(Note: This post is obsolete after CertainlyT reworked Graves in V5.22. This rework took him in pretty much the exact same direction, that of a very short-ranged, bursty shotgun marksman, but the official version gave him a far cooler autoattack modifier, and thereby much more interesting gameplay.)
This is a tentative rework for Graves, the Outlaw. For over a year, Graves had fallen under Lucian's shadow, being the mobile bursty marksman with less safety and more mana issues. Now that Lucian's been turned into the hyper-mobile hit-and-run marksman he is now, and thus become more niche, Graves has risen to the top of the roster as the next most versatile marksman in the game (Tristana used to be that too, but her nerfs and subsequent rework gave her a niche of her own). Right now, he has a bit of everything: he's got burst, DPS, mobility, poke, and even a bit of tankiness. His weakness was originally meant to be his low-ish range, but his passive and Q allow him to poke for decent damage at long ranges. Because of this, he actually has a pretty safe laning phase, and gets to output relatively safe burst from a comfortable distance all game, despite his kit being built to make him fight from up close. Right now, the only thing preventing him from becoming oppressive is his terrible mana usage, which is one of the reasons why Essence Reaver can't be made viable (Graves would be able to get rid of his only real weakness).
Overall, Graves is eventually going to need a Lucian-level set of tweaks: while his playstyle is often compared to pre-rework Lucian's, he actually has a fundamentally different core set of incentives: Lucian wants to dash across the edge of fights, keeping enemies at bay while sniping them with precise shots; Graves, on the other hand, wants to barge into his opponents, blow them up at close range, and clean up whomever's left. Playing up his in-your-face, bursty playstyle would allow him to have much clearer strengths (he could be the burstiest marksman in the game), along with equally clear weaknesses (he'd also be the shortest-ranged marksman out there, bar Urgot).
Graves gains 「 2 + (Graves's level) 」「 3 - 20 (based on level) 」 bonus armor and magic resistance every second he remains in combat with an enemy champion or large monster, stacking up to 5 times for a maximum of 「 10 + (5 × Graves's level) 」「 15 - 100 (based on level) 」 bonus resistances. Stacks decay one at a time every second when out of combat.
This is mostly a number crunch, but one I think Graves needs. The core change I'm proposing here is reducing Graves's autoattack range to 450, from 525, which would make him the second shortest-ranged champion in the game, after Urgot. Obviously, this would make him way riskier at all points in the game, so he'd get to be a lot stronger at those ranges: aside from a massive increase to his base and per-level AD (he gets 6 more AD at level 1, and the highest base AD out of any ranged champion), the above passive change would allow him to not only gain a much larger resistance bonus (100 bonus armor and MR at level 18, which is huge), but also to build it up a lot faster (over 5 seconds instead of over 10 seconds). On the other hand, he'd only get to activate it upon entering combat with champions or monster camps, so he'd no longer be able to just passively get tankier via farming a minion wave, and his defenses would only activate upon getting into a real fight. One big weakness I want to establish, aside from a much riskier playstyle, is a vulnerability to poke: Graves is more the hard-engage type than the poking kind, and it would make sense for him to thrive in the middle of a fight, but suffer when kept at bay.
As with the rest of Graves, I'd like to reduce this ability's range, but increase its damage, especially at very close ranges. Right now this is a fairly effective form of poke, and I don't think poke is something Graves is meant to be good at. On the other hand, even on live it has the power to deal massive damage up close, when you get to clip the same target with multiple bullets, and I think that's what needs to be played up about him here. The end result is that this ability would be a lot less effective when poking with just one bullet, but would be absolutely devastating in close-up engages. With this, I changed the scaling so that it would ramp up nicely early on, though not as hard, then progress naturally as the game goes on (Graves currently falls off a little in the latter mid and late game, due to how his abilities stop giving him as much damage).
Smoke Screen is an underrated ability, that's often used by Graves players for the wrong reasons. It provides an awesome and unique form of crowd control, yet tends to be used like a nuke, due to its magic damage. Going with the theme of making Graves the ultimate hard-engage marksman, I'd like to remove the poking power of this ability, along with the increasing mana cost (it wouldn't need an increasing mana cost if it weren't a nuke), and replace it with better overall utility, and more usability. The effect I want to achieve here is to basically make the smoke screen work like actual smoke, where it could be used to hide yourself and allies behind it and set up ambushes, but also to trap enemies in the middle of it and momentarily take them out of a fight. I'd like Smoke Screen to sort of be the ranged equivalent of Wind Wall, where it's a pure CC/utility ability that does nothing else, but that can give the user's team an enormous advantage when used correctly. As part of this, I significantly buffed the ability's crowd control, as a 30% slow is extremely weak by late-game standards, and even during the early game a 15% slow isn't going to be particularly effective.
An attack speed boost doesn't feel quite right on Graves. His greatest strength comes from bursting down his opponents, not DPSing them to death (even though he is a marksman), so I feel he should have a different kind of steroid. While the on-hit effect here wouldn't increase his single-target damage (Buckshot would already make him very good at that), it would give him a lot more constant AoE damage, which would then also give him naturally better waveclear.
Changing the cooldown reduction paradigm on the active would also encourage Graves to get up close and damage as many enemy champions as he can for more dashes, even if the base cooldown is shorter: I proposed a rework to crit in another blog post, with the premise being that every third attack or ability against the same target would be a critical strike, and having that on Graves would allow him to synergize better with crit, and therefore scale better into the late-game. Here, it would force him to land a few abilities and attacks on his enemies first before being able to reposition, though his AoE-heavy kit would also allow him to take huge chunks off his dash's cooldown at a time.
Also, for the sake of clarity, the on-hit effect counts as a projectile, so if Braum uses Unbreakable, enemies behind him wouldn't take damage. The damage also wouldn't interact with lifesteal, otherwise Graves would get to heal for full instantly just by autoattacking a minion wave once. Also, while we're at it, I think his dash should work in the same way as Relentless Pursuit, i.e. it would be much more generous in carrying him over terrain when dashing over large walls.
Collateral Damage is a pretty nifty ability, and just complements Graves's burst by making him even burstier and allowing him to finish off escaping targets. It's not really the most deep or complex ultimate out there, but it's satisfying and healthy, so it's worth keeping. The only change I want to make here is to keep the damage constant, since here Graves could afford to deal the same amount of damage to every enemy hit (I'm trying to emphasize his AoE bursting capabilities).
What do you think of these proposed changes? It's not really the most extensive rework out there, but Graves is a champion with a pretty good set of abilities already; he just needs to be nudged into a more specific niche, I feel. Is this what you imagined Graves would be like? What do you think are meant to be Graves's strengths and weaknesses? Considering that I'm suggesting to slash his autoattack range, do his other changes compensate for this well enough?