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(Item Concept) Revamping Life Steal

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Life steal is the most prominent form of item-based utility in the game, as well as a central stat to a huge part of the champion roster, as well as one that raises relatively little controversy. In spite of this, it's occasionally caused a few severe problems: back when it was particularly strong early on, bot lanes turned into very passive farm-fests, with champions rushing sustain items as fast as they could and avoiding combat at all cost. Even now, life steal tends to have a lot of variance with respect to many different stats, including AD and attack speed but also stats like crit, armor and armor penetration. Life steal tends to be precarious to balance because it's dependent on too many stats, all of them damage-related, and it's this dependence that invariably skews it towards pure damage-dealers more than it should, which in turn tends to make marksmen, squishy fighters and some assassins occasionally more durable than they should be.

On the flipside, another issue with life steal is that it occasionally lacks definition: while the rework to The Bloodthirster item.png The Bloodthirster in V4.10 and the more recent changes to Blade of the Ruined King item.png Blade of the Ruined King in V5.8 gave those items slightly clearer sustain niches, there is ultimately no real branching path to life steal, and sustain for AD champions tends to be used in pretty much the exact same way across items. While the nature of life steal means it'll always stay somewhat consistent as autoattack-based sustain (which is a good thing), it also has a ton of potential to develop into multiple different systems that would each support different niches and playstyles: Ravenous Hydra item.png Ravenous Hydra, for example, could have its niche as a waveclear and anti-group item pushed even further via its sustain.

Changes

  • New unique passive: Life Steal.
    • Allows the wielder to heal for 5% AD on every basic attack.

Notes

Vampiric Scepter item.png Vampiric Scepter is a fairly decent item, though one I feel is always at risk of becoming a problem: currently, the typical first major purchase for marksmen is Infinity Edge item.png Infinity Edge, which opens lanes up more for combat, but if the first major rush for marksmen were, say, The Bloodthirster item.png The Bloodthirster or Blade of the Ruined King item.png Blade of the Ruined King (which is the case for champions like Vayne Vayne, Kog'Maw Kog'Maw and Twitch Twitch), then the laning phase would be at risk of becoming a lot more passive and thereby a lot less interactive. Even Doran's Blade item.png Doran's Blade is enough to cause marksmen to fall back to hard-farming when they land at a disadvantage. With this in mind, I made Vamp Scepter heal for less as a baseline (against minions, at the very least). However, considering this new form of healing would apply irrespective or armor or any other kind of damage resistance, it would also be a buff past 60 armor, without factoring in crit.

The major change here is that I'm decoupling life steal completely from the enemy's resistance to damage (you'd heal as much from a squishy as you would from a tank), as well as crit chance, which I also decoupled somewhat from basic attacks (see here for a better explanation). The overall effect is that healing from minions should be worse (they have no damage reduction to start with), but would be significantly improved when fighting opponents who've stacked a lot of armor (their armor would no longer shut down your sustain). Life steal would no longer be increased by crit, and would start out somewhat weaker, but would improve significantly when investing in higher-level life steal. I intend to bridge the gap somewhat between marksmen and fighters, so that building damage would obviously lead to more healing, but life steal would also no longer require as many damage stats (namely, crit and armor pen) to be good.

Changes

  • New unique passive: Life Steal.
    • Allows the wielder to heal for 3% AD on every basic attack.

Notes

I'm really not a fan of the Doran's line of items, as I think they're purchases that carry no real decision-making early on, even with the recent addition of alternative starter items, and serve only to paper over issues Riot hasn't yet tried to answer, such as the inherent disadvantage melee champions are at against ranged opponents in lane. I think a perfect state of itemization would probably include their removal, but for the time being I think it would be best to just make the life steal on Doran's Blade item.png Doran's Blade unique. It would sort of force marksmen to sell it upon purchasing Vampiric Scepter item.png Vampiric Scepter, and therefore lose out on a bit of health, but I think that's a good thing, as it would make them more vulnerable to direct combat, and it would also prevent certain champions from abusing Doran's stacking (looking at you, Rengar Rengar).

