Recently, Riot Games revealed that tanks will be the next class to receive a major update in League of Legends. The update will primarily focus on initiating tanks which Riot has dubbed ‘Vanguards’.
The tank class has traditionally been problematic for LoL.
Usually, tanks end up dishing out harsh punishments while practically soaking up incoming damage like sponges. In addition to that, they rarely require strong mechanical skills and mastering their basics is usually far easier than normal.
Right now many of our tank champions have the flattest mastery curves in the game (basically this means players don’t improve much as they continue to play the champion)
reads Riot’s Nexus.
In addition to that, it seems that Riot has finally understood a very common criticism of the class; most champions feel and play the same. Aside from the true bruisers, most tanks like Maokai and Amumu will simply dive into action, unleash their CC, and attempt to protect their teammates while doing some extra damage in between.
Though this can certainly lead to some exciting situations with well-placed ultimates and fancy skill-shots, this is not usually the case. Instead, the whole Vanguard class of champions feels rather stale, a necessary evil that few people have any particularly strong feelings about.
Of course, not every champion needs to rely on high mechanical skill, quick reactions, or extensive play to master. Simpler champions and playstyles have their place on Summoner’s Rift. However, this becomes an issue when it is the only approach, particularly when nothing else seems like a viable alternative.
In most matches, and in many team compositions, Vanguard champions are able to dive in, kill enemy players on their own, and get out safely. Being able to act like mini-assassins while soaking up damage is frequently seen as imbalanced, and for good reason.
Judging by the hints dropped in the Nexus blog post, Riot will focus more on itemization and less on updating each champion. The latter approach was the case in the previous Assassin update which saw reworked abilities and kits for champions like Katarina, Talon, and Rengar.
Changing the skills of some Vanguard champions will be particularly interesting to watch, especially if Riot decides to make them more difficult to play or master. Upping their difficulty alongside their damage or utility will be a questionable move, especially since such champions are already seeing a lot of use in professional play.
Getting itemization right will also be very tricky, however. LoL is notorious for its many attempted balance changes when it comes to items, and Riot’s job has never been easy in this regard. Players usually adapt in mere days when item changes are enforced and Riot is often reactive instead of proactive in this regard.
Unfortunately, this often leads to incredibly boring builds which follow the same patterns in most games. Many players are unwilling to change their builds regardless of the enemy composition, mainly because a single build can work across a huge variation of games.
Moreover, several items are often considered useless while others are considered essential. Nautilus, for instance, will rarely be seen without a Spirit Visage and Amumu will usually have a Frozen Heart.
Though one could argue that such instances are normal as they complement each champion’s playstyle, some variation would definitely be welcome. Moreover, Vanguard-type champions often take the safest route and steadily rise in power regardless of their laning phases.
Such things should definitely be addressed in the next update though it will probably take a while until Riot can actually balance everything out.
Judging by the Assassin update, however, the company seems to have learnt some valuable lessons when it comes to balancing and making champions feel fun again.