LoL: Week 15 Champion Reviews, Week 16 Rotation

Good day to you all!

Today the free Champion rotation changed in League of Legends so here’s what will be a weekly post reviewing last week’s rotation. Here are the champions available this week:

  • Ashe
  • Cho’Gath
  • Galio
  • Warrick
  • Veigar
  • Udyr
  • Twisted Fate
  • Taric
  • Janna

I’ve been waiting to play Twisted Fate (since I heard he was a little similar to Invoker in DotA) and Warrick seems pretty cool.

Unfortunately I couldn’t review all the heroes last week, the horrendous patcher (and my horrendous internet connection) meant that 2 days were spent trying to patch the game. With various issues connecting to the game, I only really had 1 day to review… so I’m a bit short. Those of you wanting to hear about Heimerdinger, Sivir, Teemo and Garen will have to wait for another time! I did get the other champions done though, so without further ado I present…

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Annie, the Dark Child

Annie the Dark Child

Aesthetic

Looks: Well, Annie is one of the reasons I didn’t want to play LoL. A lot of the characters have this weird gnomish cutesy look which I just cannot take seriously. Graphically she looks fine but with the skipping animation she’s just ridiculous!

Sounds: As you can imagine, she sounds like a 4 year old. It’s pretty annoying. That’s the strange thing, her looks and sound are perfect for this character… it’s just that this character is ludicrous!

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Skills

Disintegrate – Annie hurls a mana infused fireball, dealing damage and refunding the mana cost if it destroys the target.

I like this skill. While it is just a plain old fireball, I commend Riot for trying to do something different with it and adding the mana cost refund on last-hit. I feel they could have gone much further with it however. For example, it’s only a single-target attack. If they made it have a small AoE, you could target Minions nearby enemy Champions. It’s much more likely that you’ll last-hit a Minion than a Champion, so if you could target nearby minions then it would work like a free Disintegrate targeted at a Champion. I think that would add a lot more strategy to the skill.

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Incinerate – Annie casts a blazing cone of fire, dealing damage to all targets in the area.

This skill, like Disintegrate, is based on a standard carbon copy of ‘generic fire mage’. But unlike the previous skill, it has no additional effects. This just makes it a standard carbon copy of a generic fire mage skill (i.e. boring). It has nice synergy with Annie’s Passive ability, but apart from that it’s uninspired at best.

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Molten Shield – Shields Annie from harm, reducing damage she takes and returning damage from normal attacks.

I can see why she has this skill (she has horrible survivability) but I think it’s just a little too dull. It also has no synergy with any of her other skills.

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Summon: Tibbers – Annie wills her bear Tibbers to life, dealing damage to units in the area. Tibbers can attack and also burns enemies that stand near him.

This skill is the result of a designer thinking “I’ll make this little girl who holds a teddy bear, wouldn’t it be cool to have a crazy teddy bear pet?” Unfortunately it has no real point in her skill set. It’s like Warlock‘s Rain of Chaos but without all his supporting skills which assist your infernal. Does it help with casting Disintegrate? Does it have any effect when cast alongside Incinerate? Can you cast Molten Shield on Tibbers to give him more survivability? The answer to all those questions is a resounding no! This is my main gripe with Annie, she’s one of those old school RPG stereotype mages that was created back in the day when you just needed 4 damaging skills and hoped no-one focus fired you. It’s simplistic and dated gameplay, especially when compared to other champions.

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Passive: Pyromania After casting 5 spells, Annie’s next spell will stun the target for 1.75 seconds.

This skill is good. I actually love it. I mentioned that Annie was boring with no real strategy except KILL KILL KILL. This passive at least gives some strategy. The great thing about this passive is that it has a triple effect. If you need a long range stun, use it on Disintegrate. If you need to stun a few people in front of you, use it with Incinerate. If you need just a big old AoE stun and damage (typical initiator skill), then use it with Summon: Tibbers.

