The Balance History: Ivern

Ivern, the Green Father, is one of the newer champions in League of Legends, released on October 5, 2016, right before the preseason for Season 7. Specifically, it was on Patch 6.20. Newer champions tend to be very unique compared to older champions, which makes sense. When you exhaust the ideas that are “inside the box”, so to speak, “outside the box” is pretty much all you have left. Few champions, however, were as outside the box as Ivern. As you are likely aware, Ivern was designed to be a Support who was played in the jungle. While you might jump towards Nunu and say this isn’t necessarily a “new” idea, Ivern takes it to a whole new level. So, let’s familiarize ourselves with Ivern’s abilities.

Release and Season 6

 

Ivern release, in a word, wasn’t very pretty. He had a very low win rate. This isn’t uncommon for new champions. After all, no one has the experience that is possible to achieve with an older champion. Even among this trend of low release win rates, Ivern’s was uncommonly low. Certain numbers and bug were part of the cause, of course. On the other hand, it seemed like the premier cause was how unique Ivern was. What do you build on him? Runic Echoes? Well, he wouldn’t ever be able to use the passive to get mana back. Then, what about Cinderhulk? While it would provide good health, it wouldn’t help him clear the jungle. That’s the main reason you build Cinderhulk. Eventually, people were able to discover that you just don’t finish your jungle item as Ivern, and you go right into his core items.

 

Seeing as Ivern was released at the tail end of Season 6, this is really all that happened to him.

 

Figure 1A: Patch 6.22

Figure 1B: Patch 6.24

Figure 1C: Patch 6.24 Hotfix

Season 7

RedemptionLocket of the Iron SolariArdent CenserKnight's Vow

Season 7 came with some great toys for The Green Father. Specifically, these.

And before we talk about how Ivern was affected in Season 7, we need to talk about what these items ended up meaning for him, because he didn’t use them all throughout the season.

 

Redemption

If you played at the beginning of Season 7, you remember how stupid strong this item was. For anyone who didn’t, or needs a reminder, compare this to live:

Locket of the Iron Solari

Locket of the Iron Solari was reworked shortly after Ivern’s release, removing the unhealthy aura effect in exchange for an item that gave a very strong, but decaying shield. This was key for Ivern at the beginning of Season 7. The support meta for Season 7 was dominated by Zyra and Malzahar. You’d also see MF support as a counter to these in competitive. Having Zyra, Malzahar, or Miss Fortune as your support typically meant not having a Locket of the Iron Solari. That’s where Ivern came in.

Knight’s Vow

Knight’s Vow didn’t make too big of a splash on its release as an item. Partially this was because the champions who used it were not very good. Who wants to play Braum, Tahm Kench, and Alistar when you just get poked out of lane? Well, that’s what was happening. As the item got buffed, Zyra and Malzahar were getting phased out. The age of Karma and Lulu was beginning. That meant that if Ivern rushed Redemption and Locket, he wouldn’t get as much value. So he incorporated Knight’s Vow into his build.

Ardent Censer

Of course, we all know how broken Ardent Censer was in Season 7. Ivern gave just one more way to apply it. Then Ivern could build Knight’s Vow and Athene’s Unholy Grail, which would give him AP from mana regen. That included the mana regen from Hunter’s Talisman that he got while in the jungle. At Worlds 2017, G2 Esports utilized Ivern in the jungle so that their support would be freed up to play a tank. It seemed that Ivern’s role became to bring whatever utility the support doesn’t.

Figure 2A: Patch 7.3

Figure 2B: Patch 7.8

Figure 2C: Patch 7.10

Figure 2D: Patch 7.12

Figure 2E: Patch 7.14

Figure 2F: Patch 7.18

Figure 2G: Patch 7.22 Hotfix

Figure 2H: Patch 7.24

As items began to favor Ivern, certain things came to light. We became well aware of how much BS Ivern’s kit actually had. The “raid boss” power of Daisy, the objective-securing Brushmaker, the route flexibility. All of it was, without lack of a better term, just dumb. There’s a limit to how annoying one champion should be allowed to be. That line is pretty arbitrary, but Ivern definitely passed it. He went pretty far past it too. Season 7 pretty much had nothing but nerfs for Ivern, and rightfully so.

