Welcome to the third Look Back. If you don’t know who this week’s article is about, you’re probably about to be caught and killed by him in the Jungle… because we’re taking A Look Back at Ryze, the Rogue Mage.
Ryze is an iconic champion in League of Legends. He shares his name with the CEO of Riot Games, Brandon Beck. Nowadays, he’s a fairly sustained DPS mage with the unique ability to focus on building more tanky and still scaling well with mana. But he wasn’t always that way.
In the days of yore, Ryze was not much of a sustained damage mage at all. He didn’t build mana, save for the mana that was inherent in the AP items back then (this was when Zhonya’s was not an Hourglass, it was a Ring, which built out of another Ring called the Sage’s Ring, a 975 gold item that gave a hefty chunk of mana). Back in those days, Ryze was known for one thing and one thing only.
If he found you alone, he would kill you. Period.
You think it’s safe to walk through the jungle alone, late at night? Well, you’re trespassing. And trespassing would get you a one-way ticket to Ryze’s Rune Prison, which showered the target with a Damage over Time component. And once there, he would make sure to give you the Rune Prison treatment.
You see, back in the old Beta days, Ryze’s Spell Flux was his ultimate. This meant it had ultimate-level damage. It still could bounce between him and a target like it does today, or between multiple targets, but if it was just you and him, in a quiet secluded forest, you could guarantee he would make sure you were finished off. Three bounces of Spell Flux were usually all it took to snuff out a target foolish enough to wander away from a nice “safe” minion wave.
Among beta testers, pre-matchmaking, Ryze was notoriously strong. The games were basically pick-up games, with no real organized group play. His penchant for winning 1v1 encounters made him extremely appealing, and easy for him to get fed. And once fed, well, it just made it so that extra bounce of Spell Flux wasn’t needed anymore.
Of course, since Spell Flux was his ultimate, that means that it wasn’t the only ability that was different in the olden days. He also had a different W (Rune Prison was his E). His W passively increased his mana pool, but it also had a toggled effect that was quite unique. When toggled on, his auto attacks stopped using his Attack Damage stat, and started using his Ability Power stat. They stopped dealing physical damage, and instead dealt Magic Damage. I should also note, as an aside, that this was in the time before Towers had magic resist to deal with Heimerdinger’s grenades and turrets and Rammus’ Tremors, so a fed Ryze with Lich Bane could kill towers in one or two shots late game if he so desired.
Ryze wasn’t as useful in competitive play in that form. Once tournaments began happening, and matchmaking came around so the “high elo” separated themselves from the herd, he wasn’t seen as much by top players. His kit was good at picking players off, but a pick-off champion didn’t do so well when teams began to roam in packs.
At the end of 2009, in the Udyr patch, Riot unveiled the first of the Ryze Reworks.
His Q, Overload, has always scaled off mana. In the early days, it scaled off his current mana. With the remake, Riot changed it to scale off Maximum mana, and reduced the AP ratio to compensate. His unique toggle W was cut entirely as Rune Prison was moved up to W, and Spell Flux moved from Ult status to E. He was given his “spell machine gun” passive, though his cooldowns weren’t quite low enough yet to take advantage of it. His Ultimate gave him a significant amount of AP and made his spells deal AoE damage.
The community was wary at first. He didn’t seem much improved. But he found a place. Combined with champions like Amumu or Alistar, he could deal an extreme amount of burst damage.
He saw a wave of varying buffs and nerfs. However, as new AP champions were introduced to the League, with much longer ranges, safer laning phases and similar late game burst potential or significantly better sustained damage, Ryze fell off the radar, and was forced to seek out a new Desperate Power.
Ryze came back in force in 2011 alongside Maokai and the brand new Co-Op versus AI matchmaking. Ryze’s passive stayed the same, but his Overload’s damage was sliced in half, with its cooldown reduced to a new low. Rune Prison’s DoT was replaced with straight damage and also given a mana scaling component. Desperate Power’s AP was replaced with Spell Vamp and a passive granting of max mana.
At first, most players still tried to treat him like a standard AP, but soon the secret was discovered. Frozen Heart and Banshee’s Veil both had mana…that meant they made him deal more damage! Ryze was…a tank! Of course, that didn’t mean players would outright ignore items like Tear of the Goddess or the other Catalyst item, Rod of Ages. But… Ryze was given a freedom most mid laners didn’t have at the time — he could be hard to kill AND still get damage FOR being hard to kill. Even bruisers drooled with jealousy at that prospect.
Since that remake, he’s stayed in more or less the same state. He’s only seen one major change (to his ultimate) which eventually replaced the passive mana gain with Movement Speed to help him get off that important initiating Rune Prison. Any other changes were mostly changes to his base or scaling values.
Many pro players have Ryze somewhere in their arsenal these days, with Alex Ich of Gambit Gaming being one of the most notorious Ryze players. With the Season 3 addition of Muramana and Seraph’s Embrace, Ryze’s late game was given a choice of better damage scaling or further tankiness, both of which appeal to the Rogue Mage. In the near future, I don’t foresee Ryze falling out of favor. He’s a great choice for late game, and his W synergizes well with pick-off compositions.
That’s all for this week’s Look Back. I’m not sure who will be the focus of the next entry yet. It may not be a champion at all! Be sure you stay tuned!