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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  • #119 KBKvothe

    I just wish Nidalee was more focused on the Huntress part of her character design. She could easily be changed to allow for counterplay with her spears while reinforcing her character concept by reducing spear damage and increasing it with subsequent hits on the same target. Better yet, add a really small slow that steadily builds up as well on spear hits to play into the idea of a hunter wearing down her prey by staggering them by repeated blows.

    You'd have to tweak the damage, but her current range mechanic would work just fine with this version of her Q as well. This way she doesn't chunk people instantly, retains the damage, and makes her character concept more realized.... hell, her play style as AP wouldn't even change all that much as you already try to hit targets multiple times anyways, not much relearning to do at all. As for AD Nidalee, the slow would give you some use from an ability that otherwise gives little damage unless you throw at max range.

    Last edited by KBKvothe: 4/25/2014 5:37:44 PM
  • #117 xHalfdeathx

    Wondering why Ziggs isn't considered anti fun as he can stall out a game for 20 minutes  and can be quite hard to answer in lane

  • #111 Stammer6

    You know what really does bother me about Riot's balance? How they feel as though every single AP Mid champion needs to have the same damage output, no matter how many abilities are dedicated to damage and how many abilities are dedicated to defense and utility.

    I use Ahri as my base for every comparison because I think her numbers and abilities are fairly balanced in that she can outplay and be outplayed. Ignoring ultimates, a full burst from Ahri will net 684 (+164% AP) damage. All three of Ahri's abilities deal damage, so her numbers are spread between them. Her Q deals 280+65% over 1~2 seconds, her W deals 224+64% after 1 second, and her E deals 180+35% when it connects.

    Compare that to Nidalee. Again, ignoring ultimates, what are her abilities? Her Q is damage, her W is a trap, and her E is a heal. This means that she really only has one damaging ability compared to Ahri's three damaging abilities. Does her full burst deal one-third of Ahri's damage? Nope, her Q alone deals up to 575 (+162% AP). That's a difference of only 109 (+2% AP) between Nidalee's one ability and AHRI'S ENTIRE KIT.

    Prior to his changes, Gragas only had 2 damaging moves on his entire kit. These included his Q, which dealt 285 (+90% AP) and his E, which dealt 240 (+50% AP)(+70% AD), which meant that out of those two abilities, his entire kit dealt 525 (+140% AP)(+70% AD). Which, again, meant that his kit of only two damaging abilities dealt nearly as much as Ahri's kit which is 100% offensive.

    Even worse, is since all of these abilities are combined into fewer abilities, Nidalee can reach that damage at Lv.9, and Gragas at Lv.13 while the Ahri has to be Lv.18 for her damage to cap out like that. Are they any harder to land? Well, Nidalee's Q is on a much shorter cooldown and costs significantly less mana to hit. Ahri's E follows the same skillshot pattern as the spear and is much shorter range, while her Q and W are both avoidable. Gragas' Q is a skillshot, but ground-targeted so is much harder to dodge. His E is almost instant, so it's also much harder to dodge.

    And if you want to start taking ultimates into the argument, don't bother. Nidalee has even more burst when she's in Cougar form and on a fraction of a fraction of the cooldown with no mana costs. Meanwhile, Gragas' ultimate hits for roughly the same amount as Ahri's, but deals all of the damage instantly rather than over 4 seconds.

  • #112 klocugh12

    What is the point of even talking about pre-rework Gragas? It doesn't exist anymore. Most people agree that he was poor design and are glad he's gone. It wasn't even about numbers though, but more about playstyle.

    Issue with Nidalee isn't in numbers, but again, in playstyle. How is it good design when someone hangs in the back, chucks spears on and on for little to no cost, yet when just one of that lands on a priority target, it's enough to force a fight, because they're that low?

    Last edited by klocugh12: 4/21/2014 3:24:02 PM
  • #113 Stammer6

    True enough. One of my favourite videos right now is the one where it's a half-minute-long compilation of Nidalee missing spears throughout a game, but then lands one right near the end and her team ends up winning because of it.

    Riot reworked Gragas. Maybe they can rework Nidalee. Keep her a powerful poking machine but whose absurdly safe poke isn't the end-all-be-all.

    And either way, I still find it kinda funny/sad how Nidalee's kit is: 100% of Ahri's full burst damage, PLUS a trap, PLUS a heal.