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Synergy

If you’ve read this far, I don’t need to explain this too much at the moment. Annie has no synergy whatsoever. Disintegrate does not assist Incinerate in any way. Molten Shield is like a standalone spell and Summon: Tibbers is a standalone spell with no reason behind it. The only synergy that does exist is through her passive, but it’s forced (which is bad for a number of reasons). Synergy is what makes a champion interesting to play, it makes choices of when and where to use skills important… it creates strategy. Annie has none, her strategy is just to deal massive damage.

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Fun

Annie is kinda fun. The passive really is very cool, and it’s nice planning your attack so that you gain your Pyromania stun just as the enemy is escaping. But she’s extremely easy to kill (even with Molten Shield) which means she’ll spend a lot of the time getting ganked because she has no reliable escape mechanism.

 

Sam’s Rating: 5/10

 

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Blitzcrank, the Great Steam Golem

Blitzcrank the Great Steam Golem

Aesthetic

Looks: I don’t like the design (the top-heaviness bugs me) but he does look good. The electric effects are pretty sexy.

Sounds: I don’t like what he says but he does sound good, great voice. It’s a shame that the quotes generally suck.

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Skills

Rocket Grab – Blitzcrank fires his right hand to grab an opponent on it’s path, dealing damage and dragging it back to him.

It’s Pudge‘s Meat Hook  but that is a great skill so why not use it in LoL? The casting delay is pretty annoying (and takes getting used to) but in general this is a great skill. Works perfectly with his skill set.

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Overdrive – Blitzcrank super charges himself to get dramatically increased movement and attack speed. However, when this effect ends he becomes slowed for a short period.

Great skill for his overall strategy. The movement speed increase is definitely necessary (he’d be useless without it) and the slowdown adds a lot of risk vs reward strategy. You need to time it right, otherwise your targets will escape.

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Power Fist Blitzcrank charges up his fist to make his next attack deal double damage and pop his target up in the air.

Perfect for him. With Power Fist activated, Blitzcrank hits like a train. As a melee champion, last-hitting is always much more difficult than ranged counterparts. This skill gives him presence in the lane while also acting as a great disable for catching fleeing enemies. Works brilliantly near a Turret (Tower) combined with Rocket Grab.

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Static Field – Passively causes lightning bolts to damage a nearby enemy. Additionally, Blitzcrank can activate this ability to damage nearby enemies and silences for 0.5 seconds, but doing so removes the passive lightning until Static Field becomes available again.

I love Passives with Actives. The first time I encountered it was with Slark‘s ultimate in DotA. This has taken it to the next level (an idea I’ve explored in a past DotA Hero Suggestion) by deactivating the passive when the active is on cooldown. This is a great choice mechanism and it gives the skill two entirely different uses. When alone with a target (often while chasing), the passive will cause big damage. When in a group, it’s likely that you’ll never hit your intended target. On your own, use the passive. With Minions, use the active. It’s also a great finishing skill while chasing (especially when Overdrive slows you) and it even has late game utility with its silence and pushing capabilities. Excellent skill.

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Passive: Mana Barrier – When Blitzcrank life is brought below 20% health he activates Mana Barrier. Mana Barrier can only occur once per minute. This creates a mana shield with 50% of his mana, lasts 10 seconds and refunds any unspent mana.

This skill interests me. I can imagine the reason for its inclusion is so that you can tower dive, or take risks to chase a dying foe (which I do a lot). The problem is that I’m constantly out of mana with Blitzcrank because of Rocket Grab’s extreme mana cost (the Ultimate isn’t cheap either). I guess your item build with Blitzcrank will involve huge mana increases, but that would severely diminish his offensive output (you want attack damage, you auto-attack most of your damage and Power Fist doubles your attack damage). It’s a strange one, I’ll need more plays to really assess this one better.

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Synergy

This is where Annie should take some notes (well her designer). Rocket Grab synergizes with every skill. Overdrive slows? Rocket Grab them back into range. Activate Power Fist before Rocket Grab and then bring them into range. Static Field’s passive works brilliantly when you can drag an enemy away from his/her friends, and it also works brilliantly with the active. Power Fist, in a similar way to Rocket Grab, is a great counter to Overdrive’s slow and it keeps enemies in range longer for Static Field attacks. Literally there is nothing that doesn’t synergize in this hero, which is what makes him truly well designed.

