The Balance History: Corki

Release

Corki, the Daring Bombardier is one of the oldest champions in League of Legends. He was released in patch V0.9.25.21, on September 19, 2009. Whenever you see a patch with a V0.X, that denotes that the champion was released during the open beta testing. So, there are some people who remember the release of Corki, but most players would not. Unfortunately, there is not much footage of Corki at the time of his release for this reason.

 

So, what was Corki’s release like? To understand this, we need to understand the climate of ADC at the time. Compared to the 140-ish champions we have now, there were less than 40 before the beginning of Season 1. By the end of Beta, there were really only 5 ADCs: Ashe, Tristana, Sivir, Twitch, and Corki. Six if you count Teemo. Also, there weren’t many assassins or heavy diving bruisers like there are now, so the tools to deal with ADCs were much lower. Some have said that the meta will always revolve around what is most effective against ADCs for the simple reason that the ADC is so important. They are able to pump out so much damage if left unchecked and unthreatened, and if you are able to take them out, even if the teamfight is lost, the pushing potential that occurs afterward is cut by a good amount.

On his release, Corki was quite powerful. Seeing as Corki has received a small rework, we need to familiarize ourselves with his original abilities.

So a few key things may jump out to you right away. First of all, the passive. 20% additional true damage. To put that into perspective, the current iteration of Infinity Edge converts 10% of your critical strikes into true damage. So, it’s the same percentage of your AD as true damage. However, this isn’t 180% AD as physical damage and 20% as true damage, this is 20% as true damage on top of your normal basic attacks. This passive also interacted with Critical Strikes. That means a crit is 200% AD, and 40% AD as true damage. With Infinity Edge’s passive at the time, 250% AD as physical damage and 50% AD as true damage? Now we look at the Q. Reduces an enemy’s chance to hit? Back in the day, there were lots of RNG effects like these. His E could also reduce magic resistance into the negatives. What truly solidified Corki’s strength on release, was the fact that on the same patch Trinity Force was added to the game. Now, as many people know, Trinity Force used to give a little AD, AP, Attack Speed, Crit Chance, Movement Speed, Health, and Mana. On its release, the passive dealt less damage, but it also came with each basic attack having a 50% chance to slow the target. (This was the old Phage Passive as opposed to the current one.) It also apparently had a “reservoir” like Riven’s passive where you could store the Spellblade attacks. Though Corki did not have an auto-reset or ability that applied on-hit effects like many users of Trinity Force, his Missiles were spammable by design and he had mixed damage ratios, making it a staple of the champion.

This is a list of balance changes made to Corki on Patch v0.9.25.24. You can see how everything is getting nerfed about the champion. That just goes to show you the strength the champion had on release. At some point, although there is no written record of, the true damage from his passive was reduced from 20% of his Attack Damage to 10%. I was able to locate a thread discussing Corki that dated back to June 2010 where they mention the ratio of his passive being 10%, which would be the beginning of Season 1.

Season 1

Figure 1A: Patch v1.0.0.61

Figure 1B: Patch v1.0.0.63

Figure 1C: Patch v1.0.0.75

Figure 1D: Patch v1.0.0.94

 

Figure 1Ea and 1Eb: Patch V.1.0.0.100

Figure 1F: Patch v1.0.0.101

Figure 1G: Patch v1.0.0.103

Figure 1Ha and 1Hb: Patch v1.0.0.104

Figure 1I: Patch v1.0.0.105

Figure 1J: Patch v1.0.0.106

Figure 1K: Patch v1.0.0.122

As you can see, Season 1 was an up and down year for Corki. Later he would learn that it would not be his first. You’ll notice that everything up to Figure 1D in Patch v1.0.0.94 is a nerf. Every champion has an inherent “problem” when it comes to balancing them. Balance is not easy, after all. In Corki’s case, the issue he is fundamentally different from other ADCs. There were three main causes of this:

  1. Corki’s synergy with Trinity Force as a result of Missile Barrage
  2. Corki’s magic damage, true damage passive, and armor shred E made him difficult to build against. On one hand, you wanted MR for his Phos Bombs and Missile Barrages. On the other, you didn’t want negative armor, and he was still an ADC at the end of the day. On a third hand, Corki still had true damage to ignore both resistances. This became even more difficult later on when Corki players started getting Sorcerer’s Shoes.
  3. The inherent safety of Corki’s kit. Having long range poke from his Missiles, easy waveclear, and a long-range escape made him a safe pick.

So, Corki’s fate was intrinsically tied to Trinity Force. In Patch v1.0.0.100 (Figure 1Ea and b), they removed Trinity Force’s “Reservoir” system. This led them to believe that it was fair to buff Corki in return. This wasn’t incorrect, but it wasn’t enough. They continued to buff him until things came to head in Patch v1.0.0.104 (Figure 1H and b). Featuring buffs to Corki and his favorite item, he returned to the forefront of the marksman meta. Now, it was necessary to begin nerfing him again. The rest of year, however, was still Corki’s year.

