In light of Season 11 approaching and the current preseason we’re going through at the end of 2020, it’s fitting to talk about items. LoL has had several unhealthy items in the game’s history. Most items aren’t solely broken by themselves, but simply get abused by champions that have traits which can benefit heavily from the flaw in the item. Then again, some items are just completely bonkers by themselves. Let’s get into some items that broke the game and the strategies they developed.
Side note from author: I have left out Alpha/Beta items, consumables (looking at you mana pot) as well as vision-related items, as those will get their own piece in the future. Know that this isn’t in totality of “broken” items in LoL history, but what I believe to be some of the most ridiculous of them all; don’t worry, there’s still a lot. Enjoy.
Phantom Dancer and Ninja Tabis
If there’s a champion that needs an MC Hammer skin, it’s Jax. Yes I know, thank me later Riot. Phantom Dancer used to have a stat called “dodge”. Dodge allowed for a champion to ignore a basic attack, based on a percentage chance. Think of it like we do critical chance at the moment, just in reverse. The more dodge percentage you had, the more likely the auto attack would deal 0 damage. The mathematical formula for dodge is a little complicated though and didn’t necessarily mean that you would dodge 100% of attacks if you had 100% dodge, but it was still broken enough regardless.
Phantom Dancer used to have 20% dodge, and Ninja Tabis, a popular boots option at the time for nearly all roles, had a 12% dodge. Added to this, Jax’s ability Counter Strike (E) used to give dodge percentage as a passive, and whenever Jax successfully dodged an auto attack, he would stun in a small AOE (similar to the size of his current activated ‘E’ stun). At the 5th skill point, Jax’s dodge was 20%. So, even with just Ninja Tabis and a single Phantom Dancer, Jax’s dodge exceeded 50%. That’s not even the broken part. Phantom Dancer’s were stackable for the passive, meaning that if you got 4 Phantom Dancer’s, Jax had 100% dodge, and you could drop the boots at that point because Phantom Dancer also gave 15% move speed...each. The terror that was Jax in Season 1 was nigh unkillable and the only item that countered dodge was Sword of the Divine, which had an active, granting the user 5 seconds to dish out undodgeable attacks. Yeah Riot, thanks. Oh wait, there’s more.
Riot’s old rune system had a total of 30 rune slots where players could choose base stats to add onto their champion. More armor pen, magic pen, attack speed, attack damage, etc. One of those stats was dodge chance. You could get a maximum of 11% dodge just from runes. What many would do is get 10% dodge, take Ninja Tabis to round it out to 20%, add in Jax’s 20% passive dodge, and buy 3 Phantom Dancers rather than 4. This got you to your power spike quicker.
Dodge was a stat that was in the game until Riot removed from all items and runes in Season 2.
Force of Nature
Force of Nature is one of those items that was surely broken for its time, but wasn’t taken full advantage of. The item gave health, the most magic resist for any single item (at 76) in the game, health regeneration, 10% move speed, and 1% maximum health regeneration, all for 2610 gold.
One of the most ridiculous combos with this item was with Singed and Mundo, both champions which thrive off of health regeneration. Combining this with Spirit Visage, which gave a 20% increase to all health regeneration effects on yourself. This meant that you could have a slightly less current form of Warmogs’ healing effect, because it also increased the passive of Force of Nature, but unlike the current Warmogs, this is one that works in combat. This is the reason why many old school top lane players used to main Singed.
Force of Nature was removed from the game at the end of Season 2.
Named after the great sea serpent from the Hebrew Bible, this item was aptly made to serve as a tank item. Similar to Mejai’s Soulstealer, this item was intended to be a snowballing option for tanks. The item gave 180 HP, and gave 32 HP per stack, and at 20 stacks, your champion takes 15% less damage. Unlike the current Mejai’s Soulstealer which has the user lose 10 stacks if you die, Leviathan was more forgiving, only having the user lose ⅓ of their stacks upon death. Think of a fully stacked Leviathan as the opposite of true damage, and funny enough, it reduced true damage as well. Leviathan was most certainly the best of the stacking options because of how multiplicative the item snowballed tank champions, especially considering how well it synergized with resistances and health. Can you imagine this item existing today?
Leviathan was removed from the game at the end of Season 2.
