The Slow, Sad Death of Melee Auto-Attackers

The Slow, Sad Death of Melee Auto-Attackers

It has been happening for a long time and other authors on this site have talked about it before, but I want to focus on what changes have come about to really put the nail in the coffin for them.  They just do not have a place in competitive play anymore.  What can be done to help them, if any? 

Hold still while I beat you with my cardboard tube!

Nail 1: Mechanics

One of the hardest parts about being melee is mechanics.  Auto-attacks require you to hold still for a small amount of time while they complete their animation.  Some animations are faster than others but there is always a part that requires you to hold still for a split second.  Basically, you cannot move full speed and attack at the same time.  Now, you can reduce this by mastering animation cancelling and orb walking, but it is there.  

As a result, should you chase someone and they move at the same speed, they will escape.  If I had 1 HP and 350 move speed and you had 1 HP and 350 move speed, I can run away and not get hurt so long as I stay out of your much smaller range.  But If I am ranged and you’re not, the moment you disengage, I can turn around and kill you.  For this reason, most melee champions have SOMETHING that lets you close the gap.  It is basic game design for melee in league of legends.  However, Ranged characters have disengages and they are rather common.  

Zoning is another simple reason melee struggle.  To work at all, melee need to enter the ability and attack range of other champions, which subjects them to the whims of their opponents skills.  This includes the vast number of CC and disengage skills.  These skills hurt melee more than any other due to their limited range.  

Finally, auto-attacks are about sustained damage.  You not only have to be in range, you must stay in range to kill people.  Assassins have a lot of upfront burst in their abilities and it helps them get around the "please stand still so I can kill you" effect.  To get the most out of melee auto-attacks, you need CC to hold them in place.  But team-fights are not what they used to be.    

Nail 2: Rise of the Skirmish or "How Disengage got better"

When I watch team-fights in LCS, I rarely seem the same kind of 5 on 5 we used to see in season 2.  Powerful team fight compositions are still possible, but they are similar to a one-shot rifle, you have one chance with your AOE's to win.  But if you look into a lot of team comps, mobility assassins are very common and champions with good disengage are also normal picks.  How do you lock down and destroy a team if they can run away when they want?  

Think of champions that have come out, many have mobility or CC that help them to escape from bad situations.  If these are common, then AOE is much more difficult to land and as such it is even harder for melee champions to get in and do their job.  Too often have I seen very strong CC AOE compositions just do nothing due to simply falling back, and then re-engage for the kill.  Champions like Kennen do not have the same power they used to have and champions like JayceNidalee and Diana, who are strong at all points with no big ultimate become extremely popular.  When teams want more damage, they look to assassins who do not need the same time to kill as attacking melee.  So I can get good disengage/escape, good engage and good damage on an assassin and not take something that requires the enemy team to comply or build my team around?  Assassins just sound better.   

Finally consider the prominence of split pushing.  Here is something that auto attack champions can do well, but is their wave clear anywhere near the level of ability based champions?  By and large, no.  Zed especially can push lanes faster than almost anyone.  And they have the AD to kill turrets too.    

Nail 3: Ability based champions work just fine for the same role

Champions whose damage comes from abilities simply work.  Their damage is not sustained and would not crack a tank, but who cares?  You rarely go after a tank anyway.  Assassins have a large enough burst to win team fights and are much harder to shut down in lane with their mobility.  So why take someone like Jax or Udyr?  Nasus and Renekton have strong AOE ults and fantastic abilities.  Jax and Udyr need to auto-attack to win fights.  But who holds still to let that happen?  Zed does all the damage needed, in way less time.  

Another thing to mention is laning.  By and large, there are a lot more champions that can go top lane and make melee's lives difficult.  Elise, Zed, Kha'zix and Diana, all have decent laning phases and do not suffer in team fights.  Plus, they are highly flexible picks with the ability to go mid or top.  Even better in a highly competitive environment.  Elise is such a B**** against a lot of melee with her poke and disengage.  We saw this happening long before now, but the coffin just was not nearly as tight as it is now.  As much as I love Jax, he just cannot stand up to Elise, Vlad or Kayle in general use.  In fact, Kayle scales up like he does!      

