Red Post Collection: Xypherous on Defensive vs Offensive itemization, life steal, "poke" balance, and more.

Posted on at 4:18 AM by Moobeat
Ready for some brain exercise with walls of text from good ole' Xypherous?
Continue reading for a massive string of red pots where Xypherous discusses defensive vs offensive itemization, the interesting stat that is lifesteal, the balance of poke champions, and oodles more.

Note: While this all stems from the same thread and the same discussion, I've tried to break up the posts into different categories to make the reading a bit easier. Xypherous, while extremely informative and awesome, tends to be quite verbose.

Defensive vs Offensive itemization
Xypherous started things of by responding to a thread where one of our fellow summoners was discussing that a full armor item build should effectively counter a full attack damage item build.
Full Build armor should get shredded by the AP carry but should NOT be shredded by the AD. 
Ditto the other way around, Full Build MR should get shredded by a full build AD NOT a full build AP.

But in League tanks are laughed at. They might be used because they can stand a few shots and have strong CC capability but they are not true TANKS. This should be fixed. A pimped out ADC should not crush a 300 armor tank like it was nothing.
This makes several assumptions on relative game health: 
1. You are spending as much gold on defense as they are on damage 
It's somewhat unrealistic to assume that a full defense character should have a similar gold income, especially late game - as full damage characters. Full defense inherently takes less risks and opportunity costs for playing the game. Therefore - you are always going to have less gold at some point that players who actually expose themselves to a serious weakness.

We could solve this by severely increase the power of gold for defense statistics compared to offense but going down this line moots the entire point of buying offensive items. Offensive items intrinsically are worth more because they offer more play - people who buy offense can die. 
2. That invulnerable characters are intrinsically a good thing for the game 
I think this is where we'll probably disagree here - characters that become invulnerable, even to a subset of characters - are simply characters who don't actually wish to interact with a certain subset of opponents. 
Invulnerable characters are bad for the game in several ways - because as soon as you reach this threshold, there's very little reason to actually interact or play with the enemy team, outside of simply murdering them because they now can do absolutely nothing against you. 
While this would be fun for the invulnerable player - this is less of a game, and more of a 'Man, everyone who bought offense is really bad.' 
Consider what happens if this is true - if you buy offense, you can't damage a subset of their team - but you can now be murdered by anyone on their team becomes the norm, and under this state - defense is the only real option. 
3. The defining characteristic of a tank is 'immune to damage' 
The interesting dilemma here is that the tank role in many respects reads as 'durable' characters. However, the actions that a tank has to do to win any given fight does not rely on durability as much as some other classes - notably melee damage dealers. 
A tank dying in a successful initiation has a staggering impact on the success of his team - He has simultaneously started a favorable fight while wasting a large part of the opposing team's cooldowns. Contrast - most fighters need a prolonged engagement in order to actually output value to their team. 
Durability - at the end of the day, is a more valuable fighter statistic than a tank statistic - simply due to need / time required to stay in a fight. Tanks have many non-pure durability ways to simulate effective defense, every tank knows intrinsically that disabling their damage dealer for a few seconds is worth a massive amount of durability. If CC is a portion of a tank's kit - they will always have many different ways to mitigate damage - from disabling the opponent's damage outright by stun - or simply making it very difficult for the damage to be applied in time via slows or displacements. 
As a side note here, I actually believe that we should be putting more defense straight onto a tank's kit rather than force them to buy it. You should be able to rely on the fact that your tank has a baseline level of durability - rather than that shift wildly based on gold income. 
Quick aside on Armor versus Health 
Armor, being a net multiplicative statistic influences a lot more than just damage reduction - It also reduces life steal and amplifies the effect of other abilities like shielding effects (which lie on the same multiplicative axis as Health.) 
What this does (and did in Season 2) is create an environment where only characters with penetration could reliably damage other characters and negates a large subset of characters like AD Casters, Utility Supports and Tanks from contributing to anything in a late game fight outside of 'Protect the characters with % Pen.' 
Shifting away from primary resistances allows you to do a few things - It lets us control the power of in-combat sustain, like life steal or spell vamp because you interact with health more directly. It opens the way for penetration to actually be a counter statistic (though it's not there yet, admittedly) rather than simply the best damage multiplier you can get. It lets more people participate in the damage race because they no longer need both damage and penetration in order to pierce the opponents in-combat sustain."
He then began to reply to various summoner comments about his above statements:
What I take from your post, Xyph, is that "gold balance" is an important aspect of balancing, and that we will thus never see tanks or supports actually be allowed to get reasonable amounts of gold
Not exactly - Basically what I'm saying is that players who purchase items to mitigate risk should not be rewarded with more gold than players who are purchasing items that maximize their risk. 
Essentially - if you rewarded more or equal gold to the player who is trying to 'not lose' - then not losing becomes the best available course of action. 
Think about GP/10 - you incur more risk when you purchase a GP/10 item. They give you less raw statistical power than any other equivalent and frequently opens you up to punishment in the short-term - thus it's a great tool to manipulate gold streams so that the support / tank gets a larger share of gold - while not simply building to invalidate opponents.

