Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sona Rework Part 2: Two PBE Games Played

Part two of my thoughts on Sona! I played two PBE games just now. Disclaimer on all of this is that both games were 5v4s in my favor, and so I didn't actually get to lane really.

THINGS THAT FELT FUN:

I actually liked the extra decision-making aspect: Do I cast Q now? Or wait until I can walk in range to get a shield on Caitlyn? That was pretty cool.

Having shields + % missing health means you can bait even better than you used to be able to.

Also the not-actually-an-aura thing felt very easy to understand ingame. But I really don't think it should be called an aura. Maybe a "zone of effect." Or just a zone.

THINGS THAT FELT SHITTY:

I felt OOM a lot more than I used to. I even rushed Chalice in the second game (sightstone -> chalice) because I had so many lane kills, and I felt like I was OOMing. The thing is, in lane you aren't casting on CD generally anyway, and now your spells cost more mana.

As expected, the CD increase feels AWFUL. I rushed 40% CDR (first game, CD boots -> Talisman -> Crucible -> Twin Shadows and sell CD boots; second game, Chalice -> Talisman -> Crucible -> Sorc Shoes because I was 6/1/8 and the game was over anyway), and it felt like ages between chords with the extra 1.8s.

My auto-attacks felt REALLY weak without the Q aura. Like really, really, really weak. But I think that's ok, it's just different. (But it actually just totally sucked. Power away from heal and towards autoattacks pls)

As has been noted by other people, I couldn't visually tell which power chord I was about to cast.

Her E still sucks in lane. Also, chasing people with that small an aura radius feels awful. People are generally not that scrunched up when chasing, and you want to get there to apply E-chord, so you don't want to slow down.

And Sona is a ferry in teamfights. By that I mean, she is there to walk from one ally to another, which is cool in that you get to move around the fight, but shitty in that ranged squishy champions very dependent on positioning is...well...shitty. (Also I just want to mention something dear to me: Why is Thresh a ranged champion?? He has the kit of a melee champ, he has the base HP of a melee champ, he builds like a melee (support) champ, but then he has a ranged AA! O.o)

THINGS THAT FELT UNNECESSARILY STRONG:

Power Chord --- Damage could be decreased for W / E chord. Take the damage that Q-chord has currently (in the current iteration of the rework) and halve it. Make that base Power Chord damage. Have Q-chord double damage again.

Aria of Perseverance ---  W is healing for way too much right now. Sona, when about to die, is able to heal herself for 240 + .4 AP health? And also gets a shield? Sona's already really good at baiting at low HP (because of Crescendo when people are stacked on her). And anyway, the last thing this game needs atm is more ways to save someone who's about to die (Crucible + Heal is already ridiculous).

I would suggest that at most, the heal be increased by 1% for each 2% of missing health. As for scaling up by 25 / level, even before her last W nerf, it was only +20/lvl. And I'm pretty sure that at +20/level, scaling W is actually beneficial over scaling Q, which is not how Sona should be played. So I'd like to see this scaling stay at +15/level. 25+15/level and then also the % health scaling would probably be fine; this would also be a pretty big nerf to her current power.

HOW TO SOLVE PRETTY MUCH EVERY ISSUE WITH CURRENT (REWORK) SONA*:

The inspiration for this came from Dawngate, where one of the base items is called Time. Time gives you additional movespeed and CDR. Now, passive CDR on a skill is the most boring thing ever. But active CDR is really cool! And could solve a LOT of Sona's cooldown issues!

Suggested new E (numbers subject to tons of change, I'm just doing qualitative stuff):

Initial cast REDUCES SONA'S PRIMARY SPELL COOLDOWNS BY TWO SECONDS (or, 1 scaling up to 2 seconds depending on spell level). Sona gets some movespeed. This decays down to the amount Sona grants to her allies.

Suddenly there's a reason to take E in lane! You get your spells up faster! But it still costs a ton of mana, so sometimes you won't take it early. But importantly, you still get your power chords up more quickly in fights!

If this change is done, I would like to see her base cooldowns remain 10s, so that with 40% CDR, it's down to 6s, subtract 2, 4s. 40% CDR Sona used to have 4.2s CD, so roughly the same. Sona becomes a slightly hyperscaling-with-CDR champion, but that's ok because you already wanted to build 40% CDR on her for Crescendo.

*This does not solve the Sona-is-a-ferry issue.

POSSIBLE WAY TO SOLVE THE SONA-IS-A-FERRY ISSUE:

Massively increase the "aura" radius (as stated before, I think 500-800 is best, and probably somewhere 600-750 would be ideal).

Instead of Sona affecting everyone instantly, she affects the next-closest ally that hasn't been affected yet, every half-second (closest ally is instantly affected). Affecting an ally increases the duration by .5s.

BENEFITS: Sona is no longer a ferry.

DOWNSIDES: This sounds way more complicated I think. And also it's another thing that you can't control aside from positioning, but it's more in line with Sona's already-existing controlling what you do based on positioning.

DISCLAIMER: PBE games are literally impossible to judge anything by. In the two games I played, it didn't matter that I had to position myself like that, and based on them I would say, oooooh cool, this is actually just 100% a good change to Sona. However, as mentioned above, both games were 5v4s in my favor (the 2nd of which was due to their ADC afk'ing after I FB'd him at level 1), and I was ridiculously fed in the second game.

So this might not be as big an issue as I think it is, because I still don't have experience playing a "real" game with "real" teamfights and being a ferry.

BUT SONA'S AURAS REALLY WEREN'T THAT BAD!

Ok, and finally, though I did think that it was an interesting gameplay thing to have these timing-"aura" decisions, I want to defend Sona's old auras.

First of all, a visual particle akin to the Fiddlesticks Dread particle could be added under ally champions when they enter the aura. That will get rid of a lot of the "invisibility."

