League of Legends

[PBE] Why Tanks will feel underwhelming in the preseason

LeagueofLegends11 - [PBE] Why Tanks will feel underwhelming in the preseason

TL;DR: It's Christmas and while everyone else gets cool new toys, tanks got their last years present, repackaged and poorly wrapped.

I understand it's the likes of Yasuo who sells skins, so the priority customers of the "fun" part of the game will always be in the 1v9 mentality and whatnot, but here's something about tanks, and why preseason will make them feel bad, even if they end up statistically strong.

Riot made quite a few correct design choices. From Mythics through Ability Haste to Grievous Wounds in the situational 40-60 version, it's a well-thought idea… on paper. Having Mythics be the first buy bread-and-butter while big classics like Infinity Edge get the Deathcap treatment was neat as well. Even Bami's Cinder as the definitive tank item makes sense – it's both something most tanks already wanted for waveclear and something only tanks ever could use.

So why do tanks feel bad to play in the new item landscape?

Cool Kids Got The Fun Toys

Even with the nerf to % penetration coming (if it's visible already on the PBE, imagine how ridiculous it would have been on Live), all other classes get access to multiple new sources of armor penetration, even classes previously not designed to do it that easily (Eclipse Mythic enabling AD assassins to stack % arpen, new Liandrys, etc). A bruiser with the Divine Devourer mythic and Black Cleaver shreds even more armor than before. There is so much % penetration they had to remove the Legend: Destroyer rune.

Some changes are understandable, like the easier access to Grievous Wounds (tanks aren't excluded here, Bramble Vest got cheaper), but with Blight Stone (component to Void Staff) enabling faster access to % Magic Penetration and even Verdant Barrier giving mages a convenient building block into Banshee's Veil, question raises: what new fun items are there for tanks? And the answer is – not so many. Winged Moonplate is the only new component here. It's not even that other classes have better options against tanks – it's that tanks are losing this arms race and have nothing good to fight back with.

Dude, Where's My Mana

Let's start with the most visible problem. Mana in tank items is pretty much all gone, with the exception of Frozen Heart. You've read that correctly. Iceborn Gauntlet, gone. Righteous Glory, gone. Abyssal Mask, gone. Many champions like Maokai, Poppy or Sion will notice that in longer teamfights their mana pool is simply insufficient. Sure, we can do a second pass of compensation buffs like we did with Sheen users, but what's the point? It's a useful power lever to play with, and limiting the mana itemization to Frozen Heart sounds just bad.

There were once rumours of a Tear item for tanks. What happened there? We've had a first round of compensation mana buffs for some tanks on the PBE – Malphite and Amumu are the first batch – but this feels like dumbing the game down for no reason. Mana is a useful stat to balance the game with; it allows you for example to prohibit manaless champions from attaining too much CDR by gating the biggest CDR gains behind a mana item… oh wait, Cosmic Drive exists… anyway, this used to be the idea behind Frozen Heart and Iceborn Gauntlet vs manaless defensive items, and Lost Chapter upgrades against the Hextech Rocketbelt and other manaless AP items. You have to buy mana to avoid running out of it in the long teamfights, but in return, you can get higher CDR easier.

I Can't Heal

If the argument was that tanks heal too much, not only did everyone and their mother get better access to Grievous Wounds, but also tanks received a huge nerf to their healing tools. Adaptive Helmet, the best item against magic DoTs, is gone (this will be loudly complained about, considering the dreadful Liandry's+Demonic Embrace combo). Catalyst of Aeons and its upgrade to Abyssal Mask is gone. Spirit Visage no longer grants any healing by itself. Warmog's Armor had 150g added to its price for no stat increase, with CDR nerfed (10% ability haste now). Righteous Glory is gone and its replacement, Accelerated Chemtank, has no healing.

How exactly are you supposed to endure the lane as a tank? Is this Morello's final testament? Fighters get way better healing in lane now, with the new Phage and whatnot; even AP champions see the return of spellvamp in the form of Leeching Leer (Catalyst replacement). What about tanks?

Lack of Variety

All mana-using Mages start their Mythic with Lost Chapter because the item does all they want in the laning phase – helps them farm with the sweet AP+AH+mana+mana regen combo. Noonquiver is a neat last-hitting crutch for the ADCs. And Serrated Dirk has been a cornerstone Lethality item since the very inception of the AD Assassin as a full-fledged class.

But that's the end of the "all satisfied with one item" list. Everyone else wants – and has – options. All Support mythics build from Kindlegem, but the second component heavily varies in stats and purpose (funnily enough even the tank options are more varied here). Manaless AP items aren't uniform: two have Hextech Alternator in recipe, and the third one is the reworked Catalyst with omnivamp. Bruiser Mythics are completely off the charts with convenient build paths and low combine costs, as they cover all four possible combinations of Kindlegem + (Phage or Axe of Avarosa) + (Sheen or Ironspike Whip) + (200 to 700 combine cost). Flexible, adjustable, convenient.

