[updated] Red Post Collection: Soraka Rework Preview and Discussion

Posted on at 5:43 PM by Moobeat
[ 8/31 12 PM PDT: Updated with EVEN MORE discussion! WEEWOOWEEOO. ]

Vesh has posted up a preview of and context on Soraka's upcoming gameplay update, which includes substantial changes to the majority of her abilities!
Continue reading for more information!

Without further ado, here's Vesh with the details: 
"Soooo as some of you may have heard, we’ve been working on some pretty big changes to Soraka. Hopefully this post will help you guys see some of the challenges we faced with her as a character and how we are looking to resolve them while creating a really deep and interested play experience that no other character in LoL can offer.

Right then, so first thing first. We wanted to carve out a really specific niche for Soraka so that we could make her really strong and unique in that role. The role that we identified for her was as the core healer of the League of Legends roster. So, I’m sure that raises a bunch of alarm bells for a number of you. 
“Wait a second, hasn’t Morello said in the past that he hates healers in LoL? What changed?” 
Well, there’s a difference between healing with and without meaningful costs and interaction. Let’s talk about that for a second. With Live Soraka (and especially season 1 Soraka, if you were around for that), heals tend to “undo” action at the cost of mana. Specifically, being a sustain fountain that clicks your ally until they are healthy doesn’t create a very compelling gameplay space, and certainly doesn’t feel like a fair interaction to enemies. After all, all they can do is keeping harassing until Soraka runs out of mana. So then, what would feel fair?

That was the core problem I was looking to solve when I started on Soraka. After some early iterations, Morello pitched something crazy to myself and RiotScruffy. What if Soraka had to pay her own health to heal allies, but could then get it back through a separate enemy-interactive spell? ; 
This became the driving vision behind the new Soraka, and I’m really excited to share what’s going to be hitting PBE in the next cycle with you guys. This is not going to be a tl;dr post (if you want that version, I’m sure you can wait for blakinola’s). I want to get in depth about every choice that was made and why we felt it was necessary. So without further to do, here’s the kit. (This is going to go in the order most conducive to walking you through my process, so don’t get confused when I start on W).

PLEASE PLEASE note that all of these numbers are definitely not final. We will be doing a lot of tuning over the next couple of weeks.

This is the core of Soraka’s new kit. It’s a 4 second (scaling down to 2) heal that she can use to constantly direct her attention to the ally that needs it most. We are trying to really capture the feeling of the core healer that is constantly managing her allies’ health bars and keeping people alive. As I mentioned previously, the % health cost is necessary to allow Soraka to have such insane potential healing. Using this spell, you can easily heal an ally from almost dead to full health, but you will pay a heavy cost for doing so if you aren’t actively engaging in your offensive loop (Starcall). The Max Health cost was chosen very specifically over a flat health cost so that Soraka would not be able to increase her overall healing potential by stacking tank items (especially warmogs). If Soraka is going to be allowed to keep people alive in fights, she needs to be vulnerable in doing so. Soraka’s positioning and decision making will be a huge point of mastery. That reminds me, the cast range on this spell will be rather short. This is necessary to make sure Soraka is accessible when she chooses to heal and can’t sit 800 units behind the back line and heal from total safety (seriously, this is the most frustrating thing ever to have to deal with). Good news though, she will have other tools on her kit to help her here:

