League of Legends: Xerath: Ascend
By Jason Harper (Hhean), OnRPG MOBA Reporter
Welcome summoners, to the patch v18.104.22.168 article for League of Legends, the game that just can’t seem to keep its evils sealed in a can. This patch includes minor tweaks to champion balance, a slight alteration to the Crystal Scar, and Xerath, The Magus Ascendant.
Xerath is a long ranged nuker, a floating laser howitzer who’ll zap you long before he sees the whites in your eyes. Xerath stands in stark contrast to the string of recent melee characters, attacking from as far from an enemy as physically possible. If you enjoy similar long range powerhouses like Kog’Maw, Lux, or Nidalee, he may be your perfect cup of tea.
Xerath’s defining ability is his Locus of Power [W], an activated mode that increases both his range and magic penetration, but at the cost of immobilizing him. This spell steroid alone is how he competes with other nukers, as when he is not in this siege mode, his damage and range are both unimpressive. You spend most of your time as Xerath buying time for this mode to come off cooldown, and then proceeding to bombard the enemy from as far away as possible.
Oh boy does he have some great tools for doing exactly that, too. His most commonly used poke is going to be Arcanopulse [Q], a low cost, low cooldown, low damage skillshot that bypasses minions. Taken as is, this ability is underwhelming, but enhanced by Locus of Power, this thing can hit people before they can even see you. This is a skill shot with a range comparable to Nidalee's Javelin Toss, but with an instant travel time and a two second cooldown.
The other way of enhancing this ability is through the use of Spell Chains [E], a targeted ability that marks the target for a few seconds. If you hit an enemy with any spell at your disposal, it’ll consume the mark and stun the enemy for 1.5 seconds, in the same manner as Brand. This can make the Spell Chains + Arcanopulse combination a nice harassing tool that prevents any trades, and also acts as an escape during a gank.
While most of Xerath’s time is spent grinding down his enemy’s health at range, once you think an enemy’s health has gotten low enough for them to be shelled into oblivion, it’s time to wheel out his full spell combo. The most damaging sequence in Xerath’s arsenal is to sit as far back as possible, activate Locus of Power, tap them with Mage Chains, slam them with the first shot of Arcane Barrage [R], then go to town on them with an Arcanopulse, and the remaining two shots of Arcane Barrage while they're still rendered useless by the stun triggered from Mage Chains. If they're still living, pop off another Arcanopulse for good measure. The cooldown is short enough that it is usually ready to fire again after you’re done pounding your enemies with his ultimate.
It’s worth noting that he barely sacrifices any range in order to pull off this full combo, so it is always in Xerath’s best interests to be as far away from the enemy as possible, especially if you’re trying to make use of Locus of Power. Nuking the enemy long before they get in range of you, and from over half health can be an extremely satisfying stunt to pull off.
The trade off here though is that in order for his main combo to do its maximum damage, you must be in Locus of Power, and therefore immobile. The reason Locus of Power is so important from a damage perspective is due to the number of hits Xerath has to do in order to rack up a decent amount of damage on an enemy. Each and every one of the spells he’s spewing forth are being mitigated by magic resistance individually, so an enemy gets far greater returns from MR against Xerath than almost any other mage in the game, because he has to perform five to six spells to do the same damage that other nukers get done in three.
The reason this is a real problem is because using Locus of Power at the wrong time will get you killed. Much like every other mage in the game, Xerath has to carefully control his spacing in order to zone aggressive enemies out, rather than make use of escape abilities to simply hop out of trouble’s way. Locus of Power forfeits this control completely, allowing enemies to easily close ground and murder you until you die from it. You really can only use the ability when your normal, non-enhanced moves are already out of range. At that point, you are likely far enough away to consider immobilizing yourself. Otherwise, stay mobile and leave it well alone until you can get some distance on the enemy.
Take a level in Arcanopulse at level 1. Max it out first, since it’s your only early game poke. Mage Chains or Locus of Power both are viable choices for level 2. If you think it’s safe to get inside the enemy's range, or they are a melee character, then go for Mage Chains. If you think the enemy is too dangerous to deal with, then hang back and pick up Locus of Power to snipe them from extreme range. Level 3 should let you grab the one you missed. Locus of Power should be your second to max, to both mitigate the magic resist that floats around later on in the game, and also allow you to more reliably increase you range.
