A Few of Riot's Balance Inconsistencies

I have been playing League since beta and I've played through plenty of dramatic changes to the game. I generally agree with "most" of the balance changes and I tend to open minded about even the questionable ones. Even when I am hesitant about big changes such as Gragas's rework or the yearly jungle rework, I give Riot the benefit of the doubt until I get my chance to personally test the changes. However, it is only easy to accept such changes because there are logical reasons for them. There are certain balance decisions in the game that infuriate me because they contradict Riot's past balance philosophies and stem from laziness or pressure rather than logic. This includes new champion releases that embody gameplay mechanics that caused other champions to be nerfed for, champions that have avoided reworks despite being "anti-fun", champions that have been nerfed despite a stronger "version" of them existing and Riot's staunch refusal to undo nerfs.

I am wholly aware that some of the champions mentioned here are either in the process of getting reworks or are being looked at. It does not change the fact that some of the inconsistencies brought up in the article have persisted for awhile and are worth bringing up for discussion. It is a bit "ranty" but there is a point in all of it. The first two parts of the article are topics that are often brought up on my stream and youtube channel so I figured I'd address them here. The third part is a problem with Riot's balance philosophy that I feel rather bothered with. Take each part as their own as there is only a loose connection between them. The article was also greatly inspired by the heated (positive and negative) discussion that Ciderhelm's Nidalee video caused.

A lot of this is hyperbole and personal opinion (it gets ranty) so do not take it as one of my usual analytic articles.

Skarner and Vi

Anyone who follows me would know that this is one of my biggest gripes with Riot's balancing currently. I wholly agree that Skarner's permaslow had to be nerfed in some way since that alone makes Skarner too difficult to balance. This is something that Skarner has that Vi does not and it could be argued that it justified the nerfs. I actually agree with this . However, my problem comes from the fact that Riot decided to nerf Skarner's ultimate by making it possible to escape it. It was a "bug" apparently but Riot's kept other bugs that added to gameplay before but this one had to be "fixed" because Skarner was a hot topic. Skarner's "inescapable" ultimate of death was too strong of an initiation tool. Riot nerfed Skarner's ultimate and then released Vi.

The second I saw Vi's ultimate in action I was immediately in love. I knew she'd be a strong ganker just with her ultimate. I compared her to Skarner immediately and even dubbed her "Skarner 2.0" despite not having a permaslow like Skarner. Her ultimate is significantly better than Skarner's in almost everyway. Vi has more range on her ultimate, more combo potential, more damage, immunity while ulting and with an all-around better kit to boot. Riot expresses that you have to have an entire champion's kit in mind when talking about buffs and nerfs. That is very true to be fair. Some champions may have similar abilities but the way they function with their other abilities may be different. With that said, Skarner's abilities were pretty damn simplistic and nowhere near as "effective" as Vi's especially as League of Mobility kept growing. Skarner's initiation relies on having outside help such as flash, shurelya's (at the time), team speed buffs or terrible positioning from the enemy. Skarner could rarely walk up to a target and grab them without interference from his target's team.

Needless to say Riot also claims to dislike having abilities with little to no counter-play. Vi's ultimate has the whole "blink away and drag her" to her death thing but it really isn't much counter-play. Vi's ultimate is pretty much a guaranteed engage on a target but of course there is no guarantee it is fruitful if it is done poorly. It does not change the fact that it does the same thing that Skarner's ultimate was intended to do but does it easier and with less risk and investment involved. As I already stated, I strongly dislike the fact that Skarner's ultimate was nerfed only to have Riot release a champion who has an ultimate that does the exact same thing with her ultimate but even better.

Similar Champion Situations

Nerfing Talon and then releasing Zed
Nerfing sustain and then releasing Aatrox and Zac

Nidalee and Risk/Reward

A long time ago Ashe was one of the most used champions in the game. Players also clamored for nerfs because she was annoying and difficult to deal with at the time as League of Mobility had yet to be in full swing and someone with that much kiting power was too strong. If memory serves me right, Riot did not nerf her immediately because, by their own admittance, she was the most popular champion in the game. If I recall, it was close to a 50% pick rate. I mention Ashe because I feel Nidalee was spared from changes for the same reason. She may only have a 20% pick rate at the moment but there have been more champions since then and Nidalee is nowhere close to being as overpowered as Ashe was during her reign. Nidalee is scheduled for some sort of rework but it does not change the fact that she was allowed to exist as one of the most "anti-fun" champions in the game.

