Does Singed Benefit From Blackfire Torch?
You asked, we listened. Last week, I put up a poll asking what readers wanted to see more of on the Reign of Gaming frontpage. Beyond the most requested option of more frequent tier list updates, much of our core audience voted for more of our traditional "A DIFFerent View" mathcrafting, as well as more articles on ranked team gameplay. It's a subject that I have gradually strayed away from especially with RoG's transition to the current blogging team a few months ago, so I'm excited to get back into doing math. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more "mathy" posts, and (hopefully) some guest articles on ranked 5's gameplay.
Today's article is an effort to step in the mathcrafting direction; with the release of the new Twisted Treeline map have come nearly a dozen items designed specifically for the new map. One of the most hyped new items, Blackfire Torch, is designed specifically with AP casters in mind and has been speculated by much of the League community to be overpowered on some champions including but not limited to Singed, the Mad Chemist.
How much weaker is the Live version of Torch than the PBE version?
The pre-nerf (PBE) iteration of the Blackfire Torch did damage based on the enemy champion's maximum health rather than the champion's current health; this meant that if the item did full damage (no MR, no enemy regen) and continuously damaged enemies, they would die in exactly 60 seconds (or 120 seconds for procs off AoE damage). Effects like Mordekaiser's ultimate, Malzahar's E, or Fizz's W would proc the full item damage, while skills that count for AoE damage would include Swain's ultimate, and of course Singed's Poison Trail.
The current live version of the Blackfire Torch involved a significant nerf on the item's health burn: instead of straight line depreciation of health via enemy champion's maximum health, we see damage inflicted in a pattern of exponential decay (% current health). If you click the spoiler below, you can see a damage over time graph of the PBE torch compared to the current live version. There, you can see that the damage effect from between the PBE and current Blackfire Torch has been approximately reduced by more than one-third for single-target damage spells, while damage from area of effect spells has been reduced by about one-fifth compared to the previous iteration of the item.
Early game Singed: Rod of Ages or Blackfire Torch?
While it has been highly speculated that the Blackfire Torch is overpowered on champions like Singed, this is simply not true in the early game. With zero base magic penetration and ability power (nearly all top Singed players start with armor pen and tank runes/masteries movement speed quints and rather than extra ability damage and magic pen many players known for Singed play do not use offensive masteries, or offensive runes beyond basic magic penetration), Blackfire Torch does nearly the same damage as an unstacked Rod of Ages if both items are rushed into the early-mid game. Since Rod of Ages only costs 145 more gold than Blackfire Torch, it is actually a more efficient item to rush given that you also benefit from better base stats (more HP, MP, and HP) because Torch's passive is not yet effective against low damage targets. Additionally, as you accrue gold for your next item, RoA will gain stacks of additional stats which will allow to become tankier and kill your target a second or two faster than a Blackfire Torch alone.
It should be noted that in the calculations for the graph below, regeneration and penetration are not factored in, but I have included +12 additional MR (from runes/masteries) on base MR to account for mid-game play when most champions do not yet have additional survivability. Damage inflicted is only from Singed's Poison Trail, and does not include fling or autoattack damage.
What's the optimal endgame build?
In the graph below, the primary lines of comparison are the red and purple lines (Blackfire Torch + 80 AP, and 160 AP on Singed). These lines represent two-item builds on Singed since the two most common items built, Rod of Ages and Rylai's Crystal Scepter, each give an additional 80 AP. As you can see, there is nearly no difference in damage done between the common rush build of RoA/Rylai's between buying Blackfire Torch and one of these items. If anything, buying Blackfire Torch in its current form sacrifices a few bars of HP in order to increase kill speed on champions by a second.
The chart above represents a "late-game" enemy with a few health items and no additional MR. Below is a simulation of Singed versus the same enemy in a more realistic situation where they have purchased a negatron cloak. There is nearly no difference in kill speed between buying Blackfire Torch versus one of the other two items. This leads me to conclude today that in its current form, there is no reason that you should be buying the item on the new Twisted Treeline compared to the current standard of Singed builds. The marginal increase in damage dealt is not enough to offset the loss in survivability from buying the item.
Final Thoughts on Singed & Blackfire Torch
While you could consider Blackfire Torch as a third item, there is currently no reason why Singed should be building this item over more commonly accepted builds such as those used on Summoner's Rift. In the early-game, rushing a Rod of Ages actually will increase Singed's damage output more than rushing a Blackfire Torch in both unstacked and fully stacked versions. On the other hand, you may be able to get faster kills against high health targets in the mid to endgame, but this comes via sacrifice of both survivability and utility if you forgo Rod of Ages and/or Rylai's Crystal Scepter.
In its current iteration, Blackfire Torch is underpowered on Singed while the PBE version of the torch may have been too strong. In alpha testing, there was an item similar to Blackfire Torch called Wrathfire Bracelet that proved problematic to balance. It seems like Torch will follow this pattern because it is difficult to strike a balance between doing too much and too little damage. In its current state to be viable (at least on Singed), it needs some increase in either damage or base stats in order to justify a purchase because alternatives choices give scaling that is nearly as strong as the item's passive.
I hope you enjoyed reading my blog post, please comment with your thoughts below!
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