Knowing that you get bonus AP and AD, sure it doesn't tell you exactly how much extra damage you'll be doing unless you have a ton of numbers memorized, but you get the idea that you'll be doing "more" damage. It's the same thing when you go back to base and buy a Blasting Wand. You don't really know exactly how much extra damage you're going to get, but you have a decent idea, and then you do more damage. Sona's auras are the same thing.

Instead of thinking of them as "invisible stats," think of Sona's Q aura as "A way to get my team to do slightly more damage when we initiate" and then her W as "a way to get my team to take slightly less damage after our initial CC has worn off." Yeah, the numbers aren't there in front of you, but you can still know you're stronger in this way than you would normally be.

I think that the new "aura" thing is a cool mechanic, but I would love to see it on a new future support champion, and leave Sona closer to how she already was.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Sona rework thoughts

Let's first talk about problems that Sona has.

Things that suck about playing Sona:
  • Mana costs are really high compared to pool/regen, and you feel like you're always OOM
  • E is kind of useless to take early so you only have 2 spells in laning (arguable whether this is really that bad or not)
  • Leveling W is EXTREMELY pointless relative to leveling Q
  • You are really really squishy
  • Auras are boring

Things that suck about playing against Sona:
  • Sustain is boring to play against
  • When she can trade, she trades really strong; when she can't, she can just sit back and sustain
  • Her CDs are short, so there's limited counterplay from a trading support perspective

Things we want to change about Sona:
  • Auras are boring. Get rid of auras to some extent.
  • Give a reason to take/scale other skills early
  • Having her be OOM all the time

Things we want to preserve about Sona:
  • Some sort of ally buff through stats (pretty fundamental to her identity)
  • Reliance on power chords (fundamental to her paradigm)
  • The "feel" of her laning (fundamental to her identity)
   
Let's look at each individual spell.

Q first. What is the current use of Q? First, it's her primary trading skill in lane. When you have 2 stacks of chord, you can AA-Q-Qchord burst someone and get a ton of damage off. That's when you want to trade. It also allows Sona to give her team bonus stats upon engaging a fight with Crescendo. Basically, you flash ult and turn Q on to maximize burst damage. We want to keep that.

Stance Activation: Sona sends out bolts of sound that deal magic damage to the two nearest enemy units within range, prioritizing champions.


This is really fun to play and play against! Keep this exactly as is.

Persistent Aura: Sona plays the Hymn of Valor, granting nearby allied champions within 1000-range bonus attack damage and ability power.

Auras are boring. All persistent auras should be made to decay over time. 1000 range is also really, really long. It basically means "everyone in the fight will have this aura." Is that ok? Yeah. Could that be changed? Yeah, if you wanted to. That said, probably it should be able to go to the entirety of the backline, since what a non-tank support does is help out the backline.

For some comparisons:

        Janna P: 800
        Taric W : 500
        Taric R : 500
        Heimerdinger P: 1000
        Jarvan IV E: 600
        Sivir R: 1000

The ones that are most similar to Sona's (in that they're passive stat buffs) are Taric and Jarvan, with 500-600 range. Somewhere between 500 and 800 sounds reasonable for Sona. Also auras should probably decay down to 0 after somewhere between 3 and 5 seconds, even if the stance is un-activated. Let's go with 3 for now.

Power Chord - Staccato: If this spell was last cast when Power Chord is ready, Power Chord deals double damage.

That's a F***ton of damage. Like seriously. This does SO MUCH DAMAGE. And you know what? It should probably stay that way. Three reasons: (1) One of the most fun things to do with Sona is to flash after a low-health opponent and clean them up in fights. And (2) A lot of people have a lot of fun playing Sona mid. Decreasing the Q-chord bonus would hurt that a lot. And (3) SONA REVOLVES AROUND CHORDS. That is the point of Sona. So don't nerf any of the chord aspects. Instead, don't buff her heal; that will help a lot with holding her trading in check

That said, it wouldn't be unreasonable to have power chords scale with the level of the spell, so if Sona is OP with all of the suggested changes, one area of wiggle room could be to decrease this at early levels.

Ok now let's look at W. The point of W is for Sona to be able to sustain in lane. This comes from a time when Soraka was really strong botlane, and it was basically accepted that supports had to have heals. It's an extremely strong spell at levels 1-5 roughly, and then it starts to fall off a bit, as the ADC starts to get more lifesteal, and you stop putting points into it. Late game, it's a good defensive aura to help keep your ADC alive and also to help your team not die to burst / especially AoE.

Stance Activation: Sona heals herself and a nearby allied champion with the lowest health percentage, granting both of them bonus armor and magic resistance for 3 seconds.

If we want to keep the Sona-thing where you don't actually target any of your primary abilities, this part basically needs to remain the same. However, there's an awkward balance thing at play here. Let's agree that a universe in which it's good for Sona to take W at levels 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 is a bad universe. Just healing your ally like that makes you a glorified Soraka. Right now, the heal gives you +15 per level, and you take points in W at 2 and 4 (and 4 only because E is so shitty to have in lane, more on that later). W needs to be buffed so that it's not quite so completely useless, but we also don't want to encourage passive Sona play. So a shield on W is actually a great idea -- but that should probably just be part of the bonus on Sona and her ally. (why? because a shield is a very ACTIVE thing, and it doesn't make sense to put an active thing on an AoE "aura".) So let's heal for the same 30+10/level, and add a shield on top of that (maybe 20+10/level? with a slightly higher AP scaling, but I'm not trying to go into numbers here). And the bonus armor and MR per level could be increased as well; the point is to make W as active a spell as possible.

Persistent Aura: Sona plays the Aria of Perseverance, granting nearby allied champions within 1000-range bonus armor and magic resistance.

Again, 1000 is probably a bit too long, should be at most 800, consistent with Janna. And then of course we're also adding a decaying element, so the entire thing will last for 3 second. Other than that it seems ok.

Power Chord - Diminuendo: If this spell was last cast when Power Chord is ready, Power Chord will also reduce the target's damage output by 20% (+ 2% per 100 AP) for 3 seconds.

