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Let's start with some kind of design philosophy: what do we want, in a strong and well-defined package? How about... an extremely mobile, hard-hitting, physical top-lane melee carry/assassin that's counterplayable, valid through the entire game, and, most importantly, feels good to play with and against?
Well, let's get the immediate questions out of the way, then.
How "Mobile" are We Talking?
"Extremely mobile" isn't well defined -- how mobile are we talking, here? A few of the most iconic "mobile" champions (not the most iconic, mind you, but some of them) "mobile" champions are Quinn, Riven, and Kha'Zix. Their mobility comes in two flavors: Quinn is a beast at map-wide repositioning, able to quickly join an engagement, reach a lane to push, or escape in a pinch: she's pseudo-global, and I'm a fan of that. Riven and Kha'Zix, on the other hand, are exceptional at repositioning during an engagement. Their skill-based mobility can make them very difficult to lock down in a fight, but it also has the benefit of augmenting their map-wide mobility, with the drawbacks that expending skills to get to a battle leaves a risk of having those abilities unavailable for the combat that they've rushed to (we're pretending, for a moment, that Riven has cooldowns). So what kind of mobility do I want, then? Well, simple answer: both.
Now, balance is the idea that drawbacks should be proportional to benefits, so it'll be an exercise in design to give this mobility a cost that (1) offsets its amazing utility and (2) allows the champion to continue to feel good. We'll get into that, later, though: for now, we're just getting our goals on paper.
What's this "Carry/Assassin" Nonsense?
Then, you're asking, "What's a "carry/assassin?". Well, Vayne is one (the only?) example. Does she have burst damage? No. Does she have extremely high sustained damage and enough CC to 100-0 someone before it wears off? Yes. Being an "assassin" isn't about "killing things extremely fast", it's about killing things before they or their team can be reasonably expected to react. By the time the Condemn stun has worn off, the target has already taken too much damage to expect to win the engagement. They try to run, but it's too late: Night Hunter has engaged and there's no getting away -- they've been, in an instant of poor positioning, sentenced to death before they or their team could react to it.
We picked Vayne for a reason: see, Vayne never gets to choose when she can land Condemn. Her opponent must allow her to, outside of very specific circumstances (i.e. Blitz landed a pull and happened to be standing near a wall; oh, well), and that's how we justify her assassination potential with her carry ability. If Zed could consistently output Vayne-like damage numbers, he'd be absurd because Zed chooses when Zed gets to assassinate you.
Similarly, if our champ is to be allowed a carry role, they can't simultaneously be allowed to dictate the terms of their opponents' executions.
"Hard-Hitting"? How Hard is "Hard" ?
Like a fucking mac truck. What does it feel like to get hit by a Riven, or an Elise? Do you cry, a little, when a Darius drops his Guillotine on you? That's what we're looking for: we want you to wince, sitting behind your keyboard, when your health bar explodes.
More importantly, though, we want our carry to be able to brawl with the beefy champs (you ever just get punked by a Malphite or something? Sucks). In a teamfight setting, there are three (two and a half, really) roles that a melee can generally play:
- Blow up Squishies. These melee champs often gap-close with the best of them (let's reference Riven and Kha'Zix again), or posess the ability to be durable even with their big-damage payloads (I wonder if I can somehow reference Riven again). They're not "carries", tratitionally, because their damage can't generally be sustained.
- Kill Tanks. Instead of bypassing the meats wall protecting the squishies in the back, some champions instead posess a kit that favors breaking the walls down, instead. Irelia's true damage, tenacity, and extra sustain allow her to push tough targets out of fights when that's what's needed; Master Yi's true damage makes vulnerable the "hard" targets (go away, Nautilus, no one likes you). Indeed, true damage is a relatively common theme, here: hard targets have armor. If we're going to kill them with purpose, we'd best have a way around resistances.
