Item Discussion Series - Midlane, Chalice, and Oldschool Mages (Revision)

http://i.imgur.com/gwcdS1f.jpg # #Previously on Item Discussion Series Episode 1: [Supports and the CDR Overload](http://boards.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/c/live-gameplay/E0L6fkZW-item-discussion-series-supports-and-the-cdr-overload) Episode 2: [Midlane (previous version)](http://boards.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/c/live-gameplay/Fusyp7U8-item-discussion-series-midlane-and-oldschool-mages) The last midlane discussion didn't seem to bring satisfying conclusions, so I've decided to make a revision, taking into consideration all points made in the comments. To my surprise, poll answer "The problem lies elsewhere" has almost as many votes as "Chalice of Harmony needs an alternative upgrade". So let's review the midlane as a whole. --- # #The State of Middle Lane Middle lane champions can be brought down to the following categories: * DPS Mages {{champion:13}} {{champion:30}} {{champion:8}} {{champion:68}} {{champion:10}} - Those champions were very popular back in the day, especially before the introduction of Athene's Unholy Grail. Their characteristic is insane item scaling and overwhelming lategame power. Currently mostly played in top lane, if anywhere. They all have their unique item builds, but they share the continuous magic damage output in lategame. * Combo Mages {{champion:45}} {{champion:69}} {{champion:90}} {{champion:63}} {{champion:161}} - "Oldschool" category of immobile mages with medium-ranged spells that require a spell combo to work to their fullest effect. This category is completely nonexistent in competitive play at the moment due to both AP and AD assassins outmaneuvering them with mobility. * Control Mages {{champion:61}} {{champion:25}} {{champion:115}} {{champion:101}} {{champion:117}} - Their long range and one-spell CC allows them to stay safe and keep the enemy away. Thanks to their built-in reliable utility they can be useful in early-mid game regardless of their AP threshhold, but later on require AP to stay relevant. The bread and butter of current competitive meta. * Mage Assassins {{champion:103}} {{champion:4}} {{champion:105}} {{champion:134}} {{champion:7}} - Their kit is dedicated to pick off a single target first, with a possibly of continuing the fight. Some of them use Lichbane, some use DFG. Used to dictate the rules of midlane, now with abundance of Heal and Exhaust some of them phased out. * AD Assassins {{champion:91}} {{champion:121}} {{champion:238}} {{champion:92}} {{champion:157}} - Occasional terror of middle lane. Problematic before the introduction of Seeker's Armguard and a series of nerfs to almost all of them. Now only Yasuo prevails with his broken mobility and windwall. * Kassadin {{champion:38}} - He's technically a mage assassin, but his lategame scaling is so absurd that he deserves his own category. # #Defining the Problems * Immobile mages, especially combo mages, are getting screwed over by the mobility creep (duh) * Mana regen exists in only two forms: in "early" items with CDR (Athene's, Morello) or in "late" items without it (RoA, Archangel's Staff) * "Lategame" stacking mana items are balanced around working in combo, making purchasing them separately a little bit underwhelming * Midlane is overtaken by homogenic builds (Athenes-Rabadons-Void Staff, for example) * Liandrylai combo works great for "oldschool" mages, but provides too much HP and zero mana regen * Void Staff is too strong against squishy targets due to penetration changes (instead of being specialized in anti-tank) * MR for mages is limited to Athene's, Abyssal Scepter and Banshee's Veil - and the penetration changes made Abyssal obsolete on mages Items that probably need to be looked after include: {{item:3028}} Chalice and its possible no-CDR upgrade {{item:3191}} Seeker's Armguard could have an alternative upgrade to break the monopoly of Zhonya's {{item:3128}} DFG creates an unhealthy pattern where one player is able to consistently 100-0 the other over and over again {{item:3135}} Void Staff is too versatile and could use more specialization (less power against squishies) {{item:3116}} Rylai's Crystal Scepter could help combo "oldschool mages" find their role # #The Holy Trinity of Mage Items {{item:3174}} {{item:3089}} {{item:3135}} - 'nuff said. Substitues: {{item:3165}} and {{item:3157}} In case you haven't been following LCS or pay no attention to what your midlaner buys, these are the three items that make over 50% of midlane builds, followed by Zhonya's Hourglass if not built ri ght away. Ziggs, Orianna, Lulu, Xerath, even Syndra - almost everyone will buy these items in almost this exact order. Exceptions are assassins, who all have their infividual builds, but for a "typical" mage, there is no alternative item build: {{item:3174}} Athene's Unholy Grail is the only midlane Chalice upgrade and Chalice is the best laning item to farm and trade. In few specific cases, if MR isn't vital, it can be swapped for Morellonomicon, leaving Zhonya's Hourglass as the defensive option. Still: this spot is for an AP MP5 item with 20% CDR. {{item:3089}} Rabadon's Deathcap is necessary for the midgame power spike. There is no better item to go "full agression" after Athene's, unless you gamble on killing a single target with DFG (but that works on very few champions like Ahri and Syndra) or desperately need Zhonya to survive enemy dives. {{item:3135}} Void Staff is the answer to enemies purchasing MR, but works against targets with no MR as well. The dominance of Holy Trinity not only limits the options of available builds for the popular mages, but it also keeps the champion pool small. It will always be who utilizes the build the best who will get picked. Simply **nerfing Chalice/Athene's doesn't fix the problem** since, colloquially speaking, it will not magically make the other options suck less. --- *Warning: The concepts below are just an attempt to provide solutions to problems mentioned above. Also, we're not touching AD itemization here* # #First Purchase: Athene's and Alternatives First things first, introducing new items might be a perfect moment to repurpose {{item:3174}} Athene's Unholy Grail, reverting some of the nerfs. Possible actions: * Lower the CDR to 15%. This highlights Morellonomicon as the best CDR option and allows to stack CDR from multiple items with no loss (considering 5% from masteries). * Revert the oldest nerf: to AP. With alternative Chalice upgrade, this item could be clearly redefined as the offensive option. Increase the price accordingly, possibly throw in an extra Amp Tome in recipe. Total cost of an 15% CDR / 80 AP version should be about 3000g. Alternative Chalice upgrade, first draft: {{item:3028}} Chalice of Harmony + {{item:3113}} Aether Wisp + 870 g = **Ethereal Robe** (total cost: 2700 gold)**60 ability power, 25 magic resistance**, 10 mana regeneration per 5, **5% increased movement speed**Unique Passive - Mana Font: Gain 1% increased mana regeneration per 1% of mana you're missing. Passive: For every nearby enemy champion, you gain 5 MR and 1% movement speed. * Passive is a rough sketch, but the theme is "safer in bigger fights". For most mages this will be fairly similar to Athene's, just with lower AP. * This is definitely the defensive option, without guaranteed mana replenish on kills and assist or CDR to help spam spells or keep ultimate off cooldown at all times. * Base MR in 1v1 laning is 30, in case of jungler gank 35. This is "I want safety" item. * **Alternative effect: "Ethereal Form" active - root yourself in place, but gain bonus magic penetration and CC immunity** (similar to old Xerath's Locus of Power). * Other alternative effect: Gain up to 5% MS basing on missing mana. *This is based on a joke about the "A New Dawn" cinamatic: Why is Ahri running and not casting spells? OOM.