Friday, August 29, 2014

League Analysis: Atma's Impaler (Again)

League of Legends as a game enjoys frequent updates, often coupled with innovation in the form of reworks and seasonal changes. However, some items and champions are left behind, seemingly forgotten or, more likely, difficult to make viable due to potential balance issues. For instance, in the case of the champion Gangplank, he mechanically borderlines on being overpowered due to his ability to scale well with items. In addition, he is simplistic offensively and packs strong utility coupled with some free stats and other perks that make him difficult to simply patch without doing an extensive rework.

However, given the fact I've attempted to rework him once more recently to help highlight what could potentially be considered unfair design, I have also looked into some other relics of the past and one continues to come up in my mind. It was one of the first items I analyzed in League Analysis: Atma's Impaler. While my attempts to make it a more usable item were likely off the mark, I'm hoping my second attempt will be better.

The Problems

In my last analysis of Atma's Impaler, I went over how the item was slot inefficient and the stats confusing in the sense that pretty much no champion can fully benefit from the item. Over the last two seasons I've run into more specific complaints regarding this item. While there may be some reiterations of issues stated in the previous analysis, a few statements should be far more specific. For instance, issues include:
  • Atma's Impaler has a low midrange price (2300 gold) with even lower stat to gold efficiency (the base efficiency is 71.7% according to the wiki article). While this efficiency can be improved with the passive, a champion would need somewhere in the ballpark of over 4000 health or more to compete with other endgame items in terms of slot efficiency (since by that point the item's stats are worth around 3810 gold).
    • It is worth mentioning that a champion also needs to build health, which isn't too bad if it is needed, but the health may need to be built sub-optimally over other (defensive) stats like resilience (armor and magic resistance).
  • On that line of thinking: Atma's Impaler requires a lot of stats from other sources to really shine. For instance it needs more critical strike chance built to really make that 15% critical strike chance beneficial and the player needs to build health to benefit more from the passive effect.
  • The passive effect and armor imply that it benefits champions who build health (since armor would help increase physical effective health when combined with health more), but the bonus attack damage from the passive and the critical strike chance are more likely to benefit marksman-style champions.
    • Very few champions benefit from both of these. A few that come to mind are Garen, Sion, and Gangplank.
    • A better way to say this is the item's design goes in two directions but doesn't seem to excel at either. Combined with the slot inefficiency note above, it's difficult to make it a decent item on champions that benefit from both design directions.
  • The item's build path will set the champion back in most stages of the game if they choose to build in pieces. Aside from the fact Avarice Blade probably builds into better items like Statikk Shiv and may help with the early game, having it by itself is not so great later on when Atma's Impaler shines and a player may want to build it. Chain Vest is a conditionally built item against high physical damage, meaning that if a champion needs magic resist, building a Chain Vest to make an item like Atma's Impaler would set them back at any stage of the game.
    • It's also worth mentioning this item, given the fact it provides armor only as a defensive stat, makes it even more conditional to use.
  • The item has most recently been changed nearly two years ago, with the last few sets of changes largely being nerfs. This means that even though items like the new Spirit of the Ancient Golem were added, Atma's Impaler, which should be favorable in a meta that allows such health stacking, is still weak (or incredibly underused).
    • This essentially means the item has probably needed a rework since last season or has been left behind like other items such as Executioner's Calling and serves to clutter up the item shop.
    • To be fair, the passive effect on Atma's Impaler isn't easy to balance since the nature of it gives free "burst" damage in the form of Attack Damage, meaning if it scales too well with health, tankier champions (particularly fighters) may end up doing the role of less defensive roles like assassins and marksman.
The Possible Solution

The issues listed above all point to one fate for Atma's Impaler: something about it needs to change. While my previous solution was to split the item into a build path that attempted to appeal to champions that could benefit from some stats on Atma's Impaler, the itemization was still a bit confusing (why does Slayer's Spike still have a unique passive similar to Atma's Impaler when its itemization is clearly for squishier champions who don't want health?) and the potential niches filled may already be cluttered by other items (Infinity Edge is probably a better option than Slayer's Spike and Sunfire Cape a more versatile option than Commander's Pike, etc). Short of removing Atma's Impaler (this is a valid change if only to remove an almost completely pointless item from the store), I considered a couple solutions.

The first solution was to take a more melee damage-dealer style approach and change the Atma's Impaler health to attack damage passive into something more like that of Wicked Hatchet along with some itemization changes (possibly the removal of armor, addition of attack damage, increased critical strike chance, etc). To prevent some ludicrous Marksman-related shenanigans, this item would be melee only. The problem is this could cause certain melee champions, particularly ones that benefit well from critical strike chance such as Tryndamere, to end up potentially scaling out of control.