Nail 4: Players are getting better

While there are ELO's where melee auto attacking is still enough to get the job done, the community's better than it used to be.  As we go forward, the same tricks will not always work at the same level of play.  Melee requires players to be reachable and the community as a whole is simply becoming harder to reach.  As a result, melee are needing more to get and stay in. Irelia is one of the best at getting in and staying in, but even she isn't the most competitive pick right now.

The skill ceiling on melee champions is getting lower, as opponents are getting better and have more options to deal with melee. 

Nail-Removers: Can Melee auto attacking be made better again? 

Auto-Attack champions have a lot against them.  But the same things that make it hard for them to work are the same things that keep them in check.  If you leave AD Yi alone in a team fight, he will wreck your team.  The damage steroids on melee are much higher and this makes sense due to the riskier nature of melee.  If we were to introduce something that made them all become CC immune for a time, they would destroy teams.  What can be done? 

Remakes are one possibility.  Some of the older champions like Yi, could really use a kit remake.  His kit has not done well for a long time and only has a gimmicky AP build.  Something rather silly for a master swordsman.  But do we really want to see Jax, Fiora and other champions remade to be more like Zed/Kha'Zix?   Isn't the fact that they are reliant on right-clicking the entire appeal? 

Adding more baseline defensiveness is one way.  Basically you make them pseudo-tanks with the understanding that they will take a lot more damage than other champions to do their job.  The problem here is that they could easily start to replace tanks.  Some of them do have CC after-all.  The reverse is true too, give them more offense and they have no reason to build anything but tank items.  See season 2 Irelia for what happens then. 

Higher tenacity to make CC less effective?  But does every one of them need to have built in tenacity to keep going?  Doesn't this create a sort of arms race where each melee champion must have a steroid/slow/gap-closer/tenacity before they can be useful?

How about combating some basic mechanics like letting a melee attack and move at the same time?  But that would require either a sweeping system change to allow melee to do that.  And would we allow only heavy auto attacking champions or all melee? 

I feel like I am trying to solve a physics equation but did not do the reading for the last month.  It looks so hard, but there has to be a solution right?   

Wrap-up

The environment has changed so much from when the game came out.  Each season changes the entire dynamics of the game but as some rise, some fall.  Sadly, melee attackers have been in a bad place for a long time.  Burst mages are in a similar boat, utility mages and assassins take their job.  What do these champions do to make themselves more interesting and useful?  Riot, I do not envy you on this one, but I really look forward to your solution because I really do not know.    

       

124

Comments

  • #124 Dj0z

    And here comes Aatrox

  • #122 Manimalist

    The fundamental difference between auto-attackers and bursters is that auto-attackers can keep dealing damage consistently while bursters have a long downtime while they wait for their skills to refresh. Therefore, melee ADC must look for windows where they can't be focused by CC and damage (as you said), or simply wait for their "carry" damage to become so high that they can kill squishy enemies as quickly as burst assassins. As such, they're basically doing the same thing, but at different stages of the game. (Assassins can auto-attack more late game if aa windows present themselves, and melee carries can burst more late game.)

  • #110 mellored

    1: Adjust Move Speed.  Melee Champs need to move faster.  Likely this means eliminating/reduce slow stacking.  You can often be inflicted by multiple slows, but rarely do you get more then 1 speed boost.  So ash with a frozen mallet can't circle the poor guy forever.  Or if caitline net's firoa after her dashes, she can still catch up.  Though possibly boosting slow reduction masteries/boots of speed things as well.

