So, this is something new I’ve been planning for a while that I’ve really wanted to get rolling. So once a week I’ll take a look at one of my favorite games, League of Legends, and talk about various things from champions to maps to meta games. This week we’re going to be starting with the most recent champion to come out: Skarner, the Crystal Vanguard.

Let’s start off with the basics and the thematic behind the champion. He is the first monstrous champion to come out in a while, and the picture above doesn’t really do him justice. The side ‘horns’ up there are actually closer to mandibles on the side of his face and the head is elongated, the eyes further apart to the side. All in all, in-game he appears more of a hunting creature. Thankfully the human-like face doesn’t detract from the more monstrous shape. If I had to nitpick, and I do, I’d complain that his legs are too small, which sometimes gives him the comedic effect of hovering when viewed from certain angles. Both of his skins look great, but I’ll get to that in a second… For now, let’s look at his skill kit.

  • Energize (Passive): Skarner’s auto-attacks lower his cooldowns by 0.5 seconds per attack on minions, and 1 second on champions.
  • Crystal Slash: Slams his claws into the ground, dealing AoE physical damage. If an enemy unit is struck, Skarner becomes empowered and the next Crystal Slash will do bonus magic damage and slow any unit hit.
  • Crystalline Exoskeleton: Skarner gains a shield, granting bonus attack speed and movement speed while it lasts.
  • Fracture: Deals magic damage in a small line, marking the target. Any further damage removes the mark and heals Skarner. Each heal is weaker than the last.
  • Impale (Ultimate): Skarner impales his target on his tail, suppressing them and allowing him to drag them around until the suppress ends.

Now in my traditional fashion, we’re going to look at his flaws and cons before going into his fun bits, so stick with me here. Despite what I’m about to say, he really is a fun champion. Now then…

This I have nothing against. I like his passive and it works really well with my playstyle and his kit. No real glaring flaws.

Crystal Slash:
The damage is too low to viably go his supposedly preferred route of hybrid (AP/AD mix). It does 80 baseline damage at level 5 and scales poorly off of bonus attack power. Yes, I know it is an AoE ability and has a slow, it still hits too low on the first swing. The problem is only exacerbated by the fact his slow and bonus magic damage are only available if you land another hit first, and the range is small enough that you can frequently miss in the time it takes to stand still and auto-attack. On the upside, the Ability Power scaling is better on the second and all subsequent hits, so that’s nice if you wanted to go AP, either hybrid or full on burst-caster.

Crystalline Exoskeleton:
The movement speed and attack speed from this are great. My main issue with it is the ludicrous scaling it gets with Ability Power. It’s not hard to late game have a shield that gives you 500 hit points of hit-point breathing room and a massive boost to movespeed. Combined with Fracture it gives an almost unparalleled ability to get in, poke, and get out without being hit by anything. Useful for all three Skarner builds, Attack, Hybrid, and Magic, though the shield blatantly favors stacking AP.

Now this is something I have issue with. I’m debating just not even taking this skill until absolutely necessary, it’s that bad on Attack Damage Skarner. In fact, I’d be willing to say it’s that bad on Hybrid Skarner too. The only build that be considering this is Ability Power Skarner, just because it has really nice AP scaling and it turns the ability into a nice little line-nuke early game. Decent damage and fairly good scaling, but you’re going to have to rush it to Rank 5 to keep up with the other casters poke potential. My problem with it is the heal it has on it. The first thing you hit will heal you for 100% of the number stated (which isn’t even that good, either, as it has poor scaling and a low base), then the second hit will heal you for 50%, and then after that nothing. The third hit and up are all useless, and you will receive no further healing until you cast the skill again. That is not just incredibly boring, it’s also incredibly infuriating. Clearing a wave of minions or a camp in the jungle, I don’t even feel like using my Fracture. What would be the point? A little bit of damage and a small, utterly useless heal that will just taunt you. Did you hit all 6 minions with it? Too bad, you only heal from 2 of them. It should be that every proc from the mark heals Skarner, down to a certain minimum, and then stays there. Say, 100% on the first, 75% on the second, and 50% on all the rest. Or anything really, if it was 10% it would still feel better than what we have right now, which is nothing. It makes the skill feel wasted, which in turn makes me just not want to even use it.  And yeah, the heal was still negligible when I went full on AP Skarner.

This is probably the most annoying this to me, is that Skarner was created as a hybrid character, but doesn’t reward hybrid building. Only his Crystal Slash has any form of interaction between attack damage and ability power, and it does so in a way that isn’t just (Skill Damage)+(Ability Power)+(Attack Damage) for once. I like that. The problem is none of his other skills do this. The only benefit towards building any damage is on his first ability and his default auto-attacks, which feels extremely unrewarding since every other single champion in this game has their auto-attacks scale to attack damage. Impale looks like it would have been the perfect skill to promote hybrid building. Have a skill similar to his Crystal Slash, dealing Physical scaling when he impales the target (makes sense giving his physical body is attacking) and then scaling magic damage on release (since he is no longer physically interacting with the unit, instead magically so). Instead we get an ability with low magic damage scaling that hits twice and as a result is incredibly bland. It could have been something cool to reward all three styles of play, but as it is, I don’t even look at it for damage. That’s kind of sad when you’re ultimate attack doesn’t even register in combat as an ability you could use to hurt the opponent. Oh, and it feels too short. What is with the current “1.5 second duration” fetish we’ve seen from Riot Recently? Why not 2 seconds, since the other suppresses in the game last double what ours currently is.

That said… he is still extremely fun to play. One you get melee range, it is very hard to shake Skarner off with his Crystal Slash and Crystalline Exoskeleton abilities, and his ult is still a powerful positional ability, even if it feels weak in comparison or in a solo environment. While his jungle ability isn’t the best in the world, his skill kit is geared towards assuring kills, with the vast majority of them being able to stall or hold down an enemy and assuring your team the ability to finish them off. Through and through, Fracture and Impale are the only real disappointments gameplay and flavor wise, and Impale can at least make up for itself with creative use. Lane wise he performs very similar to jungle, only being able to skip a Wriggle’s Lantern means he can get started on whatever build you prefer that much faster. His kit is tight and well done, and just needs a few tweaks and scaling changes to put him in a perfect spot. All in all, I am thoroughly enjoying the new champion, and hope you give our buggy little friend a chance to impale your enemies. But before I end this…

I’m a sucker for Earthen Constructs, and this skin was just too incredible for me to not try with the new champion. I absolutely love the blue luminescent runes on his body, and the fact his ‘shell’ is comprised of stone while the softer ‘body’ is a collection of vines just gives Skarner a beautiful hybridized feeling of organic and inorganic life, brought into the world by undoubtedly powerful magic. Just too beautiful to not want.