3 LoR Noxus Champion Reworks (LeBlanc, Katarina, and Vladimir)

3 LoR Noxus Champion Reworks (LeBlanc, Katarina, and Vladimir)

LoR: Noxus Champion Card Reworks

Hey guys, Kuvira here again with another design article. Today is gonna be about none other than the Smorc powerful empire of Noxus!

Noxus is a surprisingly very well designed region, it has the main flavour of red/ aggro while being the best at it, but at the same time it also can be played in many different ways, Noxus midrange, control or even combo are totally possible viable archetypes which makes Noxus a very versatile region.

I genuinely believe that these changes I’m proposing today would be enough to make Noxus the perfect region – strong, balanced, AND fun!

Today’s changes are going to be about champions and their spells. Mainly the 3 Noxus champs with the lowest play rate and win rate, Leblanc, Katarina, and Vladimir.

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Reworking/balancing champions have always been very fun for me since I love trying to find the best way to keep the champion’s flavour from League while making them powerful, balanced and fun to play with.

Flavour is a very important aspect of LoR champions. it’s crucial for people who love or main a certain champion in League to fall in love with the similarities that were translated into LoR’s version of that same champion. I’ve been playing LoL since I was 8 years old (closed beta), I basically grew up with the game which is why I’m so passionate about the Runeterra universe and its lore.

Enough cheesy talk, let’s start with the first champion rework right away!

1. Leblanc

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I’m going to start with one of my favourite champions reworks I’ve ever done. Everyone complained about Leblanc’s design when she came out, on Reddit, Twitter and everywhere else, as you can see below her flavour was not appreciated at all.

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I did agree with these statements at the time and I still do. Compared to what she does in league Leblanc feels very different and somewhat bland in LoR. 

Apart from the flavour miss, Leblanc isn’t seeing much play in the current meta and hasn’t been competitive for a while now. Her archetype, Reputation doesn’t feel very finished or viable which doesn’t help her situation, but that is mainly due to the lack of support and the small number of reputation cards.

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Let’s talk about her LoL flavour, she’s a trickster-ranged assassin that dashes on enemies to kill them extremely fast. The trickster aspect comes from her ability to bluff in her movements by coming back to the zone she dashed from or using her clone (passive) to confuse the enemy. 

In LoR she’s a 5|2 Quick Attack unit with no level 1 effect and a very bland level up condition, however, when she levels we do get to see the cloning flavour with the Mirror Image she generates which is nice.

As a champion that has been introduced with a specific unique archetype, Reputation, Leblanc doesn’t really feel like a real payoff for it. Her 5 attack statline does mean she provides Reputation levels when she strikes but when Reputation IS active it does not affect her whatsoever which is a very odd design in my opinion.

Rek’Sai is an amazing payoff/finisher for Lurk, Nautilus is a huge bomb for Deep, even Vladimir has more synergy with the Crimsons/self-damage archetype than Leblanc with Reputation. 

I do understand that her mirror image does put some pressure on the opponent but it cannot be considered as a good payoff/finisher for the reputation archetype with the current card pool.

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This is the change I came up with, Leblanc now generates a Distortion in hand when you have the attack token on round start and if you have reputation active. 

This is extremely flavourful with W spell Distortion from League, she’s known for that specific ability and it was totally missing from her LoR design. Obviously, it’s not all about flavour, with this effect, she can level Reputation and represent a good payoff on her own.

However, To balance out this effect, her level up condition had to go from 15 damage to 20 damage since we’re accounting for the free 5 damage strike from her free attack. her level up condition also makes more sense now that it’s four 5 attack strikes= 20 which is exactly the reputation condition.

Her level 2 effect of creating mirror images also had to be changed to 20+ for the same reasons.

I’ve thought about and tested many different decks and scenarios to see how fast she can start getting the free attacks and if that was healthy/balanced, I don’t want to bore you guys with those detailed situations but the conclusion was that even with this additional effect she’s not overpowered nor oppressive.

A very very cute interaction that is worth noting is that she now works much better with her follower Black Rose Spy which was previously clunky due to her summon effect happening AFTER the attack, now with Leblanc striking with the attack from Distortion, Black Rose Spy can be summoned and becomes an exact copy of Leblanc without using the attack token, and then can be sent to combat with the real Leblanc, or is it the fake one? who knows :). 