  • #114 gizeemoe

    Maybe Nidalee's spear should deal reduced damage to the target the more 'ally champions' the target is around. So... 5-10% damage reduction for each ally champion nearby the target beyond the first? Makes her sieging less effective against more defending members but still dish out that damage in 1v1 situation. Alot of times, you see teams that are ahead go 3-4man Baron while Nidalee  is spamming spears in mid lane to hold them  back on her own. If she lands it at during that short time period, it's uncontested Baron. She have the burst in cougar but I am sure most people are just really annoyed by that siege power she have that is so spam-able and yet so rewarding/game changing.

  • #107 cssBOT

    Good Article.  The reality is however, I think the big picture is LoL has so very few game mechanics in it that the only way they can keep if from getting redundant and boring is to completely rework the game stats every 3-6 months.  Then the game gets novel again while you have to retest and relearn various combinations of items/masteries/runes for your favorite champs.  The restatting also necessitates various champs to be completely remade/reworked because they have become to OP.

    Riot's "anti-fun" logic  -  What a horrendously stupid completely subjective notion.  As long as a sufficient counters to a mechanic exist within a game why would they be unfun?  Riot's Anti-fun term translates in reality to "too complicated".  The game caters to a young audience for it's revenue and certain mechanics that require more thought to counter makes for unhappy customers period.  Take stealth as an example and the history of nerfs and remakes to those champs yet in other MoBA's it's a staple.  Just look at the history of changes in expanding warding ability in LoL which effectively nerfs even the FOW mechanic.  I think of the time when they announced the removal of dodge chance from the game on the subjective notion that the randomness of the stat made it "unfun".  I immediately asked on the forums if they intended to get rid of crit chance as well as I find getting randomly critted "unfun".  The reality was AD heroes got a huge buff by the removal dodge from the game yet it took Riot about 6 months later before they nerfed crit stats and items.

  • #108 klocugh12

    AD heroes are countered by armor (and or HP).

    And "anti-fun" has nothing to do with "too complicated" and everything to do with "no counterplay" (eg. Poppy's ult) or "lopsided risk-reward ratio" (eg. Nidalee)

    Last edited by klocugh12: 4/17/2014 2:15:11 PM
  • #109 cssBOT

    Armor and HP are not really counters they just make you durable.  Buying more armor and HP won't make you be able to beat a strong AD hero, they just keep you alive longer. Thornmail is a counter.

    Tell me, how do you counter random crits?

    The game had counterplay to dodge.  The SoD, any magic damage, as well as the host of all other cc mechanics but waaaahhhh from young player base -> dodge removed -> LoL dumbed down again.  Every time you eliminate a mechanic from the game it get less complicated. 

    "risk-reward-ratios" don't exist, just risk vs reward on use of skils.  Unfortunately with so few game mechanics that what LoL has now become.  A simple who gets their nuke combos off first/best wins.

  • #110 klocugh12

    Risk/reward ratios don't exist? Then compare Nidalee who hangs in the back and chucks spears until one hits with someone like Yi or Yasuo who has to go in to do anything.

  • #115 gizeemoe

    How to counter random crits... pick Yasuo into random crits....

    Proceed to watch the random crits tap out.

  • #104 mannysmoker

    I agree Nidalee is very safe in lane all she need to do is Q walk back, and if you don't use a champ with a gap closing you're pretty much boned, and late game when she only have to toss one or two Q to put you out of fight, i consider that extremely overpowered.

  • #86 clutz1

    I have to disagree with the Nidalee portion of this. I think it is healthy to have champions with a lopsided kit (and hers is that she is great at poke). Now, the real issue is if you don't put enough trade-offs into the lopsided kit. Nidalee being manaless in Cougar form, having traps for safety pre-6, and good waveclear (again manaless) at 6 are the problem. Imagine if a Leblanc, Gragas (old), etc could keep bullying Nidalee past that point that would be a good thing.

    The same with old Kassadin, he is the mobility guy, but he also was the damage guy, and was supposed to be the rubbish earlygame guy. But they made everyones earlygame easier, and nerfed snowballing off earlygame fails. What did you expect?

