Tracing the history of rough character releases in League of Legends

 Whenever a new champion joins the roster of League of Legends, there’s always a varied response. Some fans celebrate and start wondering how they fit into the game’s lore and general landscape. Other fans immediately pull out the microscope, analyzing the new champion’s kit to see whether they’ll be overpowered or underpowered.

That second camp is currently talking about Camille, League of Legends’ most recent release. Camille’s kit is relatively simple on the surface, especially compared to a release like Ivern, but she’s dominating solo queue and is being considered as a mandatory pick/ban champion. It’s likely that Riot will be attending to her soon: the company has a vast amount of experience in dealing with champions that need some tuning on release. Here are some of the biggest offenders from League’s long history, and a look at how they warped the game when they came out.

Xin Zhao, the unstoppable gladiator

Xin Zhao, in his lore, was an unwilling gladiator who stood against hordes and managed to stay standing. While he’s fallen out of the meta in recent years, Xin Zhao was a powerful, must-pick champion upon his release. In fact, he was far too powerful. One fan-made guide at the time offered the suggestion that you should never fight him unless the entire team of five catches an enemy Xin by himself. There were no other suggestions, because there was no other course of action. Xin was a monster who could heal through any damage, chase down even the most mobile characters, and build tank while dealing obscene amounts of damage. It’s telling that the first patch to hit him was... extensive.

  • His base attack speed being hit, along with his attack speed per level, and his attack speed gain from items and abilities.
  • Audacious Charge being nerfed dramatically across the board including a radius nerf, slow percentage, and slow duration.
  • Crescent Sweep getting its damage cut dramatically, both by base and percentage health damage.

That’s a comprehensive set of nerfs, and it was the only thing that could bring Xin back into line. He’s struggled to find sustainable footing in the meta since, but the shadow of his debut looms over any time he manages to show up in modern day League.

LeBlanc broke the game

LeBlanc is showing up in the meta now after her recent rework, but the truth is that she was trouble from the start. When LeBlanc launched, she immediately began to dominate all games, being a must-pick due to her insane damage and limitless mana. She was so over the top that she actually requires a hotfix shortly after her release. The hotfix:

  • Nerfed Sigil of Silence’s damage and cast range, while increasing the mana cost.
  • Added ten seconds to her ultimate cooldown and reduced its damage buff.
  • Increased the mana cost on all of her abilities, and reduced her base mana.

LeBlanc continued to be a problematic champion throughout her first life pre-rework, constantly recurring in the meta. Eventually, Riot took away her silence, and then reworked her entirely. Requiring the developers to hotfix the game to gut a kit is a notable achievement for a champion. It’s a dubious honor, but one that the Deceiver can wear proudly.

Dead on arrival: the Yorick catastrophe

Yorick was in a rough spot. He was banned from the free rotation and essentially perma-nerfed, left in a state of unviability. The champion was broken from top to bottom, and so he was buried out of sight until Riot could rework and fix him up. While his life before finally receiving that relaunch was rough, his original birth was even rougher. Yorick’s original champion spotlight featured very few jaw dropping plays. Even a piece of what is essentially marketing material struggled to make him shine.

It quickly got worse. Not only was Yorick in a rough spot, but he was riddled with bugs. His first patch notes pre-release were extensive, but necessary. Sometimes, Yorick’s resurrection turned an ally into a nightmare carousel of constantly dying and respawning, racking up thousands of deaths in seconds. When dealing with Zilean or Heimerdinger, his kit broke further. The patch notes had to tear him apart and build him back up, buffing nearly every aspect of his kit while fixing a smorgasbord of bugs. He still lingered on the bottom of tier lists until Riot finally granted him his 2016 relaunch. RIP.

Azir, Guardian of the Bugs

Azir is an interesting case because he’s been both buffed and nerfed. His launch was less about balance, and part of that is no one could really tell how strong he was, because he was so riddled with bugs. (In fairness, he was one of the more advanced designs for that era). The first patch to come out had to address those bugs aggressively.

These ranged from his passive being able to be double-summoned and interacted with by other champions like a dashing Lee Sin, to soldiers struggling with ranges and the ability to attack multiple targets (when they weren’t being broken by a /dance command), to a retool of E’s utility, to a total rework of R that was summed up in the patch notes as “it’s complicated”.

While Azir would later become a major meta force who would dominate 2016, it took him a while to get there, and his launch is a reminder to Riot designers that even if something works on the PBE, once it goes live it’ll have millions of players immediately breaking it.

Camille’s launch may be sharper than expected, but it could be worse - she could be a LeBlanc, Xin Zhao, Azir, or Yorick. The next time you get dove by a Camille from half a lane away, count your blessings that you’re not being infinitely resurrected in a monstrous spiral of torment.