Aatrox is one of our top candidates for whenever we tackle divers in a class update, thanks to some pretty fundamental game health problems. Knowing that, we’ve been holding off on balance tweaks on the Darkin Blade until we’d had a chance to solve some of those issues. To be frank, he’s been left in that state for far longer than we’d intended, and we should have tried a minor pass on his problems long ago. In Patch 7.5, we decided to roll up our sleeves and do what we could to make Aatrox more safely tuneable.
When Aatrox is ahead, he feels like a god of war, dishing out tons of damage and healing through anything short of a full team’s worth of focused punishment. Blood Thirst’s healing gets stronger as Aatrox loses health, meaning getting him low just makes him harder to kill. Even if you do burst through his lifesteal, you have to kill him a second time thanks to Blood Well’s revive effect.
But when he’s behind? To access the strength of Blood Well, Aatrox has to bleed his own health through his abilities, which might just get him killed. And if (when) he does die, he’s even weaker until his passive resurrection returns.
This razor-thin line between winning and losing makes Aatrox one of the clearest cases of the design problem we refer to as “feast or famine”. He needs better ways to pick himself back up from an early disadvantage, and in return, opponents need better ways to play around him when he gets ahead.
With that in mind, here’s what we’re doing.
Aatrox fills his Blood Well through his abilities. When it fills entirely, the Well begins to empty over 4 seconds, giving him a new buff - Blood Rush - for the duration.
While under the effects of this buff, dealing or taking damage versus champions will fully refresh its duration (and fully refill the Blood Well).
Blood Rush - Aatrox gains 25% base attack damage and 20 - 50% attack speed (scaling with level). Upon taking fatal damage, Aatrox will revive and recover 30% of his max health. Aatrox cannot revive more than once every 180 - 120 seconds.
We’re starting by giving Aatrox and his opponents clearer signals about when Aatrox is The Darkin Blade, and when he’s just a bad dude with a blade. Instead of slowly scaling up with Blood Well, Aatrox has a new state - Blood Rush - that activates when the Blood Well’s full, giving Aatrox more clear “regular” vs “overdrive” states.
Health costs reduced significantly or removed. Blood Thirst heal scaling shifted to percentage missing health. Blades of Torment now scales with AD.
W1 - Blood Thirst
W2 - Blood Price
When we first designed Aatrox, we thought the “risky drain tank” fantasy would be a cool strategic niche for Aatrox to fill. We no longer think it’s sustainable to double down on the risk Aatrox already takes as an often squishy fighter by adding significant health costs to his abilities. This iteration of Aatrox will no longer bleed himself dry from using his abilities.
When it comes to Blades of Torment, it is often used to mitigate risk, allowing Aatrox to farm or harass from a distance. As such, some cost seems appropriate. However, we’re converting the current health percentage cost on Blades of Torment to a flat one, while also changing Blood Thirst’s heal from AD scaling to a missing health percentage.
We hope that this gives tanky fighter items - and perhaps the occasional pure defensive item - a better home in Aatrox’s inventory, by making it less counterintuitive to build health. With more opportunities to supplement his sturdiness, Aatrox can leap into scrappy fights and have enough time to slash people up in Blood Rush without immediately collapsing.
While this round of changes doesn’t get Aatrox where he should be in the long-term (it’ll probably take a more long-term project to accomplish that), we hope we’ve made enough strides here for him to be buff-and-nerf-able state until that update comes.