Sword of the Occult
Since we’re talking about stacking items, it would be remiss to not mention Sword of the Occult. An item which gave 5+ damage for every kill/assist, and already had 5 stacks upon purchase, with a base damage of 10, so you essentially got +35 attack damage. At the maximum stacks (20), Sword of the Occult gave +110 attack damage, which was the most raw attack damage of any item in the game, as well as giving +20% attack speed at maximum stacks. The reason why this item was removed is because raw AD was traditionally hard to gain, and the scale potential of the item, along with crit items meant that the item was just too much for snowballing.
Sword of the Occult was removed in Season 5.
Stark’s Fervor and Aegis of the Legion
These items were considered great and a type of “rally behind me” concept because of their auras, and not because one involved a noble Game of Thrones king.
Stark’s Fervor was an item which gave 20% attack speed, and then gave an aura to allies which gave 20% attack speed, health regen, 20% life steal, and also gave flat armor pen of 20 to enemies. This item was absolutely busted, but wasn’t a wide strategy for the era. The most common champions to pick this up were supports, or bruiser junglers like Olaf, Shyvana and even Master Yi or Tryndamere. If this item were to exist today, it would most certainly break the game due to limiting champion creation for supports, which Pyke and support Pantheon would most certainly benefit from. Additionally, Stark’s Fervor was even reworked into Zeke’s Herald, which was a tank supportive item that gave a lifesteal aura and flat attack damage to teammates, and this would be the more unhealthy version in consideration of the modern meta.
Aegis of the Legion was the worst offender for broken aura items, as it granted magic resist, armor and health regeneration to nearby champions, and also for nearby allied minions. Crucially this went against the ethos that Riot eventually settled on, which is, to not create items, champions or situations which have little to no interaction both by the player controlling it, and the player playing against it. Aegis was a MUST buy item for most supports as the meta slowly developed, and was even purchased on some junglers. The most ridiculous strategy of Aegis was that it would stack auras, but only for both the champions which purchased it (can also only stack twice, not three times if three players buy it). This meant that players would typically stack it in the support and jungle role, and given that it only cost 1900 gold, it was an incredibly efficient buy. Stark’s Fervor also stacked, but it wasn’t often done due to jungler’s prioritizing more tank or damage heavy options.
Stark’s Fervor was reworked in Zeke’s Herald in Season 2, and then completely removed in Season 5.
Aegis of the Legion’s aura was removed in Season 6.
Banner of Command
The predecessor of Aegis of the Legion, as it gave another way for players to interact in a more passive manner on the map, as well as containing the recipe of Aegis of the Legion itself, was Banner of Command. This item quite literally broke the game in terms of balance. The item granted armor, magic resist and health regeneration, but along with that, the active part of it was used on a minion, giving it 40% reduced damage, increased the range of the minion, and 100% increased damage to turrets. The buffed minion was immune to magic damage in the initial release of the item, meaning that a mage champion would basically not be able to kill it, allowing players to use it as a split pushing tool and forcing the opponent to match the split with an AD based champion. While I had covered this item in my ‘Meta History: The Evolution of Minion and Wave Manipulation
’, it cannot be understated how destructive this item was to the meta, as even professional teams across the world started to use this strategy as a way to pull apart the map and use it as a distraction to get multiple objectives around the map, and worse yet, since the top laner would often build this item, it became almost impossible for the opposing top laner to fight against it since they were often a tank champion with little damage, and had a difficult time punching through the 40% reduced damage buff of the minion.
Banner of Command was removed from the game in patch 8.12.
(Zzrot would be mentioned around here as an item that had an influence, but it wasn’t necessarily overwhelmingly impactful throughout the game’s history, especially after the item recipe changed.)
Speaking of esports, there’s a particular reason why Deathfire grasp isn’t in the game anymore, and it almost solely belongs to the most popular esports player in the world, Faker.
Deathfire Grasp gave 100 ability power, 15% cooldown reduction, and most importantly, had an active which dealt 15% of the target champion’s health as magic damage and amplified all magic damage done to the target by 20% for 4 seconds, and had a cooldown of 60 seconds. This item was completely busted, especially in the hands of Faker when he used it on Ahri originally, and then Leblanc later on.
This iteration of the item was removed in Season 5.
