Red Post Collection: IronStylus on Mt. Targon, Small Xerath Update, Xypherous on Phage, Arcane Helix, and Itemization

Posted on at 11:48 PM by Moobeat
Tonight's red post collection features ample discussion, from Xypherous, on Phage, a cancelled item called "Arcane Helix", and itemization, as well as IronStylus sharing some thoughts on Mount Targon, Xelnath with a small update on Xerath, and more!
Continue reading for more red post goodness than you can shake a stick at.

IronStylus on Mount Targon
IronStylus has been reeled into a discussion involving Mount Targon, the home of his beloved Diana and Leona, as possible location for future lore updates, a la the recent Freljord content patch. While this obviously isn't a confirmation or anything, he did share several ideas on where to take it should something happen.
"So, in a more extensive exploration, before the benedryl and advil knock me out.. (i have a cold).. I want to say that I indeed also think Targon is ripe to explore. Leona, Diana, Pantheon, they make a nice little triangle. There's very fertile soil to be planted in here. Basically, if you look at Diana's teaser and splash from the standpoint of sequence (actually how they're supposed to be seen) she had a moment of revelation and conviction in the teaser, and after that, something went down in Diana's splash. Her "arrival", so to speak. Great question then follows if we're to project past that moment in the splash...
What next?! 
Does Diana get up, look around at the broken temple and thank the moon in it's unyielding power? Does Leona come upon the broken remains and slaughtered Solari and react in horror? Does Leona's childhood friend Pantheon have a part to play in a coming battle, or a reconciliation? All plausible next steps! 
The great thing about Targon is that it's not a city-state, it's a region. It's a BIG region. It's where we put all of our Greco-Roman inspired champions, therefore, you can expect it might have some Mount Olympus vibe to it. Characters battling which aren't just heroes, but avatars of the elements and heavens themselves, probably the closest thing we have to Olympian-type gods. That's what excites me very much about Targon in a way. It's a point of connection between the metaphysical forces of nature, and their interaction with humans. Right now, two very powerful tidal forces have imbued their power into two humans who have more-or-less sacrificed a component of their humanity to be given such power. They are avatars, but at what expense? 
The real interest for me comes in the conflict not just between each other, but with the struggle of one's own humanity against the forces of absolutism, orthodoxy, or ideology. For lack of a better comparison, Diana and Leona are both clad by doctrine, and represent two humans, to an extent, at the mercy of two forces who's malice far transcends the clashing of gold and silver swords. My curiosity very much pools in the place where Leona and Diana must examine just how much of their humanity they control. How much are they legitimately at odds? And how much are they potentially pawns.

Ugh... I could go on all night about this.. but alas, I need the sleeps."
He continued, noting that all Targonian champions are very much all in and melee.
"Actually, it was an intentional mechanic for both Diana and Leona to commit. High risk. High reward. Volty is very much about this sort of play style, as am I. I think that we might try to imbue that into another champion down the road. For me, Targonian champions, and this is just a personal opinion, should always in someway be melee. Even a mage or ranged, melee in some way. I know that sounds odd. I like the idea that they are harnessing elemental powers in the form of physical weapons. Not sure this will specifically happen in any new Targonian champion, but it's a theme I'd like to play with."
He contiuned, elaborating on Diana's playstyle.
"It was definitely a very pushed-for mechanical thematic in Diana. We wanted to emphasize her "self-immolation". She gives no ****s. She's relentless, but not because she vengeful, or spiteful, this is what she has been driven too, and the desires of others don't factor into her mentality. She's a nihilist and we wanted you to feel like you were playing a vicious, unyielding and uncaring force who didn't care about her own self-preservation."
Xypherous talks Phage and ( briefly ) Itemization
Responding to a thread asking for Phage to be reduced in price in order to increase it's viability, Xypherous started up a discussion on why Phage can be a problematic item if balanced appropiately.
"Phage is an item that is problematic - especially top lane, where isolation is key. Phage, when balanced, guarantees that if you are winning, you will win overall - because every trade henceforth has the chance of guaranteed death (running away). 
This is different from cutlass - as the cutlass slow is not repeatable in short duration and can be overcome. That's kind of the main issue with Phage - Generic Defense + Repeatable Slow Proc means that if you win trades - you will now turn trades into kills, which isn't an acceptable trait to have in lane. 
So it's a tricky problem overall - as Phage causes problems in a very isolated case - but that isolated case just happens to be every top lane conflict ever that involves auto-attacks.

