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Before we get into the proper thick of things, I'll put it simply: I'd argue that anything that involves hitting your opponent with your weapon should be considered an attack for all intents and purposes, similar to Yasuo's Q. That's the idea, but the reason this is a blog post and not a one-liner someplace is that there are reasons why that is the idea; I'll detail them, here.
Okay, hold up! That's a big change! Game balance as we know it will be obliterated forever!
As I see it, this is the biggest objection to such a broad, sweeping change, and it's a reasonable one: it would be a lot of work to rebalance everything that looked like an attack to behave like an attack. I mean, what do you do when Nidalee spears have 100% AD ratio and can crit? To this end, I propose the following:
- For things that looked like attacks that were, traditionally, straight-up spells (e.g. Nid spears, Jayce's knockback, Fiora's Lunge), make them deal basic attack damage and then, additionally, reduce their spell damage by the user's expected attack damage at that point in the game. Essentially, follow the Parrrley model: change them into "basic attack plus some spell effect" rather than just "spell that looks like an attack".
For some practical examples of how some things would be affected:
- AP Nidalee would gain a bit of damage early on, but would benefit a bit less from magic pen; overall, the total damage of a spear should remain more or less unchanged through mid and lategame.
- AD Nidalee, meanwhile, would gain another strong tool. It would come at the cost of her Primal Surge spam, though, so a heavily-spearing AD Nid could be countered by going all-in.
- ADC Jayce would blow people up with his hammer Q and E. Since the bases on those would have to be lowered a bit and the ratios increased somewhat, traditional bruiser Jayce might snowball harder.
- Renekton with an Infinity Edge would be a monster, sort of how Garen with an Infinity Edge is a monster.
- Fiora might be viable.
- Many traditional AD Casters would gain new itemization routes.
- Ghostblade might become meta?
Overall, there would be a lot of cases to iron out. Let's get that established right now. The question, then, becomes whether or not it's worth it, but to answer that, we'll have to talk about the benefits.
With all that work, why bother at all?
There are actually several benefits to adapting attacks to function like, well, attacks.
We were all new at the game, at some point, and we were all surprised to learn that Broken Wings is a spell (that... doesn't pop spell shields? Okay...). Thundering Shuriken? Spell. All of these things that, visually, play an "attack" chord, aren't. And, at the end of the day, that just doesn't make sense.
One of the things that Riot likes to talk about is "readability". Reducing the burden of knowledge on the players. Changing visual attacks into actual attacks means that the following suddenly make sense:
- Jax can counterstrike things like Hecarim's Rampage. This actually buffs the skill considerably, in that it will be able to do what you'd expect it to.
- Black Shield suddenly makes sense 100% of the time and it doesn't shit on AD Casters, which it was probably never meant to do.
- Spell Shields are now consistent. There are no more lists of what pops which shield to memorize.
- Doran's Shield does its job and you don't have to do math to find out when cloth5 is a better start (answer, for those curious: almost never, but against stuff like "Pantheon throwing spears at you", a shield that reduces damage from attacks is actually the worse choice).
- On-hits apply when you'd expect them to.
In a nutshell, things would generally behave as you'd expect. What's an attack and what's a spell becomes clearly differentiated, so players would have to open up the wiki a bit less often.
One of the big complaints for the AD Caster role has traditionally been that they have crappy itemization choices. They have, like, one viable build's worth of usable items. Making crit and attack speed workable on traditional AD Caster abilities (like Zed's shuriken and spin, or Riven's Broken Wings and Wind Slash) opens up possibilities that didn't exist before, while being kept in check by natural mechanisms on most AD Casters, like Riven's passive (her primary damage source) being unable to crit and her shield not scaling with ADC items, and Zed's passive AD steroid (that really, really likes bonus AD).
Allowing more itemization for ADs creates more variety where, previously, there wasn't any.
There are no more requests for an AD Caster item with spell vamp. They don't need it.
You know how ADCs just stop using abilities at a certain point in the game, and instead just right click and kill stuff? With things like Piltover Peacemaker and Double Up scaling with attack speed and able to crit, ADCs can actually use their abilities through the entire game, and that's cool. Because their numbers get to be lowered to compesnate, that makes Cait and Sivir less of a stupidly-oppressive lane presence, and that's also cool.
Reasons to rework what constitutes an attack, as a whole: it makes sense and has the ability to improve the game in a few areas. Reasons not to: it takes work.