The second solution of making Atma's Impaler more of a tank-oriented item is, in my opinion, a lot more appealing. This is how I would envision such an item:
Atma's Impaler (Advanced Item)

Builds from: Cloak of Agility, Giant's Belt
Total Cost: 2700 Gold (870 Build cost, 1730 Item cost)
Effect: 500 Health, 15% critical strike chance
UNIQUE Passive - Impale Heart: Critical strikes cause the enemy to bleed, dealing physical damage equal to 4% of your maximum health over 3 seconds. Deals a maximum of 50 damage against minions and monsters each second.
UNIQUE Passive - Life Barbs: Critical strike chance is increased by 1% of Bonus Health. In addition, critical strike chance is increased by 1% of damage suffered (before accounting for mitigation) until up to 5 seconds after leaving combat.
It is worth mentioning the item effectively has 20% critical strike chance and while the item is inefficient at base stats (it gives 2330 gold of stats), accounting for the passives should result in significant health scaling that results in nearly immeasurable stats, even if the player chooses to build resilience (due to how the Life Barbs passive works). This effectively makes Atma's Impaler the only item needed to critically strike enemies often if the Life Barb passive is utilized, thus allowing the Impale Heart passive to be utilized. Due to this design, tanky champions who normally don't need critical strike chance still benefit from using this item. In addition, the increased scaling with health is justified since the damage is made less bursty by staggering the bonus damage over time and causing the consistent application of the effect to require the champion to be in battle for a time to maximize critical strike chance.

While this item has a problem of requiring a player to sit on a couple items for quite a while until they successfully earn enough money to finish the item, the Giant's Belt is greatly beneficial for champions that desire this item since this new Atma's Impaler will likely benefit any champion that wants a lot of health. In addition, it gives players the option to build another item like Randuin's Omen if it is needed instead.

Final Statement

Atma's Impaler was an interesting piece of work in the Season 2 days when the "metagolem" build involved using it while utilizing items that provided significant amounts of health. However, the nerfs to the item coupled with changes to other items in the build caused another "metagolem" build to outshine the Season 2 predecessor and leave some items used in the build behind. While a few items, like Warmog's Armor, were changed, other items were left abandoned or infrequently changed. Given how much the meta evolves, I think Atma's Impaler deserves another chance and given the addition of champions like Zac that enjoy building health but don't benefit from the item, the overhaul I suggested seemed like a reasonable approach. Hopefully this item will be looked at for Season 5.


  1. With the Sion rework I think that Atmas is a very powerful item on him, with or without Warmogs. This is largely due to Sion's new health stacking mechanic (which gives essentially 14 health per jungle camp,and 8 bonus health per kill/assist and Sion looks like he'll be a very strong jungler with fast clears with 3 AOEs and excellent ganks).By the time he finishes Atmas he'll have somewhere in the vicinity of 2000 health, which makes Atmas highly gold efficient on him (and just somewhat gold efficient if you ignore the critical strike chance, but being able to get a few AA crits on a good gank could be the difference between a kill and just a force out of lane) with the ability to scale up even farther. From there, you can build a lot of health/resist items (Sunfire, Randuins, Visage) which also have their bonus HP multiplied by SOTAG's passive.

    I could see Atma's being a core item on the reworked Sion, as he's really more of a tanky AD bruiser who scales hard with HP. Basically the demon lovespawn of Olaf and Volibear with a bit of cross-pollination with Nasus.

  2. Also champions like Garen really love Atmas, just because it scales with his Judgment. And Garen is an early game snowballing champ, and Atma's gold efficiency (the thing is as efficient as fucking Last Whisper/Void Staff which are possibly the most broken items in the game) is great for early game snowballing. Go Sunfire into Atmas and all of a sudden you are just huger than whoever you're fighting in top lane even if you're technically a bit behind because of the sheer gold efficiency and how well Atma's stats scale with the champ. You can always sell it late game.

    1. I am aware that reworked Sion could work reasonably well with Atma's (in fact, old AD/Fighter Sion prior to the rework liked this item as well for the same reasons you mentioned) along with champions such as Garen. However, the problem is Atma's early game power is actually kind of bad, especially for what you're buying (2000 health equates to 30 bonus attack damage, which is incredibly mediocre for an item that costs over 2000 gold, even with the other stats accounted for. You then have to buy other health items to make Atma's Impaler relevant, even though it causes lost potential from the Crit Chance on the item).

      For instance, consider that you are budgeting a good chunk of your gold into Armor you may not need (even from a jungling perspective by the time you actually get the kind of armor Chain Vest gives, the monsters aren't exactly a massive threat anymore, though it does make the item a decent purchase for diving and in specific situations), as mentioned in the article. This means while you do get offensive power, you could technically buy an item like Tiamat, Zeal, etc and probably get some better mileage for a lower investment of money (if I recall correctly, Zeal was a rather strong item on old Sion and I could see it working quite well on this iteration of Sion as well). You also mention Sunfire Cape, which is essentially the superior alternative if you want tankiness with a bit of damage on top (which is notably harder to defensively build against since the champions that typically benefit from Atma's are physical damage-oriented).

      At the end of the day, however, the thing I find most problematic about Atma's is exactly what I wrote in the article - it has not been changed for the better part of two seasons and is usable on a very, very small number of champions due to the weird mix of the passive effect and Armor applying to numerous tanks and fighters and the critical strike chance applying to most Marksman and a couple of fighters at best, even though the item, were it to be tweaked in one design direction or another, could work far better for a broader spectrum of champions.

    2. Oh yeah - forgot to mention that it's possible to get away with an almost full AD carry build on Sion because of his infinite health increasing passive (it's possible to run around with 3-4k health and a full set of items a Marksman would typically use). It's a good part of why Atma's Impaler works for him in particular - he doesn't need to build health to reap the benefits, though it's still arguable that pure attack damage items may be a better option.