The question here then becomes: When do we want Phage to be good - and what do we want it to good for."
He spelled out his problem with the item as:
"Phage is a toxic item because if it was cost-efficient in terms of Health / Damage / Proc - it does make it an auto-win button. 
The fact that it isn't cost-efficient is the reason why you don't auto-win when you buy Phage - because you're taking a heavy gold efficiency hit to attempt to turn trades into guaranteed advantage. 
The other win lane items are very efficient at countering being killed by opponents - but do relatively little for you in terms of winning the lane overall. The other items mentioned (Hexdrinker / Armguard) prevent you from outright losing lane by lowering the opponent's burst combo - but they don't really guarantee trades becoming kills - they merely lower the effect of trades."
When suggested that Phage should slow every X auto attacks ( in this example 3 ), he noted:
"That actually ensures enemies dies as no character only relies on their autoattacks - they have typically secondary mechanics to allow them to land more than one autoattack.

Then, once slowed, having it be every 3 autoattacks traditionally guarantees death given the duration of 2 seconds."
As for having Phage proc then not be able to proc until X seconds have passed - much like J4 or Nautilus passives, he commented:
"Since you can't choose to when to proc Phage's passive - it pretty much means that you will never benefit from Phage's passive. 
And if you *can* choose when to proc Phage's passive - well, we made that item, it's called Cutlass. Yeah - it works fairly well.

(Although you could argue that the next hit attack feeling feels better than an active targetted slow - but then you'd get into a bunch of melee and range differences that get fairly obnoxious in scope.)

For example - let's make a guaranteed slow item that has a slightly reduced slow percentage - this item is completely broken on ranged, unless the passive was close to minimal in effectiveness."

When a summoner pointed out that Phage and Cutlass differ vastly because of their stats, he followed up:
"Right - Health is a form of generic defense that has less costs to utilize as a defensive mechanic and has less conditionals to be good. 
Let's take Phage and Cutlass and give them the same active - which item is problematic to be stronger? Phage as the item is self-sufficient. Phage will always have less of a statistical budget because early lifesteal is conditional on having minions around to use it on.

It's definitely true that Cutlass will scale harder but Phage's problem has never been its end-game effectiveness. It's always been on the warping nature of it in lane."

He also responded to several other summoner questions:

[ Source ]
So your saying that if your ahead in lane by winning trades, turning trades into kills is bad? Maybe i'm wrong but I thought that was the Idea behind laning?
An item shouldn't turn laning phase into a farce essentially. Laning ideally is about back and forths and skillful plays - not 'Oh, I got a little bit ahead or I'm a little stronger overall - if I have Phage, the lane is over.'

exactly. it should have been a lower value slow, that stacks up, instead of this random % chance a long time ago.
The random nature of Phage isn't ideal - but it turns out to be a lot better than most of the suggestions listed except for the guaranteed proc on activate that has a cooldown - of course, that item is just Cutlass - so we kind of have that item already. 
A very real problem of Phage is that it doesn't have a cooldown but when it does have a cooldown, you'll never be able to use the proc intelligently as you can't choose to not autoattack.

There's a piece of this here where RNG is basically the worst solution ever - but one of the few that actually work."
[ Source ]
Would removing it and replacing the items that build from it with a Cutlass work at all or no? What if Cutlass itself was changed too, since people are complaining about that item and it's BotRK upgrade on ranged champions also?
I haven't actually had time to work on Phage - but it's not altogether clear that the game is better if the item was actually good (compared to the other items commonly listed as being straight better than Phage). 
I'm not sure I have a solution currently otherwise, I probably would've already implemented something by now.

