Zac on Release or Gimme More Rune Pages

Having had the chance to look at Zac’s released form, I have to say it looks like he is in a much more consistent state than when I last touched him on the PBE. This just made it all the harder to pass him up in favor of some new Rune pages.

My original thoughts on Zac can be found here, and I believe that a lot of my first impressions on his build and abilities are still valid. Riot appears to have identified some of his health related problems. All of his spell costs have been reduced to 4% of his current health, down from 6% and 8% for some of his abilities. This makes it a lot easier to spam his spells, as Riot appears to have intended, without running yourself out of health.

More importantly, it looks like Zac’s health chunks now land a much more respectable distance from him. Yes, you are still making some tradeoffs to go and pick them up, but it doesn’t feel like as big of a tradeoff as when they could fly halfway across your lane. The reduced health costs on his spell casts also make you less dependent on retrieving the chunks. This actually makes it more of a choice, and not a necessity, to go and get them. This is something that I think is quite nice. I have noticed that he does continue to get somewhat low (though not nearly as bad as before) on health in the middle of team fights just by continually casting abilities, so you will want to continue to keep an eye out for the health chunks when you are going for prolonged engages.

The move speed bonus on his ult has been buffed, so now he can really fly around the map. It should be one of the best engage or disengage abilities out there.

I had enough IP saved up to buy Zac, on launch, but I decided to spend it on the ongoing two for one Rune page sale. If you’re looking for some more Rune pages, now is definitely a good time to make that buy. I’m actually pretty proud of myself for resisting the call of a new and deliciously gooey champ and actually making a practical purchase, for once. The problem is that this has left me only able to watch Zac in action for, probably, at least the next week. This is one choice that I wish Riot hadn’t presented me.

If you do go and buy Zac, let me know how you’re liking him, and definitely let me know how his E is feeling. I found myself with a lot of awkward failure to launch situations on the PBE, and I hope that they resolved those issues before he launched on to the main stage.

Patch 3.5 and what’s Trending

This post is a little overdue, but I wanted to give some quick thoughts on Patch 3.5 and some of the recent trends I have been seeing in League of Legends. Most of these trends will revolve around what champions are being played, so I hope you like trying out new champs as much as I do.

Patch 3.5

The notes for this patch are here. I think it’s pretty safe to say this patch is bringing with it some interesting new changes. Karma will be getting her update (so don’t expect to get to play her much for the next day or so), the files for Zac are supposedly contained in the patch and there are a number of minor balance and champion changes. I will touch on some of them below.

Towers: Will now be doing more damage to champions. This shouldn’t change the way you last hit under your own tower, but do not expect your early dives to go as well as they once did. I’m also interested to see if this will change the Korean meta of taking early towers. Riot has basically stated that they are trying to make this more difficult, and I wonder if the new tower damage will actually be enough to change the entire meta.

Udyr: To quote the jungler from Team Curse, (who you should probably watch if you want to learn how to be an outstanding jungler) “this guy is going to be broken as ****.” I’d say getting all of his abilities buffed is a good start. But, wait, what is Udyr’s biggest problem? Getting kited. Ok, so let’s give him more sources of bonus move speed and a mini dash when he goes to auto attack with his bear stance activated. Yeah, I think that should definitely help our friendly man bear turtle go roaring through his and the other team’s jungle. So remember folks, this bear now has bigger claws and the ability to actually use them on you.

Karma: I don’t want to risk my own karma by shamelessly plugging my previous post, but if you scroll around, I’m confident you can find a post detailing what I think of the new Karma. It’s an interesting time to be one of her fans!

Hecarim: The cooldown on Spirit of Dread has been significantly increased. Having this available less often, coupled with an increase in tower damage, should mean there will be less instances of early game Hec’s diving you under tower. If the previous Xin Zhou nerfs are any indication, increasing a champs cooldowns on key abilities can lead to them being played less often. I think you will still be able to ride Hec to victory, but we might not see him quite as often as before.

Rumble: His ult no longer does damage on cast, and it is totally reliant on the burn damage. I don’t play enough Rumble to know for sure, but the pros have been saying that this hurts his laning phase. I can see how this could be possible. In lane, you are trying to target only one opponent who can fairly easily anticipate the ult coming and get out of the burn reasonably quickly. Without that initial cast damage, forcing your opponent to fight on your ult becomes a lot more necessary, and if you can’t do this, Rumble will be worse off.

I think those are some of the major changes related to Patch 3.5. Now let’s talk a bit about some of the champions you who would be trending if Twitter were used only as it was clearly intended, for League of Legends.

Volibear: I’m a little jaded about how popular he has become. He was one of the first new champions I ever purchased, and I had no clue how to make him work in lane. It turns out that I was not the only one, until some some of the European pros realized that he was a ridiculously good jungler, in the Season Three jungle. He has good clear times, a tonne of health and health related damage, and his Q gives him the same kind of speed boost you would get from ghost (when VBear is running towards an opponent). If you are looking for junglers with a lot of gank potential, you should bare the costs proudly and pick up Voli or Udyr.