    2: Adjust lifesteal.   No one else uses this stat but auto-attackers, so tweak it to give melee an advantage.  Say... 2/3 lifesteal on ranged attacks.  BoTRK probably needs tweaking as well.

  • #111 Jielhar

    1. Slow stacking is already pretty punitive. Not only is it multiplicative, every slow other than the most powerful one has only 1/3rd effectiveness. Let me illustrate with an example:

    You get affected by a 40% slow effect. You now move at 60% speed. Now you get affected by a second 40% slow effect; you now move at 52% speed. Now you get affected by a third 40% slow effect; you now move at 45% speed. With 4 slows, you move at 39%; at 5 slows, 34%; at 6 slows, 29%; at 7 slows, 25%; at 8 slows, 22%.

    So you can be affected by 8 slowing effects of 40% slow each, and you'll be less slowed than by one 80% slow from, say, Karthus's wall. Frozen Mallet on Ashe is a pretty terrible idea.

    2. I'm not sure Lifesteal is the solution here. It can be a very binary statistic, which can be pretty useless for melee champs when they're behind, but be game-breakingly strong if they're ahead and heal themselves up faster than you can damage them.

  • #116 mellored

    Quote from Jielhar »

    1. Slow stacking is already pretty punitive. Not only is it multiplicative, every slow other than the most powerful one has only 1/3rd effectiveness. Let me illustrate with an example:

    You get affected by a 40% slow effect. You now move at 60% speed. Now you get affected by a second 40% slow effect; you now move at 52% speed. Now you get affected by a third 40% slow effect; you now move at 45% speed. With 4 slows, you move at 39%; at 5 slows, 34%; at 6 slows, 29%; at 7 slows, 25%; at 8 slows, 22%.

    So you can be affected by 8 slowing effects of 40% slow each, and you'll be less slowed than by one 80% slow from, say, Karthus's wall. Frozen Mallet on Ashe is a pretty terrible idea.

    2. I'm not sure Lifesteal is the solution here. It can be a very binary statistic, which can be pretty useless for melee champs when they're behind, but be game-breakingly strong if they're ahead and heal themselves up faster than you can damage them.

    1: Well.. yea.  Point still stands, melee needs to move faster.  Udry needs to be faster then ashe, but currently, his bear stance is not fast enough to counter her constant slowing, even with his higher base speed.

    2: Yes, and no.  I mean, yes, in a straight up fight, they would win.  But who's going to give them a straight up fight?  Melee need a sustain boost because they are constantly poked, ranged does not.

  • #121 sephenix

    1) Ashes Q needs to be pointless? You want every melee in the game to be able to ignore it? It's actually quite weak already; Udyr flash-bear will force an ult or death. Melee already have a fairly large MS advantage. Look at the base stats.

    2) Lifesteal implies that the melee is able to attack, so they no longer need it. Giving them defensive abilities might help (like counterstrike, or turtle stance, or wither, or golden aegis?).

  • #101 Pelikins

    Some of the biggest nerfs to melee carries has be in itemization itself. Attack speed, crit chance, and life steal have all become more expensive and had their values nerfed since early season 2. When was the last time you saw anyone build a ghostblade? Who would build a inherently low synergy item like ghostblade when an item like black cleaver which has excellent synergy and team utility exists? Melee carries don't have the itemization options that other champions have...

    Then you look at on hit effects... anything melee can do, ranged can do better. With the exception of FM, all on hit effects can be applied just as well by ranged as melee, but more safely and more reliably.

    In true Riot fashion, Riot went ahead and nerfed all the stuff that was good, because it was good without taking into consideration other changes that were being made simultaneously. So you ended up with all the good auto attacker stuff being nerfed into the ground (wit's end for example) and at the same time tons of tools for casters being added. Of course auto attackers are lack luster now...

    Riot desperately needs to improve auto attacker itemization. Wit's end, ghostblade, executioner's calling, malady, ravenous hydra, sword of the divine, and tiamat could all use a substantial buff.

