in the context of the roster. If the logic for Swain getting stats A, B, and C changes dramatically, they also change for the rest of the League.

Why don’t any of your kits address Swain’s lack of mobility?
Mobility (or rather, a lack of it) is not what inhibits Swain from being a productive champion. Furthermore, every champion needs weaknesses. It is not fair if is Swain is durable, loaded with crowd-control, deals tons of damage, and is able to gap-close with ease. Would Nasus be more balanced if Fury of the Sands was buffed to grant a movement speed bonus?

Curious about my solutions for the Grand General? HERE IS THE LINK TO SAVING GENERAL SWAIN: PART II


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ScorchXBanister

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Senior Member

01-16-2014

...Huh. An interesting read.

If you wanna keep going, I can delete this post for OCD reasons.


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ink lines

Senior Member

01-16-2014

Riot should hire you as an intern just to put these together for every champion they change.


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KilljoyX

Senior Member

01-16-2014

I agree with you. I think that his E is the biggest need to change.
I believe it should be an AOE similar to W but that starts ticking instantly.
I also think that the bird should target the nearest champion if the opposing champ already left range.

His W and R are in a good place (R could possibly stack slower).
His Q Is so one dimensional but so powerful. I'm not sure that's a good thing.
His E Is just a blatant boring nuke. It doesn't fit him. It should have more depth similar to the rest of his kit.


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KaylaBlews

Senior Member

01-16-2014

Oh, jeez. It's like you're reading my mind.

I love these proposed changes/suggestions, and the formatting of all of this is incredibly well done.

Take my bookmark and bump.


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Mandalcio

Member

01-16-2014

Quote:
Originally Posted by KaylaBlews View Post
Oh, jeez. It's like you're reading my mind.

I love these proposed changes/suggestions, and the formatting of all of this is incredibly well done.

Take my bookmark and bump.
Thanks, I'm glad you like it! Don't forget to check out Saving General Swain: Part II under Champion Feedback. I would hate for you to miss out on all the solutions I've lined up to nudge Swain into a better place


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AsianPersuasion

Junior Member

01-16-2014

the amount of time this took was well worth the effort, i hope riot picks you up... this is amazing and interesting.