By Petar Vukobrat
November 22, 2019
With so many old champions being updated nowadays, it’s time we take a closer look at some of the best League of Legends reworks, and why they’re deemed so successful! League of Legends is a home to a wide variety of champions. Some of these characters are universally loved, with a couple of them being universally hated. But it is only when you combine the two that you get a game brimming with unique, highly idiosyncratic characters that have taken a life of their own.
But seeing how Riot just celebrated League’s tenth anniversary, it’s fair to say that not all champions aged gracefully. Some are still relatively viable even in their outdated state, whereas others desperately need some attention — in every regard. Fortunately, Riot quickly realized the problem at hand and started reworking the biggest offenders. As a result, we’ve been getting around five reworks per year. Not too shabby.
When a rework is done correctly, it’s like we’re getting a brand-new champion, and if your main is getting changed, then you’re experiencing a unique moment in which you’re both excited for what’s to come but also dreading the worst possible scenario.
Now, we all understand what makes constitutes a good rework. More often than not, it is a rework that doesn’t stand out much. The team behind it didn’t accomplish anything extraordinary, but they didn’t fail either; they did an okay job, which means no one’s raging online because their “main” got butchered.
Then again, no one’s rushing to create celebratory threads on Reddit.
A mild affair, by all accounts.
The best League of Legends reworks, however, leave the community in a state of awe. They hit so many marks and are almost universally praised the very moment they’re revealed. What makes these reworks stand out?
While subjectivity plays a key part, there are many concrete (and objective) parameters which we can use to determine whether a rework deserves to be listed below:
Core identity — For a rework to be successful, Riot needs to retain the core identity of the champion. They need to alter things just enough to make the whole result feel fresh, but also familiar. It’s an incredibly thin line, and whenever Riot succeeds, there’s a reason to celebrate.
Appealing to the whole playerbase — Next up, the reworked champion needs to be both familiar to those who played it prior to the rework, but also appealing to those who are going to lock it in for the very first time. This is integral, and also incredibly hard to pull off.
Lore as a backbone — The reworked champion’s design needs to be fleshed out. Riot has to place the champion within their deep and fascinating lore and make it feel like this champion has been there all along; like the champion belongs in Runeterra and has always inhabited this vast and beautiful world.
Synergy between their abilities — This is a tricky one. We’ve all played champions that just don’t feel right. They might look or sound nice, but when you lock them in and spawn on the Summoner’s Rift you just don’t feel like you’re playing a cohesive champion. The best ones have synergistic ability kits and combinations built-in. They’re approachable but also have a high enough skill ceiling so that you can improve over time and master their abilities.
Competitive viability — The champion absolutely has to be viable in a competitive setting. This is an interesting parameter and it might be up for debate, but if a champion is well-designed (reworked, rather) and fits in the grand scheme of things, then it’s only natural for professional players to find a use-case scenario. These updated champions don’t have to take over the meta to be deemed as successful reworks, but they definitely need to see the light of day on the biggest of stages.
Long-term playability — These reworked champions need to be viable and playable over longer periods of time. They can’t just become a niche pick, or something that enables a highly specific strategy. For a rework to be successful, it needs to be usable regardless of the team comp or meta.
Based on the list above, we can rightfully say that creating a successful rework isn’t exactly a simple process nor is there a “tried and true” recipe which Riot can use during the whole endeavor. There are many moving parts and even more moments where things can go awry. Each champion is specific and requires a different approach. Reworking a champion is also somewhat unrewarding. You have the expectations of hundreds of thousands of players around the globe on your shoulders.
On the other hand, if you’re designing a new champion, you have absolute freedom. You can take the design in any direction you want and no one’s going to be offended. There’s a lot more risk involved when you’re redesigning a character that has been played by millions, but with the added risk comes a much bigger payoff.
So let’s take a closer look at some of the best League of Legends reworks in history, and what exactly made them such successful undertakings!
Riot’s most recent rework is also one of their best so far. On paper, the potential was always present. In actuality, however, things never quite panned out with Pantheon. He was a one-dimensional champion with a rather clear, linear playstyle. He had a poke which was easy to land, a point-and-click stun, a bit of wave clear and a semi-global ultimate that never felt as good as it should’ve.
For a warrior or unparalleled strength and bravado, Pantheon sure was a mixed bag.
Fortunately, his rework shored up his weaknesses and made him into a full-fledged Artisan of War. First of all, the new Pantheon looks amazing, but a visual face-lift was expected. What wasn’t expected, however, was just how good playing him felt. Every ability was recreated from the ground-up, and that includes ability-specific sound effects and particles. When you add everything up, you get a spectacular rework that’s a home run.
Even the most miniscule of movements or actions have weight behind them; everything feels monumental and impactful.
Heck, playing Pantheon probably raises your testosterone levels. Older players were in love with the redesign because it didn’t change his core identity, whereas newer ones wanted to take him for a spin, now that he had the ability to traverse and dominate the battlefield with ease.