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Fun

Blitzcrank is a hoot. Ganking chaser champions are always great fun, with risky gameplay and the possibility for high kill counts. The superb synergy between skills means you have to think before you use them and, while I’m not a huge fan of Mana Barrier, the item build choices between stacking mana for Rocket Grabs/Mana Barrier and picking pure attack damage output gives Blitzcrank some long-term strategy in addition to his combat abilities. I’d be giving this guy a perfect score but Mana Barrier is a bit off for me, and his design is a bit weird for my tastes.

 

Sam’s Rating: 9/10

 

Soraka, the Starchild

Soraka the Starchild

Aesthetic:

Looks: I dislike the model, it’s just really weird. I suppose it looks ok but once again there’s an issue I have with the visual design. Her Starcall skill looks badass though.

Sounds: Generic night elf style druid. It’s not going to win any awards but it’s ok I guess.

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Skills

Starcall – A shower of stars falls from the sky, striking all nearby enemies for magic damage and reducing their magic resistance temporarily.

The idea with this skill is good. For a support character, who survives a long time (especially when she keeps allies alive), it makes sense to have a prolonged goal in the battle. In this case, her goal while healing and supporting is to reduce the enemy team’s magic resistance. The longer the fight goes on, the weaker they become. It’s a good idea but the numbers need tweaking. The debuff only lasts for 8 seconds and the cooldown is too long to really build up anywhere near the amount of stacks you’ll need to have a strong effect. It stacks up to 20 times but I can’t foresee anyone getting past 4-5 stacks at the most.

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Astral Blessing – Soraka blesses a friendly unit, restoring health and increasing armor for a short time.

Standard heal. Nothing to it.

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Infuse – If cast on an allied champion, restores mana to the target and to Soraka. If cast on an enemy champion, silences them for a few seconds and deals damage.

Woo! Dual effect! I like dual effect skills. Choice mechanisms, that’s what I’m all about. This is a decent choice too, you need to be highly aware of the combat situation since it has a cooldown lengthier than you’d like. Does your ally need mana to cast a big spell? Do you need mana to cast your ultimate? Or do you need to silence the enemy to protect your allies? Good skill.

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Wish – Soraka fills her allies with hope, instantly restoring health to all friendly champions.

This is identical to Chen‘s Hand of God. It’s ok to take copies of cool DotA skills (Rocket Grab/Meat Hook) but to take a copy of a boring skill like Hand of God (without the creep-dominating mechanics of Chen) begs the question; Why? It works for her support role but they could have used a bit of imagination. She’s already pretty boring.

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Passive: Consecration – Increases surrounding allies’ magic resistance by 16.

Unlike Annie’s boring ass skills, they didn’t give Soraka a cool passive. Standard support buff.

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Synergy

Soraka synergizes in that her spells work together to keep someone alive. Wish and Astral Blessing give large health increases which, if used together, can bring a dying ally back from the brink. Starcall has synergy with Infuse, but it takes so long to build up a decent magic resistance debuff that it has a negligible effect. It should work like Shadow Priest or Slardar‘s damage amplification but it doesn’t really.

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Fun

Soraka is just plain boring. Not only does she have no killing ability, but her damage capabilities in general are pretty meh. Riot should take a note from Team Fortress 2’s Medic. He’s a class which is primarily support, but he does have the ability to kick some ass if he needs to. If Starcall had a lower cooldown and longer duration (for the debuff) then it might be more fun to play Soraka. Currently it’s an ancillary effect which doesn’t have much of a bearing on the outcome of a battle.

 

Sam’s Rating: 4/10

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Jax, Grandmaster at Arms

Jax, Grandmaster at Arms

Aesthetic

Looks: I think he looks badass. Along with Swain, this is the only model I’ve really enjoyed the look of.

