In Defense of Warwick

I recently explained why Warwick is on of the most reliable and most powerful of the scaling champions in the game. There was an overwhelming amount of feedback concerning the negative aspects of Warwick, so I’d like to address the opposite end of Warwick’s spectrum, his weaknesses. As I do, keep in mind that every champion should have some weaknesses, the important thing is being able to have ways to deal with them, and so while Warwick does have weaknesses, you can overcome them with intelligent play.

 “Warwick is too easily kited.” In my experience, this isn’t true at all, because I build enough damage to get my E active. With this move speed, you have ample sticking power. For context, Trinity Force’s Rage gives you 20 movespeed on hit. Blood Scent however, at it’s lowest level will give a minimum of 69 movespeed (that’s without boots, move speed quints, etc.). There’s actually some fairly confusing math as to how the move speed buff affects Warwick (due to a complex soft cap system applied to move speed), but suffice it to say it’s substantially better than items that provide stick. Dr. Mundo’s ultimate gives him 15/25/35% move speed, compared to 20/25/30/35/40 on Warwick, meaning that with his E on he’s generally faster than a Mundo with his ult on. Additionally, Warwick has one of the highest base move speeds, and since you can affordably purchase the alacrity enchantment for more move speed, you shouldn’t have trouble sticking to a target once you ult onto them. What’s more, if Warwick does enough damage on his initial combo (at full build his ult will be hitting for about 1k Damage [including sunfire], with an extra 300 from a Q, 500 from ignite, and 300 from an auto), he will often only need to Q once more to secure a kill, so sticking entirely on the champion is unnecessary.

You could argue that you can CC Warwick and kite him that way, but that’s true of anyone, even ranged champions if you do it carefully enough, and although it’s a problem Shyvana faces regularly, no one seems to argue that she’s too easily kited, despite having inferior sticking power to Warwick. That’s partly because Shyvana can switch targets, and burn through a front liner after zoning off a carry, while soaking what little damage they feel safe in putting out, which Warwick can also do. What’s more, like Shyvanah, Warwick is a powerful split pusher, and if he doesn’t like the CC a team comp has, he doesn’t have to face it, or he can often burst through the carry as outlined above. Can he be kited? Sure. Can he work around it? Absolutely.

“His ult is easily disrupted.” A lot of the ways to avoid being kited lie in getting off successful ults, and many people will argue that his ult is too easy to disrupt. If you’ve played Warwick since season 1, and think of him as an initiator, then yes, his job is to get focused, and he will get his ult disrupted quickly, making someone like Vi a much better choice. If, however, you treat him as a  follow-up Fighter, and not an initiating Tank, you will find there are less abilities available to be used on you, and more chaos to hide in, making full ults or near-full ults extremely doable; you just have to look for the right time to go. Also, because split pushing is viable option on him, much of the time you don’t have to worry about teammates disrupting your ult because they aren’t there, and not too many Renektons or Nasuses buy QSS. If they do, it will be at the expense of items that they actually want, and you’ll be able to take advantage of  longer drawn out fight.

QSS makes life difficult, to be sure, but I’ve found that even at high Diamond people are hesitant to get it, and if Lucian gets it you can just ult Ziggs (or whoever an alternate damage threat happens to be). What’s more, forcing someone to buy an item they don’t want to makes you effective, especially when you go split to avoid facing QSS in a fight, or ult a different target, rendering their item significantly less useful. Or, maybe your comp has something like a Varus, and them useing QSS  on you will lead to being CCed later. Maybe you have a Zed, and forcing the QSS out means he can go on them instead of the Ziggs with a Zhonya’s. There are a lot of possibilities, and sometimes you will find yourself in very difficult situations, just like any other champion, but there is counterplay available to you.

“Warwick has no wave clear.” This is true of many  champions that are perfectly viable, namely Trundle and Ryze. With Sunfire, Wits End, and his attack speed buff, he’s not that bad at brute force wave clearing. Its not as good as a Trundle with Hydra, or a Ryze who can afford to blow his ult, and its definitely a weakness, but as with his other weaknesses, he can play around it. Early on WW doesnt have these and gets pushed in, forcing him to last hit under turret. With a Dblade, his passive, and the right runes/masteries, you can last hit pretty well under tower, and setting up ganks is what Warwick does best, so having your laner pushed up is actually perfect for you. When he’s with the team, his attack speed buff not only lets his team clear waves faster, which melee champions often can’t contribute much to, but it also allows them to work towers down faster once the wave gets to tower. When he’s split pushing, the combination of Sunfire, Wit’s End, and his W give him comparable waveclear to the average top laner, except when you have to clear multiple waves stacked on each other. So basically, between the right starting item, and right build, and using your buff on your team, you can largely circumvent this weakness.