Again, this could change with level of W. I'm not really sure why there's an AP scaling on this. It just seems totally random because it was considered good for Sona to scale off of AP a bit more, and no one wanted to increase her other numbers. I'd get rid of the AP scaling just because it seems pointless. If anything, the duration of this chord should scale with Sona's AP, not the magnitude of the debuff. (why is this so bad? Damage debuffs are already REALLY hard to judge the effectiveness of. Remember when W-chord was broken for years and no one noticed? REALLY, REALLY hard to judge the effectiveness of. Don't make it even harder.)

On to E! Sona's E is the hardest of her spells to balance, because it ONLY provides movespeed. There aren't many spells like that in the game. Pretty much everything gives some other benefit. However, it's not quite that simple, because of power chord. E gives the E-chord slow, and it also gives Sona the ability to cast 2 chords within just over a second of time. (cast chord, cast 1 spell, .5s CD, cast 2nd spell, .5s CD, cast 3rd spell, power chord). So it's really useful to have, but because it costs a TON of mana (65 at level 1), you generally don't take it in lane, even though the scaling on W is pathetically weak. Or if you do take it, you just sit on it and never use it. We want to reward taking E at early levels more, without making it ridiculously OP.

Stance Activation: Sona grants nearby allies increased movement speed for 1.5 seconds.

So, E is also unique in that, while Q and W both have actives that are distinctly different from their auras, E does not. Its activation is just a better version of its aura, and the aura is already going to decay after ~3s in our newly reworked Sona. So we need to come up with a "better" active than this. If we want to keep the theme of movespeed, there are basically two things we can do: movespeed buffs to allies, and movespeed debuffs to enemies. The debuff is already on her chord. So let's put something else here:

When Sona casts E, allies currently facing towards her ignore unit collision for the next two seconds! This will allow extremely free movement from her ADC in lane, and it will also allow her teammates to engage much more easily even through creeps in the lategame. It'll help junglers gank for Sona even more than E currently does. This is NOT an essential change to make, but it could help with E's uselessness early. However, also just a mana decrease could do that as well; if E was 45 + 5/lvl mana, it would definitely start being taken and used earlier, just for the faster chords in skirmishes, and mana decreases are things we want anyway. But that could be a cute thing to add to her kit.

Persistent Aura: Sona plays the Song of Celerity, granting nearby allied champions within 1000-range a flat movement speed bonus.

Straightforward. This will decay over time.

Power Chord - Tempo: If this spell was last cast when Power Chord is ready, Power Chord will also slow the target by 40% (+ 4% per 100 AP) for 2 seconds.

Same as above, this could scale with spell level. Otherwise leave it alone.

Finally, Sona could definitely benefit in champion depth with some changes to her ult, but I will leave that alone. However: Levels of Crescendo are already really strong due to the -20 CD on it. I firmly believe no additional power should be added there.

Now, let's look at the proposed changes.
Passive - Power Chord: Q Powerchord amplification down from +100% damage to +50% damage
Q - Hymn of Valor
  • Creates a 300 unit aura that lasts for 3 seconds.
  • Sona and allies touched by the aura get 40/50/60/70/80 (+0.25 AP) bonus magic damage on their next auto attack. Buff lasts 3 seconds
  • Each ally Sona tags with the aura increases the duration of the aura by 0.5 seconds
  • Cooldown increased to 10 seconds from 7 seconds
  • No longer grants persistent AP and AD aura
  • Mana cost increased by 5 at all ranks (50/55/60/65/70
Nerfing power chords isn't  conducive to the goal of keeping Sona focused around her passive, so I dislike that change. Again, I don't think 300 range isn't quite long enough for an aura; between 500 and 800 would probably be best.

So it seems that what we're doing here is moving some of the damage away from chord and to the next autoattack. So overall chord will do the same amount. I'm sort of ok with this change, because a very skilled Sona player will always land a Q and AA at the same time. I very much dislike the each ally increasing duration thing unless the range is extended a bit, in which case it's super interesting --- basically, we are saying, you can't have that long of an aura in lane, but in fights you get to keep it for a bit longer. But if it's only 300 range, then you are forced to group way too much prior to a fight initiating, which is generally not desired.

The cooldown increase issue I have gone indepth about in other places and will briefly say that it is bad because the most interesting decision-making on Sona comes when you are deciding, do I switch chords now? If I cast spells in the same order, I'll have Q chord up again, but I might want E chord. Is it worth delaying my E two seconds for Q to come back up first so that I can then cast E and get chord? We want to increase the frequency of that decision-making, and increasing her primary skill cooldown does the exact opposite.

Also, mana cost increases are the saddest thing. Sona is currently EXTREMELY sad when it comes to mana costs; it's the single most unfun thing about playing her. (Yeah, this is due to the CD increase, but you still have to spam spells you don't want sometimes in order to get a chord, so the extra cost is still there.)

Also this active-aura thing is really confusing. An aura that gives allies near it an active bonus isn't really an aura, it's....uh....yeah, not sure what to call it. The bonus-stat thing made a lot more sense, and it's not like it's unhealthy for the game that Sona gives this extra bonus stats to her team. It really, really feels like someone said "we need to not have a passive aura anymore" and so someone said "let's do this because it's sorta similar to something that made sense." I cannot imagine this spell being created a priori, and so it will just feel shitty to play with; champion reworks need to feel like it's believable that the initial vision of the champion was to have it be like that.