- Be a Tank. Lastly, we can have a goal that doesn't really include killing anything: with tough armor, big crowd-control, and present-but-not-really-scary damage, we can defend our own squishies. This, however, is not a role that we'll pursue.
So, on our checklist, we've checked the boxes labeled "offensive". Our kit need not entertain Leona-like crowd-control; we have no aspirations to defend. No, we'll forgo that in pursuit of Tons of Damage.
Let's Talk About a Kit, Then.
Keeping in mind our goals (hyper-offensive, hyper-mobile), we can start to look at the things we'll need to be able to achieve them. Our overarching theme, our modus operandi, is making health bars go down. Fast. And, as we've stated, we want to be able to spread that treatment across the board, and that requires some resistance mitigation. How about, then:
- Passive: Deals (12 + level)% AD bonus true damage to foes hit by basic attacks or spells. This damage is adjusted for critical hits.
It looks rather familiar, doesn't it? Corki's Hextech Shrapnel is remarkably similar, with a few notable differences. For starters, it's a flat 10%, as opposed to our 13-30%. 20% true damage is a glaring disparity! Indeed, it is, but here is where we justify the damage increase: Corki is ranged. Our champion is melee.
In Riot's balance discussions, they talk of a "power budget", or something along those lines, and it's a simple, to-the-point balancing philosophy: if something that one champion does is not as strong, something else that they do may be stronger. Consider: if a new champion named Bizarro Caitlyn were released with every stat exactly the same except for her basic attack range, which were reduced to melee, how often would she be played competitively? Obviously, never: all other factors considered, having more range is an advantage over having less range (alternatively, compare the converse: Aatrox or Tryndamere, but with the range of Sivir or Quinn, would immediately become gods among carries). Since our champion has less range than Corki, they are allowed more of something else: in this case, damage.
Further, proportionally large true damage allows our champion to effectively fight hard targets, which was a design goal; I'd go so far as to say that we've actualized that goal with this skill, alone, which allows us to press on.
Let's talk about big damage (with counterplay) and big mobility.
- Charge for up to (longish) seconds, increasing range from (medium) up to (far) and damage from (decent) up to (glorious). While charging, your movement speed is slowed by (not sure)%. On release, dash to your target location, dealing damage to all foes a wide path, reduced based on the distance traveled since the last target struck.
This is beautiful. Why is it beautiful? Because it's an ability that presents an interesting scenario every time it's used. For starters, it's channeled and, so, interruptable. This is our "poke", our Vault Breaker in lane. With some (quite) notable differences.
First, let's talk about damage reduction based on distanced traveled. This means that, quite simply, a tight group takes less damage than a loose one (for example, if you're standing far behind your minion wave, the dash hits the minion closest to you, then goes on for a large distance before hitting you, and so does more damage to you than it would if you were standing close to the minion). In lane, you can counterplay this by standing with your minion wave; in a team fight, you're punished hard for being caught out.
Then, we'll talk about damage that scales with distance. Let's look at our extremes: a long dash that does wonderful damage, or a short one that does okay damage. While, for its cost, the long dash always yields more up-front bang for your buck, it has the terrible risk of causing you to overextend, either in lane or in team fights. Further, as it's a pass-through skillshot dash, big damage will inherently push your lane, possibly putting you in a dangerous position.
Like Vault Breaker, this gives our champion strong map mobility, at the cost of not having a strong repositioning and damage tool available for an immediate engagement.
It's simple, straightforward, and intuitive, with high potential risk and reward. Beautiful.
However, what it doesn't offer was that assassin/carry capability that we talked about. To that end:
- First activation: Melee-range. Deals (decent) damage and stuns/roots your target for (not much) seconds. Can activate again within (few) seconds.
- Second activation: Melee-range. Deals the same (maybe) damage and launches your target (medium) distance away from you. If they collide with other units, those units are knocked aside and take (less) damage. If they collide with terrain, they take (big) damage and are stunned for (critical) seconds.
