The midseason patch is here, and it's a bear! This might be one of the biggest midseason patches ever, and it's certainly the biggest since preseason. It's so big, we're going to split this session of Patch Notes in half. Today, we are going to zero in on the mages that got major reworks. As promised by Riot, the Mage class was getting the magical love they've long needed. Can these spellcasters blast their way back into our picks?
This bloody tank-pire has always had a pretty unique identity among mages, as he's one of the few bursty casters who can tank pretty well. Vlad's big facilitator of this is his sustain suite and the various ways he can regain health by draining it from lane opponents. He's also go a great deal of self peel in his W, Sanguine Pool, which lets him turn into a puddle of blood and become untargetable while slowing and dealing magic damage to the unfortunate souls caught inside.
His problem became wrapped around his main ability, Transfusion. Since it is the primary source of damage/life drain and a target ability, the sort of counterplay options were incredibly dependent how his abilities numbers were tweaked. If the numbers were too low, his main source of sustain was laughably a non-issue in early game, making Vlad consistently a last-half sort of champion. Too high, and he became indomitable, with that little target range around him being a non-fun kill zone that would get completely out of hand, balance wise.
No secret, then, that this is the center of his most fundamental changes. Almost everything about Transfusion has been nerfed, numbers wise, but it gains a new effect in Crimson Rush. After casting the ability twice, Crimson Rush turns on and makes the next instance of Transfusion do double damage while giving him a speed buff. It also heals for a flat amount per level plus 1% missing health per every 40 bonus AP.
Otherwise, Vlad's passive scaling, with extra AP giving extra health and vice versa, has been readjusted to make building health give you more bonus AP per point more efficiently. Tides of Blood now allows a charging of missiles which burst around Vlad. Instead of doing damage based on charges, the damage scales higher based on charge time. At full charge, afflicted enemies are slowed as well. Hemoplague, his ultimate, has a few new tricks as well. Its duration is down, and so is the bonus damage being done from outside sources. Each enemy it hits now heals him for a base amount plus bonuses based on AP. The health/AP relationship in Vlad's kit is deeper than ever, and his risk/reward play style is further refined without being so radical.
Malzahar has always been one of those champions who pretty much has two play styles: lane pusher supreme or hit-and-run blast master. He could rarely do both, though, thanks to how crazy demanding the mana costs were and how completely susceptible to CC his ult made him. This sorta narrowed him into specific strategies, which made him less dynamic a pick and less fun to play.
Tweaking Mal to make him a bigger player looks to be coming in the form of added defenses - namely in his passive, Void Shift. After not taking damage for a certain amount of time, Mal is cloaked in a shield that reduces damage by a great deal and makes him immune to crowd control. A second after taking damage, the shield goes away. This should give him the time needed to get his ult off, which no longer has a cast time and does damage per second based on maximum health of the target instead of flat rates.
His Voidlings got a big tweak, too. He no longer spawns them as he casts spells, but now he has a dedicated ability for sprouting them. After a Voidling does damage to a unit with its first attack, another Voidling will spawn. When three Voidlings are on the field, they all get a higher attack speed. They prioritize targets affected by Mal's abilities (no auto attacks anymore) and get double the movement speed when moving towards those enemies.
Malefic Visions (aka Space AIDS) got a bit of a bump in this patch. Its damage is toned down at later levels, and its ratio with AP is slightly lowered, but the mana cost is down overall and the mana refund is now 2% of his max. On top of that, Visions' duration can be refreshed by hitting the afflicted with another ability. That's pretty dirty, considering you will also continue to make that person a target for your pumped-up Voidlings. Pray for these mid-laners, man.
Always a bit of a mess, Cassiopeia has two main builds - cooldown reduction/attack speed and DOT poison mage. Her Aspect of the Serpent passive would give big boosts to her poison damage, and Twin Fangs would capitalize on the effort of putting the poison condition on enemies. But, without having great movement options, she becomes very easy to kite - even for notoriously slower Juggernauts. And with all the bonuses in the world, her poison damage still was as severe and punishing as, say, Twitch or Singed.
Her new Miasma should help to solidify a predictable play style for her. It creates a long row of poison clouds that can zone out enemies big time. If they're caught in the clouds, poison damage over time is imminent. The bigger component is the CC. Enemies take a big slowdown debuff and get "grounded", meaning they can't use their movement abilities for a short time. Vi's can't charge you, Yasuo's can't glide into your face. This is a pretty big deal for someone who can't buy boots anymore.
