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Pyro's Item Overhaul 2 - Diversifying Mages

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Welcome back to the theorycrafting series. Today we'll look at the mage itemization and assess the main problems of midlane meta.

Previously on "Pyro's Item Overhaul"

My previous post concerned support itemization. The suggestions were generally warmly received, but the drafts had soem problems I'll still need to work at Here's the link if you missed it.

Let's move on to today's topic:

The Cookie Cutter Midlane Build

Even if it's not as consistent as in the tank toplane meta, there's a dominating item build in the middle lane that sees very little variance. If you've seen any pro games lately, you'll notice that most midlaners, regardless of what mage they picked, rush those three items:

  • Athene's Unholy Grail item.png Athene's Unholy Grail is the uncontested superior first item. Suited for both farming with spells and replanishing mana in teamfights, this is the best option for MR, CDR amd mana regeneration - packed with okay-ish chunk of AP. In some rare situations you could see Morellonomicon getting picked and lategame carries such as Kassadin Kassadin and Karthus Karthus may prefer Tear and Catalyst, but for any other champion, Chalice of Harmony item.png Chalice of Harmony is far superior.
  • Rabadon's Deathcap item.png Rabadon's Deathcap isn't as dominant in its class as the Grail is amongst 20% CDR items, but it's still the strongest 120 AP item that works with just any other source of AP. I don't really think the item is notoriously imbalanced, though, as the alternative upgrades to Needlessly Large Rod item.png Needlessly Large Rod have their purpose and are viable alternatives. Adding any alternative to Deathcap would need to be made in a way so i doesn't excessively stack with it.
  • Void Staff item.png Void Staff is a must-have. Not only does it work against tanks, who will build one of the upgrades to Spectre's Cowl item.png Spectre's Cowl, but also against every other target, really. Even carries will haave scaling MR runes and Banshee's Veil item.png Banshee's Veil. There is no reason not to buy it as no other item can enhance your damage for equal price. I'm not really convinced that item is in a good place. It should be a more situational pickup that doesn't punich carries for buying a bit of MR along with tanks who stack it.

Now those three items do not deserve any nerfs - well, maybe VS - they merely lack proper alternatives. That's why my solution to expand item pool in midlane is mostly tuning up some underused alternatives.

The Main Culprit


Void Staff item.png Void Staff tweak:

  • Passive: Your spells ignore 50% of target's bonus Magic Resistance.

This is a nerf in some cases. Some example math: in its current form Void Staff nullifies 10 base MR from squishies, and then 35% of any MR from items. The item, meant to counter MR stacking, actually does damn well against unshielded targets, as on that low amounts of MR flat penetration from Sorcerer's Shoes item.png Sorcerer's Shoes and Haunting Guise item.png Haunting Guise becomes even more powerful. My version of VS requires the target to have 70 bonus MR from runes/items to be more effective than the old one on squishy (30 base MR) targets. Efficiency on champions with scaling MR, at level 18 (52.5 MR), breaks even at 122 MR from items/runes (in current rune meta: 100 MR from items).

This should give mages a little better lategame presence against hypertanks stacking Banshee's Veil item.png Banshee's Veil with Spirit Visage item.png Spirit Visage and Guardian Angel item.png Guardian Angel, while allowing the squishies to go some for MR with no overwhelming downside.

Chalice of Imbalance

There is no better laning item in typical lane matchups than Chalice of Harmony. The only alternatives are Tear of the Goddess item.png Tear of the Goddess, which costs 180g less but provides no defense, and Catalyst the Protector item.png Catalyst the Protector, which costs 320 g more and has a much less convenient upgrade into Rod of Ages item.png Rod of Ages that takes some time (precisely and literally) to pay off. Furthermore, the RoA synergizes best with Archangel's Staff item.png Archangel's Staff, making those two items work best on stupidly late-oriented oldschool carries.

I do not intend to touch these items directly. They have their own purpose and, Catalyst aside, feel satisfying in what they're supposed to do. My approach to this situation would be introducing alternative mana regeneration items that could break the Chalice monopoly.

Why is that, you ask - mana using midlaners need mana regeneration to stay in lane, in most cases. I'm quite sure one of the reason why items such as Morellonomicon item.png Morellonomicon are struggling is the lack of reliable mana regen in their build path. Let's look at this item with a slightly altered components:

Morellonomicon item
2200 Gold (345 Gold)
Fiendish Codex item
820 Gold (385 Gold)
Meki Pendant item
600 Gold (240 Gold)

Final price and statistics remain unchanged. The only difference is that you can sit on Meki Pendant item.png Meki Pendant for a while, which is a very handy 10% CDR item that can actually compete with Chalice. In its current form it could actually become an ingredient of Grail as well, to pair with a price increase to AUG - this could be the fair way to nerf AUG, although I think it can be left as it is. Morellonomicon isn't the only upgrade to Meki, though:

Will of the Ancients item
2500 Gold (265 Gold)
Hextech Revolver item
1200 Gold (330 Gold)
Meki Pendant item
600 Gold (240 Gold)

Similar approach as with Morellonomicon, but going a step further: current WotA lacks slot efficiency and actually has less AP than Hextech Gunblade item.png Hextech Gunblade. I've made the item mage-friendly with the Meki buildup and increased the total AP by 20 at the cost of price being 500 g higher. This should fix most issues people had with this item - mana sstill needs to gate this item from being too efficient on Vladimir, but in the current forms it's not fitting mana using mages, either.

