As a long-time Aatrox main, seeing the Aatrox rework hyped me up. And after playing the new Aatrox on the rift extensively, I feel like I have enough experience to put out some feedback. To Riot especially, I hope that the feedback that's given on Aatrox is acknowledged at least.
To preface this, I started playing Season 3, when I saw Aatrox as the login screen. It looked cool af, and I spent my time saving enough IP (influence points, back then) to buy Aatrox. I went even as far as buying his Justicar skin in a heartbeat. I loved playing him, even though my friends would comment that Aatrox is shit. To me, there was this feeling that didn't quite capture me in other champions. However, everything about Aatrox I grew attached instantly.
Fast forward to today, and I still love Aatrox. However, that love can't be found in some other Aatrox mains and players, who left him since the rework. While I don't blame them, I can't justify the comments I see in the Aatrox Mains subreddit like "fuck you riot and u/riotjag" and "it's not aatrox anymore". They saw the Akali rework, and how beautifully done it was, and made comparisons that compared to the Akali Rework, Aatrox wasn't a rework, but more of deleting a champ and replacing him. I can tell you the main reason some of the mains stopped playing Aatrox was because he was changed too much, similar to Galio, but even then Galio kind of retained what he once was (taunt, ap build, etc.).
In hopes that Riot will see the feedback, I want to keep this discussion civil. Here are my current thoughts on Aatrox.
There are lots of discussion around his new playstyle, and is the big point of why the mains stopped playing Aatrox. _His gameplay was changed too much._ However, we all foresaw this when Reav3 hinted at a juggernaut Riven-esque playstyle for Aatrox. Right then and there, we knew what was coming. And yet, we still complain. Changing from an auto-based champion to a caster champion is going to warrant some complaints.
Aatrox was originally an auto-based champion with an ability that you could toggle, deciding whether you heal every third auto, or do bonus damage every third auto. And the switch between the two toggles was very seamless. To help catch up with his opponents, he has a leap that knockups anyone hit in the middle, a skillshot that slows, and a steroid ult that increased his attack range and attack speed and deals magic damage to anyone around him. He also has a passive that allowed him to revive if he died, given that he has filled the Blood Well to max and the Hellbent state is active.
Aatrox was a drain tank. A shot at creating a melee ADC. Instead, he faces the problems most auto-based champions have, which is hard or chained CC. If he loses, he's pretty much helpless. If he gets fed, he will steamroll all over your team. Feast or famine was the phrase when discussing Aatrox. When Aatrox got reworked, he was in a state of dominance, with the Rageblade Conqueror combo, which was disgusting in its own right. Aatrox finally got to see viability before he was reworked.
Stat-check was also a term when discussing Aatrox. The fact that he NEEDS items in order to win warrants the feast or famine playstyle. So stat-check and feast/famine are related. If he has more gold over the opponent, he wins. If not, he loses. And it's not only frustrating for the enemy, but it's also frustrating for me as well. While the enemy can't do much against a fed Aatrox, if I can't get a lead with Aatrox, I feel useless. And that's not a feeling you should get in ranked games, trust me.
In comes the World Ender. The newly reworked Aatrox is on the rift, with a completely new playstyle, new rig, new VO, new lore, everything. Riot has stated that they envisioned Aatrox as a final boss. And honestly, they got that part down. Your Q casts deal a shitload of damage if you hit the sweetspots (much like any juggernaut like Darius/Camille), and you have tools like your W at your disposal when you need the enemy in range of your abilities. And when activating ult, you feel in charge. You FEEL powerful.
So when players are comparing him to Riven "haha Riven 2.0 xdxdxdxd", I feel like they aren't doing Aatrox enough justice. He plays nothing like Riven, and due to the fact that we have over 140+ champions in the game, there will be similarities between kits. And right now, Aatrox is THE biggest lane bully I have ever played. Level 2 trades become nightmares for toplaners due to the ability to dash while he Qs. So much so that he's pick/banned in pro play and solo queue.
