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(Item Concept) Another Look at Vision

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(Please excuse the pun.)

By the end of Season 3, vision was a mess: stealth champions were at an all-time low due to Vision Ward item.png Vision Ward spam, and that same spam forced supports into a meta where they were forced to singlehandedly contribute vision for the entire team, using their entire limited gold income to buy more Vision Wards and Oracle's Elixir item.png Oracle's Elixir to the detriment of actual permanent items (if they bought any at all). Season 4, and the new trinket system, fixed a lot of those issues by allowing everyone to contribute to vision. Stealth champions became viable again, thanks to the removal of Oracle's, and supports switched back to being actual supports and not bottomless ward banks. Vision is in a pretty good state, perhaps the best it's ever been.

However, I feel the Season 4 changes only scratched the surface of the issues plaguing the vision game, which I'll put into more detail below. In short, though, there are three main problems with vision as it currently stands: a) item-based vision is built upon a system of hard counters, and the sole reason for the existence of several items is that they counter a mechanic that is otherwise impossible to play against (i.e. Sweeping Lens item.jpg Sweeping Lens and Vision Ward item.png Vision Ward versus Sight Ward item.png Stealth Ward), b) stealth itself, both on items and on champions, is currently implemented in an extremely binary manner that forces hard counters, and c) Sightstone item.png Sightstone, in its current state, is causing more harm to supports and their build than good. Here's what I think could be done to remedy these problems:

Items

Jungle

  • Crimson Raptor Crimson Raptor buff no longer provides true sight, but instead increases your warding range to 4000.
  • Greater Murk Wolf Greater Murk Wolf buff now follows the first enemy champion to step into either the blue and red quarters of its side of the jungle, rather than just the blue quarter.

Stealth

  • New mechanic: Fade. If a champion takes champion damage while stealthed or collides with an enemy champion, they briefly lose stealth, becoming visible for 0.5 seconds.
  • Effects that grant True Sight icon true sight now only grant Sight icon sight.
  • Evelynn Evelynn reworked to have more situational stealth.
  • Teemo Teemo
    • Likely needs a rework in general.
    • Noxious Trap.png Noxious Trap
      • Traps now become visible if within 212.5 units (their vision radius) of an enemy champion.
      • Traps now deactivate if they remain visible for 1 second, reactivating once they become invisible.
  • Shaco Shaco
    • Likely needs a rework in general.
    • Jack in the Box.png Jack In The Box
      • Traps now become visible if within 450 units of an enemy champion.
      • Traps now deactivate if they remain visible for 1 second, reactivating once they become invisible.
  • Likely a lot of other changes to adjust for the Fade mechanic (e.g. buffs, nerfs, other new mechanics, or changes to existing ones).

For details on the reasons behind these decisions, take a look at the other tabs. :3

(If you're pressed for time, check the TL;DR below, but the main wall of text explains my point best)

The changes in the previous tab might look a bit much: after all, the state of vision has never been healthier in LoL. Season 4 created an ecosystem of different items and trinkets that interacted with each other to provide interesting gameplay to vision, so there can't be anything wrong with it, right?

Trouble is, these changes, while a huge step forward, were based on a vision system reliant on hard counters, and the new ecosystem is now a part of the problem: currently, vision items are made of basic components of vision (Sight Ward item.png Stealth Ward and yellow trinket), and items designed to counter these (Vision Ward item.png Vision Ward and red trinket). Blue trinket, being essentially another Clairvoyance.png Clairvoyance, doesn't fit into this system well, and consequently only serves as a niche pick for marksmen who want to autoattack targets through brush. The only justification for the existence of the second class of items is because the first vision items, i.e. wards, are otherwise impossible to remove. Vision Wards are basically anti-Sight Wards, and red trinket is designed just to counter yellow trinket (plus problematic instances of stealth, but that's an issue for another tab). Effectively, we need two tiers of items to accomplish something that can be achieved with just one, i.e. vision and map control. If Stealth Wards were visible and as sturdy as Vision Wards, we wouldn't need Vision Wards in the first place.

The other issue with these hard counters, aside from engineering a binary arms race (i.e. win if you have a Vision Ward or a red trinket, lose if you don't), is that they take gameplay out of the hands of the players, and force it upon the purchase of items. Rather than being able to handle a mechanic organically, you're required to buy the specific anti-item item just to function normally. It is impossible to get rid of a Stealth Ward unless you have the specific item for it, even if you know the exact location of said ward and have alerted your team to it, which is the opposite of organic gameplay and what stealth should represent (see the next tab). By making Stealth wards visible, and balancing around that, not only can everyone fully participate in the vision game to the fullest (i.e. the burden of clearing wards doesn't fall solely to the player with the red trinket or deployable Vision Ward), free from the contrived need for a counter item, but warding in general would become a lot more interactive and streamlined. Junglers who want to get rid of wards could do so without needing a specialized counter-trinket, even if in the end they'd reveal themselves for a much longer time while doing so. Rather than split map vision and map control over two items with strong overlap (i.e. Stealth and Vision wards), both mechanics would be centered on one, clearly identifiable item.