While Sunfire Cape wasn’t broken on its own, the item had some very petulant behavior in the early beginnings of the game. For the duration of Season 1, Sunfire Cape’s burning AOE was stackable. This often meant a screaming Garen could run you down and spinning to win wasn’t the thing doing the most damage to your burning corpse. With stacking 5 Sunfire Capes, it would deal 40 damage per second each, or 200 damage per second in this case. Added with the fact this item gave good armor and health, it was an optimal strategy.
The other popular strategy was stacking Sunfire Capes on Evelynn. Before her rework, Evelynn was permanently invisible unless she auto attacked or used a spell. This meant she had enormous pressure on the map very early on (or invisible pressure as I like to call it, hehe). Evelynn would then stand next to you while ganking a lane or even better, invading the enemy jungle, which was the more common function, and slowly killing the enemy jungler by just standing there until she had an HP advantage, to where she would then full combo them to death. This same strategy was used with Twitch, but to a lesser extent given his invisibility was timed.
Sunfire Cape had a unique passive beginning in Season 2.
Philosopher’s Stone, Heart of Gold, Kage’s Lucky Pick
The holy trinity of gold per 10 items, Philosopher’s Stone, Heart of Gold and Kage’s Lucky pick all granted the user 5 extra gold over 10 seconds. Quick mafs tells us that’s 30 gold every minute for each individual item. While not the biggest game changer, these items could be purchased together, meaning that if you diversified your portfolio, you would be getting 90 gold per minute. The most important thing about this strategy wasn’t that it gave the most insane stats and gold efficiency, but that it allowed support players to buy Stealth wards and Vision wards. Ok, let’s rewind here.
A short history lesson on wards. Stealth wards (colloquially called ‘Green wards’) used to be wards that were purchasable, and you could only purchase 3 at a time, but that’s not to be confused with how many a player could place on the map at any given moment. A single player could infinitely litter the map with green wards, that’s if they have the money to do so. The same rules applied to Vision wards (colloquially called ‘Pink wards’). The only problem was that each ward costed 75 gold for green and 125 for pink. That’s where the Gold Per 10 items come in.
Since the job of a support was supposed to be a ward bot, they had no gold income for real items, so players would stack these items to keep their team ahead on vision. Many pro players and streamers popularized this
and would elevate the importance of vision for the rest of LoL history.
Heart of Gold was removed at the end of Season 2. Philosopher’s Stone and Kage’s Lucky pick were removed in patch 3.14. (Although Avarice Blade was also a gold generation item, it only briefly had a passive gold generation stat of 5 gold per 10 seconds, which was immediately reduced to 2 per 10 at the conclusion of Season 2).
Innervating Locket and Mana Manipulator
Innervating Locket would be one of the worst items to exist in the any iteration of the game. Mana Manipulator was the item which provided the recipe into Innervating Locket, but this item would grant 5 mana regeneration per 5 seconds to all nearby allies. This item only cost 300 gold and was a typical purchase for champions like Soraka and Sona.
The final recipe of Mana Manipulator into Innervating Locket gave 30 attack damage, 10% cooldown, 400 HP and 300 mana. The passive would restore mana based on damage taken, and health on mana spent. Additionally, the item gave back 8% missing HP and 3% missing mana for using an ability. You can imagine how wild this gets.
Guardsman Bob, high elo player and streamer at the time, would play Udyr in a showmatch of Ionia vs Noxus. Guardsman Bob would be so unkillable
, that the item would be immediately nerfed following the tournament’s end and eventually removed at the end of Season 1. This tournament also resulted in Riot creating the Ionia Boots of Lucidity because of Guardsman Bob and his team’s victory over the enemy Noxus players.
Innervating Locket was removed at the end of Season 1.
Wriggle’s Lantern and Feral Flare
One of the more controversial items for junglers at the time, Wriggle’s Lantern was a strong jungle item because it was a smorgasbord of everything a jungler could ever want. Armor, damage, lifesteal, extra damage to monsters, increased gold income against monsters, and an active which allowed the user to place a green ward. The item would be reworked to remove the armor stat in Season 4, but then also add the transformation item Feral Flare.
