The 3 Tiers of Melee - Not every melee is a "tanky damage."

So I've decided to sort of make a topic on something I've hated for a long time, how everyone considers there to only be two types of melee champions. Everyone thinks you have assassins, and you have tanky damage (tanks are apparently tanky damage.) Every time a new melee is released you hear the forums go LOL ANOTHER TANKY DAMAGE (no seriously people said this for Nautilus.) Now I've never considered there to just be even a "tanky damage" category. I mean lets get real here. Is Renekton REALLY justified being in the same category as Udyr? How about Jarvan, is he the same as Skarner? Anyways, for the purposes of this article know that I'm trying to put forward that all melee champions share traits amongst them from three different categories that decide what their overall role is going to be. What's more, I'm going to try to explain that sticking more closely to the roles, with of course hybrid champions, is healthier overall to the game's lasting balance. 



Part 1: Not everyone is always a tanky damage. 

Let me briefly describe all the different roles. Up first is going to be assassin. This basically just boils down to "massive burst damage, low survivability, low sustained." When I say low sustained I of course mean lower than everybody else. No damage in this game is LOW. However, you don't see a Talon after his burst is used up and go "OH MAN IT HURTS!" You're going to go "hehe it tickles!" Basically, the concept of an assassin can be put down as high risk high reward. Talon can burst somebody down but he's squishy, has to go in to melee, and only gets one real shot at it. Now I consider there to only be a few pure assassins in this game: Talon, Shaco, and Fizz. What's more, Talon is the only true ASSASSIN in this game. I think Akali is not a pure assassin because of how tanky she is, because of how massive her sustained damage is, and because of how forgiving she is (3 800 range gap closers and massive spell vamp?) Basically, I believe to be considered a pure assassin you must be insanely unforgiving and squishy or we could just call Renekton and Jarvan pure assassins. Think of an assassin like throwing a water balloon. It's gonna explode on impact but it's going to be far more deadly than a squirt gun. 

The second role of course is the bruiser. Bruisers are tank-ish. Basically there is a spectrum of tankiness that starts at evelyn and ends at Rammus. Bruisers sit in the middle. The fundamental concept of a bruiser is unrelenting high sustained damage on a tank-ish base. Udyr is about as pure of a bruiser as you're going to get. Burst dmaage is NOT part of a pure bruiser and any burst you see is actually just the start of their sustained damage. Think Olaf here, another pure bruiser. Now I said bruisers are tank-ish meaning that they ARE tanky, more tanky than other classes. However, bruisers are not going to be able to headline a fight as well as a tank. Olaf CAN be the first man in and CAN take damage, but he's not going to give that same "this is pointless" feeling that an Alistar or Rammus might give when trying to kill them. Bruisers are like repeatedly punching someone in the face. He might get back up after the first few times but keep doing it and he'll stay down. 

The last class as you might imagine is the tanks. Tanks are obviously defined by the ability to initiate fights, take massive damage, and do some decent sustained damage. Your pure tanks are going to be your Malphite, your Rammus, etc. One huge misconception that people have is that tanks aren't supposed to do damage. I don't know where people got that idea from, probably from WoW which has pervaded everyone's thoughts on what a class is for a very long time. Everyone thinks that the only class that should do damage are the ranged carries and APs. Which has always weirded me out considered AP champions are often backed by massive AoEs and CC, and ranged carries are... ranged. Tanks also tend to be extremely good at CCing, or reducing damage either through hard CC or other effects (Attack speed slows.) Tanks are akin to grabbing on to someone and squeezing. A buddy can come over and hit them while you got them pinned down, or they might just finally give up because your fat ass keeps squeezing them. 

I've explained these categories to set up the rest of the article. This part is me saying "NOT EVERYONE IS A TANKY DAMAGE YOU IDIOTS" and trying to get people to listen. For the rest of the article we're going to go further in here and see where design can go wrong and when it can go right. I feel like I should put this here because I won't really see anywhere else to put it:

Sejuani is one of the most well designed champions in league history.