World Champion Manuel “LaMiaZeaLoT” Hildenberger frequently piloted Corki throughout Season 1’s competitive season. Although people look back on this year as the “Phreak’s Basement”, at the time, it was quite the accomplishment. Though, Fnatic Corki was not released until 2014.

Season 2

Figure 2A: Patch v1.0.0.127

Figure 2B: Patch v1.0.0.129

Figure 2C: Patch v1.0.0.141

Figure 2D: Patch v1.0.01.146

Figure 2E: Patch v1.0.0.150

Figure 2F: Trinity Force as redesigned for Season 3 Preseason on Patch V1.0.0.152

Figure 2G: Patch V1.0.0.154

Season 2 was a more stable year for Corki, compared to Season 1, which had a multitude of changes. Granted, Season 1 was two years long, so it’s naturally just going to have more stuff in it. Nevertheless, Season 2 had important long-term implications for Corki. It started out not so great for Corki. At the end of Season 1, Phosphorus Bomb’s blind had been completely removed. That was a major form of utility, and losing it had a major impact on his laning phase. To remedy this, Riot targeted his Gatling Gun and gave it a base damage. Before it was 40% of his AD with each tick and the duration went up with rank. Riot discovered this was a healthier pattern in many cases, but not all. The base damage made it invariably stronger early game, but less feast or famine, since the AD you gain from leveling no longer affects the ability. This, along with some other buffs, brought Corki back. At the end of the year, he experienced some harsh changes, losing the crit interaction from his passive, among other nerfs.

 

Season 3

Figure 3A: Patch V3.01

Figure 3B: Patch V3.04

Figure 3C: Patch V3.5

Figure 3D: Patch V3.8

I normally won’t include bugfixes unless they are major, but I want to highlight this one in particular. “Missile Barrage would sometimes fail to deal damage.”

Figure 3E: Patch V3.9

Figure 3F: Patch V3.10a

Figure 3G: Patch V3.12

If I had a pick a word for Corki’s Season 3, I would go with “confusing”. With the slow removed and the critical strike at only 10%, many Corki players began to question whether it was optimal to build it at all. Also, if I’m not building Trinity Force, and I just go crit, do I build Sorcerer’s Shoes? But… I’m Corki? What about my missiles and my magic damage? Fortunately, some cost reductions to Trinity Force, to Corki himself, and fixing the bug where his Missiles might randomly not do damage, Corki found himself at a prominent place in the Season 3 World Championship. You’ve heard the saying “Corki always get buffed before Worlds”?. This year, it was certainly true.

 

Season 4

Figure 4A: Patch 4.3

Figure 4B: Patch 4.10

Figure 4C: Patch 4.21

Don’t let the fact that I only have three pictures here fool you. That was a big year for Corki. Phosphorus Bomb began scaling with Bonus Attack Damage. This added snowball potential and made him a very strong mid-game champion. In Patch 4.10, Bloodthirster was changed, which affected all ADCs massively. It was pretty much the staple first item, but this change made that not as much the case. ADCs didn’t really want to rush Infinity Edge because it only gave 20/25% Critical Strike Chance (depending on the time). That made it not very efficient on is own. That’s what this change pushed ADCs towards though. Right after the change hit, some ADCs made that change but others met with resistance. Corki, of course, was rushing Trinity Force anyway. Now his lane opponents would have a weaker first item spike and would be easier to kill. One problem Corki ran into was the fact that Trinity Force and Infinity Edge together only had 30% critical strike chance. With the newfound strength of Blade of the Ruined King, this was less of an issue. He would still deal good DPS. He didn’t “get buffed right before worlds” this year because he didn’t need it. He was a strong marksman almost the entire year.

 

Season 5

Figure 5Aa and 5Ab: Patch 5.1

Figure 5Ba and 5Bb: Patch 5.22, Corki Marksmen Update, and Figure 5Bc

Very, very little happened to Corki, in general this year. At least, until the end of the year. This was the year that Riot realized that the current marskmen itemization doesn’t work. Marksmen builds are all too cookie-cutter and the champions themselves were too similar. This led to a problem where the champion’s kit didn’t really matter. It was whoever had the best numbers at the time. Players wanted to feel like their champion choice mattered. That they were being rewarded when they were picking a champion with the best playstyle for that situation. ADC players weren’t getting that. When we started seeing Mordekaiser, Jayce, Kennen, Gangplank, and Urgot in the botlane this year, it was clear that something had to change.