“Warwick has unbearable mana issues.” I agree that his mana costs are unreasonable, and should be changed, but this is not debilitating enough to prevent him from being played. With the Magic Damage WW you get much more penetration than an old school build, much more damage from your ult, not to mention more DPS from your autos/Sunfire. That translates to better mana efficiency, and damage from non-mana sources. What’s more, I was finding great success with Warwick before this patch, and buying Glacial Shroud solved pretty much every mana issue (since the issues are with flat mana, not regen). With the changes to Glacial Shroud in 4.5, it’s much more attainable, making WW stronger than ever, as does the buff to Frozen Heart, and the Alacrity upgrade.

As a bit of a side note, if Riot were to address these mana issues, I think the fixes would be very simple. Standardize his ult to 100 Mana across the board (like they’ve done with a lot of champs recently), change his Q costs from 70/80/90/100/110 to 70/80/90/95/100, and give him +10 mana per level, starting at level one. Ultimately this wouldn’t really affect his sustain issues, but would let him get 1-2 more Qs off before he ooms in the mid-late game. All things considered those are minor changes but they would help significantly. However, even without them, WW is still workable.

As with most late game champions, WW has a weak early game, which can be taken advantage of to set him back pretty hard. As explained in the previous article, WW can be effective regardless of gold flow because he scales so many ways, which gives him a lot of comeback potential. What’s more, WW’s healing allows him to go clear a jungle camp or two if he’s getting zoned, and his ability to gank other lanes is exceptional once he has ult. So, as with most of his other weaknesses, WW has ways to deal with this.

“Warwick is easily ganked.” It’s true. He has no escapes, or any other good tools for dealing with ganks. Fortunately, WW is pushed to tower often, which helps. Otherwise, he has to be very careful with his aggression, warding intelligently, etc. Also, he doesn’t particularly need to get kills since he scales so well, so this isn’t a huge issue.

One thing that no one brought up, but I know personally, is that Warwick is highly vulnerable to early tower dives from the other top laner and the jungler. These are very difficult to deal with, but if you think they have the potential to do it, inform your jungler so they can be there to help you. You can’t really do much in an early gank, so be clear that they are there for defensive purposes, any offensive action they take will be largely by themselves.

“Warwick is easily predicted.” I don’t really see how this is true. Warwick has to all-in you at some point, but that’s not unusual for a champion, especially a top lane champion. Unlike a Zed ult, he doesn’t have anything that makes him particularly readable, and his blood scent works well for disengage when needed. In teamfights if you aren’t initiating then you don’t even really need to worry about predictability, you’re going to be going in once predictions don’t matter.

Along these lines some people also think that he’s binary- meaning he has very few options and will either hit or miss. I think the reliable CC and AS buff that he gives, as well as the options listed in the early paragraphs dispel this notion.

“Warwick doesn’t work at high elo.” I’m Diamond 2, and he works just fine there. He’s also seen a smattering of competitive play (which, given the relatively small pool there, says a lot), and his win rates are consistently above average in Diamond, so I’m not sure how people make this argument.

Those are the arguments against WW’s viability, but there are other arguments to be made against a champion

“Warwick doesn’t have any fancy mechanics.” Ah, I’m glad this was brought up. This is true in the sense that Warwick is not a champion that let’s you excel at micro-managing your champion (what LoL refers to as “mechanics”), aiming skillshots, having fast reactions, etc. However, Warwick’s kit has a lot of interesting mechanics that provide a lot of options and depth for players that prefer macro-management (what LoL refers to as “decision making”). Which items you should get when depends on where you should be and what your role is, which is dictated by what scenarios you are trying to create, which is dictated by team comps- all important factors in making smart decisions, and making those decisions well benefits a Warwick player  much more than someone like Zed.

What’s more, champions with high mechanical skill caps have counter play built into them simultaneously. Zed’s ult, for example, gives his opponents a point to aim for that they know 100% when and where he will be there, with a very readable animation to allow them to react appropriately. Thresh’s hook has an animated cast time that lets you juke it, and so on. The immediacy of WW’s ult let’s him punish champions like this harshly, giving him extra power as an “anti-meta” pick.

I think another reason WW isn’t played much is due to the fact that he benefits from a wide array of uncommon items. Most top laners get BoRK, and while he does as well, he opts for Wit’s End first, and often doesn’t get to the BoRK. Most top laners get Randuins, he gets Frozen Heart. Right now Banshee’s is the popular item, but he gets Visage. Quite probably biggest of all, most toplaners get defensive boots, whereas he gets a lot more from Sorcerer’s shoes. People who try him often commit half-way to a build, and get items they are more comfortable with, don’t like him with those items, and disregard him.

In short, Warwick has weaknesses just like any other champion, but he has sufficient counter play to these to make him playable, and the rewards in his kit outweigh the costs.

I love feedback, and I love talking League even more. Please drop your thoughts into a comment below :D.

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I am a support main that went from Silver 4 to Platinum by learning instead of complaining, and from Platinum to Diamond by learning to relax and follow others. I enjoy teaching, so I decided to write articles about League when I reached Platinum, and play Silver vs. Platinum games when I can. I am extremely informal so feel free to ask me anything, anytime.

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