Sounds: Sounds pretty cool. He’s got this really deep voice which kinda has pangs of trying too hard, but it grows on you.

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Skills

Leap Strike – Jax leaps toward a target. If it’s an enemy, he smacks it in the face with his lamppost. (Emphasis added)

Oh yes, in the FACE. A standard blink strike style skill with the added effect of being able to jump to allies also. Jax is a carry but relies a lot on his survivability so it’s a great escape mechanism. This skill has brilliant synergy with the majority of his others, so Riot did good.

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Empower Jax’s charges his weapon with energy, causing his next attack to deal additional magic damage.

I don’t really like this skill at all. It just doesn’t fit with his overall skill set and strategy. Jax is all about auto-attacking, which gets faster and more powerful as he attacks. Having a +damage on a single attack just doesn’t work! It should be +damage over 5 seconds or something. That would mean a faster attack speed = more strikes of the +damage. Currently it doesn’t fit. This was recently changed from a magic damage AoE on next attack, but that also didn’t fit well (although it synergized with Leap Strike)

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Counter Strike – Jax’s prowess allows him to dodge enemy attacks frequently. After avoiding an attack Jax can quickly stun surrounding enemies.

I love this skill. Counter skills are always my favourites in all kinds of games. In World of Warcraft I loved the Warrior’s Revenge and the Hunter’s Counter Attack. What is great about them, is that you can design your item build to give you the most chances for the counter to happen. This is what you do with Jax. You increase your dodge rate to improve the amount of procs of your AoE stun. Of course, it’s all about optimizing. If you just add dodge then you won’t have very powerful auto-attacks. You want to optimize your dodge chance so that it will generally proc as soon as the cooldown of the stun finishes. This is why I love this skill, great for theorycrafting and builds! Counter Strike is what gives Jax massive survivability and makes him a strong anti-carry.

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Relentless Assault Jax’s greatest talent lies in his ability to grow stronger with every attack. Successive attacks increases his attack speed temporarily, and every 3rd blow will devastate his target.

OK, the LoL website hasn’t updated this skill but it now has an active component. Huzzah, Active + Passive! The active increases your magic resistance dependent on your dodge rate. This is brilliant and a natural improvement to Jax. He already masses Dodge chance but had no survivability against nukes. Now he does! This is what makes Jax a carry. The more he attacks, the faster and more powerful he will be. Coupled with his high dodge chance, it’s likely he’s going to be attacking for a long time. The new active component increases that time and lets him take on more magic-oriented teams.

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Passive: Equipment Mastery – Jax’s prowess with weapons and armor increase his fortitude as he gains equipment

Not a hugely exciting passive but it contributes greatly to his role, especially as a carry.

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Synergy

Another champion with a well designed skill set. Leap Strike synergizes very well with Relentless Assault, as you can quickly jump to enemies to maintain your ‘charges’. It also works brilliantly with Counter Strike. You dodge a minion (for example), then you Leap into a bunch of enemy champions and unleash your stun. Stun + auto-attack is a bread and butter synergy too. The only thing that doesn’t work is Empower.

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Fun

Jax seems like a typical right-click carry, but Counter Strike keeps you constantly on your toes and Leap Strike is a fun skill which helps you quickly manoeuvre around the battlefield. In the end though, dealing a truck load of damage is fun in itself. While Jax isn’t the most complicated or difficult champion to play, he is undoubtedly fun.

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Sam’s Rating: 8/10

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Shen, Eye of Twilight

Shen, Eye of Twilight

Aesthetic:

Looks: Not bad, not bad at all. I’m not a huge fan of his hands over his shoulders animation but it’s just a minor gripe.

Sounds: His sound is pretty good. The sound of Shadow Dash, Feint and Ki Strike are pretty badass and it feels pretty good to play as him.

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Skills

Vorpal Blade – Damages target unit and life taps him, healing allies that attack the target.