Also --- one other crucial thing here. The allies-touched-by-the-aura thing literally does not exist in lane. Your ADC gets touched by the "aura" and literally nothing happens as a result in terms of the cooldown.
W - Aria of Perseverance
  • Initial cast heals Sona plus the lowest health nearby ally for 25/50/75/100/125 (+ 0.25 AP) heath. This heal is increased by 1% for each 1% missing health of the target.
  • Creates a 300 unit aura that lasts for 3 seconds.
  • Sona and her allies touched by the aura get a shield that blocks 40/60/80/100/120 (+0.2 AP) damage.
  • Each ally Sona tags with the aura increases the duration of the aura by 0.5 seconds
  • Cooldown increased to 10 seconds from 7 seconds
  • No longer grants persistent MR and Armor aura
  • Mana cost increased by 5 at all ranks (65/70/75/80/85)
 The missing health thing is really unsettling with the bonus stats thing. You want to heal early because you get bonus stats; but you want to heal late so that you're missing more health? That's...really opposite. And again, that active/passive thing just doesn't make sense. At least the shield makes a bit more sense than the autoattack bonus, but once again, forcing a team to all be within 300 range of their extremely squishy support to get this bonus, doesn't feel good.

Same thing about the cooldown and mana cost.

  
E - Song of Celerity
  • Initial cast grants Sona a boost of 13%/14%/15%/16%/17% + (7.5% for every 100 AP) move speed. This decays down to the amount Sona grants to her allies.
  • Creates a 300 unit aura that lasts for 3 seconds
  • Grants allies touched by the aura 10%/11%/12%/13%/14% move speed for 1.5 seconds.
  • Each ally Sona tags with the aura increases the duration of the aura by 0.5 seconds
  • Cooldown increased to 10 seconds from 7 seconds
  • No longer grants persistent move speed aura
  • No longer grants allies % move speed on cast
 So Sona gets more MS than her allies, that seems kind of weird...she doesn't actually want to be that far ahead of her allies, unless she's flash-ulting, in which case the MS will be irrelevant. But ok, that's fine. Again, 300 is just way too small, especially for a movespeed aura. And Sona will still literally never take this before level 7, so we don't solve her scaling-order diversity issues. Well, actually she might, because the skill cooldowns are so long, and 20 seconds between power chords is insane. So you'll be forced to take a skill that you really, really, really have no use for in laning just so that you can get a chord once every 10s instead of 20s. Except that it still costs 65 mana, which is just insane.

tl;dr: The rework feels like people decided Sona needed power shifted and so came up with things that don't make sense in order to give her a more active feel, when actually she can feel a lot more active with very basic changes.

Now, I haven't played her yet, so I can't say for sure that all of the things I have pointed out as possible issues will actually be terrible. Overall, THE ONLY IRRECONCILABLE PROBLEM WITH THIS REWORK IS THE BASE SKILL COOLDOWN INCREASE. That change absolutely destroys Sona's paradigm as a high decision-making, low-mechanics champion by massively decreasing the number of real decisions Sona needs to make in a fight to, at best, just one. Instead, she will be a positioning-intensive champion, which is not a unique paradigm for a support, and we will lose one of the best paradigms for players who think critically about the game but have very low mechanical ceilings.

Finally, I want to conclude by suggesting one "radical" change to the champion that could make her extremely interesting: Tempo.

Tempo is a new counter that Sona gets. Each spell has its own Tempo counter, and Tempo counters are independent. Tempo counts from 0 to 1 and then back down to 0. If you have 0 Tempo stacks in that spell, casting it gives you 1; the next cast of that spell brings you down to 0. Consuming a Tempo stack increases the power of that spell.

This is basically a way of saying, "every-other Q that you cast will be pretty weak." That way, you are still increasing the window in which the enemy can trade favorably with Sona, because every-other Q will be weaker, but you aren't increasing the amount of time between power chords, which is once again the thing around which Sona should be revolving.

I will try to actually play PBE Sona ASAP and write a new article once I have done that, but this one is long enough as-is.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to take Baron when they have vision in the pit: XDG vs Dignitas



This article provides an indepth explanation of why XDG played the final Baron in their game against Dignitas on February 9th (week 4) the way they did. Their goal was to stall out the baron for as long as possible against the massive steal threat out of the Dignitas composition while still holding Baron at a low enough health so that if Dignitas left completely, XDG could burst it down. Due to a misstep in leaving a ward alive, they were unable to gain full vision control of the pit, but they nonetheless achieved their goal of stalling, forcing Dignitas into a lose-lose situation, and taking the baron.
The entire fight can be found here. When watching, pay attention to where Xmithie focuses his damage and to the health bars of XDG's tanks Leona, Mundo, and Olaf, while they soak damage from Baron.

Let's first look briefly at the events leading up to the baron.
A Solar Flare from BloodWater lets XDG catch out Dig, and as Dignitas is on the retreat all the way down midlane, XDG pick up a kill onto Renekton. They take the inhibitor and then turn over to Baron.


With Cruzer still dead for another 37 seconds, XDG have plenty of time in the 5v4 to take the Baron---however, if they play it at all incorrectly, there is a huge chance for Dignitas to either steal the baron or kill them all. Look at Dignitas's ult cooldowns here. While Annie's ult is actually down at the moment (Tibbers is still alive), Gragas's ult could actually be up before Baron is taken down all the way if Dignitas stalls for long enough.  On top of that, Lee Sin is one of the best smite-stealers in the game--and Crumbzz is one of the best smite-stealers in NA.

Last time XDG took Baron, we saw Mancloud hop the wall to chase off Crumbzz and the objective was easily taken by XDG. But in that case, Lee was alone; in this case, he has a lot of friends. And while Riven does have a GA, overall there isn't that much defense for her to work with, and both Gragas and Lucian are doing a ton of damage.

In short, XDG look insane for starting Baron here, especially considering that the way they got back into the game in the first place was off a failed Dignitas Baron attempt.



Note here that Baron is at about 1/3 HP. There is zero chance of a smite steal at this exact health. XDG still has a bit of time to kill the green ward. They do have to stop DPSing Baron in order to focus the ward or Lee might have a steal opportunity right as the ward is dying, but they do have time to kill it.



Three seconds have passed, and XDG has done virtually no further damage to Baron, so smite-stealing is still impossible at this moment. Crucially, though, the ward is still in the pit, and XDG have no more true sight. That ward's survival is the reason it's so difficult for XDG to finish the baron, but on the other hand it gives them the opportunity to showcase exactly how to play a situation like this! You can see from the timers that there was a bit of a miscommunication---Benny and Zuna used their sweepers at exactly the same time instead of staggering.