Nasus: I believe it was Korea that brought Nasus back into style. With attack speed being so valuable in Season Three, anything that slows attack speed is considered to be extremely precious. Wither (Nasus’ W) is basically an exhaust that can be cast every 10 seconds. Nothing makes an ADC squirm quite like slowing their attack and movement speed.

Build him tanky with as much CDR as you can fit in. If you’re running him in the jungle, which is mostly where he is going at the pro level, consider maxing his Q and E evenly to give him a fairly quick jungle clear. I also believe that any champion with a built in exhaust has some support potential. I’ve had some success running him as a support in low level games, and if I keep having success, I will definitely write something up on this.

Zed: If you haven’t been walking along, minding your own business, only to have this guy come out of the shadows and burst you down, I don’t know what game you’ve been playing. Zed’s insane burst damage with his ult virtually ensures that you will kill one of the carries in a fight. He is very mobile, but does require some practice to use effectively. I believe this is why it has taken him so long to be seen in competitive play. Look to shut him down the minute he engages on your carries, or recruit Soraka to ensure that he can’t burst the carry down regardless of whether you CC Zed.

Note: I’m not kidding about Soraka. She is extremely good at countering burst assassins like Zed and Akali. There is nothing these types of champs hate more than having their combos interrupted, or finding out that their targets are a lot tankier than they expected.

Diana: Scarra, a notorious North American pro mid player, has been proving one of my earlier points about Diana. Yes, she is no longer the easy to play beast she once was, but her extremely strong kit still allows her to do amazing things – especially in skilled hands. Consider giving her a pickup if you want to play someone tankier than Akali and have the patience to give Diana some practice.

I think those are all of the champions and elements of the upcoming patch that I wanted to talk about, just now. If there are any champs that you are currently rocking, or who you think are super strong, let me know. I’m always looking for an OP champ to play 😉 . For all of you Udyr fans, remember to Bear Stance responsibly and not chase the enemy Janna too far into her jungle. For everyone else, remember, “Karma always catches up to you!”

 

Supporting ain’t easy

NOTE: This video is not workplace safe and should not be listened to  if you are not a fan of excessive vulgarity. I can’t say I am always in favor of this gentleman’s style, but amongst all of the swearing and (comedic?) racism, is a pretty solid summary of what it can feel like to be a support player in League of Legends. I have to say I agree with his core point, and I am a supporter of the ADBULGIG movement. That is why I chose, after some thought, to share the video.

Torn by New Karma

For some reason I have been having a lot of trouble writing this piece. I want to really love the new Karma, but I can’t quite do it. I want to tell you that old Karma was the best, but that isn’t really true either. What I can tell you is that Karma will be rehabilitated back to “played” champion status. What I can’t tell you is this will be done by making her an amazing support.

Before reading this post, you should definitely check out a nice preview of new Karma’s abilities here. As always, Surrender at 20 has put down an excellent video, and I would much rather focus on the impact of her abilities than what her abilities actually are.

One of the keys to understanding new Karma is to understand why old Karma didn’t work.  As some of the Riot designers themselves pointed out, old Karma was almost entirely team reliant. Her abilities, in and of themselves, weren’t what would win fights. What Karma could do was add just enough additional damage and tankiness to allow her allies to win fights they otherwise might not have won.

Isn’t that what all supports do? Yes, but most supports have the ability to do things that make life a lot easier for their teammates. Lulu has the ability to shield and heal an ally, and slow, knockup and cupcake enemies. Lulu not only enhances her friends but can actively harm her opponents, making them easier to kill. Other than a fairly weak and non damaging slow, Karma never really had the ability to CC opponents. If her allies weren’t half decent, just having some extra shield and damage weren’t going to make a big difference.

In a support lane, Karma just didn’t do things as good as other supports. The short range of her Q made it almost impossible to poke with. Her shield was decent, but other champions like Lulu and Janna could do the same thing with greater benefits. For a Karma shield to be most effective her ADC would be required to get very close to their opponents and open themselves up to counterattack. A Janna shield, in comparison, allows Janna’s ally to keep their distance while still gaining maximum benefit from the shield. Karma’s W barely warrants mention, as the ability did not effectively provide damage and only offered a minor slow or speed boost.

The same is true of her heal, which required the use of a Mantra and some AP to actually be anywhere near as effective as other support’s heals. You wouldn’t play Karma as a support because she didn’t feel great to play and didn’t give you the same benefit that other supports did. The most played champions in League of Legends are the ones that feel nice to play and make people feel like they could carry their team, or at least make a difference, with those champions. Karma never felt very nice to play and did not give you the feeling that you could carry a game with her. You could help your teammates win the game, but even that was never as easy as it was with other champs.

