Item Discussion Series - Midlane, Chalice, and Oldschool Mages (Revision) ##Previously on Item Discussion Series Episode 1: [Supports and the CDR Overload]( Episode 2: [Midlane (previous version)]( The last midlane discussion didn't seem to bring satisfying conclusions, so I've decided to make a revision, taking into consideration all points made in the comments. To my surprise, poll answer "The problem lies elsewhere" has almost as many votes as "Chalice of Harmony needs an alternative upgrade". So let's review the midlane as a whole. --- ##The State of Middle Lane Middle lane champions can be brought down to the following categories: * DPS Mages {{champion:13}} {{champion:30}} {{champion:8}} {{champion:68}} {{champion:10}} - Those champions were very popular back in the day, especially before the introduction of Athene's Unholy Grail. Their characteristic is insane item scaling and overwhelming lategame power. Currently mostly played in top lane, if anywhere. They all have their unique item builds, but they share the continuous magic damage output in lategame. * Combo Mages {{champion:45}} {{champion:69}} {{champion:90}} {{champion:63}} {{champion:161}} - "Oldschool" category of immobile mages with medium-ranged spells that require a spell combo to work to their fullest effect. This category is completely nonexistent in competitive play at the moment due to both AP and AD assassins outmaneuvering them with mobility. * Control Mages {{champion:61}} {{champion:25}} {{champion:115}} {{champion:101}} {{champion:117}} - Their long range and one-spell CC allows them to stay safe and keep the enemy away. Thanks to their built-in reliable utility they can be useful in early-mid game regardless of their AP threshhold, but later on require AP to stay relevant. The bread and butter of current competitive meta. * Mage Assassins {{champion:103}} {{champion:4}} {{champion:105}} {{champion:134}} {{champion:7}} - Their kit is dedicated to pick off a single target first, with a possibly of continuing the fight. Some of them use Lichbane, some use DFG. Used to dictate the rules of midlane, now with abundance of Heal and Exhaust some of them phased out. * AD Assassins {{champion:91}} {{champion:121}} {{champion:238}} {{champion:92}} {{champion:157}} - Occasional terror of middle lane. Problematic before the introduction of Seeker's Armguard and a series of nerfs to almost all of them. Now only Yasuo prevails with his broken mobility and windwall. * Kassadin {{champion:38}} - He's technically a mage assassin, but his lategame scaling is so absurd that he deserves his own category. ##Defining the Problems * Immobile mages, especially combo mages, are getting screwed over by the mobility creep (duh) * Mana regen exists in only two forms: in "early" items with CDR (Athene's, Morello) or in "late" items without it (RoA, Archangel's Staff) * "Lategame" stacking mana items are balanced around working in combo, making purchasing them separately a little bit underwhelming * Midlane is overtaken by homogenic builds (Athenes-Rabadons-Void Staff, for example) * Liandrylai combo works great for "oldschool" mages, but provides too much HP and zero mana regen * Void Staff is too strong against squishy targets due to penetration changes (instead of being specialized in anti-tank) * MR for mages is limited to Athene's, Abyssal Scepter and Banshee's Veil - and the penetration changes made Abyssal obsolete on mages Items that probably need to be looked after include: {{item:3028}} Chalice and its possible no-CDR upgrade {{item:3191}} Seeker's Armguard could have an alternative upgrade to break the monopoly of Zhonya's {{item:3128}} DFG creates an unhealthy pattern where one player is able to consistently 100-0 the other over and over again {{item:3135}} Void Staff is too versatile and could use more specialization (less power against squishies) {{item:3116}} Rylai's Crystal Scepter could help combo "oldschool mages" find their role ##The Holy Trinity of Mage Items {{item:3174}} {{item:3089}} {{item:3135}} - 'nuff said. Substitues: {{item:3165}} and {{item:3157}} In case you haven't been following LCS or pay no attention to what your midlaner buys, these are the three items that make over 50% of midlane builds, followed by Zhonya's Hourglass if not built ri ght away. Ziggs, Orianna, Lulu, Xerath, even Syndra - almost everyone will buy these items in almost this exact order. Exceptions are assassins, who all have their infividual builds, but for a "typical" mage, there is no alternative item build: {{item:3174}} Athene's Unholy Grail is the only midlane Chalice upgrade and Chalice is the best laning item to farm and trade. In few specific cases, if MR isn't vital, it can be swapped for Morellonomicon, leaving Zhonya's Hourglass as the defensive option. Still: this spot is for an AP MP5 item with 20% CDR. {{item:3089}} Rabadon's Deathcap is necessary for the midgame power spike. There is no better item to go "full agression" after Athene's, unless you gamble on killing a single target with DFG (but that works on very few champions like Ahri and Syndra) or desperately need Zhonya to survive enemy dives. {{item:3135}} Void Staff is the answer to enemies purchasing MR, but works against targets with no MR as well. The dominance of Holy Trinity not only limits the options of available builds for the popular mages, but it also keeps the champion pool small. It will