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Why is Zac so hard to balance?

He is my blobby boy, but he is far from perfect.

Riot Games

Zac is one of, if not my favorite champion in all of League of Legends. From his cool and unique look to his horribly broken mechanics, Zac feels like he really nails the weird, science experiment thing. He is fun as hell and looks good doing it. But for all the wonderful things about Zac, he has problems — problems that Riot can’t seem to fix.

Look, sometimes games have characters that are difficult to balance, but Zac has been feast or famine since his release. Zac came out in early 2013. I know that off the top of my head because he was the newest champion when I started playing, having just been released.

Since his release, Zac has either been one of the most powerful junglers in the game, or a pick that is so bad you may as well just surrender.

Once he was finally nerfed into the dirt in Season 3, it took over a year for him to really come back into his own. But this was a time when Riot would habitually nerf a champion into non-existence rather than make smaller, more calculated decisions. Riot has learned to balance in a way that won’t remove your favorite champ from play for years, but for Zac it seems that nothing has changed.

When he was mini-reworked during the recent tank update, he sky-rocketed to one of the most powerful champions in the game. In fact, it seemed that no matter what game type you played, Zac would be banned on both teams, out of sheer fear. Between being perma-banned and now, Zac has received nerf after nerf after nerf until he sits at the pitiful place he is in now: the third worst jungler in Patch 7.16.

Why does this keep happening?

How is this fair to Zac enthusiasts like myself? Well, sometimes a champion is designed with an ability so good that they can never be balanced again; Elastic Slingshot is that ability. For those unfamiliar, his E lets him stretch out his body and fly a considerably long distance through the air. If he lands on anyone, he does damage and knocks them up. It is his key spell, his entire identity and to remove it would be like taking him out of the game and replacing him with someone new.

Elastic Slingshot causes problems, specifically because of the range that it has. Once it has been maxed, Zac can fling himself from his red buff and land on his mid lane tower. The range is absolutely beautiful, but it hardly feels fair when added alongside the rest of his kit.

Zac’s niche is as a long range engager, but once he gets up close, he has a lot of tools to help him out. He can slam people together, pick them up and carry them to his team or just spam W over and over again until it percent-of-healths away his enemies’ health bars. The new ult is interesting and the new Q is thematically brilliant. Both of these abilities really add to Zac’s kit and make him feel great. By why does he have percent of health AoE damage on his W?

The true heart of the problem is his W, Unstable Matter.

Not only is Unstable Matter one of the most boring spells in League of Legends, it is also very powerful against any target. It can take up to eight percent of a target’s health away in one go and has only a five second cooldown.

Even better, when Zac picks up one of his passive blobs, the cooldown is lowered even further. This, paired with Zac’s CC, makes him one of the stickiest, tankiest characters in the game. And once he gets on you, everyone is gonna get hit by Unstable Matter.

So why don’t we change it?

If we remove his percent of health damage, we make Zac into a team fighter who relies on allies to deal damage. That is exactly what he should be, instead of the high damage disaster that he is right now. If we allow W to suck in Zac’s passive and apply the new brittle effect, it allow us to tank actively while also helping out our allies.

Here is my makeshift tooltip for this proposed reworked W:

Unstable Matter CD: 20/16/12/8/5 Temp. max HP lasts 4/8/12/16/20 seconds No cost

Zac’s body contorts as he pulls all of his Cell Division blobs to him at once, healing for the appropriate amount and gaining temporary max health if healing past his normal health bar. Enemy champions struck by returning blobs will have brittle applied to them, causing the next immobilizing effect that they receive to last for 30 percent longer.

Returning blobs briefly stun and deal damage to neutral monsters and minions.

An ability like this encourages Zac to use his other abilities as much as he can (although it may require a more frequent spawn rate adjustment from his passive, perhaps when he takes a certain amount of damage) and then interact interestingly with his environment. Similarly, it doesn’t punish Zac’s foes from standing too close to him, as brittle won’t do much if Zac is alone. Finally, allowing Zac to make opponents brittle can really allow his teammates to take advantage of his engage.

I love Zac and I want to see him played. But in his current state, it is hard not to see why Riot can’t seem to keep his head above water. Despite just seeing changes earlier this year, Zac needs some love in the W department. Zac is fun to watch and fun to play, but none of it matters if he is too OP to ever last more than a week.