Why has LoL's latest champion struggled to make an impact?

Taliyah’s arrival in Summoner's Rift has been anything but groundbreaking. Her presence seems to get lost under the rubble she creates. Her overall design is great and compliments her backstory, while her kit feels both fair and rewarding, but despite this the Stoneweaver still struggles to find a place within the wider community.

It's tough being different

Taliyah is a control mage who functions similarly in playstyle to champions like Viktor and Anivia. Control mages are renowned for creating zones that aggressively influence the positioning of their opponents while outputting high damage and utility. Because of this, control mages offer unique playstyles that make for some of the most interesting champion designs within League of Legends.

Although control mages may not be the most technical characters in terms of mechanics, they do require a great deal of strategy to make use of their abilities and create game-winning plays. They usually rely on positioning and landing slow but powerful skillshots which cost a great deal of mana and are often easy to dodge if used carelessly. These factors require the player to set up, predict and manipulate their opponents into areas where their skillshots can be landed successfully. 

Taliyah is a pretty unique control mage in the sense that she lacks a lot of the damage and burst that we are used to seeing from champions like Viktor. As compensation she has slightly more utility, giving her opportunities to create plays for her team if her skills are used properly. Despite this, Taliyah’s is stuck in the weaker end of the champion pool.

A rocky start

Taliyah’s main source of damage still continues to restrict her performance in game despite Riot’s hotfix to Threaded Volley in 6.10 and subsequent buff in patch 6.11. Threaded Volley unleashes five Stone Shards in quick succession in a target area for over 1.5 seconds dealing AoE splash damage. The targets hit by a Stone Shard take 50% damage from subsequent shards and create a circle of Worked Ground.

One of the main issues people have with Taliyah is the area of Worked Ground she creates when using Threaded Volley, and it’s clear to see why the community is so frustrated by this feature. If Taliyah is standing on Worked Ground she is only allowed to fire one shard as opposed to five, refunding half of Threaded Volley’s mana cost and granting a small movement speed buff.

This trade-off seems largely negligible and unfair considering the huge constraints it puts on her damage output. Threaded Volley as a skill makes sense: what doesn't is the Worked Ground feature. Why should Taliyah be punished so heavily with a large AOE circle for her main damage skill?

Worked Ground can cause huge issues for Taliyah when skirmishing, kiting, or harassing as she can end up blocking herself out of teamfights and duels. She is essentially a control mage who can zone herself out of the action if the player is not too careful.

Threaded Volley could be improved if Worked Ground gave a debuff to her enemies, reducing their movement speed or giving Taliyah cooldown reduction could help nullify the sting of not being able to unleash her full damage. These changes would also add further zoning potential to her kit and would complement her playstyle as a control mage.

Taliyah’s W, Seismic Shove, is an AoE knock up that takes one second to activate and its direction can be altered by pressing W again. This skill can be tricky to land on moving targets due to the delay, but it is a great way to deal extra damage, set up combos, engage opponents or simply disengage from a skirmish. Compared to the rest of Taliyah’s kit Seismic Shove is a ‘shove’ in the right direction and feels both solid and rewarding. There are no complaints here.

Unraveled Earth serves as a slowing minefield that explodes dealing magic damage to all enemies hit. After four seconds, the traps explode, dealing Unraveled Earth’s initial damage once more. This ability provides a fairly decent slow that has good combo potential with Seismic Shove, but the setup can be easily telegraphed making it difficult to land on wary opponents. Her W and E work really well together and compliment her playstyle nicely, but her Q just doesn’t seem to interact well and feels more like an afterthought. An earth bender should have skills that blend seamlessly together.

Taliyah’s ultimate is like Marmite: you either love it or you hate it. People either see it for the high strategical value it possesses or they view it as a disaster waiting to happen. This is because Weaver’s Wall can pose very serious threats to not just Taliyah, but her own teammates. If used wisely, Weaver’s Wall can create some intense plays by cutting off choke points, forcing enemies away from their tower, splitting up noticeable threats or simply prevent opponents from fleeing.

However, Taliyah can also block off her allies from teamfights leaving herself in precarious situations and end up losing her team the game. For an ability that does no damage, it sure does yield a lot of positive and negative results. Weaver’s Wall certainly has the potential to become a real game changing ultimate if used in a team with good communication and synergy.

Taliyah is not an inherently bad champion, she may not be as strong as most top tier mid laners, but she has the potential to do well. Her win rate currently sits at 48.97% and is a healthy step up from her previous win rate of 36.12% in patch 6.10. She is one of the most balanced champions in terms of gameplay and design and has a fairly high skillcap, but with a little TLC from Riot she has the chance to grow and become powerful at a competitive level. After all: "a stone can't be polished without a little friction."