For example, imagine a world where your towers had passive GP/10 and that taking enemy tower's down gave you nothing - What are you encouraging here, with this gold income model? Then think about how it applies to buying defense versus buying utility/support items."
 He continued, responding to a battery of follow up questions:
You didn't bother to compare the value of defense and offense gold per gold, instead your completely erroneously claimed that offensive characters will just have more gold because reasons. You are confusing two entirely separate issues, the efficiency of items and the amount of gold on characters.
Sorry, I'm being completely unclear in my statement here - this is a statement on whether or not players building full defense should have as much gold as players building full offense.

The answer is 'no' - because intrinsically you are taking steps to mitigate risk rather than leaving openings for yourself. This is why offensive items have better multipliers - that most gold sources require offensive acts or risk taking behaviors - and why you should have gold generally scale better on offensive actions than defensive ones.
That's an odd thing to believe. Free defense does not mean that you will build more defense on them. If your base damage is high, then you may itemize for utility. If your utility is high, you may itemize for damage, and if you can't do that then ultimately that's a Support.
If anything, a kit based around free defense can only encourage either Carry or Support roles - one can skip defensive itemization to build more offense, and the other can skip defensive itemization because they have no gold to afford it. The only case where you'd still choose to build defense on top of your defense is if you have so much base damage AND utility that you can go for all out invulnerability. That's called a S1 Bruiser. 
I definitely agree with you that free defenses encourages you to build non-defensive statistics. If you give lots of free resistances to a character - they are encouraged to build stuff that isn't resistances - because you only need a certain level of defense to be able to do their job - assuming your job is damage and not utility. 
However, I also believe that a tank role needs to be an inherently reliable role - and thus the amount of unreliability based on gold needs to be lower than other roles. I'm not saying there won't be the negative side effects - merely that the game flows better when you can both rely on tank initiation and tank control at some baseline level. 
Essentially - While I don't think tanks feel quite right building non defensive items - I do feel like they should still act and do tank actions more reliably than being almost completely dependent on items to do so. It's kind of like a cost / benefit analysis at this point - The cost: They won't build tank items and might build a lot of damage items - The benefit: Tanks do tank things which help general game flow.
Defensive items have no multipliers that make them absurdly cost efficient (crit, rabadons)
Offensive champions are already un****ingkillable because
A. They kill you before you can kill them
B. BOTRK and barrier 
I can think of at least 4 layers of multiplicative damage reduction 
1. AS% Slow - Randuin's Omen and Frozen Heart
2. Straight DR% versus basic attacks, ala Ninja Tabi
3. Health, Health Regeneration, Shield
4. Armor 
Arguing that Omen isn't cost-efficient is somewhat a losing battle - I've stated why we don't want more of them - but there are definite multipliers to defense that cause a full-build defense to consist of multiple items that synergize.
I feel like there's a discrepancy between characters that "build risky" and characters that "are risky." I feel like the basis of your argument holds that characters are essentially the same except for the items that they build. The problem here is that, in actuality, the characters that are building defensively are the ones that are at the highest risk; they typically are melee champions that have to close quarters in order to perform actions or be effective while the ones that are "building risky" are the ranged champions that play from a far safer vantage point.
I definitely agree with you that the more risk inherent to your character, the more defenses you build so that you can minimize it - because you need a baseline level of survivability to perform your role. However, above the minimum required survivability, you now try to maximize effectiveness proportional to the risk that you incur. 
However, let's say that your role is crowd control - there is literally no reason to build anything but defenses or utility. If defensive items were more powerful - that would still not get you to incur additional risk, because you've already satisfied the minimum requirement to survive in a team fight - and you already have what you need to perform your role and win the game.
Yeah balance...And even worst Lets INCREASE Magic penetration items and buff them
Every source of magic penetration has been reduced - so.. not sure where you're coming from here.
Their combined effects are slightly stronger if you have a full build of magic penetration - but this build has certain costs.
And people say "dude buy frozen heart" Yeah because -20%AS is gonna do to much when the adc have bersekers pd or static
Attack Speed debuffs are multiplicative - so it subtracts 20% from their total Attack Speed, not their additive attack speed. The more attack speed the opponent's ADC has - the more powerful this effect becomes."
Lifesteal discussion
Xypherous also devoted time to discussing Life Steal
"Lifesteal as a defensive statistic has some interesting play - in that it's pretty much the most interactive form of 'survivability' ever. 
Lifesteal follows this weird nuclear curve, where just below the level of lifesteal they need to fully drain tank you, lifesteal has great gameplay. And then if they can drain-tank you, lifesteal has terrible gameplay. 
However, this is an argument for health in a lot of cases. The more powerful armor is, the more powerful and binary lifesteal needs to be in order to pierce through armor - since armor reduces damage and thus the effect of lifesteal proportionally.