World Ender Aatrox has the same flexibility in build paths that Old Aatrox had. Back then, you could build glass cannon (crit) Aatrox, bruiser Aatrox, tank Aatrox, and it would all work. Now, you could go bruiser Aatrox, tank Aatrox, or glass cannon Aatrox, and it will still work. If it's one thing that Riot kept about Aatrox, it's his itemization flexibility.
**Passive: Deathbringer Stance:**
Honestly an all-around good passive. It helps him stay relevant to late-game by reliably chunking enemies. And the Mutilator passive is underrated. This is perfect against the likes of Vladimir and Mundo. I don't think any changes should be made here.
**Q: The Darkin Blade:**
His Q is his one and only damage ability. And oh boy, it does a shit ton of damage, provided you hit the sweet spots. To people complaining that he's self-rooted when casting this, I counter with the fact that you have 2 dashes that recharge quick and a slow/pull that shows you exactly where to position your Q. With max CDR, you can literally spam Q and get it back within seconds.
This ability also forces Aatrox to stay far, but come in closer. An interesting idea at the very least, and one that certainly works given that you have your E dashes and your W.
This ability makes him a huge lane bully, and a tool to delete squishies. His early-game is unparalleled to someone like Renekton or Pantheon. And in the jungle, camps get cleared so fast you have time to do 4 camps and a Scuttle, and still be there when the enemy jungler ganks. Riot has already taken steps to reduce his power early, and put it towards late, so I think it's fine the way it is. Maybe some fine-tuning with the damage, but overall, it's good.
**W: Infernal Chains:**
I like this ability. It's a combination of Blades of Torment (Old E) and Dark Flight (Old Q), and it works like Viktor's Gravity Field, where if you stay in the zone for too long, you get CC'd. In this case, you know exactly where the enemy ends up by the end of Infernal Chains, so you can position your Q accordingly.
However, this is the ability you max last. And as such, the slow that you apply is only helpful later in the game if the enemy has no escape tools. But it's already powerful in of itself, so I don't think any changes should be made here.
**E: Umbral Dash:**
I feel like this ability only exists to make sure Aatrox's Q wasn't too powerful on its own. It's a short dash that grants bonus AD and an auto-reset. But here's where it fits in: it can be used simultaneously with his other abilities. This creates all sorts of combos; you could E and W together to make sure you land your W, and you could Q-E and remove the problem of self-rooting yourself while casting Q.
Some players say that it's a horrible ability, a band-aid fix to the problem of free movement during Q. While it's not a thought-out ability, you can't say it doesn't work.
**R: World Ender:**
An underwhelming ult if I'm honest, compared to Swain's ult. It does however keep the nature of his old ult: both are steroid ults. I'm not too worried about the bonus AD and out of combat movespeed. What I will talk about is the revive that's attached to it.
The ult is basically a tool to a free towerdive, since it's an on-command revive. And it works differently from the old revive, in which the healing it gives to you when you die is amplified by stuff like Spirit's Visage and Gargoyle's Stoneplate.
BUT, and this is a big one, you force no incentive on the enemy to kill you. They can just watch your ult end, and then kill you right after. There's nothing after his ult ends. No damage, no healing, nothing. So I propose two solutions to this:
1. Make him heal up through his Blood Well if he doesn't die. This solves the problem of the enemy waiting for the ult to end and killing you right after. This forces the enemy to kill you, hence reviving you at a lower HP. If he doesn't kill you, you punish them by healing up all the damage they have done to you. This works best by healing up a % of your max HP.
2. Deal some sort of damage/CC when his ult ends. This draws inspiration from Swain's ult, where he deals AOE damage at the end of his ult. This forces the enemy to kill you to negate that damage. It's either I let him deal the damage that could kill my teammates, or force him to revive, healing some HP back. The problem with this is that this still has the problem of them waiting for the ult to end to kill you. If they have a somewhat tanky team, this solution isn't good. Solution 1 might be the better of the two.
Either way, there needs to be an incentive for the enemy to force you to revive.
Riot's narrative team has done an amazing job at this. It makes me wonder why they couldn't start a book series based on the Runeterra lore. I see a lot of arguments over this, and 2 sides stand out to me. One is that the Darkin should be posed as an outside threat, similar to the Void. The other is that the connection between the Darkin and the Ascended ties up many loose ends on the mystery of the Darkin.