In my opinion, Shen doesn’t start out with a bang. Vorpal Blade is good in theory but I find it lacking in practice. He’s a tank, so it makes sense to have some form of lifesteal… but he’s not based on attack speed so why have an on-attack lifesteal? It’s very useful for killing (he has no natural slows and Shadow Dash has a short range) but apart from that I find it a waste of energy.

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Feint – Shen takes reduced damage for a few seconds.

This is another case where I have to applaud Riot in their design. Since my first ever DotA hero suggestion, I’ve been wanting a tank character that tanks through skill and not through massive stats. Stats are boring. Feint is a very short term shield which you use in reaction to incoming damage. Tower diving? Use Feint. See a nuke flying towards you? Feint. Shen isn’t a great tank because he has massive HP and armor, it’s because he can turn on a very short invulnerability. There’s no skill ceiling to this spell too, you can only get better at timing it right. Skill-based tanking, it’s the holy grail!

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Shadow Dash – Shen dashes rapidly toward a target location, taunting enemy champions he encounters.

This is essentially Axe‘s Berserker’s Call but it’s been improved drastically. Axe had to purchase Blink Dagger to effectively use his skill, it’s an expensive item which reduces the money he has to spend on tanking items. Shadow Dash is a short range blink combined with a taunt, if you hit enemy champions. It’s a great idea, it requires skill in aiming, timing and positioning. It has perfect synergy with Feint.

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Stand United – Shen shields himself and a target ally from incoming damage, and soon after teleports to their location.

I’m seeing a theme here with a few of the LoL skills. Apart from when they get lazy, Riot have been doing a very good job of taking a standard boring skill and then adding an additional effect to make it exciting. This is one such skill. So it’s a standard teleport to an ally, global range and useful since Shen relies on positioning (you can use it in short range like a blink). Even the boring component synergizes well with his skills and fit his role. But this skill also adds a massive damage block shield to the target ally upon casting. Tanks are all about protecting squishies, and Stand United gives Shen a global ability to do that and then quickly be by his ally’s side. It’s really a perfect skill for his role and its flexibility in use make it another high skill ceiling ability.

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Passive: Ki Strike – Every 8 seconds, Shen’s next attack deals bonus damage.

What the description doesn’t tell you is that every enemy champion attack on you reduces the time by 2 seconds. So if 4 people attack you, it will refresh Ki Strike. This is Shen’s version of Counter Helix but on a single-target. This reduces some of his threat level, since doing massive damage to everything is better than massive damage to one thing. However it’s still a very effective tanking skill and works brilliantly with Shadow Dash.

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Synergy

Shen’s skills are all very well designed to suit his role. He needs to get attacked, be able to survive that attack and protect his allies. Shadow Dash + Feint refreshes Ki Strike with no health cost. Stand United helps position Shadow Dash and Vorpal Blade, yet it also contributes massively to his role as a guardian. My only gripe is that Vorpal Blade doesn’t really fit him. I guess it’s nice for his inter-champion synergy (i.e. It helps other people), but he has no real use for it because attack speed isn’t his main purpose. Vorpal Blade doesn’t really synergize with anything in his skill set.

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Fun

Shen is undoubtedly fun and challenging. His gameplay involves putting him at massive risk, but he has the tools to deal with that. Feint and Shadow Dash are reactive and exciting skills which can be mastered to improve his effectiveness, whereas Stand United requires constant map awareness and communication. I always have a lot of fun when I’ve played as Shen

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Sam’s Rating: 9/10

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Swain, the Master Tactician

Swain the Master Tactician

Aesthetic:

Looks: What can I say, Swain is the ultimate badass. His model is really cool, he’s got a perch on his shoulder pads! He walks with a limp, carrying a pimp cane. Finally his skills have all got really spectacular graphics, especially his ultimate which is just crazy cool.

Sounds: Same as looks, everything sounds great. His voice is menacing, Nevermove has got a brilliant sound effect and his ultimate is just like WHAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! That’s a good thing.

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Skills

DecrepifySwain sets his raven to cripple an enemy. Over the next three seconds, the target takes damage over time and is slowed.

