It has been over 7 months since the release of League’s most terrifying marksman, Aphelios, and nerfs are still underway for the Lunari marksman. The inside joke is the only lacking part in this wrecking ball of a marksman is his history with nerfs. With a 53.7% win rate in most of the top-level League tournaments, it begs the question “Can this get any worse?”
If you’re interested in the workings of the League balance team, you’re in luck. Many past champions have also suffered from the nerfhammer more than they should, but Aphelios shines above the rest. Aphelios is the perfect telescope that gives insights on the faults of the balance team, why such is the case, and how they are now planning to remedy the bad habit of releasing broken champions in their first patch.
The Unhealthy Kit
Across the different marksmen in League of Legends, each has their identity, strengths, and clear weaknesses. Ezreal has the mobility of a mage but needs to land his skillshots to be an effective AD carry. Jhin has loads of damage, gated by his four auto attack limitations and lack of mobility. Kai’Sa had the flexibility of going AP or AD and the mobility to support either playstyle. Sivir is one of the best marksmen for pushing lanes and getting out quickly.
Aphelios, with his wide arsenal of weapons, does not necessarily suffer the same weaknesses. He is a marksman who has trouble with mobility like the others, but each weapon’s strengths definitely cover the usual weaknesses. His kit, to be short, provides him with long range poke, waveclear, sustain, single-target and area-of-effect DPS, crowd control, good kiting and dueling potential, and fast sieging.
He is the marksman equivalent of a Swiss knife with all of these features loaded into one character, locked behind a seemingly huge skill ceiling and difficulty curve. While that may make it seem reasonable, it does not take long for professional players to showcase the capabilities of this Swiss knife.
Other Similar Champions
Historically, Aphelios wasn’t the only one to suffer these drastic and frequent nerfs.
Ryze has taken several reworks for every year since 2015, and the community has made an inside joke about it. Aatrox, with a completely different kit during his rework in 2018 made a huge impact on the pro scene for being a better Riven of sorts. Kalista was nerfed to the point of being the most terrible champion for competitive and solo queue play for years, and Akali’s true invisibility mechanic was removed because of global frustrations.
Coincidentally, Bradford “CertainlyT” Wenban was responsible for three of the aforementioned champions. The former champion designer was also responsible for Yasuo and Zoe, so they have a common point of becoming extremely powerful in the right hands.
However, the trend of overtuned champions actually have stemmed towards other champion releases without the same difficulty curve. Champions nowadays usually have some brand new mechanic, or a way to deal a portion of the enemy’s max health as bonus damage. True damage is also a recurring trend with newer champions like Sett.
Whose fault is it?
Is it a design flaw from CertainlyT, Aphelios’ designer? Is it the pro players’ fault for being too good at Aphelios? Is it the fault of the balance team for letting such champions reach the live servers?
In the most recent Dev Blog on balancing new champions, the balance team has acknowledged the underlying issues regarding champion balance. Their new goals for balancing new champions and VGUs emphasize on the theme of long-term balance through keeping new champions at a standard level.
In an ideal world, new champions won’t be released at a power level that makes them a dominating monster with insane winrates, and they won’t be an immediate pro scene staple. In addition, buffs and nerfs would come less frequently because of their shift towards long-term balance, and less mechanical changes are all to be hoped for by the balance team.
The issues being addressed by the new goals could all be found in Aphelios, and he is a testament to the former champion balance framework with new champions and reworks. He debuted with a 51.4% winrate in January, was immediately a pro scene staple with dedicated pro players quickly mastering his arsenal, and has been taking nerfs for 7 straight months.
While these new goals seem far-fetched, it’s a good sign that the balance team has driven away from unhealthy releases that cause power creep with such a huge roster. Time will tell if they can actually commit.
Aphelios, in concept, has to be one of the coolest in the game’s history. While Riot keeps introducing new champions with new mechanics to keep the game fresh, it comes with some risks especially in the balance aspect. In reality, he manifested all of the bad practices with new champions upon his release up until today.
With how League of Legends goes, balance definitely becomes a subjective matter until the numbers come in from the live servers and pro players. Lillia, the incoming AP jungler, is another new champion that deals bonus true damage and bonus magic damage based on maximum health, and will definitely warrant the attention of any serious League player.
Do you think Aphelios will finally get a break from the nerfhammer? Will Lillia and future champion releases will be less oppressive? Share your thoughts with us!