It’s hardly a question in anyone’s mind at this point: League of Legends is going through a tank meta. Generally, meta-game shifts can be attributed to either the overpowered state of one style due to a specific item or champion; or conversely due to the cyclical swings of counter-picking that organically occur through player decisions. This time, the prevalence of tanks across the rift can be likely be attributed to the unbalanced state of defensive items.
One of the traditional remedies to tanks has been Last Whisper, which has since gone through some changes since the start of season 6 to make it into a more situational item, rather than the guaranteed 3rd item of every single ADC. Players soon caught on to the strength of picking tanks, since Last Whisper wasn’t being commonly built. In response to this, Last Whisper hasn’t seen it’s popularity really increase – not because players are ignorant of a simple solution, but rather because it doesn’t fit the bill.
The Math Behind It
Looking at the math behind the new Last Whisper options (Lord Dominik’s Regards & Mortal Reminder), the new options actually do a better job of dealing with high armor targets than the old item.
Imagine the typical midgame tank target has a base armor of 90, and bonus armor of 40, to a combined total of 130 armor.
Old Last Whisper: (130)(0.65) = 84.5 armor = 46% damage reduction
Lord Dominik’s Regards: (90)+(40)(0.55) = 112 armor = 53% damage reduction
(53%)(0.85 of Giant Slayer) = 45% damage reduction
So as you can see from this, even at the relatively low armor value of 130, Lord Dominik’s Regards begins performing at a higher level than the old Last Whisper, so how come your team’s marksman is pretty much useless until 30 minutes anyways?
The Bigger Problem
Right now, the most powerful defensive items come with an omnibus of stats, not just armor. Sunfire Cape, for instance, gives 500 health in addition to its 50 armor, while also supplementing this with a passive that deals roughly 35 damage AOE in proximity of the wearer.
Maw of Malmortius, another popular defensive item, gives 40 magic resistance, 50 damage, and 10 armor penetration. Of course, it also has its unique attributes of a shield and bonus lifesteal.
These items make marksmen obsolete not only by introducing a minimum amount of penetration to do damage, but also a high enough flat number, due to the health (and effective) health increases. An AD carry that can get through most of the armor isn’t going to do damage anyway if his/her base attack damage is 100 and the attack speed is 0.9. It’s still going to take you something like 10 seconds to kill the enemy tank, which is totally ridiculous when they can conversely jump on you and pop your life bar in several seconds.
The typical marksman right now needs 4 items to battle a tank properly:
- Infinity Edge for raw stats
- Attack Speed – Phantom Dancer, Static Shiv, Rapid Fire Cannon, etc.
- Lifesteal – Bloodthirster, Mercurial Scepter, Blade of the Ruined King
- Armor Pentration – Last Whisper and its variations.
It’s a lot to get, just to be able to beat out that bruiser in front of you with just Sunfire Cape and Iceborn Gauntlet.
A Proposed Solution
A counter exists already within the current design of the game in the form of Blade of the Ruined King. It does everything that would technically counter a tank: mobility to make it difficult for the tank to engage, percentage damage to shred through the health, and some sustain to mitigate the theoretically negligible damage output.
The actual amount of sustain, as well as the percentage damage from the item is too low currently to make it a strong item choice on most marksmen (aside from Vayne and Twitch). It’s more suited towards attack damage assassins rather than scaling late-game carries right now – I’m thinking you Zed. Furthermore, there is no built in armor penetration in the item. The biggest problem though is the build path for marksmen. Items are multiplicative rather than additive (An AD carry with Infinity Edge + Rapidfire Cannon is about twice as strong as an ADC with just Infinity Edge); Blade of the Ruined King doesn’t multiply with anything, so the percentage damage needs to be high enough that it is still the better vs. tanks option in the lategame over it’s sister Bloodthirster.
I think even re-tuning Blade of the Ruined king to deal 10% current health on-hit, rather than its current 6% would make it into a carry oriented item that doesn’t take assassins over the edge. Then in combination with Last Whisper, this 2 item pair would at least give marksmen a chance to duel tanks into the mid-game, without having to wait for the completion of 4 items.
Furthermore, we avert the crisis of having to nerf a whole bunch of champions into oblivion, which would displease a bunch of players. It will be extremely curious to see how Riot addresses this incredibly stale meta-game moving forward, which seems to be caused by some really unbalanced items across the board.