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Game Breaker / League of Legends

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It's inevitable, given the competition-oriented gameplay. Who/What exactly is one constantly changes, due to rapid updates, and what exactly is a "Game-Breaker" is massively different depending on your level of play. League of Legends is actually designed around the "perfect imbalance" paradigm — the game is always slightly favors one particular strategy over another, but not too much to render any other strategy impossible, which prevents the game from getting old and repetitive as the balance shifts between different strategies.

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  • Innervating Locket + Udyr was a combination so overpowered that it lead to Innervating Locket being removed from the game. To put it simply, the Locket gave heals when you used abilities, and Udyr is a melee fighter who uses his abilities a a lot. Udyr plus the Locket meant a powerful bruiser who also healed himself every few seconds and was nearly impossible to kill even if he wasn't building any tank items other than Innervating Locket.
  • Twisted Fate, whose most notable abilities are an extra effect added to his next auto-attack (but is highly unique in that it swaps between 3 options continuously in a pattern, requiring one to be chosen by the player when it pops up. Or you can miss the one you wanted entirely), and a teleport that reveals every player on the map. Considered to be useless by many people, and there were large numbers of threads asking that he be buffed. Then he single-handedly won a match against one of the best teams on Earth, since that said teleport is very good for catching people out and applying map pressure, and that said auto-attack boost had an option that possessed very solid crowd control (a stun). While he was somewhat easy to catch out due to his lack of dashing mobility, a fed Twisted Fate doesn't need to last long in a fight if he can end it as quickly as he needs/wants to.
    • That said, current TF is considered a pretty balanced champion due to his very high skill cap. On the other side, beta Twisted Fate was the most broken champion to ever set its foot on Summoner's Rift. Why? Because his abilities, which are powerful enough to get him in this page on their current state, were ridiculously overloaded and made TF too threatening to the opposing team just for existing. His Gold Card used to have the same AoE that his Red Card currently has, his passive gave everyone on his team a small critical chance, Destiny and Gate were two separate skills, Destiny slowed the enemy team globally, and Gate was global and accessible at level 1. Twisted Fate wasn't just overpowered, he was also frustrating due to his potential of cheesing an easy first blood through a surprise critical or just Gating to any point in the map, placing a ward and have his allies teleport to the ward for an ambush before the clock strikes the first minute.
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  • Kog'Maw was considered pretty weak when he came out, but when play shifted towards really tough characters, Kog turned out to be the best tank-killer in the game. He's even been reworked once and had that rework undone.
  • Vayne was disgustingly overpowered on release, easily on the same level as release Xin or beta Twisted Fate. A ranged carry with some assassin traits, her main claim to fame was being able to chase down single targets, immobilize them, and fill them full of bolts, and her ability to do percentage-based true damage was more than likely intended to make her the bane of everything tanky (she was released in May of 2011, when the Tanky DPS meta was still very much in effect). Unfortunately, she was the bane of everything. Impossible to escape thanks to her passive, annoyingly good at juking and unreasonably hard to lock down thanks to her Q, unreasonably dangerous to trade with in lane due to her burst and her E, which had situational hard CC that was very easy to pull off if the Vayne player was worth a damn, and possessed an ult that was essentially a "fuck you, your team dies now" button thanks to ridiculous stat buffs all around, Vayne was an unholy terror at all stages of the game that had players wondering whether Riot even looked at her power level before releasing her. It's no surprise that she's mostly seen nerfs for the entirety of her existence.
  • Graves, while not as bad as Vayne, was still far too strong on release. A ranged carry who incentivized getting up close and personal, he wound up being really good at that and way too good at everything else. His Q, the main thing that made getting in close desirable, wound up being ridiculously powerful from all ranges; up close, it was easily capable of blowing off close to half of another champ's life into midgame, while it also wound up being a surprisingly powerful and dependable poke from afar. He also had a dash that doubled as an attack speed boost with a cooldown that could be refreshed with auto-attacks, a passive that gave him free armor and magic resist if he was attacking or being attacked, and a utility move that acted as both a slow and a situational version of Nocturne's ultimate; his ultimate, while devastating in teamfights and early skirmishes, was honestly the most balanced thing about him. Everything else made him into a burst machine that was overly mobile and deceptively bulky, especially for a carry, and his tendency to not scale as well into late-game as other carries was more than made up for by how brutal he was early and midgame. Like Vayne, most of the changes that he's seen in his four years of existence have been nerfs.