This passive we called “Astral Ambulance” internally. Because Soraka’s cast range on W needs to be constrained, we need to give her another way to reliably reach the targets she wants to heal. This new passive allows Soraka to keep up with the fight and make clutch saves by sprinting across the river to get that heal off.
The second potion of this passive allows Soraka to get the cool bonus effects off items like Frozen Heart while making your healing and damage stronger. This should open up a couple cool new itemization choices for her. It also serves a potential release valve in a future where mitigation itemization allows Soraka to be too tanky. This way we can tune how strong Soraka is in certain areas (healing/damage) without just flat out nerfing her if she is ever able to become too tanky.
EDIT: If it wasn't clear from the tooltip, this is a literal conversion of MR/Armor into AP. She does not get AP as a bonus on top of the MR/Armor. Frozen Heart will give 80% of its normal armor value to her, but she gets the other 20% in AP and still gets the passive effect.
That brings us to the new Starcall. I don’t think you guys need much of an explanation of why the previous starcall needed to be cut. It was essentially a ramping damage PBAoE ability on a character that is supposed to be a support focused around her ally. A ramping damage pattern like this is really indicative of tanks, and if we wanted Soraka to be an interactive and fair healer, we had to give her opponent a way to be successful against stopping her healing.

Ideally, we wanted this spell to be very reliable at close range (when Soraka is at extremely high risk) while be equally as powerful but less reliable at long ranges (so that if Soraka is poking with it her opponents can dodge). This led us to a targeting paradigm similar to Corki Q or Twitch W (basically a missile that doesn’t have any effects until the end where it blows up in an AoE). To really accentuate the reliable-when-close paradigm, we also added a small sweet spot in the middle of the AoE (think Leona ult style). If Soraka hits an enemy with the sweet spot, the enemy takes 150% of the damage and is slowed for 2 seconds. You’ll see why this slow is really important to her offensive pattern when we get to E, but one other thing I wanted to point out was that this is one of the few tools she has to stay safe when she’s by herself.

Finally, let’s talk about the E. Soraka’s previous E was one of the better decision points on her old kit, but a targeted silence just wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been. A lot of the time you don’t even realize how much you have or haven’t hurt your opponent. Tryndamere and Riven are both AD stacking melees. If you use it on Tryndamere, it might not be a big deal, but if you use it on Riven she literally can’t do anything. What we really wanted to do here was give Soraka a much bigger moment when it came to play making that still fulfilled the power of quickly silencing a dude quickly
Equinox is an incredibly powerful spell. An AoE silence zone is no laughing matter, and the root at the end allows her to make some really cool plays (dropping it where Lissandra is about to blink to, or underneath an incoming enemy teleport, etc.) The root will scale with level, but once again try not to focus on numbers since these are all subject to change with tuning.

Wish is largely unchanged, but because her old passive was removed (more healing at lower ally health), this scaling was kept on wish but concentrated into a clear threshold. 
This change allows Soraka to understand exactly how many “bonus heals” she is going to get when she presses the button, and also makes the spell just generally more powerful when it matters (anytime the ally is below 40% they get the equivalent power of being at 1% with the wish on Live currently). We kept the healing scaling on Wish and not on W because we didn’t want Soraka to allow her ally to drop to dangerously burstable levels just so she could get a slightly better heal on a basic ability. Soraka should always want to keep her allies at the safest health she can (while also managing her own health) and we felt that a bonus heal on W not only encouraged play that was often wrong, it also felt really baity for the enemies. Keeping the “flash heal” button and the big saving cooldown separate allows us to make sure each has a clear and satisfying purpose. 
So that’s the kit.

I guess I want to close by talking about how this Soraka is not going to play like anything else in League of Legends. We’re taking a lot of risks by basically allowing Soraka to put herself at near death, but the gameplay experience of the core healer is something we really want to explore. We’re willing to try some risky stuff to accomplish a cool niche champion like this, and we will be watching her really closely on PBE to make sure she isn’t doing anything overly abusive.

We’re really excited about what this champion could provide to players who love to play combat healers, and we’ll be doing plenty of tuning on PBE to make sure she’s in the best place possible upon release. Please remember that regardless of whether she is strong or weak on PBE (or even on release) that we are building a champion that we are comfortable buffing up even if she is weak, so bear with us as we get her into a good spot in the coming weeks.