always be who utilizes the build the best who will get picked. Simply **nerfing Chalice/Athene's doesn't fix the problem** since, colloquially speaking, it will not magically make the other options suck less. --- *Warning: The concepts below are just an attempt to provide solutions to problems mentioned above. Also, we're not touching AD itemization here* ##First Purchase: Athene's and Alternatives First things first, introducing new items might be a perfect moment to repurpose {{item:3174}} Athene's Unholy Grail, reverting some of the nerfs. Possible actions: * Lower the CDR to 15%. This highlights Morellonomicon as the best CDR option and allows to stack CDR from multiple items with no loss (considering 5% from masteries). * Revert the oldest nerf: to AP. With alternative Chalice upgrade, this item could be clearly redefined as the offensive option. Increase the price accordingly, possibly throw in an extra Amp Tome in recipe. Total cost of an 15% CDR / 80 AP version should be about 3000g. Alternative Chalice upgrade, first draft: > {{item:3028}} Chalice of Harmony + {{item:3113}} Aether Wisp + 870 g = **Ethereal Robe** (total cost: 2700 gold) **60 ability power, 25 magic resistance**, 10 mana regeneration per 5, **5% increased movement speed** Unique Passive - Mana Font: Gain 1% increased mana regeneration per 1% of mana you're missing. Passive: For every nearby enemy champion, you gain 5 MR and 1% movement speed. * Passive is a rough sketch, but the theme is "safer in bigger fights". For most mages this will be fairly similar to Athene's, just with lower AP. * This is definitely the defensive option, without guaranteed mana replenish on kills and assist or CDR to help spam spells or keep ultimate off cooldown at all times. * Base MR in 1v1 laning is 30, in case of jungler gank 35. This is "I want safety" item. * **Alternative effect: "Ethereal Form" active - root yourself in place, but gain bonus magic penetration and CC immunity** (similar to old Xerath's Locus of Power). * Other alternative effect: Gain up to 5% MS basing on missing mana. *This is based on a joke about the "A New Dawn" cinamatic: Why is Ahri running and not casting spells? OOM.* Next step to broadening AP itemization is providing a mana regeneration in clash with AD champions. We've seen people, even pros, building Athene's even against Zed, because its mana regen is too stupidly good. The problem about Zhonya rush is that while you're denying the enemy the opportunity to kil lyou, you're hindering your own capability of casting spells, since you will run out of mana, and Zed/Yasuo/some other balanced resourceless champion will not. > {{item:3191}} Seeker's Armguard + {{item:3114}} Forbidden Idol + 840 g = {{item:3056}} Ohmwrecker (total cost: 2700 gold) **60 ability power, 45 armor, 10% CDR**, 10 mana regeneration per 5 Active: Disables a tower for 2.5 s. 120 second cooldown. * My previous draft of Ohmwrecker got criticized for providing no stats useful for towerdiving. Well, armor seems to help. * This set of stats for such price is very efficient, so pairing it with a situational active seems like a good idea. * For midlaners, this becomes the "safety pick" against AD, but doesnt give that much AP. * Unlike Zhonya's, this item does not provide a huge "Now you can't kill me" button, so it gives some room for the likes of Zed. * Can possibly be used by toplaners with AP scalings (hello Maokai). This breaks the core of the mage problem - lack of variety in rushable AP items for mana regen. With one new upgrade to Chalice and one new for Idol, I think we're good to go. ##Digging Deeper: Obnoxious Items {{item:3135}} Void Staff is currently a must have in every mage build, pretty much regardless of what enemy they target. This makes late MR purchase on carries unsatisfying, since the midlaner will most likely already have VS to deal with the bruisers. Changes I'd suggest include: * Changing the effect from **total MR** penetration to **bonus MR** penetration, much like Yasuo's ultimate. This way the item becomes better in its niche - dealing with megatanks like Dr. Mundo, and worse where it shouldn't be too strong - bursting squishies. * Bonus MR penetration should be around 40-50%, with base AP possibly lowered to 60 to keep in line with the new tier trend. I would also consider the following change to {{item:3128}} Deathfire Grasp: * Build path changed: {{item:1058}} + {{item:3113}} - CDR removed, now grants +5% movement speed * Active damage (15% health) removed * Debuff now increases all damage done to target (both physical and magical) by 25% It's not exactly a good gameplay pattern when enemy midlaner can miss skillshots and still 100-0 you. It's completely fair, though, if enemy jungler ganks you and they 100-0 you in a 2v1 situation. DFG should be a viable item for assassins, but it doesn't mean they should be able to roll over their lane opponent every time they come back to 1v1. MS over CDR should help roaming over popping your lane opponent over and over again. ##Alternative Mana Management Essence Reaver was a nice introduction that shook up some ADC builds (it's quite strong on the new Lucian, for example). The item still has its own issues, but it has a niche and sees play. I was wondering about a similar mechanic for mages: > {{item:1058}} + {{item:3108}} + 780g = **Orb of Absorption** (total cost: 3000 gold) **120 AP, 20% CDR** Unique