* Next step to broadening AP itemization is providing a mana regeneration in clash with AD champions. We've seen people, even pros, building Athene's even against Zed, because its mana regen is too stupidly good. The problem about Zhonya rush is that while you're denying the enemy the opportunity to kil lyou, you're hindering your own capability of casting spells, since you will run out of mana, and Zed/Yasuo/some other balanced resourceless champion will not. {{item:3191}} Seeker's Armguard + {{item:3114}} Forbidden Idol + 840 g = {{item:3056}} Ohmwrecker (total cost: 2700 gold)**60 ability power, 45 armor, 10% CDR**, 10 mana regeneration per 5 Active: Disables a tower for 2.5 s. 120 second cooldown. * My previous draft of Ohmwrecker got criticized for providing no stats useful for towerdiving. Well, armor seems to help. * This set of stats for such price is very efficient, so pairing it with a situational active seems like a good idea. * For midlaners, this becomes the "safety pick" against AD, but doesnt give that much AP. * Unlike Zhonya's, this item does not provide a huge "Now you can't kill me" button, so it gives some room for the likes of Zed. * Can possibly be used by toplaners with AP scalings (hello Maokai). This breaks the core of the mage problem - lack of variety in rushable AP items for mana regen. With one new upgrade to Chalice and one new for Idol, I think we're good to go. # #Digging Deeper: Obnoxious Items {{item:3135}} Void Staff is currently a must have in every mage build, pretty much regardless of what enemy they target. This makes late MR purchase on carries unsatisfying, since the midlaner will most likely already have VS to deal with the bruisers. Changes I'd suggest include: * Changing the effect from **total MR** penetration to **bonus MR** penetration, much like Yasuo's ultimate. This way the item becomes better in its niche - dealing with megatanks like Dr. Mundo, and worse where it shouldn't be too strong - bursting squishies. * Bonus MR penetration should be around 40-50%, with base AP possibly lowered to 60 to keep in line with the new tier trend. I would also consider the following change to {{item:3128}} Deathfire Grasp: * Build path changed: {{item:1058}} + {{item:3113}} - CDR removed, now grants +5% movement speed * Active damage (15% health) removed * Debuff now increases all damage done to target (both physical and magical) by 25% It's not exactly a good gameplay pattern when enemy midlaner can miss skillshots and still 100-0 you. It's completely fair, though, if enemy jungler ganks you and they 100-0 you in a 2v1 situation. DFG should be a viable item for assassins, but it doesn't mean they should be able to roll over their lane opponent every time they come back to 1v1. MS over CDR should help roaming over popping your lane opponent over and over again. # #Alternative Mana Management Essence Reaver was a nice introduction that shook up some ADC builds (it's quite strong on the new Lucian, for example). The item still has its own issues, but it has a niche and sees play. I was wondering about a similar mechanic for mages: {{item:1058}} + {{item:3108}} + 780g = **Orb of Absorption** (total cost: 3000 gold)**120 AP, 20% CDR**Unique Passive - Mana Leech: Gain 20% of damage dealt as mana This sort of mana management - mana leech - could as well become a part of an advanced item with one or more upgrades. Since mages will often start with Doran's Ring or two, though, this sort of buildup should be okay, with its risk being no mana regen in the components. # #Bringing Back The Old School In Stattik's Q&A, my assessment of the problem was [commented by **Stattik**](http://boards.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/c/live-gameplay/xAQdUGK8-statikk-qa-completed?comment=00260016): This is definitely an issue that we have struggled with a lot internally. We call this class of characters the "Immobile Mid-Lane Mages" and I 100% agree with your identification and breakdown of the problem. (...) As far as itemization goes, I know the Systems team is looking into different the lesser used items such as Rylai's. The lack of Mana Regen in the Rylai's + Liandry's combo is interesting (I believe most stack a few Doran's Rings to try to get around this), but overall I think it might be pointing out a larger issue in our game which is our ever-growing pool of Resourceless champions and how we have maybe warped the game to allow Mana users to compete with the resourceless guys over time. The sheer effectiveness of the {{item:3151}} Liandrylai {{item:3116}} combo on immobile "oldschool mages" such as {{champion:69}} {{champion:90}} {{champion:63}} {{champion:161}} made me rethink the whole issue. What if we're looking at this wrong? We're trying to make those "nukers" viable in their task to burn squishies in an AoE combo, but that's an assassin's job! **Why not take the anti-tank DPS potential and go from there?