For items, you're looking at a fairly stock mage set up, with a few tweaks here and there. Your starting load out is going to be boots and three health potions against most opponents, but Doran's Ring or Cloth Armour with five health potions are also good items against certain mid lane match ups. Doran’s Ring is usually better when you feel you’re going to destroy your lane opponent, so you won’t need the regeneration from any potions. The cloth armour is if you happen to go against a physical damage dealer. If you're heading out in Dominion, I like to start with boots, Blasting Wand, two health potions and two mana potions. The Blasting Wand gets you more early damage than going for a Prospector's Ring, and the survivability it offers makes no difference to Xerath, who is dead when someone gets in range anyway. It also has the final perk of letting you rush something useful very quickly.
His mid and late game builds need to go very heavy on ability power (which both enhances his offense and defense due to his passive), but tempered by enough cooldown reduction to get his ultimate off more often. You should have access to your full strength at nearly any time with this end game build. Deathfire Grasp and Morello’s Evil Tome are both good picks on him, mostly because they build from the Fiendish Codex, which gives him everything he needs at a cost efficient price. I’d avoid going for both though. Once you have one of them, and a few Doran’s Rings (or not if you’re in Dominion) in hand, you’re going to be heading straight for a Deathcap for mega damage. After that is usually situational picks - Zhonya’s Hourglass isn’t bad if you’re being rushed down and murdered by physical damage dealers, Rylai’s Crystal Sceptre will allow you more time before enemies get in close, and Void Staff helps against that horrible magic resistance that can cripple his damage output. As an aside, I usually don’t mention boots because they should change greatly from match to match, but you should avoid the recommended Ionian boots. He really needs that spell penetration from the sorcerer’s shoes more than the cooldown reduction at the stage in the match you’re usually buying boots, and he usually won’t wind up with a Void Staff until much later on, so that is the only magic penetration he’ll have for some time.
Go with a 9/0/21 mastery set up; it won't do you wrong. His most important runes are magic penetration marks. The rest is really up to playstyle and preference. I’ve been rolling out with mana regeneration seals with ability power glyphs and quintessences, but you could easily use cooldown, magic resist, health regeneration, flat health or anything else that’s useful for a mage.
I’m not fond of Xerath. I certainly warmed to him the more I played him, and he’s been a wonderful change of pace from the endless stream of melee. However, he’s also very clunky to play. The casting time on his Locus of Power feels a bit too long, and really can break up the flow of combat. I found myself cursing at the character for some time before I worked out that he almost has a minimum range to his attacks.
My biggest annoyance I had while learning him though is you can’t know the range on his Locus of Power enhanced spells until you are actually in that mode, which is too late because you then can’t move to compensate for misjudged distances. What he really needs is a form of ‘ghost’ extension on his skillshots to show you how far they would travel if he was in siege mode. That one gripe I have with him would make both his learning curve that much easier, and for players to more reliably hit at his absolute maximum ranges, which is where he’s at his most effective.
I do think his damage is slightly on the low side, but that’s an understandable trade off given the extremely long distances that he can not only hit from, but unleash his most damaging combo. His utility is also a bit limited, but still on par with other nukers like Brand and Malzahar. I can’t get a full read on how good this guy is though after only a few days of play, as I really struggled with him, and found screwing up his positional game to be incredibly unforgiving. I don’t think he’s bad by any margin, but he does have a very frustrating, punishingly brutal skill curve filled with many unnecessary deaths.
Outside of Xerath, this patch leaves me little to talk about. All of the changes are very minor tweaks, hardly game changing in any significant fashion. The gold rate reduction on summoner’s rift means end game character aren’t quite so frustrating to deal with, which is a very nice change. They also have a few token nerfs to some of the games currently problematic characters. Not much of a change really though, and hardly enough for them to suddenly be made garbage by these minor tinkerings.
To discuss some of the changes yourselves, post in the massive League of Legends thread in the free to play MMOs section. If you haven't tried League of Legends yet, you're missing out.