For those of you looking for a high skill ceiling champion, boy do we have a treat for you. I’m Myles “Riot Emizery” Salholm, lead designer on Hwei, and I wanted to share some thoughts on Hwei’s abilities, some insights into how we designed them, and when to think about using them in game. We also drafted up a quick cheat sheet to keep handy as you’re learning the ins and outs of his kit. The whole team put a lot of work into Hwei and we’re excited for all of you to see him and his artwork when he releases in patch 13.24!
Hwei marks enemy champions with his signature finishing touch by first damaging them with his abilities. Hitting an enemy with two damage-dealing spells places Hwei’s signature on the ground beneath them. The signature detonates after a short delay, dealing magic damage to all enemies in range.
Hwei’s passive encourages him to weave different abilities together (as opposed to simply recasting QQ over and over again) in order to help get the most out of his palette and maximize his damage. As a fan of the Rule of Thirds, what could be a better way to create a trifecta of damage than for Hwei to leave his explosive signature move—his literal signature.
Hwei paints visions of disaster that deals a large amount of damage to enemies.
Hwei’s disaster spells are all about projecting the destruction he’s experienced throughout his life, dealing damage to enemies and earning gold along the way. From burning flames and sudden lightning strikes to molten lava, Hwei has a whole palette of options when it comes to deleting enemy health bars.
One term you’ll see me repeatedly bring up in this blog is “spell competition,” which is the idea that each of Hwei’s spells has its own purpose so players can learn why it’s time to cast one Q spell over the other two Q spells. He wouldn’t be a high skill ceiling champion if all three of his Q abilities did the exact same thing now would he?
Now to talk about how this spell competition comes into play for Hwei’s Q. There are all kinds of ways to deal damage in League, but for Hwei’s Q we landed on three main forms for the abilities: average damage yet reliable poke with QQ, higher damage but less reliable long range poke with QW, and finally damage over time with QE. Each of these abilities was designed to adhere to the general theme of damage, but accomplishes this in different shapes and styles. For example, QQ is great as a quick last hitting and poking tool in lane, but QW offers more damage to lower health targets but is slower and easier for opponents to dodge. Meanwhile, QE can inflict a large amount of damage provided your opponent stays within the AoE. Designing Hwei with spell competition in mind should prove to be a skill test for all aspiring Hwei players, but once mastered should help players feel that they have several options to approach the wide variety of situations you’ll encounter on the Rift.
But that’s enough about spell competition on Hwei’s Q. Let’s jump into each of the individual spells.
Hwei paints a blazing fireball that flies out in the target direction. It explodes on the first enemy hit or at maximum range, dealing magic damage plus percent max health magic damage to all enemies in an area.
One of Hwei’s bread-and-butter spells, Devastating Fire is a quick AoE burst spell that is ideal for poking and last hitting. It also has fast ability speed and target-agnostic damage in the form of percent max health damage that make it a great tool against all types of enemies.
Devastating Fire was the last spell we locked down in the Disaster category even though it looks relatively simple. We found that Hwei’s spells generally needed to roll out slow enough for opponents to understand them (since he has so many), but because of that he was missing a tool to quickly deal damage and secure kills. A mid laner who can’t get the kills he’s aiming for is going to end up poor and weak, so we came up with a simple tool that can be cast by spamming your most basic button to deal damage when you need it.
Hwei paints a long-range, devastating bolt at the target location. After a delay, the bolt strikes, dealing magic damage. Immobilized or isolated enemies take increased damage based on missing health.
Severing Bolt is a less reliable, long-range AoE spell ideal for harassing opponents and finishing off low-health enemies. This ability is pretty weak against grouped foes and high-health targets. However, it’s an excellent tool when it comes to adding damage on top of immobilized foes or picking off isolated, low-health targets.
Early on we knew we wanted Hwei to have a super long range spell in his kit to reward players that move their camera around and watch the map. The hard part about designing an ability like this though is that a very long range spell tied to a low cooldown could be abusable and quite frustrating for opponents to deal with. This led to us adding a long, telegraphed wind up so that alert enemies should never be hit unless immobilized.
In addition, we had to add a few guardrails to this ability like: limiting damage in optimal situations so that Hwei can’t over rely on the safety of the cast range, adding jungle/minion damage modifiers to prevent long-distance farming/camp stealing, and giving it a high mana cost so that Hwei needs to rely on other, shorter-range/higher-risk abilities to trigger his Stirring Lights (WE) to generate mana.