The only thing she's missing is that she has weak base stats. She's the PERFECT tank design and I think that if riot would just beef up her base stats finally that we could get somewhere. But for some reason riot is running around flailing their arms going WHY IS SEJUANI BAD as sejuani murmers ignored suggestions that it's possibly because her base stats are terrible. 

I should finish up here with with a little message on tankiness. Tanks are generally just as tanky or LESS tanky than bruisers for many reasons. The most important one is that tanks tend to be significantly more dangerous if left alive next to people, AND reduce damage via CC, AND can built completely tanky without worry since they'll just use their CC. So while BASELINE udyr might be tankier than Nautilus, Nautilus ends up being far tankier due to his build choices and the fact he chain CCs people in front of him. So don't inheritely assume that a bruiser has to be less tanky than a tank. Often enough bruisers actually need to be MORE tanky to function. Think Udyr vs. Amuu. Udyr is like twice as tanky but he NEEDS to be tanky to do his job in team fights. Amumu can hit a bandage toss and gap close in, then hit his ult and his job is done. He can now run around crying but he's already done his work. Udyr has to run up and beat on people personally with a single second stun. Most bruisers though are NOT tankier than tanks chiefly because of item choices. 

Part 2: The Reckoning - How champions overstepping their bounds leads to balance issues. 

There are two general types of champions now. Hybrids and pures. Pures are only one archtype but they tend to be INCREDIBLY good at what they do, they just don't do a lot. Hybrids do a lot but aren't as good at what they do. Jarvan the bruiser/assassin/tank can do all things decently, but isn't going to beat out Talon on an assassination contest, and isn't going to beat Udyr in a who can kick each other in the nuts more competition. What's more, hybrids are often more specialized in one category than the other. Akali and Jarvan are both bruiser/assassins but Jarvan is more bruiser, and Akali is more assassin. And another thing, just how fast you do your damage to constitute it as either burst or sustained isn't exactly a science. WHATS MORE, these aren't PERFECT because riot doesn't follow a strict guideline. Morello does not patrol the riot design hallways with a shotgun looking for someone to put an out of class ability on a bruiser. Though if he did the designers would probably be a bit more badass. 

Riot has over time abused these general categories a lot unfortunately. They havn't been the best at sticking to what classes should be doing. They seem to sometimes pick and choose what a character is going to get without really thinking about what that is going to mean for the game. A champion like Rumble is easier to balance than a champion like Xin (ignoring the whole NO MANA issue) because Rumbe doesn't try to be anything other than a bruiser. High sustained damage? Okay. High burst when using ultimate? Okay that's fine. Tankiness? Yeah he's got it. Rumble doesn't try to add on gobs of other stuff. Barring his mana issues he's just complacent in his life as an AP bruiser. Yeah he's often built as a pure AP burst but that's how he's BUILT. He functions entirely like how you'd expect a bruiser to function. Same as Mordekaiser. Sustained damage with burst on his ult. Mord is that guy you know who listens to metal music and only metal music because that's just how he is. He's entirely content with who he is and he's not trying to fit in with the other crowds. NO MANA IS A DIFFERENT TOPIC.

I guess I should list some specific examples: Irelia, way too much of EVERYTHING. Sustain is a huge strength, so is CC. So is spam gap closer. So is an amazing sustain damage steroid. So is burst. So is.... I mean really Irelia? You got like the best and everything of both bruiser and asssassin. WHAT'S WORSE is that this thing can also build so tanky that she is practically a tank too. Xin Zhao, pretty much the same deal (just nerfed so hard that you can't really see it any more.) I mean the bad part here is that champions that tend to do too much in too many categories get nerfed hardcore. Take Shyvana, she got nerfed pretty harshly for being an amazing initiator bruiser damage dealer tank.... thing. I guess the point of this is that if you just add the best strengths of multiple archtypes AND THEN go even beyond that to keep adding to the champion that it's gonna cause some problems. 