Again, bravo. This is the iconic Pulverize -> Headbutt combo (that's Q -> W, not WQ), all in a neat package. What does it do in practice? It punishes foes hard for being caught out of position or, alternatively, sacrifices your position to force them into a bad position. This is that moment when a Jayce knocks a key target into or out of a fight. This is that moment when a Lee Sin destroys the Nexus by kicking Teemo into it. This is that clutch melee ability that makes you feel like a beast when you do it right. This is an ability that rewards you for playing it well.
Moving right along, then:
- Leap (somewhat slowly) to target area up to (far-ish) distance away. Foes caught in a (wide-ish) area take (decent) damage and are slowed by (decent)% for (not long) seconds. Foes caught directly in the (somewhat tiny) impact area take (OUCH) damage and are stunned for (OUCH) seconds, instead.
Think Leona ult and Kha'Zix jump. Why this particular combination? Because this fleshes out the assassin role, allowing you to decimate targets caught out by you (see previous ability) or your allies. Meanwhile, on its own, it's a hard-to-land skillshot that very much rewards skill in its use. What's more, one might sacrifice its damage in order to use it as a repositioning tool: since, unlike Kha'Zix, we don't get extra jumps on kills, a player can instead alternate using this and their dash (two skills prior) to engage/disengage. Essentially, this ability compliments and augments the existing aspects of our kit.
That leaves only a gap in the "ultimate" spot, then, and what does a carry like more than a steroid? Vayne's %-health true damage steroid and mobility and AD boost; Tristana's and Miss Fortune's magnificent attack speed steroids; Quinn's mobility, attack speed, and execution; Aatrox's critical-surpassing Blood Price: these are what make carries carries. Quinn's, in particular, is one of my favorites: it literally gives her everything that she needs to excel at her job. We can do something similar, here:
- Toggle. You gain (big) bonus movement speed while out of combat, (moderate) bonus attack speed, and your abilities gain bonus effects, but cost more. Some associated upkeep cost.
- Q: Blinks instead of dashes; damage unchanged. Cooldown reduced by (not much) on each basic attack.
- W: Gain (big)% movement speed for (very short) on hit. Knockback distance on target doubled. Knock-aside distance on other enemies doubled.
- E: On impact, sends out (one or more) shockwaves that seek out enemies, prioritizing champions. Enemies hit by shockwaves take (moderate) damage, increased based on their missing health. This ends your ultimate.
Before this can really be appreciated, though, this calls one glaring consideration into question:
What resource are we using?
Mana, the traditional resource, won't work. Unless we make our mana costs ridiculous, we have the following problem: our champion can spend their entire mana pool for a kill and there is nothing wrong with that. They walk into lane with full kill potential and, by the time they're OOM, their opponent may or may not be very dead. Even with very long cooldowns, there's not really a difference made: you're dead and now both of you went B, cooldowns are back up when you get into lane. He snowballs.
Energy only makes the problem worse: the same thing can happen, but now they don't even have to go B to recharge before killing you again with their heavy-loaded damage.
Health would be plausible and, perhaps, a lot of fun: each engagement sits on the knife's edge! One will stand, one will fall! Etc.!
But I think Fury would be ideal, here. Specifically, the following:
- Gain Fury on hit. This amount scales with level (or ult level). This amount is reduced while R is active.
- Abilities cost Fury. Abilities consume extra fury (1.5x?) while R is active.
- E (our execution with R up) consumes all Fury with R active.
- R can only be activated with (max to very high, perhaps scaling with R level) Fury.
- Gain (not much) Fury passively for each nearby enemy champion. This is increased with R active.
- Fury decays while out of combat.
So that's the system. But why?