What this also means is that, with this change, there would be no real need for the red trinket line, and arguably for the blue line as well, since it doesn't fit well into the vision game, can already be replicated with a dedicated summoner spell, and suffers from the exact same issues as that spell. Effectively, trinkets can just be streamlined to the yellow line, and to one single path (which I'll elaborate a bit more upon in the last tab).

TL;DR: The current vision system is one defined by hard counters (Vision Wards counter Stealth Wards, red trinket counters yellow trinket, no Vision Wards or red trinket means no way of dealing with Stealth Wards or yellow trinket), with gameplay focused exclusively around the interaction between a couple of items, rather than between wards and players. Changing Stealth Wards to become visible, more durable Sight Wards (basically Vision Wards at a cheaper cost and without the true sight, permanent duration or one-unit limit) would streamline the entire system, bringing interactivity directly to the players and making the other items obsolete without losing any real gameplay.

(As with the previous tab, there's a TL;DR at the bottom. The wall of text, however, goes into more detail)

Stealth, in its current state within the game, is extremely delicate to balance. When it's strong, stealth-based champions become really strong, to the point where they may require nerfs in other areas, and when it's weak (i.e. later Season 3), stealth-based champions become really weak, to the point where they become nearly unplayable because of their dependence on the mechanic. The best example of this is Evelynn Evelynn, who has swung from overpowered to balanced to extremely weak and back again, extremely quickly, on multiple occasions, and often without having anything changed in her kit. In general, stealth is extremely hard to design around: one of Rengar Rengar's main problems, pre-rework, was his ability to instantly appear right next to a squishy champion without any forewarning and pop them, and even now Teemo Teemo's Noxious Trap.png Noxious Trap is one the most easily identifiable sources of in-game frustration.

The reason behind this is due to the way stealth is implemented on most champions: as a mechanic, it is impossible to play against, unless you have the appropriate hard counter (i.e. true sight). Either you don't have a counter item, and your opponent can use stealth for what is essentially prolonged untargetability, or you do, and your opponent cannot function properly because you just completely negated their core utility. It means that, even if you know exactly where your opponent and their wards/traps are, you are unable to perform any action, simply because you didn't have the right trinket in your inventory. This also runs contrary to the very theme of stealth: stealth is supposed to be about deception, and playing mindgames with your opponent to surprise, misdirect, or evade them. While stealth champions should be rewarded for smart stealthing, they should also not receive total immunity if they're rumbled.

To this effect, I propose a Fade mechanic: if, while stealthed for a certain duration (i.e. about a second after entering stealth), you take non-DoT damage, you briefly phase back into view (say, about ~0.5 seconds or even less), becoming visible for the duration, with the proviso that only skillshots and ground-targeted abilities can trigger this, and not basic attacks, targeted abilities or damage over time. While stealthed champions would be able to take damage during stealth, they'd also be able to quickly become invisible again, particularly as the Fade effect would be tied to the enemy's ability cooldowns. This would also be consistent with the sound effects you already hear when hitting an enemy with a skillshot, stealthed or not. It would also be more consistent in terms of gameplay: a stealth player who gets caught shouldn't be as perfectly stealthed as a player who positioned and maneuvered properly to avoid detection. While this in itself is a nerf to stealth, it would not only make the mechanic a lot less binary (players who fade from damage taken can still quickly reenter stealth), but would also allow for more power to be granted to stealth champions, particularly in the case of successful stealthing. On top of that, it would totally invalidate the need for hard-counter mechanics such as true sight, vision wards or the mini-Oracle's Elixir item.png Oracle's Elixir on red trinket.

