Today is a very special day for longtime League of Legends fans. Today is the day that Riot finally brought Poppy back.
Poppy is one of the oldest champions in League of Legends, and like a lot of old characters in Riot's insanely popular online multiplayer game, she's fallen out of step with the rest of the cast of playable characters as Riot's continued to update its game and add more and more content into it. What's unique about Poppy is she's been that way for years now. Today, Riot revealed how it's going to drag Poppy into the modern era of League of Legends: with a rework so extensive that she basically looks like a new champion altogether. Say goodbye to Poppy "the Iron Ambassador":
Say hello to Poppy, "keeper of the hammer":
Poppy's felt out of place in League of Legends for a while now. As I wrote in a piece about the champion at the beginning of October, the neglect of the champion has made her presence in the game seem increasingly peculiar as the rest of League has continued to mature and modernize while she's remained the same:
The longer that Riot's gone without giving League fans a satisfying solution to their Poppy problems, the more out of place she's come to seem in the game. Gameplay qualities aside, Poppy just looks sort of…off by modern League of Legends standards. Seeing her in action in-game or looking at the splash art Riot's made for her assorted premium skins feels like you're looking at Homer as he was drawn in the nineties pop into an episode of The Simpsons released today.
The reason Riot's repeatedly given for Poppy's sorry state in the game is that her gameplay kit was fundamentally broken, which meant that fixing it would require much more than a simple tweak here or a health buff there. Her balance problems stem from her ludicrously powerful ultimate ability "diplomatic immunity," which casts a shield around her and makes her invincible to all enemy attacks except for a single opponent she targets. Riot told me that Poppy had to be set up with "painful weaknesses" to offset the power of this one spell:
"Poppy's play revolves entirely around her ultimate," Riot said, "which means that major changes to it [have] ripple effects across her other abilities, gameplay role, and dynamics with her team and the opposing team. This means that a Poppy update to bring her kit up to current gameplay standards would require extensive work across the entire champion."
So how did Riot finally decide to redo Poppy? Well she's still a hammer-wielding melee warrior; they have just replaced a few of her in-game abilities. Her new ultimate is an offensive ability that lets her smash her gigantic hammer down onto the ground, sending any enemies caught in its range flying:
Her "E" move "heroic charge" is basically the same as old Poppy's. It lets her lunge forward to tackle an enemy, dealing extra damage and stunning them if they end up colliding with a wall:
That's the only ability that's gone unchanged, however — though it will probably feel different anyways given that it's now going to synergize with an entirely new set of other abilities. Such as her passive, "iron ambassador," which makes Poppy attack with her buckler every few seconds:
Poppy's champion update page describes it as a short-term performance boost that players can plan around to get the most out of its bonuses and extra range:
Every several seconds, Poppy throws her buckler as her basic attack, gaining range and bonus magic damage. Once thrown, Poppy can pick up her buckler to gain a shield, but if an enemy walks over her buckler, they will temporarily destroy it. If Iron Ambassador kills the target, the buckler returns to Poppy instead of falling to the ground.
Her new Q, "hammer shock," is a sort of ground-pound move that damages and slows anything caught in its radius. Then after a beat, the same area Poppy originally hit erupts again to deal the same amount of damage a second time:
Her old Q was a similar hammer-swing attack, but all that one did was deal normal attack damage plus "a flat amount and 8% of the target's max Health as bonus damage." The new Q sounds like it gives Poppy a lot more utility than the old one did — particularly in team fights, or, if she's jungling, when executing an ambush ("ganking" in MOBA-speak) on an enemy in-lane earlier in a match. But perhaps more importantly, it just looks like it's more fun.
Poppy's new moves add a much-needed dose of dynamism to her character when playing as, with, and against her, without holding onto the often-infuriating power of her old ultimate. But the update doesn't just cover her gameplay and balance concerns. On an aesthetic and thematic level, Riot's also reworked her character to once again highlight her hammer — turning her into what sounds like an adorable little fuzzy version of Thor. Her hammer used to be a lot smaller, making her look more like a knight in armour holding a standard sword-and-shield type combo:
She still has the buckler for her new passive ability, but her hammer's gotten a lot longer:
It sticks out from the rest of her character silhouette in-game, making it look like she's wielding some kind of gigantic broadsword that she has to carefully balance against her tiny frame:
Oh, and how could I forget the new splash art. It wouldn't be a League of Legends character update without some new splash art!!
I suppose you could say they did a good job with Poppy's two notoriously (or just famously?) weird-looking skins "Ragdoll Poppy" and "Lollipoppy":
...if the job was to maintain the macabre creepiness of the originals:
The champion update page gives a bit of Poppy's new backstory, saying that she's been tasked with escorting "a legendary hammer to a hero who will become legend." Riot, I think you like using the word "legend" a liiiiittle bit too much:
The hallmarks of a great hero are almost always obvious, especially to the person displaying them. Almost always. Poppy's been tasked with delivering a legendary hammer to a hero who will become legend. Journeying through Runeterra, she uncovers a number of would-be wielders, but never suspects the hammer might have found the right person already. The power of the hammer, the responsibility of her mission. And a whole swath of new abilities to show off her true strength. Poppy's kit's designed to show off her might despite her diminutive stature; whether peeling for your allies by chaining CC like Hammer Shock and Heroic Charge, or plunging into the heart of battle to separate a carry from the crowd, Poppy shows that sometimes all you need in your toolbox is a really big hammer.
I can't say anything for certain about how the new Poppy will work out once she's come into League of Legends, but this new rework has already managed to make me interested in trying out a character I had no interest in playing as before.