I Respect It: Ahri

“I Respect It” is my new feature where I, as a Dota player, highlight a character design from a non-Dota MOBA, and explain what makes it so fascinating. Today, we’re starting with Ahri, from League of Legends.

ahribackground

Now, let’s get this out of the way first… we’re not talking about Ahri because of her visual design. Certainly, there’s nothing problematic about drawing inspiration from Japanese folklore about kitsune and nine-tailed foxes- I even applaud it- but the fact that they felt the need to make her a slutty kitsune is as depressing as it is expected. Women in video games have been oversexualized for ages, and MOBAs are perhaps the worst offenders. Given the need to make heroes appealing and iconic at first glance, character designers regularly give them impractical, revealing armor and massive breasts. When called out, they play lip service to the concept of doing better, then go back to the same sexist designs. Let’s set that conversation aside for a later date, and discuss her combat design.

Ahri is listed as a mage/assassin in official League of Legends information. Their hero categorization overcomplicates things, so let’s get right to the point- she specializes in dealing massive amounts of magical damage, forcing fights when the enemy doesn’t want them, and swiftly finishes them off with powerful multi-target magic. She’s fragile and runs out of mana quickly, but when she’s ready for a fight, it’s gonna be a bloody one.

One of the most interesting aspects of League’s design is that every character has a unique passive ability, accessible without leveling it up. Even at level 1, characters feel distinct- perhaps their attacks put a debuff on the target, or maybe they have constant health regeneration when not under fire. I’m sure this will come up regularly in future installments of this feature, but sadly it’ll get short shrift today, because Ahri’s passive is pretty… boring. Every time one of her spells hits an enemy, she gains a charge. When she gets to nine charges, her spell will heal her when it lands. It’s useful in sustaining your offense, but it doesn’t significantly change her gameplay. I can see a situation where knowing that you’ll get the heal is the difference between running and fighting, but otherwise, it’s not worth discussing.

Her Q is a spell called Orb of Deception. It’s a ball of magic that moves like a boomerang- she throws it in the indicated direction, and then it zips back to her. On the way out, it deals magical damage, but on the way back it deals true damage- a type that ignores any kind of resistances you may have. The return will always hit harder than the initial throw, and if you position it just right, you can hit an enemy (or even several enemies) with both. Beyond dealing decent damage with a short cooldown, it’s also great for harassment- given that the return hits harder than the throw, it encourages enemies who’ve been clipped by the first part to back off lest they be hit by part two as well.

It’s great for clearing waves of creeps, and also an effective parting gift before running- the ball has some travel time, after all, so if you run backwards after throwing it, the return will cover much more ground, making pursuit of Ahri a painful experience. It’s Ahri’s bread and butter, and while it’s not the fanciest skill in the game, its finer details make it a very flexible damage spell.

The fox lady’s W is quite simple- she summons three wisps of flame that hover over her shoulder, and after a brief delay they lock on and hit nearby enemies. They prioritize heroes over creeps, and can hit the same enemy multiple times, but with each successive hit on the same target, the damage is significantly reduced. There’s not much finesse in using this one- you either active it as you’re about to charge in, or you press it as you run to ward off pursuers. As it is a mostly automated spell that you have very little control over, there isn’t too much you can do with it tactically.

Ahri’s E is where things get really interesting- it’s another manually aimed spell, called Charm. It does around half again the damage of her Orb of Deception, and amplifies the damage taken by the target for 6 seconds. What’s more, it’s a unique form of crowd control. When it hits, the magic charms the enemy, causing them to slowly and harmlessly walk towards Ahri’s current position, unable to act. It doesn’t last long- from 1 to 2 seconds depending on the rank of the spell- but it’s more than enough time to push someone completely out of position and destroy them. It calls a single target out, and forces them into a fight whether they want it or not.

All of this is amazingly powerful, but it gets worse for the enemy- Charm has a greater range than any of Ahri’s other spells. When two groups are lined up, eyeing the other and looking for a chance to engage, they’re measuring their distance very closely to make sure they don’t get attacked before they’re ready to fight. Charm completely ruins that positioning- if you’re staying just outside of range for your team’s spells, you’re still in range of Ahri’s Charm. If she lands that, one of your teammates is screwed, and you either have to leave them to die, or fight when the situation is against you to try and save them.

The alternative is staying just outside of Charm’s range… at which point you’re safer, perhaps, but you’re being completely defensive. You won’t be able to effectively engage from that distance, and if you try to move closer, preparing for a fight, out comes the Charm. Like any ability in any MOBA, there are some heroes who have an answer to this situation, but the vast majority are bullied by the mere existence of this ability. The other side of it, though, is that it’s Ahri’s only disable- if you see it whiff, you know that she has no other way of taking you out of the fight, and you’re free to engage as you choose. Missing a Charm with Ahri is heartbreaking, and landing it spot-on is bliss.

With her ultimate, Ahri’s toolset is completed- it offers mobility and incredible, destructive power all in one. With a click, she dashes in the indicated direction, firing off magical bolts at up to three enemies- again, prioritizing heroes, though this one cannot hit the same target more than once. The trick is that it’s not just one use- after activating it the first time, you can dash twice more before it goes on cooldown, with each one generating its own bolts. Altogether, the three dashes allow Ahri to zip through the middle of a team fight, dealing major magical damage with each dash. The mobility is as important as the damage- it makes for a great escape and pursuit, but in a game with so many manually aimed spells, it also makes her remarkably hard to hit in a fight. Many heroes have to choose between positioning themselves or dealing damage at any moment- with Ahri’s ultimate, the two are one in the same.

Ahri’s abilities create a character who can effectively call out single targets for surprise kills, but truly comes alive in a team fight. She forces the fight before the enemy team is ready, then zips around the middle of the melee dealing massive amounts of magical damage. If the enemy focuses on her, she’s going to die pretty quickly- she’s pretty squishy by nature, and none of her abilities offer much in the way of protection. She’s a “live fast, die fast” kinda hero- and when she charges in, somebody is going to die, be it you or her.