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Xerath – Descent of the Magus Ascendant?


Xerath

Not many people were happy with the two most recent reworks that hit the live server with the newest patch. Both Xerath and Skarner were changed – but was it for the better? Most players give rather negative feedback about the changes, but why is that so? I’m DC941 and I’d like to look at the changes done to Xerath, the reasons behind them, and the actual results that generated so much negative feedback.

Xerath before the rework

Xerath’s gameplay was defined by his high range, which was more available the higher his W got in ranks, and by his massive damage which was also hard to stop due to the massive magic penetration gained from his W. Due to the extreme pressure that his old kit was able to apply even to enemy back lines, he  saw competitive play from time to time: with massive range and good ratios, he could easily snipe AD-Carries, casters or supports while maintaining a rather safe distance. It was important to note though that his real power only came with time, gold and experience – Xerath needed some time to get really strong. But by no means was he weak in the early game – he had “ok” trade capabilities and was able to farm from safe range.

But none of this was cause for Riot to rework him. Despite of his power level, Xerath never was played much: he had a very low pick rate of around 1.10% in the months prior to the rework while his winrate fluctuated between ~46% and 55% – the large difference in lowest and highest success rate was due to his low sample size. Riot identified this as a problem: Xerath’s kit was no “fun”,  too bland to keep people interested in his kit. This was the real reason behind the rework.

 

Summary of gameplay changes

Passive: Mana SurgeMana_Surge Xerath’s old passive gave him armor for a percentage of his ability power – not only was this not engaging, it also was both counter intuitive and rather weak for a champion which should never enter the enemy attack range if played right. His new passive instead gives him mana when he damages an enemy with his autoattack. The amount of mana scales with his level and it is doubled when hitting champions. Gaining mana this way sets his passive on cooldown for 12 seconds.This new passive gives Xerath quite a lot of mana sustain, especially in the later levels. Some casters can run out of mana after teamfights while Xerath can autoattack from time to time to keep his mana rather high. It also helps him in lane, especially when playing against melee champions – this is also needed badly due to his high mana cost on Q.
Q: ArcanopulseArcanopulse Even with the same name, Xerath’s Q is quite different after the rework. Previously, it was a skillshot without travel time dealing its damage in a rectangular AoE – it’s range was enhanced when his W was activated. It also had a rather long cast time.Using Arcanopulse now makes Xerath charge his shot, increasing his range while decreasing his movement speed; this change does multiple good thing:- Xerath can now use his Q to clear waves and burst an enemy at close range with a shorter cast time – it feels more fluid.- There is more counterplay to his poke: When Xerath wants to use his Q from long range, he also needs to pretty much cage himself – this can open a window to rush him- it creates another decision for the player (longer range = more risk, charging = delayed damage) which in turn increases his skill ceiling – and that was needed for Xerath. The skill’s cooldown starts out relatively long and finishes out around 3 seconds at rank 5.
W: Eye of DestructionEye_of_Destruction Before the rework, Xerath’s W was his signature ability, rooting him in place to increase his spell range and magic penetration by a high amount. This is completely gone; instead, Eye of Destruction uses basically the same animation of his old ultimate, calling down a magical blast. The ability is similar to Ziggs’ ultimate in it’s function, dealing additional damage in the center of the impact. It also slows – the slow is relatively high when the enemy is hit with the center of the skillshot. Eye of Destruction has a pretty high range, making it possible to hit pretty much every AD-Carry from an acceptable distance.
E:Shock OrbShocking_Orb Shocking Orb is similar in function to Mage Chains: both iterations of Xerath’s E provide a stun to lock down an enemy and hit skillshots. Shock Orb, however, is slow-moving skill shot with a small hitbox hitting only the first enemy in a line. It also stuns enemies based on the distance traveled, with a short minimum stun time of 0.75 seconds. The maximum range stun is not really out of the ordinary either: 2 seconds. The spell has a average cooldown for a crowd control ability.
R:Rite of the ArcaneRite_of_the_Arcane  The rework features a partially new ultimate: Xerath’s R now roots him in place just like his old W, granting him three shots at hitting enemies with highly damaging bolts at a massive range (the rank 3 range is higher than Twisted Fate’s Destiny range – let that sink in). It’s AoE is smaller than previously. It is also important to note that it now has a standard ultimate cooldown (while his old ultimate was available every ~30 seconds if I recall correctly) and no magic penetration bonus.

