Many of the public outcries of late for champion nerfs have been directed towards some of the hyper-carrying AD champions: Zed, Shyvana, Quinn, etc.. But one champion that has escaped the wrath of many people (not all) has been Janna. Even when she is incredibly strong, people attribute her dominance to the state of the metagame. While this does hold true in some regards, she may currently lie in a dangerously powerful spot.
Riot has taken note of this and tentatively has a nerf lined up for her in the PBE:
- Eye of the Storm (E) bonus AD lowered to 10/17.5/25/32.5/40 from 14/23/32/41/50
- Monsoon (R) knock back stun duration reduced to .5 from .75 seconds
Despite League of Legends being a fairly numbers oriented game, where balance often rides upon the small unnoticed calculations, I believe these tweaks will do little-to-nothing in the quest of balancing the Storm’s Fury.
Janna currently has a global win-rate of 54.61%, second only to Shyvana. This pattern is prevalent even in smaller indicative indices: She has a 52.5% win-rate in Master+ above all regions, and is the most popular champion in NA at that level. If you look at the Diamond tier win-rates, it pushes 54-55% depending on the region (all statistics according to lolking.net). This level of popularity combined with success implies some serious underlying balance issues.
To give an even better understanding, Lucian and Ezreal, two of the top 3 most popular champions, have a 48.5% and 49% win-rate respectively. And this tends to be where the most popular champions should have their win-rates, since inexperienced players would tend to play these champions and struggle in their first several games.
A Consequence of the Metagame?
Undoubtedly Janna finds some of her success in the popularity of other synergistic champions. She definitely makes the super popular marksmen even more powerful, including Lucian, Jhin, Ezreal, Corki, and Graves who all appear in the top 10 in the above graph. Amplifying marksman damage while effectively offering protection from the also-popular bruisers undoubtedly makes her one of the most dominating and flexible picks in this current meta.
Further, item and masteries have favored Janna even more this season, including Windspeaker’s Blessing and Ardent Censer, which amplify existing strengths. But more significantly, they don’t add a layer of complexity to her game, which leads us to my main issue with Janna.
Ease of Access
Janna is one of the most accessible champions for new players to instantly pick-up. Undoubtedly, some of you will exclaim that she has a high skill ceiling and that certain things ‘separate the great from the good.’ Whether or not this is true is not totally relevant; the fact remains that her skill floor is incredibly low, so she’s essentially a 55% win-rate champion in anyone’s hands. The fact that some of the current items making her incredibly strong do not have active abilities that increase champion complexity or difficulty (think Zhonya’s, Ghostblade, Titanic Hydra) only adds to her design issues. It is no coincidence that we find many inexperienced players solely playing Janna. Speaking from anecdote, I have met more Janna only mains than people who main anything else.
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Her extremely high mobility is likely one of the key issues to her dominance, and I would suggest a nerf here. At rank 5 Zephyr (w), without boots, masteries, or runes, Janna already sports 392 movespeed. She gets a bunch of mobility from nearly every other aspect of her base setup. This makes her incredibly difficult to kill. Even though optimal play would likely involve more intensive trading and interactions, Janna players can significantly contribute in many games without ever stepping into danger.
Her tornado and ultimate are basically get-out-of-jail-free cards as they stand right now. Very little pre-planning needs to go into these skills on most occasions. Instead, you just press them immediately when danger strikes. Gone are the days of a fully charged tornado being a game changing play. The majority of Tornadoes now are sent out with a double-tap of Q.
While the PBE nerfs may be a good start to re-balancing Janna, I think that greater changes lie ahead for her.
I would like to see her base movespeed from Zephyr reduced, while greater rewards should be added in for planning and charging her Howling Gale (Q). I am still a fan of her design, as legitimate disengage tools tend to be at a premium in League of Legends.
By putting her into a more manageable state, this will encouraged inexperienced players to learn more support champions than just Janna and Soraka. Increased champion diversity will naturally lead to the skill development and a greater appreciation for the game, crucial for the long term sustainability of League of Legends.