It's fine that some champions get one or two things out of their class, like burst on a bruiser. This is fine in moderation and especially on the ultimate where it won't come up often. Darius is the perfect example. He's a pure bruiser, except his ult is burst. Is that a bad thing? No. It's a ... different thing (though it does tend to be used every time.) He's basically, IMO, what riot should strive for more often. At least with Darius we only see one "out of class" mechanic instead of like 15 different things. Compare Darius to Xin. Xin has a spam gap closer, and CC, and burst, and tankiness, etc. Darius has one pull, minor CC, good sustained damage, and an ult that does his burst. Darius is obviously going to be the easier one to balance because he sticks to what his class SHOULD get for the most part. His ult just tends to infuriate some people because it hits the key notes that piss people off. Darius is like if you took an orange and drank it with grape soda. Xin is like if you cut an orange in half then stuff strawberries in to it, and then crushed it with a watermelon.

Hybrid champions (bruiser/assassins AKA tanky assassin) should be weaker at either role BUT get some strengths out of both rolls (Akali.) Pure champions should stick chiefly within their role and not go very far out of it. Olaf is tankier than most bruisers, and that's his schtick compared to other pure bruisers. Darius is burstier than other bruisers, but gives up general mobility for it. Disadvantages like that are fine and make the game more fun and healthier overall. Mashing everything together and hoping it comes out looking pretty just does not make for fun balanced champions. Champions who were mashed the right way end up looking like Jarvan, and add real detrimental weaknesses to the champion. Such as a dfficult to use gap closer and overall slowness. What's more, Jarvan isn't as damaging as an assassin, has less sustained damage than a bruiser, and is significantly less tanky than a tank. Jarvan's strengths look like you took a hammer to the bar graph of a bruiser and smashed it till it was wide and flat, covering the assassin and tank bar graph portions. 

So look, hybrid champions are good and fun, and pure champions are good at fun. The problem starts to be when things get cherry picked from other classes and tossed on far too often. What's worse is when champion kits allow them to overstretch their boundaries. Such as why does Irelia get to build so tanky when she's an assassin/bruiser? It just messes everything up. What's more is when things are just added on without giving real disadvantages for the overstepped boundaries. Many recent champions have this issue who aren't even related to melee, such as Ahri. I won't go in to it (think Ahri vs. Ziggs here) but I think it's a good example. For melee champions I think we've stopped the whole overstepping the boundaries thing since for awhile the melee champions that way overstepped their boundaries were wrecking the game. Such as why the hell does Garen get .... you know what lets not even talk about what Garen used to do. (I out tank tanks as an assassin!) So really, this is just a look back (I hope!) at what went wrong with champions overstepping their boundaries and hoping that we get more Darius's and less Irelias. 

IN CONCLUSION THEN since this seems to be dragging on lets review. Not all melee champions are instantly GENERIC TANKY DAMAGE. I mean Jayce is barely a bruiser, barely a ranged carry. He's a perfect hybrid between the two yet was cried about as another generic tanky damage champion on the forums. Yeah when I think Jayce all I can think is Generic. To continue on the review hybridizing champions is fun and works, but not when you just cherry pick mechanics to add on to a champion. Lets add a little bit of tankiness, and some CC, and okay some amazing burst damage will do nicely too! Don't do that. However what people need to realize is that SOME mechanics will come from out of class because that just makes things interesting from time to time. Grave's screen is interesting (and bugged as all hell) and makes the game more fun. HOWEVER, what I really want people to do is stop calling everyone TANKY DAMAGE as if its just some category. It'd be like calling every ranged champion RANGED CARRY despite them being Brand or Ezreal.

To anyone wondering I think Garen has a good design NOW but back in the day he was insanity. That was before mobility creep and there are a lot of factors going in to it. Basically he used to out tank tanks, out burst assassins, and with his sunfires and general tankiness just showed everyone up. Garen is really more of a tank/assassin hybrid with no bruiser component a all, it's just he used to be nuts. Powercreep and nerfs really don't let you see what the problem was back then, just trust me that it was a class REALLY overstepping their boundaries for the time. Boundaries have expanded and increased over time with champions like Graves just being nutty (burst and massive utility on a high damage carry?) 

Follow me on twitter @hashinshin for happy fun times! Watch my stream too.

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