    More importantly, and pervasively, of course is Riot's failed experiment in trying to balance Manaless and Mana-using champions in the same game. Rengar and Vlad are probably the most historically egregious examples of Manaless champions that can never seem to be balanced. But lets not forget the modern toplane, that blue buff is basically a crutch, that if stolen early cripples Mana-Using mids/junglers so much more than their manaless counterparts (with very little tradeoff in many cases). And it goes even further to some manaless champions that just have to be made intentionally bad (like Garen and Morde) lest they reach a tipping point where they become like permanant blue buff versions of mana gated champs (Warwick and Anivia respectively).

  • #88 klocugh12

    How is Morde like Anivia? He has no CC whatsoever, whereas Anivia has some of the best CC in the game.

    Anivia OTOH has nothing like Morde's ghost.

    Last edited by klocugh12: 4/11/2014 12:29:46 PM
  • #99 Gameguy301

    Garen and morde are not kept weak due to being mana less, they are kept weak because they have other horrible design flaws. You are making a leap of logic here, riot tells us they are kept weak due to flawed design and your bias jumped to could clonclusion that manaless = bad design, therefor you imagined they are kept weak because they are mana less, horribly misleading.

    I cannot for the life of me figure out how morde or garen are anything like Warwick or anivia Another complete leap in logic Maybe?

    Last edited by Gameguy301: 4/12/2014 3:22:55 PM
  • #100 UNOvven

    They dont actually have design flaws. And they arent being kept weak, they are both at a perfect balance currently.

  • #101 clutz1
    Quote from Gameguy301 »

    Garen and morde are not kept weak due to being mana less, they are kept weak because they have other horrible design flaws. You are making a leap of logic here, riot tells us they are kept weak due to flawed design and your bias jumped to could clonclusion that manaless = bad design, therefor you imagined they are kept weak because they are mana less, horribly misleading.

    I cannot for the life of me figure out how morde or garen are anything like Warwick or anivia Another complete leap in logic Maybe?

    They do have horrible design flaws. Morde's is if he is good he is an invincible pusher who takes wraiths at lvl 4, but also if he isn't good he just is a champion that begs to be ganked. Garen is a sustaining beast in lane who bullies, but lategame is underwhelming because no gapcloser.

    But beyond that, IF they were strong, they would be completely overwhelming, and a huge part of that is that you can't counter someone who is stronger than you and doesn't use mana. You can't steal blue buffs, you can't tank out their mana pool. It is exactly like if Anivia was manaless (your waves would never hit the turret), or if Warwick was (infinite lane sustain and trading power). Now morde and garen already have those things, but they fall off in someway later (mostly lack of CC), but IF they were strong, they would be Manaless Warwick/Anivia.

  • #102 UNOvven

    He isnt invincible. He is a good pusher, but that doesnt mean much. Garen is strong early and falls off late game. thats fine. And yeah, you kinda can. Morde relies on having spellvamp. Get morellonomicon and see him squirm like a worm on a hook. As for garen ... dont get close to him. Its nothing like anivia. Because anivias spell are a lot more powerful, and would literally require no coss. And no, they would be nothing like manaless warwick or anivia. Morde requires a lot of hp for his spells. Again, morellonomicon. Or ignite. Garen would be nothing like them either. He can spin to win and thats kinda it.

  • #103 Gameguy301

    So their exactly alike if your throw everything else out and hyper focus on one shared aspect then? So ziggs is just like morde who is just like anivia who is just like morgana because they all have wave clear? irelia is just like warwick, who is just like trundle, who is just like garen, who is just like akali because they have sustain? You are trying to tell me different champions aren't different because they share a single aspect out of their entire kit? RIDICULOUS.

    Not only is your complete disregard for each champions kit dangerously misguided. In some places even the direct comparison you are trying to make is a stretched at best. Garens sustain comes from keeping out of combat via his passive regen, meanwhile warwicks sustain is entirely focused on being IN combat via innate spellvamp on Q and on hit healing from his passive. likewise while anivia is at her most vulnerable channel her ultimate to clear the creeps, mordekaiser actively gains shields to defend against harass while he clears the wave. and of course thats ignoring EVERYTHING ELSE that makes those champions who they are.

    Last edited by Gameguy301: 4/13/2014 11:42:55 AM
  • #85 RhetoricGamer

    Like Skarnar, Nidalee's current state came as a result of Riot's laziness. When they nerfed all heals, they buffed her spears without thinking about the ramifications of giving a mobile champion a powerful long range ability. I think they should rework Nidalee towards the original vision of the character-- a short range marksman/fighter hybrid that provides some utility to her team. Instead, she's a safe sniper with insane mobility and sustain.

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