A few months ago, I had come up with an idea for a hybrid penetration item: building from a The Brutalizer item Brutalizer and a Haunting Guise item Haunting Guise, the item, named Phase Shifter, would allow the user to go through a portion of the target's bonus armor and magic resistance. Less than Last Whisper item Last Whisper or Void Staff item Void Staff, but enough to warrant use on hybrid champions such as KayleSquare Kayle, JaxSquare Jax, PoppySquare Poppy and even EzrealSquare Ezreal. It would solve the problem of hybrid itemization, and would allow players to truly build full hybrid if they wanted.

As it turns out, that was a terrible idea.

There are quite a few reasons as to why pure AP/AD hybrid builds and, by extension, AP/AD hybrid items, are not a good thing to have in a game like League of Legends, which is why I think they deserve their own section (see below). TL;DR: going pure hybrid makes for a bland playstyle, one in which your champion is a weaker version of its AP and AD specialized builds, smooshed together so as to have no particular strengths or weaknesses. Moreover, hybrid builds are by nature inefficient, so people generally tend to go pure AP or AD anyway. Because hybrid items such as Guinsoo's Rageblade item Guinsoo's Rageblade, Hextech Gunblade item Hextech Gunblade and Trinity Force item Trinity Force tend to be exclusively used on AD or AP builds (whenever Guinsoo's or Gunblade gets used at all), it would be better to refit them as more specialized items, rather than keep them in their current middling state.

Guinsoo's Rageblade

Changes

  • New recipe: Phage item Phage + Pickaxe item Pickaxe Recurve Bow item Recurve Bow + Gold 275.
  • Cost increased to Gold 3400 from Gold 2800.
  • Ability power removed.
  • Now grants +40% attack speed and +200 health.
  • Now has the Rage passive.
  • Unique passive (stacks):
    • Now grants +5 attack damage instead of +4 ability power.
    • Attack speed per stack reduced to 5% from 8%.
    • Stacks now only generate from basic attacks, instead of basic attacks and abilities.
    • Stacks now last 5 seconds, down from 8.
    • Melee champions now generate two stacks per basic attack.
    • At 5 stacks, now grants 20% AD bonus on-hit physical damage, splashing to nearby enemies.
    • Surge passive removed.

Notes

This blog post was made a long time ago, way before Guinsoo's got changed in V5.22. Prior to its rework, the item had little internal synergy, and only made sense on champions with AP on-hit damage, like JaxSquare Jax or KayleSquare Kayle. While the new version now has its own AP-scaling on-hit effect, that still largely holds true, and the item feels like an autoattacker item that just happens to have AP tacked on, rather than a proper hybrid item. Guinsoo's is still almost exclusively picked on AD-scaling, autoattacking champions, so it would make sense to do away with its AP side entirely in favor of a more focused item, one that would benefit more champions while still retaining a niche, though one that would be dependent on intent and playstyle (this would be the perfect item for ramping sustained autoattack damage) rather than scalings.

Hextech Gunblade

Changes

  • New recipe: Hextech Revolver item Hextech Revolver + Aether Wisp item Aether Wisp + Gold 950.
  • Cost reduced to Gold 3000 from Gold 3400.
  • Attack damage removed.
  • Life steal removed.
  • Spell vamp reworked (see here for the rationale).
  • Now grants +10% movement speed.
  • Active is now a passive, affecting the wielder's next basic attack or single-target spell every 30 seconds.

Notes

If it looks like I gutted Hextech Gunblade, that's because I somewhat did, and I had to: as the combination of a strong AP item and a strong AD item, both with their assorted set of stats, the item is bloated with tons of different effects that ultimately boil down to the same thing: single-target dueling potential. As it stands, the current item is massively gold efficient on its own, and is forced to, since the sustain stats (spell vamp and life steal) aren't too strong when you've only got a bit of damage of each type. Gunblade certainly offers no small amount of damage, but the champions it's picked on, namely AkaliSquare Akali, KatarinaSquare Katarina and JaxSquare Jax, typically use it primarily for the AP, spell vamp and active. If the AD were converted into a small amount of AP, its functionality wouldn't change one bit, and it would offer a similar, if not identical, damage increase on all of these champions.

