I figured I’d take some time to run you through one of our recent explorations on Karma, bringing back the clothesline tether on her W. As a forewarning, the changes below **are not shipping**.
By “clothesline”, I’m referring to the pre-2013 rework Karma ability, where [her tether affected enemies and allies that passed through it](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l59mZOi0NBc&t=60). This is a pretty unique mechanic in League, and we wanted to see if we could give Karma something unique gameplay-wise, so the direction seemed valuable. However, we did intentionally move away from it in 2013 - to quote us, “Spirit Bond’s “clothesline” gameplay is really cool, but it’d work better on a tank champion that has an easier time jumping into the fray”. We wanted to validate or invalidate this, since Karma’s role and League in general has changed significantly over the last 5 years.
For the first iteration, we took the old clothesline and refined the spell to the most fun parts to play with. Karma’s old W hasted allies and slowed enemies on contact - however, the gameplay around maneuvering it into enemies was much richer than the gameplay around your allies running through it, so we focused on versions that only clothesline’d enemies to keep the spell clean. Additionally, the clothesline play is reasonably difficult to pull off, especially in an uncoordinated environment, so we attached a higher reward to successful plays - roots and stuns over slows. [Here’s the first version in action.](https://imgur.com/QXNnrLs)
This version was fun, but had some issues. First, the level of attention that it required was high. If Karma put it on an ally, they would need to know what was happening and position themselves well to get the best effect, which can be difficult in a hectic teamfight. When thrown onto an enemy, they could easily misplay by running too close to an ally, accidentally stunning their friend. Karma, as a backline mage, didn’t have a ton of control over the movement of the tether unless she was willing to put herself at significant risk or had the luck of a super well coordinated ally.
In the next iteration, we wanted to put a lot more control into the Karma player’s hands. First, we removed the ability to attach it to enemies, and replaced that with a free target cast. If she didn’t have an ally to attach to, she could separate her own spirit from her body (as a pet) and have it move towards a position, giving her some control around both ends of the clothesline. This however, would still put Karma in danger if she wanted full control over the play, so we made the mantra give her a fairly reliable amount of safety. On mantra cast, she would gain massive damage reduction and movespeed towards enemies for a few seconds, and she could recast the spell to “spirit walk” to the other end of her tether. [It looked something like this. ](https://imgur.com/QTaxTZb)
This version was quite cool, but still had some issues. Giving Karma safety on her Mantra was working as intended (folks made some really awesome Rakan-esque plays), but Karma players **didn’t want** to dive into the backline to execute well on the spell. When Karma wasn’t diving, the large ally coordination burden was still a pretty large issue in our tests.
The last large iteration we tested was different, trying to push the clothesline in an entirely new direction. Rather than having limited control over your spirit and full control over your own movement, we tried a version where on cast, Karma’s inputs would control her spirit’s movement while her own body was channeling (with the ability to cancel the channel if need be). In this way, she could remain on the backline while maneuvering the clothesline with less risk. A natural extension from this was the ability for her to “proxy-cast” from her spiritual projection, which we also prototyped. However, this mechanic ended up dominating the interaction (though was pretty fun to play), [as you can see in this gif.](https://imgur.com/wLvwB3A)
After this, we realized we were veering pretty hard away from the core promise of the clothesline mechanic, and thus put it into the icebox to explore different directions on Karma. In the end, we aren’t shipping the clothesline on Karma, but honestly, our playtesters had a ton of fun with it in the versions we tried. I could see this mechanic being really successful and fun with characters that have reliable ability to get into the backline, have flanking patterns, and/or have high mobility.
Hope this was an interesting look into our design process. I’ll be around periodically if you have any questions.