cutlass builds into bork, phage builds into mallet. 
which champion will be stronger in the end?
Again - as stated, Phage's problem has never been its end-game effectiveness - it's always been about its warping effect in early laning. 
Cutlass will definitely be stronger in the end - this is completely true. However, that doesn't justify Phage dominating lane automatically by itself. 
You have to basically solve a couple things on Phage:
1. Change it from generic defense to something more conditional.
2. Give it some kind of cooldown to gate the repeated case.
3. Give it some kind of counterplay for its upgrades, or make the upgrades acquirable so late in the game that it will never matter in lane. 
So, for a really bad example, if Frozen Mallet was a 3800 gold item that gave you 50% reduction versus critical hit damage, health, light AD and a cooldown being slow procs - we might be getting somewhere. However, doing this between Seasons is basically asking for the game to blow up in your face. XD"
 [ Source ]
What exactly do you mean by this? I mean by the game being "better."
In general, think of things holistically in terms of whether the game is actually one that you'd want to play. 
There's a lot of competing goals - ensuring build variety without overpowering other build items - ensuring that each phase of the game is still fun regardless of what you do, etc. When you think about a change - the goal inevitably has to be "Is League of Legends better as a whole if I do this change?"

So, yes, Phage's biggest problem is in the lane, but another reason no one buys it is because the upgrades are bad and not worth it. I'm not the only one saying this. 
We could definitely make the other items better. If anyone would actually like to talk about Frozen Mallet and Tri-Force and what they should be - I'm entirely open to that. Just responding directly to Phage suggestions at the moment.

The additional aside of 'Hey, Iceborne Gauntlet is too good' isn't really a solution into making Tri-Force and Frozen Mallet better - it might be a true statement but nerfing IBG won't magically make Tri-Force and Frozen Mallet good or fun to play with / against."

As for the future of Phage, he commented:
"I think we'll probably have to repurpose Phage and Frozen Mallet to have more targetted defenses of some type. 
There's a definite simplicity to the fact that Phage and Frozen Mallet are just Health / Damage / Slows - but ideally, we'd want to target Phage and Frozen Mallet to be more effective at one specific type of damage if we want it to remain a hybrid offense/defense item. 
You'd really want to focus on what you want Phage / FM to do - if it's to be melee bruiser ways to stick onto carry targets - you probably want to focus the defense around ranged or critical damage reduction and the slow to be quite long but have a very long cooldown between procs.

As for the build path into Trinity Force - that also comes down to deciding what Trinity Force should be. It has definitely lost its niche of being able to control space and mobility - it feels like to me Trinity Force should be the item with the most movement speed in the game by far and focus on minor slows to opponents."

As for a few of the new items ( such as Spellbreaker which is currently testing on the PBE ), he noted:
"I'm trying to make a series of these items for S4, yes. Things that give you offense and defend you against a specific class of characters or tell you to live in a specific area of the fight in the late game. 
In the past, when we've made offense/defense items powerful and generic - we've had the problem of just having wave of bruiser-dom that no one particularly liked either. 
Experimenting with things like reduced flat damage from all sources (counters passive light damage flying all around) or reduced AoE damage on a heavy offense item is the kind of things we're looking at.

Essentially - if bruisers need to survive some kind of damage source X - we should give them exactly that tool to survive X and no more, because otherwise they just turn into survive everything and have no real play. It kind of steps into targetted counter-land a little bit but it'll also give us room to make more interesting champions knowing that there are tools in the game to deal with them."

As a quick aside, he also commented on the current situation of ranged champions dominating top lane:
"Hrm. Okay - I'm actually probably going to have to examine this a bit better, especially after patch 3.10 comes out with Elise. 
I'm fully willing to admit that I don't have the relevant information here specifically on what the state of top lane will be after 3.10 but I still want to wait and see if the problem is melee vs. ranged or if it's a specific problem of there are 5 specific ranged champions that can be run top lane that stomp every melee champion you can think of. I just haven't done the due dilligence in examining if this is a problem outside of Elise/Jayce/Kennen or if this is literally 'if you nerf them, then pick any other ranged champion and they can still beat top laners flat' 
Sorry that I've been unable to provide satisfactory answers and that you're current feeling frustrated over the state of our game - but I can't give concrete answers or actionables right now without further analysis. I know that's pretty unsatisfying as a whole but the fact that you're frustrated just means that there's more effort we can put on this front. 
I'm unfortunately going to have table this until we get Jayce / Elise into line and see what happens. I suspect what will happen is characters like Quinn will simply rise to stomp top lane if you guys are correct - but that will be a definite sign that we'll have to work on early game lane defenses and options versus ranged (which honestly, would be pretty awesome to have) or plan for wide-spread ranged attack damage nerfs at early levels for S4 (which again, would be pretty awesome come to think of it).

