Despite being one of the original 40 champions League of Legends released with, Warwick has seen professional play a grand total of nine times. Every last one of those occurred in 2014; since then, the werewolf has lived in exile, slinking through the bottom floor of tier lists across the internet.
Four months ago, though, stubborn Warwick players were given a glimmer of hope: in one of Riot’s regular developer blogs, they announced that he was their next target for a major rework. Only a few days ago, on their lore-dedicated website, Riot released the lab notes of another character, Singed, describing a series of grisly experiments on an abducted man. Though the identity of the victim was danced around merrily, the metallic claws were enough of a clue for fans of the bloodthirsty wolfman.
Today, the developer confirmed our suspicions, releasing a cinematic teasing the arrival of the newly dubbed “Wrath of Zaun” in which he shreds a pair of gas mask-wearing gentlemen in an oversized boiler room. Warwick will be on the prowl any day now, but are there any indications of what the champion will play like?
In the blog post announcing Warwick’s rework, Ryan “Reav3” Mireles explained their approach to revamping the character: “Currently Warwick is very beginner friendly. We actually want to embrace that and push it even further than it is now. We want Warwick’s gameplay to actually teach new junglers how to be an effective jungler. Right now Warwick can’t gank until level 6, but what if Warwick’s kit actually encouraged players to gank often and early?” Right away, that implies a high level of sustain while clearing camps, as well as a more regular and reliable form of crowd control.
Riot has shown a reticence to point-and-click abilities in recent reworks, especially with high-impact abilities. Ryze’s nuke, for example, was reshaped into a skill shot, as was Taric’s stun. Even Rengar’s Q, which was once a simple auto-attack bonus, is now a close-range ability he has to actually land. The idea behind these changes, according to Riot’s design philosophy, is to give people more counter-play options than simply knowing the range of an ability and staying out of it.
With this in mind, it’s likely that Warwick’s kit will be almost unrecognizable after his transformation. At the moment, two of his most important abilities are point-and-click. His Q, Hungering Strike, deals damage to a target and returns a portion of it as health for Warwick. His ultimate, Infinite Duress, lets him lunge at a target and hold them in place while he takes a few swipes out of their health bar. Both of these are likely to see major changes, if not replacement altogether.
His W, Hunter’s Call, is also likely to see changes. When Warwick uses Hunter’s Call, he and any nearby allies gain a bonus to attack speed. That’s it; there are no real decisions to be made regarding when to use or not use the ability, and that’s anathema to Riot’s current game design approach. In an interview with The Meta’s Justin Groot, Greg Street, the lead game designer for League of Legends, described why they changed Vladimir’s Q: “If you could have a dipping bird hitting ‘Q,’ that was the right answer. Whenever we see something like that, we try to fix it. The answer to ‘when should I use my Q’ should almost always be ‘well, it depends.’”
And as long as we’re baselessly speculating, we can turn to the flavor. Regeneration has always been central to Warwick’s character, and there are clues in Singed’s lab notes that it will stay that way. At one point during the experiment, the mad chemist returns to find that his test subject’s severed hand has begun to grow back: “Even now, hours after the aborted procedure, flesh continues to grow and outpace the formation of misshapen bone.”
The cinematic also hints at identifying features of the reworked werewolf. When the poor, hunted sap in the teaser cuts his hand on a jagged piece of metal, Warwick can smell it in the air; the alchemical plumbing all over him even changes a different color. His E, Blood Scent, formerly helped Warwick to track down fleeing, injured targets, so it’s likely we’ll see some version of that ability on the big furball going forward.
To sum up, we predict nu-Warwick will have reliable crowd control, plenty of sustain, and some version of Blood Scent. Now that we’ve grasped at every straw we’ve been given, there’s not much more to do but wait until more details are released.