Notice how Mancloud is mirroring Crumbzz's movement on the other side of the wall. He's Riven and he's threatening to jump the wall---even if he can't kill Crumbzz, at least he can CC him for the duration of the smite-steal window.


In the past 5 seconds, XDG have still kept Baron at the same HP, remaining completely safe from a steal. Mancloud does jump the wall---as the casters noted, he actually missed his jump and had to burn flash, but the important thing is that he's on the same side of the wall as Crumbzz, and Crumbzz has already had to burn his ult. Riven should definitely be able to stop Lee's dash over the wall if she's alive to do so.


Mancloud has chased Crumbzz completely away from the Baron, and Mundo is tanking Lucian's Culling. At this point, Dignitas are so far away from Baron that XDG would be safe to burst it down, but what you can't see in this screenshot is that XDG's delay has allowed Baron to regen quite a bit. It would still take them a while to burst it down, and XDG don't want to risk that when Scarra's ult comes back up in a couple moments, he's able to burst down Mancloud to his GA and open the way back for Crumbzz to come in for a steal.

Notice BloodWater's positioning at the back of the pit. He has flash; he can flash over the wall either down or right to join the fight, and he's placing himself where he would be able to get a free Zenith Blade onto Crumbzz if Lee came near the pit. Solar Flare is also back up, and he wants to be able to provide the CC to back up Riven.


And Bloodwater does take advantage of his Solar Flare range here. Mancloud drops very low; he will have his GA popped. Note that Benny's ult crucially came back up---he can tank Qtpie for days now if he has to. However, Crumbzz has landed the Q onto Zuna. If XDG burst Baron down right now, they will still have to contend with the (very likely) chance of a smite steal; even though the Resonating Strike execute damage won't be available, Crumbzz is still a very solid smite-stealer. Patience continues!



Cumbzz tries to follow up onto the Q on Zuna...


...and gets INSANTLY gunned down, forcing him out of the pit. Baron is still not in smite or smite-steal range.


Xmithie gets the kill onto Lee, but Scarra still has Explosive Cask (it just came back up!  XDG either know this for sure or know that there's a strong possibility of it). So, with BloodWater still extremely tanky and decently healthy, XDG delay killing Baron for just slightly longer while Sivir peels to push Lucian away. XDG has to wait for one of two things to happen here: Either Scarra needs to use ult or Mancloud needs to come back up from GA. Either one of those will result in Scarra no longer being able to steal because either his ult will be down or Riven will be able to CC/zone.


And with both Baron and Zuna surviving the Gragas ulti (Notice Zuna ulted the instant that Lee Q'd into the Baron pit to make sure that he wouldn't be knocked out of the pit in any way whatsoever), the game now belongs to XDG.

A successful smite from Zuna, and now it's just a matter of clean-up for XDG, who go on to win the game. Baron is an objective that top teams both in NA and around the world struggle with, but in this case, despite their misstep not clearing the ward, XDG showed extreme confidence and strong shot-calling, leading to a beautiful Baron play and victory over Dignitas.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thoughts on the proposed 4.3 item changes

Mostly I like them a lot, though if Leona isn't directly receiving a nerf I fear for anyone's ability to do anything against her with the new increased self-sustain on Targon's.  Here's my article about it (will add a reddit link when I make a thread after LCS is over ^^).

Edit: As promised, the Reddit post!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Express Your Farm

    To the tune of Madonna's "Express Yourself":
     
    C'mon Cait.  Do you believe in winning?  Cos I got something to say about it and it goes something like this.
     
    [Chorus:]
     
    Don't make extended trades Caitlyn
    Poke him down over time
    You know, you know, you've got to
    Get all the farm for the gold
    And then maybe then you'll know your skill is real
     
    You don't need champion kills
    Or tower damage done
    Jungle ganks can come very fast
    In fights you never last, no, no
    What you need is the minion kills
    To get you to your B.F. sword
    Need to be the leader in farm
    Make him duel you if you know you'll win
    (You'll never win duels)
     
    [Chorus]
     
    Cupcake traps are a good way to snare
    But what if their Lee wants to gank
    Headshot procs are very good damage
    But Lulu's not really a tank
    You deserve the gold in lane
    So if the time isn't right then just farm
    Fighting them is never enough
    You'd do much better baby in midlane
     
    [Chorus]
     
    Just farm your lane
    (You've got to make him)
    Just farm his lane
    Hey, hey, hey, hey
    So if you wanna win games, let me show you how
    Just farm all the creeps, oh baby ready or not!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why Doran's Shield is Sometimes OK on ADC

I wrote an article for Dignitas that can be found here.  Enjoy!

(tl;dr is basically, if you're not good at ADC or, by extension, you're not good enough at ADC to win a really tough matchup, going Dshield will help you survive laning really well and you would lose a lot of CS anyway.)

I should have a few more articles going up on Dignitas in the next few days, I'll probably do individual posts here for each of them.

Putting all my content on my personal domain is something I wanna do still, so it'll happen maybe eventually.

And of course I've been keeping my Sona guide up-to-date.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Some pick/ban stats from week 1 EULCS

Despite the fact that Gragas was played in 9 out of the 16 games, he was only banned one time.

Yasuo, on the other hand, was banned 4 times by blue team and 3 times by red team, for a total of 7 bans, but was only picked two times.  His winrate was 50%; MIL lost to FNC with him and CW beat ROC with him.

Kassadin was banned 6 times by blue team and 8 times by red team, for a total of 14 bans.  In the 2 games he was open, he was picked one of them---and SK lastpicked him against SHC, after SHC had already locked in Gragas.  The game Kassadin was open and unpicked, the midlane matchup was Ziggs (SK) vs LeBlanc (MIL).