Changes

  • New unique passive: Life Steal.
    • Allows the wielder to heal for 10% AD on every basic attack, and converts the overhealing into a shield that absorbs up to 200% AD damage.
    • If the shield breaks, it's disabled for 5 seconds but doubles the item's on-hit healing.

Notes

The Bloodthirster item.png The Bloodthirster is in a pretty good overall state, particularly since its rework turned it from a snowbally farm item to a good defensive pick for marksmen. My only issue with it is how the item tends to still be fairly generalistic (the best life steal item out there is perhaps not the most interesting niche out there when there are multiple potentially valid life steal items), and how its shield is essentially just bonus health. The above changes are there to provide better initial burst resistance, at the cost of a more difficult buildup (you'd have to be really good at autoattacking and/or have some time to spend on minion waves) and a lack of mid-fight shielding. Ultimately, this would still be a very popular item for marksmen, but could also possibly branch out more towards defensive marksmen, specifically, and perhaps also light fighters who'd want some better defenses when going in, while encouraging other items as more aggressive picks (Blade of the Ruined King item.png Blade of the Ruined King, especially, should be a great item to go up against the enemy front line).

Changes

  • New unique passive: Life Steal.
    • Allows the wielder to heal for 10% AD on every basic attack, also granting a stack for 8 seconds that increases the on-hit healing by 1% AD and grants 6 bonus AD, stacking up to 5 times.

Notes

Sanguine Blade item.png Sanguine Blade is pretty much a discount version of The Bloodthirster item.png The Bloodthirster. It's likely the item will be eventually phased out completely, as it was on Murder Bridge, but for the time being this would be its reworked equivalent. The sustain would probably be a bit more desirable, as it would go through damage reduction, but otherwise it would remain largely the same.

Changes

  • New unique passive: Life Steal.
    • Allows the wielder to heal for 10% AD every time they deal physical damage with a basic attack or ability.

Notes

As this blog post was made before V5.22, this section didn't cover Death's Dance, but instead addressed Essence Reaver item.png Essence Reaver, turning it more or less into what Death's Dance is now, though minus the delayed damage effect. While the item seems to be doing fine right now, making its healing more consistent overall would likely not hurt it by much.

Changes

  • Tiamat item.png Tiamat:
    • New recipe: Pickaxe item.png Pickaxe + Caulfield's Warhammer item.png Caulfield's Warhammer + 25 Gold.
      • Total cost increased to 2000 Gold from 1250 Gold.
    • Health regeneration removed.
    • Attack damage increased to 50 from 30.
    • Now grants 10% cooldown reduction.
    • Cleave damage changed to 8 + (0.67 × level), increased to 24 + (2 × level) at the center, from 20% AD to 60% AD.
    • Crescent:
      • Added back to the item.
      • Is now an autoattack reset.
      • Cooldown increased to 20 seconds from 10.
  • Titanic Hydra item.png Titanic Hydra:
    • New recipe: Tiamat item.png Tiamat + Giant's Belt item.png Giant's Belt + 600 Gold (total cost unchanged).
    • Health regeneration removed.
    • Now grants 10% cooldown reduction.
  • Ravenous Hydra item.png Ravenous Hydra:
    • New recipe: Tiamat item.png Tiamat + Vampiric Scepter item.png Vampiric Scepter + 700 Gold (total cost unchanged).
    • Health regeneration removed.
    • Now grants 10% cooldown reduction.
    • New unique passive: Life Steal.
      • Allows the wielder to heal for 5% AD every time they damage an enemy with a basic attack or Cleave, doubled to 10% AD against champions and large monsters.
    • Crescent:
      • Now is an autoattack reset.
      • Cooldown increased to 20 seconds from 10.