Passive - Mana Leech: Gain 20% of damage dealt as mana This sort of mana management - mana leech - could as well become a part of an advanced item with one or more upgrades. Since mages will often start with Doran's Ring or two, though, this sort of buildup should be okay, with its risk being no mana regen in the components. ##Bringing Back The Old School In Stattik's Q&A, my assessment of the problem was [commented by **Stattik**]( > This is definitely an issue that we have struggled with a lot internally. We call this class of characters the "Immobile Mid-Lane Mages" and I 100% agree with your identification and breakdown of the problem. (...) As far as itemization goes, I know the Systems team is looking into different the lesser used items such as Rylai's. The lack of Mana Regen in the Rylai's + Liandry's combo is interesting (I believe most stack a few Doran's Rings to try to get around this), but overall I think it might be pointing out a larger issue in our game which is our ever-growing pool of Resourceless champions and how we have maybe warped the game to allow Mana users to compete with the resourceless guys over time. The sheer effectiveness of the {{item:3151}} Liandrylai {{item:3116}} combo on immobile "oldschool mages" such as {{champion:69}} {{champion:90}} {{champion:63}} {{champion:161}} made me rethink the whole issue. What if we're looking at this wrong? We're trying to make those "nukers" viable in their task to burn squishies in an AoE combo, but that's an assassin's job! **Why not take the anti-tank DPS potential and go from there?** The problem with Liandrylai is that for 5800 gold it provides 800 HP, 130 AP and zero mana regen. And although not all of those immobile champions need CDR, they definitely need mana to clear minion waves as the game progresses. That much excessive health does not help at all, since once those champions get caught in the crossfire, they will die anyway, especially this early. Stattik's response mentioned using Doran's Rings to get the necessary mana, but that's another 160 health right there and mana regen from rings is not that much. In the end, it's either Liandry rush and mana starvation, or Athene pickup and delayed power spike (Athenes + Rabadon on a popular midlaner is better than Athenes + one part of Liandrylai combo on immobile combo mage). There's hope that Riot sees the problem, though. From PBE patch notes: > {{item:3116}} Rylai's Crystal Scepter * Health reduced to 400 from 500 * AP increased to 100 from 80 I don't know if that's enough, but at least it's something. I think, however, that we could rework Rylai's a bit more. Midlaners don't need that Giant's Belt - if they want health, they have RoA and Liandry's Torment. In top lane, the only bruiser using it is Rumble and the mages who would want his item outnumber him. Rylai's could become a Blasting Wand + Chalice/Forbidden Idol item outright, or, if we want to preserve the HP option, there's also a possibility of making it an advanced Wand+Sapphire item building into two alternatives - the AP version and the HP version. Just take into consideration that Rylai's is currently a rather rare item in toplane (Iceborn Gauntlet provides a much better slow) and would fit midlaners much better. ##The Mana Timebomb Last, but not least, the ticking stacking ball of doom in the form of {{item:3003}} + {{item:3027}} combo. Built by pretty much only Ryze and Karthus at this point - used to be a popular Kassadin build as well. The problem with Archangel's Staff is that mages: * don't have flat mana items outside of RoA and Lichbane * want a midgame power spike and can't wait that long. The easy solution would be to introduce a new flat mana option for mages, with immediate power spike (alternative Rylai's building out of Sapphire Crystal could blow this thing wide open). The other solution is tweaking Rod of Ages, which contributes to the "slow stacking" problem that repels most mages from this build. Another easy solution there: begin stacking the RoA timer on purchase of Catalyst the Protector, obviously adjusting the time and stats per stack on RoA. With proper management the mana "utility" route could become an alternative to Rabadon's, truly opening up the variety of midlane builds - and picks. --- ##Summary Athenes' monopoly needs to broken - but not by nerfing the item to oblivion, since Chalice responds to core issues of "standard mages", which is the desire for safe laning and midgame power spike. The easiest way to do it seems to be introducing an alternative AP Chalice upgrade, with either Aether Wisp or Blasting Wand. Other changes are optional, but could help broaden up available possibilities and fix some unhealthy interactions. * **Vital:** Alternative AP upgrade to Chalice of Harmony * *Helpful:* Armguard+Idol item for better laning against AD * *Helpful:* Void Staff rework ("tank buster" instead of "squishy stomper") * *Helpful:* DFG rework ("team effort" roaming item instead of "100-0 over and over" laning item) * *Helpful:* Rylai rework (mage item instead of tank item) * Possible: Catalyst already stacking for RoA Any feedback, positive or negative, is more than welcome. Are those problems well-defined, at least? ##Next Episode Jungle, hopefully - it seems like Feral Flare does not work very well and the tank junglers are still not a reliable option.
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