Quick up-to-speed for the various readerships. I’m sure you all know what a real ‘tank’ is; big military vehicle, heavily armored, big gun. All else varies, but it’s a big monster on the modern land battlefield.
In RPG terms, a ‘Tank’ is generally the party member who soaks up the enemy’s damage. Big guys in heavy armor. They’ll generally have some way to keep the enemy focused on them, because a *smart* enemy will kill the ‘nukers’, the squishy things in the back row. That means they either need a legitimate weapon of their own, so they can’t be ignored, or they need a ‘taunt’ ability.
In League of Legends, ‘Tank’ is even a specific role. Characters with lots of damage taking ability, some way to lock the enemy down to fighting them, and some way to avoid damage.
Now, I read a while back (In Hell’s Faire by John Ringo) that the purpose of a tank on the modern pitched battlefield *isn’t* to roll forward as an unstoppable damage soak. It’s to ignite the ‘rescue response’ in the infantry. The tank rolls forward, and the infantry go ‘oh, heck, we’ve got to save those poor dumb brave bastards’, and charge behind the tank. Now, admittedly, we don’t see many ‘pitched battles’ in the modern world, because anyone smart enough to build modern weapons is smart enough to not want to use them, but that’s beside the point. The point is, a true tank isn’t a damage soak – it’s something to ignite the rescue response.
Enter Soraka, The Star Child.
At first glance, she’s an unremarkable Support character. Basic heal (Astral Blessing) with some minor armor buff after. Mana Restore (Infuse). Her global heal ultimate is kinda nice for supporting a dispersed group, but other champions can do similar things to tight groups late game. On top of all that, her autoattack throws bananas. Most of the folks I play with seem to think of Soraka in that particular niche role, a second rate healer and comic relief.
Thing is, when I first played her, I didn’t know all that. I read her stats. Read her abilities. And immediately focused on Star Call. To you military buffs, ‘Final Protective Fire’. Yep, she can call down an artillery strike on her own position. Every two seconds. To which she and her friends are immune. Which lowers the defenses of any enemies hit.
I looked at that and fell in love. I thought about what I’d want to add to Star Fall; the ability to slow enemies is nice, so I added Rylai’s Crystal Scepter. Now everything nearby my ‘Raka is covered in ice and moving slow. Next, lighting things on fire is also good, so I dropped a Liandry’s Torment into the mix; that lights them on fire, specifically fire which does more damage to slowed targets.
Now, those two items also increase Soraka’s Ability Power, which adds to her Star Fall damage. Her autoattack is slow, but isn’t bad in terms of damage. Adding a Lich Bane to the mix adds her Ability Power to her autoattack, but only after she’s just cast a spell. Thing is, Star Fall IS a spell, and it’s nearly as fast as her autoattack. That leads to a pattern of StarFall / Attack / Starfall / Attack rinse and repeat as needed. She’s doing her Ability Power damage every two seconds.
Now, that to me says she needs more Ability Power. We’ve got two slots left. I used to go straight to Mejai’s Soul Stealer, which gives you more Ability Power for each kill or assist, and her global heal, Wish…
Yeah, she’s a Champion who’s ultimate ability is called ‘Wish’, and she’s generally thought of as second rate. SMH.
Anywho, any time she heals a champion and he kills someone in the next little while, she gets an assist. If she pops off Wish and three of her teammates at varied parts of the board kill three different champions, she’s now got three more assists. Add a Rabadon’s Deathcap on top of that, which adds thirty percent to itself and any other ability power you’ve got put together, and you’ve got a serious amount of damage flowing out every two seconds.
Thing is, they retooled Soraka recently. Infuse, which used to be free, now costs Mana if you use it to refill friends. It’s still free if you use it to silence (and damage) enemies, though. Also, the damage it does is now based on your maximum Mana.
Enter the Archangel’s Staff / Seraph’s Embrace. The Staff is a neat item which gives you AP, and also gives you a percentage of your Mana as AP. Also, it increases your maximum mana every time you cast a spell… Like that Starfall you’ve got going off every two seconds. When that bonus gets to a certain amount of extra mana (94 spells, or roughly 3 minutes), it morphs into Seraph’s Embrace. SE gives you even MORE mana, plus it lets you use a percentage of your mana as a HP shield.
Now, let’s return to the Rylai and Liandry. They add special effects and AP, but they also add to her HP total. Between the two of them, she can take a solid beating before falling down, as much as most fighters. The Seraph’s Embrace gives her as much damage soaking as most tanks… except…
Most Tanks can’t HEAL themselves. That’s right, while they’re trying to beat you down, you can toss a heal on yourself every two or three Starfall / Autoattack cycles, and remove all the work they’ve just done. On top of that, you’ve got the Wish for when things really get hairy. Now you’ve got someone who’s fairly hard to stop…
And it keeps getting better. There’s *another* item with that mana-per-spellcast thing, Called Manamune, it adds Attack Damage instead of Ability Power, so her bananas start hitting even harder. When *it* transforms into Muramana, it gives a toggle ability to consume some of your Mana and convert it straight into damage with every attack. That means that while your Starfall is now a nasty area of affect attack, and your Infuse now hits like the hammer of an angry god and silences the enemy, disallowing *their* abilities, your Autoattack is now the Banana Of Doom.
So… a tank needs to be hard to stop; check (good HP), check (Mana Shield), check (Astral Blessing), check (Wish). It needs to have a viable main gun or two; check(Starfall), check(Infuse), check(Banana of Doom). There leaves only that final item: igniting the rescue response in the infantry.
In this case, the ‘infantry’ are all those other champs on your team. When a ‘Tank’ goes in, the rest of the team may or may not follow. They’re a Tank, after all. They can take it. No rescue response. When ‘poor little Soraka’ goes in in her swishy skirt with her banana topped staff, everyone follows in to ‘save the support!’. That’s some Rescue Response right there, you betcha. What’s even funnier is that some of the time you don’t *need* the rescue. I’ve taken on entire teams like that, if they didn’t have some way to stun / silence / stop me from casting.
Now, who’s a second rate Support, again?