Out of all of LoL's novelty features at launch, summoner spells have been one of the most successful systems around. Bar a few tweaks, removals and graphical updates, summoner spells have largely stayed the same since Season 1, which is good, considering they bring tremendous amounts of gameplay for relatively little complexity. However, the system isn't without its issues, many of which have remained unanswered for years. Here are the changes I propose:
- Barrier, Clarity, Cleanse and Smite removed.
- All remaining Summoner's Rift summoner spell cooldowns increased to 300.
- Exhaust, Heal and Ignite range changed to 550, calculated edge-to-edge.
- All summoner spells are available at level 1.
- Various spells adjusted.
- New summoner spell, Phase: become immune to damage and crowd control for 2 seconds. 300 second cooldown.
I think it's worth explaining the thought process behind the more general changes here: put simply, if any spell can hope to compete with Flash, it needs to feel as strong and impactful as it can be. For that to happen, it needs to be on the same cooldown as Flash, i.e. 300 seconds, and thereby have the biggest possible power budget per use. For the more specific changes, including the removal of certain spells (why remove Smite?!), I recommend you read the tab that talks about that in greater depth.
What about Phase? Well, it's a summoner spell concept I posted a while ago, and the idea was largely the same as here: to condense two mostly underwhelming summoner spells, Barrier and Cleanse, into a spell that would feel both powerful and distinct from the others (hence the removal of those two). Whereas Heal is meant to be the lifesaver spell, Phase's immunity is meant to be a total enabler to plays and outplays for a few seconds, more so than Barrier or Cleanse individually. We all have our moments where there's a glorious play just waiting to happen, but we can't really pull it off because doing so would get ourselves minced by the other team, or completely shut down by crowd control, even with Flash to help. Phase is meant to answer those situations and provide occasional moments where the focus shifts completely to just executing the play right, and not worrying about getting caught in the moment.
Exhaust is the staple spell for supports and champions facing high-damage opponents, which is a pretty good niche. A little while ago, Riot made it reduce resistances in order to make it more palatable to assassins, but that didn't catch on. My only quibble is that the ability's effects are all over the place, even if it's meant to be fairly simple in its goal, so I think it might just be better if all of its effects were concentrated into an all-around quarter-speed slow.
Bear in mind that, in another blog post, I also proposed changing CC so that there would be no lower or upper cap to speed, meaning a 75% slow would reduce your speed by exactly 75%, and not the lesser amount it currently does, depending on how fast you're going, which is why it would still be worth the extra 90 second cooldown. In fact, with no caps to crowd control, 75% would be the strongest slow in the game, and the closest competing abilities would be at around 70%.
Blink towards the target location.
No changes here, other than it being made available at level 1. Flash is pretty much the gold standard for summoner spells: it's versatile despite having a clear niche, fun, and ultimately very healthy for the game due to the gameplay it unlocks. Every other spell should aspire to be as desirable and as healthy.
Ghost is one of the less popular summoner spells, for several reasons: on one hand, it's outclassed by Flash in terms of competing mobility in the vast majority of situations, and on the other, its power is spread across such a long duration that it cannot possibly feel great at any given second. It doesn't really achieve the summoner spell ideal of providing concentrated instances of great power, and in many cases just serves as a crutch for champions who struggle to stick adequately to their targets. Concentrating all of Ghost's power into a shorter burst of movement speed just ends up turning it into Flash-lite even more, so in the end it needs a slightly different niche. I chose stealth.
It's strange that we don't really have a stealth summoner spell, even though the mechanic has a lot of potential for interesting, diverse plays: unlike Flash, this version of Ghost could be used to move unseen past the front line and into the back line, or could be used for misdirection when trying to evade enemies. Unlike Flash, it also works well in-combat as a temporary reprieve. It's strangely common to see people cast Flash in fights, even though the spell serves no real purpose at the time, and this could be the alternative for players looking for some more combat-oriented maneuverability.
Heal yourself and every nearby allied champion for 20% of target's maximum health.
Heal has gone through a weird journey, from being Barrier's less popular twin to the current marksman staple by way of a movement speed boost, which treads a bit on Ghost's toes. That change made the spell more palatable, but in a way that was kind of unintuitive, with champions using Heal not for its actual healing, but for the tiny boost they need to get that last hit. Since Barrier's getting redone into a completely different spell, this might be the occasion to focus Heal entirely into being a healing spell: besides removing the speed boost, I made the heal scale with each target's maximum health, which would make it potentially more interesting for tankier champions, and removed the two-person limit, which could work well for supports or mages who operate in the middle of their team. In any situation, the spell is meant to be a lifesaver first and foremost.
Deal 20% of target's maximum health true damage to the target enemy champion.
