Hello all! Riot Reinboom here to bring you a look into the thoughts behind the Marksman itemization changes this preseason. :D
To jump straight to the point, Marksmen have a number of pain points in the game right now. There’s a distinct lack of individuality between Marksmen. For most, their items are incredibly prescriptive and there’s not a lot of deviation. Generally, as a class, they suffer from high team demands without a lot of self expression to work within those demands.
The major thread woven between most of these issues is a distinct lack of meaningful choice.
* **Meaningful Choice**
[We’ve mentioned Meaningful Choice before](http://na.leagueoflegends.com/en/news/game-updates/features/lol-design-values-depth-meaningful-choices).
What’s most important here however is the method to achieving meaningful choice (rather than just choice). For Marksman items, we tackled this with three different strategies: “Autonomy”, “Reaction”, and “Prediction”.
**Autonomy.** Autonomy as a choice is represented by the tradeoff of multiple fantasies (whether they be gameplay fantasies, thematics, or anything you can form a personal attachment to). Feeling attached to Statikk Shiv because you personally value wave clear and are willing to sacrifice your other options for it, is an aspect of autonomy shown in item form.
**Reaction.** Reaction as a choice is represented by your capability to solve a problem presented to you. There are multiple types of reaction. For these changes, we’ll be focusing on responses to your opponents in the items they build, the champions they pick, and the needs of your team.
**Planning.** Planning as a choice is represented by the tactical and strategic goals you create for individual games. This can be seen by decisions on how you or your team should address each fight (and then building to work within that understanding), or the order for which you build your components, such as getting a Pick Axe to prep for your Last Whisper as you wait for your opponent to inevitably build armor.
* **Supporting Variety**
When it comes to supporting more options for Marksman, we often run into a difficult problem we call “The Marksman Damage Optimization Problem.” Marksmans item choices have classically been guided by a very simple and direct point of output: “How can I do the most damage with the options presented to me?”
We’re operating under the assumption that this problem is fundamental to Marksman and their role within League. There are a number of reasons for this.
In games (not just League) single points of optimization, when that point can empower itself, tend to be notably strong. In Marksman’s case, their single point of optimization is damage. This is primarily caused by their damage being reliable via ranged auto-attacks, meaning they can leverage positioning (which is free) as a primary defense.
However, we feel like this identity is clear for Marksman. This type of distinct identity allows League to work as a team game, where each individual has their contribution. So in order to support keeping what makes a Marksman a Marksman while still offering choice, we’ll be exploring a different route: While picking up the stats that give Marksman their damage, we should offer choices among those items along the way.
You can see this already in the game with the choice posed by Phantom Dancer and Statikk Shiv. Unfortunately, the nuance of this choice can be hard to appreciate (am I behind, or could be behind in gold?), and even then there’s not a lot of these types of selections.
* **The Changing Landscape**
To wrap it altogether, choices that end up just being damage optimization tests aren’t great. But that’s the expectation of a Marksman. And they have core needs on top of core needs built out of natural consumption of “a lot of different stats.”
The direction we went with to introduce meaningful choice to these restrictions is the idea of “horizontal expansion.” Take the model presented by the current system, and diversify within those bounds. Your options for lifesteal need to be greater than a single item. The items that define a Marksman’s play pattern should expand beyond just “awesome auto attacks.” Your options available for who you can target should be greater than “always buy Last Whisper.”
Who am I? Do I autoattack quite a bit? Okay, Infinity Edge. Maybe I autoattack a lot? Infinity Edge. No, seriously, autoattacks are my jam and I will hear nothing less. Fine, Blade of the Ruined King.
Not a lot there.
There’s a few valid ways of addressing this: we could push more differences between the auto attacks ( [see the roster devblog](http://boards.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/c/developer-corner/1YZMAzz0-dev-blog-marksman-update-in-the-2016-season) \), or we could push some Marksman to be empowered by their abilities.
Identity items highlight and specialize the choices you made at champion select. Once again, “Who am I?” We don’t feel like in the current landscape the more caster-like Marksman are well served by this idea. Enter: **Essence Reaver.**
Essence Reaver is being changed to offer caster marksman access to a stat they’ve desired, but could never really (or rarely) fully utilize: Cooldown Reduction.
Essence Reaver now has the capability to generate you up to 30% Cooldown Reduction by leveraging the Critical Strike Chance available from other Marksman items. We you to feel comfortable making the same damage offers, choices, and expectations from the rest of the Marksman items while being able to uniquely leverage what your champion pick offered.
Statikk Shiv or Phantom Dancer. Am I behind or am I ahead?
There’s a lot of possible room with these items, except that Phantom Dancer is the poster child for TMDOP (“The Marksman Damage Optimization Problem,” remember?).
So we’re changing that. And we’re widening what it means to be a multiplier item.
In addition to be the damage curve definers, the pointed tip at the end of your two item spike, multipliers are getting an additional identity: “How should I fight?” This is a choice grounded primarily within autonomy (“What works best for me?”) as well as reaction (“What works best for my team?”).
We divided this choice into four large branches:
**Phantom Dancer:** I should skirmish and duel.
**Hurricane:** I want to team fight and wombo.
**Statikk Shiv:** I must push.
**Rapid Firecannon:** I need to siege.
Last Whisper highlights an interesting problem. The usage of total penetration meant that even against champions not buying armor, Last Whisper was actually at least a +10% physical damage amp. This was actually a “generally useful” item masquerading under the guise of a tank killer.
We want to break the above expectations to make selective offense a little less automatic while, at the same time, making it easier to pick up a response when it’s necessary. Selective offensive items are now guided by their components and what you’re giving up, while being significantly more targeted than the current Last Whisper.
**Last Whisper:** I need to get through their bonus armor.
**Executioner’s Calling:** I need to stuff their life steal or health gain.
**Giant Slayer:** I need to climb over their mountain of health.
These items can be combined up, with a final selection of which type of selection are you leaving out:
**Lord Dominik’s Regards:** A combination of Last Whisper and Giant Slayer
**Mortal Reminder: **A combination of Last Whisper and Executioner’s Calling
Do note the change from *total* to **bonus armor** penetration, as all of these are still armor pen items at heart. It bears repeating: *we do not want these items to be generalist damage purchases.* This is also why we split the use case of Mortal Reminder (taking out high sustain targets like enemy marksmen, Swain, Mundo, etc) and Lord Dominik’s Regards (tank busting). If you find you don’t need the situational offense these items bring (or nobody’s building any armor!), maybe you can look into picking up another multiplier, or some...
The key defense favored by Marksman is lifesteal, but there’s not a lot available here so all Marksman default to the same purchase: The Bloodthirster. This stat is so core that it actively pushes aside all other defensive choices until it’s covered.
We’re running with that idea. For Marksman, lifesteal means defense. The result is all the items in this category provide *enough* lifesteal before letting you branch into the types of defenses you should otherwise situationally take.
**The Bloodthirster:** I need to sustain through everything
**Death’s Dance:** I need to get burst off me long enough to hit
**Mercurial Scimitar:** I need to be free (of CC)
* **Going Forward**
There’s a lot of new abilities and interactions presented by the changed items, and we don’t believe we have every one of these ironed out.
League of Legends hasn’t been tuned to the idea that some Marksman will get 40% Cooldown Reduction, for example, and it’s impossible to know the full effects of this.
We’ll be watching diligently to identify what’s problematic and what’s not!