Her passive, Serpentine Grace, gives her 4 movement speed per level. By level 15, she will have the full boost that Boots of Swiftness grant, and every level after that she's actually moving faster than everyone else. She'll be moving faster sooner if players aren't taking swift boots. It's a really cool fluff-centric concept that pays dividends in game. Cass is back!
Honestly, this was never a champion I even considered needing an overhaul. When Zyra was on the board, her role was crystal clear: zone control. Her sentient plant turrets and supreme rooting and slowing capability made divers think twice every time. The seed planting source of this turret network was a little too passive for players, one could argue, so giving her a bit more agency as a controller is an understandable directive.
Ironically, this comes partially in the form of her new passive, Garden of Thorns. Instead of growing into a giant plant turret on death, she now plants seeds periodically that sprout into lesser versions of her plant turrets created by her W, Rampant Growth. Casting her Q or E near them activates the growth. I actually really like this, mostly because I really hated the lack of counterplay her final gasp shot had. This is, essentially, turning up her already present zoning capabilities to 11.
Deadly Bloom is now Deadly Spines. It's less powerful, but it's bigger and costs less. Stranglethorns give her plants bonus damage instead of attack speed. With many more potential plants on the field now, this is a much bigger deal, theoretically. Bottom lane is going to get way more unfortunate.
When someone would pick Brand back in the day, you knew they were doing it because they didn't just want to beat you, they wanted to hurt your feelings. His passive was a mini-ignite - all of his abilities would deal damage over time to targets based on their max health. You could never get too tanky for Brand to be ineffective against you. And in team fights, his AOE damage was second to none. Now that everyone and their moms can do percent-health damage these days, Brand has lost some of that appeal. Riot aims to fix that.
Blaze now has stacks, and when the tally hits max, Blaze erupts doing a great deal of percentage health damage up front, plus 1.5% more damage every 100 AP, PLUS percentage health damage over time. Holy Hellfire, Batman!
The multi-effect comboing potential is still intact, and it still depends heavily on the order in which you hit targets with spells. The spells themselves have changed slightly, otherwise. Conflagration does less damage but the cooldown is lower. Sear's stun duration and damage has dropped. Pillar of Flame's mana cost is down and so is the cool down. Pyroclasm now prioritizes Blazed champions who are close to detonation first, so it is a good way to get that last stack in. Will this reclaim Brand's title as Maximum Butt Hurter? Time will tell.
My personal favorite of the bursty, center lane mages, Vel'Koz is something a of glass cannon. He has abilities that are used in tandem in a combo-like fashion, but they have no real interaction with each other like, say, Brand's does. You spam his abilities to get stacks of his passive, Organic Deconstruction, onto targets. At 3 stacks, the target takes a burst of true damage, which is the bulk of Vel'Koz's surprising take down ability. The damage he does naturally is good, but getting the true damage is the primary obsession, to the point where it becomes a game of "Can I use my ult yet?" after level 6, since it's the best way to put stacks on.
To sort of refine his design, the interaction between his passive and his Life Form Disintegration Ray has been changed. Instead of applying stacks itself, the beam does true damage to targets that have stacks on them, and they'll have the "Researched" condition on them for 7 seconds. You will have to have done the work of applying stacks before you mash R, but the rewards are vast, especially now that his ult scales with AP on a 1 to 1 ratio. Its flat damage got a bump, and its cooldown is lower.
His passive now scales with AP alongside doing flat true damage, though that flat damage has gone down per level. His other abilities are less powerful now, too. Except his main poke, Plasma Fission, which now refunds 50% of the mana cost upon killing a unit. This is maybe my favorite change, because Vel ends up mana starved pretty often in the early game, and it's quite frustrating. I'm personally very happy with these changes, but we'll see how it all washes out in the Rift.
This is only the tip of the midseason iceberg. For the whole kit and caboodle, head to Riot's Patch Notes blog post. We will touch on the rest of the patch in the future, but let us know how you feel about the new mage adjustments on Facebook and Twitter. And don't forget: MSI Is happening as we speak! Head over to the Leaguepedia to stay up to date on the tournament.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.