League of Legends: Brand Recognition
Patch v18.104.22.168, Bruisers taking a beating, Taming Teemo, Brand
by Jason Harper (Hhean), OnRPG Journalist
Greetings fellow summoners! This is the patch v22.214.171.124 article for League of Legends, the game that just wants to set the world on fire. This patch includes a wide array of changes, most of them being shots fired across the bow of the tanky metagame, along with some other fun stuff like Teemo getting a well deserved nerfing and Brand, The Burning Vengeance.
Brand is a fire spitting murder machine of a mage. His crowd control is fairly limited, but he makes up for it by doing some absolutely sickening amounts of burst damage. He’s a combo based character, so people familiar with characters like Swain or Anivia will get along with him just fine.
A listing of Brand’s stats and abilities can be found in detail here. For an introduction to the character and how he plays, I would recommend checking out the Champion Spotlight.
Brand relies entirely on landing his spell combos to be effective due to synergy between his passive, Blaze, and the various secondary effects on his abilities. His player must make the choice between miraculously transforming one enemy into a smoking pile of ash, or turning the entire area around him into a burning wasteland littered with the corpses of his former foes. The big choice when making use of his abilities is always which spell he should lead with, as in doing so you are always forfeiting one of his secondary effects.
His most stock standard combo against enemy champions is leading with Conflagration [E], as it has no travel time and cannot miss the target. Its secondary effect, an extra bit of area of effect damage, is worthless against a single target, so you don’t really lose anything by leading with it. If you have got a clear shot, follow this with Sear [Q] to trigger its secondary effect, a single target stun. If you don’t have the shot, skip Sear and just judge where the enemy’s headed before dropping a Pillar of Flame [W] in their path, triggering the secondary effect that inflicts loads of damage. If you got the stun off, just put it straight on their immobile head and watch their health drop like a stone.
If you are against a pack of enemies, and have confidence that you won’t need any crowd control, lead with a Sear shot to the nearest champion in the cluster. Immediately cast Pillar of Flame under their feet, but drop a Conflagration on the blazing target before the Pillar detonates. This will spread the Blaze to everyone around the target just before the Pillar blows them up, and gives them very little time to react before you kindly remove all that excess health from them.
For farming, just drop a Pillar of Flame in the middle of a wave, and blow up the surviving little guys with a quick Conflagration. This isn’t too effective earlier on, but later in the game it is a good means of getting instant gold.
His ultimate, Pyroclasm [R], works similarly to Ryze’s Spell Flux. A big fireball (At least I think it is meant to be a fireball, it looks kind of like a fiery cloud) moves towards your target, then bounces to a nearby enemy, then bounces to the next target, and so on. The damage this thing deals is fairly good if you can catch people in a cluster, or fancy finishing up a single target for being on low health near a minion wave. Its big advantage though is its Blaze effect is pretty crap, just increasing the projectile’s speed. This means you can fire it off at the start of team fights without remorse, then drop a full load of Blaze enhanced goodness from the rest of your abilities without losing out on anything. Mega damaging area of effect burst followed by stuns. Yummy.
One problem with Brand, and it is especially pronounced with his ultimate, is spell shields really, really hurt his damage output. A single spell shield from Nocturne, Sivir or a Banshee’s Veil will stop the Pyroclasm from bouncing to another target afterwards, even if it is bouncing to someone else after the initial target. Spell shields also mean that he has to sacrifice two blaze enhancements in order to get just one single enhanced spell off on someone. That’s a big hit to Brand’s overall damage output, so always try to get a teammate to pop any spell shields before a fight really kicks off.
For his level 1 ability, you want to pick up Sear or Conflagration. This decision is really up to how confident you are that you will land Sear on an enemy. Sear is a much more efficient skill, doing more damage for a lower mana cost at a faster cooldown. However, it can miss, and won’t get blocked by minion waves like Conflagration will, so it is the riskier choice of the pair. I personally prefer Sear, due to it being more useful in the initial fights as the team protects our jungler. Either way, its best to pick up the other one of the pair at level 2, so you can start stunning people as soon as possible. Normally I would leave off on getting my third ability until level 4, but since Brand lives and dies by his full combos, its best to pick up Pillar of Flame up at level 3.
