Skarner's spires have been a problem since they were introduced. Mostly for Skarner players. The spires themselves, I personally feel, were a poor homage to the late dominion game mode. Overall, they are a poorly thought out/executed ability, and doesn't make sense in either gameplay or lore The rest of this post will attempt to show why that is:
Role Diversity: This is a point I brought up with Riotscruffy when the concept was first introduced to the player base. It was shrugged off as an "unfortunate side effect" and pushed through anyway. This season, RIOT stated that one of their goals for champions this season was role diversity, and as long as Skarner has this passive, he is handicapped in ANY role that isn't jungle, and even then, these spires don't exactly do what Riotscruffy was trying to achieve:
Location (objective control): Riotscruffy wanted to attempt to give Skarner a niche in the area of objective control, and he hoped that the spires would do this. Truth is, he should have said "dragon and baron control" since they are only 2 objectives on the map. The primary and most important objectives are Towers, Inhibitors, and the enemy Nexus. Skarner's spires give no power in those areas, either allied or enemy. Truth be told, they don't even give him any kind of real advantage in controlling Baron or Dragon either. Abilities like Nunu' s "Consume", Cho'Gath's "Feast", or Kalista's "Rend are better at controlling Baron or Dragon, since they add burst to your smite ability and make it harder to steal for the enemy, and easier for you to steal. Another problem that bleeds into this one is:
Location (indication): If the enemy team controls the spire and you want to take Dragon or Baron as Skarner, you either have to A) Let the entire enemy team know you are taking it or B) do it without your spire bonus. In both cases, the spires fail to aid you in controlling the objective: which was their stated purpose. It's also problematic for counterjungling for the same reason. It either tells the enemy where you are, or it doesn't get used to keep your position hidden. #feelsbadman
Location (jungle camps): the spires location presents one other small problem in their location: they don't cover all the camps. Gromp is minor since you can kite him into the zone, but Krugs, the camp that typically takes the longest to clear, is outside of the zone influence completely. This is a minor point, but is still a point none the less.
Feast or Famine (mostly famine): when it first released, it seemed as though it was a mostly feast zone: no one could fight Skarner in those zones at pretty much any point in the game. His clear speed was extrodinary, and he farmed himself into a lead and kept it. They obviously tuned that down... way down. Now, it's mostly famine. Skarner isn't much stronger in his zone till much later in the game, and if your team is losing, you will NEVER control these special zones, completely denying Skarner's already limited passive which consumes a decent portion of his power budget. Being able to completely deny this much of his power, which is already limited by location (meaning he pretty much has no passive when defending base or closing out games) is just bad design, imho.
Zone control doesn't really make sense: Sure, the beginning of the lore makes Skarner a guardian, but that isn't where the story leaves us. Skarner is on the move, searching for the lost Crystals of his brethren. He is hunting. If Skarner were to find these life stones lying around, he would certainly not leave them there but take them back to his dying brethren.
Each Brakken draws it's power from a SINGLE life stone: Skarner's current passive has him drawing power from multiple crystals on the map. According to the lore, he only draws life and power from one life stone: the one fused to his tail.
Venomous Stings: Mentioned in the lore, but not truly expressed in his kits design/execution.
Skarner's class: Understanding Skarner is apparently a bit of a chore as no one (player base or RIOT employees) can agree on what Skarner IS. I will state my opinion, but let's start with a little bit of history:
Upon release, Skarner was described as a "true hybrid fighter". In those days, concepts where much simpler. Your melee characters were basically decided into one of 2 categories: Tanks and Fighters. (Can't remember if assassin's were a class yet). Skarner was a fighter: a melee damage dealer. His was described as a hunter, dragging lonely victims to their inevitable doom.
As time went on, RIOT began the monumental task of trying to better define classes to aid them in their design choices and to help new players understand the strengths that a particular champion brings to the table. Now, at first everyone agreed that Skarner was in fact a fighter: melee champion with a sustained damage pattern, but when they created the subclasses, they didn't really make a subclass that truly fit Skarner, making him a bit of an odity. So, they threw him into the juggernaut class.
As a juggernaut Skarner was unique, in that he had most of the tools Juggernauts were supposed to lack, namely more than one soft cc: ranged slow, stun, supression. His damage was sufficient, but it gave him too much overall. So Riot nerfed his damage.
