Mobility and CC Creep
Gentleman Gustaf here, following up on a post from last week. Last week, I looked at whether newer champions were more likely to be considered high tier. This week, I want to look into something more specific, namely whether or not newer champions have more CC or mobility. It's often alleged that newer champions have more mobility, citing champions like Ahri, and more CC, citing champions like Nautilus. While it is true that some recent champions have had high CC or mobility kits, is this a new phenomenon? And is it as strong as it seems? As a proponent of the idea of Mobility Creep, I was excited to look into this topic to verify my opinions. Here's what I found.
First off, what is mobility? Mobility generally has three components; base movement speed, gap closers, and movement speed buffs. I have chosen not to post my findings on base movement speed here; they are highly uninteresting. Gap closers come in two varieties, untargeted and targeted. Movement speed buffs, on the other hand, are either single target or AoE (Nunu's is double target, but is the only one of its kind. For the purposes of my calculations, I considered it single target). So how has mobility changed over time? First, let's look at gap closers. There are a few important things to know about all the graphs to follow. According to these graphs, there would appear to only be 75-80 champions. This is because I have counted champions released at the same time as having been released together; they still count as separate data points, but they are all the same number release. The line on each graph is the best-fit line, with its equation in the top right corner. The more erratic 'curve' that goes above and below that line is the 15 champion average; it averages the 7 champions before and after (as well as the champion itself).
We can see that there does see to be a slight increase of gap closers over time.
But Gentleman Gustaf, how can .0018 more gap closers per release be significant?
It may seem tiny, but consider .0018 as a percentage of the y-intercept. It would take about 130 champions for the amount of untargeted gap closers to have doubled. This would be quite the significant increase. But for targeted gap closers it's even more significant. The average number of target gap closers increases by 100% (on average) about every 40 champion releases. In total, that number is about 75; the local average number of gap closers is on the rise, and appears to have (nearly) doubled. On the other hand, if we look at Move Speed buffs, the numbers are much different:
It take almost 600 champions, with the current trend, for move speed buffs to double. So whatever selective pressures there are for gap closers, they don't exist for movement speed buffs. What exactly are these selective pressures? I posit (following many others before me), that the selective pressures are kite-heavy AD Carries, either those with slows or those with gap closers. Because most AD carries get PD, and as such, are quite fast, and as well, have either an AoE slow or a flash, it can be very hard to track them down. If you've ever heard 'Udyr's weakness is that he's easily kited, this is what people mean. Any AD Carry with a slow or a blink is going to make Udyr chase a long ways to catch them; throw in an item with a slow, like Trinity Force, and all of a sudden the champion may just be too slippery for an old-school bruiser like Udyr to catch. So what happened? Over time, more champions needed gap closers or CC reduction (looking at you, Irelia), just to be able to keep up with the AD Carries. All of a sudden, we have a competitive game. Movement speed buffs are going to lose out to slows, due to the way that the move speed soft cap works, so you need a gap closer to get onto or near an AD carry (of course, there is also the reverse method, CC). However, as more and more bruisers get gap-closers, AoE slows are no longer as effective, as bruisers are no longer just running full-tilt at you. So AD carries needed to evolve to have more blinks or dashes (or at least, more consistently to have them). If you look at recent AD carry releases, most have a blink or dash, and those who don't (Varus or Draven) have been somewhat lackluster. I'm not sure that their lacklusternss is a result of the complexity of their kits or their lack of mobility; only time will tell.
Now for the other side of the equation: CC
CC has undergone quite the interesting change. There aren't MORE CC ablities, per se (well, slightly), but single target CCs have decreased significantly over time, with a near-equal increase in AoE CCs. As well, single target skill-shot CCs have increased slightly over time. Overall, it would take over 1100 champion releases (at the current trend) for CC to doubled. But the shift from single target to AoE CC is significant. First, it is interesting from a skill perspective. Single target, targeted CCs are much easier to land and have much less counter-play, making them less interesting, while AoE CCs have a lot more potential gradations of skill to reveal. That is, there's not much skill at play in between Taric stunning two different targets. But a good Cho can save his rupture to hit 3 targets, or blow it early on one. But second, it really increases the amount of CC, while decreasing its reliability. This gives us exactly what we want. The overall increase in CC is good; it lets you have counter-play to the (now very gap-closing) bruisers in protecting your carries. However, it is CC that requires more skill to use, allowing for more nuanced gameplay.
The increase in slows, on the other hand, is largely irrelevant with all of the gap closers.
So where does this leave us? Well, the top three AD carries at the moment (Graves/Corki/EZ) all have blinks or jumps or dashes. But champions like Kog'Maw or Ashe are still quite viable; they just need the right compositions around them (isolation/burst comps for Ashe, and protection compositions for Kog'Maw). Both types of compositions require more CC to be available, which, conveniently enough, there is now. So is there more mobility now? A lot. Is there more CC to counter it? Sort of. But what's most interesting is this data in light of my previous post. There has been an increase in mobility, and to a degree, in CC. So how does the game remain balanced around new and old champions? In large part because of counter-play and specific compositions. If one champion on the other team has a lot of mobility, you don't necessarily need a champion with a lot of CC to counter it; you can also just get slightly more CC on every one of your picks. If one champion gets a lot of CC, you get a champion with CC reduction, and so on. And those CC and mobility increases aren't done in a vacuum. Graves may be more mobile than Kog'Maw, but Kog'Maw does more damage late game. Yes, there appears to have been some mobility and CC creep. But since, the data doesn't suggest that there has been power creep, other factors must be at play.
As a slight sidenote: I did note a slight amount of bruiser and AD carry power creep. Nothing intensely serious, but still enough to be notable. For bruisers, I think it is probably just a result of the previously mentioned jungler creep, as many junglers are bruisers or tanks. For AD Carries, given that this power creep is MUCH more notable when you discard Varus and Draven, it is possible that mobility creep has created some power creep with regards to AD carries. As well, the only new (last 6) AP carry who is high tier (Ahri) is made of mobility. I am not saying mobility creep is not a factor in game balance, just that there is no reason to think that there is significant power creep outside of isolated cases, anecdotes, and very specific contexts, in large part because the game has to be balanced around not just champions, but teams and compositions.