Straight from the school of Riot design. It’s just a slow and DoT, but it’s tethered. The tether is short and promotes precise positioning. This isn’t a standard slow you just throw on anyone from anywhere, you’ve got to get close to make the most of it.

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Nevermove Swain marks a target area. After a short delay, mighty talons grab hold of enemy units dealing damage and rooting them.

Really cool skill, partly because it looks so badass but also because it’s a skill-based ability and it’s synergistic with everything he has at his disposal. It’s a tough spell to aim, but when you do it gives Swain free reign to get cracking with the knacking. Mastering Nevermove is key to using Swain effectively, it helps him position Decrepify and keep up with enemies using Ravenous Flock.

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Torment – Swain afflicts his target, dealing damage over time. During this affliction, a percentage of all damage dealt by Swain is added to the periodic damage of this debuff.

Torment is very powerful, it’s easily Swain’s strongest attack and it amplifies the damage of all his other skills as well as his auto-attack. It’s not particularly exciting but it is devastating.

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Ravenous Flock – Swain transforms into the form of a raven, during this time up to 3 lesser ravens strike out at nearby enemies each second. Swain is healed for half the damage dealt by the Ravens.

Oh yeah, this is where it’s at. By far the most badass looking skill I’ve seen this week, Ravenous Flock is like Leshrac‘s Pulse Nova but it heals you for part of the damage done. I love Leshrac in DotA. With Nevermove working similar to Split Earth and Ravenous Flock, it is a similar playstyle. What Swain has extra is survivability. Ravenous Flock heals a substantial amount if you can ensure all 3 ravens are hitting enemies. It costs a lot of mana, but it’s extremely useful for both chasing and escaping (since you are often in the thick of battle to be in range for your other spells).

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Passive: Carrion Renewal – Swain gains 300% increased mana regeneration for 5 seconds upon killing a unit.

Extremely useful passive which helps maintain the huge mana cost of Ravenous Flock (and the combined cost of his other 3 active skills). Relies on last-hitting, which I suck at, but that means it synergizes very well with the AoE nature of his attacks.

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Synergy

Once again, Riot have designed a very strong and synergistic hero in Swain. Decrepify helps you position Nevermove, stay in range with Ravenous Flock and it deals increased damage with Torment. Nevermove’s AoE nature means you’ll often activate Carrion Renewal if you can hit a minion along with an enemy champion. The root helps you chase with Flock and cast Decrepify on top of an enemy (so the tether won’t break). Torment is a bit of a lazy synergy (just increasing the damage of all his spells) but it’s extremely useful nonetheless and amplified damage boosts the healing power of Ravenous Flock. Swain’s skills really are a complete package and skillful (and quick) activation of them will amplify the effects of each part. He’s truly greater than the sum of his parts.

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Fun

Swain is the most played champion this week. What sets him apart from other great champions (Shen and Blitzcrank) is that he’s finally got the visual style and badass theme that has been missing. His skills aren’t really stronger or more original than Shen or Blitzcrank but they work very well together and while aesthetics are icing on the cake, the icing is often one of the tastiest parts. Swain’s need to get in the thick of combat, coupled with the difficult targeting of Nevermove, make him a challenging champion to play. He can output some absolutely crazy damage with his spell combos, yet tank a reasonable amount of damage if he can maintain the mana cost of Ravenous Flock.

 

Sam’s Rating: 10/10

 

So there we have it, overall I’ve been impressed and disappointed by the champion designs this week. I have played as all the champions but only extensively with the above 6, therefore I skipped reviewing a few I’d already deemed boring and reviewed more exciting ones (hence why 4 of the champions have good reviews and I’m still ‘disappointed’). Out of the 10 heroes this week, I thoroughly enjoyed 5 of them (Swain, Shen, Blitzcrank, Jax and Teemo) so that’s a 50% success rate. But what puzzles me is why they’ve been so polarizing. I really really dislike the other heroes, yet I love Swain, Shen and Blitzcrank. There isn’t much of a middle-ground!

Next week I hope to get the whole rotation reviewed, so stay tuned!

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Sam

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