Tanks had that variety in their lane builds, sitting on Catalyst, Spectre's Cowl – whatever was suitable for a specific matchup. And now they don't, they all have to rush Bami's Cinder or resistance stat-sticks. A huge part of laning as a tank is simply surviving the enemy laner with an appropriate defensive item choice. And the components for tank Mythics are a little bit problematic. Gone are the days of laning with Catalyst or Spectre's Cowl. And I feel that the single biggest problem tanks will face in lane is that their Mythic buildup will feel completely unhelpful in a war of attrition.


Jungle vs Lane

There's a reason why jungle tanks don't complain as much, and it's not just Bami's already being their core item, or the fact that the mana problem doesn't hurt them as hard. Other than some stupid compositions of all single-type damage, a jungle tank will absolutely LOVE a mixed resists Mythic item, it's truly a one-item wonder for them, as they will engage in all lanes against all types of enemies. For laning tanks, however, this is sub-optimal. A small to huge part of purchased statistics will simply feel wrong, wasted, inefficient. It will feel bad.

How to solve this problem – tough to say, as yet another issue is the question of stats vs unique effects. Even if the Mythics are geared towards laning against a specific damage threat, it creates another potentially frustrating situation where you are forced to choose between optimal stats and desired active/passive affect. This is something that other classes don't have to worry about as much.

Perhaps the way to go is to lower the cost of tank Mythics, so that however you feel about the first item, you can simply be done with it and move on to the next one. Perhaps shaking up the buildpath is the way to go, to enable something more interesting to rush before Bami's Cinder. Spectre's Cowl, Crystalline Bracer, Glacial Shroud, maybe even the old Catalyst – they would all feel great in a tank Mythic.


When choosing a Mythic active, you ask yourself: do I need the engage button from Accelerated Chemtank? Or the sticking power from Frostfire Gauntlet? Or just the damage amplificator from Sunborn Aegis?

But then you have to throw it all out of the window, as it turns out you need first and foremost to suit your purchases to the damage threats on the enemy team. And then it just feels bad. It's not like with Liandry's or Kraken Slayer, which suit the DPS playstyle well enough with everything else that the anti-tank measures built in are just a handy bonus. It's not about what your champion wants to do. You are not with the agency here – the enemy is. You're just trying to defend from their threat first, and can only afford to play your card later.

This is why I understand the initial idea from week 1 of having all tank Mythics build from Aegis – in that case they suck all the same and you just pick the unique effect you prefer.

The Legendaries

Most games are decided with about 2 full items in each player's inventory. Time will tell how the altered Deadman's Plate, Randuin's Omen and Thornmail will fare in the meta. Together with Abyssal Mask and Force of Nature they all follow a pretty simple pattern of Ruby Crystal upgrade + resist component upgrade, which is convenient for both tanks and bruisers alike. That leaves the forementioned lack of mana and healing in items as the main problem, with good old classics like Frozen Heart and Warmog's Armor being the only options there.

Now the idea of making Gargoyle Stoneplate the "tank Deathcap" is great. It's something we've already had with the item, with it scaling with bonus health like Warmog and pandering to the core tank fantasy "I don't care about dealing damage or moving fast, I AM THE BIG GUY". Unfortunately the new Stoneplate lacks this identity, perhaps as a way to open up this item to bruisers. But anyway, the idea of tanking lategame amplification in teamfights is exactly what the class is all about. The rest is all about balance, I just hope it gets the attention it deserves. I also appreciate the concept of tanks being the only class allowed to gain Armor and Magic Resist in one item (that is not Demonic Embrace…), with Death's Dance changed to armor-only, but like we've said before, it might be sometimes unappreciated in the toplane.

But, all in all…

The "Wow" Effect

Tanks didn't get it.

Mages get the new toys with Everfrost's root, Riftmaker's omnivamp, Harvester's reset; there's plenty of new effects on AD items such as Galeforce, Eclipse, Prowler's Claw and of course the invisibility on Duskblade; even supports, with Shurelya's as broken as it is, complained their way into receiving Imperial Mandate on top of that. There are new, exciting items with new effects.

Tanks got the short end of the stick. Their Mythics are old items disguised as new. Legendaries, nothing new and exciting (aside from arguably Force of Nature). Even Stoneplate got dumbed down in both its effect and its buildpath (Stopwatch removed from the build is actually huge). And on top of that, their mana and healing is gone. AND on top of that, there will be plenty of situations where their Mythics will feel awkward to buy due to wasted stats.

And let me repeat that. While other classes have some or all new Mythics, Tanks are the only class in the game whose all Mythics are old items with some stat changes that are secondary to the item's main effect and identity.

What now?

I'm just posting the problems here, I'll present my ideas for a solution in the comments – don't want to soapbox. But to sum up all the issues:

  • There's plenty of new anti-tank items
  • Tanks did not get any new defensive tools in return (losing the arms race both in realm of sheer power and the cool factor)
  • Quite the opposite – tanks lost their mana, health regen and anti-DoT items
  • Tank Mythics suck for a variety of reasons: no new effects, awkward buildup, exorbitant price, the stats vs active dilemma

TL;DR: It's Christmas and while everyone else gets cool new toys, tanks got their last years present, repackaged and poorly wrapped.

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