Feral Flare was the transformation item of Wriggle’s Lantern after your champion had killed 25 large monsters. This would normally be difficult to achieve, but since the recipe of Hunter’s Machete and also Madred’s Razors still counted the stacks when killing monsters, you could often have enough stacks to almost automatically transform to Feral Flare once you bought Wriggle’s Lantern. So, Riot would nerf the item and increase the stack requirement to 30, but that was still achievable by 11 minutes on some fast clear junglers like Udyr and Shyvana, something which famous streamer Trick2g heavily abused
The major problem with Feral Flare was that it did too much while also only being 1650 gold (later increased to 1800) overall. The item also scaled infinitely since there was no stack limit, and on top of that, it diversified damage with having a magic damage on-hit passive. Feral Flare was the only jungle item in history that was over 100% cost efficient with just stats alone.This item truly broke the jungle for a while with champions abusing it like Udyr, Shyvanna, Warwick, Nocturne and Master Yi. It cannot be understated how overpowered this item was.
Wriggle’s Lantern and subsequently Feral Flare at the end of Season 4 with patch 4.20...nice.
Some would argue Runeglaive was the most over-tuned item in LoL history, and initially I wouldn’t blame them for thinking that. This item was introduced in Season 5 on patch 5.12, which gave junglers 75% bonus AD (+30% AP) on their next basic auto attack after using an ability (essentially a Sheen), but crucially converted that damage into magic damage. The item also gave 8% mana back on monsters, 10% CDR and 200 Mana. Although intentionally designed for junglers, mid laners started taking smite and Ezreal was one of the prime benefactors.
The strategy was quite simple. Ezreal would start a Doran’s Ring for mana sustain, but also, it increased damage of Runeglaive because of the (+30% AP) buff on the passive once you finally were able to purchase the item. Sorcerer’s Boots were a clear choice since Ezreal’s damage profile shifted to AP with this build. He would then build Luden’s Echo after finishing Runeglaive, which is important because the passive for Luden’s Echo (the splash damage comet effect) would proc with Ezreal’s Q, but also, the way Luden’s Echo works is that any movement or spell casted charges the item to then release the splash damage once it reaches a counter of 100. Ezreal’s Arcane Shift (E) also works for this, making the counter jump significantly since he blinks a good distance.
Runeglaive gave so much pressure with Ezreal, because his Mystic Shot (Q) would automatically proc Runeglaive without requiring an auto attack because of how it’s programmed (even still today Ezreal’s Q procs on-hit effects), and to top it off, Essence Flux (W) scales with AP, so the spell actually started to do significant damage, which was typically not the case with traditional Ezreal builds. As the coup d'etat, Ezreal’s ultimate scales off of AP as well as AD, but the AP scaling is greater, so he would become a significant burst champion with this build
Runeglaive was nerfed immediately on patch 5.13, then nerfed again on patch 5.14 which crucially removed the AOE effect of it’s passive and also stopped converting the passive damage to magic damage, which effectively destroyed this strategy.
Spear of Shojin
One of the last but truly egregious items in recent LoL meta history, Spear of Shojin reminded us why URF mode is it’s own separate game mode and breaks many champion kits based on the precious stat of CDR.
Spear of Shojin gave 50 attack damage, 20% CRD and 250 HP. The real bread winner for this item was the passive, which for 10 seconds, you got 50% bonus attack speed and basic attacks refund 20% of your basic abilities cooldown. This was disastrous to face against, as champions like Jax, Yi, Shyvana, Renekton, and Riven could take advantage of their cooldown combos to obliterate entire teams.
Renekton was especially offensive, prioritizing Black Cleaver, Tiamat and Spear of Shojin. This allowed for a multi-chain stun combo with massive amounts of damage in a short span of time, virtually confirming that the enemy was going to die. This extended Renekton’s scaling, even though traditionally his champion design was meant for big early game power in replacement of falling off late game.
Yi was another disgusting champion with this item, allowing him to continuously Alpha Strike (Q) and dodge CC almost as if it were at will. Riven was an inescapable CDR powerhouse that could chase down anyone. Jax felt like old Jax, where he could dodge all of your attacks for extended periods of time. And lastly, Shyvana’s Twin Bite (Q) already got reduced cooldown, but even moreso now with Spear of Shojin activated, along with her constantly having Burnout (W) available off cooldown
Spear of Shojin would get removed around the beginning of Season 9, or patch 9.3.
There you have it, some of the most broken items throughout LoL history, but have no doubt, there will be more, especially with Preseason 11 upon us. I guess now you know why old school players are having war flashbacks and PTSD from the new Sunfire Cape.
Izento has been a writer for the LoL scene since Season 7, and has been playing the game since Season 1. Follow him on Twitter at @ggIzento for more League content.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games
Special thanks to Fandom.com
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