What then happens is that the raw lifesteal amounts tend to be inflated for lifesteal to be able to do its job which spikes its value against minions and squishy targets, effectively turning them into giant health batteries."
 He continued, responding to a few questions about his comments on lifesteal:
Lifesteal works at 33% effectiveness versus minions.
Please give me one good reason why this hasn't been tested yet.
One reason: It makes poke compositions dominate as it makes the glass DPS roles extremely vulnerable to poke. 
There are several reasons - but that's my favorite. :P
So is there anything being done by this? Because the way you phrase it you kinda just said "oh well."
At the moment - I think lifesteal is in a decent spot. Bloodthirster's lifesteal might be too strong but honestly, you'd have to make a good argument with some solid evidence. Right now - Bloodthirster is being bought a lot - but is it really game warping? Eeeh."
Continuing further,
I don't see this as a bad thing whatsoever, it provides counterplay to the class. Why aren't ranged carries allowed to have this as a weakness to them?

Poke is inherently an a non-interactive strategy - the idea behind poke being to get free damage while being unassailable. 
It's also determined at team composition mostly - which makes it a weakness determined at champion select rather than a play-style.
Why aren't ranged carries allowed to have this as a weakness to them?

Specifically, I said glass DPS - this isn't specific to ranged carries - but damage dealers who build little or no resistances in general.
One thing I dislike about lifesteal is 'minion have 300 HP, you last hit 600. Then you heal from the 600 damage, not the 300 life steal.' You know what I mean? 
Other thing is BT give you high lifesteal, but no attack speed, however, with BORK combined, you heal a lot, do consisted damage and heal a lot because you have AD+AS+Lifesteal. I think you should make something like "extra lifesteal items will have 50% effect." 
Making lifesteal a named unique passive would be great and give us a toooon of control over the statistic on items. 
It's a little heavy-handed though for my taste - but it could be the right direction if lifesteal becomes a problem. I'm not necessarily convinced that it is - but I also admit I'm not actually looking at lifesteal at the moment (nor am I particularly qualified to comment on how lifesteal changes the flow of higher level games.)
One thing I dislike about lifesteal is 'minion have 300 HP, you last hit 600. Then you heal from the 600 damage, not the 300 life steal.' You know what I mean?
We actually discussed this and it's a fairly contested issue - but lifesteal is among the healthiest of the sustain tools due to generally being the most interactive sustain pattern - it requires an enemy minion, requires you to autoattack it and pause briefly, etc.

Continuing to respond to questions, he addressed concerns on  lifesteal vs other forums of sustain,
Ahh I see your point. But I have a few questions in response to that. Why is this form of sustain allowed, while other forms of sustain have been nerfed? All the other champions with actual healing skills like soraka,, taric, sona, nidalee's have been nerfed in the past, when they counter poke just as well. Were they nerfed because there's no risk or counterplay involved? 
If so, what is the risk in ranged champions healing off of a minion wave half their life bar? I guess you could say there's a zoning risk, but even then all the champion has to do is access a jungle mob to heal back, then they can heal once the wave gets to their tower. What's the risk in that?
Sure, let me talk about sustain a bit - one of the things to consider is when these characters get their massive sustain potential. 
Ranged carries typically get massive sustain potential near the end of the game - this is also when they've spiked in terms of risk as their builds are very fragile compared to the relative damage output of everyone else. 
The other thing to think about here is whether or not they can lifesteal at will - it typically requires additional minions and pausing to attack - while these are not as restrictive as say, channeling in place to heal - it is more restrictive than a point-and-click heal spell that is no longer gated by mana. 
In effect - it's both that lifesteal has the most restrictions (needs a target, only becomes powerful late in the game, actually requires secondary elements) compared to healing (generally more powerful early and requires no other elements) that enable it to have the magnitude it is allowed to."
Digging even deeper on lifesteal:
I do disagree with one of your points though, somewhat. While I do agree that lifesteal becomes worth much more as raw dps increases, currently, the amount of sustain available to champions in the early laning phase is extremely high, notably if they start with lifesteal quints. If a ranged champion starts off with 6% lifesteal (some even get 3% more from utility) and a dorans blade, assume they have 70-80 starting ad, that's a minimum of 9.2 life on hit at level 1. This becomes even higher once the champion gets a vampiric scepter, as they begin healing in the early/mid 20s for each hit. 
Do you think lifesteal quints are a big reason for this problem? I feel like currently, they are the best quints on any autoattacking champion, not just ranged champions. I even run them on jax, tryndamere, etc.
If people perceive lifesteal as being strong - I do agree that it's most likely lifesteal quints that are tipping the balance, especially early in lane. 
There's two issues here - the power of sustain and the problems that our sustain characters have and how they are being viewed as one and the same. 
You can see where the dissonance comes from. You see, Irelia is kind of the quintessential sustain fighter - but if that was all she was, she wouldn't be that much of a problem. Soraka is the quintessential sustain support - but that is all she is and she's not particularly interesting. 
The perception that we hate sustain of all types comes from the fact that our two kind of 'keystone' support characters have a ton of issues on them - sustain being one of the facets of the issues that they have. Irelia is tricky because she's a ton of fun while being unhealthy and it absolutely sucks to rework something fun for principle's sake. Soraka on the other hand, we just need to get down to work on. :P"