Hwei paints a field of exploding volcanic eruptions, creating lingering lava in its path. Every eruption deals magic damage to enemies hit. Enemies in the lava area are dealt magic damage per second and are slowed.
Molten Fissure is Hwei’s ability of choice when it comes to shoving waves, zoning enemies and melting stationary targets. It creates a line of explosions that leave behind lava, providing a mix of burst and damage over time in addition to a small slow.
Fun fact, this was the very first spell we locked on Hwei and led to the original inspiration of “bombastic, fantastical painted magic” that led to the rest of Hwei’s kit direction.
Something important to Molten Fissure is its ability to wave clear. But when in development, it became the most optimal spell for poking AND wave clearing, it became difficult to create spell competition for a Q poke spell. This led us to intentionally slow down spell explosions making long range poke with this spell difficult. This means you should generally avoid using this spell to reduce your opponent’s health bar in lane and instead use it to melt minions or crowd controlled opponents.
Hwei paints visions of serenity that provides utility for himself and allied champions.
Serenity abilities are all about keeping your calm and pacing fights. They give Hwei and his team the freedom to flow around the battlefield—helping allies move around faster, keeping them safe, and helping Hwei sustain. Careful management of Serenity cooldowns are key to keeping your mana pool flowing while also maintaining escape, chase, and survival tools for sudden ganks.
Between movement speed, shields, and mana sustain Hwei’s Serenity book definitely has one of the widest types of spell competition as its outputs vary wildly making this all about opportunity cost. Hwei’s WQ can grant him movement speed to secure a kill, but then he doesn’t have cooldowns to shield himself or escape. His WW can grant himself and nearby allies shields, but wait—what if a small movement speed buff could have saved your ADC? Need Mana? WE is great because it can give Hwei back some mana to fuel his ability’s high mana costs (an intentional weakness of Hwei’s), but using this puts your utility Serenity spells on cooldown leaving you vulnerable to ganks and all-ins. Learning the right situations to use each spell will make or break a Hwei player, so make sure you choose wisely!
Don’t worry though, I’m here to help you do just that. So let’s jump into the Serenity spells.
Hwei paints a current of swift waters in a line for a few seconds that grants movement speed to himself and allies.
Painting a current onto the Rift, this ability is all about providing a fast path for both Hwei and his allies. Fleeting Current was the first of the Serenity spells to be locked down. We wanted to focus on building different utility elements into Hwei’s kit. His WQ is a deceptively simple movement speed buff that provides a few interesting decisions to players as a general utility spell. Do you want to play aggressively at the cost of losing access to your shield and mana regeneration? Do you want to hold this spell for a speedy retreat? Do you want to get back to lane faster? Okay, that one isn’t that complicated of a decision but you get the point.
Hwei forms a protective pool at the target location that lasts for a few seconds. Allied champions inside the area gain an immediate shield, increasing in value over a few seconds while in the area.
Here’s an interesting painting of Hwei’s, an AoE shield that rewards players for smart placement and timing. As opposed to Fleeting Current’s flowing river thematic, Pool of Reflection is more static and about picking the area to stand your ground thanks to the shield that builds up over time should you or allies stay in the zone longer.
We played around a lot with Pool of Reflection, as an AoE-ramping-over-time shield isn’t something you usually see in League. This ability was initially designed to give 0 shield on initial cast, but we needed to move away from that so Hwei would have some way to mitigate burst damage which is how we landed on 50% immediate value and then ramping to full if you’re able to remain in the AoE.
You can use this ability for cases like reducing damage taken while holding a wave or protecting a stationary carry or tank on your team, but given this kind of power we wanted to be very cognizant of Hwei’s potential to be an enchanter. In testing, enchanter Hwei ended up being quite strong, so we needed to dial back a lot of power by reducing how well this ability could shield multiple allies (much to Hwei’s chagrin). Even then, Pool of Reflection is still one of the best spells in the game when it comes to sieging objectives as a team.
Hwei paints three swirling lights that circle him for several seconds. Hwei's next 3 attacks or spells deal bonus magic damage and grant mana on hit.
Hwei’s key mana generation ability, Stirring Lights makes Hwei’s next 3 attacks or spells gain bonus magic damage on hit and refund a bit of mana to Hwei. If he’s able to spend all 3 charges of this buff, he’ll even go mana-positive as a result. So make sure you’re using each one. While empowered, if Hwei auto attacks an enemy champion it will even trigger his Passive, Signature of the Visionary, for extra trading power or maximizing a kill combo.