Ignite isn't a particularly underused ability, and has a pretty well-defined niche as the summoner spell players pick for more damage. However, the spell does have some issues: its application as a DoT makes it feel often weaker than it actually is, makes its damage difficult to gauge, and makes it suffer against potions, even with the healing reduction. The grievous wounds effect has also single-handedly forced a lot of sustain champions to have inflated healing, to the point where the spell is practically mandatory to deal with them. Concentrating the effect into a single, universally powerful nuke should help solve those issues and still keep it as a prime spell for supplemental damage. The maximum health true damage is completely target-agnostic, meaning that the effect can be used better against tanks, while providing less raw damage against squishies.
I mainly just partially reverted the channel duration nerf, and removed the partial refund on cancel. 4 seconds should be enough telegraphing time for Teleport, and the partial refund on cancel doesn't really do much except occasionally play mind games and discourage players from committing. Other than that, the spell's in a pretty good spot, after its occasional abuse in top lane, and doesn't seem to need more changes.
There are a few spells I either mentioned removing, or didn't mention at all. Here's my thought process behind those decisions:
- What about Clarity?: Even though the spell is now exclusive to Howling Abyss, I think that, as long as it continues to exist, its only use will be as a crutch for champions with mana issues. I discussed mana in another post, and one of my opinions about it is that "mana problems" shouldn't be a thing, and that champions should be balanced around being able to function on their own mana consumption without having to require external aid. If mana champions have issues in ARAM (which isn't the case), then they'd likely just need better regeneration, and not a summoner spell that, at the end of the day, is pretty boring.
- What about Smite?: Long story short, I don't think the game needs it anymore. The spell's gone through a lot of changes to make it more interesting and useful beyond an early jungle clearing tool, and none of them have really quite worked out all that well. With the removal of Smite buffs, the spell loses one more reason to exist, and I think its removal may actually be healthy for the game: a recurring high moment in epic monster fights is when a champion unexpectedly bursts down Dragon or Baron, securing it for their team. With Smite, though, this often boils down to who has the spell, and at what level. No Smite means burstier champions become more valuable in these jungling situations. It also means jungle monsters could be properly balanced at all stages to work with junglers, with clear-focused junglers standing out even more for their speed and health. While the jungle and the jungler role would likely need some adjustments after this, it could make jungling more interesting, and would remove a lot of redundancy within the role (the current set of copycat items, for example).
- What about Mark/ Dash?: Honestly, I don't play enough ARAM to know exactly what this spell would need, if it needs anything at all. My intuition tells me that reducing its cooldown to 60 seconds, removing its damage and making champions auto-dash once the snowball hits something might make it more interesting and compact, though the issue may simply be that champions with low reach and mobility just need map-specific adjustments to not be trash-tier on the Murder Bridge.
As has become the norm for my blog posts, I often feel like I have a lot to say about a subject, but the explanatory bulletpoint list ends up becoming an entire page on its own. Here are, in my opinion, the main problems with the current summoner spell system:
- Some spells are completely outclassed by other, often cheaper features: The main example of this is Cleanse. Originally a key marksman spell, it's fallen completely out of favor, and while items like and continue to exist, there's no real reason for it to become popular again. Another lesser example is Ghost: bar a few niche champions, there's no reason to pick the spell over Flash (and even then, players who pick Ghost often pick Flash as well), because many other effects can provide Ghosts's persistent mobility, whereas no item, not even , can match Flash's instant blink. These spells need a tune up to match modern standards, especially since both tend to dilute their power across longer periods of time.
- Some spells are too similar to each other: Barrier and Heal are the main culprits here: while heals and shields tend to play differently when on lower-cooldown abilities, they often end up being used in the same situations when they're both on ultra-high cooldowns, namely to provide a bit more of a health buffer when near death. It took Heal a tacked-on movement speed boost to make it desirable, which just makes it tread on Ghost's niche. To a lesser extent, Smite, Exhaust and Ignite end up having a similar problem: while both spells start out with vastly different uses, once the jungler starts upgrading their core item, Smite gains either a small nuke with a slow or a DoT effect, effectively making it a mini-Exhaust and Ignite on a lower cooldown.
- Flash: Six seasons into the game, and Flash is still by far the dominant summoner spell. The problem isn't really with Flash itself, since it's a tremendously fun, healthy and useful spell that deserves its popularity, rather, the problem is with the competition not being nearly desirable enough to take up its spot. Part of this issue comes from many other spells just not having the same concentrated amount of power, not offering something as unique, or just not having the same power budget, as only one other spell has its 300-second cooldown (that's Teleport, if you're curious).
What are your thoughts? What do you think of the current state of summoner spells? Are there different effects you'd like to see in summoner spell form?