As it stands, Gunblade is almost exclusively picked by AP assassins who are forced to get up close to their enemies. For this reason, in addition to clearing away the AD/life steal, I increased the AP the item gives and added movement speed through the addition of Aether Wisp item Aether Wisp to the recipe. Aether Wisp is an AP assassin's dream, allowing them to deal more damage and roam a lot better, so it is only fitting that it should go on an AP assassin-oriented item. Moreover, the movement speed this gives adds continuous sticking power that complements the item's active, allowing the assassin to stay close to their target for long enough to unleash their burst. Because the item gives a bit less damage and sustain than its current counterpart, I reduced the cooldown on the active, which usually doesn't get cast more than once in a fight anyway, so that the wielder could spell vamp from it more frequently as well as include it more often into their rotation, but also potentially use it more than once in a fight and get some additional sticking power. Because the item no longer builds out of a Bilgewater Cutlass item Bilgewater Cutlass, I removed the projectile component and changed the active to an autoattack/single-target spell enhancer, which would significantly reduce the range on this item's crowd control in most situations, though the effect would also fully dip into the item's new spell vamp effect. I may probably have gone a little overboard on the movement speed and active cooldown, but the general idea should be that the new and improved Gunblade should provide great roaming power for assassins, who'd then want to initiate ganks with a bit more damage and sticking power.

Sheen

Changes

  • Is now a basic item, costing Gold 600 down from Gold 1200.
  • Cooldown reduction removed.
  • Mana removed.
  • Spellblade damage changed to 50 + (3 × level) from 100% base AD.
  • Magus item Runeglaive replaced (see here for an explanation).

Notes

Sheen is a supremely awkward item, perhaps even the most awkward item in the game. So awkward it is that it's been distorting the kits of champions for years, forcing developers to add extraneous AP ratios onto fully AD champions so that they would make better use of the item's stats. The only item that achieved any kind of comparable effect is Lich Bane item Lich Bane, which was responsible for forcing down the AP ratios on the autoattack-based damage of certain AP champions. The rationale behind the item's stats seems to be that, with Spellblade being spell-dependent, the AP would make the spells more powerful, and the mana would allow more spellcasts: while the mana is sort of okay, as only few champions are manaless relative to the full League roster, the AP is not, as abilities do not scale exclusively with AP. In fact, if it weren't for the addition of these artificial AP ratios, we would likely actually end up with far more pure AD-scaling abilities than with AP-based ones.

In general, Sheen itself is a weird item to give stats to, as it caters to classes with radically different core stats (i.e. AD champions with Trinity Force item Trinity Force, AP champions with Lich Bane item Lich Bane, and tank-building bruisers with Iceborn Gauntlet item Iceborn Gauntlet), who would therefore not really share any stats in common. Because of this, I think the solution might be to instead just make Sheen a basic item of its own, with Spellblade as its only bonus (though it would still be really significant). I also think this item already has a strong enough niche of its own (it needs heavy spell-weaving to be really good) to not have to depend on base AD to differentiate between champions, which is one of the reasons why I changed the passive damage, another being that it would make transitioning to different scalings less weird. Sterak's Gage item Sterak's Gage would lose some of its Sheen synergy, but I think the item is a niche enough pick on its own (you have to remain in combat for extended periods to make use of its passive) to not have to rely specifically on another item to work optimally. The end result for Sheen would be that it would become even easier to rush, though its power spike would be a bit more specific (it would assist with last-hitting and short trades, but not boost spell casts in any way).