Season 8

Figure 3A: Patch 8.4

Figure 3B: Patch 8.7

Figure 3C: Patch 8.9

Figure 3D: Patch 8.10

Figure 3Ea and 3Eb: Patch 8.12 shield nerfs

Figure 3E: Patch 8.21

Figure 3F: Patch 8.24b

It was clear that the new mastery system was not great for Ivern. It was clear that Summon: Aery was meant to be a replacement for Windspeaker’s Blessing, but it was different for Ivern. Taking Summon Aery means he has to take Sorcery, which is a hard tree for a jungler to get value out of at 3 points. Currently, it seems the most popular option is Manaflow Band, Transcendence, and Waterwalking. All of which don’t seem very good. How is a jungler supposed to stack up manaflow early? Especially one who is particularly weak at skirmishing. Transcendence is fine for CDR, but he reaches his cap pretty easily, and doesn’t care about having much more AP. Especially not by the point he would have 40% CDR. Waterwalking is probably the best one.

Of course, literally days before I finished this article, Ivern was indirectly buffed via the ardent censer changes, as his most popular build at the moment is Hunter’s Talisman, sit on it, never upgrade it, except into a stalker’s blade or skirmisher’s sabre, then get Redemption, Athene’s, Ardent Censer. Although this was a reversion of what I wholly view as unnecessary nerf, I don’t think it does much for Ivern.  Sure, his Redemptions and Triggerseed shields will be stronger once he gets more items than they were before, but that’s just not enough.

Currently, Ivern sits at 1.1% play rate worldwide in Plat+, which is not very good. High elo and coordination are supposed to make Ivern shine. While Riot has tried to bring Ivern back, there were also a lot of changes this season that nerfed him indirectly. See Figure 3A and 3E. The Tracker’s Knife remove was particularly brutal. He’s supposed to be a support jungler. Losing Tracker’s Knife took away his access to one of the key aspects of a support: warding. Not to mention, Trinket cooldowns, were increased again in this season. Hunter’s Talisman no longer gives the literal stat of mana regen. While it functionally does the same thing, it removes the synergy with Athene’s.

A curious aspect of Ivern is that ever since season 7, he has always had at least a decent win rate in Solo queue.  Currently, he sits at a 50.9% win rate. You might take that as a sign that Ivern is actually doing pretty well, but hold the phone. This is where things always get tricky for analysts. When a champion that most people agree is pretty weak has a 50+ win rate %, there may be some other forces at work. For example, last year, the “Master Yi jungle with Kayle top building ardent censer” strategy, inflated Kayle’s win rate artificially. With champions extremely-heavily geared towards utility, like Zilean, Ivern, or Janna, we always have to consider this possibility. Another thing to look at is Ivern’s play rate. It’s horrifically low. Play rate is an underrated stat to help look at viability. Like win rate, it’s also not perfect, as there are those champs who always have high play rate, like Lee Sin, Zed, Yasuo, Riven, Ezreal, etc. Ivern also has a fairly high player base average games, a state measuring the average number of games that someone who plays Ivern will do it. That means that most people who play Ivern are Ivern mains or potentially even Ivern one-tricks. Champions played almost exclusively by one-tricks tend to have a slightly inflated win rate. Sometimes, super strong meta champions don’t even have the best win rates because, well, even the people who are bad at it are doing it.

