Nerfs inbound for Zoe and Malzahar, and what that means for the meta

A less oppressive Malzahar would open the door for more assassins.

Image via Riot Games

Malzahar and Zoe, two of the most irritating mages to lane against, are being nerfed very soon, according to Riot’s post on the official League of Legends forums today.

Both champions are extremely popular, with Malzahar at a six percent playrate and Zoe at 12 percent, according to League stats site Champion.gg. They’re played so much for very different reasons, though. Malzahar is an extremely easy champion with strong tools for stopping both mages and assassins alike without having to do anything too extraordinary. His damage is respectable, too, making him an excellent choice for climbing the ranked ladder.

Zoe, on the other hand, is very difficult. She is fun to play, however, and her big bursts of damage are very alluring for anyone trying to cheese their way to a win. If you can’t grasp her complicated kit, she’s not nearly as useful as anyone playing Malzahar. That happens a lot, too, because her winrate in high elo games is one of the lowest.

Those same strengths are exactly why both of them are being changed. You can’t visit the official game forums or the League Reddit community for more than a few minutes without noticing posts complaining about one or the other.

Zoe’s problem, her burst damage, is a little more urgent than Malzahar, so she might be nerfed in next week’s patch without having time for her changes to be tested on the PBE beforehand. If she isn’t nerfed next week, she will be in Patch 8.2, which is when Malzahar’s changes will roll out as well.

All of her damage stems from one ability, her Paddle Star, so even if it does deal absurd amounts of damage with very few items supporting it, it’s difficult to nerf. If the damage from her one damaging ability is lowered, then she’ll feel it much more than any other champion would if one of their abilities were nerfed. For that reason, we’ll probably see nerfs to her other abilities, like Sleepy Trouble Bubble, before we see straight damage or cooldown nerfs on her Paddle Star.

Malzahar doesn’t have quite the same issue, because he’s more well-rounded as a champion than Zoe is. His power is fairly evenly doled out between his Voidlings, Nether Grasp, Malefic Visions, and Call of the Void. So he could almost just receive a blanket nerf to his cooldowns or mana costs and be just fine.

Both of these powerful control mages being nerfed will have a rippling effect on the meta, because it opens the door for more assassins and close-range burst mages to play on even footing. Of course, Xerath is still running rampant, but he’s a little easier to get close to compared to Zoe and Malzahar.