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    • Then came his rework with the preseason of season 6, where he was changed on his auto-attacks to make them function more like a faster and smaller ranged version his original Q, which was replaced. Of course, as soon as he got Infinity Edge, Graves' case with the item was unique in that it made him fire more shots in the spread. Couple that with the newly infamous Warlord's Bloodlust keystone mastery which allows a successful crit to heal a percentage of damage and grant a brief attack speed boost, Graves was considered broken enough for hotfixes to both him and the said mastery.
    • Something else worth noting is that around the end of season 5 and the beginning of season 6, his effective burst with his auto-attacks, Q and relatively-short-cooldown ultimate, his utility blind with his W and tankiness and mobility with his E, were all found to be great tools to make Graves an incredibly effective jungle bully. Around patch 6.2, he had the highest win rate, around 57%, in bot, top, and jungle, simultaneously. He received a few nerfs as of 6.3, and his win rate has dropped down, but time will tell if he'll stay there.
  • After the order of effects upon death were patched, Maokai gained the unique ability to combine the Guardian Angel with his Vengeful Maelstrom to do this quite literally. This bug breaking the game is itself a Game Breaker, meaning Maokai could never lose.
  • Ryze is more likely to get hit with this charge than most champions. Extremely short cooldowns, high damage output over a long period of time, and tank-like durability make him extremely effective in almost any situation. He's also one of the least expensive champions in the game. And his rather simple play style (amounting to memorizing two completely targeted combos—you don't even have to click on targets if you use smartcasting) leads to the backlash you'd expect.
    • Season 5 had Riot reworking Ryze and trying to balance him around the concept of "windows of power", where Ryze had a specific moment to deal a lot of damage, but was weaker out of that window. His passive could be triggered to give him quickly-reseting cooldowns, and his ult had atrocious 30% of free passive cooldown reduction at max level. While this made Ryze a bit easier to deal with, he was still an insane spell-spamming machine that could solo carry games. And every time Riot tried to nerf the champion, he would die down a bit only for people to discover that he was still broken. This led to Riot throwing the entire concept of a champion that can reset all of his cooldowns to the window and rework him again in season 6, this time focusing him on his combos.
  • Xin Zhao, as released, was a Leeroy Jenkins... who won battles single-handedly. Then he got nerfed, started riding a very unsteady nerf/buff wave that constantly left his viability in question, and then eventually became a full-on Joke Character who was completely worthless against anyone even slightly decent until he got remade and became a decent, if not spectacular choice; though he still has his ups-and-downs for "not standing out".
  • They're still trying to figure out how to balance healing spells properly. Taric and Janna haven't got messed with much, but Alistar's was reworked entirely, Soraka (as of late August '11) has been re-specced as The Red Mage, and Sona's, well, Sona. It's interesting to note that the latter two have some of the highest win-loss ratios as champions.
  • Many of the champs with high learning curves have eventually become this once people get the hang of them. Lee Sin? Underpowered on release, buffed massively, then people began to realize that the sheer strength of his kit coupled with his new numbers was simply too much. Orianna? Took a bit for people to get the hang of her, but it soon became clear that she was staggeringly overpowered by way of being able to do the vast majority of tasks in the game far better than the champs dedicated to them. And Rumble? Initially thought to be worthless, then people noticed how he was the strongest pusher in the game and had some of the highest, most consistent damage in the game coupled with a terrifying ultimate that could annihilate entire teams when placed right. This is a common theme in League of Legends: champ with a heavy learning curve is released, people slowly learn what said champ can do, people realize that Riot underestimated just how much a master of said champ could pull off and realize that the champ is extremely overpowered, champ gets nerfed.
    • And that happened THRICE in a row with Gnar, Azir and Kalista. Gnar's rage control skills, once learned, turn him into a terrifying crowd control machine with a lot of damage, Azir's AoE long-ranged damage with hyperscaling makes him one of the most powerful champions ever when mastered, and a good Kalista is simply uncatchable and unkillable due to a kiting passive and building a lot of life steal.
