In keeping with the Vel’Koz and Malzahar posts, I’m here to talk about everyone’s favorite fire-haver, Brand! As with other mage update posts, this isn’t a changelist; there won’t be numbers or specific mechanics in here. This is about our thinking on the champ-- What we like about him, what we don’t, and what we’re hoping to accomplish with the update. For myself, I started playing Brand as he released -- the good ol days when his DoT had full return from spellvamp. Brand is the epitome of epic fire mage, and we mean to see him succeed in the modern faster-paced game.
We’ve been keeping an eye on Brand threads for a while and got a lot of extra discussion during the update post. Players seem to identify with two main souls in Brand—an explosive mage who burns people to the ground and a slow burn mage who eventually kills even the beefiest targets. Both of these work reasonably well on live -- there’s nothing in his kit that presents an unfulfilled fantasy as, say, Voidlings do on AP Malz. His core combo gameplay is fun and engaging.
Trouble is, Brand’s basic kit doesn’t have enough special stuff--he needs to have the best damage numbers to compete. Because of his lane dominance and difficulty surviving teamfights, if he’s not overtuned he has a hard time existing in a world of dashes and blinks. When he first came out, % max health damage was much more special than it is now. The Rylai’s + Liandry’s combo is the closest he gets; aside from those items, if there’s a reason to pick him, it’s typically because he currently deals the most damage. We feel the main thing he needs is a special contribution to the game, one that keeps with his theme of exploding enemies’ hitpoints.
Here’s where we think he’s at. Stuff that’s good:
* Simple spells with room to express skill thanks to his combo system.
* % max health damage means he kills anything eventually -- a strength that goes well with his low mobility and moderate range.
* Twin souls – a burst mage with a respectable sustained damage pattern.
* Good counterplay and interaction -- Brand already has clear weaknesses that make room for epic strength, because his opponents have ways to act against him.
Stuff that’s less good:
* Outside of Liandry/Rylai, there’s not much reason to pick Brand over other AoE mages unless he simply deals more damage than they do. Tough to balance.
* R acts like a violent slot machine, that unpredictability frustrates both Brand and his opponents. It tries to be controllable, but it often isn’t in practice.
* Great at obliterating individuals or pairs, but the fire fantasy could go farther—he doesn’t often get to burn everyone. Burning the world is a major thing for him.
* A bully in lane inherently due to passive and W, forcing him to fade into irrelevance unless he gets enormously fed.
Here’s what we’re trying to get out of the Brand changes:
* Brand should still play like Brand. He’s fun and surprisingly deep.
* Brand can still do Brand things—annihilates squishies when ahead, jungle ganks against him have big 1v2 turn potential, strong kill potential in lane (if less bullying).
* There’s a unique reason to pick Brand and it’s expressed in damage. Brand is a combo AoE fire man who explodes things. This will only become more true.
* The damage Brand deals should not require luck.
That’s all the thoughts for the initial post. I’ll be away for a few hours – parents are here to visit, I’m showing them around the office – but I’ll be around to reply later today and off and on over the weekend.