Stirring Lights actually ended up being one of the last spells we locked down for Hwei as we were experimenting with this ability for quite a while. We tried vision, ghosts, walls, all sorts of things, but we couldn’t solve the fundamental problem of Hwei being too safe during his laning phase—which is what led up to creating a greedy spell for the painter.
Enter Stirring Lights. This allows Hwei to sustain his expensive mana costs and gain additional damage and trading power to dominate his opponent and build up power to carry during mid game. That extra power comes at a cost, though. By introducing a way to go mana-positive we also created a problem Hwei players will need to solve. If they want to sustain their mana pools, then they’ll need to risk getting up close and personal with their enemy laner. This helps curb Disaster (Q) spell spam which was unhealthy during team fights, forcing him to run out of mana if he keeps playing it too safe.
Additionally, this ability also gave Hwei a reason to put his Serenity (W) spells on cooldown, giving opponents more opportunities to catch him without shields or movement speed to help him survive. This meant that pushing Hwei players greeding for extra turret damage and mana sustain were suddenly prime gank targets, unable to retreat back to their turret before the opposing jungler paid him a visit…
Hwei paints visions of torment that control enemies.
Hwei’s Torment abilities are all about controlling your enemy with raw fear, making them question where to step and if the next moment will be their last with powerful crowd control abilities. Whether you want to send enemies running, lock them down, or group them together, Hwei will torment you and your enemies with the terrifying possibilities.
The split of spell competition between Hwei’s torment spells is pretty straightforward because they correlate to different types of crowd control. EQ offers a safe and reliable way for Hwei to get enemies off of himself, but can’t catch enemies out of position. Conversely EE is great at catching out one or multiple enemies if you’re willing to walk up a bit closer to foes to cast it. Lastly, EW is a great tool for long roots and securing kills, but its long wind up time and low reliability mean if you miss it you might find yourself twiddling your thumbs for a few seconds. The key decisions to be made here is identifying exactly which form of CC you need when, as using one of these spells will prevent you from using the others while on cooldown.
Hwei launches a terrifying face that strikes the first enemy hit, dealing magic damage and causing them to flee for a brief duration.
A straightforward and simple fear. We wanted one of Hwei’s Torment abilities to be an easy-to-understand, straight-line skillshot that he could keep in his back pocket for safety. It’s perfect for getting enemies off of you in a pinch, which is something Hwei needed as a mid laner (who will sometimes get dove by enemy junglers or assassins). We don’t want him to be invulnerable to dives, but the enemy will need to come with a plan.
A neat little trick to keep in mind while playing Hwei is that all of his spells which have their second button as Q (QQ, WQ, EQ) are line spells. This was done intentionally to keep a natural fluidity of button pressing and aiming even when new players aren’t quite sure what painting to send out next. We also did this with the W2 spells as AoE placement spells. E2 spells got a bit of a pass because we couldn’t find a single casting paradigm that felt correct and shared for all three cases.
Hwei paints an abyssal eye at the target location that grants vision and locks onto the nearest visible enemy champion. After a short delay, the eye fires at the locked-on champion, rooting the first enemy in its path for a few seconds and dealing magic damage to them.
Gaze of the Abyss has three primary strengths: the ability to get vision, zoning enemies, and rooting enemies. The root on this ability isn’t the most reliable, so be sure to keep that in mind when going fishing for picks.
This was actually the very last spell we locked down for Hwei. The question we had to solve was “what do you give a mage that has so much already without making him unfair or painful to play against?” The answer we landed on was a trap style ability that would punish Hwei when used incorrectly (as you lose access to your more reliable CC spells once cast).
We did notice this ability being used to zone enemies from waves though, which was a bit frustrating to play against, so we had to add some parameters like increasing duration based on distance to encourage long-range use and making it hit the first enemy unit. Just remember to be very considerate about when you use this ability and try to cast it at max range for max value.
Hwei paints crushing jaws that deal magic damage to enemies hit and pulls them toward the center, slowing them by a set amount that quickly decays.
Crushing Maw summons a maw that, you guessed it, crushes Hwei’s opponent(s), squishing them all together for some devastating AoE damage.
When Riot EndlessPillows was working on an old exploration of a spell-mixing mage, he built this really interesting “bow-tie” shape trap that could be used to hit enemies on the fan of the spell. It was so unusual and innovative that the team was invested in finding a way to bring it to life.
