Picture this: you’ve blindly locked in a champion toplane, ready to go toe-to-toe with whatever melee lane bully comes your way. Darius? It’s fine, we outscale. Renekton? Haha, nice joke – Spear of Shojin is removed. Pantheon? Alright, a little more difficult to deal with… Mordekaiser?
Wait, what? What can you even do here?
You kill him three times in the first ten minutes but then just get completely ruined in the sidelane 1v1 later. If Mordekaiser decides to teamfight, heaven help your marksman in their escape from the Death Realm. Once he has access to both his Rylai’s Crystal Scepter and Liandry’s Torment (and a Hextech Protobelt for good measure), the Iron Revenant will just run you down. Dodged his skillshots? Good for you, but you’re slowed by his incidental damage either way and will slowly be mowed down.
It’s no question that the champion is frustrating – and borderline oppressive – to play against, but there has to be a reason why Riot haven’t touched his stats or ability pool to the extent of Sylas, Akali, or even Garen. But what’s the developer’s reasoning behind allowing the scourge of many a toplane and omnipresent ban to persist in his current state.
Mordekaiser continues to dominate solo queue patch after patch
Firstly, let’s take a look at Mordekaiser’s raw statistics in solo queue. In patch 9.23 – essentially, from the end of November until the end of December – Mordekaiser reigned supreme, sat at a comfortable third in ban rate and was first in pick rate for top laners.
A champion should never rank highly in both of these metrics at the same time, as it indicates that inexperienced players are finding just as much success as dedicated one-tricks.
What can we draw from this data? Well, that Mordekaiser on 9.23 was both underestimated in the ban phase and people really underestimated just how much of a game-changer the reworked Conqueror rune made for the champion.
On 9.24, the champion remained on top for pick rate, given his innate safety and the fact that he can escape from almost every lane unscathed. Consider also that the Season 10 map changes make playing around the bottom half of the map a lot more rewarding (Drakes and so forth), meaning champions like Mordekaiser that can hold their own on one side of the map are a high priority.
Admittedly, his winrate has been falling down a slippery slope due to his stickiness being toned down, with the removal of an effective 23% movement speed in combat coming through on the most recent patch. The patch is still fresh however, so expect the Iron Revenant’s winrate to stabilise – and, potentially, watch his ban rate come down a peg.
Oh, and he dominates in the pro scene, too. Great.
In both of the major off-season tournaments that we’ve seen so far, Mordekaiser has made his presence felt. While his performance overall in the Kespa Cup was polarizing – a clean 50% win rate across a handful of games – China’s domestic giants either picked or banned him in 71% of games, a combined 51 between his picks and bans, piloting him to victory in over 64% of games.
Again, having a champion that isn’t particularly weak early but evolves into a 1v9 machine later on is… somewhat unhealthy, to say the very least.
Able to turn the tides in a 1v2 scenario with the push of a button, it felt like Mordekaiser had more highlight-reel-worthy plays than any other champion in that event. Pretty weird for a champion with no skill shots, huh? The fact that he was allowed to exist in a fairly-strong-but-not-OP state for a few months is in itself somewhat questionable, but fine. The issue is that the champion was busted from the moment the reworked Conqueror hit live – nearly two months ago – and remains in at least a similar state to this day.
Between Conqueror’s rework and the present day, he has been the recipient of one nerf. One. His last one prior to this was in July, in an effort to push him into professional play viability. I’d say Riot accomplished that, but playing versus the champion even now is frankly a miserable experience.
Dealing with Mordekaiser
That isn’t to say that there aren’t clearly defined ways to deal with Mordekaiser. Picking scaling 1v1 laners like Fiora (who can parry the Death Realm cast) and Camille seems to be the way to do it for the Chinese and Korean professional players that overcame his obnoxiousness, often killing the Mordekaiser themselves inside the Death Realm. Quinn has also been seen as an option, but she either goes crazy in the first 20 minutes or does nothing at all – and putting a ten-ton weight on your own back to actively force plays early isn’t something everyone enjoys.
Something else to consider is the champion’s relative immobility. The aforementioned dip in winrate will no doubt add to the frustration felt by Mordekaiser players when they clumsily amble towards a target, especially if their squishy of choice takes a Quicksilver Sash to escape the Death Realm.
I think that Mordekaiser is problematic, due to his ability to make the other top laner’s life a living hell in the lane phase for some champions and in splitpush scenarios for others. The lack of a clear identity adds a degree of unpredictability to the champion, and his ability to either split and take your base or join a teamfight to ruin a win condition or two is pretty damn obnoxious.
At the end of the day, I have to point my finger at Conqueror pushing Mordekaiser over the edge. Toplane being a complete island almost entirely decided by pick matchups – of which Mordekaiser loses only maybe 2 or 3 – also doesn’t help his case.
Maybe Mordekaiser isn’t the issue after all, and you guys (and I) just need to get good.