** The problem with Liandrylai is that for 5800 gold it provides 800 HP, 130 AP and zero mana regen. And although not all of those immobile champions need CDR, they definitely need mana to clear minion waves as the game progresses. That much excessive health does not help at all, since once those champions get caught in the crossfire, they will die anyway, especially this early. Stattik's response mentioned using Doran's Rings to get the necessary mana, but that's another 160 health right there and mana regen from rings is not that much. In the end, it's either Liandry rush and mana starvation, or Athene pickup and delayed power spike (Athenes + Rabadon on a popular midlaner is better than Athenes + one part of Liandrylai combo on immobile combo mage). There's hope that Riot sees the problem, though. From PBE patch notes: {{item:3116}} Rylai's Crystal Scepter * Health reduced to 400 from 500 * AP increased to 100 from 80 I don't know if that's enough, but at least it's something. I think, however, that we could rework Rylai's a bit more. Midlaners don't need that Giant's Belt - if they want health, they have RoA and Liandry's Torment. In top lane, the only bruiser using it is Rumble and the mages who would want his item outnumber him. Rylai's could become a Blasting Wand + Chalice/Forbidden Idol item outright, or, if we want to preserve the HP option, there's also a possibility of making it an advanced Wand+Sapphire item building into two alternatives - the AP version and the HP version. Just take into consideration that Rylai's is currently a rather rare item in toplane (Iceborn Gauntlet provides a much better slow) and would fit midlaners much better. # #The Mana Timebomb Last, but not least, the ticking stacking ball of doom in the form of {{item:3003}} + {{item:3027}} combo. Built by pretty much only Ryze and Karthus at this point - used to be a popular Kassadin build as well. The problem with Archangel's Staff is that mages: * don't have flat mana items outside of RoA and Lichbane * want a midgame power spike and can't wait that long. The easy solution would be to introduce a new flat mana option for mages, with immediate power spike (alternative Rylai's building out of Sapphire Crystal could blow this thing wide open). The other solution is tweaking Rod of Ages, which contributes to the "slow stacking" problem that repels most mages from this build. Another easy solution there: begin stacking the RoA timer on purchase of Catalyst the Protector, obviously adjusting the time and stats per stack on RoA. With proper management the mana "utility" route could become an alternative to Rabadon's, truly opening up the variety of midlane builds - and picks. --- # #Summary Athenes' monopoly needs to broken - but not by nerfing the item to oblivion, since Chalice responds to core issues of "standard mages", which is the desire for safe laning and midgame power spike. The easiest way to do it seems to be introducing an alternative AP Chalice upgrade, with either Aether Wisp or Blasting Wand. Other changes are optional, but could help broaden up available possibilities and fix some unhealthy interactions. * **Vital:** Alternative AP upgrade to Chalice of Harmony * *Helpful:* Armguard+Idol item for better laning against AD * *Helpful:* Void Staff rework ("tank buster" instead of "squishy stomper") * *Helpful:* DFG rework ("team effort" roaming item instead of "100-0 over and over" laning item) * *Helpful:* Rylai rework (mage item instead of tank item) * Possible: Catalyst already stacking for RoA Any feedback, positive or negative, is more than welcome. Are those problems well-defined, at least? # #Next Episode Jungle, hopefully - it seems like Feral Flare does not work very well and the tank junglers are still not a reliable option.