However, this mechanic in itself wouldn't be a cure-all to every issue plaguing stealth champions out there. Evelynn, in particular, creates serious problems by being completely immune to most wards, preventing any kind of counterplay or anticipation to her roaming without the necessary dedicated items. Shaco Shaco and Teemo Teemo are infamous for their highly irritating, nigh-unavoidable traps that, once placed, cannot be removed without the appropriate trinket or by detonating them, even if their exact location is known. While each stealth mechanic would likely require its own vision-related quirks, an easy fix to Evelynn's perma-stealth would be to allow Sight Ward item.png Sight Wards (Sight Ward item.png Stealth Wards, except no longer stealthed and with the hitpoints of a Vision Ward item.png Vision Ward, which they replace) to detect her within 700 units, the same detection radius as for champions. She'd still be more than capable of ambushing her targets, but would no longer be able to simply waltz into lane to perform a gank: instead, she'd need to adapt to the enemy's wards, choosing to either destroy those in her way (as with Vision Wards currently) or change her route to pass by unseen. If this makes her weak as a jungler, she could always have buffs elsewhere, such as to her mobility or burst. Invisible traps are trickier to handle, but one quick fix for them could be to make them visible at extremely close ranges: if they catch you by surprise, you at least have a split-second to react to them, and if you know their exact placement you'd be easily able to approach and dispose of them safely. Shaco and Teemo, in my opinion, need far more extensive reworks than just a change to their traps, but this would be a start, at least for their current kits. In general, though, making stealth more interactive for both parties (and therefore more soft-counterable) allows stealth-based champions to be significantly stronger, since they would no longer be constrained to a binary of super stealth success versus super stealth failure.

TL;DR: Stealth on most champions and items is fundamentally binary, being either negated by true sight or offering what is essentially prolonged untargetability, devoid of any meaningful interaction with opponents. Stealth should be about tricking your opponents on a mental level, not just avoiding their attacks: therefore, there should be ways of detecting stealthed units in the very specific situation in which you know their exact location (i.e. you are capable of pinpointing their location with a skillshot or very close positioning). In return, stealth-based champions could benefit from greater power, and perhaps greater rewards when successfully deceiving an opponent through their stealth.

When Sightstone item.png Sightstone was released in Preseason 3, it was a blessing for all supports, allowing them to sink gold into a sustainable, reliable source of vision, rather than an endless supply of consumable wards whose cost ended up being crippling to a support's build. While this didn't quite pan out as perfectly as it could've (supports still ended up dropping their build to fill up on Vision Ward item.png Vision Wards), it was a significant step forward in aiding the gold management of supports and cementing vision as an important part of gameplay.

Trouble is, though, it's now more a problem than a benefit, for the following reasons:

  • It holds supports back and limits their build choice: Sightstone is a mandatory item, if not the mandatory item, on literally every support in the game, regardless of their specialty or build choice. In an average game, it's going to be one of the first items a support is expected to buy. What this effectively means, is that supports only truly have five item slots to work with, since no matter what happens, they will always need to buy Sightstone. Even with the changes brought about by Season 4, supports still feel more limited in terms of item purchases than any other role, and Sightstone is one of the main reasons they are unable to make as many build choices as they should.
  • It's an item whose purchase is not based on choice or the enrichment of gameplay: Sightstone is, and always was, designed to fill out a need. Its sole purpose is to provide a cost-effective source of wards, as an alternative to endlessly buying Sight Ward item.png Stealth Wards at the expense of other items. As such, the decision to purchase Sightstone is not one based on adaptation to a specific champion's playstyle or in reaction to the enemy, but on pure necessity. As such, its purchase carries no real gameplay of its own. This is the opposite of what an item should be: purchasing an item should either cater to your champion's playstyle or allow you to react better to your opponents in combat (or both), and Sightstone accomplishes neither of those, despite its critical role in every Summoner's Rift match. Ruby Sightstone item.png Ruby Sightstone isn't really worth mentioning here, mainly because it's just a health boost to Sightstone that, in most games, isn't worth the purchase, and should by all rights be removed.
  • It forces supports to shoulder the burden of team vision: Even with the creation of trinkets in Season 4, designed to allow all players to participate in the vision game, supports are still expected to provide the bulk of team vision, even if vision is meant to be a team responsibility rather than that of just one role. The reason for this is that no other member of the team, bar Lee Sin Lee Sin and perhaps a couple of other champions, would be willing to dedicate an entire item slot just for vision (after all, they have a trinket for that). Even though vision is ultra-powerful, the usage of an item slot just for vision is too serious a drawback for most champions, as it would constrain their "proper" build to five items. Maintaining Sightstone in its current state perpetuates the expectation that supports must act as the team's primary ward reservoir, at the cost of build freedom and personal utility scalings, and in spite of everyone's collective responsibility to contribute to vision.

The solution to all this, I think, is simply to turn Sightstone into the ultimate trinket option: as I want to remove the red and blue trinkets (see the previous tabs for reasons why) along with Vision Wards, there would be only one trinket path, so this would have no competitors. Supports would still be able to provide lots of vision, but would also have access to an extra item slot for proper, gameplay-rich itemization. On top of that, since Sightstone would no longer cost an item slot, literally everyone would be able to make as significant a contribution to vision as supports, with nobody having to play vision slave to the rest of the team.

What are your thoughts on this? While the changes need a bit of explanation, and the explanation is a whole lot of TL;DR, would you consider these to be improvements to vision? What changes would you think the above would bring to stealth champions, both to each individual one and to them in general?

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