  • Darius has split the community into the group that thinks he's just mediocre and the group that thinks he's a kill-stealing bastard that's just toxic to the game. To truly understand how bad this case is, one must understand that Darius's kit is built around his ultimate that instantly refreshes on a killing blow, and because it inflicts true damage, no amount of armor or magic resist can protect an enemy from him. At release Darius was far worse, with his passive stacks dealing absurd damage even at level 1, having mixed damage on his autoattacks making him hard to counter, and his ultimate originally had a half-second grace period after the dunk where if the victim died it would still refresh. This meant that the three or four sequential ults that were supposed to happen once in a blue moon if you were doing amazing were commonplace.
    • It's not as bad anymore since Darius no longer does so much damage in multiple shots on the get-go via his most Juggernaut rework, but he's still a bit difficult to face in lane for some champions or in the late game if he applies his passive stacks fast enough.
  • Pre-nerf Rengar was this. One Savagery/Empowered Savagery combo was enough to bring a vast majority of champions, squishy or not, down to half health or lower. Getting away from him was nigh impossible due to his high mobility around brush and movement speed boost from his ultimate. He's since been toned down to a reasonable level.
    • Then the Rengar after said nerfs still ended up being this, in the sense that his "triple Q" exploit (involving ulting, readying Savagery, then using Empowered Savagery JUST as Savagery comes off cooldown then using Savagery again for massive damage and attack speed to follow up) is quite capable of outright eviscerating a squishy champion. Cue him being part of the preseason 7 assassin reworks, and people are still complaining about Rengar's power, though at this point he may be much easier to balance.
  • The remade Black Cleaver at the start of the Season 3 preseason period was arguably the most overpowered item in the history of the game. Giving huge damage, HP, cooldown reduction, armor penetration AND armor shred, Riot made it worse by inexplicably not making any of its stats Unique, meaning they could be stacked. It was not uncommon to see physical damage dealers buying boots and 4 Black Cleavers and wiping the floor with everyone else.
    • Worse was that if combined with the % Armor Pen mastery and the Last Whisper, which also gives % Armor Pen, certain characters could buy a Black Cleaver and Last Whisper then run around dealing true damage to everything for most of the game. The irony was that not only was the Black Cleaver too good in terms of damage and armor pen, its intention of shredding armor became overshadowed by everything else (along with a subpar HP stat for bruisers) before it was remade in Season 5.
  • Post-Rework Master Yi. His E ability (Wuju Style) now makes his basic attacks hit for added true damage upon activation, and the amount scales with his attack damage. As a melee assassin, he'll be building a lot of attack damage. His ultimate (Highlander) adds 40% attack speed, gives the same amount in movement speed, and makes him immune to slowing effects. If he wants you dead, you're not going to do much to stop him. So long as he can make it to the late game, he'll become a walking blender that hits for high amounts of true damage every auto-attack that you can't escape from. On the other hand though, his paper-thin defense means all it takes to bring him down is stunning him and have your entire team nuke him with extreme prejudice.
    • Pre-Rework Yi, while being considered a competent but easily-countered AD assassin, had a second configuration based on AP due to his Q being AP rather than AD scaling (a very unusual early game holdover, and it was even 100% AP scaling). By building lots of AP, his Q could become incredibly powerful, and also scaled up his W, which not only healed him, but upped his Armor and Magic Resist considerably. This essentially meant AP Yi could Alpha Strike his opponent (a near instant untargetable close move) and then immediately use his W to essentially become immune to damage from his target (unless being interrupted by CC). Worse, when his Ultimate is active, any kills used to completely reset his cooldowns, so he could spam his Q over and over again. It was quite common to see Yi Penta kill entire teams easily if they were all grouped up close together (since his Q damages up to 4 enemies at once). The only weakness in this playstyle was that he ONLY relied on his Alpha Strike most of the time (especially late game where his AD starts getting obsolete if not built that way, so Lich Bane was a must to build) for his damage output, meaning he was very team comp-based for higher ELO-teams and Q'ing at the wrong time would lead to retaliation if he didn't get a kill from it for another shot, and he needed to make sure his ult was active to even get the reset. Plus, just spamming his Alpha Strike (like with his overall playstyles) would drain a ton of mana from him if not managed properly.