I’ll be around to discuss all of this stuff with you guys, so fire away with any questions you might have!"
When asked about her W and it reducing her to low heal or kill her, he noted:
SO her W costs 10% of Max Health and she can cast it below 10%. Does this mean that when Soraka is between 5-10% Health her W will kill her? Am I missing something?
The cost will only bring her to 1 if she has between 5-10%. The idea though is that Soraka can't spam heal at 1 health and needs to at least have a portion of the cost. It felt really bad to be locked out at 9% though. The 5% number might change depending on how low we can get without it feeling abusive."

When asked if this update will include anything else for Soraka such as visual changes, Vesh noted:
"Just new VFX, although I believe I've convinced GrumpyMonkey to update her color to be more purple like the splash art."

When asked why her W has a small mana cost in addition to the health cost, Vesh noted:
"It is a bit odd, but E is such an occasional cast that for her to have mana as a meaningful gate her Q would need to be absurdly expensive. I'll be watching the cost closely."
As for the wording on the tooltips shared above, Vesh commented that are still a WIP and you can indeed still heal friendly minions:
"Tooltips aren't final wording - I need to do a pass on them. You can heal minions (so you can heal tibbers for instance if he's tanking a tower) but I am doing some under-the-hood work to prioritize nearby champions who are injured instead of minions. So if you misclick on a nearby minion, the target will be overridden to a hurt ally if they are within a reasonable distance."
When asked about her viability roaming, Vesh commented:
"She is definitely very vulnerable alone. Moreso than any other champion IMO. 
Visage will increase her self heals, but the health it gives will also increase her cost on W. Still a decent option, but I personally think heavy movement speed builds will end up being the most powerful on her."

Vesh also commented on the purpose of the passive's speed bonus and how Morellonomicon will effect her new kit:
"The passive is meant for her to keep up in teamfights. She's definitely weaker early than some and picks up a TON in mid game. Her curve still needs some tuning though. 
Q slow will scale with levels. These are just the unbalanced level 1 tooltips. 
As for Morello's, it's just as effective at hurting her healing as it was before. If the bonus triggered at 45%, that means that an enemy with Morello would have to drop your ally into a range of 41-45% and you'd have to hit wish before they take any other damage."
He continued on the passive's movement speed bonus, saying:
"She won't get the movement speed anymore once she's in heal range because of this exact reason. She's so fast with the passive up that the only person who can really outspeed her at low health is Rammus. Definitely going to be keeping an eye on the potential abuse cases and I agree it feels weird if she uses it to escape."
When asked about her E's new silence range vs live, Vesh commented:
"The range is a larger by a small amount at the moment (obviously subject to change during tuning). 
Most spells have a standard cast time. The ones that are longer are super noticeable (jinx W/Rocket, Ez ult, cass ult, etc)."

Vesh continued, hitting up a few multiple question posts:
I like it a lot, Vesh! A few questions though.. 
1) What's the plan for counterplay on the new E? I hope it's not an instantly-cast silence AoE, that would be kind of really overpowered... I assume there's a delay before it appears. Also, how big is it? 
2) Is Soraka completely losing her ally mana restoration? I always thought that being able to completely refill her allies was part of her identity. I can't think of a place for it on her current kit, but I'd miss it a lot. 
3) Does Soraka get an indication of which allies are below 40% health? Since it seems there's a sharp spike in her effectiveness past that threshold, I'd hope it's not up to the player to calculate where 40% of their health would be. 
*Edit: 4) An aesthetic concern about the new Starcall: to differentiate it from other, similar abilities (Xerath W, Veigar W, Leona R), instead of being a meteor or whatever, can it retain its visual of "small star pieces raining on individual champions", just moved to a ground-targeted AoE after a delay? So basically any champ or minion standing in the spot after the delay would get hit by the same effect as it is on live? I really think that visual is core for her. 
Pretty sweet ideas here though. I really like how unique this makes Soraka, she always felt rather bland, even for someone with such a big impact.
1) It has our standard cast time, but otherwise appears immediately aftewards. It doesn't slow or anything, so you can simply walk out of it fairly easily. It's tuned so that any champion without boots can escape at regular speed. 
2) Yes, I'm sorry to say. I tried a few iterations where the zone gave mana to allies as well but it felt really bad and like the primary effect of the spell was "wasted." It was also eating up a lot of her power budget and we decided to sacrifice it in favor of stronger healing and playmaking. I really wish we could have found a place for it, but it just didn't fit with her new kit. 
3) Yes. It's a very prounounced self-only particle that plays over the heads of the allies. She also gets special arrows pointing her in the direciton of wounded allies (since she gets movement speed along that vector). 
4) It's a star she calls down from the sky at an angle so it retains its missile nature but is still reminiscent of a star coming down and bashing you on the head. I think you guys will like it. In general the new particle effects are WAY more astral in theme. We definitely took it to heart when people were excited about the idea of constellations too!"

