In my rework crusade, I've done a lot of research to try and understand how Riot views Ryze. What mechanics and play-patterns do they consider important? Why do they make certain decisions? I thought it would be interesting to chronicle this and see if other people find patterns that I haven't. I won't be going too far back, since it's less relevant and there's less information available. It's already going to be a long post.
TLDR: It's a hot mess. I'll put a chart to show how the main ideas progress:
|Concept/Goal||5.8||6.14||8.9 (scrapped)||9.12 (v2)|
|Reduced Damage Reliability||This was a goal, but the effectiveness was questionable||This was a goal, but the implementation sends mixed signals||This was not a goal, the opposite was intended||This was not a goal (unclear, seems like the opposite was intended)|
|Reduced Root Reliability||This was not a goal||This was not a goal||This was a goal and would have been successful||This was a goal, and it was achieved|
|Reduce experience dividends (too strong when mastered)||This was not a goal||This was a goal, but the implementation sends mixed signals||This was a goal, but the effectiveness is questionable||This was a goal, but the effectiveness is questionable|
|More exploitable / counterable laning||This was a goal, but the effectiveness was questionable||This was not a goal||This was a goal and would have (probably) been successful||This was a goal, but the implementation sends mixed signals and the effectiveness in pro is questionable|
|Visual Clarity||This was not a goal||This was a goal, and it was achieved||(achieved)||(achieved)|
|Pushing Combat Power Later||This was not a goal, the opposite was intended (earlier relevance during power windows)||This was not a goal||This was a goal and would have been successful||This was a goal, and it was achieved|
|Reduced waveclear||This was not a goal||This was not a goal, the opposite was intended||This was a goal and would have been successful||This was not a goal (unclear, seems like the opposite was intended)|
|Reduced Pro Presence||lol||lol||lol||lol|
First, let's start with Patch 5.8.
– A new Arcane Mastery passive, where Ryze got stacks (up to 5) from abilities and became "supercharged". This supercharged state brought a shield and cooldown reduction on spellcasts.
– Overload became a skillshot.
– Spell Flux changes (% MR reduction instead of flat, different bouncing)
– Desperate Power gave huge passive CDR (instead of Q) and increased Arcane Mastery's duration
The question is, why? Thankfully, we have a
dev post to break it down. In short:
– Old Ryze was "flat", and he would be 100% or 0% presence in pro based on his numbers.
– This update tried to introduce "windows of power", where Ryze would have weak and strong periods for allies/opponents to play around. This lower consistency meant that the devs felt comfortable giving extra power during the "high point" of the supercharge.
– They wanted choices for lane opponents (stand outside the wave and dodge Q, or stand in the wave and get hit by huge E damage). I think this is the least compelling point, since Ryze could still W root to guarantee Q. I won't pay too much attention to this, since I think this was more of a retroactive justification rather than motivating the changes itself.
Now, we move to 6.14. This is the start of "modern Ryze". Before looking at the changes, we need to know what made those mechanics from 5.8 problematic:
– They thought Ryze was too difficult to learn and play against. According to them, high-skillcap champions are important, but they shouldn't be "impenetrable" for players/opponents.
– Ryze was too strong when mastered
– The kit had low visual clarity
– Ryze was still too reliable for good players
It looks like excessive reliability is the common thread here. Even though Q became a skillshot, the constant rooting probably minimized that effect unintentionally. However, the other issues seem to have caught the devs by surprise. Did their standards for visual clarity change, or did they just not think about it (they might have lacked the development resources)? Did they fail to expect some sort of large skill discrepancy with the Arcane Mastery combos? Overall, it's a bit strange.
Almost everybody knows this kit, so I won't go into detail. Realm Warp was added, the modern rune charge system was given to Overload (replacing the supercharge shield and cooldown reduction), etc.
Again, I want to look at their logic (found here).
– The new rune charge system was meant to have higher clarity, focusing only on recent actions. They wanted to limit the "brainpower" invested in tracking stacks.
– We don't know why they chose to remove Desperate Power in favor of Realm Warp (at least, I have not found an explanation).
– We don't know why they chose to let Overload bounce to Spell Fluxed targets. They clearly intended for this to be used as waveclear and teamfight AoE, but I can't tell if they were able to accurately judge the consequences.
This is interesting. The Arcane Mastery supercharge was meant to add "windows of power" and make Ryze less consistent. However, this was removed in favor of the rune charge system (which provides fairly consistent shielding and ability-spamming). If they were trying to reduce reliability and maintain windows of power, why is this the mechanic they settled on? It seems contradictory.
Also, they were trying to make Ryze easier to pick up. They claim that the new, shorter combos will do this. However, they admit that the new Realm Warp ultimate is something that only expert Ryze players will optimize. Aren't these forces competing? Won't less-skilled players just lack an ultimate, leaving Ryze with a skill floor that remains high? The contrast isn't mentioned and ends up biting back later.
