Mana is a powercreeped resource that seems to only fill one resource these days, give a noticeably large disadvantage to a champion. If LoL heroes were done in a pros/cons sheet Mana would be the largest Con you could imagine (next to melee auto attack.) It wasn't always this way, in fact mana used to be a normal resource that everyone had to work around. If you didn't have mana you used to have noticeably large health costs or mediocre abilities. These days though non mana champion have abilities that are BETTER than mana champion's abilities in many ways. Mana has become a massive drawback that often is either trivialized or becomes the thing that holds you back from being able to lane effectively. Basically, I'm saying what everyone pretty much knows and is thinking, "Why the hell does mana exist any more if non mana champions get often more powerful abilities?"
What does mana do, why does it exist?
Mana makes it so champions can't go on the offensive 24/7 and completely dominate their lane. I know what you're thinking, "that's funny cause non mana champions do just that!" Yeah. They do. Lee Sin and Riven and Vlad and Kennen will ALWAYS attack you in lane, 24/7, until you are forced out of said lane or they are dead. Champions like Jarvan have ridiculous mana restrictions that maybe allow them a minute or less of fighting before they OOM. This keeps Jarvan from just going all in all the time and allowing his opponent some breathing room. If Jarvan had no mana he would just always be on your ass all the time harassing you until you died or had to go back to base (sound familiar?)
High mana costs are implemented to keep champions who are incredibly dominant in lane in check. That's what they (tried) to do to Graves with his buckshot. Xerath has massive mana costs to ensure he can't just Q spam till the end of time and turn the lane into a platformer. Basically mana exists functionally to restrict champions on what they can do, funnel them in to using their abilities only when they will really get some good effect, and not whenever they can get a tiny bit of damage off maybe. And it works, you don't see Jarvan players EQing every time its off CD, or Orianna players Qing every time you might possibly take a hit from it. They save it and try to ensure they will only use it when it's a sure thing for massive damage. What's more, and take note of this, mana costs on shields mean you can't just use them whenever you feel like it because they take MANA, real actual MANA, a resource.
Why have non mana champions become so powerful, and how do mana champions keep up?
Well, basically, non mana champions have been given more poweful abilities than mana champions for some odd reason. Rumble's flamespitter, Lee Sin's everything, Riven's everything, Kennen's... okay pretty much non mana champion's "everything" these days. Kennen has LUDICROUS levels of harass, more attack damage than many melee's, massive range, a 13 second escape (that because of no mana is spammable till the end of time.) bla bla bla. Lee Sin is given healing, a defense steroid, a shield, a gap closer, an escape move, a massive attack speed slow. I mean all Lee Sin hasn't been given is... someone tell me what Lee Sin hasn't been given. What's worse, have you noticed that ALMOST EVERY ONE OF THESE CHAMPIONS HAS A SHIELD? Do you know what happens when you give a non mana champion a shield? They spam it, they spam it for EVERYTHING. Gonna take an auto att- SHIELD. They're using a- SHIELD. They might- SHIELD CAUSE IT COSTS NOTHING. Shields with no mana costs are the dumbest shit ever made in this game. Shields on non mana champions ensure they'll run mana champions out of mana before they run out of shields (because they're FREEEEEE.)
Effectively lets take a look at the better non-mana champions in the game. Lee Sin: Super healing, super harass, practically ungankable so teammates can't help you deal with him. Between his free shield and free healing he'll run pretty much every mana champion out of mana by just face tanking them. Rumble: Massive damage, massive slow, uber spammable shield. Mana based harass champions pretty much can't kill him before they OOM. Ever done pantheon versus Rumble? It's a whole lot of watching your spear do nothing (though they'd be pantheon versus Riven, Rumble, and Lee Sin). Riven: Free stun, free knockback, free shield, free gap closers, low CD free ultimate. Why doesn't Riven even have mana? Because with mana she couldn't spam every ability on CD? Why does she also have the highest health regen? Because she has a FREE SPAMMABLE shield? Vlad: free healing from range on top of the highest base damage in the game (360 base damage AoE seems fair!) Kennen: Massive range, low CD spammable escape move, massive harass, massive base numbers. Stuns to ensure he can get kills.
