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News Season 3: Who Benefited the Most from Black Cleaver?

by Alex Ferri on December 24, 2012
Black Cleaver.
That’s how a player would likely describe the first week of Season 3. While the item has been nerfed substantially, for the first week of the new season it defined the game and gave a big boost in win rate to several champions. Although these champions will still be powerful simply as a result of the change to the way armor penetration stacks, expect their win rates to drop a bit with the change to the Black Cleaver.


Win rate prior to Season 3: 50.3%
Win rate after Season 3: 53.1%
Riven was the only one of these five champions to have a win rate higher than 50% in the week prior to the Season 3 patch. She was also the only of the five to be commonly viewed as a solid pick before the change to the Black Cleaver.
A Riven with two Black Cleavers and Ionian Boots of Lucidity brought the cooldown on Ki Burst to less than 5 seconds and the cooldown on Valor to less than 4 seconds. This granted her a ridiculously low cooldown stun and damage-mitigating shield.
Because Riven was perfectly playable before Season 3, she should still be strong after the nerfs to Black Cleaver. The preferred build path for her will probably involve a single Black Cleaver followed by a Bloodthirster because of how well she scales off attack damage.


Win rate prior to Season 3: 48.4%
Win rate after Season 3: 51.6%
Kha’Zix actually started seeing increased play before the introduction of the new Black Cleaver, but it’s the item that pushed him above a 50 percent win rate and into widespread play. Kha’Zix players purchased a Black Cleaver in more than 120 percent of games in the first week of Season 3 (meaning players frequently bought more than one).
And doing so made perfect sense; all of Kha’Zix’s abilities deal physical damage, so he can stack the passive quickly as well as fully benefit from the armor penetration. In addition, the cooldown reduction on the item could bring the 3.5-second cooldown on Taste Their Fear close to the 2-second mark. This vastly increased Kha’Zix’s DPS potential.
Kha’Zix will suffer from the nerf, but his rise in win rate can’t be attributed only to the Black Cleaver. Players recently began maxing and evolving Void Spike first after realizing the massive utility it grants. It really is his most useful ability; it’s a ranged AOE nuke that applies a slow and heals Kha’Zix. The only downside to the ability is its high mana cost. Expect Kha’Zix to fall a little, but not a lot.


Win rate prior to Season 3: 47.1%
Win rate week after Season 3: 51.7%
In just a week, Pantheon went from being picked in less than 5 percent of games to getting banned in more than 20% of them. He has Black Cleaver to thank for that, as players bought it on him in almost 150% of games. His win rate rose by 4 percent despite only having two abilities that deal physical damage.
The reason why the Black Cleaver is so effective on him is because of the high poke damage it allows him to deal. His Spear Shot is on a 4 second cooldown, which can be reduced to as low as 2.4 seconds with maximum cooldown reduction. It’s also ranged, meaning he can damage an opponent without going all-in, unlike some other assassins.
While Pantheon might lose a few more games after the nerf, he’s also received a huge boost from the new “AD caster mid” craze that’s been happening recently. While the stacking armor pen of Black Cleaver assisted the idea, Froggen proved it was perfectly viable before Season 3 even began. Pantheon is one of the strongest AD casters to send mid because of his ultimate—he’s essentially an AD version of Twisted Fate. While he might not be as ban worthy post-nerfs, he should see still play now that players have discovered his apparent niche.


Win rate prior to Season 3: 44.9%
Win rate after Season 3: 49.2%
Zed is a champion that never really caught on. He started to catch on with the release of the new Black Cleaver, but it still wasn’t enough to push him above a 50% win rate (at least, not in the first week). It did contribute to an almost 5-point boost in his win rate, however, and Zed players purchased the item in about 120% of games.
AD casters such as Zed have always desired cooldown reduction from their items. However, in the past, buying cooldown reduction often meant sacrificing some amount of damage output or survivability. With the introduction of Black Cleaver, that sacrifice became unnecessary. Zed benefits greatly from cooldown reduction because of his evasiveness—he’s able to survive long enough to get several spell rotations off in a single fight, so cooldown reduction greatly increases his DPS.
Unfortunately, his win rate might fall a bit with the Black Cleaver nerfs. That being said, part of his increased win rate could be a result of players “figuring him out” as a champion. He hasn’t been around that long, and it usually takes a while for most champions to catch on. There are plenty of other itemization options for him so the Black Cleaver nerf isn’t the end of his world.


Win rate prior to Season 3: 49.4%
Win rate after Season 3: 58.2%
When Talon players first laid eyes on the Black Cleaver, they fell madly in love. Those players bought the item in more than 160% of games, and it contributed to an almost 9 percent increase in Talon’s win rate over the first week of Season 3.
Talon seems to have caught most mid-laners by surprise, which is in itself surprising. Talon has always countered many mages, especially those that don’t take armor seals. He has poke, wave clear, a silencing gap closer and a ton of damage output. Before Black Cleaver, however, he was a risky pick that lost to certain mages while hard-countering others. After the buff, he could lane against nearly any mage and come out ahead.
Another point against the old Talon was that, if the game didn’t end early, his team would lack a significant source of magic damage late game. But when a character has 1-2 Black Cleavers and a Last Whisper, stacking armor isn’t very effective, so it doesn’t really matter what type of damage was being dealt.
Talon might regain some of his niche-pick status after the Black Cleaver nerf, but he has plenty of other options to remain viable. Just the introduction of Black Cleaver (even only one) was probably enough to spike his win rate a considerable amount. And there are plenty of other strong choices for him as a mid laner—Hexdrinker and Last Whisper immediately come to mind.

In closing, here’s a sentence or two in recognition of those summoners who dared to experiment with new ideas in Season 3 like Talon mid. The season is still young, and there are plenty of other new items and strategies to try and abuse this season, so get to work. Before they get nerfed, that is.
For updates on my articles, opinions, and general League of Legends news, follow me on Twitter: @alexferri.
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