As these changes took place, it became clear that he wasn't a juggernaut; but he was still a fighter right? Riot moved him into the diver class. The problem with Skarner as a diver, is that he doesn't play like one. Skarner has no jumps, blinks or dsshes with which to bypass an enemy frontline (see Jax or Rek'Sai). His damage had been hit pretty hard still as well, so Skarner was feeling more like a tank now then before. Wanting to keep that aggressive playstyle in mind, he is now described as a vanguard, or initiating tank.
Skarner has suffered long enough from this identity crisis in my opinion. Skarner is a hunter, his lore describes his fighting as ferocious, his quotes "limb from limb!" and his motivation to tirelessly seek the life crystals of his dying brethren all point to a damage dealing chase you down and kill you at all cost to get back what's rightfully mine kind of character. He is passionate, motivated and ready to do what's necessary. Let's look at his kit:
Q: Crystal Slash- I like the aoe of this ability, as it sort of displays the ferocious and untamed combat I would expect from this champion. It powers up after the initial strike, showing a progressive sort of rage which fits nicely, especially with Skarner's new lore. As an X-Skarner main, it's also iconic in that up until the juggernaut fiasco, this was Skarner's main skill, and it pushed his dps playstyle.
W: Crystalline Exoskeleton- Originally, Skarner also had healing in his kit. But it was weak and hard to balance so it was removed. W, remains as Skarner's one form of what I call sudo-sustain. At max rank, (and if you rush cdr... you should) it's a low cooldown shield that also empowers Skarner to chase down his enemies. Built in counter play allows you to break his shield to slow his advance.
E: Fracture- currently, Skarner's E is overloaded as heck, but I will stick to it's core functionality: a ranged skill shot that slows targets down, allowing Skarner a better chance at catching them. They brought back the Mark and proc for some added cc (stun). Still, originally, this was your last skill to max, and provided the utility needed to make Skarner not 110% kite-able, assuming you can land Skill shots.
R: Impale- Skarner's most iconic ability, a single target suppression that allows him to relocate a target victim manually.
So what is Skarner's kit good at?
Sustained damage: Skarner's primary source of damage is Auto Attacks and Q spam. Though the AoE from Q is nice periferal damage, I wouldn't call it 1v2 material in and of itself, rhough it certainly helps.
AoE: the AoE from his Q and E makes him good at clearing jungle camps and minion waves. This means he could potentially be a powerful farm jungler or even split pusher.
Single Target CC: Yes, currently you could potentially stun multiple people after one cast of his E (fracture), but I can tell you from experience that it is VERY rare. Certainly not a common enough occurrence to call it a thing he does. Single Target cc chaining Though? That is a thing he does.
Map mobility: His low cooldown W allows Skarner to move around the map pretty well.
Conclusion: much to the disagreement of many (no surprise right?) I believe Skarner is a Skirmisher. He wants to hunt and fight lone targets. His kit makes him great at 1v1 dueling, having good tools for split pushing and catching people out between lanes. Like all good Skirmishers, Skarner has useful things in his kit if behind so as not to be completely irrelevant (Yasuo windwall, Fiora aoe heal). In teamfights, and when behind, his cc is best used to peel, keeping divers and assassins off of his carry.
I have made many suggestions on different ways to fix Skarner. My most recent is closest to his state prior to the juggernaut changes (which was my favorite version). I will provide a link here:
I hope that a red will read and respond to this. Thanks to anyone who read the whole thing.
"I miss my kind..."
EDIT: Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has participated in this discussion. Wanted to add some of my favorite parts of this conversation to the main post:
Zone Control is probably bad design for a moba: Zone control, meaning the kind that current Skarner has. Skarner cannot win the game by guarding these zones: Winning in a MOBA requires you to push forward, take towers, and eventually the nexus. (This is not to be confused with "zoning" which is a skill that good players have and use when they have advantage over their opponent to further deny resources/set them further behind/take objectives.)
I think if Riot was to introduce another of Skarner's brothers as a champion, the warlock theme could work very nicely given the lore of Skarner's race and how the Crystals share experiences and knowledge with their new hosts.
To iterate my thoughts on current Skarner:
Currently, I believe he is a Warden. As a tank, he has the least amount of damage in the game. And I think more of the modern tanks need to look at how much damage Skarner does and model it. Most tanks still do heck tons of damage, while building full tank. I rush Trinity Force on Skarner, and I still deal close to the least damage on the team, and I can proc sheen a LOT. XD Point being, more tanks need to do damage like current Skarner.
Skarner needs to go back to being a fighter and a damage dealer. His kit and playstyle fit that of a Skirmisher, and his cc allows him to still be somewhat useful if behind.