Xerath – Mage Jungler Thingy

Posted: October 1, 2011 by xenocidebrm in Champions, Patch

Another non-human hero? Super powerful mage artillery piece? Transhumanist? Heck yes. This isn’t the furry champion I’ve been waiting for, but Xerath is too cool to ignore. Neat story, cool abilities, and a viable AP jungler. Yes, you heard me correctly and I will say it again: VIABLE AP JUNGLER.

So before I go into Xerath’s abilities, I do need to have a quick aside about jungling. Jungling is fun for about 10% of people (myself included) and only about 10% of those people have the proper rune sets and knowledge to be good at the jungle. Therefore, most people prefer to lane and by a large margin the people who enjoy laning over jungling also prefer AP heroes to AD heroes. The reasons are many: flashy effects, more range than melee to give the illusion of safety, and easy builds. AD, however, generally focuses around consistency, life steal sustain, and flat out damage over time. It comes as no surprise, then, that the majority of junglers are AD, as all the traits desirable for a jungler are inherently desirable for AD in general. AP junglers are rare only because AP junglers must be consistent: Amumu, Fiddlesticks, Nunu are the only three AP characters with enough consistency, sustain, and damage to quickly and safely clear the jungle (Despair, Drain, and Consume, respectively).

But enough about the jungle: why would I call Xerath a viable jungler? This brings us to Xerath’s passive, Ascended Form. A percent of Xerath’s AP is added to his Armor. What’s that? Free armor runes? GUESS I’LL JUST STACK AP LOL. I like these kinds of passives because they encourage you to build a particular way. By giving Xerath free armor, he is free to build an extra AP item instead of an armor item. It also means that his role is clear: anti-AD. Galio and Rammus have similar passives, rewarding players for building a character correctly. Xerath gets a thumbs-up from me right out of the starting gate: this passive is very nice on a mage, but not abusively so.

Arcanopulse sends out a beam that deals magic damage to enemies hit by it. I’m not exactly clear on it, but it seems to be a skillshot lightning bolt which hits all targets in its path. These sorts of skillshots are my favorite, and not because you have to aim it. Skillshots that travel through characters encourage good positioning in a fight while encouraging enemies not to cluster. This is great because it teaches valuable strategy to both sides. It also means that you can’t hide behind minions in order to avoid Xerath during laning: you’ll have to get up close and personal to stop him from clearing creep waves and harassing simultaneously.

Xerath’s W, Locus of Power, immobilizes Xerath and increasing both the range and Magic Penetration for his spells as long as he remains anchored. After activating the ability again, Xerath gains a movement speed bonus. A fun looking toggle, this will be make or break depending on the cooldown between anchoring and unanchoring. It sounds like fun for laning to farm under a tower, but to me it sounds more fun for GANKING. More on this later, but long story short it also means he can stack more AP instead of grabbing a Void Staff.

Mage Chains deals magic damage to an enemy and gives them a mark; firing another spell at a marked target stuns the target. Like LeBlanc’s Sigil of Silence, this spell requires two casts to be really useful, but it’s a sign that Riot is at least thinking. I say this because you’ll notice that many of the earlier casters have stuns that are simply instant: Annie, Taric, and Sion to name a few. These characters punished you for being in sight range, which simply isn’t a fun set of mechanics when they can stun you almost instantly from range. However, with characters like Vayne and Brand, you have to think before you fire your stun off or it won’t stun a target. Vayne needs a wall to stun, while Brand needs his target to be on fire. This is a creative way of solving the LOLSTUN problem, where players receive no feedback on what they can do to avoid being stunned and instantly killed by characters with unavoidable stuns.

Arcane Barrage is your ultimate: you get to use the ability up to three times before it goes on cooldown, each one firing a shot of magic damage to an area. One of the best parts about AP characters is the flair and flash. Here, like Brand’s Pillar of Flame, Arcane Barrage lets you show off your ability to blow stuff up, which always feels really good even if it doesn’t do much damage. It gives you three chances to hit, a sort of ability type that we saw with Riven’s Q. One might also correctly note its similarity to Kog’Maw’s Living Artillery, and with good reason. AP casters have always been outranged by AD characters, embarrassingly so. This ultimate is aimed at making an AP artillery champion to get people out from under their turrets. His passive might even permit, with enough AP, tower diving action.

All of these abilities sound like a lot of fun and Riot is clearly headed in the right direction with Xerath in making a more action oriented game. Farming, while important, is still the least fun part of the game. Xerath’s abilities are all geared towards harass as opposed to farm: with his Mage Chains, he is encouraged to cast another spell on an enemy champion and then another and another. Arcanopulse stops enemy champions from farming from behind a minion wave, promoting up close brawler action. Locus of Power will probably be the most fun dynamic in preventing farming. By keeping Xerath pinned down, the enemy must immediately decide whether to fight and try to kill him up close where he can’t move or to run out of range quickly.

What interests me most about Xerath, however, is his potential ability to jungle. I say potential because his core statistics are not out yet and so I cannot make a judgement about whether or not he will actually be able to viably jungle. Most of his toolkit appears to be completely viable for jungling: he has a high damage area of effect nuke with Arcanopulse, his passive gives him more armor for sustain, and Mage Chains permits him to stun buff monsters to prevent damage to himself. Even more, Locus of Power grants him range, allowing him to set up in a bush near a lane and gank an unsuspecting champion from range. The more overlooked aspect of the Locus of Power is that it grants him a speed buff when he exits the Locus state, allowing him to bombard, unanchor, and chase with spells. I’m already guessing that Locus + Mage Chains + Locus + chase with Arcanopulse is going to be the standard combo for Xerath’s ganks and lane harassment.

Xerath, like Brand, brings champions in an excellent direction for Riot. With new and interesting abilities, a role that fits into the AP artillery-ranged gap, and abilities that promote dynamic gameplay, Xerath just plain looks and feels right. This transhumanist being is going to be an absolute blast.

  1. Capac Amaru says:

    Too bad his backstory makes transhumanism = evil…

    • damndirtycat says:

      Yes, his backstory does paint transhumanism in a negative light, but it does raise a number of interesting questions. Was Tabia right to try to stop Xerath? Is Xerath wholly responsible for Tabia’s death if she understood the danger? Do human morals even apply to transhuman beings? Is Xerath now more than human, or less than human?

      I have my own answers to these questions, but I leave it to the readers to ponder.

  2. Shade says:

    Have you tried his jungle yet? I feel as if he needs lane farm more than a jungle can offer, though if you’re mid you can easily snag wraiths if your lanes pushed and don’t want to risk going past mid…

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