Teemo, nicknamed “Satan,” is such a famously infuriating champion to go against in League of Legends that many players (myself included) recoiled in terror upon hearing that he was getting buffed late this summer. But apparently his changes weren’t enough, because today Riot came back with even more.
For those unfamiliar, Teemo is an adorable little fuzz monster (officially known as a “Yordle” in League lore) that relies heavily on stealth and poison-based abilities to take out his opponents. When standing still out of combat, he becomes invisible to enemies.
This pairs with his ranged poison dart attack, which blinds its targets (making them unable to attack for a short period) and deals damage to them over time—a combination that leads to many frustrating deaths for people trying to run away.
And then there are his “noxious traps,” which are essentially invisible landmines that slow an enemy who walks over them while also dealing damage over time.
Despite the many obvious factors that’ve made Teemo a terror to play against since he first strolled into League of Legends oh so many years ago, the infamous Yordle hasn’t been considered a viable champion pick for high-level amateurs and professional players for a long time. He’s had no real presence in League’s pro scene since its inception in 2011.
How can a champion that everyone loves to hate for being so insanity-inducing also be so weak he’s not really considered viable? The short explanation is that a lot of the things that make him frustrating for normal League players to play against are the same things that make him weak in top-level competition. All those deadly traps he lays might be a real hassle for someone like me, for instance, but professional (or almost professional)-level players can use a number of in-game items and careful map awareness to make Teemo’s biggest threat a useless one.
In the 5.15 patch that came out over the summer, Riot acknowledged Teemo’s current weaknesses and proposed a way to begin fixing him up. They did this by boosting his stealth passive “camouflage,” making him go into stealth mode faster and increasing the attack speed boost he gets when leaving stealth. And they tweaked his mushroom traps in a few key ways: dramatically increasing the range in which Teemo can cast the noxious traps and adding an ability to bounce off each other for even longer casting distances, but also increasing the time it takes for the traps to arm themselves and cutting the amount of time they remained on the map by half—from ten minutes to five.
Riot wanted to make Teemo a more nimble fighter with these changes. “The big idea for 5.15 was to broaden Teemo’s traps applications (trapplications?), allowing him the option to convert advantages from a solo lane to teamfights,” Riot’s Patrick “Scarizard” Scarborough explained today in the 5.20 patch notes. The problem, as he sees it, is that Riot “drained too much power in the process.” In an attempt to administer a “booster shot” to his traps, Riot’s now decreasing their arm time and cooldown:
ARM TIME 1.5 seconds ⇒ 1 second
COOLDOWN 35/31/27 seconds per charge ⇒ 34/28/22 seconds per charge
Scarborough said these changes help “Teemo’s reliability across all phases of the game, no matter how you choose to terrorize your enemies.” The arm time adjustment reverses the change from 5.15, while the drop in cooldown times seems to partially offset the fact that they chopped their duration in half...or just to try and further augment Teemo’s versatility and team fighting capabilities.
5.20’s Teemo tweaks sound well and good for giving the guy a little extra juice. But it definitely seems like Riot’s attempt to augment the champion’s dwindling viability over the summer didn’t really succeed. And I’m not convinced that any surface level changes to Teemo’s character stats will succeed in making him more viable. Even describing his in-game ability kit like I did just now, I realize that Teemo just sounds kind of...odd relative to the current League of Legends meta. Like the game has grown past the point where he was a super relevant champ.
The only thing to really bring Teemo back into the fold will probably end up being an ambitious character rework like the ones Riot’s been doing a lot of lately. Then Teemo’s viability is really just a question of when Riot will get around to fixing him up—if they decide he really needs to be fixed in the first place.