One of the issues with the original shape was its delivery system. It used to be tossed at a location, where it would explode instantly on units or turn into a trap to be triggered later. In both cases the clarity of the unique shape just wasn’t clear enough to add into an already complex kit.
When we pivoted to the Disaster, Serenity, and Torment model of unique spells we wanted to build something terrifying and the idea of “bow-tie pull” came up. We actually used four Mordekaiser claws for early visuals and that was—terrifying to say the least. So we began refining this spell into what it is today.
Interestingly enough, this spell also helped us figure out what we wanted to do with Hwei’s passive because it gave this really awesome wombo-combo moment when you could collapse a bunch of enemies together. We decided to empower and elevate that moment with the promise of weaving this spell plus another AoE to deal devastating damage to enemy champions. That way, Hwei could still secure multiple kills with a kit otherwise about whittling enemies down or picking individuals off.
Hwei launches a vision of pure despair that sticks to an enemy champion for a few seconds. The vision expands and overwhelms all enemies it touches, dealing magic damage per second. Enemies within the zone are afflicted with stacks of Despair over time. Each stack of Despair applies a stacking percent slow. Upon completion, the vision shatters, dealing magic damage.
Last, but certainly not least, is Hwei’s Magnum Opus, Spiraling Despair. This ability is a large damage-over-time spell that slows enemies before ultimately exploding and sending your opponents to another source of despair, their gray screen.
This ability actually didn’t come about until we pivoted Hwei to the Disaster, Serenity, and Torment model of spells. There was this idea that the artist was depressed and emotional, and that he wants others to experience “the emotions they deserve.” But Hwei himself can’t escape this feeling of despair, and it felt like an awesome opportunity to make his ultimate work in a way that makes enemies feel the creeping despair he experiences.
We experimented with a lot of iterations of this spell, from a non-skillshot expanding AoE that slowly (and creepily) took over more and more space. It also had a grounding effect. I have some coworkers that are still personally offended by that… Anyway, after revisiting and rethinking this spell several times we finally landed on a version that we believe artistically captures the despair Hwei is suffering through and we’re really excited for all of you to see it in action on the Rift!
WHEW! That was a lot of abilities. But our hope is that once you all get your hands on Hwei each ability will feel meaningful in its own ways and that you’ll all have fun learning the ins and outs of this kit and how to get the most out of it. But I won’t leave you there. In order to help you aspiring Hwei mains a bit I’ll give you all some tips on how to get started with Hwei.
It takes a lot of mental focus to create paint magic, and Hwei is definitely in need of mana to sustain his spell casting. Make sure you pick up mana sustain through items like Doran’s Ring and Tear of the Goddess for the laning phase. Stretching your mana pool for a Lost Chapter on your first back is a great sign that you’re succeeding on Hwei’s early game.
In order to get the most out of your mana pool, use Stirring Lights (WE) often and early when you don’t need to worry about being ganked or tanking damage. The bonus damage applies on AoE spells, so a QE + WE can help clear the wave and keep you from getting shoved under turret. Alternatively, you can use this combo to shove the wave in order to recall or roam. If you find yourself with an unattended turret and spot the enemy jungler you can even use WE while sieging the turret for some juicy plate gold.
Molten Fissure (QE) is Hwei’s best wave clear spell but has room to miss minion last hits so be careful on timing with it. WE can be a great way to auto attack low health minions with bonus damage to secure last hits, or use Devastating Fire (QQ) for enough burst damage to secure a cannon or grouped up set of minions. When clearing extra fast, use WE > QE >EE to deal tons of AoE damage and smoosh the wave together. Careful though because mispositioning on the side of the wave for a good EE could give the enemy an opening for a kill.
When the enemy is trying to back, throw out a Severing Bolt (QW) to harass them and slow down their recall. QW can also be used to secure a cannon minion when you’re low on health or returning to lane. Or, with a bit of vision, you can steal an enemy jungler’s camp unexpectedly. On your way back to lane, use Fleeting Current (WQ) to speed yourself up. You can also use WQ to roam to another lane with your ultimate or even just an artillery QW to snipe an enemy under pressure. If you are feeling especially confident, WQ aggressively into the enemy and drop a Gaze of the Abyss (EW) on them as you gap close and follow up with a QQ or QW combo.
Once you hit level 6, start looking for opportunities to grab your opponent with a Torment spell and follow up with Spiraling Despair (R) to secure a kill for yourself and start your mid game off with a bang.