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I want to see all of the above, I think mid lane has the most potential for diversity and skillfull plays but unfortunately, like said here, it is very limited to one category and one type of build at a time. I'm especially depressed about the tear build because of how hard it is to stack it all. An alternative to Chalice seems to be the most urgent but I wonder how to make such an item balanced... I don't understand why {{champion:69}} is not listed as dps-mage, though. ^^"
This is a very well-thought-out post, and I loved reading it. It would be impossible to talk about all of it in a reply, but I wanted to highlight one thing that I was thinking of. I disagree slightly with your classifications of the Grail/Morellonomicon distinction (not saying I'm right, this is just the way I think of them). Grail builds out of Chalice, which has no offensive stats. When you build grail, your early item path says "I want mana for a long time." Usually, this equates to spammy spells, high-cost spells, or both. I see CDR as the best compliment to the kind of mages that love Athene's most in its current iteration (even if all of them don't see play). Here, we're talking about the Cassiopeia's, Ziggs's, Malzahar's, Syndra's, Anivia's, etc.. Honestly, I think one of the more interesting itemization choices League has had in a long time was when Chalice had no upgrade. Hearkening back to the days of Season 2 and Froggen's Anivia, buying chalice meant you were investing in a dead-end item with no offensive stats because mana was more important to you. Base damages and the promise of later purchases would offset the effectively dead inventory slot. Morellonomicon, on the other hand, has traditionally been the more offensive choice. Higher AP value combined with its current passive should say "I want to kill people." But it sits in this weird place where Grail is always going to be a better choice because the AP difference is small enough that really not ever worrying about mana is the safer choice. With this in mind, my suggestion would be to bring the AP value on Grail waaaay down to start out. Let it be a slightly cheaper item, but retain its current 20% CDR. I'm talking 30 to 40 AP here. This leaves it poised to still be the go-to mana item if that's what you really want. Now, either leave the AP on Morellonomicon where it is, or bump it up slightly. I'd also consider some kind of passive rework, since Grievous Wounds are at a weird place right now, but that's not top-priority. Bring the mana regen down a little bit as well, and we're good to go. Morellonomicon still provides some sustain, but isn't vying for the same spot as Grail. It's a better end game item, and most champs would probably prefer its higher AP for end game. However, Swain/Anivia/Cass might still want a Grail to make sure that when the time comes, they can still cast their root/wall/eeeeeeee (respectively). (Gonna end this here, because it's getting out of hand, so feel free to pick apart this whole thing)
Like the reason for Deathfire Grasp although i don't like the debuff for both physical and magic. It's an ap item and should only amply magic. Another concern is kass and fizz will abuse this item. With the increase movement speed, maybe lower the range from 750 to 550-ish so they have to be really close to use it. Another concern is the armseeker and mana regen. I like the stats but don't like it build into Ohmwrecker. Ohmwrecker is good for tower driving and kill them inside turret. Most ad mid are melee range and to be kill under turret can be toxic. Most ap assassin will most likely to abuse this item against ad mid. I thought the goal of the armseeker and mana regen is to be safe option from ad mid rather a more offensive option. Maybe have a passive of gain hp regen based on missing mana%. Most ad mid has some kind of poke and will trade with them. This way, if your low on mana you can slowly gain back your hp while zed or talon can still kill you. If you play smart and passively you can gain both your mana and hp at no time.
Those categories aren't really that strict. Veigar for example shares the same build pattern as Karthus (Seraph, huge lategame), but unlike Karthus, he's a nuker, not DPS oriented, and his lack of mobility puts him in the "oldschool" category. Cassiopeia is short-ranged and has no lategame trump card like Ryze's tankiness, Karthus's passive or Vladimir's trollpool. That, and her proficiency with Liandrylai. She fits the "combo mage" category when it comes to itemization.
DFG already apmplifies damage from other teammates, and I figured this type of interaction is much healthier than the consistent 100-0 in 1v1 duel. Kassadin is inherently broken and shouldn't really be an argument in item discussion. As for other mages, keep in mind that the item would lose CDR, which is significant for ultimates cooldown. Armguard+Idol item is of course a swing of power against AD mids, but it's just as easy to introduce a new AD item as a counterweight. All in all, those drafts are merely scratching the surface and are definitely not fit for immediate implementaion. I'm having season 5 in mind, though.
> Morellonomicon, on the other hand, has traditionally been the more offensive choice. Higher AP value combined with its current passive should say "I want to kill people." But it sits in this weird place where Grail is always going to be a better choice because the AP difference is small enough that really not ever worrying about mana is the safer choice. What you're overlooking in this assessment is the Unique Passive of both items. Athene's is essentially a "reset" for mana-using champions - if you get a kill or an assist, you get mana back. Meanwhile, Morellonomicon's passive is quite useless in most matchups and doesn't kick in until you get to cut in half lifesteal of enemy ADC. Defining Athene's as a "defensive" choice would not go well with its passive pattern - you want to participate in skirmishes and if you suceed, you will have the resources to keep casting spells. That is why I'm suggesting introducing a new defense-oriented Chalice upgrade.