    If you want melee carries to be decent, give us some decent melee carry itemization, and they will be decent (rework Fiora while you're at it, she's terrible). But you could make Trynd and Yi competitive picks as duelist/split pushers if you just gave them the itemization choices to do so. Riot has these nice melee only items which they could be using to allow auto attackers to get a foothold, but then they are terrible items because despite the melee only restriction, melees don't have any desire to use them because the items with no restriction are better anyway...

    Who's going to take a RH over BotRK? No body. Who's going to take ghostblade over black cleaver? No body. Who's going to take exectutioner's calling, or wit's end when they are mid tier items that interfere with your late game build, but don't give you a nice power spike in the mid game? No body...

    Riot has many of the solutions right in front of them... when chalice wasn't popular, what did they do? They made Grail. When guise wasn't popular what did they do? They made BFT and Liandry's. Now those items are staples. Why not the same treatment for wit's end and executioner's and all the other useless mid tier items that have no build path?

    Allow wit's end to combine with a giant's belt and add tenacity or aoe damage reduction and bam! Melee auto attackers have a niche item that allows them function that other roles aren't going to be able to advantage of except in specific instances... Buff ghostblade and RH to include stats that melee carries desperately need (such as on hit CC/ team utility) and all of a sudden melee auto attackers are seeing play again...

    Last edited by Pelikins: 5/15/2013 8:16:25 AM
  • #104 RoakOriginal

    That's bcs thos eitems are used by ranged carries, and they really dont need so much gold effciency now, cuz they are raping people anyway...

    Ghostblade ? Bought it in aram yesterday...

    And even that BC u are cryin about, aint bought that much anymore... Some "filler" item if u have gold only for smaller parts, and u cant rush BT/LW... Or if u play garen... O_o

    And triforce/IG were nerfed for ranged, werent they? And noone uses other on-hit items... :D

    U are right about riot nerfing some good stuff, and about lack of items for melee autoattackers, but rest of your post is quite off... :D (ok wits end was spot on)

  • #107 Pelikins

    First off, your remark is offensive, ignorant, and you sound like a twat.

    Ok, let me rephrase. No one buy's ghostblade in competitive play. ARAMs never count... for anything and should never be a basis for balance. So many game mechanics are missing from that format... And ghostblade is actually worse in ARAMs than it is in normals since avarice blade is worth substantially less value and the active on ghostblade is less valuable since horn does the same thing but is much more powerful and cheaper.

    I wasn't crying about BC. I was stating that any champion that chooses to build brutilzer is going to turning it into a BC, rather than a ghostblade

    And IBG were not nerfed for range. That never got out of PBE and triforce was NEVER NERFED FOR RANGE. You made that up in your simple little mind.

    Also, never use the word ain't... it makes you sound like a moron...

    Last edited by Pelikins: 5/15/2013 8:36:58 AM
  • #112 Pikohchu

    "Your remark is offensive, so I'm gonna call you ignorant, a twat, and a moron."

    and IBG gets a half-sized circle for ranged and Trinity Force slow is 20% for ranged, instead of 30%.

    Haven't played in a while?

  • #114 Pikohchu

    Oh...and please don't compare Ghostblade active to Horn active. It just makes you sound more ignorant.

  • #115 Jielhar

    Quote from Pelikins »

    And IBG were not nerfed for range. That never got out of PBE and triforce was NEVER NERFED FOR RANGE.

    You are wrong:

    "Slow field radius for ranged champions reduced to 210 from 275. Slow field radius for melee champions increased to 285 from 275." http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/Iceborn_Gauntlet

    "Unique Passive - Icy: Your basic attacks have a 25% chance to slow your target's movement speed by 30% for 2 seconds (20% for ranged attacks)." http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/Trinity_Force

  • #100 RedFisher

    What about the fact that they also nerfed pretty much every Movespeed item in the game? I feel like a melee carry simply needs to be much faster than everyone else (along with a gap closer) in order for them to be viable at all. And probably some type of Life Steal steroid on them as well.

