Last month, we revealed three upcoming LoL champions in our magazine. The first, Caitlyn, has already hit live servers and the second was just announced with no details last night! These champions are unlike anything you've seen before, and now that the issue that they're revealed in (US, March 2011) is on newsstands, we're showing 'em off online. Read on for artwork, and all of the details we have on their abilities, roles, and backstories.
We flew to Riot Games' offices in late December to play hands-on with works-in-progress champions ( read about our experiences playing and discussing champion balance with the devs ) way before their release, and compiled all of the information we could squeeze out of the developers about them below. Keep in mind that this top-secret info was from very early in the champion creation process (most everything was placeholder art--for example, Maokai's spider mines looked like mini-Sorakas sprinting towards my enemies), so anything here is subject to change. But talking with the developers, they knew what they wanted these champions to do in the big picture, and if these abilities don't make it to the game, at the very least, they influenced the design direction of these characters.
Maokai, The Twisted Treant
Melee Support and Off-tank / Release Date: February 15
It was a normal day on Twisted Treeline, with champions battling each other in the forest paths until a powerful arcane spell missed its intended target and crashed into random tree. The energies of the spell animated the tree, and Maokai was born. And he was pissed. Tormented by his newfound consciousness and pulsing with volatile magic, Maokai's looking to take out his frustration by smashing some enemy champions with his massive tree-trunk arm.
Maokai was designed to be a ranged initiator/support champion. The devs expect him to excel when paired up with a champion who can make up for his lack of sustained DPS, much like Taric and Janna rely on a good lane partner. His ultimate is sure to come in handy during teamfights, as area-of-effect (AoE) spells are critical in the late game.
- Q: Maokai's arms resemble Hellboy's: one average sized, one large enough to knock out an elephant. Maokai's Q makes him slam his trunk-arm into the ground, sending a shockwave rippling through the earth towards the enemy. The shockwave acts as a line nuke, similar to Ezreal's Essence Flux (W) ability. Originally, the wave resembled Kassadin's Force Pulse (E) and granted Maokai bonus armor, but the result was a messy spell that just didn't fit.
- W: His bread-and-butter initiating move. Maokai explodes into a multitude of arcane splinters, phasing out of existence for a brief moment in order to reform at the feet of an enemy champon, growing out of the ground underneath them to damage and root them in place for a few seconds. This ability is single-target (imagine if Master Yi's Alpha Strike (Q) stunned a champion instead of jumping between enemies) and is not channeled, as Maokai ceases to exist during the spell, similar to Alpha Strike.
- E: Like the Vulture's spider mines from Starcraft. Maokai plants an acorn into the ground, which lies in wait for a unfriendly passerby. Once it's found a target, the acorn will pop out of the ground and run to the enemy champion, exploding for light AoE damage when it gets there. This is great for traps, keeping an eye on enemy movements in the jungle and useful in team fights due to its small AoE damage. It can also be used as a scouting tool, similar to Teemo's Noxious Trap (R), but Maokai will be much more limited in the number that he can place.
- R (ultimate): Maokai's ultimate ability fits right into the current meta-game, where teamfights often decide who wins or loses a match. Think of it as the defensive version of Anivia's Ultimate. Maokai creates a placeable AoE that drains mana per second while active. Allied champions standing in the area will receive more and more Magic Resist as the spell absorbs damage. It can be maintained as long as Maokai has enough mana, but it's costly, so we never had it on for more than 6 or so seconds. When the ability is toggled off, Maokai's cooldowns will be reduced according to how much damage was absorbed during the spell. If you soak up enough spell damage, you can reach a threshold that will, in essence, allow you to double-cast your other abilities as magic flows back into Maokai.
- Passive: Maokai's passive gives him some decent staying power early on in the laning phase, when champions are casting spells to ensure last-hits and harassment. He gains increased health regeneration when champions near him (enemy or ally) cast spells.
Initiator Support DPS / Release Date: March 1
Jarvan is the Demacian bad-ass your momma warned you about. If champions look up to Garen for his righteous epicness, then Jarvan IV is the one Garen looks up to— Jarvan screams “DEMACIA!” in not one, but two different ways. He was the first to take down Baron Nashor and bring him to the League, and in his spare time, Jarvan enjoys slaughtering dragons, skinning them for their scales and attaching their teeth to his armor and golden lance. His lance can split apart into multiple segments, and is constantly rotating like a drill—he's basically wielding a gyrating dragon's tail. Jarvan is a pompous warrior, maybe even flamboyant—but don't let him hear you say so, or he'll bury you six feet deep.
When we saw Jarvan, he was in a very early stage of development, so the designers were tossing around ideas for abilities that are worthy of Jarvan's epic stature. He was actually first sketched over three years ago, and it's finally time to bring this decked-out, over-the-top dragoon to the Field of Justice. A sort of foil to Swain, the Master Tactician, Jarvan is a Demacian prince who may have his family lineage explored in later updates.
- A possibility for Jarvan's Q ability is a single-target nuke where Jarvan dashes towards and through an enemy, straight to the person behind the target, like the Demacian Goku. This would enable Jarvan to dash through tanks so he can get straight to cutting up the fragile DPS or support champions hanging out in the back during teamfights.
- Another potential ability would have Jarvan hurling his lance like a giant spear, impaling an enemy champion. The throw is so powerful that the lance would plant in the ground behind them, where it would transform into a flag that buffs allies. Jarvan can pick the lance back up, ala Olaf's axe throw, but enemy champions have an opportunity to burn the flag before he gets the chance to.
- Epic. Jarvan's ultimate has him leap into the air and slam down lance-first into an enemy champion within range. Upon impact, an arena springs up from the ground to create a one-on-one duel between Jarvan and his unfortunate nemesis. This sounds like a combination of Pantheon's and Poppy's ultimate abilities, although it was undecided if the ultimate will be global or how long the duel would last.
- Jarvan's passive is designed to support his playstyle: initiate fights with the enemy, run into the fray hitting everyone a little bit (rather than single-target DPS), and keep on going 'til the opposing champions are wiped out. His passive lets him deal extra damage to champions with 70% or more of their maximum health, meaning Jarvan players have the incentive to change targets rapidly in a fight, softening them a bit and then moving on to the next and letting their teammates clean up the rest. The developers were also toying with the idea of giving him an innate slowing debuff on his auto-attacks, to encourage players to tag as many enemy champions as possible to maximize his effectiveness.
Riot has been very steadily delivering new champions to their wide fanbase. It's clear that the developing team has only gotten better with practice, as very few champions have been released in a completely broken or unbalanced state lately. Even if these champions don't end up having these exact abilities, it's enlightening to get a snapshot of how they played during development. What do you think of the two upcoming champions? Do they sound like a day-one purchase, or will you save your IP for bigger and badder?