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.




  • #80 Ellestar

    AD carries can now rush BC and stomp games

    I'm not sure why it's mentioned first.

    It should be more like that:

    Last line: If any of the above didn't happen, and AD carries aren't being oneshotted, they can also try to rush BC and stomp games.

  • #77 BeaverFresh
    1. Hashinshin is so biased all his posts are about tanks/bruisers and how much they suck. It's the same boring stuff repackaged over and over. 
  • #78 BuddyBoombox

    yet no one complains that Gustaf only posts about AD carry stuff...

  • #79 xcalibro

    You must be joking.


  • #75 Lubacardica

    are we kidding?

  • #72 Misticaltom
  • #68 Aquamadur

    Now your own team makes fun of you hashinshin.

  • #67 MirrorBound

    I think that the BC nerfs are too soft. Right now, I think that it could still give health, but have the shred reduced to 5%. Maybe if it's too much it could be 5% on 5 stacks, instead of 6.5% on 4, but if we want the health it is better 4 stacks of 5%.
    Remembering other thing that most people said, Sightstone wards need to give at least 25 gold. Don't know why am I writing this here.
    Ravenous Hydra is kind of weak, right now. It's an awesome item for bruisers, but it needs to be more attractive for people, so they buy it. Maybe the nerfs to BC, if they go as far as to reduce the stacks to 5%, would make this item more attractive.
    Or, maybe the best thing, would be to make the armor shred Passive Unique. Just saying.

    Last edited by MirrorBound: 12/14/2012 8:52:52 AM
  • #64 Rispudding

    Stop confusing AD casters with AD caster assassins. The later is a smal subclass of the former. Why can't RoG witters understand the difference? (especially ironic that hashinshin can't considering his name). 

    BC is meant as an AD caster item, most AD casters (thogugh some are assassins and some are eve ADCs) are bruisers so it works well on a lot of bruisers. Writing AD casters get stomped by bruisers makes no sense. AD caster assassins get stomped by bruisers, allways have and allwasy will. This has nothing to do with BC, it has with assassins (AD caster type and AP caster type) being countered by champions with to much deference for them to burst combined with enough damage to kill them after the burst (i.e. the bruiser).

    In its current OP form I would actually argue it makes assassins stronger because BC makes carries stronger and bruiser weaker, making anti carries more important and stronger. The penetration changes of course also made it very easy for AD caster assassins to build to do true dmg to carries. And in the game were everyone does true dmg to everyone assassins win because they can deliver their damage instantly.

    It does not matter to Talon if the enemy carry does true damage to him as long as he can get to them and 1 shot them with his burst he will kill them before they can do any substantial damage to him, true or not. And this just got a lot easier for him since BC has weakened the front lines of teams and he does more damage now thanks to penetration changes and that AD is cheaper.

    AD caster assassins are strong now because they are the best anti carries in the game now and can take out the enemy ADC. After they have killed the enemy ADC it does not matter if the enemy bruisers kill them with truedmg as your teams ADC will kill the bruisers so easily now. They are also strong because they are good mid and unlike ap mids (who must build Sorc shoes since pen is so strong) they can build boots of mobility to roam, giving them more opertunities to snowball. Talon can snowball early, build 1 BC and instaburst squishies mid game, build another and instaburst them all game, build another and instaburst bruisers, build a 4th and instaburst tanks. Finish of with mercurial scimitar so you can escape after you instaburst your target or build SoTD so you can burst 2-3 targets per CD cycle (not counting resets). 

    "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."

    BoRK is a on hit item. It scales very well with attack speed. BT is better for casters. BoRK is better for auto attackers. BoRK is not a AD caster item. 

    AD caster items you forgot: Mercurial Scimitar and SotD. Mercurial Scimitar gives pure AD, a cleanse + escape and enough MR to survive the counter burst an AP carry will throw at you when you dive them. SotD is The AD caster Deathcap, it will ad 3-4 x Total AD to your burst.   