Notes

When Tiamat item.png Tiamat was made melee-only and given an upgrade, Ravenous Hydra item.png Ravenous Hydra, it was a breath of fresh air for a great deal many melee champions, who'd love the splash damage but had to contend with a mediocre item that could be abused by marksmen. Even now, both items are extremely successful, and have been joined by another upgrade, Titanic Hydra item.png Titanic Hydra. However, the state of this new item shows how much itemization has evolved: whereas Crescent is often confused as an autoattack reset, and is frequently used in the middle of ability rotations for additional burst, it's been turned into an autoattack reset on Titanic Hydra, which would solve both the issue of confusion and over-burst. For this reason, I think it would be better to change Crescent on Tiamat and Ravenous Hydra to fit the same model, and while that in itself may dissuade some AD champions from picking the item (Riven Riven picks the item pretty much just for its active, for example), I also swapped out the health regeneration for cooldown reduction, which would cement the Tiamat line as a strong choice for both bruisers and damage-heavy AD casters alike. Health regen doesn't really do much on these items, particularly since Ravenous Hydra's sustain blows it out of the water and Titanic Hydra is not meant to be a sustain option, which is why I think it would be better to pull it out here. Perhaps the combination of stats here might be a bit too good, but I'm betting that it wouldn't distort build incentives too hard (it would also help AD champions fill out better on CDR, which so far has always been tough to itemize on them, though less so after the changes in V5.22).

As for Ravenous Hydra, the main change here, aside from the ones to its stats and active, is the one to its sustain: the idea here is that Ravenous Hydra should be the absolute best anti-group sustain item (and it already is, to some extent), which is why its sustain would get multiplied when attacking minion waves and enemies surrounded by more enemies. On the flipside, it's also meant to be the crappiest dueling item, which is why its sustain is also inferior to every other item's in one-on-one combat. As a rule, the minimum life steal provided by any top-tier item against a champion should be 10% AD, but anything around that should vary (preferably in a manner favorable to the user) depending on their use.

Changes

  • New recipe: Vampiric Scepter item.png Vampiric Scepter + Recurve Bow item.png Recurve Bow + Recurve Bow item.png Recurve Bow + 500 Gold (total cost unchanged).
  • Attack speed increased to 50% from 40%.
  • Attack damage reduced to 15 from 25.
  • New unique passive: Life Steal.
    • Allows the wielder to deal 4% of target's maximum health bonus physical damage on every basic attack and heal for 25% of the amount before reductions.
  • Active:
    • Damage removed.
    • Movement speed steal changed to a decaying 50% from a constant 25%.
      • Now properly steals the target's movement speed, instead of providing separate slows and movement speed boosts.

Notes

Blade of the Ruined King item.png Blade of the Ruined King was originally created as a replacement to the now-defunct Madred's Bloodrazor item.png Madred's Bloodrazor, offering tankbusting potential in a manner that mainly acted as a pressure valve against champions who stacked health in complete disregard for armor, and mostly succeeds at that function, though often its raw dueling potential became so strong that it got purchased as a first item even against squishy champions, which goes against its purpose overall. The above changes are meant to make the item less powerful early, while equally powerful later on (perhaps even a bit stronger), and also trim both the damage and the sustain it provides towards a stronger anti-tank niche. I also took the damage off the ult and instead made it a situationally stronger movespeed steal, which should allow the item to allow for similar save potential in a more appreciable manner (the life steal itself would be mostly confined to the passive).

While life steal is mainly found in items, it's also a part of certain innate champion kits, as well as masteries and runes. While I don't think this post would be good enough on its own to address each of these champions' sustain, life steal in itself is a relatively easy mechanic to reformulate when necessary. Here's what I suggest to address life steal in those specific situations:

Masteries

  • Vampirism mastery s3.png Vampirism allows the user to heal for 0.4 / 0.8 / 1.2 / 1.6 / 2% of the damage they deal, instead of giving 0.4 / 0.8 / 1.2 / 1.6 / 2% life steal and spell vamp. There are multiple levels on which this could be addressed. The more extreme initiative, and one I personally support, would be to remove masteries entirely (though not just because of this issue), as they tend to offer a lot of invisible power, even after the recent addition of Keystone masteries, and impose an extra gate to new players. The most basic version is the above change, which would be an overall buff to the mastery, but also one that would make its intended purpose a lot more clear. Vampirism used to be a terribly placed and ignored mastery, so hopefully its recent shift should make it more popular, and if the above buff makes it too strong it could get its values reduced a tad.