It's unclear whether or not they even understood the ultimate's potential uses. The rework advertises it as a sort of "in-combat" tool (the example given is EW – R to cut enemies off – EQ) without any acknowledgement of the roaming potential and objective rushes.
What came next? Some of you might remember a scrapped rework in 8.9 (known as the "true damage rework"). This got very close to being released; I think that this gives some valuable insight into more recent rework goals. I'll post the full thing:
Here are the stated goals:
– Ryze is a more vulnerable laner (W will be down more often, since he's using it as a mana refund)
– Ryze's combat power pushed later into the game (but DPS with lower-CD E is more reliable)
– Reduced waveclear, especially in lane
– Less reliable root
– Fewer chances to use Realm Warp (so that less skilled players don't have to think about it as much). In the linked post, they also say that they are not replacing Realm Warp because:
The answer is that Realm Warp does exciting things for the champion that we like, but that the primary satisfaction driver of the champion is his core combat loop, so we'd like to keep that intact and just adjust R to be less important overall.
First of all, the mana refund is IMO a pretty solid concept. The vulnerability is more pronounced as laners get better, so it's the most beneficial for less-skilled players. Reduced waveclear is also a weakness, since it will be easier for skilled laners to manipulate waves in ways that take advantage of Ryze's early weakness.
The goal of delaying combat power goes against the goals of previous changes. The 5.8 rework was partially due to Ryze's identity as a "give up lane and hyperscale" pick, and the 6.14 rework still kept a lot of that added laning strength intact. On top of delayed power overall, bringing back more reliable DPS (with the extremely low-CD E and huge true damage) pushes this inconsistency more.
I agree with the less reliable root. It's interesting that this wasn't implemented as a part of 6.14; fixing the perma-root supercharge (making roots less reliable, or maybe even reducing the effectiveness of repeated roots on a single target) could have saved that kit structure from a full-fledged rework.
They finally address Realm Warp's skill-expression (even though IMO they should have seen the issue during the last rework). I'm not convinced that this would make any meaningful headway in dealing with the mastery curve, especially since the "exciting things" Realm Warp does are also more highly valued in more coordinated play (pro as well as higher elo). I think there are many potential ultimates that wouldn't interfere with the core combat loop, so it seems like they're just really attached to the warp.
When we get to the most recent rework in 9.12, there were two changelists published. The first one was really wild:
To be honest, I have no clue why this was proposed. I still remember the epic meltdown on r/ryzemains when we saw this. Since I don't know what conclusions to draw from here, I'll just move on to the second list:
Unlike the other reworks, I haven't found many public statements about the reasoning behind these changes. We only have the patch notes. Let's see the main claims:
With the removal of his shield, he'll have fewer means of survivability against bad match-ups
Apparently, they think of this as a tool for laning safety primarily. The effects on Ryze's overall playstyle, though, aren't mentioned. They seem to know Ryze players enjoy the shield, but it doesn't look like they think of this as critical for his playstyle. This is strange; even though Ryze didn't have shields before 5.8, he had generally gotten strong defensive tools with his reliable roots and spellvamp. Apparently, Repertoir was talked out of re-introducing some sort of sustain mechanic. They might have assumed that Ryze's itemization would provide enough durability; in fact, Repertoir himself was working on some RoA changes around this time to add Desperate Power-style healing. However, this never got implemented.
by changing his CC to a slow, his gank targets should have better chances of escaping a 2v1 (especially a Flash > Rune Prison combo).
I agree with this change, and it follows up on the reliability reduction that was proposed in 8.9.
we're also opening up the bouncing game a bit more by making Spell Flux always bounce off its primary target
I can't take anything from this comment. The "bouncing game" is not something Ryze ever had trouble with; his waveclear was really good in the previous version, and it was one big reason for his pro priority. It conflicts with the shield removal, since easier/faster waveclear would improve laning safety. It also gives Ryze more reliable damage in lane as well as in teamfights (with less telegraphed bouncing). I would have liked to see some better justification for this change; I have a hard time believing that EEQ bounces are so "high-skillcap" that they warrant removal despite all these issues.
I should also note that they moved the Overload bonus scaling to Realm Warp, pushing Ryze's DPS later into the game (something that the 8.9 rework desired). Together with the auto-spread flux, this seems like a partial return to the "reliable hyper-scaling mage" identity that initial reworks tried to buck.
Now, here we are. After the preseason item changes, Ryze is barely holding on to his status as a battlemage. He has a "battlemage-type" range, but he lacks good survivability tools to actually stay there consistently like others in his class. Instead, he's balanced around extremely high damage. Looking back at all the previous iterations, I think that the lack of a clear direction has hurt him, and it ultimately led to Ryze losing much of what made him enjoyable in the first place. Rather than a single issue, it seems like each rework has brought up new problems in their efforts to crush the old ones (sometimes reversing direction entirely). Hopefully, any future reworks recognize and learn from the existing failures to provide more comprehensive answers.
Source: Original link
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