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
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 , 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.