IN PROGRESS~ Do mind the dust while construction is ongoing.

This is a three part blog: First is an analysis from the designer's standpoint as I see it, while the second is an elucidation of what principles might make her passive better. The last is an example passive I wrote up.

Stashu summed her theme up already, so I’ll merely paraphrase it in one sentence:

  • The price of ambition is its own reward.

However, what the promo lacks is an explanation of the internal workings of pre/post-serpentification Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia sought the power of the Tomb of the Emperors, but to what end? Why does she want power? Now that she has a power, what will she do with it? Despite her transformation, is she still able to achieve her goals? Can she still be a noblewoman in her serpentine form? How much of pre-Shurima lore is valid on this version of Cassiopeia? These are questions that are seriously lacking if we’re to really understand Cassiopeia and how her lore is supposed to fit with her gameplay.

Moving on, let’s think about the passive. Stashu and Morello have made clear a few things about how they envision the passive:

  • Scaling mechanism, by virtue of proper utilization of her poisons
  • Useful tool for gating how quickly Cassiopeia gains power (I.e. prevents her from being a lane bully)
  • Ties in her lore (Poison begets poison)
  • Partitions her power curve into very specific, performance-based breakpoints
    • Such partitions create the feeling of impactful evolutions at certain points
  • Takes up a large portion of the power budget on her kit
  • Introduces mechanics which are not core, but are attractive and changes the way Cassiopeia makes decisions

So the real question we should be asking about the passive is not “why does it feel bad?” but “how can we make it better, while remaining true to the original vision of the passive?” There are generally two categories of scaling passives:

  • Buckets of Stats (See Veigar, Nasus, etc)
  • Skill Effect Modifiers (Syndra, Kha’zix, etc)

Cassiopeia takes from both, but moreso from the former, which presents us with a general problem: Buckets of stats have a satisfaction problem, i.e. they don’t “feel good” until the late game, and coping mechanisms for the early and mid game are necessary to get to the late game (Mana regen and Lifesteal passive respectively). Cassiopeia has her own, in the double sustain that Twin Fang can bring, but it doesn’t appear to be satisfactory for a lot of the player base.

So how can we approach the passive in such a way that we maintain all of the preset goals of the passive, while increasing the satisfaction and without breaking the role of Cassiopeia as a hypercarry? One key is to spread the power balance a little more evenly into the mid-game through the use of additional breakpoints while at the same time building off the bonuses she can already access in her kit. Another thing is to reduce the amount of pure stat bonuses given off the passive, and shift the power created towards effects that increase interactivity with her poisons and create greater depth.

Additional Breakpoints:

  • As for the first point, any arbitrary set of points would work, as long as they come at meaningful times and are sufficiently spaced out to ensure that Cassiopeia can scale at a proper rate. For example, instead of 3 breakpoints, we could instead have 4 at 100, 200, 350, and 500 or even 5 if you can partition off her power curve with sufficient skill.

Build off Previous Elements:

  • As Stashu has experimented with this, I don’t feel I need to talk a lot about it, but it’s worth a brief thought. By looking at elements already in the kit, and allowing breakpoints to change the way those elements work, you create a perceptible change in impression for the player when they hit those breakpoints.
    • That’s why the Twin Fang heal has been almost universally lauded as one of the best part of her current passive; it’s available at a point in the game where Cassiopeia can benefit most from it (The laning phase), it adds an element Cassiopeia would otherwise have to deviate from an ideal build to get (Spell Vamp 2.0), and it is an element that improves as Cassiopeia gets stronger (Scales with AP), allowing it to have an impact throughout the entire game from the moment she gets it.

Reduce the Stat Bonuses:

  • The crux of this argument is that if you’re going to add power to her passive, you have to take power away from somewhere, and this is the easiest part to take from, since it’s the least dynamic. I personally am ambivalent about the 25% CDR/30% AP, as I can see where it helps her kit a lot (Allow her to skip CDR itemization, lots of AP makes her do a LOT of damage late game), yet has significant drawbacks (%based bonuses require significant amount of flat bonuses to be useful, she doesn’t scale well with CDR, Poor Ratios lock her into AP heavy builds without much flexibility) It can still have a place on her kit, but her power curve can be smoothed out a bit by hitting these numbers and giving her a bit more in other areas.

Increased Interkit Interactivity:

  • For an immobile champ who will remain immobile without reliable hard CC, Cassiopeia has only one path to victory: kill them before they kill you, and maximize kiting to do so. In order for her to be competitive with champions in a metagame where access to mobility is increasingly becoming the barrier to even entering competitive play, her kit needs to synergize much better. Right now, decision making is remarkably binary for both Cassiopeia and her opponent, so why not use the passive to increase the number of options via synergistic interactions?

Now then, let’s use these principles and think of changes that answer these questions.

  1. Does it reward smart usage of her kit?
  2. Can it be used to gate her power?
  3. Does it tie in her lore of poison begetting poison?
  4. Are the rewards for each breakpoint appropriately timed?
  5. Does it increase the depth of gameplay within Cassiopeia's kit?