Riot's always made champs who they thought were fun, but over the last two years, the 0cs top/mid/doublebot meta has shifted a few things around. This is part of the reason the roaming champs – Twitch and Eve – had to get remade to be slightly useful as well as not toxic 'show up in your lane and kill you'. But some champs designed specifically for the meta actually have come out completely backwards. As they say on Law and Order, “These are their stories.”
Zac is a load of fun. You can run him in the jungle – his designed kit – and have access to a buttload of hilarious gank positions, right up there with Shaco's deceive. Nothing is more fun than flinging yourself over a wall and scaring the living crap out of whoever thought they were safe, disrupting and slowing and chunking.
But the dude's got a spammable attack that not only does a percentage of life, it does a scaling percent of life, and the dude comes with free sustain in the form of his passive bloblets. So long as you hit something – even minions – you can keep returning the life, stacking more HP, and sustaining damn near forever. Even the champs who do a lot of percent of life – Jayce, Elise, Warwick, Trundle – do magic damage, which slips them right into Zac naturally building the Visage. The only real way to deal with him is AD-heavy picks like Vi, hope the natural poke from Elise is enough to chunk him down even with the MR he gets, or have a high-harass champ like Nid or Teemo to jab him down.
He's had a lot of time in the spotlight over the last week in the Summer Promo Tourney, and for good reason – he can chop down HP stackers while becoming nigh unkillable, especially with both his passives. Stick him in top lane, have him chip away at the enemy, and never let up.
In the words of Phreak, “AP Tryndamere is stupid.” And honestly it really is. It's another one of those silly builds that land and make everyone balk at the concept, but once you realize exactly how to do it, it's absolutely insane. It doesn't hurt that everyone discovered just how potent Nashor's Tooth is during that time, no small thanks to Diana syncing it up so well.
AP Tryn was just because nobody at Riot had bothered to think about the 1:1 ratio on his Q heal for AP, because, well, if you really want to build things that give you AP in either auras or for the passive – say, a Sheen, or a Rumble with a WOTA – sure, why not. A little bonus heal never hurt anyone. But the fact that it scaled flat with its use, and not with his Fury, meant you could just stack AP and CDR (one of the fastest and cheapest CDR paths) and mash Q, constantly recharging your health. With the resets from critical strikes, the AP scaling on his E made him do enough damage to practically never die and rush about. With the crit chance he already has with his Q, he got the refresh on it constantly, and a Lichbane capped out that you couldn't itemize against him, because he was doing entirely phyiscal damage up to getting it.
Many cried out that it was an unfair nerf, but let's be honest here and point out that the true counter to Tryndamere is understanding rage consumption to heal on his Q. Old AP Tryn completely ignored rage for anything other than refreshing his spin. He was unkillable before he used his ult. It's just a stupid abuse of mechanics he wasn't meant for.
At one point, a streamer and fan of League of Legends Bjorn aka Guardsman Bob started picking Warwick for top lane. He picked up a Doran's Ring and a wide array of weird items like Wit's End and Glacial, and everyone laughed at him. Then, fast forward to about six months later, and not only was everyone doing it, but Riot actively sought out ways to nerf his Q just because of how silly strong it was at top lane.
It's a problem of his old kit before the Leona patch, where they nerfed his Q to restoring only 80% of the damage dealt and increased the mana cost so it was less spammable. The sheer strength of chunking someone down who stacked a lot of HP – at the time, mostly champs like Olaf – was incredibly valuable, and you outsustained a vast majority of picks in that area. But he was still playable, still working strongly at top.
The real nerf came later, in the Varus patch, where the Q's percentage of life was dropped, thereby eradicating the use in maxing it first and swiping for nearly (after resistances) a fifth of someone's health and restoring yourself for almost that much. I'm torn on it – sure, it nerfed a favorite lane of mine, but Warwick was basically unmovable, and that Q was the cause of several bans after he became much more popular.
This wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't also finding himself outclassed as a jungler – utility and ganking jungler he is not, nor is he a crazy strong carry jungler like Tryndamere, so he just kind of flounders to this day. Riot will one day buff him, they have said they know he's weak, so at this point the reason to snag him is just for that nice, safe clear.
