Riot finally gave Aatrox a little love in patch 7.5 yesterday, and he isn’t so terrible anymore.
The diver has been going through some rough times since his launch back in 2013. He’s never really been able to find himself as a viable champion in any type of meta.
The reason for that lies within the core of his former design. The fact that he had to use his own health to power his abilities was his downfall. Aatrox should have been a damage-dealing diver by every right. He had high burst damage on almost every ability, but he couldn’t build damage items, because his health costs would cause him to die too quickly. Zac, who also uses health to power abilities, can build high amounts of health and has a form of reliable sustain. Zac’s tanky build gives him enough health to negate the bad side effects of having to use health to power abilities.
Aatrox, on the other hand, couldn’t even build tanky if he wanted to. His high percent-health costs on abilities and subpar crowd control made sure of that. Why would you play a subpar tank when you can play Zac, Maokai, Gragas, or Nautilus? Building damage to utilize his burst made him die too quickly, yet building tanky to counter his squishiness made half of his kit useless.
So what did Riot do to fix this?
Most of his abilities were buffed in some way. If Aatrox was the nerdy kid that no one talked to and played Magic: The Gathering at recess with their imaginary friend, then he’s now the slightly older nerdy kid that branched out and made a few more friends and seems a little less lonely. In other words, he’s decent now. Not great, just decent.
Most of his percent-health costs were gutted and removed. The entire health cost on his Q and W (Blood Price) were removed, and the cost of his E was lowered from five percent of his current health to a flat 30 health. Not only that, but the self-heal on his W (Blood Thirst) was changed to scaling from his missing health instead of just doubling in power when he’s below half health. Along with these minor skill changes, his passive was reworked a bit as well. It now operates on a rage-like system (think Gnar and Shyvana). He uses abilities that fill his Blood Well bar, and when it’s full, he gets bonus attack damage, attack speed, and has the ability to revive on death if the revival is off its cooldown.
These buffs will let Aatrox build damage without having to worry about being blown up quite as easily, and they’ll allow him to be a tank without losing too much of his health when using abilities. He still won’t be as strong of a sustain tank as Warwick, but it at least gives him another viable option. This is a step in the right direction for Aatrox, but it isn’t quite enough. He still has some issues that need to be looked at in a full-scale rework.
For example, his all-in dive and crowd control promotes building like a vanguard tank. But if you do that, you can’t build damage or attack speed and end up making his passive and W much less useful. On the other hand, if you build as a damage dealer, when you dive in with his Q, you die before ever having enough time to take advantage of his self-healing W. In that regard, he’s similar to Urgot, who has shields and an all-in ultimate ability like a tank, but promotes building as a marksman.
His kit contradicts itself, and that’s exactly where Aatrox is at the moment as well.