Updated: Here's a fresh batch of red posts discussing the Soraka rework! ]

First off, Vesh cleared up confusion regarding the new and tentative passive, clarifying that Soraka CONVERTS her Armor/MR into AP instead of just gaining extra:
"No, it's a conversion and probably one of the biggest points of misunderstanding in my post. I apologize for that, should have been more clear. Original post is updated to reflect this.

Soraka gets 80% of the value from the MR/Armor and then gets the other 20% as AP. It's like buying her own special versions of the items."
He continued:
"Ok, I guess I wasn't clear in the original post. When I said 20% of MR/Armor is converted, I meant literally converted. She doesn't get free AP for building resists. She loses 20% of her bonus resists and gets it in AP instead. She literally can't go in the jungle."

Vesh also commented on the size and CD of Soraka's new Q:
"It's bigger than lay waste. (about 250 instead of 200) 
The cooldown on Q drops with rank, so by the time you reach teamfights it's closer to 6 seconds than 10. Cooldown might go down a bit before then - like I said before there's lots of tuning to do."
He continued:
"Soraka's Q will scale down in cooldown with rank to around 6 seconds before CDR (so with CDR you are looking at 4 seconds)."
In response to complaints about the removal of Soraka's mana restore, Vesh noted:
"That might have been the one thing that made her different in the past, but that's because we hit her healing so hard that she no longer resembled a healer. Now her unique identity is as League's best and most powerful healer."

Regarding her new W's health AND mana cost, he noted:
"Honestly, it's only nonsensical because it looks weird, and I totally agree that it does look pretty weird. I will be experimenting with tuning other costs to see if we can remove it, but honestly it will make Q feel terrible to cast and feel really limiting about how many you get. (For instance, in this tuning, I can expect you to have to spent at least a couple hundred mana on heals over the course of the lane. But imagine that was all in Q instead. Now if you are doing well and don't need to heal, you literally can't cast any more spells because your Q drains all your mana and you eventually lose the lane. Pushing more mana cost into Q actually makes it harder to keep an advantage as Soraka)"
He continued:
"You need to think about mana costs as gates on areas of the pattern as a whole, not individual spells. If i took off the mana cost from W, that would have to go to somewhere meaningful such as the Q. If the Q is more expensive, it punishes you for doing well in your lane and not needing to heal (you oom MUCH faster if you only need to cast Q) and then once you're OOM you can no longer contribute. Same thing goes with E. If E (which is an occasional cast) had to eat these costs, it would be so high that you could only cast it at like 40% mana and that would not be a very fun or reliable emergency spell. 
Also why does it make Galio cry? She -converts- it, not gains bonus. She gets 80% of the value of armor and MR but gets the other 20% as AP."

Vesh also commented on her kits new CC, explaining:
"Soraka has tools to escape, although they aren't quite as reliable as, say, Morgana. Q has a slow if placed correctly and E is a huge silence zone with a snare at the end that you can place literally anywhere. So if I'm clearing a ward as Soraka, I can put the zone under myself and run away and the enemy can't chase me."

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