Gangplank once held one of the highest Ban/Pick ratios in competitive play, a staggering 100% at Worlds 2015. Almost two years later and Gangplank is barely even played competitively which begs the question - "What happened?" Here we'll take a look at his history as a champion, his skillset, and his strengths and weaknesses.
A Pirates' History
Gangplank is one of the oldest champions in the game and was among the first 40 champions available in the initial League of Legends release. He was a fairly simplistic champion, barely receiving any changes, going months, even almost a year without having a significant buff or nerf. Even though he was entertaining and easy to play, Gangplank’s gameplay lacked a deep mastery curve, and was an interesting counterplay for his opponents. Due to this, and his overall simplistic play style, Gangplank became one of those champions that you barely see getting played, along the lines of Urgot and Galio. It wasn’t that he was a bad champion, it was that he was fairly one-dimensional, and with champions getting more complex, Gangplank was simply forgotten by the majority of League players.
During the Burning Tides event, Gangplank received a major overhaul, getting a gameplay and visual rework. The rework was intended to give Gangplank a unique tool that players could invest time to master, while retaining aspects of the champion that players know and love. With his updated gameplay, Gangplank’s role as a potent split-pusher was solidified, and players that maximized his windows of power were heavily rewarded. To have a better understanding of Gangplank, let us take a look at his abilities:
Innate: Trial by Fire
“Every several seconds, Gangplank's next melee attack ignites the target, dealing bonus true damage over time and granting a brief burst of movement speed. Destroying a Powder Keg refreshes Trial by Fire.”
“Gangplank fires his pistol at his target, dealing damage and applying on-hit effects. If Parrrley kills a unit, the shot plunders bonus gold. For each Gold plundered, Gangplank gains a Silver Serpent that he can use at the shop to upgrade Cannon Barrage.”
W: Remove Scurvy
“Gangplank consumes a large quantity of citrus fruit, curing all disabling effects and healing him based on his missing health.”
E: Powder Keg
“Places a powder keg that can be attacked by Gangplank or his enemies. If Gangplank destroys a keg, it explodes in an AoE blast that slows and spreads the damage of the attack to all nearby enemies. Other casks within the zone will chain explode. If an enemy destroys the cask, it defuses the explosion and grants gold.”
R: Cannon Barrage
“Signals Gangplank's ship to fire waves of cannonballs at an area. Each wave deals magic damage and slows enemies. Cannon Barrage can be upgraded up to three times.”
Death's Daughter: fires an initial mega-cannonball in the center of the area of effect.
Raise Morale: gives allies within the area of effect additional movement speed.
Fire at Will: increases the rate of fire over the duration of Cannon Barrage.
Abilities description source: http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/Gangplank
Gangplank’s passive, Trial by Fire, provides surprising amounts of damage, with true damage Damage over Time (DoT) capable of obliterating an opponent's health. With the additional speed burst, he has the potential to get in and out of quick fights.
Learning to play the barrel (Powder Keg) minigame is of utmost importance for both Gangplank and his lane opponents. Compared to other melee champs and melee fighters, he has higher effective range. When Gangplank triggers the last hit on his barrel, it explodes, dealing tons of Area of Effect (AoE) damage, but even more significantly, it re-procs his passive. Skilled Gangplank players will set up barrels in strategic locations around the map. The most important aspect of Gangplank is his barrel combo. Amazing Gangplank players know how to fully utilize his combo, from the simple double barrel combo to the difficult but devastating triple barrel combo. But his barrel is not without counterplay. Opponents who are able to get the last hit on the barrel can gain extra gold and will deny Gangplank most of his damage potential.
Another aspect of Gangplank's kit is his ability to affect teamfights without even using teleport, due to the global range of Cannon Barrage. Proper sequencing of his ult upgrades is essential, as the different upgrades provide different benefits, such as providing more mobility with Raise Morale, having huge damage with Death's Daughter and zoning potential with Fire at Will.
With this global presence, Gangplank is a menace in the Rift, being able to influence teamfights while splitpushing, essentially providing immense amounts of pressure.
With a better look at his skillset, we can now see his strengths and weaknesses.
- Insane burst damage,
- Can carry games single-handedly
- Amazing area of effect damage and wave clear
- Decent mobility and sustain
- Can get his core items early due to earning tons of gold
- Global impact, even without Teleport
- Has a lot of slows
- One of the best late game carries
- Too gold reliant
- Has one of the worst laning phase
- Can fall off easily if behind
- Early game is mostly focused on just farming
- Pretty squishy and can be easily bursted down
- If barrels are always neutralized, most of his damage is negated
With the Part 1 of our series taking a look at Gangplank’s different aspects as a champion, Part 2 will take a look at his effect on casual and competitive play, and the reason for his current decline at the competitive level.
Love Gangplank like me? Let us know! And be on the lookout for Part 2!