Skarner VGU – Details, Release date, and more

Wondering when Skarner is receiving the next visual and gameplay update (VGU)? Here is what we know about the champion so far.

Image Credits | Riot Games

Skarner VGU 2023 –  Everything We Know So Far

Skarner was voted by the community as the champion that would receive a rework in 2023. Being one of the least-played junglers in the game, due to his dependency on the spires, Skarner will hopefully get a new exciting kit like the recent Aurelion Sol CGU.

At the start of the new 2023 season, Riot Games’ development team updated fans on the upcoming Skarner VGU: “The Skarner VGU team has started exploring ways to dial up his scorpion fantasy,” is what Lexi Gao, Riot’s champion product manager said in the new season announcement video. “At this phase, we’re leaving no arthropod-hiding stone unturned to find exciting themes, kits, and stories.”

The champion won the fan vote last February, beating out Shyvana, Kog’Maw, Tryndamere and Nocturne. This means that it’s been one year since the rework was decided. According to the dev post made by Rioter Lexi “Lexical” Gao, Skarner is one of the least popular champions in League in all areas that we survey, except for familiarity with backstory. 

When is the VGU going to hit the live servers?

Riot recently announced they are going to have to push back its release as it had more challenges than anticipated. Considering the VGU was likely coming during the second half of 2023, we might see Skarner getting his VGU very late into the year at this point.

How will Riot rework Skarner?

Given that the dev team was unable to boost Skarner’s presence with small updates, Riot knows that their only choice is to shake up everything. In some of the sketches published by Riot, there seems to be a major intention in trying to change the champion’s aspect completely.

Riot confirmed that Skarner will move from Shurima to Ixtal and have it as his new region. Considering its deep connection to elemental magic, the developers thought it would be the perfect region for him.

Image Credits | Riot Games

“With the Brackern as the first earth elementalists, we’re exploring the possibility of them having taught the first Ixtali people how to harness the earth element, as well as the possibility of them building the first Arcologies. This would position the Brackern as a revered species in Ixtal, deeply connected to the region’s origin and history,” is what Narrative Writer Elyse “Riot apothecarie” Lemoine said in the latest Skarner Dev Update.

“Either way, in modern Ixtal, the Brackern keep to themselves, not interested in human affairs. Which gives us the perfect opportunity to create an interesting space for Skarner, who we’ll be centering within the greater story of Ixtal.” she continued.

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Skarner’s new theme

In the dev update, Art Directo Larry “The BravoRay” Ray went on to break Skarner down based on his visual cues: scorpion, crystals, and the good hero archetype. While they did consider keeping the crystal theme, Riot ultimately decided to amplify his good/lawful character archetype and scorpion fantasy, completely omitting the other.

skarner ixtal

Image Credits | Riot Games

In the end, after considering different power fantasies, they went for elemental magic, thus the link to the Ixtal region.

This allowed us to explore different power fantasies in the Runeterran universe, from Voidspawn to Hextech-empowered. But we decided to hone in on the elemental magic, as we felt it left a lot of creative freedom for every aspect of his development.

“We brought in more of a crustacean’s heavily-weighted shell shape while leveling up his scorpion tail to a three-pronged stinger for grabbing his prey, making him appear like an intimidating indestructible beast to his enemies,” said Larry.

The Skarner Gameplay Rework considerations

Game Designer Jacob “Riot Llama” Crouch mentioned that “Skarner has been a challenge to rework”. They were trying to find an exciting theme for him and “elevate his overall fantasy”. He said that they went for four different attempts before finding something they liked:

  • Poison/Venom the developers leaned into the idea of having all Skarner’s damage as DoT (damage over time). That said, they ended up finding two big barriers:
    • UI limitations when telegraphing large amounts of DoTs with the LoL health bar.
    • What does a victim do once they have lethal amounts of DoTs? They would need some gameplay to engage in to stop themselves from dying, which League has very few answers to.
  • Hextech – Riot wanted to explore an explosive kit with active/inactive phases that cycled rather quickly all hinging on a Hextech resource. That said, they felt like it didn’t match his lore, and they felt it would be disjointed with this theme.
hextech skarner

Image Credits | Riot Games

  • Skarnerlings – This kit provided the experience of “Rebuilding the Brackern” over the course of the match. Skarner would engage in some mechanics to use Impale (his ult) to grab or retrieve smaller vulnerable baby Brackern that had been scattered over Summoner’s Rift. While emotionally resonant, a big part of this kit felt unsatisfying because the gameplay execution was never quite there, and Skarner was constantly competing in the “Cute Followers” space against other in-development champions like Milio who were doing it quite well.
  • Carapace: Skarner would enhance his outer shell by molting off his current carapace and moving into a new one. While this was a really cool gameplay experience it ran into some issues:
    • There’s a super cool version of this where players choose between multiple physical forms that drastically change gameplay and Skarner couldn’t take it as far as a new champion built for this concept could.
    • Considering Skarner’s large amount of skins, giving him multiple alterations would become a world of development pain for the devs.
    • They wanted to differentiate Skarner from Void monsters where “adapting and growing” gameplay (Cho’Gath) is quite common.

Riot finds the right theme for Skarner

After those four tries, the developers finally locked Skarner’s theme as a “revered, larger-than-life daemon” who’s highly protective of the place he calls home, hunting down intruders. Thanks to his Impale that picks up enemies and moves them where you want, Riot was able to align his kit to his theme.

The designers, though, made some tweaks to the spell, giving it more playmaking ability. Essentially, Impale is going to be an AoE spell.

skarner themes

Image Credits | Riot Games

“While it has lost some reliability (lower duration, cast time, no longer point-and-click) against one target, Impale now gives Skarner a serious teamfight initiation threat if he’s able to get more than one target. This also adds a more strategic component to who, how many, and when to go in.”

According to Riot Llama, the rest of Skarner’s kit “will help him get into a strategic position to use Impale and give him some additional things to do when Impale is active.”

Even though the Skarner VGU will be delayed, this is definitely exciting information that will make the rework more hype.

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