Wednesday, August 6, 2014

League Analysis: The Underused Summoners

A while ago, I wrote an article on the Clairvoyance summoner spell. This was due to a number of reasons, but the fact it is so rarely used (particularly after a period of frequent usage a couple seasons ago) is one of the major reasons for the analysis. After writing the article, I thought back on other summoner spells that don't see use. When Heal was changed, I thought other summoner spells that didn't see much use would also see improvement. However, months after the Heal change, there doesn't seem to be any further changes in sight for the other summoners that don't see much use. In this article I will go over the summoners I find to be underused (particularly in Summoner's Rift) and describe potential reasons for their lack of use and, if relevant, suggest potential adjustments (within reason) that could see increased use of the summoner spell.

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Revive's power is rather difficult to balance due to its ability to swing the game. It can turn a teamfight into a 6v5 (or more) or catch opponents off guard, particularly when combined with Teleport. This is especially devastating as death timers rise as a game goes on longer. To compensate for this, a player has to drop one or even both of their summoners to run Revive effectively, meaning other summoner spells that have definitive combat benefits like Ignite, cannot be used to win encounters. The summoner spell also has a whopping 9 minutes of wait time before it can be used again. In addition, games may end quick enough that long death timers are not an issue. It is also worth mentioning that Revive has major griefing potential due to the fact it essentially gives an enemy player a free double kill very quickly, increasing the rate they snowball.

When Dominion is taken into consideration, Revive has some usage due to strong objective control since a player can come right back to life, run up to the enemy, and potentially stop them from gaining points by capturing a control point. However, after Trinkets were added in Season 4, the Soul Anchor, which essentially provides a charged version of summoner Revive, was added to Dominion, which arguably makes Revive less relevant on that map. This is especially so since the fast nature of the game means that Revive may only be used a couple times in a given match but a Soul Anchor guarantees three uses throughout the match unless your team wins or loses very quickly.

Despite all these issues, the ceiling power of Revive makes it difficult to suggest buffs such as a reduction of cooldown. While replacing the summoner spell with items like Soul Anchor could potentially be a "solution" for Dominion, such an item on Summoner's Rift (Guardian Angel doesn't really count since the activation is less voluntary than Revive is and can be counterplayed heavily) could have dire implications due to the sheer power of the active ability since the tradeoff of taking Revive partially compensates for the "extra life." On the other hand, I don't know if I would remove the summoner spell either. In the end I can't offer a solution to this summoner spell at the time of this writing since it could see favorable use based on the power of other summoner spells (on Summoner's Rift in particular).

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Clarity restores mana to the champion using the summoner spell and nearby allies. Aside from the fact this summoner spell isn't usable on a good number of champions due to them being manaless, the implication of this summoner spell is that it is taken to resolve mana problems. Some champions do not necessarily have mana problems due to low costs, mana regeneration utility, and the like. However, champions with mana problems have an option to build mana or mana regeneration, the latter of which has greatly expanded in options. Finally, like with Revive, a player would need to trade off a more frequently used summoner spell like Ignite, meaning the offensive or defensive utility provided by those summoners is lost in favor of mana efficacy.

While players may take Clarity early on to help out with learning to manage mana, I feel there are other tools out there in the form of items, masteries, runes, and champion mechanics that handle it a lot better, thus the purpose of Clarity in its current state isn't particularly great and the summoner spell could be removed. It is worth mentioning there could be a situation where mana sustain during a group siege could be helpful, though the need for such sustain is diminished by the aforementioned tools.

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Cleanse used to see more use in previous seasons due to its valuable utility that allowed players to remove crowd control effects and become resilient against them for a short time. This is the equivalent of taking a PvP Trinket in World of Warcraft or the like. It began to fall out of favor as items like Mercurial Scimitar were added to the game. In addition, other summoner-related changes such as the addition of Barrier in Summoner's Rift, which was much stronger defensive utility for general situations while Cleanse was more specific in terms of use due to its crowd control removal properties, causing the summoner spell to fall further out of favor. The Heal update was likely a death knell to seeing much Cleanse usage due to the addition of movement speed bonus utility to Heal on top of its restorative properties, providing another utility summoner spell that can be used in a wider variety of situations.

There are a number of ways Cleanse could see more usage. A popular suggestion was to add a knockback to the summoner spell due to potential plans to implement such a mechanic. However, while this would certainly provide a wider array of usage, even ignoring the existence of Yasuo, such a displacement effect would be strongly favorable on ranged champions and essentially provide them with a second (stronger) escape tool on top of what is likely to be Flash. This could have dire implications on champion mobility in both the present and future. For instance, melee champions with minimal mobility would be unable to touch ranged carries, which they don't exactly reach too easily and even champions with gap closers may find themselves unable to stick to opponents. This would then result in champion releases (new or old in the form of re-releases) of even greater mobility, such as champions with many gap closers.

While these suggestions likely exist somewhere, giving Cleanse the power to remove a larger array of debuffs would allow the summoner spell to be usable by a large number of champions. While it probably shouldn't counter entire champion kits (taking Cleanse against Zed shouldn't mean he gets screwed out of all of his damage from Death Mark, for instance), it could provide robust resilience in the form of partial removal, though the specifics would need to be worked out on a champion by champion basis. Another possibility is to move the movement speed bonus from Heal to Cleanse and give Heal new utility, such as additional mana regeneration utility or additional health restoration over time after the initial healing effect is applied. Though the suggested examples for new Heal utility may not be great, the synergy between Cleanse and bonus movement speed seems more sensible due to its synergy with the bonus resilience to further crowd control for a brief time.

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While I have already gone over Clairvoyance before, I will briefly summarize what I said in my analysis article. Clairvoyance is essentially a souped up Scrying Orb trinket. However, the addition of Scrying Orb (which, since the writing of the last article, is beginning to see use) greatly obsoletes the need to have Clairvoyance in the game. Thus, it should be removed or replaced. One thing I failed to mention in the analysis of Clairvoyance previously is that there's an additional tradeoff of running a different summoner with what could be considered more potent utility much like the reason Revive or Clarity is not used.

Final Statements

Infrequently used summoner spells have their flaws, but the more frequently used summoner spells may simply be stronger than the infrequently used ones (for reasons of meta or due to changes to various aspects of the game). While summoner spell usage has broadened slightly, some additional variance may improve the health of the game in the form of innovation, which seems to be bogged down due to the difference of power between summoner spells. Whether it involves replacing obsolete summoner spells or bringing them in line with the ones more in use, I feel a review of the summoner spells may need to be in order in the future.

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