For starters, Fury gained on hit means that the lane pushes. In conjunction with our primary poke (Q) also pushing lane, we can expect that the lane should be pushed often and hard, which is either a very good or very bad thing: as a highly mobile champion, we can and should roam when possible. However! There's a wonderful cost to roaming: because we're entirely dependent on a decaying resource (for both mobility and damage), our roaming windows are short and well-defined. If we roam too long, we come back to lane (or worse: get caught out of lane) with no Fury; we are weak. And if we don't roam? We're a squishy melee champ pushed up to tower: gank fodder. So Fury-dependence pushes our lane (which calls us out of it), but also ties us to it, creating a balance that we must learn to read in order to be successful. It creates dynamic gameplay.
Why does on-hit Fury scale as the game progresses? Normal champions build more mana, mana regen, or CDR so that they can use abilities more frequently, which contributes to the champion feeling stronger as the game progresses. AD champions have poor CDR choices and we're not using mana, so mana regen and max mana items won't help us. In order to feel that same spammability increase that most champions feel, Fury gain needs to ramp up or Fury costs need to scale down.
Why do abilities cost Fury? If they didn't, they wouldn't limit our use of R, our amazing steroid. It might potentially be possible to maintain it indefinitely in combat just by autoattacking, unless on-hit Fury gain were reduced to zero with R toggled on; that's not an ideal solution because keeping the Fury gain on-hit allows us to reward players who are being effective (by attacking; it's your job) and encourage aggressive play.
Why does E consume all Fury for the execution? It's an all-or-nothing. Being able to fail an Execute without pushing an opponent out of lane shouldn't ever be a case of "Well I'll just try again when it comes back up" (we're looking at you, Elise); as a finisher, it should end an engagement one way or another. After an R+E, someone's going B or someone's dead.
Why can R only be activated with high Fury? This serves as its cooldown: the longer you use it, the longer you have to wait before it's back up. This also sends a distinct message to the opponent: "Fury is at dangerous levels now" as opposed to "Fury is always at dangerous levels", so allows the opponent to alter their strategy based on what we're showing.
Why do we gain Fury just for being near foes? Why do we get more when our steroid is up? Team fights. There are moments in the game where attacking in melee just isn't realistically possible (during certain sieges, for example). Tryndamere can still use his kit with 0 Fury; because we depend on it as a resource to use our kit, we can't afford to siege while it drains away. In order to feel useful and relevant in team fights, I feel passive fury gain that increases as groups get larger is an ideal solution. We get more Fury from this while R is up because while, in lane, it was acceptable to all-in a single target and then have nothing left, that playstyle doesn't work as well in larger engagements. Popping an R+E early means that you don't get to do anything else, which may be worth it for assassinating a key target, but, the majority of the time, players are expected to have some kind of dwell presence in team fights. As long as we're not executing, the extra passive Fury gain gives us this dwell presence.
Why does Fury decay while out of combat? I think we summed that up pretty well in the bit about our naturally-pushing lane and naturally-roaming champ.
With a proper resource system in mind, we can go take a closer look at our kit and iron out the details.
[Champion Name] consumes Fury to activate spells. Fury starts at 0 and caps at 100. Fury can be gained in several ways:
- Basic Attacks. Gain 3/4/5/6 (based on level of [R]) Fury on hit. This Fury gain is halved while [R] is active.
- Abilities. Gain 1 Fury per enemy hit with an ability.
- Taking Damage. Gain 1 Fury per 2% of maximum Health lost when taking damage.
- Passively. While near enemy Champions, gain 2/3/4/5 Fury per second. This Fury gain is doubled while [R] is active.
Passive: [P Name]
Whenever you deal damage with an attack or spell, [Name] deals bonus True Damage based on Fury, up to a maximum of 4/5/6/7% of the target's maximum Health.
- True Damage scales linearly from (6 + level/2)% of your Attack Damage at 0 Fury to (12 + level)% of your Attack Damage at 100 Fury. This damage is adjusted (after damage cap) for critical hits using half of your critical hit modifier.