    • Riot eventually nerfed his ultimate just as Master Yi got reworked, since even when his Alpha Strike needs much more to achieve the AP Yi level damage from before, it still had a problem; thus due to the 70% cooldown refresh slapped onto him as opposed to the previous 100% refresh or the flat 18 second reset, this makes it so that Yi can no longer chain-spam his Alpha Strike to remain invincible at any given time just after a kill from an auto-attack or Alpha Strike alike, which would allow for more gaps for counterplay against Yi on a killing spree. Needless to say however, Yi's still a pubstomper, but prepared teams in higher elo can easily mess up his early game and prevent him from getting enough items.
  • Warwick emerged as THE strongest jungler after the season 5 jungle overhaul, no competition. Not only does his sustain make him insanely safe, one of the newer jungle items, Skirmisher's Sabre, allows you to deal true damage for a few seconds and it counts as an on-hit effect. Couple this with the Devourer enchantment, which gives infinitely scaling on-hit magic damage. All Warwick has to do is walk up, smite a carry and use his ultimate, which applies on-hit effects, repeatedly. That carry is now dead. Period. This turned out to be so broken that within 2 weeks Warwick went from a champion people left games over because he was The Load, to a champion with a 92% ban rate. Riot started rolling out hefty nerfs on his ultimate VERY quickly.
  • The release of the Sated Devourer enchantment, which applies on-hit effects twice every other autoattack (later nerfed to every 4 autoattacks for ranged champions) made champions that had on-hit effects that dealt damage in a way (i.e. Vayne, Gnar, Corki, Ekko) has made those champions more viable for the jungle, or they're made more considerate of taking Smite as opposed to another summoner spell.
  • Skarner has had his ups and downs throughout his four-year history, but after the Juggernaut update, he became STUPID. A new passive that gives him absurdly fast and safe jungle clears and makes 1v1ing him absolutely suicidal (allowing him to invade with impunity and making his own jungle virtually impossible to safely invade without multiple teammates) mixed with great ratios and his already-high natural stats and growths and excellent scaling has turned him into the undisputed god of the jungle who starts off ridiculous (negating his historically unsafe early jungle) and quickly turns into an inexorable terror who spends the rest of the game running around and tearing everything that he can catch to bits. Riot made efforts to tone him down very quickly.
  • Preseason 6 can easily be called "The Game Breaker Showdown" due to a LOT of overpowered champions, masteries and items:
    • Remember what we said about Graves above? Riot reworked him along with other marksmen to give him a real unique identity as the short-ranged marksman. They managed to do that - but at the same time they brought back EVERY problem that Graves had in his first release: his new Q dealt way too much damage, his E allowed him to stack his resistance passive way more effectively (while giving more resists!), not to mention it resetting too easily, and his autoattacks, which were supposed to deal more damage at point-blank range in a spread like his old Q, could KO an opponent with two or three attacks, with every other skill helping him to catch the opponent if fleeing (remember when we brought up Infinity Edge powering it up to more shots fired, folks?). Riot had to issue a hotfix for this one week after the Preseason started.
    • Miss Fortune is right behind Graves as the most powerful marksman (or markswoman) after the reworks. She used to have a kit with weird scalings and one of the worst passives of the game, which gave her movement speed if she took no damage for a while. After the rework, she got an actually useful and powerful passive that deals extra damage on autoattacks, her W got her old passive added to its effects, and both her Q and ultimate got critical-related buffs which allow MF to deal a lot of damage to her opponents while farming AND insane wombo-comboing in teamfights. Guess how many patches after that she was nerfed.
    • However, the "most broken thing in Preseason 6" trophy goes to Warlord's Bloodlust, a new offensive mastery from the Ferocity tree that heals for 15% of the damage done by critical strikes. What does it mean? Literally, Warlord's made Life Steal completely obsolete for carries, because all they needed was to rush critical chance items (which were also reworked so that ADC's could have higher critical chance) and heal any damage dealt to them with huge ease. And let's not get started on what champions like Yasuo, Master Yi and Tryndamere looked with this... Let's just say that every player rejoiced as Riot hotfixed the mastery so it only works on champions.
    • Also from the Ferocity tree, the Deathfire Touch mastery seemed underwhelming at first. It gave damage per second on champions after they took damage from skills, but it was halved for area of effect skills, which basically every caster in the game has. Then people noticed how insane it was on DPS mages like Malzahar and ESPECIALLY Brand, since those skills will keep refreshing Deathfire Touch. Malzahar has three DPS skills that deal good damage and can sustain his mana without items thanks to one of them, Malefic Visions. Brand has his DPS damage coming from his passive, which not only deals max life % damage, but lasts 4 seconds and can be used to trigger a 2-second stun at LEVEL 2. Add Rylai's Crystal Scepter's slow and Liandry's Torment extra DPS (which Rylai amplifies) and it became very common to see those guys dealing two-thirds of anyone's life with a single skill.