When you have two Leblancs and the attack token on round start + reputation active you get 2 distortions that you can use on the same Leblanc which would better if she’s buffed with Overwhelm/ Elusive or use them on separate Leblancs if one of them dies.

This also enables some synergy with Mimic that can copy the Distortion and basically give you two free attacks in the same turn. This combo is very expensive though, 7 mana for two additional Leblanc seems fair.

The fact this version of Leblanc generates so many spells will allow her to see play in some spell-heavy decks like Lux or future spell-based archetypes.

My initial design was to make her start a free attack on round start if Reputation is active, without creating or casting Distortion.

The major problem was that this wasn’t very consistent with other round start effects, would she start an attack before the opponent’s cards activate their round start abilities or even before landmarks? 

Even if the free attack was coded to go last another problem emerges. Let’s take a scenario where you’re heavily ahead of your opponent, your board is very wide and they probably can’t survive a wide board open attack, If reputation is active, Leblanc will start an attack on her own, giving the opponent the ability to chump block her with a spider and then GET an action that can be used to use an effect that would wipe the board or save them that turn, like ruination for example. This would feel horrible for the Leblanc player and would make no logical sense.

I usually don’t like creating new cards for champions since I know Riot Devs try to avoid that at all costs to not go through the whole design animation- bug testing and multiple other processes. But this had to be an exception. 

Overall, this is a more interesting effect that will certainly allow her to see play and be competitive again without being obnoxious. She’s also very fun to use and should make Leblanc mains from League very satisfied which is important. 

I’ve also reworked Leblanc’s spell, Sigil of Malice. In the latest patch 3.4.0, it was buffed from a 4 mana spell to 3mana. 

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Is this change impactful? Yes. is it interesting or flavorful? Not really. A 3 mana Fast speed deal 2 to anything will see play in some competitive decks like PnZ/Noxus that use damage spells to remove units and dominate the board or even in burn decks for the face damage. The sad part however is that this isn’t really more interesting for the reputation archetype, yes a 1 mana deal 2 to anything is great value but is it worth the card slot? Probably not. This will make double drawing Leblanc feel less terrible but it’s still clearly underwhelming.

Not every card has to be complicated in LoR, at the end of the day, this is a mobile game and the casual players represent the vast majority which makes sense. However, this is Leblanc’s spell, the trickster combo assassin so it would make more sense if Sigil of Malice had some sort of combo aspect to it.

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The change that I came up with is a modification of the Reputation effect. If Reputation is active, each round, the first time Sigil of Malice is cast it creates a 0 cost Fleeting copy of itself in hand.

Again let’s quickly mention the flavour, this is very similar to Leblanc’s Q + Ultimate (that copies the last spell she used) in League and it can be cast on different targets. 

When reputation is active, Sigil of Malice will now represent 4 damage for 4 mana that can be distributed on different targets including the enemy nexus. 4 mana deal 4 at Fast speed is very good, it can be used as a great removal tool or even as burn. Decimate is a 5 mana slow speed spell that deals 4 to the nexus, compared to Decimate, Sigil of Malice is much more flexible and powerful.

I do understand that without having Reputation active Sigil of Malice is fairly weak, but that is totally counterbalanced by the powerful effect it has when the Reputation condition is fulfilled.

Side note: “The first time you cast me” had to be added as a condition to avoid OTK combos with Karma.

2. Katarina

This is another champion rework that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. 

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Katarina is the least played Noxus champion, in fact, she’s the least played champion in the WHOLE game. Sadly she’s never been competitive even though Katarina was one of the oldest foundation champions. Riot has been very reluctant about buffing her in any way since she can become overpowered very easily. 

Her design is very hard to balance, she’s one of those cards that are either overpowered or very underwhelming. She has however received one buff in two and a half years, they gave her a play effect that creates a Fleeting Blade’s Edge in hand, it was a good change but again, it certainly wasn’t enough.

Rally is a very powerful effect in Runeterra, especially when tied to a 4|3 Quick Attack body, things can get out of hand very quickly, I’ve heard people suggest changes to her mana cost, that she doesn’t need to become 4 mana and can stay at 3 when she levels, that would obviously make her insanely powerful, a 3 mana unstoppable Rally effect with a body? No thank you.

The main issue with Kat is tempo loss, she basically uses Will of Ionia on herself every time she strikes, the resummon costs start to add up and it ends up being too much mana spent for not enough payoff and a very weak defence. if you think about it, she’s somewhat of a Tempo black hole in a way.

