The Fear of Homogenization: Why the Renekton Nerfs were Wrong

League is a wonderful game. Millions upon millions love playing the game, and a large part of that, I believe, is due to the fact that there is so much variability contained within the game. Even if every single game your opponents and team mates played the exact same nine champions, there are still over one hundred different possible combinations. If only eight are held constant? Over 10,000. Every single one changes? 10^20 possible combinations (I don’t even know the word for something that large). On top of that the players within the game are different. I have a completely different play style than my roommate who has a completely different play style from Dyrus or Meteos or even you. Throw in that item builds and lane matchups are variable as well and you come to the realization that even with 30 million users playing the game there is no possible way we have even come close to playing the same (or even similar) game twice. However, there are problems that League faces in this regard and a major one is homogenization.

Homogenization is the idea that all champions essentially boil down to the exact same thing; a burst mage kills people and all burst mages have the same skill set use case and have similar play styles and similar builds, etc. This then leads to a problem so prevalent in higher level play – nothing is chosen for its uniqueness, everything is chosen for its power level. If a professional player is asked, “Why did you choose this champion?”, the general response is “Because it’s overpowered.” That should never be the case; champions should be picked because of the strength of what they bring to a team. Ashe should be picked when a team lacks initiation power or chasing potential. Galio should be picked when going against a heavy magic damage team. Curse of the Sad Bullet Time is a thing because Amumu and Miss Fortune’s ultimates synergize so well together. All around champions are not usually picked for their synergy with each other but the power level that allows them to easily fit into any team composition.

Renekton is the perfect example of this. He has a dominant early game, mostly due to the way in which his kit functions, that allows him to bully just about anyone in top lane. He began seeing competitive play last year and people quickly came to realize how strong he really was. Fast forward to just a few weeks ago where the champion had power transferred from the early game to late game, shifting his identity. This was wrong because that should never have been the goal behind the changes. Renekton is supposed to be an early game lane bully that falls off late game. Altering a champion’s strength by reducing strengths and buffing weaknesses results in the same thing every game where it becomes even more prevalent that power level is the only thing that matters. Renekton is not picked because of his early game; he is picked for his power.

This is the real problem. Champions have their core identities nerfed, while they have weaknesses buffed. Yes it feels bad to have a weakness, but weaknesses define a champion just as much as strengths. If Nasus lost stacking power in his Siphoning Strike, but gained increased stickiness (less kite-able), he would just be getting homogenized into a general form of every other tank/bruiser. Champions have to have their strengths buffed and weaknesses nerfed, not the other way around. Yes Renekton has a dominant early game, but what does he trade for it? Nothing. What could he trade for it? A significantly weaker late game. Don’t nerf the things that make Renekton, Renekton. Nerf his weaknesses. Decrease the damage and health gain from his ultimate late game; hit the scaling on his abilities. Do these things because they give him a visible weakness that players can work around.

Champions are homogenized because homogenization is easy. It’s easy to tell what champion is too strong or too weak if everything is the same. If I go look at a football game and watch two quarterbacks, I can easily tell which one is better based on strength or accuracy. If I’m playing a game, I can just shift those numbers around to balance them out. When champions have different power curves and abilities that can completely warp a system, they become much, much harder to control; this should not be an excuse. Fear is fine, but forcing homogenization is not. When it really comes down to it, League of Legends is a phenomenal game because of its variability – no game is the same. Homogenization only ruins this and targeting a champion’s strengths and removing its weaknesses will never result in good outcomes. Buff the Croc’s early game, nerf his late game. Not the other way around.