New League of Legends champion Hwei is suspiciously similar to one of Dota 2's hardest-to-use heroes

 League of Legends Hwei art.
League of Legends Hwei art.

League of Legends' new champion Hwei is a human mage designed to be played in the mid-lane, and he has 10 different spells that take more than one button press to cast. If you happen to be a Dota 2 fan that might sound a little familiar, as Invoker—a wizard dating all the way back to Warcraft 3 mod Defense of the Ancients—basically does the same thing.

During a presentation of Hwei and his abilities, some of the developers who have worked on the new champion said that they are aware of Invoker, but Hwei was never designed to be LoL's version of the character. Designer Myles Shalholm mentioned that an early version of Hwei would actually make you pick a colour of paint—which was tied into his lore as a mage painter—and a shape to cast a spell for that combo. That unique bit of backstory actually sounds even more similar to Invoker and how he mixes his elements, but Riot's final design has moved away from that idea. Instead Hwei's nine base skills are divided into three categories that are loosely related to what the spells do.

There are obviously some similarities between Hwei and Invoker, especially with the massive number of spells they can cast, but I get the feeling that Hwei will play pretty differently than his Dota 2 counterpart due to the way his spells work. Whereas Invoker is only limited by his mana pool and how quickly you can switch between his spells, Hwei has three sets of spells that share a cooldown, so you will really have to think about which spell you need most urgently, as it will put another two on cooldown.

Take his ‘Disaster’ group of spells for example. All three deal damage as their main focus, but with slightly different effects. One simply explodes in an AOE, another will do increased damage to immobilized or isolated enemies, and the third creates a path of lava that slows enemies. Because they all share a cooldown, you’ll need to pick the best one for the situation. That choice isn’t always going to be easy.

You’ll have the same choice to make for his serenity spells, which will give you or your team some kind of buff: a shield, boosted movement speed or on-hit mana replenishment. Hwei's torment spells are all about locking down enemies: One will cause an enemy to flee, another will root them and the third will pull enemies caught inside the AOE into the center and slow them.

Fortunately it seems that switching between sets will be pretty simple: to cast a disaster spell you press Q and then Q, W, or E to select which spell. The first press for serenity spells is W, then QWE again triggers the individual spells, and so on.

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League of Legends Hwei concept art
League of Legends Hwei concept art

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League of Legends Hwei concept art
League of Legends Hwei concept art

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League of Legends Hwei concept art
League of Legends Hwei concept art

Compared to other recent champions, Hwei is certainly on the more complex side and seems like he'll take a while to master. My initial reaction is that really high-level players will be able to do amazing things with him thanks to his spell variety, but lower to mid-level players will struggle to make an impact. None of Hwei's skills seem particularly strong on their own, so he's going to be all about combos and using the bonus damage from his passive to release an AOE explosion if you hit an enemy with two damaging abilities in quick succession.

Balancing Hwei and his 10 spells seems like a Herculean task, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him bounce from really strong to really weak during his first few months on the Rift until both players and Riot figure out just how he is going to be played at all levels. But I'm here for it: that means Hwei's going to be just as fun to watch as he is to learn.