Other possible Meki upgrade are support items mentioned in the previous post: reworked Talisman of Ascension item.png Talisman of Ascension (loses active, grants increased HP/MP regeneration aura) and Soul Shroud item.png Soul Shroud (Kindlegem+Meki, 20% CDR, breaks CDR cap increasing it to 50%)

Another idea for alternative mana item to Chalice is bringing back Mana Manipulator item.png Mana Manipulator. What I particuarly like about this concept is that it works best against manaless oponents who tend to recklessly spam their abilities with no retaliation. Numbers probably need to be adjusted. It can be purchased by both supports and mid laners. The upgraded active can amplify your own AP or the target's:

Breathstealer item
2000 Gold (400 Gold)
Wizard's Regalia item
340 Gold (1200 Gold)
Mana Manipulator item
400 Gold (220 Gold)

The idea behind the item is to provide an upgrade to Mana Manipulator that lets the supports lend their power to the proper target. In the hands of an AP Carries, the item can be used on themselves to temporarily reach decent gold efficiency (and get some mana back).

It probably falls behind as the game progresses and mana from blue/baron/items is mroe than enough - I would aim here at the movement speed, it could be as high as 8%.

Note: Wizard's Regalia item.png Wizard's Regalia (this time I just used one of alpha items so it would have an icon) grants 50 AP and 5% MS, being a sort of mage Zeal. It builds into Lich Bane item.png Lich Bane and Twin Shadows item.png Twin Shadows. I made it with roamers such as Ahri Ahri in mind, since mages have rather low base MS. Compared to Zeal item.png Zeal, it's a bit less convenient to assemble.

Let's Push This Further

I don't think I need to explain that both Banner of Command item.png Banner of Command and Ohmwrecker item.png Ohmwrecker are rather underused in the current meta. Too bad, because after a slight rework they could actually be quite useful.

Banner of Command item
3000 Gold (820 Gold)
Seeker's Armguard item
1160 Gold (125 Gold)
Fiendish Codex item
820 Gold (385 Gold)

I could go on for a while explaining why the current Banner is so abaondoned, but I think I'll pass. I'd rather explain how this one is supposed to work.

Minion-based champions such as Elise, Malzahar and Heimerdinger, as every other mage, first need some mana and defence. For Banner to be a core item, it needs something more than CDR and AP - Morellonomicon item.png Morellonomicon and Athene's Unholy Grail item.png Athene's Unholy Grail are already a better pickup. Of course increasing the base stats requires increasing the price - but that's how a niche item should work. Decent slot efficiency as it is, and actually good gold efficiency on selected champions. And, what's important, adding Seeker's Armguard item.png Seeker's Armguard to the recipe makes building it worthwhile instead of punishing.

Any sort of balancing should be done by increasing the combine price, not decreasing the statistics. This is how this item needs to look like in its final form to be considered by people, especially since the Promote active has questionable value as the game goes on. Another possible solution is reducing CDR to 10%.

Ohmwrecker item
3040 Gold (1000 Gold)
Seeker's Armguard item
1160 Gold (125 Gold)
Chalice of Harmony item
880 Gold (120 Gold)
  • +50 ability power, +50 armor, +50 magic resistance, +10 mana regeneration
  • Passive - Mana Font: Increases your mana regeneration by 1% per 1% mana you are missing.
  • Passive: Your basic attacks deal 100 bonus damage to towers. This effect cannot occur on a tower more often than once per second.
  • Active: Prevents the closest enemy tower from attacking for 2.5 seconds (120 second cooldown). This effect cannot be used against the same tower more than once every 7.5 seconds.

The idea behind Ohmwrecker is great. It can be used to break the long, boring siege and towerdive. However, Riot never seemed to get this item right. First it was a tank item, building from Catalyst the Protector item.png Catalyst the Protector and Chain Vest item.png Chain Vest. Well, tanks can stack enough HP and armor to do their job and tank the damn turrets. Then it was a support item building out of Philosopher's Stone item.png Philosopher's Stone - which already had a much better upgrade in Shurelya's Reverie item.png Shurelya's Reverie. Now without Philo the item simply doesn't provide enough statistics to be considered worth it in a mage build.

My approach was to make it the ultimate laning item. Buildup on Armguard and high combine cost delays the item's power spike, but makes it very comfortable to assemble. Once it gets finished, the passive damage should help bringing down the turrets to counter roaming. The active may not always make a difference in teamfights, but the base statistics are more than okay.

Twin Shadows item
2300 Gold (300 Gold)
Wizard's Regalia item
340 Gold (1200 Gold)
  • +50 ability power, +40 magic resistance, +6% movement speed
  • Active - Hunt: Summons 2 invulnerable ghosts for 6 seconds to seek the two nearest enemy champions. If they touch an enemy champion, they slow their movement speed by 40%, reveal them and reduce the damage they deal to you by 20% for 2.5 seconds. 120 / 60 second cooldown.

The damage reduction on targets hit by ghosts is one thing, but the most important one is the change in build path. I can't think of any instance when Twins would be bought with holding two Amplifying Tome item.png Amplifying Tomes in mind - two Null-Magic Mantles, however, make a bit more sense, especially when struggling against high-burst champion like LeBlanc LeBlanc. The base stats provided by the item remain the same, but the change in build path should make it much more convenient.

The addition to active (you take 20% less damage from hunted targets) is potentially huge, hence the slight price increase. This could turn some ganks around.

Summa summarum

Next two episodes contain the carry part, featuring changes to armor penetration items similar to what I've done with Void Staff item.png Void Staff... and then some love for melee carries. After that, I'll ship the first draft of my fighter project that includes reworks of Atma's Impaler item.png Atma's Impaler, Executioner's Calling item.png Executioner's Calling and many many more items.

Thanks for all your feedback, it helps immensely in finding flaws in my designs. Special thanks to the fellow IRC guys at #r/leagueoflegends.

Feel free to trashtalk this and find abuse cases!

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