Unlike Leblanc, Katarina’s design is very flavorful and similar to what she does in League, that’s why I decided to not rework her because that would eventually lead to a less accurate league representation of Katarina. 

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I wanted to give Katarina +1 attack on both levels, making her 5 attack on level two makes sense in Noxus since it synergises with multiple cards like Bloody Business, Reckoning and even archetypes like Reputation. The +1 attack buff is a major change since it is attached to a Rally effect.

On top of that, on level 2, whenever she strikes she creates a fleeting 0 cost Blade’s Edge in hand and gets Recalled. This change is geared towards reducing that tempo loss I’ve talked about above. 

With these two changes, I can see Katarina seeing play in different Noxus archetypes from aggro decks that will use the Blade’s Edges as face burn, or even in combo/control Noxus decks with SI or PnZ for Ezreal. She would also work fairly well with Viktor since the created Blade’s Edges will help him level up and the rally effect with an elusive or overwhelm keyword on Viktor can be a solid win condition. This was just an example of ways this new version of Katarina can see experimentation with..

I did consider Katarina/Shadow Isles combos with The Harrowing that summons multiple Katarinas since they’re all striking that would generate multiple Blade’s Edges and should finish the game, but that’s a very expensive intricate combo that can be easily countered or played around.

I believe that this version of Katarina would see play in multiple different archetypes without creating any oppressive or unhealthy scenarios. 

Death Lotus

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Unlike Sigil of Malice  Katarina’s champion spell, Death Lotus has seen play in a couple of competitive archetypes, for 2 mana the effect is somewhat strong and useful.in many situations. This card has seen play in swarm metas where the AoE is needed to slow down aggression, in Swain decks for the ability to damage multiple enemies setting them up for Ravenous Flock and Scorched earth. But it saw the most play in Scargrounds, decks with self-damage units and Vladimir.

However, The issue that I have with this spell is that it doesn’t have any synergy with Katarina. I personally believe that every well-designed champion spell should either help the champion level or provide some kind of synergies on either level 1 or 2, preferably but not necessarily both. 

Most champion spells in the game currently have that design which is great, Nautilus has Riptide, Swain has Ravenous Flock, even Yasuo has Steel Tempest… compared to all of these the effect of Death Lotus doesn’t work with Katarina in any way, it doesn’t even fit in the sort of decks that Katarina wants to be played in, it’s just a total design miss.

I understand that champion spells shouldn’t only see play or only synergize with the champion, the perfectly designed champion spell is expected to see play in different archetypes with or without the champion in the deck without missing the core synergy with the champion, Draven’s spell Whirling Death is a great example for that, same thing for Ezreal’s Mystic Shot, Gnar’s Wallop etc…

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I decided to add another way to use the spell, you can choose to target a battling Noxus ally to strike all battling enemies for 1 damage each. This might seem slightly weird at first since we’ve never had a Strike effect with a set damage number, but it wouldn’t be too hard to code and I expect everyone to understand it after seeing it play out the first time, attached is a keyword that defied every rule we had in the past but it was still implemented in the game, I don’t see a reason why this wouldn’t also be doable. 

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The unit will use its power to strike but the damage will always be set to 1, allowing strike abilities to take effect: Draven, Rumble and the new Katarina…

It needed to be only cast on Noxus units since the interaction with impact would be too strong on attack, Furious Faefolk would deal 4 damage to the enemy nexus for each enemy hit and that doesn’t sound fair. Even with Rivershaper, Greenglade Lookout or Vekauran Bruiser…. things can easily get quickly out of hand.  It’s very important that it doesn’t limit future card design.

This new Death Lotus effect works with Katarina’s Level 1 since it can be used to protect her in combat, she would strike and get recalled but it also works really well with her new Level 2 allowing her to generate multiple Blade’s Edge which is very fun and flavorful. It can also work with Draven, Rumble or even future Noxus cards with strike effects which is great.

Death Lotus still has its initial effect since I didn’t want it to be cut from Vladimir/Scagrounds, Swain or any other archetype that used the non-conditional AoE damage.

It’s important to note that this change wouldn’t need a different spell visual effect which is something I know Riot Devs consider when making changes.

3. Vladimir

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Vladimir’s rework took a lot more time than I expected. Like Katarina, he’s one of the least played champions in the game despite receiving multiple successive buffs on different patches in the past. 