Rengar is a lot of fun. But he is just a huge nightmare in design. They gave him a great kit, but his numbers were way too low on release, and the first thing to burst onto the scene was, in fact, AP Rengar, which was hilarious because it used the stupid burst damage from his Roar and a Deathfire Grasp to explode somebody in one hit. That's not so surprising – I mentioned Tryndamere earlier, he's a perfect example – but it was done because his AD kit was just so awful.
And then they tried to buff him, and it went even worse – Diamondprox was practicing jungling him for Season 2 Worlds, but he was the only one, as everyone just ran him top instead. They used the stupidly high sustain on his Roar to keep in lane forever, shoving constantly and stacking CDR like Kindlegem to raise the percent he restored. And if he ever got ganked, throw Bolas, hit R, run away. And he's still like that, when the red elixir meta popped up especially, maxxing his Q and stabbing anyone in the face the minute he knew he could secure a kill. He's just an obnoxious top lane, like Nidalee if she went invisible.
It's a shame, too, because Rengar is fantastic and I love the idea of a resourceless jungler with gap closing as a passive and the ability to literally stalk your prey. It's a great time, and I'm excited for the rework for that reason.
Morello's one contribution to champ design is a pretty brilliant mid, and she's a good Take Two at a turret-based champion, since Heimerdinger is basically a laughingstock right now. But it's another example of seeing one thing – the root spell – and realizing, wait, she's a lot like Lux, but hers hits everything. And plants hit with that spell do a slow! And her seeds grant vision! And if she dies, as a support there's not much gold lost and she can just fire off her true damage nuke!
Zyra was instantly jammed into the support role. Without her plants, she's like a bizarrely built Lux, but even more suited for the support role since her ult provides more than damage and a bit of vision. It's berserker plants, a launch, a bit of damage, plus her passive's true damage for sniping. She has no shield like Lux – but don't underestimate her mid. She's dynamite.
You might be thinking, “wha? Gragas? How did he get used wrongly?” And you're thinking about that big fat burst damage mid laner he is today. But he was not meant to be like that. You know the attack speed debuff he has on his Q? Or the hybrid ratio he has on his body slam? Or the resistances and AD he gets with his Drink? Don't those seem like odd decisions?
Gragas was meant, originally, to be a high sustaining bruiser with poke and CC, with a bit of AP to allow him to build for mage-like damage if he wanted to. This was, of course, during the time when LoL was looking enviously at the wide diversity of builds games like Dota had, back before the entire creative team at Riot realized what a disaster of balance it is to create a game around that kind of versatility (though they still succeed from time to time, like with Evelynn).
It wasn't until Gragas started showing up in tournaments – most notably on Dignitas's mid laner Scarra destroying mid lane with sustain and stealing dragons with a double-cask toss – that Riot realized how strong he was in mid and how crazy a 60s cooldown on a reverse-Janna ultimate is. After his nerf, he's still burly, but he's nowhere near the immovable object he once was.
The original idea behind Diana is something I love; it was a really strong example of Riot walking more towards stronger, armored, powerful female figures in the game. She was a tragic figure, a heretic cast out from a society that promised protection and security for daring to present an idea that opposed the majority. And Riot had some serious blinders on when they put her in the game as a jungler.
She's a great jungler, and her skillshot offers a lot of creative plays since she can gap close to it whenever she wanted. But the minute she landed, everyone realized that she basically had everything an AP mid would want – skillshots that were hard to dodge. Defensive stat. CC. Disrupt. A gap closer that refreshes. A passive area AP strike.
So she got nerfed, increasing the cooldown on her gap closer and her stats all around. Then again, to the point of making her practically useless by nerfing her ult's range by over 150, which was later reverted just because of how awful she became. And she's still a total pubstomper, making several appearances in the LCS despite how nerfed she is. With the re-discovery of Nashor's Tooth, her passive can be procced faster, she gets cooldowns reduced, and her damage just shoots up if she spends a lot of time in melee. And, better yet, she can build as tanky as she wants and make a good primary initiator.
She's become a go-to ban for me just because of the sheer headache she induces in the right hands. And to think at one point Riot released her not thinking she'd be a great laner – jeeze.