Yet another stellar rework that was long overdue. The old Mordekaiser was a fascinating albeit horrendously coded champion. In fact, players found and documented well over one-hundred bugs, some of which were game-breaking. So it was only natural that Riot didn’t want to put in the effort to fix the Iron Revenant — they knew he was prime and ready for a rework.
Much like Pantheon, Mordekaiser’s lore was rich and fascinating. There was so much Riot could design around, and his frightening physique and highly specific playstyle provided the perfect foundation for a rework.
In the end, Riot opted to go down the only path that made sense: making Mordekaiser into an unstoppable mace-wielding giant. They built upon the whole “vessel of destruction” fantasy and rebuilt his kit from scratch. As a result, we got a terrifying mage that had the ability to pull in targets and banish them into the “Death Realm.”
That’s both exciting on paper as well as in-game.
In the end, the latest incarnation of Mordekaiser can rightfully be considered as the most successful one yet. We finally got a champion that’s (relatively) balanced, exciting, and viable in all facets of play but also unique in the ever-growing League of Legends roster.
What more could one ask for?
Before delving any deeper into the spectacular Galio rework, we need to quickly go over what Galio used to look like way back in the day.
Despite his fascinating ability kit, old Galio never transcended the role of a niche pocket pick.
Enter new Galio — The Colossus.
To say that Riot knocked it out of the park with this one would truly be an understatement. Galio was reimagined as a protector; as a colossus that could create absolute chaos on the Rift. And through incredible design and a thought-out ability kit, he made you feel like a highly impactful colossus as well.
You could build him as a mage, as a tank, or even as an anti-mage. He brought crown control in spades and could traverse the Summoner’s Rift within a matter of seconds thanks to his spectacular (semi-global) ultimate.
Anything you did with Galio felt amazing. Unfortunately, because he brought so much to the table (damage, engage, crowd control), Riot had to bring him down to earth. In other words, they made Galio so good they eventually had to make him bad again.
Right now, as it stands, Galio is neither a mage nor an anti-mage. He’s not a tank, nor is he a bruiser; he is a champion without an identity, without a role. He’s playable, but barely so.
But even though he’s not as highly contested of a pick as in months prior, he’s still deserves a spot on the list. There’s not a single aspect of his rework that failed, and that’s commendable, to say the least.
The only reworked champion that was perfectly balanced upon release. In fact, Warwick was so well-rounded and adjusted strength-wise that Riot didn’t ship any nerfs or buffs for an entire year. A unique instance in the game’s 10-year-long history.
But it wasn’t the balancing that caught everyone’s attention once the reworked Warwick got released. Instead, it was the feeling you had when playing Warwick. Riot put a heavy emphasis on the whole “hunting” aspect, and it offered a unique experience jungling-wise. It amplified what you wanted to do as a jungler and gave you all the right tools to impact the map and go from one end of the map to the other in a matter of seconds.
Whenever an enemy champion was low on health, you would pick up their “scent” and would immediately gain a noticeable movement speed bonus. This kind of approach pushed you into ganking; you wanted to be the carnivorous playmaker, the hunter looking to capitalize on his prey.
You were quick, you had built-in healing, damage reduction and more than enough crowd control. You only needed to play a single game as the reworked Warick before thinking “how did they not do this sooner!”
Fortunately, Warwick is still as viable as ever, and he’s sitting at a commendable ~50% win ratio in Platinum and above. He’s not overpowered by any means, but when piloted by the right player he can definitely create a lot of chaos on the Summoner’s Rift.
Finally, we have Urgot, the Dreadnought! Much like with Galio, Riot took the best aspects of his prior kit — along with his terrifying visual identity — and decided to rebuild the champion from the ground-up. They made Urgot feel like an unstoppable juggernaut; like a fear-inducing behemoth that could take on multiple champions at once.
Urgot went from a disgusting abomination to a disgusting abomination that was viable. It might not seem like much, but that’s all Riot had to accomplish, and they succeeded admirably. If there’s one aspect of his kit that has to be highlighted, it would probably be his ultimate — the ability most players fell in love with. It’s a long-range skillshot that functions as an execute (given that you land it, that is).
There’s nothing worse than getting pulled in and executed with just a sliver of health. Conversely, if you’re Urgot, there’s nothing better than pulling in a low-health target. The projectile is easy to miss so there’s definitely a tricky learning curve, but once you master it you’ll reap the rewards almost immediately.
Taking Urgot down needs to a team effort, especially in the later stages of the game. He’s a tanky colossus, he deals tons of damage, has more than enough crowd control, and is an absolute menace when ahead. Perhaps most importantly, you feel like you’re in charge when you’re playing Urgot; you feel like every move you make and every shot you land gets you one step closer towards conquering the Summoner’s Rift — and everything in it.
That’s it for our list of best League of Legends reworks! This is by no means a definitive list but it’s fair to say that Riot improves leaps and bounds with each rework they release. Given their incredible track record, it’s hard not to be excited about the Fiddlesticks and Volibear reworks!
Tags: League of Legends