Season 6      

Figure 6A: Patch 6.3

Figure 6B: Patch 6.7

Figure 6Ca and 6Cb: Patch 6.11

Figure 6D: Patch V6.12

Figure 6E: V6.15

Figure 6F: V6.19

Season 6 showed us the immediate aftermath of Corki’s changes in the Marksmen update, and they were messy. That’s okay though. Reworking a champion to any degree means throwing away accumulated balance standards over the years. Things started off great with Corki as a flex pick between the mid and bot-lane. While not a new flex, it became more pronounced. After the “Frost Queen’s Claim” era of midlane, midlane experienced a big champion pool issue in season 6, and that caused us to see a lot of Corki. He was one of the most dominant midlaners in competitive and needed to nerfed. Those nerfs, however, caused problems when Trinity Force’s critical strike chance was removed. This left Corki in a state of confusion once again. No matter how many buffs Riot threw at him, he didn’t seem to get back in the driver’s seat this year.

 

Season 7

Figure 7A: Patch 7.4

Figure 7B: Patch 7.12

Figure 7C: Patch 7.16

Figure 7D: Patch 7.24b

Although Corki seemed to have a rough 2016, eventually he recovered thanks to the discovery of a new of Hextech Gunblade as his second item. Although Corki’s AP ratios are not great, the fact that you were getting damage from the AP as well helped get through that awkward midgame. You want to continue your midgame spike after Trinity Force, but crit doesn’t play to that. Also, it made Void Staff feel better. One of the problems created by new Corki was how badly he didn’t want to build it. Other full damage champs would just get that % pen item when necessary. Corki wants magic damage, but not the stat of AP. He’d rather have more AD. Now his abilities were doing more damage. That created more of an incentive for Void Staff.

 

Here, I want to bring your attention to Figure 7A, the most devastating nerf to the new Corki, in my opinion. This nerf made his has already bad AP ratios even worse and made his missiles do very little damage. The reason, Riot was convinced that his missiles had to do such little damage, was because of how easily they allowed him to passively waveclear. I disagree pretty strongly with the way they tackled that. They could have just made it do a lower % of its damage to minions, like a Jhin E or a Xayah E. Instead, it hard solidifies Corki as only a midlaner. You need the solo XP to get to level 11 ASAP so that your missiles can actually do damage.

 

Later on in the season, they solidified Corki further as “magic damage marksman man”. His autos would no longer be half/half. Instead, 20% physical and 80% magic. I thought this was a pretty good idea. It did bring Corki back into the meta. Unfortunately, Ardent Censer started to take off, so teams were really liking the idea of having two AD Carries.

Season 8

Figure 8: Patch 8.14

This is the only real buff they gave Corki in Season 8. He never really found his footing in this season. He did see some pro play, but wasn’t really top tier. The only thing they really accomplished was realizing he needed another rework. First of all, the change to adaptive damage. This was particularly devastating for Corki. It pretty made it so that you couldn’t take anything that dealt adaptive damage ever. If you built AD, it would end up doing physical damage. The entire point of Corki is to build AD and do magic damage. For a while, that wasn’t a problem. The change of IE to true damage should have helped him. However, it came with the nerf to Fleet Footwork. Corki didn’t build terribly high amounts of AD, but now the crit modifier was gone too. This left Corki pretty much without a usable keystone.

 

The Future

It’s difficult to say what the future holds for a Champion. Corki needs to maintain an identity as a “magic damage marksman”, but how can that be done. As an ADC main, I don’t like the idea of Corki being only a midlaner because I want to play him. Also, I feel like many midlaners whine when he was meta because he was too boring. If they don’t want him, I’ll gladly take him back. Corki returning to being an ADC isn’t paramount to his health. However, I do feel it’s the best choice for community perception.

There are a few things I do know for certain.

1: Corki must become an AP champion. He can still be an “ADC” much in the way that Kai’Sa is an ADC who builds AP. I teased an idea with my colleague about making his basic attacks scale with AP and making bonus AD convert to AP. The fact that Corki has been “AP” who builds AD has always caused issues. The introduction of adaptive damage takes it to a whole new level.

2: Something must be changed about his E. Champions having their own built-in flat resistance reduction is an outdated relic. It tends to be insane early unless the numbers are tuned to the point of non-existence. Meanwhile, the lategame effects leave a lot to be desired. Corki is an extreme case because his E shreds up to 20 flat armor and MR. That’s insane. It just doesn’t feel insane because you have to wait for it. It also doesn’t fit with his playstyle. The ability remains relevant to him due to its all-in power and waveclear. That’s it, though. It doesn’t help his poke, and it makes it unsatisfying to be kiting back. Every time you turn away, you’re missing ticks of the Gatling Gun. Not only that, but why is the damage split still half/half when Corki’s autos do 20/80%. He has so much built-in flat armor pen for a champion who deals so little physical damage. Problem is, making it only magic would make the ability worse. You’d have to buff the numbers, which would make it insane. At one point, Riot tried to make it shred % resistances, but this just made it feel meaningless early game.

3: Corki’s Package needs to change. The package is one of the main reasons he became a midlaner. I’m not saying this is why it needs to change, but the Package is severely limited by its summoner-spell level cooldown and the fact that you only have 1 minute to use it. This is one reason why I think Corki bot could be healthier, it would allow you to take some power out of the Package. Let’s face it, it’s basically a third summoner spell.