Quentyn K. August 28, 2019
Riot Games is considering a pair of nerfs to bring two of League of Legends’ most oppressive champions back in line. Aatrox and Akali nerfs are being looked at for patch 9.18, which will also have other undetermined changes.
According to the patch preview shared by lead designer Mark Yetter, Aatrox’s healing rate from his passive ability’s bonus minion damage would drop from 100% to 25%. Akali’s ultimate, meanwhile, will receive a slight damage nerf in the early game, but that’s small potatoes compared to a suggested removal of its half-second stun.
The Akali nerf seems necessary for an ability that’s already bloated. With two chances to activate a damaging chase down and the second hit of that scaling for a near-guaranteed instant execution on low-health targets, the stun makes her difficult for opposing champions to counter in low-health situations.
The 7.5-second window for reactivation also gives Akali ample time to use Shuriken Flip during or after the combo for even more damage. The stun’s removal might limit her ability to fit that extra damage in on characters without mobility. Akali had already found it harder to kill late-game targets after her previous changes.
The stun removal would be just the latest bit of complexity taken out of Akali’s kit that many players considered to be overly full following the champion’s rework.
Aatrox mains may hurl at his proposed change. A melee champion typically playing the role of lane bully, Aatrox relies on his passive to keep himself healthy as he gets up close and personal to clear waves. The healing rate allows him to poke the enemy champion within a creep wave without sacrificing a comparable amount of health.
The change could prove significantly unpopular, especially after Aatrox has already seen significant nerfs since Riot hoisted him back into the limelight with his rework in patch 8.13.
That being said, Aatrox is at times able to recover health too easily simply by swinging away at a minion wave. Even if this nerf doesn’t go through as planned, there’s likely to be an adjustment made.
Both champions have been on a meandering pattern for quite some time, the two being adjusted what seems to be every other patch as Riot struggles with balance. While the champions now enjoy moderate win rates overall after their respective reworks, they’re especially dominant in the competitive scene where pro teams have perfected strategies that make them seem overpowered.
To put their power into perspective, Aatrox has been at or above a 90% pick/ban rate as far back as 2018, with a 100% streak being all too common during some stretches of LCS play. Similarly, Akali garnered little attention with her previous kit, but she has since soared to dominate competitive play, including a 100% pick/ban streak during the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational earlier this year.
It serves as a reminder about the difficulty of balancing champions across two standards of play. While Riot would love for Aatrox and Akali to be more viable for casual play, it has to keep their competitive viability at the professional level in check to ensure the meta doesn’t become too stale, which would ultimately hurt League’s popularity with fans.