One thing to note is that this blog post was made a long, long time before V5.22, which removed the AP from Sheen and therefore de-hybridized every item in its line. Though that's a good thing, I'm not too big a fan of the current result, which keeps its mana (I'm not a fan of mana itemization in general), and so think the above version would be better, even if it would mean removing the 10% CDR from subsequent options once more.

Trinity Force

Changes

  • Combine cost reduced to Gold 150 from Gold 300.
    • Total cost reduced to Gold 3000 from Gold 3800.
  • Cooldown reduction removed.
  • Mana removed.
  • Bonus movement speed removed.
  • Health increased to 300 from 250.
  • Critical strike reworked (see here for details).
  • Rage now provides its maximum bonus on critical strikes as well as kills.
  • Spellblade now causes the next attack to critically strike, instead of providing 200% base AD bonus physical damage.

Notes

Trying to streamline Trinity Force item Trinity Force is a bit like explaining a joke: the entire point to Triforce is that it offers a plethora of different stats and bonuses. And yet, it's an amazing item, one that has a strong and unique identity (tons of damage!), that's fun to use, and that presents genuinely interesting and viable gameplay. Even though it technically goes against every rule of good item design, it's enjoyed a consistently high pick rate and a great success rate too.

With that said, though, the changes I want to make to Sheen item Sheen would not impact on its core identity as the AD spell-weaving item, and while its damage would be slightly reduced if it were picked as an only damage item, it would still provide a host of strongly self-synergizing bonuses that would work well on any AD class capable of blending in attacks with abilities (getting one more solid AD item, or even a crit item, would allow Spellblade to deal similar or even potentially superior damage). On a larger level, Triforce could potentially even become a viable alternative to Infinity Edge item Infinity Edge for caster marksmen who'd prefer to crit in short bursts alongside abilities, while granting Juggernauts the mobility they need (AD assassins like TalonSquare Talon and ZedSquare Zed could also potentially make good use of this).

Iceborn Gauntlet

Changes

  • New recipe: Sheen item Sheen + Glacial Shroud item Glacial Shroud + Chain Vest item Chain Vest + Gold 750.
    • Total cost increased to Gold 3000 from Gold 2700.
  • Mana removed (see here for why).
  • Armor increased to 100 from 65.
  • Spellblade damage changed to 100% armor from 125% base AD.
  • Zone radius changed to 100% armor from 190 (+ 50% bonus armor).

Notes

Iceborn Gauntlet item Iceborn Gauntlet recently losing its AP in favor of better armor scaling was a fantastic step forward in making this an item that rewarded armor-stackers with greater control. Since it's no longer a hybrid item, there's not much else to say here, other than that it could stand to lose its mana in favor of better Spellblade offense as well, which would make it a prime armor-to-offense item for champions like NasusSquare Nasus or SkarnerSquare Skarner.

Lich Bane

Changes

  • New recipe: Sheen item Sheen + Aether Wisp item Aether Wisp + Fiendish Codex item Fiendish Codex + Gold 750.
    • Total cost reduced to Gold 3000 from Gold 3200.
  • Mana removed.
  • Spellblade base damage changed to 50 + (3 × level) from 75% base AD.

Notes

Lich Bane item Lich Bane is an item that used to create a lot of problems due to its AP ratio being too strong, but now that it's been sufficiently toned down it's in a good state. Overall, removing the mana and changing its Spellblade base damage wouldn't really impact on its core contribution, and it would still be able to compete with other major AP items on that stat alone, while catering specifically towards spell-weavers. Technically, a similar change should be done for Magus item Runeglaive, though I think that item's not really appropriate as a pick for all AP junglers, and should likely be replaced by something that would benefit mages more.