The best way to look at these monsters is to ask "what if this champion got their mana removed?" What if Hecarim, tomorrow, had his mana pool entirely removed? Would he be stronger than them now, or weaker? He'd still be weaker! If your ENTIRE restriction of having a resource gets removed and you're still not more powerful than these champions isn't that telling? What if Jarvan got his mana pool removed? He'd still be weaker than Lee! These non mana champions often have STRONGER abilities than the mana champions.
Is mana even fun though?
You know I've thought about this a lot, and mana is really not fun at all. What I mean to say is, being BALANCED on mana really sucks and makes the game less fun. Who has ever played Skarner and thought YEAH THESE CRIPPLING MANA ISSUES MAKES ME REALLY ENJOY PLAYING THIS CHAMPION! Who plays Jarvan and thinks YEAH DUDE RUNNING OUT OF MANA ON THE SIMPLEST OF OFFENSIVE ACTIONS GETS ME- anyway. What's more, things that are balanced on high mana consumption such as Darius's ult tend to go unnoticed. Does anyone ever talk about the fact it takes 500 mana to pentakill with Darius? What about the fact that at level 6 he LITERALLY can't pentakill since he doesn't even have the mana to use it. What about the fact that despite tiny mana costs his mana pool and mana regen is absurdly small?
Balancing a champion on mana is unfun, doesn't get noticed and leads to people wildly misunderstanding why a champion is balanced or even weak, and doesn't even seem like a fun thing to do. If a champion is so imbalanced that they need crippling mana issues to keep them in check then maybe their abilities should be looked at? Now I'm not saying it's impossible to make such a champion fun. Kassadin can spam mana items to get past his mana issues and feel fun with it, but how often do you hear people going "kassadin seems OP but his mana issues really make him mediocre at best" compared to "KASSADIN INFINITE ULT SO OP!" Kassadin is probably the best designed mana chugging champion too. When you get tons of mana on kassadin it feels GOOD cause you can just nail people with massive ult stacks. Building mana on Kassadin feels rewarding because you literally get more out of his abilities. Building mana on Skarner feels more like "MAYBE I WON'T OOM IN 15 SECONDS THIS TIME! YEAH!"
So basically, my point is that balancing champions based on weak mana pools just isn't something that should be happening any more. Giving champions crazy weak mana pools because maybe they'd be too strong when unhindered and outright Skarner-ing them and is not okay. So on that note it does seem more FUN to make champions mana-less, it just doesn't work in a game where OTHER champions are trying to manage mana and you're going "should I flamespitter? Why wouldn't I flamespitter!"
What would you do, hashinshin?
I'd need to get a time machine for this one because these champions are already in the game, and non mana champions are already in a severe disproprotion for competitive playability. There are only 14 champions without mana. That's right, you heard me. Only 14 don't have mana. I know what you're thinking, that's insane! I know right? How can only 14 champions be picked so often as to make it seem like there are so many? Because it's just THAT much of an advantage. To fix these champions I'd have to go back in time and lay down some ground rules for them. Such as no free healing, no free shields. If they broke any of those rules they'd have to have a VERY good reason for it to get past me. Vlad would never have been added to the game, Lee Sin would be required to go back to fix his free crap, and Rumble would just need a rework. Riven would've been just given a mana pool cause that's silly.
It's as though riot takes away from non mana champions that they should be COMPLETELY lane dominant over mana champions. No, seriously, have a look at non mana champions.
- Akali: Spellvamp, free healing.
- Tryndamere: Free healing.
- Lee Sin: Free healing
- Shen: Free healing
- Mundo: Free healing
- Renekton: Free healing
- Vlad: Free healing
- Rumble: Free shield
- Riven: Free shield
- Mordekaiser: Es #1 never die.
- Garen: Free healing.