[box]ggChronicle’s Obscurica and Optimus Tom bring you another Champion Select! Check out their first impressions in both video and written format.[/box]
Frantic, ragged panting. The bright magelights glare through the evening darkness, tracking the prisoner’s every desperate step. The great maw of the stadium exit looms ahead – a mocking countenance of promised mercy, if only he was fast enough. If only he was swift enough. If only he was lucky enough, perhaps. He isn’t alone in this marathon of death, his fellow convicts shoving and pushing and gouging even as they seek safety in numbers, even amid the metallic whir and meaty, bony crunch, even as every gurgling scream of the dying echoes out.
It is a culling, and they are the herd. He wasn’t the fastest – he saw what happened to the fastest. He jumps and leaps over corpses, panicking wildly as the blood-slicked earth nearly causes a fatal stumble. He doesn’t dare look behind – doesn’t dare to do anything but run, leg muscles burning as they pump. It occurs to him that the screams and the groans have started to lessen, and against his will, hope rises up through his throat. Just a little more – just a leap – just a little way to freedom…!
And the crowd goes wild.
Welcome to the league of… Draven.
Wicked Blades (Passive) – Both Darius and Draven, the Noxian Blood Brothers, utilize damage-over-time passives, though Draven’s is both weaker point-for-point, and more conditional. Whereas Darius’s every ability and attack applies a stack, and scales with his bonus attack damage, Draven needs two conditions to apply a base amount of damage that only scales with level: either a critical strike, or a Spinning Axe.
Spinning Axe (Q) – Draven’s signature ability, perhaps even more so than his ultimate, is effectively a minigame. Spinning Axe applies a damage boost to his next auto-attack equal to a percent of his total attack damage – and will continue to apply the bonus so long as Draven is able to catch the rebounding axe, positioning himself onto a bright yellow indicator before it lands. Two Spinning Axes can be readied at once if the first one is still viable when the ability cooldown’s refreshed.
Just as a warning: though more muted in color, the enemy also sees where it lands. And while you can control the general direction of the final landing point by moving Draven before the attack hits, the specific location is very much up to the random number generator, occasionally making it risky to go chasing after the damage steroid.
Blood Rush (W) – Draven gets increased movement speed for 1.5 seconds, and attack speed for 3, with the movement speed decreasing over its duration. The ability cooldown also refreshes if Spinning Axe is successfully picked up. Naturally, the specifics of this ability are entirely to complement Spinning Axe, both making it easier to lunge for its pickup point, and to apply it more reliably.
A sufficiently clever and capable Draven is therefore able to maintain three steroids at once – extra damage, attack speed, and the ability to chase.
Stand Aside (E) – Is the enemy champion in the way of your pickup point? Would you rather their carry be a bit closer to the wall, within grab range of your team’s Blitzcrank? Or do you just want them to slow down and stay within range of the next Spinning Axe?
Shove them around with Stand Aside, and take care of all three concerns in one blow
Unique from most displacement effects, Stand Aside is very literal – whereas most displacements are knockbacks or knockups, Stand Aside will knock them sideways depending on what side of the skillshot they’re hit with.
Whirling Death (R) – Imagine, if you will, Sivir’s boomerang, except with a much wider hitbox and global range. Its rebound is semi-controllable: it will naturally return to Draven upon hitting the first enemy champion in its path, or can be summoned back earlier by reactivating Whirling Death. As is with the boomerang, the attack will curve towards Draven’s new position, allowing for trick shots if used with great foresight.
Riot has gotten rather clever with their champion designs, all told. Sejuani was an outright disappointment, with a kit and playstyle that felt extremely by-the-book. It didn’t really feel as if you were blasting your opponents with the bone-wearying cold of the arctic – it felt like you were using a generic AOE attack, slow, and gap closer.
This has not been a problem for most of the champions since. You’re sniping with Varus’s Piercing Arrow; apprehending them with Darius’s axe and no other. When Lulu hits you with a Glitterlance, it is a distinctly different experience from getting smacked by Mundo’s Infected Cleaver.
And there is absolutely no mistaking Draven for any other AD carry in the game – this despite having what is ultimately a very basic, if even somewhat lackluster on their own, damage and attack speed steroid.
Even more importantly, Draven is a thrill to play. The emphasis on axe-juggling makes even the simple act of farming a game more than obligation – the zig-zag route Spinning Axe causes Draven to take is inherently a lot more interesting than the straightforward rush at the target. His kit actively rewards you with massive power boosts for being as much of a showboat as possible – something only further emphasized by the fact that even his recall animation has him smarmily posing, and his death causes him to laugh one final time.
You’re supposed to have fun playing Draven. You will have fun playing Draven. And, then, you’ll die messily for goofing off too much.
The problem, of course, is Spinning Axe’s indicator. So much of Draven’s damage performance is dependent on his ability to maintain Spinning Axe – enough so that Draven players will be repeatedly baited into bad positions, lured by the promise of just a little extra damage to take down a fleeing champion.
They will then be hit by every skillshot the enemy team has in their arsenal.
Can Draven still perform, even without repeated Spinning Axe grabs? He’s an AD carry – he can always just auto-attack. But with a range of 550, he has one of the shortest reaches available to his role, requiring him to get relatively up close and personal to have any effect in a fight, and needing Blood Rush to help him get out of the way. But with only 1.5 seconds to his movement bonus, it is a far cry from Corki’s Valkyrie or Graves’ Quickdraw, making it optimal only when used as part of an all-out offense.
Because Spinning Axe actively telegraphs Draven’s next position, he finds himself hard-countered by, of all things, champions with skillshots. If there’s a Leona or Blitzcrank on the other team, every Spinning Axe becomes less of a threat and more of an invitation to get crowd-controlled to death. As such, and unique to AD Carries, you never want to first-pick him: a halfway competent team will simply load up on stuns and knockbacks under the assurance that it takes just one to render him nearly useless.
Draven might signal the return of the AD Mid role to the metagame, specifically so that he’s able to farm up, have a short path back to the tower, and not have to dodge two or three champions’ worth of CC effects. Either way, however, his flexibility is severely limited to positions that allow a maximum of both farm and safety.
Draven might very well have the highest possible skill cap in the game. You not only need mechanical proficiency, being able to lead Spinning Axe’s landing to maximize positioning, but have nearly prescient insight in enemy movement too, riding the razor’s edge of risk and reward all the while. This is along with learning how to control a very unorthodox form of displacement, learn how to adjust the somewhat sluggish pathing of Whirling Death, and learning when to cut your losses and let the axe fall fallow.
So the question becomes: how good do you think you are? And can you back it up?
He’s going to have inconsistent performances in solo queue, where it’s a toss-up between the enemy team’s lack of coordination versus how easily he’s disrupted. In pre-made groups, much depends on how well his team can peel off threats, and how accurate his player’s predictions are of the ongoing game state. When all is said and done, there are easier AD Carries to play, where you get just as much impact for less risk-taking.
But they won’t be nearly as much fun to play.