From there, again you are going to be playing the risk vs reward game. If you need a consistent harass that won’t cost you much mana, go for maxing Conflagration first, and follow with Pillar of Flame. If you want to do sickening amounts of damage from long range, but at the risk of missing and wasting your mana, max out Pillar of Flame before Conflagration. This option get riskier if the enemy buys boots early, since it makes dodging the pillars much easier. Again, I love playing the riskiest option, and landing the shots isn’t overly difficult given how large the blast is. My order then is usually Pyroclasm > Pillar of Flame > Conflagration > Sear.
Start out with a Sapphire Crystal, mana and health potion. This is going to be built into a Catalyst The Protector later to get around one of Brand’s big weaknesses – His lane sustainability is non-existent. For his boots, I’d recommend Sorcerer’s Shoes, since even if you’re carrying Mercury Treads, Brand is so squishy that the crowd control reduction isn’t going to save him if he is being focused. It is usually better to build this into a banshee’s veil much later in the game when the catalyst isn’t helping you much in the late game.
The recommended items on Brand work well for the most part. I think Will Of The Ancients is more of a gimmick item on him than anything else though, since while the spell vamp works with his passive it is only gaining you 0.5% of an enemy’s health with every hit. Even against health stacking teams, he simply won’t get enough health back to be worth the mana investment required to keep you in a fight. Once you have the Catalyst on him (which infuriatingly isn’t a recommended item), your second item is going to be either rushing a Rabadon’s Deathcap for mega damage because you are killing everyone in sight, or grabbing a Rylai’s Crystal Sceptre because you are having a bit of a slow game, and need to dip more into utility in order to be of use to your team. For those of you wondering – Yes, the passive also triggers the Rylai’s slow effect, so it inflicts four glorious seconds of slow on your victims. Either way, you are going to want both eventually if a game is going into overtime.
For his Masteries I use a stock standard 9/0/21 build that works on every mage in the game to a greater or lesser extent. I tend to run with Ignite and Ghost for his summoner spells, because I prefer the overall utility of Ghost over the ‘Oh Crap!’ button that is Flash.
His Runes should focus on magic penetration and mana regeneration, with a possible touch of cooldown reduction. Phreak’s rune build shown in the spotlight is well thought out, and maximizes the capabilities of his passive. I personally use a similar build, but replace the glyphs with cooldown reduction, because I have an unhealthy obsession with cooldown reduction, and want to never stop using abilities, ever.
Brand is an absolute blast to play. I love his highly adaptive style, and combo based skill system. You constantly have to make decisions while playing and building him, which I think is the core of good design. Unfortunately though, while his damage output is extremely high, his crowd control is very limited (A single, iffy stun that can be blocked by enemy tanks), which is a noticeable weakness to have on your team’s mage class. It means you are putting more reliance on your team’s tank(s) to perform the majority of the crowd control, when you could simply Tibbers bomb everything into submission instead. Brand is fun and strong but I think he is going to need some specific team compositions to support him in order to be viable in competitive play.
In Other News, Tanky Meta-Game Gets Screwed:
Holy Raptor Riding Cowboys Batman! There have been a lot of changes this patch. Were I to hazard a guess, I would assume that some of these changes were intended to be added to the previous patch, but got pushed back to this week because, wow, Riot have been busy this fortnight.
The biggest overarching theme of this patch has been ‘Screw you, tanky metagame’. The best early game defensive item, Heart of Gold, got a nerf that even I have to admit was deserved, and this is coming from someone who loves his tanks. Randuin’s Omen has been made largely useless, which I think really wasn’t deserved. Sunfire cape now outstrips it in just about every way. On the flip side, Infinity Edge got cheaper, better and easier to build, its various components being made cheaper in addition to the item itself. Looking over these changes, I am going to suffer from a serious lack of surprise if Catalyst The Protector gets nerfed in the upcoming weeks.
Teemo got slammed with a nerf bat to the face, and the little pest couldn’t have deserved it more. Nearly every other nerf that was inflicted looks to be a test run for future changes to bruiser style characters. There was some odd nerfing to the heal reduction abilities of various characters, which is just another reason to always be carrying ignite. Cassiopeia got some much needed buffs, though with some testing she still is a bit underwhelming, though closer, I think, to the role of a chasing mage she looks to have been intended as.
If you haven’t tried League of Legends yet. Now is the perfect time.