  • #113 Pikohchu

    I think that was to balance the fact that they gave everyone +25 MS. 

    I think a nice change would be for melee champions to get more out of movement speed items.

  • #117 Dj0z

    Quote from Pikohchu »

    I think that was to balance the fact that they gave everyone +25 MS. 

    I think a nice change would be for melee champions to get more out of movement speed items.

    They do because they have higher base movement speed than ranged carries, but it's a small amount. That amount was also made relatively weaker when they gave everyone +25 MS without giving more than that to melees.

    For example imagine, if in S2 ranged ADCs had 50 MS and melee ADCs had 75. That makes melee ADCs 50% faster than rangeds. Now, still in that imaginary world, in S3 they gave +25 to everyone: rangeds now have 75 MS and melees have 100 MS. That makes melees only 33% faster than rangeds, which is an indirect nerf.

    While the numbers in the imaginary scenario are way off, giving melees the same flat bonus MS as rangeds when we moved to S3 did have a similar effect (of a much smaller size, but still). This is still only relevant before anyone gets boots though.

    The good news is that %MS items still benefit melees more than rangeds because of the higher base, which is why i advocate getting at least 1 %MS rune if you want to play a melee carry. Every inch matters when you must stick to someone to deal damage at all.

  • #97 Arcane_Azmadi

    I'd say you can help solve the mechanical issue by simply remodelling the dedicated melee autoattackers (on a case-by-case basis) so they have much, MUCH faster animations. Don't increase their attack speed, just make their swings quicker, with less flourish, so they can move between attacks more quickly.

  • #96 Cerbereth

    Good riddance melee auto attackers I always hated you.

    Anyway I think we just need to let that part of the champion pool die and rework them into more ability oriented champions like Riven and Khazix.

    There is no counter play to a viable melee carry. To be viable a melee carry needs huge offensive steroids, cc immunity, and either defensive steroids or outright invulnerability. If Tryndamere was viable he would outright crush lower elo's.

    Better we take Tryndamere and give him better abilities so he can go around casting them and having a noticeable effect in game like Zed or Renekton.  

  • #91 Coolomat

    I dont know why ppl keep on crying that melee aa champs suck, the solution to all their problems is hydra. You get ur Aoe for Teamfights, splitpush like a god, and if u manage to get another lifesteal item you're almost unkillable in teamfights ( 1 guy talked about the ad yi who healed mroe than  the enemy team cud dmg him. It may not work for competetive but in soloq it works rlly good,  not to forget that most melees are really strong duelists, which makes them even better at splitpuhsing

  • #102 Jolan

    Why would you pick a champ who requires a Hydra to splitpush over an AD Assassin with innate instant wave clear who can both splitpush and be effective in teamfights without requiring a specific item?

  • #88 Jielhar

    Lots of people have said this before, and I will say it again: autoattack range is severely undervalued by Riot. When you compare LoL to similar games where autoattack-focused melee champions don't suck, you'll see that the lack of range is compensated for with FAR more than a paltry 1.25 Mres/level; in DotA 2 for instance, a long ranged champion will have roughly half the base attack speed as a melee champion, and melee champions can itemize against CC far more strongly (Black King Bar makes champions essentially immune to enemy spells, including almost all forms of CC, for 8 seconds). A LoL equivalent for this would be for the base attack speed for melee champions to be twice that of ranged ones, and as a consequence their AS growth per level and effectiveness of AS items also being twice as strong; AND melee champions all getting baseline Tenacity.

    In short, melee autoattack champions would need pretty massive buffs across the board in order to be competitive, and I doubt we're going to see those anytime soon. IF Riot decides to make the necessary changes to make melee autoattack champions not suck, this would probably happen for LoL Season 4, as they prefer to only make small, incremental changes during seasons.

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