Midlane was almost always last-picked.  In fact,  in only 5 games did the red team not last-pick mid, and in 1 of them their midlane pick of Zyra seemed like it could have been a support.  Of the 5 games that mid wasn't last picked, in 4 of them support was last-picked and Renekton was last-picked in the last game.

There was a fairly broad variety in midlaners, with 13 different champions used in that role (7 only a single time).

Looking at supports, Annie had a 100% pick-ban rate, open in 5 games; she had a 60% winrate.  And in all but one game that she was picked, she was against a Thresh; the other game, SK-MIL, the matchup was Annie-Leona.

Leona was banned 4 times and picked 5 times, with a 40% winrate.

Thresh was picked 10 times and banned 4 times, so he was only available and unpicked in 2 games.  Those two games were GMB-CW (Kennen-Lulu) and SK-MIL (Leona-Annie).

Overall, there were 9 different supports picked; of these, 4 were played only one time.

ADC was probably the role with the least variety in picks; only 6 ADCs were picked, and 2 of them (Sivir, Vayne) only one time---the stars were Jinx (9), Lucian (10), Caitlyn (7), and Ezreal (4).

Despite that, ADCs weren't often banned.  Lucian and Jinx were each banned once and that was it for ADC bans.

First-picked champions were usually jungle or toplane.  Toplane was first-picked 4 times; Jungle 7; ADC 1; and support 4 times.  Three of the four support first-picks were Annie; the other was Thresh, and both Annie and Leona (the other two most-popular support picks) were both banned that game.

Toplane seemed to be ruled by Shyvana, Renekton and Dr. Mundo.  Of these champions, Mundo was banned 5 times and picked 8, making him one of the most-picked/banned champs of the week.  Renekton was played 8 times as well but not banned a single time.

Shyvana was banned 3 times and picked 9---in toplane.  She was also picked an additional 3 times in the jungle; the only game she was ignored in was MIL-FNC, in which MIL ran toplane Gragas against Renekton.  (That was the same game that was the only one with the last-pick Renekton.)

There were 8 distinct champions played in toplane.

Jungle saw 9 different champions played; Vi (9) and Lee Sin (9) were played much more than other champions, but Elise saw 4 games as well.

Special mention goes to Gragas, who was played in 3 different roles---midlane predominantly but also top and support for a game each.

What do you think we'll see in NA?  More or less variety?  What champions will be snatched up early, and who will counterpicks be saved for?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How to Theorycraft Effectively

Theorycrafting!

To some people, that word is scary---OMG NUMBERS EW, while to others it's exciting---I'm gonna figure out the BEST way to set up/build my champion, and then beat you because my build is better!

For me, theorycrafting is definitely the latter.  I love seeing what the numbers tell me and then applying that in my gameplay!  The goal of this article is to get you to feel the same way---or help you theorycraft more efficiently if it's something you already do.  :)

Note that this guide assumes you have access to Microsoft Excel 1010+, but you can do most of what I discuss with Google's spreadsheet tool.

Step 1.  Come up with a good question.

That's it!  Come up with a question that you answer, but make sure it's a good question.  Examples of good questions: "Are hybrid pen marks or magic pen marks better on LeBlanc if I'm vs a Riven starting Doran's Shield?  What about against an Ahri starting Doran's Ring?" or "On Annie, if I'm going to be poking with Q 3-4 times between Ws, should I max Q first or should I max W first?  And what will the implications on my mana pool be?"

Examples of bad questions: "What's the best build order for Caitlyn?" or "What should my support runes be?"

Now, the last two questions are definitely good questions to ask.  But they're bad theorycrafting questions---they're just too general!  A good question needs to have a very specific way to answer it using numbers from the game.

Let's look at our "good" examples.  In the first question, we're wondering, do we want MPen or HyPen marks on LeBlanc?  That's half the information we need---our OPTIONS, and our champion's STATS that affect our options.  However---it's not enough.  Your champion's stats are affected by the enemy's stats as well, and so we need to know what the enemy is.  Riven starting Doran's shield, for example, is going to be a lot harder to poke down with autoattacks than an Ahri starting Doran's Ring.  If you're against a Doran's Shield, that's 8 damage per auto that you're losing, and Riven will also have higher base armor than Ahri.  On the other hand, you're likely to get more autos per Q/W/E against a Riven than against an Ahri because Ahri is also ranged.  So when looking at the total damage you do in one "rotation," you're going to want to include more autos vs a Riven than you would against an Ahri.

If that doesn't make sense, don't worry---there will be examples later on!

Now let's look at our second question, about Annie.  This question is somewhat more simple than the first one, because we've provided even more information---there will be 3-4 Qs between Ws.  Annie's Q gains less damage per level than her W does, but it's slightly longer range and on a shorter cooldown; also the fact that it's targeted makes it easier to land and then back away.  So which spell would you want to scale if this is going to be your combo?  We can easily extend it to 2 Qs between Ws or 1 Q between Ws (in fact, "How many Qs between Ws do I need to make it worth it to scale Q over W?" would be another good question to ask).  However, Annie also doesn't have the freest of mana costs if she's spamming her spells.  So we add the second part---how sustainable is this?  Given the amount of regen that you have, how many rotations will you be able to get through?

Now let's talk a bit about the "bad" examples.  "What's the best build order for Caitlyn?"  Well, what are you trying to accomplish?  Max DPS upon reaching 6k gold into your build against a tank that's built Sunfire and Spirit Visage and also has a Warden's Mail?  Or a build that will help you take down towers as efficiently as possible only 4k gold in?  Or a build that will minimize the time it takes for you to clear a wave of creeps?  Or a build that's best for dueling the enemy ADC?  These questions could have very different answers.

And finally, "What should my support runes be?"  Well, what champion are you playing, first of all!?  Runes for Lulu will be different from runes for Taric will be different from runes for Janna.  And furthermore, runes can change a ton on the matchup and overall game flow---if I'm gonna be 2v1ing as Nami, I might do scaling mana regen quints, but if I'm in a 2v2 as Vayne-Nami vs Lucian-Leona, I probably want flat HP instead.

