Xypherous talks Hybrid itemization and more.

Posted on at 4:31 AM by Moobeat
Stemming from all the discussion surrounding the recent, controversial PBE changes, Xypherous has ignited a giant conversation about hybrid itemization. 
Continue reading for a recap of this itemization discussion, as well as a few quips about the balance of various champions and items.

Hybrid Itemization Discussion
In the Patch 3.08 context thread, a thread explaining the slew of recent PBE changes, Xypherous found himself knee deep in a heated discussion about hybrid items - that is, items that benefit both AP and AD ratios and scaling at the same time.

Here is what he kicked off the conversation with after sharing his opinion that strictly hybrid items are bad for the game.
"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 offermore 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."

Of course these comments didn't sit to well with players attached. He responded to this and elaborating, saying:
"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."

Xypherous continued, explaining why there is a difference between building hybrids vs "normal" champions.
"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."

Returning back to the item discussion, he responded to summoner concerns that perhaps the problem with the items is because of BAD hybrid design.
"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.)"

As for specific hybrid items, Xypherous chatted about both Gunblade and Nashor's tooth.

First up is his thoughts on Gunblade and it's impact on itemization.
"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."

As for Nashor's Tooth, he had this to say:
"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."

When asked what exactly he considers a hybrid champion, or rather a good example of a hybrid champion, he responded:
"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."

In relation to all the earlier hybrid , someone brought up AkaliXypherous shared his thoughts on her as a hybrid, saying:
"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."
Other Stuff
His posting spree wasn't all fun and hybrid items though! Xypherous also took a bit of time to talk about various other items and even a feew champions.

As far as non hybrid items go, Xypherous responded to questions about the state of post-nerf Warmog's Armor ( 1 )  and Locket of the Iron Solari ( 2 ) :
"1. It's regarded as weak - but more likely in a decent spot.


2. Locket doesn't built out of an Emblem of Valor because it was re-designed as a sister item to Aegis of the Legion. In effect, because Locket and Aegis function so well together - we didn't initially want to introduce anything that caused the pairing to clash.


As for why Aegis builds out of Emblem of Valor now - it was some weird principle that the keystone aura item should be an aura item at all points, including lane - which is ironic given that Aegis is frequently built by the Jungler."

Xypherous also responded to questions about all of the recent nerfs for Spirit of the Lizard Elder, saying:
"This was Statikk - but in general, he felt that the Lizard item was crowding out other AD itemization and much more powerful than intended - to the point where it didn't really feel like a cool off-build from a Jungle item - and more like just a really good item that didn't have a place for Junglers anymore."

He also chatted a bit about the current state of Atma's Impaler, saying:
"Quite frankly, it'd be pretty easy to make Atma's Impaler good (make it slot-efficient, rather than gold-efficient, given how late of an item buy it is) - but we're not altogether convinced that making Atma's Impaler good would make the game better - so we've been holding off on it."


Moving on to champions...

In regards to Renekton's balance, Xypherous commented:
"Renekton right now serves as the 'You must be this tall to enter top-lane' champion. While he's kind of obnoxious at this role, he's not the root cause of it. 
He's probably slightly too strong right now and probably needs his 'Q' nerfed a little. Otherwise, he's kind of the quintessential bruiser man - one of the few we find annoying - but not egregiously so."

When asked what's up with the tentative Hecarim PBE changes ( TL;DR Removing his unit collision ), Xypherous shared what he knew:
"I don't really have any context here at the moment - sorry.

The reason why this context post isn't being posted by me is because the vast majority of the changes are being handled by other people. The few changes I've made on this patch are mostly starting item oriented and the removal of Malady. 
As far as I know, I think the assessment is that Hecarim doesn't need it and it's greatly increasing his dive strength and escape power. I believe that while 'E' is up, he will still ignore unit collisions however. I believe the contention here is that Hecarim is still really strong and further numerical balance without removing this strength would start to get pretty dire, in terms of nerfing his end-game survivability and damage.

Ignore Unit Collision is a terrifying fighter statistic - as I've said before when this was brought up for boots. :x"


As far as plans for Pantheon go, Xypherous commented:
"If people find Pantheon weak - we'll change him. There's a ton of ideas for Pantheon - but right now, it's not altogether clear that people dislike Pantheon or find him weak - so there's little real reason to change it. He's pretty low priority.

I'd like to take a look at him - but any changes would be more disruptive than beneficial at this point if people like who he is now."

Xypherous also briefly discussed the tentative Nautilus PBE nerf ( W's damage lowered), saying:
"Sure - we took away the thing that held Nautilus back, his early clear - and now his actual overpowered elements are coming into the forefront. 
This is one of those cases where a 50% win rate didn't necessarily mean balanced. Something was holding him back - something unreasonable and out of the player's control (early clear) and we compensated it with extreme damage. Well, that's all fine and good, except it means roughly half your games are stomps and half your games, you are terrible. Hence the retuning - removing early weakness - but also removing this unnecessary damage."

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