Equalizing the Fight - A Look at the Power of Rumble's Ultimate



Thu 27th Apr 2017 - 10:28am

Rumble has been seeing a lot of competitive play the past couple years, and this year is no different for the mechanized yordle. He’s the only champion in the game to utilize the “heat” mechanic, which makes him a unique but also challenging champion. Rumble is perhaps most known for his ultimate, Equalizer. The ability is packed with both utility and damage which makes it one of the most powerful ultimates in the game… if it’s used correctly. So, what makes a good Rumble ultimate?

Let’s start with the basics. The ability text reads:

Rumble deploys rockets down the target path (can be fired in any direction from any point within range) landing in a line over 1 second and lasting for 5 seconds. Enemies within the rocket line take damage every second and are slowed by 35%.

The Equalizer has a cast range of 1700, and the rocket path is 1000 units long. It does 130/185/240 magic damage per second with a 30% AP scaling. The longer the enemy stands on the Equalizer, the more damage it deals. This is why positioning the Equalizer, which we will talk about later, is so crucial. Lining up the Equalizer in a way that makes the enemy unable to escape the damage makes for the best Equalizers. One important thing to note is that the Equalizer's burn damage still applies even if the enemy champion is standing slightly off the spell animation. The burn damage also applies for a little bit after a champion has stepped off the burn field.

It also used to be that the ultimate did an initial burst damage as soon as it was cast, but it was patched a while back. Importantly, the change made it so that positioning the ultimate became more important than ever. If we could imagine the perfect ultimate, all enemy champions would be sitting on the Equalizer for the full five second duration, taking massive damage over time and burning to death. With the slow from the Equalizer, Rumble’s team could quickly get in range to cast their own spells and win the teamfight.

But, we’ll likely never get that perfect ultimate. The closest we can come to that is if there are fights in narrow corridors. Rumble shines in these teamfights around the Baron pit and if a team is caught out rotating around the map. One of the most memorable Equalizers is from way back in 2013 at the All-Star event when China’s PDD laid down a perfect Equalizer against the GPL All-Star team. 

PDD's Equalizer from 2014 All-Star Weekend

The GPL Team had just caught out XiaoXiao in the tight pathway near the blue side blue buff. On their way out, PDD laid down an Equalizer that covered the entire pathway dealing massive damage to the GPL team. As you can see in the image above, the Equalizer was put in a perfect position to catch every member of the GPL team on the way out. On top of the Equalizer damage, PDD casts his Flamespitter and Zhonya’s Hourglass to obliterate the enemy team. There was no chance that the GPL team could escape the damage, as the slow forced them to walk directly over the Equalizer or Flash out.

The power of the Equalizer is clearly visible here in these tight spaces. Narrow pathways in the jungle, or tight spaces like in the Dragon or Baron pit make for great places to take advantage of the Equalizer's huge damage potential as the burn path covers the entire width of the area. But what about in teamfights not happening in tight spaces. What makes a good Equalizer then?

Back in 2014 at Worlds, a North American team beat a Korean team for the first time at the World Championship. The game was decided by one crucial teamfight, and of course, one Equalizer. Cloud9’s Balls laid down a brutal Equalizer right in the center of the mid lane which allowed C9 to win the teamfight and the game right after.

C9 Balls' "$75,000" Equalizer from 2014 Worlds Against Najin White Shield

Najin White Shield was attempting to catch Balls out with an Elise Cocoon and a flank by Zefa’s Twitch. However, Balls successfully Flashed out and this left a huge opening for Cloud9. Seeing the opportunity, Balls dropped the Equalizer across four members of NWS.

The reason why this Equalizer was so good was because it created a huge line where NWS could not push forward. Twitch wanted to assassinate anybody who was scattered throughout the mid lane. However, Balls’ Equalizer made it incredibly difficult. If Twitch wanted to damage Corki, he would have to step forward and walk through the Equalizer taking massive damage. If Twitch wanted to help the skirmish going on above him, he would have to walk upward, again through the Equalizer. Being a carry, Twitch couldn’t afford to do this and had to retreat backwards to get out of the Equalizer and forcing him out of the fight. As a bonus, the Equalizer was doing damage to Nami and Elise, as well as barely touching Kayle at the top. This allowed C9’s team to quickly fight off the rest of the team and Corki to pick off the retreating Twitch.

Balls' Equalizer demonstrated the zoning power of the Equalizer. The Equalizer effectively creates a line which cannot be crossed unless a champion is willing to take lots of burn damage. Carries cannot walk past the line or must retreat if they are sitting on top of the Equalizer making for favorable fights for the Rumble's team. Even tanks have a hard time walking over the Equalizer due to the slow as most Rumbles itemize a Liandry's Torment which shreds through tanks. 

While we saw the power of the Equalizer in a tight zone with PDD’s Equalizer, we see the zoning potential offered by Balls’ use of it. It forced the main carry on NWS to back off, else be burned alive by the Equalizer. The last usage we'll look at is in lane. In the event of a gank, a skillful Rumble can use the Equalizer to turn overcommitted ganks to his benefit. Look at this Equalizer from C9’s Impact from Worlds 2016.

C9 Impact's Equalizer that turned a gank into a 2-for-1 at Worlds 2016.

IM’s Avoidless on Rek’Sai had just committed to the gank by Flashing and knocking up Impact. However, Impact still had his Flash and AmazingJ did not have the damage to kill him in time. Either because of miscommunication or overconfidence, Rek’Sai starts diving Rumble under the turret. Seeing this opportunity, Impact immediately casts the Equalizer along the Rek'Sai's escape path. Without Flash, Rek’Sai has no ways to get out of the Equalizer and ends up dying to the burn and turret damage. Ekko also ends up dying trying to finish Rumble off (which he does) giving Impact and C9 the 2-for-1.

It may be true that Impact could have aimed the Equalizer slightly more diagonally, as the burn field is a tiny bit wider than the visual box suggests. It probably would have done more damage to Ekko that way as well. However, we can see that with the use of one spell, Rumble can change a teamfight. Impact's Equalizer shows the "equalizing" power it has in turning unfavorable positions into favorable ones. 

The Equalizer is an extremely versatile and game-changing ultimate. It has the potential to burn an entire team down and swing a fight or it can act to zone off carries and other important targets. Rumble will probably be a contested pick into the Finals of the LCS and at MSI, so pay attention to how the Equalizer is used when Rumble is picked.

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