Thank you to polarclaw for compiling the January tournament statistics; you can view his graphs right here. The LCS statistics are accurate through Week 4. Contact me on Twitter @LoLSotere if you’d like to take a look at the Lulu graphs!
Have you ever felt that a game developer purposefully targeted you and your favorite champion, nerfing an enjoyable character or class capriciously?
Most of us have been there. We convince ourselves that our extensive experience with a champion in an online game is our main reason for success, ignoring the fact that we might be playing something overpowered. Most of the time, the game’s developer has its reasons and acts based on quantifiable data. But then there are times nerfs just don’t seem to make sense.
The Lulu Dilemma occurs when a champion does not excel in anything except popularity and receives a nerf in large part because of it. The best example of this derives from the dilemma’s namesake: Lulu.
Lulu’s early game harass makes her a popular and somewhat-feared pick. It’s potent despite receiving a number of nerfs since her release. She also provides a plethora of options to teams and to the summoner controlling her. Lulu’s kit allows for a number of different options – Help, Pix! and Whimsy can be used either offensively or defensively. This allows her to choose between helping a tank initiate or helping to peel for the back line.
Simply, Lulu is fun to play. She has a cute personality and people perceive her to be a strong champion. Unfortunately, the perception of her strength outmatches the results she obtains. Lulu received the following nerfs in patches 3.01 and 3.02:
Patch 3.01 (1/31/13):
- Pix, Faerie Companion
- Damage adjusted to 9-105 from 15-87
Patch 3.02 (2/13/13):
- When cast after Help, Pix!, Glitterlance no longer gains an increased area of effect size against the target of Help, Pix!
- Whimsy no longer interrupts enemy movement abilities that are already in progress
They were not major changes and her win rate has gone largely unaffected, but the question remains: Why was she nerfed to begin with?
She historically has had subpar win rates in solo queue. For the past few months, she has been comfortably below 50 percent, normally sitting at around a 47 percent win rate both before and after the nerfs. Though she is used more frequently at high level play (25 percent pick rate at platinum levels, as opposed to a 15 percent general pick rate), her win rate there does not beat averages, either. These rates are particularly telling: in general, supports receive a bit of inflation to their win percentage because the fact that there is one in the game suggests a team’s composition is sturdy and conforming to the meta (i.e. no trolls).
Her success in solo queue, lacking as it was, surely was not the reason she was nerfed. A look at tournament records suggests that she was not overbearing in competitive play, either. In fact, while she was incredibly popular throughout the course of January (being behind only Sona in number of selections), she sported a measly 40.7 percent win rate, taking the victory in only 22 of her 54 matches. In North American tournaments she was the most popular support champion, yet she only won 27.3 percent of her matches, going 6 for 22.
I was certain that after the nerfs in 3.01 and 3.02 and Lulu’s historically poor competitive performance that she would see less play. This has proven inaccurate. In particular, the North American scene still loves using Lulu and still acquires pretty lackluster results. She has been picked in 34 percent of the games in the North American League Champion Series, but has only won 40 percent of the games. In the European scene she receives less attention, being picked 27 percent of the time and winning half of those games. Instead of having one question, we’re left with two: Why do professional players value Lulu so highly, and why does Riot agree, nerfing her for it?
A function of Lulu and other champions who received similar treatment is their early game harass. Lulu has always been valued thanks to the great poke from Glitterlance, her good auto-attack range and especially for her pushing potential, which is invaluable in 2 v 1 lanes.
It may come down to something more dastardly, though: Lulu remains popular because she is incredibly fun. You feel good when you play her, she makes highlight plays when you watch her; she’s a well-designed champion. In the end, it might just be this popularity that will continue to be her downfall.
Are there other champions who qualify for Lulu Dilemma status?
Many players were quite upset by the somewhat recent Olaf nerfs. Though never overbearing in solo queue, he does not share many of the required traits for the Lulu Dilemma. Mainly, he actually did cause problems in the professional scene, and as Xypherous explained in this thread, Olaf became stronger as the competition level increased.
A more fitting example is Ezreal. The Prodigal Explorer peaked in popularity and power thanks to buffs to his Essence Flux and the release of the Pulsefire Ezreal skin. But nerf after nerf befell him and his win rate went down accordingly. Even after he was no longer clearly the optimal choice, he remained incredibly popular. And then you come back to the dilemma, wherein a champion must be overnerfed because he is fun. There is no reason to play Kog’Maw or Miss Fortune over Ezreal unless they are significantly stronger. Ezreal has multiple skillshots, a very smooth escape and easy creeping with Mystic Shot. So he received more nerfs even following a pronounced drop in popularity and winning percentage.
Riot has an incredibly difficult task ahead of them. Newly created champions tend to feel better, be more fun and have the potential to do more because their kits frequently present more options. But how does Riot balance competitive capability with the “fun” factor at the same time? That will remain a tricky question leading into the future, and the answer may have dire repercussions to some of our favored champions.
Category: Over the Bar