With all of Hwei’s myriad solutions, he is still limited by having to make a choice between spells. Whenever Hwei uses a Torment spell his control spells are down for a while, especially in the early game, making it a prime opportunity to jump on him. If he uses Stirring Lights (WE) for mana sustain and damage he doesn’t have any shields or movement speed to survive being jumped on. If you see those circling lights and a control spell come out at the same time, he’s very vulnerable.
Hwei is also incredibly fragile. While he can certainly stave off enemies with good positioning and clever paint slinging, his low survivability won’t keep him alive for long once jumped on. Catching him off guard with ganks or wrap-arounds is incredibly effective, and he usually isn’t able to survive burst damage output from assassins singling him out in team fights.
Lastly, Hwei also has a very limited mana pool that demands he back often or trade off AP for more mana in his items. Painting often without using Stirring Lights (WE) is sure to leave him out of mana in no time and unable to respond to enemy threats or able to back up his allies. For those facing Hwei if he is low mana it is time to turn on him and take advantage of poor mana management.
One of Hwei’s greatest strengths is his ability to contribute in team fights. Hwei’s Passive, Signature of the Visionary, is most powerful when multiple champions are grouped up allowing him to stack up overlapping explosions with Crushing Maw (EE). Finding an opportunity to throw his ultimate, Spiraling Despair, onto a pile of enemies is a dream come true for Hwei that forces the enemy team apart (at a minimum) or face a death sentence.
That said, getting kills isn’t as easy as looking for a couple champions standing next to each other. Hwei needs to maintain his distance and control the battlefield with his team utilities and zoning area effects. A well placed Molten Fissure (QE) can cut off or devastate an enemy frontline. Positioning a Gaze of the Abyss (EW) into a choke point can guarantee a root for a collapse or disengage as well. If an enemy in the backline is low, try sniping them with Severing Bolt (QW) to change the fight into a 5v4; or if they’re playing it safe and the frontline is being bullish, throw out Devastating Fire (QQ) to whittle down their large health pools until they need to back off.
Just as important as zoning and damaging your enemies is supporting your allies. During a chase or escape situation use Fleeting Current (WQ) to outposition your opponent and reform your team’s positioning. If your team is being jumped on or brawling it out in the melee pit, use Pool of Reflection (WW) to mitigate damage and survive the fight. And if you’re free to dish out the damage or need a bit of mana, Stirring Lights (WE) can give you the extra oomph to turn a near kill into a pick.
While Hwei doesn’t have infinite scaling like Veigar or Aurelion Sol, he appreciates gaining experience and gold to scale himself into a devastating team fighter. Be careful not to split off from your team and get picked off by a gank or rogue assassin though as they’re likely to be a potent threat to you. Ultimately, prioritizing grouping and moving with your team for strategic objective taking is one of Hwei’s strong points.
During extended fights and objective contests, Hwei’s ability to cover the field in zones is incredible at gaining priority and closing out the game. However, he’s always vulnerable to backline aggression or getting too aggressive himself and being caught by frontline crowd control for a quick death. Maintaining distance will keep you alive, but too much distance in the backline will lead to an unsupported team that leaves you stranded and alone.
Although Hwei has many tools at his disposal, he has low base stats like movement speed and armor, making him vulnerable to getting killed early game by an aggressive jungler or mid-laner. Assassin or physical champions with some mobility and engage range can be very challenging for him, so a good Yasuo, Fizz, or even Tristana can keep Hwei down before he can pick up steam in mid game.
Hwei is also unusually susceptible to powerful poke champions with his low health and risky, less reliable poke options. Rival artillery mages like Vel’Koz or Xerath won’t give him much of a break and will likely force him to back early after losing most (or all) of his health. He can also struggle into other control mages with more reliable poke, like Viktor or Orianna.
However, Hwei’s powerful team fight abilities and control spells make him great at handling scaling champions by decimating the enemy team and taking objectives during mid game when he’s gained some gold and experience. Mid lane champions that need to telegraph a direct engage can also struggle fighting into Hwei, making champions like Lissandra or Naafiri struggle to find an early advantage to snowball the game with.
Wait, you made it all the way here? Through all the ins and outs of Hwei’s abilities? In that case, you’re probably exactly the type of player that’ll love Hwei!
Hwei’s versatility might not let him be dominant in every scenario, but it lets him find footing in most situations through creative problem solving no matter the matchup. Hwei’s definitely not the easiest champion to pick up, but should you put in the time to master his craft, he’ll reward your dedication with exciting ways for you to showcase your creativity and skill. Stay persistent and keep mixing those spells, painters. See you on the Rift!