Runes

  • Runes of Life Steal now cause basic attacks to heal for 0.84 / 1.17 / 1.5% AD. As with masteries, runes offer a lot of invisible power and present a barrier of entry to newer players. Its issues are likely even worse than the problems with masteries, since the barrier is expensive and slows down access to new champions, and the stat-based nature of runes means its invisible power may be impossible to solve without making the lack of runes feel even worse to newcomers. The change proposed here is a more "conservative" approach, which would limit itself to converting life steal from one system to another, but I think the best approach should be to eventually get rid of runes, and out-of-match power, completely.

Champions

  • Lee Sin Lee Sin's Iron Will.png Iron Will no longer grants life steal (see here for the rationale). I proposed a rework to Lee Sin in a separate blog post, and one of the changes I want to implement to him is the removal of his more persistent power, such as his sustain, in favor of his moment-to-moment plays. The alternative would be to simply make his basic attacks heal him for a percentage of his AD or their damage dealt, but overall I think sustain should actually be one of Lee's weaknesses, particularly since he lacks well-defined pitfalls right now.
  • Nasus Nasus' Soul Eater.png Soul Eater allows him to heal for 10 / 15 / 20% of the damage dealt by his basic attacks. While a bit of a literal change, this would actually be a buff to AP Nasus, as it would account for all on-hit damage, and not just physical damage, which would let him heal for the damage dealt by Lich Bane item.png Lich Bane. Perhaps he might need some bigger overall changes, as his stacking mechanic is lacking in clear power spikes and makes him a bit too passive at times, but in the context of life steal the above changes would make all build options smoother for him.
  • Olaf Olaf's Vicious Strikes.png Vicious Strikes reworked and no longer grants life steal (see here for the rationale). I still kept Olaf's sustain in a different form, but I also reworked his kit pretty heavily, to the point where his persistent life steal bonus would make no sense at all. In his current form, just having him heal for a percentage of his AD or his damage dealt on his basic attacks would be an equivalent, but I think there are issues to his sustain and kit overall that would require him to undergo pretty extensive changes.
  • Warwick Warwick's Infinite Duress.png Infinite Duress no longer grants life steal but instead heals him for 30% of the damage dealt. There is functionally no real change here. Warwick's kit is ancient, and this is one of the many ways in which his mechanics are really outdated.
  • Udyr Udyr's Turtle Stance.png Turtle Stance allows him to heal for 10 / 12 / 14 / 16 / 18% of the damage dealt by his basic attacks. This would technically be a buff, as it would allow for him to heal with any on-hit magic damage, and therefore off of Devourer item.png Devourer, and the alternative would be to limit it to physical damage or make it a constant heal per attack based on his attack damage, but I think Turtle Stance might need a buff in this way, as its sustain ends up being fairly underwhelming later in the game. Perhaps there's more that could be done with Udyr, but this would be a simple adjustment with respect to his life steal.

Healing Amplification

  • Healing amplification, such as Spirit Visage item.png Spirit Visage's unique passive or Trundle Trundle's Frozen Domain.png Frozen Domain, all amplify the healing from Life Steal. Not much to say here. Just specifying this here, as life steal would become a unique named item effect and not a typical stat, but in any case this would be implicit already to the description of those effects.

Other Items

  • Mercurial Scimitar item.png Mercurial Scimitar gets addressed here. This blog post was made before V5.22, which gave Scimitar life steal. However, I don't think giving the item life steal is truly the way to go, nor do I agree with throwing in life steal just to make an item more valuable, as the stat is itself complex enough to warrant its own gameplay and strategy. I made another blog post even longer ago that discussed CC and means of dealing with it, and I think Scimitar's niche should be exclusively focused on letting AD champions deal with incoming crowd control, though with a few differences.
  • Maw of Malmortius item.png Maw of Malmortius' Lifeline now causes the wielder to heal for the shield's amount over its duration while it holds. Moving the Surge passive onto here from Guinsoo's is an interesting move, though the stats it gives are a little weird. Giving MoM this version of life steal could work, as would giving it more generic heal-on-damage-dealt, but this specific change would encourage enemies to break the shield as fast as possible upon activation, which would tie in both effects better.

Apologies again for posting this midway through. What do you think of these changes? Would they make lifesteal more interesting to purchase? Would lifesteal function better as a stat? Would tanks and tanky champions still be able to handle enemy life steal well with these numbers and effects?

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