Liandrylai is not that core on Cass. It is appealing on paper but Cass's "trump card" is her INSANE constant DPS. Ryze does a lot of damage while being tanky. Karthus does a lot of damage and has his passive. Cassio does INSANE damage while being squishy. You will not get that insane damage on Cass if you go Liandrylai on her. 90% of the time Cassio's full build should be: Deathcap Seraph Zhonya Void Rylais OR Liandrys OR Banshees OR GA Sorcs/Mercs Cassio IS a late game beast like Karthus and Ryze. Where they excel in high damage at close range with their tankiness (Karthus passive), Cassio excels ridiculously in damage from a higher range than the other guys. I wish I could find the article on one of those League of Legends websites that showed the DPS difference in team fights between the 3 of them, but basically Cass blows Karthus and Ryze out of the water in extended fights if she's alive. Surprisingly, with Seraph's shield, Rylais' slow, and Zhonya's - that isn't TOO difficult.
Not sure about Ohmwrecker. Like, nice item in theory but by the time I build it? I could just build tanky and turn towers off by sheer defensive force. Maybe have some alternate effect for friendly towers or have it do SOMETHING other than just take up space as this tower breaker but not really all that great tower breaker.
I talked a little about Morellonomicon's passive. My suggestion would be to drop it (I'm thinking drop Grievous Wounds entirely and re-balance healing, but that's another discussion). There's also a bit of miscommunication here, and it's totally my fault for the way I phrased stuff. I don't really think about Grail (in any of its iterations) as a defensive item. You don't really buy it for the MResist, that's just a bonus in some matchups. I'm all for a defensive oriented Chalice upgrade too; I think that's a good idea, although I'd worry about making Chalice too flexible. The line I was trying to draw (unsuccessfully) wasn't as much Offense/Defense as it was: Grail - "AP is nice, but I NEED mana" Morellonomicon- "Mana is nice, but I NEED AP" Edit: I also wanted to say again, that this is a fantastic, in-depth post and I cannot upvote it enough.
This feels like the problem Ohmwrecker has always had. I can worry about towers...or I can worry about towers AND champions. If towers scaled a little better in to the late game, I could see it being useful (-ish), but that's a pretty large system change which would have other effects entirely.
I think the game is suffering from manaless creep, there used to be hardly any manaless champs in season 0 (and they weren't really good), but they added tons of manaless champs and balanced them to be competitive (in season 3 almost all the manaless champs were competitive). So the game moved towards every viable champ not being restrained by mana. I like how conserving mana isn't so important now because I think it makes the game more fun, but as a result having tons of mana (tear/chalice) is a neccesity on many champs I think in the short term riot should reduce the gap between mana regen with/without chalice; chalice should be situational not default: Add tons more mana regen to AP items across the board Increase base mana regen to all champions, or alot of champions Change chalice/athene to 1% per 2%, but increase its base mana regen (but after I think about this, i think it may be better that chalice becomes the bar for mana regen and they buff mana elsewhere to the point that chalice is a niche item.) By normalizing mana regen, it should make mana costs more meaningful because there are more viable build paths that are competitive with high regen, and also should reduce excessive poke spamming/waveclear. Also it should increase the tradeoffs of buying CDR.
Regarding void staff "Changing the effect from total MR penetration to bonus MR penetration" I used to think this too, but then I heard riots explanation that having it total instead of bonus helps to even out its power against different targets and make it less of a "hard counter" and now I agree that it should be total not bonus. If it was bonus it would invalidate MR items too much and be harder to balance. I think the current % penetration is at a pretty good spot (but MR items are pretty bad), but void staff is a bit too cost efficient overall; if they decreased the AP a bit and increased the cost a bit I think it would be still good but not a must buy every game, or at least make the order of purchase meaningful. On another topic, flat armor/magic penetration is good against squishies, not tanks. To remedy this it should only penetrate bonus armor/mr gained from items and not from runes/base stats.
> I also wanted to say again, that this is a fantastic, in-depth post and I cannot upvote it enough. I'm kinda disappointed none of my walls of text earned "Post of the Day" despite being way way better candidates for the spot than most other threads. I guess it's easier to upvote memes and found fanart, not OC.
I would definitely keep at it. There are many days ;)

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