 

Number changes

But the gameplay changes were not the only thing changed: pretty much every single number in Xerath’s kit was changed, too. Let’s look at the math of the rework:

Situation: The Xerath in our example is lvl 18 with  32px-Sorcerer's_Shoes_item32px-Athene's_Unholy_Grail_item32px-Void_Staff_item32px-Rabadon's_Deathcap_item32px-Zhonya's_Hourglass_item , granting him  481 ability power, 35% magic penetration, 20% cooldown reduction, 15 flat magic penetration and another 8 flat magic penetration if we assume additional magic penetration marks.

With a perfect situation where Xerath could deal damage for ten seconds to a single target assumed, these are the numbers for different levels of tankyness:

Target with 0 magic resist Target with 100 magic resist Target with 200 magic resist
Original Xerath (65% m.pen. with W active and masteries) 4571 4022.48 3062.57
Reworked Xerath (39% m.pen. with masteries) 5561 4003.92 2780.5

Now, what can we conclude from this?

Xerath actually gained damage against low magic resist targets – I assume that this was added to give him some kind of reimbursement for the massive loss of magic penetration his old W granted him..

Against targets with average magic resist (about one weak magic resist item bought), Xerath’s damage is still a very small amount higher than his pre-rework self, but the loss of damage from just 100 magic resist is a lot higher – again due to the loss of his high magic penetration bonus.

Targets with over 200 magic resist are now more resilient against Xerath though: when compared to the numbers of his old kit, Xerath loses almost 300 damage against these. While this doesn’t sound like that much of a loss, there’s even more to it:

This mathcrafting assumes a cast time of zero seconds for every spell – none. It also disregards the facts that Xerath can no longer use all of his spells while rooted by his ultimate and that he needs some channeling time to hit enemies further away with Arcanopulse; all of this should lower his actual damage output over time significantly.

 

Xeraths old role and new problems

With this being said, Xerath’s damage against targets with 100 or more magic resist is more than likely lower than prior to the rework, and maybe even his damage to targets with low magic resist has suffered as well. The problems are not listed with just his new numbers though: other apparently small changes also hurt him a lot.

Shock orb is a lot more problematic than his old Mage Chains: it has pretty much no chance to hit a backline target due to the fact that it can easily be bodyblocked by tanks – while also moving very slowly. His old E was targeted for the first portion of the spell; the second portion was also relatively likely to trigger due to the sheer mass of big AoEs in Xerath’s old kit. Also, don’t forget that the stun is very short on targets sitting in Xerath’s face. All this makes his new Shock Orb much less reliable.

His W is also rather unreliable: the small center of the AoE that deals full damage and slows for the full amount is just that: small. The spell is not as slow as other comparable spells, but it still can be rather hard to hit properly. Add to that the fact that it’s damage and slow is extremely diminished when Xerath hit’s with the outer rim and his reliability takes another big hit.

Arcanopulse and Mana Surge were changed for the better, in my opinion. The new passive adds some interesting game play to his kit while also making much more sense than the old alternative – no questions asked. Arcanopulse, however, has a new disadvantage in the required charge time. You are forced to make a decision with your positioning – do you want a longer stun or a shorter charge time for Arcanopulse? This makes Xerath harder to play, but it also creates more engaging gameplay.

What is hurting Xerath players most though is the loss of a part of his original identity – Xerath before the reworked was picked for his massive disregard for magic resistance and his easily available damage, which also was pretty reliable due to his massive range and AoE. He lost both of these traits to a certain extent – the first one completely and the second one at least took a big hit in terms of reliability.

My conclusion: the rework was a success. It did what it was planned to do: playing Xerath now involves more decisions and feels overall more “fun” – but at the same time, he lost a part of his abilities that felt absolutely unique to just him. He was also a very good example of a balanced power curve in my opinion: kind of weak without many opportunities to make plays early on, but scaling really well with enough gold and experience. I’m sad that this part was lost and I’m not sure yet if the new champion Xerath will be able to make up for that, and I think that many of the players giving feedback about the rework right now feel very similar.

It is, however, important to realize that, while he is completely changed, Xerath is by no means a weak champion right now. His kit has the range and damage to work rather well with the right team.


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DC941

I am a student from germany and I like the theorycrafting behind the game a lot - while I'm not into number crunching, I always try to find the best synergies in ability kits and items. I write to help people get into the crazy mass of knowledge that is buried behind the surface of League of Legends and to learn a thing or two while looking into certain themes. I mainly play assassins and carries because I really enjoy the concept of dodging enemy impact trough my movement and play. In a similar fashion, I play action-rich games with nice role-playing elements - my favorites aside of League of Legends are the Monster Hunter series and Terraria. I also got into Magic: the Gathering recently.

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