Why bruisers are still underpowered

My name is VVinrar hashinshin and today I'm going to explain why bruisers are the single most underpowered class in all of League of Legends.  If you surf around Reign of Gaming, Lolpro, or General Discussion, you will find many different discussions on Black Cleaver.  Keeping all of these arguments in mind, what I have been finding is that The Black Cleaver is not an actual item for AD casters, but rather an item with a perfect build path for too many physical damage classes that is proving toxic to the game.  In the current point in time, the only way that The Black Cleaver can actually be countered is with more Black Cleavers.

Black Cleaver is not an AD Caster item

As a low Elo scrub S3 2300 Elo diamond player who only plays Jax and Rengar, I am extremely sad about the prevalance of Black Cleavers in every game I play, especially since Jax and Rengar can't rush the item effectively.

Right now, when you rush BC with full armor penetration runes straight off the bat, you can do true damage to any champion that has less than 60 armor.  In theory, this would make AD casters very strong, but the problem is that if the enemy also has a BC on their AD carry or a bruiser, you'll die just as fast.  Since everybody in the game is now doing true damage to each other, this means that AD casters are now in a worse place than before: if the very champions that target AD casters (bruisers) can now optimally use the very item that was designed for the class, casters are now weaker in comparison.

Effectively, bruisers that formerly may have been building tanky now can use Black Cleaver with the same effectiveness as AD assassins.  If AD carries, bruisers, junglers, and AD casters can all rush the item, what does this mean? The item has grossly bloated stats (which now conveniently scale with the new penetration system) and is heavily out of line with intended design damage.  Additionally, since bruisers can now use 'ad caster' items, you would logically conclude that the class is much stronger than before, right?  Wrong!  Since everybody now does true physical damage with the new BC, bruisers are even worse off than Season 2 since they aren't even effective anymore in the midgame.  Since the Black Cleaver now makes everybody deal true physical damage, bruisers have been downgraded from marginally important to a throwaway meat shield for your BC-wielding AD carry.

VVinrar's hashinshin's solution to Black Cleaver

My proposed fix for this item is as follows: replace ruby crystal in the recipe with a dagger, don't give additional armor penetration on upgrade, reduce damage to 5% per stack, and then increase price by 650 gold after all of these nerfs.  Why is this?  Health on a bruiser/caster item is too perfect to be true.  Attack speed is less essential, and it'll put the item more in line for pure damage dealing instead of both survivability and damage.  Additionally, the item is already statistically effective with one stack of resistance shred.  In order to put it in line with other AD items like Blade of the Ruined King, the cost needs to be nerfed by at least another 800-1000 gold, which is where the penetration and cost nerfs come in.  And these calculations aren't even factoring the armor penetration shred: if Riot truly wants to balance this POS item, the nerfs need to come fast and hard.  My solution may seem dramatic, but that's how much the stats need to be nerfed to bring BC in line with other items with similar cost and function.

Penetration is overpowered

Even with the upcoming Black Cleaver nerf (15 ->10 armor penetration, 30% -> 25% armor penetration with 4 stacks) penetration will still be too strong.  In order for a Last Whisper to penetrate the same amount of damage as a fully stacked Black Cleaver, the target champion needs to have at least 100 armor.  That means if you're a squishy target with less than 100 armor, you're gonna get owned by that Black Cleaver stack.  Since the bruiser with the Last Whisper is going to be gunning for the carry anyways, it's worth it to buy a Brutalizer or Black Cleaver over the Last Whisper in 90% of cases.

Compare the two items.  One gives you 35% penetration and damage, and the other one gives you 30% penetration, 15 armor penetration, health, and damage.  Comparing these two figures alone, there is no advantage to buying a Last Whisper over The Black Cleaver, especially since everybody is picking BC-rushing bruisers over traditional tanky tanks.  Even better: if you combine the two items together you will reduce the armor of every champion in the game to nearly zero.

But if the penetration stack isn't as powerful with the future, what will we do?  Well, here's the thing.  Youmuu's Ghostblade hasn't been nerfed yet, and for an additional 1300 gold you can still upgrade Brutalizer and gain an additional 10 (nonunique) armor penetration, critical strike, damage, and a fun active.  It's even more effective than buying a second BC stack as it gives better endgame offensive stats, so combining these two items will lead to even more broken game paths.  Even with the upcoming Brutalizer/BC 'nerf', nothing will change in the metagame: all we'll see is glass cannons rushing Black Cleaver into Youmuu's in low Elo brackets instead of a BC stack.  With the new penetration formula, 10 armor pen in the new season is just as strong, or even stronger than 15 armor penetration than in Season 2 because it scales better into the mid/endgame where it is effective.

Season 3 items

Let's review what happened this season:

  • AD carries can now rush BC and stomp games,
  • Bruisers can now rush BC and stomp games.
  • AD casters can now rush BC and stomp games if they don't get stomped by the BC bruiser first.
  • Hell, even the jungler can rush BC and stomp games if they get fed.
  • Supports now have infinite wards.
  • AP carries are still strong early-mid game, but since I am hashinshin I think they are OP.

I've been trying to temporarily ignore the penetration tank phenomenon and explore the possibilities of 6 item builds with the new Season 3 items for some mathcrafting fun, but that's been impossible.  Games reach an endgame state even more decisively than Season 2, so I haven't even been able to accurately test any of the new item builds.  Without a testing ground to evaluate new builds, there is no way players can experiment on new item build paths without being stomped by penetration items.  The new jungler and AP carry items are so expensive (and nonessential) that by the time you have enough money to buy them, the game is already over because one champion or another has snowballed out of control.

For the new season, I see three items that were designed for AD casters: Blade of the Ruined King, Ravenous Hydra, and The Black Cleaver.  The thing is, nobody buys the first two items because the third one is statistically superior in every way: you get all of the damage you need for the midgame AND the penetration now scales hard into the endgame.  The Black Cleaver is the ultimate bruiser item in its current state: health, damage, cooldown reduction, and late game scaling.  The other two items are good, but not good enough compared to the behemoth that is BC.  The stats and actives they give simply cannot compare to the armor shred and pure offensive stats, and in the current state of the game there is no point in buying either of the items over BC.

Even with the upcoming nerfs, I see the item as a huge anti-fun balance liability in the near future because it can make any AD-based champion instantly broken upon purchase of the item.  There are very limited ways you can counter Black Cleaver due to the armor shred, and the only way you can truly fight it is to gear up with your own BC.  It seems like a huge misstep by Riot to give a damage item that also gives health and perfect bruiser stats; how did they not anticipate that everybody would rush it, given the hype everyone gave it upon PBE release?

TL;DR: VVinrar hashinshin mad as usual, carry on with your day.


FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @HASHINSHIN just kidding, I don't check my Twitter; like me at facebook.com/vvinrar.

Disclaimer: This post isn't totally serious,  as seen with the hashinshin-parody theme, but I honestly believe that every point I made in this article is valid.  Even with the upcoming black cleaver nerf, I don't think the game is in a very good place given the prevalence of penetration-heavy teams.

For more of my work:

-- Find old posts @ the RoG forums and new posts every Thursday.
-- Find my Item Efficiency Spreadsheet at bit.ly/s3items.

-- Feel free to find me in the "A DIFFerent View" chatroom on the NA server.
-- Contact me at [email protected]
-- Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.




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