It's kind of weird to always be continuously working in a space 3 to 6 months ahead."
Small Update on Xerath
Xelnath swooped in to briefly share some more news on Xerath, who is currently undergoing internal testing of an updated kit.
"Yes, actually. We tried a number of iterations where Xerath could maintain super high range for long periods of time. In all of those iterations, it causes the game to grind to a halt as Xerath was the ultimate defense machine, but couldn't help win the game.

We are now increasing the power of his auto-attack replacer, but condensing the duration into a shorter window, with the intent of reinforcing his role as mid-game mage sniper / late-game damage source, rather than aoe CC character.

In a nutshell, we've kind of come full circle on the kit and we're bringing him back a bit closer to his live playstyle, but with a healthier ultimate that allows for skillful plays on both Xerath and the enemy's part."

Xypherous on Arcane Helix - a cancelled item.
For those who might not be aware, Arcane Helix is unavailable item that popped up in the game files with the preseason 3 patch. It built out of a Catalyst + a Ruby Crystal and granted HP, Mana, CDR, and had "Unique Passive: Spending Mana heals you for 30% of the mana spent". It never saw the light of day ( aside randomly on Swain bot in Co Op vs Ai ).

While the timing is weird, Xypherous has been chattin' a bit about it and the problems an item like this faces.
It probably ended up being nothing but abuse cases and just wasn't deemed a necessary enough item to force it to work.
Yeah - I tried making a more wide-spread version of Locket to try to combat the point abuse cases - but as it turns out engine items (engine here, defined as things that are designed to convert one resource to another at a bonus) are notoriously hard to get right as solo items.

One day - I'll figure out how to make one of these work. >_>"
He continued,
1. Was Grevious Wounds not a successful counter to this item? Because many sustain tanks are borderline invulnerable as it is unless you're able to kite or apply GW.
No one particularly likes Grevious wounds - because the effect isn't really justifiable as a sole item purchase. 
I have plans in S4 for Grevious Wounds to act more like an augment to certain items - rather than the sole reason you rush an item, which should make it a bit more palatable. 
Still thinking we might have to retune the % of GW though. 50% is kind of ridiculous - but some of our healing is also balanced around it. Graaah. :P

2. Isn't the real problem behind that item the fact that Tear exists? If Tear wasn't such a big part of the game right now, then champs like Swain and Kassadin would be unable to abuse the Arcane Helix to such a degree.
A large part of it was actually blue buff / map mana regen auras and large max mana items like Rod of Ages and Frozen Heart (and Tear.) 
Essentially, once you had enough max mana, Helix plus any source of regeneration would turn the engine on overdrive.

So not even lowering the amount healed on toggle abilities, was able to bring it in line? Something like 10% instead of 30%, similar to how spell vamp works with damage over time and AoE abilities. Or removing it all together on toggle abilities.
Honestly - the item didn't seem cool enough in the end when it worked to justify putting a bunch of conditions in, unfortunately.

It was just - Hey! I'm Swain / Kassadin and I want to stay out in the field forever - rather than doing anything particularly cool - they were just tanky and healy. :P"
Fair enough, but even with huge amounts of mana and mana regen the engine would still be limited by the cooldowns of the champion, except in the cases of champions with toggle abilities. So why not lower the amount healed for toggle abilities or even remove the healing from toggle abilities. That seriously would fix any abuse case i can think of
It would definitely fix some of the abuse cases (well, barring Kassadin / Kog'maw) - but in the end, it was determined that the net benefit of having the item wasn't cool enough to justify having in the game - as it just wasn't particularly cool.

That thing... on singed.
From testing the item - it was also super obnoxious on Kassadin. Rift Walk for 800 damage + 800 health = Oh god, ruuun!"
He rounded out the discussion by addressing the thought of an Arcane Helix type item as a support item and briefly commenting on support itemization as a whole.
"First off - no, we haven't done that well with support items, because we didn't solve Vision. 
We mitigated the problem somewhat - but vision remains the one element of the game that is completely destructive towards support itemization. These two systems clash and vision wins. 
If we had better active item UI - it might be plausible to do some sort of vial of moonwell effect or something - where you charge up a heal by using mana - making it a much much smaller item that could then build into Mikael's or something.

But this would have to wait for S4 at best - the game doesn't really need more items right now for variety's sake - but I agree that more support items would be good."

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