In Season 2 ADCs had the issue where they were all looking very same-y. They all stood there and auto attack'd, they all used a (typically Q) ability with good base damage but low/no scaling, had an escape, some sort of AoE ultimate, etc. MOST IMPORTANTLY though, they all built the same items, progressed at about the same pace, and did very similar ... everything. Well Season 3 rolled around and Riot changed up ADCs and items drastically to further differentiate early game ADCs from end game (no more hypercarry/early game Ezreal) on top of changing their playstyles drastically. Ezreal builds more kitey, Kog'maw builds more hypercarry, Sivir builds more mid-game-y and etc. This is done through Iceborne Gauntlet, Static Shiv, Phantom Dancer, whether or not you're gonna get IE early, etc. However, bruisers on the other hand are now all building Warmogs/sunfire as their starting items, and all starting to feel very same-y.
Bruisers used to be different.
You could tell which bruisers were gonna do what based on their starting item choices. Sunfire? Probably the initiate tank. Trinity? Probably a melee carry. Wit's end? Going up against an AP opponent. Manamune? You're Yorick. Frozen Heart? Lots of base HP and needs CDR. Now what do all bruisers do? Warmogs/sunfire. Jax? Warmogs/sunfire. Olaf? Warmog/sunfire. Cho'gath? Warmogs/sunfire. Three completely different playstyles and roles, all 3 doing the same thing. Going in to the middle of the opposing team and using their girth and sunfire aura to damage enemies with base damage while taking as many hits as they can until they die. (Them or their allies.)
Used to be Jax would be more of a melee carry. Now he's just another sunfire/warmogs doll. That's very telling right there. And I'm going to show you why exactly this happened to so many different champions:
Bruisers tend to scale very poorly, damage wise.
Olaf lost his 30 pen and only gets it on his ultimate now. Jax has a total of 1.0 AD ratio, and slow building attack speed. Irelia has a total 3.4 AD ratio (2.4 on her ult.) Udyr has a good attack speed but only 1.5 AD ratio, and no ult. Volibear has actually 0.0 bonus AD since his Q takes the place of his auto. Get what I'm going at here? Bruisers tend to get very little out of damage items, and since they don't really get to auto attack much (unless they're Olaf and can just say WHAT CC?!) they don't get much out of that either. In fact, mages probably attack more than bruisers.
So wait, how did bruisers get damage! You lie hashinshin, they used to build damage.
They used to build *NON SCALING* damage items. Trinity force, Wit's end, Sunfire, and that stupid lightning item that was removed. Phage was nerfed, heavily, making going Trinity really burdensome now. Wit's end got more expensive for 10 less MR (yeah that was a good idea ROIT.) As always Riot made the stupid mistake of assuming that players would continue to use weak/nerfed ideas simply because they used them before. Wroooong. Jax isn't going to continue to build Trinity if Phage went up 150 gold and got its stats nerfed to boot, his laning phase would be left in shambles. Not to mention Trinity itself became a LOT weaker than before. (It lost 5% crit, 50 mana, 5% slow, and 4% MS)
So people aren't just going to continue to use weak nerfed ideas?
No, they aren't. When Trinity gets slapped around with enough nerfs to choke a horse AND becomes weaker while building it people say "okay eff it, Trinity is off the menu." When MR becomes practically irrelevant AND wit's end loses MR AND it goes up in price people just say "okay eff it, Wit's End is off the menu." When that stupid lightning item gets removed... well yeah people just can't buy it.
It isn't that bruisers don't want to build damage, it's that all the damage build paths suck. (Kinda.)
Bruisers would loooove to build damage, but all the damage build paths simply just blow. Not to mention that the tanky build paths are just blatantly superior right now. What's more likely to win a game, a Wit's End for 2200 gold that does extremely little to slow down magic damage taken due to the fact that it's easier to penetrate now + void staff is being rushed far more since it adds way more damage than it did pre-patch (due to MATH!) ... or a 2000 gold Locket of the Iron Solari that gives 400 HP, 35 armor, 10 HP10, 10% CDR, and an amazing active to help your team win team fights. One of these things is not like the other, one of these things is... just blatantly superior. Like mindbogglingly so. I mean who can compare Wit's End and Solari and say "Yes, these are accurately cost when compared against each other."
But now, it's just obvious that building full tank is the way to go.
With damage so weak, and tankiness so strong, people took all their stock out of building offensive, and put it all in to building defensive. Any particular reasons why anyone can imagine? First off, it was always best to put most of your money in to defensive items. That's called min/maxing right there.
Why go 50/50 when you can just go 100/0 and that 100 scales off itself, so you're really going 110/0 instead of 50/50. Health makes resistances stronger, resistances make health stronger. Anyone ever play Path of Exile? Why would I get armor and evasion, instead of just armor? Well in PoE instead of gear that gives armor/evasion giving 50/50 it actually gives 60/60. Starts to look a little more even now right? Even then with the 60/60 split (AKA 20% free stats) most people STILL prefer to just stack on one stat or the other. (Because MATH, and RNG!)
But more importantly, min/maxing does an important feature for every game. If I can make my tanks 100% tanky, and my damage 100% damage-y, then aren't I doing my best job? Many games struggle to get over this hurdle.
Hence, full tank for everyone!
A big problem that league has is that building full tank is actually a viable real option. The ability to go sunfire/warmogs/omen/BV is a very real idea out there. It works too. Not many games simply ALLOW you to build 100% tank. In most games you either don't have enough base damage to not build tanky, or you don't have simply the ABILITY to build full tank. (Also in most games not building defense gets you laughed at since it's such a stupid idea, so before you go "herp derp full tank shouldn't be allowed" yeah well neither should full damage you fucking ADCs.)
