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Power Creep and the Fate of Older Champions

Shigfugjum September 2, 2015 User blog:Shigfugjum

As Riot continues to patch League of Legends and introduce new characters, a form of power creep is inevitable - Utility Creep. Newer champions are being introduced with exciting, though complicated, kits. Riot is continuing to push the boundaries with the kind of power and abilities a champion can have; the latest arrivals showcase entirely new mechanics that have made a big splash in the game one way or another. This practice of continually upping the bar, of bringing complicated kits that are challenging to master, is a big part of what continues to draw players back to LoL long after finishing their 500th game.

However, we have to ask ourselves – what happens to the older champions that have been here for a lot longer, when the game was new and mechanics were simpler? Some, like Annie, continue to thrive, often by finding themselves repurposed to another role. Others, like Sion, receive reworks to instill new excitement in their kits and bring them up to par with their younger counterparts. But some, often because they were never exciting or popular enough to begin with, simply fall into obscurity. Taric is such a champion, whose mechanics are limited and outshined by newer champs that offer more flexibility, more power, and more exciting play-making potential.

So is it simply that champions with super simple, super old kit designs are destined to remain forgotten? Doomed to sit in obscurity until Fairy Godmother Rito magically grants them a rework overhaul, transforming their bland kits so they can go to the Summoner’s Rift Ball along all the other, more interestingly designed champions? I mean, Riot has even attempted to ‘rework’ Taric with kit adjustments in the past, but the core of his kit remained 2 targeted abilities and 2 on-demand aura buffs, which is so one dimensional it’s almost non-dimensional. It’s no wonder that people on the Wiki have proposed some more drastic alterations to his kit, trying to find some new mechanic or new way Taric can interact with the game. Something that will carve out a place for Taric among the plethora of ‘Support Tanks’ currently lined up in the roster.

But maybe we are looking at this all wrong. Maybe Taric already has a role in League, one we have just not realized. Or more accurately, forgotten.

We Were All Lvl 2 Once

The exciting and complex kits offered by Bard, Tahm, Azir, etc, sure are fun to play and master and make great footage for Youtube, but dang if they don’t take a while to learn. Heck, there’s one guy on Youtube who has a series of vidoes showing the pros being confused as they try to wrap their head around freshly released champions and their new, shiny, brain-bending shenanigans. If the pros, who have been slugging out on the Rift for years, need a little while getting a grip on how to move their Sand Soldiers about, we can’t honestly expect new players that have only been playing nary a month to grasp such things quickly. Especially when they are trying to figure out basic things like how minion waves work, how towers and other objectives fit into the game, and how Thornmail actually isn’t a good item to buy on Ashe.

I specifically outted Taric because he has, in my opinion, one of the simplest kits whose power is so transparent and easy to read from both sides. Your Q heals whatever ally you click. Your E stuns whatever enemy you click. You passively buff armor, and can turn it into an armor debuff. You can give an AD/AP buff to your allies every 30 seconds or so. This also makes him super simple to itemize – you buy lots of armor and CDR. Depending on the person, one could reach a level of near mastery of Taric’s mechanics within one or two 40 minute games, maybe even less. So if a new player is interested in learning the role of a support, they can easily spend the rest of their pre-level 30 time in League learning about more core parts of the role – placing wards and setting up ganks. And once they reach level 30, hopefully feeling comfortable with managing minion agro and map awareness, they can start learning more intricate support champions like Thresh or Nami.

When Simple is Exactly What You Need

Sometimes champions with simple mechanics stay strong throughout all levels of play specifically because of their simplicity and reliability. Annie is one such a case – she has been transformed into a meta ‘support’ circa season three and has been going strong ever since. And when you get down to it, her kit is fairly bare bones as well. Targeted damage, cone of damage, an armor/mr buff, a big AoE nuke ultimate, and the icing on the one-tier cake is the fifth ability cast in a row stuns. The only special ‘trick’ in the kit is leaving your passive count at three to lull people into a false sense of security, then quickly tapping E right before you throw a spell out. Even then, the enemy can check the count on your passive by left-clicking on you. Imagine what would happen to Annie’s place in the meta if they did a major update on her like they did Sion. Now, that’s not likely to happen to the same magnitude – after all the big issue for Sion was not really power or functionality, it was an identity crisis (Was he AD? Was he AP? WAS HE ACTUALLY INTENDED TO BE BOTH?!?) and Annie has a clear identity as a semi-low range 100-0 burst mage that lives in the bottom lane as a ‘support’. But even smaller adjustments to her mechanics, especially to her low counterplay stun, could very easily upset her position. 

Xin Zhao is another simple, but conditionally effective, champion. He has almost usurped Warwick (another fairly simple champion all his own) for the title of “Everyone’s First Jungler.” His kit doesn’t take much time to get a grip on. He has free armor pen, a targeted gap-closer with a slow, an attack-speed steroid with a passive healing component, a three-hit knock up, and a knockback. You’re interactions with opposing players more or less boils down to ‘activate all of your basic abilities at once to slow them then knock them up’. Now that you have mastered that aspect  of Xin, you can start paying attention to pathing through your jungle and managing your time; understanding when a lane is prime for ganking; and learning how to set up for early dragon. In terms of the meta, Xin Zhao has unique balancing problems and usually only show up as a powerful meta champion whenever there is an item on the market that he can abuse. When that abuse case gets toned down or removed, then he slides back into the shadows.


It’s always nice to see old champions get cool reworks, bringing in new mechanics and giving them a fun niche amongst similar cohorts. But I really don’t feel that every single champion needs to have shiny mechanics that people can brag about. As cool as it is to be able to cancel animations on Riven just like Boxbox, not many people create their first Riot account with the goal to spend 30 hours in custom games to gain that mastery, and even if they did they have so much more to learn before they can even think of showing that off in ranked. So if Taric is never reworked and never becomes popular in the LCS, I can be okay with that, and hope that Riot can be okay with that too; that they can realize that Taric, and other champions with “flat” and “boring” mechanics, still have a place in the game even if they don’t have a place in the LCS. I personally put quite a few hours into playing Taric while I was leveling up my account. I have not selected him since (maybe once in URF), but I don’t regret spending the IP on him and keeping him in my roster.

And if nothing else, he is still OP in ARAM.

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