Vlad did see play for a while (like a week or two) after all the buffs but he’s mostly been used in specific tournament lineups as a tech choice instead of seeing play on ladder. 

His current power level isn’t weak, he has great stats, 5 mana 5|5, his effect is powerful and makes sense with the archetype but he’s not versatile enough. Vladimir feels locked into the specific self-damage archetype even though his level up condition is somewhat generic, I believe that he wasn’t designed like Rek’Sai or Nautilus, these champions only make sense and are locked into their roleplaying archetype. 

For example, Sejuani can be played in Plunder archetypes but she also sees play in multiple Frejlord midrange and Control decks for her base effect. I wanted Vlad to have somewhat of a similar design.

In most cases, expensive champions around 5+ mana should always have some kind of impact on the turn they’re played in with or without the attack token.

In my opinion, it is very weird for an expensive champion, that is essentially a card that you’ve built your whole deck around and that you’re very excited to play, to not do anything when played, Taliyah copies a Landmark, Gangplank generates a keg, Lux has Barrier which can stop attacks, even Udyr does something when played on defence.

When Vladimir is played without the attack token, he feels very bland, a 5 mana 5|5 with basically no effect that turn, you’ve basically spent 5 mana for a vanilla 5|5 follower for the round which is a little sad.

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I am aware that this might be too much text but I decided to give him a play effect. He’s now a 5 mana 4|2 that deals 1 damage to all enemies when played then, he gains health equal to the total damage dealt, so if the opponent has 2 units he would deal 1 damage to their whole board and become a 5 mana 4|4, 4|5 if the opponent has 3 etc… and yes he can become a 5 mana 4|8 if the enemy has 6 units which sound very powerful but I like the comeback aspect of it.

His level up condition also had to be changed from 5+ to 6+ for balance purposes.

Let’s not forget that his play effect goes on the stack, which means he can be answered before the skill resolves, Mystic Shot, Get Excited, Grasp etc… all of these kill him on the stack but the damage goes through even if he dies. 

The 1 damage to all enemies shouldn’t be underestimated. Twisted Fate has a similarly powerful effect and that can be very hard to play around with. Vladimir is in a much better region than TF and will see play in a different style of decks

I absolutely wanted to keep Vlad’s ability to synergize with Noxus spells when he’s levelled (since he has 5 attack on lvl 2) like Reckoning, Bloody Business, Trifarian Assessor, Reputation etc….

I’ve asked multiple great players about this Vlad change and I’ve gotten very opposite opinions, some of them think he’s totally broken while others think he’s very weak. This obviously doesn’t mean that the change is bad, it’s just very interesting.

I increased the value ceiling of Vlad while decreasing his value floor, this basically means that he has more nuance now, he becomes overall more interesting . It unlocks many new ways to play Vlad without removing him from the main self-damage/Scargrounds archetype.

Scargrounds decks struggle a lot with tempo loss, they have to constantly bank or keep mana up for tricks that keep their units alive and using a whole turn to summon the 3 mana landmark can really set them behind, Vlad’s new effect can now help gain some of that tempo loss and stabilise the board which is a great overall buff for the archetype.

I can also see Vlad seeing more experimentation in Noxus control archetypes since he enables spells like Ravenous Flock, Guillotine, Scorched Earth etc.. and can even work with Swain.

In terms of flavour, this is really similar to what he does in League (his E, Tides of Blood) which is something I’m happy with.

I did think about the argument that this change incentivizes the enemy to not play units to avoid giving value to Vlad which can be somewhat unhealthy but that isn’t really the case since we already have a similar effect with Thresh and it has rarely caused any issues, in fact Thresh benefits even more from the enemy playing small units since his payoff is much stronger.

Here’s a list of other additional effects that I considered for Vladimir instead of this one:

  • “Drain 1 from the weakest enemy whenever I survive damage”
  • “Round End: Deal one to the weakest enemy and grant me +0|+1”
  • “Play: Deal damage to an enemy equal to the number of damaged ally units on your board”

I ended up going with the one I chose since I felt like it was the most flavorful while allowing Vlad to become more fun, versatile, competitive and see play in different archetypes without being oppressive. 

I hope you guys enjoyed this article, I sure did love the whole process behind all of these changes and I feel like I’m learning a lot every time.

Feel free to DM me on Twitter if you have any questions or just want to talk about LoR stuff!