Hybrid champions have the most interesting itemization options. Because they scale about equally well with AD and AP, they can choose to specialize in one or another, each choice carrying its inherent strengths and weaknesses. JaxSquare Jax, for example, has phenomenal burst on a short cooldown and is naturally amazing against AP champions when building AP, but is also fairly squishy, whereas AD Jax has great DPS, sustain and defenses, especially against physical damage, but has weak burst and a vulnerability to crowd control (and a vulnerability to mages in general). Every other hybrid champion has a similar dichotomy inherent to their build choice, usually a question of burst (AP) versus sustained damage (AD).

Where this breaks down, however, is when going for a "true" hybrid build. Ideally, you'd expect an entirely new playstyle to emerge, but this unfortunately isn't the case: instead, you end up with a champion that has the combined strengths and weaknesses of their AP and AD playstyles, except made incredibly mediocre. Champions with hybrid builds don't really have any true strengths, but don't have any true weaknesses either. It's the epitome of bland gameplay, where you're technically able to do everything, but excel at nothing. The lack of clear weaknesses also makes it hard for the enemy to play against you, whether it be in terms of counterbuilding (do I build more armor or magic resist?), counterplay (what weaknesses can I exploit? What window of opportunity is this champion offering that allows me to gain the upper hand?) or even counterpicking (what champion works well against both this champion's AP and AD playstyles?). Additionally, it's not a particularly optimal build to run: a lack of clear strengths means you have no specific advantage to lean on and exploit, and the existence of specialized penetration items (i.e. Void Staff item Void Staff and Last Whisper item Last Whisper) means you're way better off focusing on one damage type than going all over the place.

All of this brings us to hybrid items: because they foster the kind of bland playstyle mentioned above (jack of all trades, master of none), they're generally a bad idea to have around. On top of that, they carry tons of other problems: because hybrid items, by nature, can only cater to a tiny fraction of the entire League roster, they're both heavily underpicked, even among hybrid champions (who regularly picks Guinsoo's Rageblade item Guinsoo's Rageblade anyway?), and need to have such bloated stats to be useful on what few champions they work with that they can end up being too good: Hextech Gunblade item Hextech Gunblade, for example, on top of having an extremely useful active, carries four different stats that are, by themselves, massively gold efficient. In general, they violate one of the central tenets of item design, which is to have all items strongly fulfill a specific function rather than be spread out thin and cover too many things at once (Trinity Force item Trinity Force being the one big exception). If you truly want to build hybrid damage, you should be able to pick from a selection of strong AP and AD items, just as any champion willing to cover a particular aspect of their playstyle (sustain, damage, tankiness, mana issues) will go for the relevant item, instead of trying to do everything at once in small doses with just one item.

Effectively, what I'm proposing is not so much to remove the hybrid items we know and love in League, but rather to repurpose them as dedicated AP or AD items. Guinsoo's Rageblade item Guinsoo's Rageblade's passives kick major ass, but the item's always picked on autoattack-based champions like KayleSquare Kayle or WarwickSquare Warwick, so might as well make the most of it by making the item a strong choice on autoattackers in general. Conversely, Hextech Gunblade item Hextech Gunblade is a popular pick on AP assassins like AkaliSquare Akali, KatarinaSquare Katarina and even the occasional AP JaxSquare Jax, and could definitely work as a pure AP tool for diving single targets. The Sheen item Sheen line of items is a whole can of worms by itself, and was cursed with awkward stats from the get-go. In fact, Sheen is so awkward an item that it's forced Riot to slap AP ratios onto AD champions, not to make them hybrid (AP builds on them would be horribly gimmicky and inefficient) but so that the stats from Sheen wouldn't be wasted as they built the item for its Spellblade effect. The base item would work better with AD than with AP, considering the Spellblade effect is autoattack-dependent, even if it does build into different options for AD and AP champions.


What do you think of this? While I do understand the proposal's a little out of left field, and requires a long-drawn line of reasoning to get to, I think it's ultimately a conclusion that could help both solve the problem of hybrid itemization (by eliminating hybrid itemization) and perhaps make it easier to implement "true" hybrid champions in the game, considering no such champion has been made in years.

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