If you will allow me to digress for a moment, where I loved old Karma best was on the Twisted Treeline. Put Karma together with two bruisers who deal decent damage and Karma could turn those bruisers into unstoppable killing machines. Because most of the fighting would be done at close range, Karma would be able to use both her Q and her E to maximum effect. A Renekton with an additional shield, speed buff and magic burst damage is a scary thing. And if that didn’t kill the enemy, Karma could step in with her Q and finish off any survivors.

New Karma definitely feels and looks better. Her basic dress and all of her other skins look very nice and much more cheerful than her old ones.  Regardless of its impact, her Q feels very nice to cast and gives her some decent poke – something that is a staple for popular mids and supports. Her W now provides a more solid benefit with its ability to root an opponent and heal Karma for large amounts of health when she enhances it. Her shield remains the same, except with an additional speed bonus. The speed bonus is an ok touch, as it gives her or her ally some additional ability to actually get in or get out of combat and make better use of the shield.

Finally, the Mantra bonuses on all of her spells really do feel like game changers. Riot wanted you to feel like you made an important choice each time you chose an ability to Mantra, and it really does feel that way. With this does come some regret, if you choose wrong, but hitting a Mantra’d Q or shielding your entire team with a Mantra’d W does feel very satisfying. The cooldown on this ability is just long enough to make you miss it, but with some CDR and her passive, she is not really without her Mantra long enough to warrant a complaint.

I do think that these changes will succeed in making Karma more playable, but mainly as an AP mid. I believe this will be the case because her ratios are solid and her kit has been altered to give her more consistent damage and poke. She is not as strictly short ranged as she was before and can now do respectable damage even when her mantra is down. When her mantra is up, she is able to throw out a burst combo as dangerous as any in the game (slow with her Q, begin a snare with her W and hit a Mantra’d Q just before the snare kicks in so that the opponent is hit with both parts of the Mantra’d Q).

Giving Karma a snare actually gives her options on how to fight opponents instead of just shielding herself and hoping her opponent would fight till the death. She is still somewhat short ranged, and having only one mantra does limit her usefulness when it is on CDR, but I believe this can be overcome easily by building her somewhat tanky and with CDR. Unlike old Karma, new Karma will still offer decent damage even if you build her tanky. When you play new Karma as an AP mid, you actually feel that you have a champion that you can carry a game with.

Where I am not convinced that Karma will see more play time is as a support. I just do not feel that the changes made to her really make Karma more useful than most other supports. The Q changes do give her a bit more poke, but the problem with her new Q is that it cannot poke through the creep wave. Most non tanky supports have abilities that are able to poke through or over the creep wave to zone enemies. Opponents will be able to simply hide behind their creeps to avoid taking damage from Karma.

The snare on her W will be ok for catching out opponents, but a snare in bot lane is always a tricky thing. Unlike a stun, snares still allow enemy champions to attack and cast some spells. A snare can effectively prevent a melee champ from doing damage, but  ADC’s will be able to continue to fire even though Karma has snared them, especially because the snare has a short range to begin with. I would much rather take a Taric or Leona stun than a Karma snare, and I think many support players will make the same choice.

As far as Karma’s shield goes, I don’t really think that enough has changed to make it any more viable than it was before. It still suffers from the same drawbacks that I mentioned above. Yes, her ability to cast her shield on multiple allies in teamfights and give out an additional speed bonus will be nice, but a one second speed burst isn’t a big enough benefit to make her shield even as useful as a Janna or Lulu shield. I never really felt like Karma’s heal was that big of a game changer, and now she does not even have that sustain to help her ADC out with.

On the whole, I guess I have to give the Karma changes a thumbs up. She looks good, she feels nice to play and I believe she will actually see some decent play time now. This is what Riot wanted, and it will be fun to see what players can do with her if they feel that she can win games. Mid Karma feels like a choice that is just as viable as any other mainstream mid and she should be just as capable of making big plays.

The problem is that I don’t really see the changes making support Karma any more or less viable than she was before. It seems to me that Riot has decided that the way to rehabilitate Karma is as an AP mid, or even a top bruiser, not as a support. Again, I am torn. I think these changes are good for Karma, but they are not really any better for support Karma players. They say that Karma will come to you for being nice, but in this case, I think new Karma will only come to you if you practice playing mid.

delver

When I woke up this morning and found my Feedly overloaded with articles about Zenimax’s upcoming MMORPG, Elder Scrolls Online, I decided only one thing could be done: I would have to read them all and report my findings to you. Here are several choices quotes from the previews I read today that hold me a lot more about TESO than I knew before:

Rock, Paper, Shotgun What Happens If You Play Elder Scrolls Online Like Skyrim?

Unfortunately, my mighty Xenorc The Warrior Princess didn’t quite cover enough ground to really break out of her box, but apparently unique skill lines will come from all over: level-based progression, special quests, PVP, world events, etc.

There weren’t any crazy AI shenanigans or moments of utterly unexpected player interaction. For better or worse, everything functioned as expected. I felt like I was playing a competent – and in some places, even fairly…

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