Overpowered: Perception vs. Reality
Since the beginning of Season 3, we've seen a number of trends of rushing certain overpowered items. The key culprits in these 'Rush the OP' trends have included The Black Cleaver, Warmog's Armor, and Blade of the Ruined King, and now (potentially) Randuin's Omen. These fads while sometimes justifiable also highlight a disturbing trend. Community perception of 'too much power' is often misguided in that we claim something is OP and then loudly complain about it without finding the logical counter to that problem.
While statistical data is important when balancing (especially for PBE), it isn't used as the sole decision maker in balancing decisions. Riot has confirmed to us that game balance is partially decided by player perception of power rather than the champions/item's true power. With that statement, we also have an implication: has anything ever been buffed or nerfed when it shouldn't have been?
My answer is yes. We've seen champions who by repute were nerfed too much (Irelia, Janna, Evelynn) while others were buffed to overpower just because they weren't common picks (Kayle, Gangplank). I would even argue that the recent HP5 nerf to Warmog's was a tiny bit over the top, let alone the recent BotRK reworks that have been causing so much trouble.
As a community, we shouldn't completely buy into hype. Even if something is statistically overpowered (think last week's post on the fallacies of item efficiency). Instead of complaining that something is too strong, we need to find the logical counter to our problems. The metagame is driven by finding what is overpowered, and finding the counter to it. At the beginning of the season, we had Black Cleavers, whose natural counter was stacking health (Warmog's), who in turn was beaten by health shredding (Blade of the Ruined King and then itemizing against on-hit effects (Randuin's Omen). To get better at the game, you as a person need to find a counter that will naturally beat what is strong at the current moment. It's tough to do this, but it's always possible given the number of champions and itemization choices that we have in the game.
What is underrated?
Below, I've listed a few items that I feel are statistically underrated and could break out into popularity at any time. Underrated not because their stats aren't useful, but underrated because they've benefited from indirect nerfs or as niche items. When I define underrated, I don't mean overpowered. I mean that these items have very high potential to be abused in the future as something that as OP, and I expect that Riot will balance these items in the coming months as they become popular.
- Nashor's Tooth: It's always been statistically overpowered, but the stats that it gives have never been relevant. That being said, the most recent buff to the item (removal of MP5) has made it a legitimate rush item for many AS-based AP carries, such as Kayle or AP Tryndamere.
- Athene's Unholy Grail: Athene's has been a staple rush item for many supporty AP carries since around the middle of Season Two, but the popularity of the item has dropped heavily with only an item nerf. Athene's is gold efficient even without taking its unique passives into account, and it's only become stronger with the Season Three patch. It's still strong on casters like Orianna and Lux, and I see no reason why it shouldn't be bought right now.
- Iceborn Gauntlet: With its role right now and the role that Riot has been trying to push Gauntlet into (check PBE notes), bruisers with Gauntlet may soon be very difficult to deal with; think bruisers and tanks like Hecarim, Malphite, and Shen permanently slowing your carries down.
- Trinity Force: If you've been paying attention, triforce has been getting cheaper and better with every patch. Sooner or later, we're going to be hit a breaking point where triforce is going to be too strong. It's already very gold efficient before the phage/sheen procs, and while it's tough to abuse this item, you should definitely consider it in your bruiser builds.
- Seeker's Armguard: This item is basically the new Warden's Mail. It's an intermediate armor item that is both cost efficient, and it gives strong enough stats to just hold in your inventory for 90% of the game without upgrading. It's good on AP carries and it's even pretty strong on non-carries; supports and some bruisers can take advantage of Armguard easily without sacrificing a late-game build.
Keep in mind that if you look at statistical data to make decisions on what is overpowered, such as win rate when champions/items are picked, you might be deceived. Some items have high win rates because they are only bought at a certain point at the game; you're unlikely to buy a Mejai's Soulstealer when you're not winning a game. Conversely, one of the top banned champions, Shen, doesn't even win that much because can often be soft-countered in the champion select screen. This is one of the best examples of community perception of 'overpowered' vs. the reality in-game: if Shen is always banned, then why is his win rate under 50%. It's not because he's too strong, but rather because he is thought to be too strong.
If you think about it, the metagame is now evolving at an alarmingly slow rate of growth. You could even say that it's stagnant right now. Many players are still stuck in Season Two mentality, and not everything that worked last year still works right now. Similarly, there are opportunities for previously unheralded champions to make an appearance, and it's only a matter of time before something unconventional comes up. It's up to you the player to beat the metagame to the punch and find something that is strong instead of waiting for someone else to figure it out.
Ultimately, it down to YOU as a person to decide what is strong in the game. Look at what the community thinks is overpowered but don't base all of your decisions on what we say. You have to experiment for yourself and figure out what is strong. Being a sheep and buying into 'overpowered' hype is not the way to play the game, and you'll always fall behind if you're not an innovator. With balance decisions often circling around community opinion, it's more important than ever to make sure you're an innovator. If you can poke a hole in a certain champion or strategy, do so and win games before everyone else catches on.
Even when you look at Reign of Gaming blogs, not everybody is perfect. Hashinshin, a top laner, will always tell you that bruisers are underpowered. Stonewall will always rant about the jungle. Redmercy will tell you that AP carries are the way to go. And the theorycrafters will always try to tell you something is OP. Take what we read with a grain of salt, but decide things for yourself.
For more of my work:
- #VVinning (RoG blogs): reignofgaming.net/tag/vvinrar
- Item Efficiency Spreadsheet: bit.ly/s3items
- ADC Damage Interactive Model: bit.ly/VVinrarADC
To contact me, come to the "A DIFFerent View" chatroom (NA) or drop a line at VVinrar@ReignOfGaming.net