    • Guinsoo's Rageblade also got a rework...instantly making Jax batshit insane and any autoattack-reliant champion very powerful. The catch of the new rework is that melee autoattacks (on anything - the item would be balanced was this only valid against champions) give 2 of 8 stacks to the item. Coupled with Sated Devourer and its attack speed, it took just three attacks to reach max stacks. But Wait, There's More!. As the new Guinsoo reaches 8 stacks, it starts to deal AoE damage scaling with both AD and AP, a thing that most of the champions that benefit of the item lacked (making it akin to Ravenous Hydra's passive). But Wait, There's More! Also slightly reworked, Hextech Gunblade heals for 15% of ALL damage dealt, allowing for insane healing in teamfights while dealing tons of AoE damage. But Wait, There's Even More! The last mastery of the Ferocity tree is Fervor of Battle, which, just like Warlord's Bloodlust and Guinsoo's Rageblade, stacks when autoattacking anything, ramping even more damage over the already huge benefits. This combination allowed for some unbelievable things that made most of the involved items and masteries get hit by the nerf hammer.
  • Before it was changed heavily, the AP jungler item, Runeglaive, was insane on Ezreal. What the item did at the time was it gave you a Sheen style proc (an item that was already amazing on Ezreal) with a slightly lower AP ratio but with a small AoE slapped on. What resulted from this? Ezreal's running smite, granting their team a bunch of extra control on dragon and baron, an earlier power-spike due to it being cheaper than Lich Bane, and unprecedented wave clear, the major weakness AP Ezreal had over AD Ezreal. Oh, and it also restored missing mana.
  • Since his release, Azir has had a number of notable bugs that frequently had to be fixed (which did make him a Game-Breaker in the literal sense). But as soon as people got past the said bugs and realized his potential, he THEN got nerfed so many times that one can't count in both hands. His kit revolves around summoning Sand Soldiers, untargetable units that may auto-attack for Azir, dealing magic damage per attack. Since it scales with attack speed, a fed Azir can and will deal lots of damage per second on late game from far away. His ultimate also gives him a second chance if he fails to keep someone away, pushing enemies back and creating a wall on the location. With everything, Azir has a lot of play potential, either closing the door whenever his team is being chased, either Insec'ing the entire opposing team, either just dealing slow and damage thanks to Rylai's Crystal Scepter being ridiculously good on him. It's no hyperbole to say that every single skill of him has already been nerfed and this fails to stop Azir from being an amazing champion in the hands of any good player. Keep in mind: Riot usually nerfs champions that sit on winrates around 55% or higher. Before Azir's latest nerfs, his winrate was so low as 42%. And he was still broken enough for him to deserve the nerfs. That's to say something.
  • Rylai's Crystal Scepter from patch 5.13. The item was formely a niche pick and core only in certain champions such as Rumble. Then the slow values on the item and the slow mechanics of the game were reworked, and Rylai became the best item on AP champions, bar none. Not only the stats the item provides are godly for the squishy AP carries, its slow helps them to kite or catch threats easily. Champions that can abuse the item such as Azir, Viktor and Brand became way more powerful than before the patch just because Rylai was that ridiculous, and nowadays even champions with solid crowd control options on their kit, such as Syndra and Vel'Koz, are buying the item. It finally got nerfed on patch 6.23, bringing down many champions that relied on the item, and changing build paths for the ones who didn't.
  • Pre-Rework Poppy was half- Game-Breaker, half Joke Character. Her farming was terrible and her early game pathetic- but if she managed to get herself some items, she became a hammer-wielding murder machine with her ridiculous passive and ult. Her passive made her incredibly tanky, and her ultimate made her immune to everything except one enemy champion. If she attacked any other champions, they were basically helpless for 8 seconds (the idea was that Poppy would force herself into a one-on-one fight with another champion, but failed to specify that Poppy had to attack the champion she targeted). She ended up completely reworked, with her kit stabilized so Poppy isn't so divided between completely useless and completely overpowered.
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