What you should notice, though, is that bad questions are made up of multiple good questions.  That is, if you have a general question like "What should my support runes be?" then you can break it up into smaller, more specific questions, which you then answer separately.

For the rest of this article, I'm gonna be using the question, "What should my offense quints be on Sona?"  This is split up into several sub-questions.  Separate cases include vs Zyra (a stand-in for a ranged support) or vs Leona (a stand-in for a melee support); and different options for offense quints.

(If you want to skip straight to the result, check out the end of the charts section of my Sona guide here (not linking that section directly cos sometimes the numbers change).)

Step 2.  Decide what stats you need in order to answer the question.

In general, if you're looking at an offensive thing (how much damage do I do to ----, how can I best do damage, etc.), you need to know your AP, your AD, your flat ArPen, your flat MPen, your percent ArPen, and your percent MPen.  You also need to know your enemy's stats---armor and magic resist for the most part.

Of course, these stats will come from different sources: items, runes, masteries, base stats, and hypothetically auras that your team has, so you need to make sure you include all of these sources!

Here are the stats that I use for this particular question.


So I have Zyra Armor Base and Scaling; MR Base and Scaling; the same stats for Leona; and also rune (Yel/Bl) and mastery (M) armor and MR.  I do NOT include items on Zyra or Leona, but if I wanted to then I could make two more boxes for each of them; if I wanted to include percent armor/MR increase that would be another thing I'd want to make a box for.

NEVER EVER EVER PUT A VALUE DIRECTLY INTO A FORMULA.  ANY VALUE THAT YOU HAVE TO USE SHOULD GO INTO A CELL, AND THEN YOU REFERENCE THAT CELL IN YOUR FORMULA!!!

There are several reasons for this.  First of all is error checking---you might just make a mistake when trying to make a calculation!  It's a lot easier to trace mistakes back if there are no values directly in the formula.

And second, League of Legends is NOT a static game!  Patches happen ALL THE TIME, and the spreadsheet that you just spent all day making might be completely irrelevant in as short a time as 2 weeks from now when all of your champion's base values are changed!  You do NOT want to have to change everything just because of something so minor as an increase in base armor by 2 or a decrease in base AD by 1.5.

If your calculations say "+(47+3*$C3)" where C3 is champion level, and suddenly Sona gets a buff to have 53 AD at level 1, then we'd have to edit everything.  However, if the calculation says "+($A$4+$A$6*$C3)" then all we have to change is the cell A4 that has Sona's base AD written in it and increase that number by 3.

INTERLUDE:

If you get confused about seeing too many things like $X$8 in your formula and not being able to read it well, you can name your cell!  Right click on the cell, and this menu will pop up:

You can click Define Name and then type whatever name you want into it.

Then, you can make a formula like this instead!

If you don't want to define names, there's another thing that you can use to help you figure out where formulas are referencing which values:

Colors!  They start to repeat after a while, but most formulas won't reference too many things, especially because of the next part.

Step 3.  Figure out what intermediate values you need, and calculate them.

You really don't want your formulas cluttered, first of all.  In general, my rule-of-thumb is to avoid having more than 8 cells referenced by a particular formula; if I need to reference that many values, then I should be splitting up the calculation.

In general, you NEVER want to be adding up multiple pieces that contribute to a single stat within your final formula.  What I mean by that is, you should never have something like

=(DAMAGE/(1+(AR_RUNE+AR_MASTERY+AR_ITEM+AR_BASE+LVL*AR_LVL)/100).  Instead, you would want all of those sources of armor added up into a single cell and then the formula to be =DAMAGE/(1+AR_NET/100).

There are a few reasons for this.

First of all, it makes it easier to find mistakes!  (This is always a reason.)  Second, what if Riot did something SUPER EVIL like changing the order of percent pen vs flat pen again!?!!?  You would have to go through your final formula in every single cell and change it!  Ewwwwww....Whereas you can just change the armor formula itself if you do it this way.

And what if you just want to change your situation?  Suppose suddenly you're curious about what if Leona has W active?  Or if Renekton decided to take the % increase in armor/MR mastery?

THE OVERARCHING GOAL HERE IS TO MAKE EDITS AS EASY AS POSSIBLE AND AVOID EDITING YOUR "FINAL" FORMULA AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

Finally, sometimes the intermediate steps can give you interesting information.  "Oh, I didn't realize that an increase by ---- in armor actually led to a ---- damage change at this point in the game."  All of what you do here should help you to build your intuition of what numbers mean what.  And so the more "useful" numbers you see the better.

Let's go back to our example.  I actually have 2 sets of intermediate values.

First, I calculate net stats amor/MR/AD/AP/Flat and % Pen:


Why are all of those numbers there 3 times!?  Well, because the next set of intermediate values I calculate are the PHYSICAL and MAGICAL parts of Sona's damage, SEPARATELY.


Let's look at the formulas I use.

First, Magic Mod:

=1/(1+(X9*(1-X14/100)-X12)/100)

Phys Mod:

=1/(1+(X8*(1-X15/100)-X13)/100)

And for reference, X8 = Enemy Armor:

=$Y$3+$AA$3*$A$8+$Y$5+$AA$5

And X9, Enemy Magic Resist:

=$AC$3+$AE$3*$A$8+$AC$5+$AE$5

See how this could be confusing if I didn't do intermediate calculations?

Now, below that entire chart of constants, I have the following cell that explains to me:

Magic Modifier = 1/(1+(MR*(1-%MPen/100)-FlatMPen)/100).  Physical Modifier the analogous for physical damage. 

So if I forget exactly what it is that I did (say 4 months from now), I have a note reminding me exactly what I've done.

(n.b. the magic modifier is what you multiply your magic damage by to get the amount of damage actually dealt to the enemy champion accounting for their MR; same thing for phys modifier only for physical damage.)

Ok and now let's look at the actual damages set of numbers.