As a call back to his earlier comments on poke influencing lifesteal, he further discussed poke and it's impact on the game.
But a question about your remark on poke. Is your stance on poke that it is unhealthy for the game, or at least that it should not be encouraged?
Currently, our poke champions do not pay sufficient costs for the strength of the poke they they have. 
A poke comp is certainly viable - but they need intrinsic counterplay. Many of the poke champions currently don't actually have all that much play on their kits. A large reason why Jayce and Nidalee are frustrating is due to this dual nature of poke + escape. 
I agree with you that a lack of counterplay can be made for any comp type - but it's an ideal at the end of the day - we should strive to make as many compositions viable, as long as they can be outplayed in the scope of the game they are in. 
I'm specifically going to look into making a little bit of anti-poke in order for us to better control this phenomenon."

With all this talk of builds, one inquisitive summoner turned his thoughts towards those champions who received defensive bonuses from buying offensive stats or vice versa. Xypherous responds:
Then why are there so many champions that gain (huge) offensive capabilities from building defensively? (I'm talking about you, olaf, volibear, etc. This also includes Atmas' Impaler). 
And as a matter OF that, why do certain champions gain defensive power from building offensive? (Xerath, Riven. etc)

For the first part - in general, there's a reason why those characters are inherently problematic - and when they are seen in high level play - bad things kind of happen. While I'm not saying that they're mistakes - when you break a general rule - you need to compensate with some other weakness or some other behavior. 
Olaf, for example - gains defensive scaling through offense because he generally has zero mobility tools whatsoever. It's also what makes Olaf tricky to balance and I fully admit that he's not in the greatest of spots. 
For Riven, specifically - that's one of the major errors on my part - her heavy offensive to defense scaling actually creates a lot of negative aspects on the character. She was made in a world where buying offense was a pure trap on melee characters - and thus the heavy scaling was meant to mitigate that behavior. 
It was also to counter the power of resistance stacking upon high base value shields - Riven's shield base value is close to half the effectiveness of other shields - as building resistances to multiply the strength of that shield was obnoxiously strong. I agree that it's tuned waaay too aggressively at this point with the S3 baseline statistic changes. 
As for Xerath, I believe the original reasoning was that Xerath rooting himself incurred additional risk above and beyond other characters."

Finally, he offered up a grab bag of replies to one summoner's set of questions:
1. Would you mind explaining briefly--or linking to your old post with an explanation--why items like Randuins are bad for the game? 
2. It might be argued that with the advent of new sources of armor pen as well as the reversal of application order in %pen and flat pen, burst champions have become much more viable. We are seeing a lot of burst-oriented AD champs like Zed and Kha Zix in competitive play. Do you think their popularity is more related to intrinsic aspects of those particular champions or because armor has been weakened to allow them in? Traditionally bruisers are the counter to burst, but if they can't itemize defense efficiently enough into their kits, could that be a reason why we aren't seeing them used? 
3. You mentioned that melee champions need more defensive items than others because they get focused easily. Given that defense items have been nerfed, do you think changes or additions to defensive items might be the correct path to making melee champions more viable?

Items like Randuin are very restrictive and tend to force out other itemization when they are too good or when they exist in multiple stacking forms. 
This is in general, the problem with most multiplicative items - when you have too many of them, you either have to flood them so there's choice between the multipliers on an equal level - or you have to heavily restrict them so they don't close out choice. 
For example, currently we have lots of critical strike items only one real AP multiplier item. Because if there was only 3 crit items or 3 AP multiplier items - the build would necessitate all 3 of them in a lot of cases. 
2. We did two things in Season 3 - we lowered the power of flat armor penetration and increased the multiplicative effects of % and flat penetration.
What this let us do is essentially have better controls on assassins having absurd damage output in lane and falling off - this is fairly toxic gameplay. Smoothing out the damage curve somewhat lets characters like this exist in a better space without being too spikey at one phase of the game. 
3. Working on some things in this space - CertainlyT is also doing some work in making defensive skills that "feel" like glass DPS skills.

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