It simply comes down to the matter of "I'm going to run in to their team, and they're all going to focus me to death... so why WOULDN'T I build full tank?"And since their tank is building full tank YOU need to build full tank to respond. Irelia going sunfire/warmogs? I need to go sunfire/warmogs on Jax or she'll out tank me in team fights and my team will lose. Min/maxing!
But in DotA!
Now this is two fold. THIS IS TWO FOLD. Don't go bitching "oh in DotA you bla bla bla" in DotA tanks got damage for building health. Strength gave them, DIRECTLY, damage and health. Now that's two fold right there. It means in DotA building health gave you damage, BUT there were very few ways to actually build health without getting damage (for tanks.) What's more, not building some sort of defense in DotA was somewhat of a travesty and very few heroes A. Could do it safely, B. Were encouraged to do it. So all you DotA naysayers get out.
The most important thing to remember, mind you:
Melee run in, they get CC'd, they get CC'd, more CC, and die. There tends to be very little option for a melee champion to do anything besides building full tank. That's a big reason why they're all building full tank. All the major tournament teams have realized this. If Olaf can build BC and get some good damage... why would he if he's just gonna die before doing it? If I do 10 damage every 3 seconds, or 5 damage every 3 seconds but live 3 times longer who ends up REALLY doing more damage?
So what is the end result, what does it all mean?
It means everyone is building full tank on melee, because everyone can build full tank on melee, so everyone does build full tank on melee. Because min/maxing deems it the best idea. Because there is no advantage to splitting my gold, but all the advantage to NOT splitting my gold.
What would you do hashinshin?
First, I think Riot really needs to open up more options for building damage. It shouldn't be this 50/50 crap when you build a damage item because all the tanks are going to look at an item like that and go "wait why would I split my resources?" Much like how the supports don't get gold so the ADC gets 100% of them (despite many supports getting very good scaling now) why would I split my gold between tank items and defensive items? As such, damage/tank items like Wit's End needs to be giving more 60/60 rather than 50/50.
YES, that does mean going a damage/tanky path will beat a tanky/tanky path 1v1 every time due to better gold. Hell, it means bruisers will pretty much beat everyone 1v1 who doesn't split their gold. However, isn't that what it should be? If you're min/maxing and going full damage and going full tankiness in preparation for team fights, and I'm splitting my gold and being worse off in team fights for it, then I SHOULD frankly be better in 1v1. Ezreal and his Iceborne Gauntlet tends to be impossible to 1v1, so why shouldn't a bruiser who didn't min/max?
Second, we need more GOOD items for bruisers for damage. I'm not asking for 2000 gold super ridiculous wit's end back but I do want some similar options. Wit's End is somewhat of a ... thing because magic damage on hit doesn't scale with anything so it needs to be really good on buy. Wait what's that I just said, it doesn't scale with anything so it needs to be really good on buy? So make them scale! Trinity gets 150% of attack damage, it doesn't just come out of the gate and say "okay here's 170 damage!" it starts lower. Likewise, we need more items like Lizard Elder that scale with the bruiser a bit, because lizard elder is honestly the only damage item (sparingly if ever) being built on melee right now.
Nerf Sunfire's base, give scaling. Instead of being able to bumrush a 40 magic damage aura, why not make it 20 magic damage +10% of armor+MR? All of the sudden it becomes a little more questionable of a rush buy, but it doesn't NEED to be amazing early game, because it'll be a little better late game. It might only start off with say ~35 magic damage, but later in the game it'll eventually get better. That's a big thing. And this is something I think we can apply to more items as well, I'm not just saying specifically only sunfire here.
Also phage needs the RNG removed, price reduced. Reduce its price by 100 gold, but make it a 1-2-3 effect. No more chain proccing first hit phages for a kill. That's the entire reason it needs to cost so much is it can RNG a kill against a much better player. First hit does nothing, second hit does nothing, third hit slows. Repeat. Nerf the slow amount by 5% to compensate.
But really, in conclusion.
I think I've said it all but I'm just going to reiterate points here. Bruisers are all building the same way because splitting gold just doesn't make sense right now. Health scales resistances. Resistances scale health. Damage does not scale health. I can put 50% of my gold in to damage, 50% in to resistance,s and end up with a 50/50 split. I can put 50% of my gold in to health, 50% in to resistances, and end up with a 60/60 split (or 120/0 in to defenses.) That just doesn't make sense, right? So all bruisers all build full tank, they all end up playing the same, and we all end up bleh because meh they're all the same.
Melee MUST build defensive in order to function, but the degree to which it sucks to not build full defense has really gone way too far right now. You simply can not edge out any damage anymore because all the damage items simply just blow. You're gonna die far too fast to even use that damage, and that's really what is at the heart of this problem. With little encouragement to build damage, with full encouragement to build full defense, and no real REASON to build ANY damage you just forget damage and go straight for defense.
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At the end of Season 2 teams like M5 stopped building anything offensive on their top lane bruisers. This picked up popularity and by the end of S2 the only offensive items built on tournament top laners was trinity on Jax/Irelia. This build strategy picked up strength when Jax players stopped building gunblade and only built trinity. Then everyone started to build sunfire. Then it was sunfire/warmogs/GA. Then in S3 the GA was dropped and it became sunfire/warmogs/omen. This is NOT a new strategy because of S3 changes as many of you INCORRECTLY ASSUME, but rather a trend based on players reacting to their environments. M5 keeps winning, M5 keeps building straight defensive bruisers. Coincidence? I think not!