- In other words, True Damage at level 1 scales from 6% AD to 13% AD, but not exceeding 4% of your target's maximum Health; at level 18, it scales from 13% AD to 30% AD, but not exceeding 7% of your target's maximum Health.
Additionally, gain 1% bonus attack speed for every 5/4/3/2 points of Fury (based on your rank in [R Name]).
- During [R Name]: For the purposes of calculating bonus attack speed only, use an additional 40/45/50/55 Fury.
Q: [Q Name]
- Cost: 20 Fury. Cooldown: 8/7/6/5/4 seconds. Range: 500 to 875.
Wide Liner Passthrough Skillshot Dash. Charge for up to 3 seconds, increasing the distance of this dash from 500 up to 875. On release, deal 50/80/110/140/170 (+60% AD) to 100/160/220/280/340 (+120% AD) physical damage to each target in your path. Damage is decreased by 10% for each unit struck (in order), but recovers during the dash at 10% damage per 100 distance traveled since a unit was struck.
- During [R Name]: Cost increased to 30 Fury. Maximum charge time decreased to 2 seconds; distance increased to 650 up to 1100; dash changed to blink; damage penalty per unit struck reduced to 5%. Reduces the cooldown of this ability by 2 seconds on basic attack.
W: [W Name (1)]/[W Name (2)]
[W Name (1)]:
- Cost: 10 Fury. Cooldown: 16/14/12/10/8 seconds (starting after hitting with [W Name (2)] or after 4 seconds).
Autoattack Modifier. Resets the autoattack timer. Your next attack within 2 seconds deals 10/40/70/100 (+100% AD) bonus physical damage and roots your target for 0.6/0.7/0.8/0.9/1.0 seconds. For 2 seconds after hitting with [W Name (1)], you may activate [W Name (2)].
- During [R Name]: Cost increased to 15 Fury. Root changed to stun. Gain 40% bonus movement speed for 4 seconds after activating [W Name (1)] or until activating [W Name (2)].
[W Name 2]:
- Cost: 20 Fury. Cooldown: N/A (cooldown is tied to [W Name (1)]). Range: 375.
Targeted Spell. Deals 80/115/150/185/210 (+80% AD) physical damage to target and launches that target up to 520 units directly away from you. If the target strikes other foes, those units are launched up to 260 units directly away from your target and take half the base damage. If your target strikes terrain, it takes the base damage again and is stunned for 1.5 seconds.
- During [R Name]: Cost increased to 30 Fury. All damage, all knockback ranges, and stun duration increased by 50%. Gain 60% bonus movement speed for 2 seconds after hitting with [W Name (2)].
E: [E Name]
- Cost: 40 Fury. Cooldown: 12 seconds. Leap Range: 900.
Area-Targeted Skillshot Jump. Leap to target area, dealing 80/120/180/220/260 (+140% AP) magic damage to foes within 300 units and slowing all affected units by 40%, decaying over 3 seconds. Units within 150 range from the center of the AoE take 30% bonus True damage.
- During [R Name]: Cost increased to all remaining Fury. Leap range increased to 1200; units struck directly are stunned for 1.5 seconds. Sends out 3/4/5/6/7 slow-moving shockwaves on impact that seek out foes within 500 range (prioritizing champions) and follow targets for up to 4 seconds; each shockwave deals 60/95/120/155/170 plus 12/14/16/18/20 (+10% AP)% of the struck foe's missing health as additional magic damage. The same champion cannot be hit by more than one shockwave.
R: [R Name]
- Cost: 7/6/5/4 Fury per second (must be at 100/95/90/85% Fury to activate). Cooldown: 4 seconds.
Toggle Self-Buff. Gain 55/60/65/70% movement speed while out of combat, decaying to 20% while in combat; additionally, gain 10% Furor while in combat. Your abilities consume more Fury, but gain increased power. Additionally, your on-hit Fury generation is halved, your passive Fury generation is doubled, and you gain bonus attack speed from [P Name].