I think that the Darkin being the fallen Ascended is a great way to integrate the Darkin into Runeterra's history, as it fills the gap between the fall of Shurima and Mordekaiser's reign. It perfectly captures the betrayal and hatred from the Sunborn on the Targonians, and it's the driving force behind Aatrox's quest of oblivion. Honestly, I don't think Runeterra needs another alien race to worry about. We already have the Void for that.
**Now, let's get into the small details:**
**Aatrox's walking animation:**
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0NIiA5Y-qY In this video, you'll see a point (at 5 second mark) where Aatrox snaps back to the beginning of the loop for the animation. It's not specific to Mecha Aatrox, but to Aatrox in general. It's not much, but I'd like to see that animation fixed so that it's smooth. So far, it's the only champion that has that problem.
**Mecha Aatrox's Recall Animation:**
With me seeing the recent Mecha Aurelion Sol recall animation, it's only fair to revisit Mecha Aatrox's recall. Every Mecha recall, with the exception to Mecha Kha'Zix, has a unique backing animation, as well as an animation once they returned to the fountain.
This is Mecha Aatrox's original backing animation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNDzeigtzkc
As you can see at around 33 seconds, you can see the animation of Aatrox transforming from the jet into himself at base. It's unique to him, and probably the one of the reasons why people bought this skin.
However with the recent rework, the new Mecha Aatrox's recall animation only includes the transformation to jet part, and not the jet to Aatrox, as shown at 1:10 mark on the SkinSpotlights video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Dqo30GnIBk&t=70s
All I ask is to bring back that animation, or make up one that suits the new Mecha Aatrox.
**Joke and Taunt:**
For some reason when Aatrox plays the joke emote, he doesn't say anything, and uses the old joke animation. I don't know whether that's intentional, concerning with the no line issue. You can see it for yourself here, at the 28 second mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Dqo30GnIBk&t=28s
Related to that, I feel like the lines that are supposed to be used in the joke emote occurs at the taunt emote. These lines don't make Aatrox intimidating in my opinion.
Here's the video at that mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Dqo30GnIBk&t=36s
In addition to the taunt emote, the taunt animation is new, but it uses the ultimate wings. I get it's intentional to be that way, but it looks kinda jarring when you have bright red against the Mecha color scheme.
The thing that felt jarring to me was how unfinished his model/animations are. There are many cases of clipping in his skins, many of which I felt that those were more oversights than anything. Since the main model change was his base model, I'd like to infer that the team used Aatrox's old skin assets, and try to rig the model to it. Doing so causes many cases of clipping, especially Mecha Aatrox.
I think what most players are distraught about was how it looked like he was rushed. For a thing to scale up from the biggest gameplay update to a VGU, players have high expectations, especially with Aatrox. Aatrox was THE most popular champ to perform a rework on, so it's only natural that players would have high expectations for new Aatrox. Instead, I feel like they were kinda let down.
Aatrox finally got the recognition that so many of us wanted. But at what cost? His identity? His kit? Did we really have to sacrifice everything for this rework for a problem that so many older champions have?
Obviously there are things that could've been done to polish out the rework. Given a bit more time, I think the Aatrox rework might be more finished. I just wish that some semblance of old Aatrox was present in the new Aatrox.
EDIT: To address the comments saying I'm on Riot's side, here's my response.
I am disappointed in the rework, they could've done better. I had high expectations, and it wasn't met, and that is my fault for setting those expectations high. That still doesn't mean I hate the new Aatrox. If I like the new Aatrox to SOME extent, does that make me a traitor? I played him for fun, regardless if it made the game harder.
It's already been made clear since the start: Riot wanted to rework him, so they did it. But in doing so, they not only changed his kit, but they changed the character. As some of you say, he was deleted and replaced.
The timing of the rework couldn't been any more worse. It's a bit unlucky on Riot's part, because now, they have to face the backlash of the community for reworking a champion at its peak. While I was upset, I keep thinking about how Aatrox didn't die forgotten, but when he had all eyes on him. Aatrox died in the glory of his own war.
You don't have to agree with me, which is why I opened this up for discussion.