The Future

As we head into Season 9, the future for Ivern is clouded. He still lacks a cohesive Rune page. He still lacks a consistent build. His most popular option is Athene’s and Redemption. Build, I believe is the crux of the issue for Ivern. Junglers building support items is inherently a balance issue. If it is happening widespread, it pretty much just means that those items are too strong. Ivern, however, is supposed to build those items. He just isn’t that useful as full AP or full tank compared to the many other options. Finding a consistent build is difficult with the limitations that support items have. Ardent censer doesn’t stack. Zeke’s Convergence doesn’t stack. Knight’s Vow doesn’t stack. So he almost needs to change his build every single game. You might say this is what he should do, but there’s a difference between core and situational items. Not having a reliable core definitely hurts Ivern as a champion. I’ll not the issue with Knight’s Vow is a bit less severe since he doesn’t have to link to the same champion. Generally, Knight’s Vow produces the best results when linked to an ADC though. Other champions don’t have as much consistent damage to give you as much healing.

One question I have seen with Ivern several times is “why not just play him as a support?” This seems like a genius idea to his itemization issue, does it not? It actually is! But it presents other issues. As a support, as in bot lane support, Ivern really doesn’t have a passive. Almost everything that he does can be done better by another support. His bushes and ult are still pretty unique.

So what should Riot do to Ivern? Does he need a rework? That’s hard to say. Usually, newer champions are less likely to need large-scale reworks. There’s simply more ideas to try. In Ivern’s case, I think some changes are in order. After all, there isn’t much fluidity in his kit. Each ability kind of stands on its own and does its own thing. I also want to take a look at one of the annoying things still left. His “buff donation”. This allows Ivern to have the buff along with someone else. It’s honestly pretty annoying. Laning against a mid laner with blue buff while your jungler won’t let you have it? Laning against a top laner or ADC who randomly has red buff? That’s the FeelsBadMan. Is it really necessary for Ivern to have the buff too? We’re talking about a champion that easily gets a buff advantage over the enemy jungler. Why am I talking about the strong points of a weak champion? That’s because it does two things. 1) It acknowledges the fact that we can’t just buff the champion arbitrarily. He still has strengths. 2) It identifies potential areas to trim the fat of his kit in favor of buffing other things.

I think trimming the fat and making his kit more fluid, I really do think Ivern needs access to consistent vision. There’s still the issue of build and runes, but that may be solved by giving the champion other changes. Who knows? One day we could see Glacial Augment Ivern rushing Twin Shadows. (Please don’t try in ranked, it is hypothetical.)

One area of attack I have considered is Ivern’s “cheese” identity. One of my favorite names in League coaching and analytics is Han-gyu “Reapered” Bok of Cloud 9. Reapered once said (and I’m paraphrasing his ESL here), “Ivern is not a very good dueling champion in the jungle, but he’s an insane cheese champion.” Ivern’s kit has pretty high cheese value if you look at it closely. He has a ranged root that also functions as a gap closer, he can make bushes that literally turn him into a ranged champion and give him more on-hit damage, and he has a shield that explodes. If Ivern can get the jump on the other jungler with all these, some major cheese can go down. To many junglers, this is the most frustrating part of playing against Ivern. Understandably so, in my view. I’m not a jungler, but being cheesed by a jungler who’s not a strong skirmisher has to be… irritating. I view Triggerseed as a major enabler of this cheese. It is a shield that explodes. It does damage AND mitigates it, all in one ability, in one cast, on a low cooldown. Ivern’s shield only takes two seconds before it explodes. This gimmick is similar to Sion’s W, which takes 3 seconds, AND, if you knock off the shield, it doesn’t pop. Ivern’s still does, so in a 1v1 scenario where you can’t get away, there’s not really any counterplay to it. On the other hand, 2 seconds isn’t a long time for a shield. Look at other champions who can make shields for allies, they tend to last around 4 or 5 seconds. Later on, you also would want to shield your teammates who are least likely to be nearby enemies for the burst: your ADC or mid laner. Imagine if Ivern’s shield duration was extended to 3 seconds, or if the burst mechanic was removed if you remove the shield. Ivern’s cheese value would go down, and he’d be better at what he was supposed to do. That’s one place I think they can tackle Ivern. For now, I label his future as “very uncertain”.