I must emphasize that I do not think Nidalee is overpowered but simply too safe and unfun. There is nearly no counter-play to her aside from dodging the millions of spears she throws from a safe distance. Nidalee contradicts the balance philosophy of Riot and of most games in general. All power must come at a price and somehow Nidalee gets a massive discount. There is a very short list of low-risk spells in the game and Nidalee happens to have the best of said spells. She can spam a high damage nuke from a safe distance while having that spell cost next to nothing and with a relatively low cooldown. There is little the enemy can do aside of trying to dodge the spear but it doesn't matter if it only takes one spear to chunk a person down to near death. The risk reward simply does not make sense. She can fire 100 spears with no risk or care involved and be immensely rewarded if a single spear lands at the right target. She is even rewarded if she hits the wrong targets as the spear can chunk even tanks.

Nidalee's issues are further pushed to ridiculousness by the fact that the rest of her kit makes her even more safe of a champion. She can lay traps that last for a long time and will reveal anyone who steps on them for a few seconds. They even reduce resistances for some reason while dealing more damage than they probably should. She can lay these at key spots and protect herself from ganks and ambushes. Even if she gets caught and gets beaten down, she has a huge heal in her kit with a relatively low mana cost (early). She even gains movement speed in bushes which ends up helping her weave in and out of poke spots and juke opponents. To make matters even worse, she has a cougar form which gives her even more movement speed and a damn "pounce" which she can use to cover distance and flee from opponents (or chase) for no mana cost. She has way too many tools that help keep her alive to the point that some players do not even try to kill her. It is not impossible to kill her but it is a chore. Simply put, she sucks the fun out of the game if you are against her.

Riot has nerfed plenty of champions for being "anti-fun" yet Nidalee is the epitome of this. She has sustain, she has poke, she has little risk involved, she has freaking traps that help her dominate lanes! If champions like Vladimir and Tryndamere were nerfed because their lane dominance and unkillability then it would have been fair if Nidalee had received similar treatment before.

Notable "Anti-Fun" Champions/Mechanics (based on feedback from others)

Teemo and how his frustrating lane
Fizz and the dodge on his E
Leblanc as a whole

No Undo

At the start of the season, Taric was quite the powerful support champion and was dominating games. He was quickly nerfed but his nerfs were understandable as he did too much damage quickly and easily. Since then the game has received a lot of changes and supports have received buffs and nerfs here and there. Certain support champions fell by the wayside while others began to dominate and, unfortunately, some of these champions present similar problems as Taric. Some have already been hit like Annie and Lulu but even so they do much more than Taric and arguably more than he ever did prior to his nerfs. The point is that Riot tends to rarely undo nerfs to champions. In the case of Taric I feel that he could be brought back to relevancy by simply undoing some of the nerfs he received though I understand if Riot has some rework incoming for him as his kit is pretty antiquated.

The Taric reminds us that Riot rarely fixes champions they inevitably leave crippled after they nerf some indirect influence. They have been careful about this sometimes such as the recent Lich Bane changes at least so they are learning their lesson. Needless to say, Spirit of the Elder Lizard is currently a very powerful item in the game that is giving certain champions the ability to jungle when some of them could barely even manage it. Some of these champions became a little too strong and have been slapped with nerfs as a result. Wukong, for example, had his Q nerfed substantially due to how strong he has become as a jungler thanks to the Elder Lizard. This change weakened jungle Wukong a bit but it hurt lane Wukong a lot more. If the Elder Lizard item were to be nerfed to the point where jungle Wukong is no longer justifiable then the only role Wukong could exist in would be top lane yet he would be far worse off than he was before when he was not used.

It would be sensible to revert (or buff a bit) Wukong's Q if such a thing were to happen but Riot has a history of leaving champions by the wayside. Dozens of champions have been nerfed and then left nerfed even after whatever item made them strong was finally hit. Hell champions who fit a meta were nerfed despite not exactly being "overpowered" outside of that meta. Jungle Cho Gath was nerfed despite the fact that he was picked mostly to counter the top mid champions at the time like Katarina. After the mid champions were cycled out, Cho Gath was no longer played. His silence nerf was reasonable but the other nerfs were seemingly random especially for a champion that was simply a counter-meta pick. The nerfs were really not that big of a deal but the reasoning behind it was unfound. It was simply a nerf to a champion that was being picked a lot.

This works both ways as Riot has sometimes nerfed items simply because one champion is too strong with it. Most of the hybrid items have been nerfed because of their interaction with a single champion and, though I'm just assuming this, Akali is probably the champion most responsible for item nerfs. Tear of the Goddess suffered a similar fate thanks to the interactions it had with Jayce and Lich Bane was a recent item to be slapped with a change due to a handful of champions. This is not to say that some of these are not justified and/or ultimately healthy for the game - I am merely pointing out the fact that Riot salts the soil instead of just planting a new lawn after it was ruined by some weed infestation. I applaud Riot for being careful with some changes (and how it has become better a this) but the balance team should go back and help out champions that were destroyed in any nerf maelstrom.

This part was pretty much a rant so it deserves a TLDR. Basically, the balance team should feel obligated to go back and undo nerfs to champions that are no longer problematic because whatever indirectly made them stronger was finally dealt with.

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