    I did enjoy hashinshin parody though and you make good points about the OPnes of BC. Talon building 4 of them is just a testimony to that as this item was meant for AD caster bruisers, not assassins like him. Talon is supposed to build Bruta + LW +BT (which is a strong build on him btw) for selfish pen and damage, but BC is just so OP right now. 

    Last edited by Rispudding: 12/14/2012 5:27:09 AM
  • #62 Cerbereth

    I have to apologize to Hashinshin, so I am going to conveniently apologize in this thread that was totally written by Hashinshin. I once argued against Ad carry nerfs, because I said that weaker ad carries would slow down games and that we would all be playing longer games, because of it.

    That did not come to pass and instead the complete opposite is true. People are now playing early game carries like Caitlyn and Graves, and games are ending incredibly fast (they even had to buff rod of ages to charge faster in order to get people to buy it). I have been getting Infinity edge in 16 minutes and I am sure better csers than I could do it even faster.  Carries like Tristana and Kogmaw are pretty much not being used as long games hardly ever happen so there is no reason to use them.

    So I was wrong weaker adcs do not make games longer they make them shorter and it killed the hyper carry. (One day I will play you again Tristana I promise)



  • #60 vhu9644

    Lol, this was pretty funny haha

  • #59 exacerberus

    Wow!, your syntax has dramatically improved lately VVinrar Hashinshin! Kudos for that ^_^

    Too bad you had already said BC was a grossly fat stat stick which any AD would have rush-abused, so this article feels a bit repetitive... We all know that already, BC is OP as fk. I always get 6-7 of them on Veigar, always win never lose.

  • #54 MalAndato

    Maybe this idea is stupid, but: why don't give assassin ad casters (Talon, Zed and similar) flat armor penetration per level? In this way they will be almost sure to burst the enemy champion as assassin ap casters do and BC and company would be much stronger on them than on bruisers.

    I have the intuition that I will be bashed hard for this post. 

  • #55 Gameguy301
    im not going to bash you just say its incredibly artificial. champion x y and z will be getting free flat armor penetration because "they suck and we cant figure out how to fix that". if more damage is your goal thats what base AD and AD per level are for somthing other champions already get per level, armor penetration is a stat that no other champions get just for leveling it would feel weird, forced even.

    but atleast your looking at the champions and not begging for items to float an entire class.
    Last edited by Gameguy301: 12/13/2012 8:00:18 PM
  • #56 MalAndato

    I your opinion, with how much AD Talon should begin at level 1 and end up at 18? And how much AD per level? I'm not so good with calculations and I cannot think of a balanced new value for AD and AD per level. 

    P.S. I proposed ArmPen because it sounds a lot scarier than AD from the point of view of a bruiser enemy champ. 

  • #57 JocularThePeasant

    I think the champions need to be rebalanced. Instead of catering to them with items, they need to focus on changing their abilities/scaling. I think they're just taking the "easy" way out with BC.

  • #61 K0stra

    "My company was able to write and test RPG module with several new classes and perks in a shorter time perion then Riot needs to make Karma finally work"

    Yes i also get a feeling Riot preffers to treat symptoms before disease.

  • #71 stuffedcheesybread

    @MalAndato From what I understand, at least in Zed's case, he gets an extra percentage of his bonus AD from his w passive. This isn't quite the same as the free armor pen per level you suggest, but I do think this passive scaling system should be used more often with other AD casters to insure their burst potential scales a bit better than a bruiser trying to rush the same items

  • #53 Zalfi

    so basically it sounds like everyone should just buy warmogs and other health stacking. since they are gonna deal true damage anyway.

    Last edited by Zalfi: 12/13/2012 6:00:19 PM
  • #47 Starfols

    Today, after another 3+ bruiser game, I joked that Hashinshin would make an article today saying that bruisers are still underpowered. I agree that pen. stacking (to an extent) and TBC are unhealthy for the game, but I still feel as if I need to break something.

    Also, are AD casters bruisers or not? The article is about bruisers being UP, but it specifically mentions that ad casters are being tossed around by ad carries and bruisers. It mentions bruisers are more prevalent etc etc., so I'm not sure what the deal is here.

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