As you can see, it's "just" a ton of different potential combinations of damages you might do.  The standard trading combo is AA+Q+QC, but you might also get AAs in between Qs...and then because this is level 6, you also have to wonder about your ult, etc. etc.

Here are the formulas for a few of the cells:

Powerchord Magic:

=($M$2+$S$4*X$11)*X$16

It references the current chord damage (which is a weird enough scaling that I just enter it by hand each level), AP, the AP scaling on chord, and of course the magic modifier.

Autoattack, Phys Damage:

=(X$10)*X$17

Just your AD * the physical modifier.

R+Q+QC+4AA:

=D21+D9+D12+4*D10

Summing things up in that column

And then Net is just the sum of the physical damage and the magic damage.

See!?  Not too bad :)

Now, you might be wondering about my use of $....

Step 4.  Make your formulas universal enough that you can autofill EVERYTHING!

This probably shouldn't be its own step, but whatever.  This is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO.  Well, one of them anyway.  You need to be able to click on a cell and then drag it to autofill an entire region.  And then one you've filled all of the unique things, copy-paste that section to autofill everything else.

If you don't know how autofill works, or static values with $, just google "excel autofill" (without the quotes) and read a tutorial.

I'll give you an example of what I autofilled in these sheets.

Here's the picture of the values section again:

Magic Modifer and Physical Modifer were each typed out one time, and then dragged horizontally to autofill the rest.  Additionally, every value that is not blue was autofilled from the closest blue column to the left (e.g. Y9 the formula is "=X9").  And if a value is unchanging across the entire grid, I just autofilled it also to equal the cell directly to its left.  Or if it's only changed for one of the blue columns, I autofilled it for the rest of the blue columns from the first blue column.

Basically, I made it so that if anything changes, I need to edit AS FEW CELLS AS POSSIBLE.

I also made it take as little time to fill in the grid as possible.

For those of you not familiar with autofill (I'm not making an entire guide about it), keep in mind I'm using the same word to talk about two things --- first, the ability to copy a formula to other cells by clicking the corner of the starting cell and then dragging it along the region; and second, the ability to have other cells change automatically by having their values just be "=STARTINGCELL"

What $ does is it holds either the row or column or both constant when doing click-and-drag autofilling, which is equivalent to copy-paste.  Cut-and-paste works differently; it basically renames itself to the new location, so precedents and dependents are not affected in any way.

Step 5.  Decide how you want to present the final data, and fill in that formula.

In this example, all I care about are the net damages.  So I'm gonna remake the chart with only net damages instead of the intermediary damages as well.


The formulas here are all of the form "=F9," i.e. they just reference the upper chart.  Again these charts can be autofilled by just clicking and dragging, once across and then once vertically.

I also added a conditional format.  The rule is simply:

And then I actually copy-pasted each row vertically saying copy formatting only to apply the conditional format to each row individually of the chart.  This isn't too bad because you can power-of-2-increase the amount that you're copying (i.e. first row is formatted, copy it, then copy first 2 rows, etc.).

You can use more complicated conditional formatting as well though.  Here's the format I used for the cooldown charts:


You should attempt to do as much conditional formatting as possible!  Formatting by hand is f*king obnoxious!

I want to stop for a moment and mention DECIDNG HOW TO BEST PRESENT DATA IS REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY DIFFICULT!  IT TAKES A LOT OF PRACTICE TO GENERATE CHARTS THAT ACTUALLY CONVEY WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO CONVEY AND ARE EASY TO READ!  However, it's also REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT!  If you do a whole bunch of calculations but you can't look at any of the numbers at the same time, it's gonna be really hard for you to actually learn anything from your calculations.

STEP 6.  MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS CORRECT!

Ok, maybe this is actually the most important thing!

I want to introduce you to a feature of Excel that you may or may not be familiar with:  Dependent and Precedent tracing!


Here's how you do it: Find the Page Layout tab at the top, and then you'll see a section that looks like this:
Say you have A1 highlighted.  Then if you click "Trace Precedents" it shows you arrows from all cells that A1 references leading to A1 (i.e. the precedents of A1), and if you click "Trace Dependents" then it shows you arrows from A1 to all cells that reference A1.

This can help you a TON to catch mistakes made when potentially overusing autofill or forgetting a $ somewhere or putting a $ that you didn't mean.

And then the final thing you should do is always the check of "Does this make sense???"  If it says that your Q is going to be dealing 70 damage at level 1 with 0 bonus AD or AP, you proooobably made a mistake since Q only deals 50 damage!  Make sure you didn't accidentally put a - sign when you meant a + or something like that.

You can also edit your source cells to see if numbers change the way you expect them to.  Let's give Zyra 100 armor.  Now is the amount of damage we're doing to her slightly less than half of our stated damage (slightly less than to account for penetration that you might have).

Step 7.  DUPLICATE YOUR CHART WITH OTHER STARTING VALUES.

This comes AFTER you've done all your error checking, AFTER you've done the pretty formatting.  Absolutely dead last.  Now you're ready to change your starting values and compare numbers.

Notice how in the stats section I have some orange cells and some purple cells?  Yeah, those.  The orange cells are cells that I can change the values of in order to adjust starting info---say suddenly Sona is speccing 21 into offense and has penetration, or I want to give her a Haunting Guise---or, more reasonably, I just want to see what happens with different options for offense quints.  I can change those numbers and then look at the change in results of my final charts.

And then the purple cells are cells that I can change based on the champion level.

Step 8.  MAKE GAMEPLAY DECISIONS BASED ON YOUR NUMBERS!

"Awww but I really like having AP reds on Sona..."  Well we showed here that it's not actually good.  So don't do it.  If you're doing theorycrafting, the numbers aren't lying to you.  Adjust your gameplay or rune/mastery choices based on what the numbers tell you!

That does come with one caveat---say you get more DPS from AD as opposed to AS, but you feel like you play better due to the faster AA animation.  Sure, go for AS!  That's something that's qualitative, and theorycrafting can only help you make quantitative decisions.  Qualitative ones are still up to you!