After his rework in 2019, the League of Legends champion Pantheon became so powerful he started getting banned from play. What happened to one of the game’s most reliable champions?
Die a hero, or become the villain
Seated at a round table in a fancy restaurant, Gotham’s white and dark knights contemplate the futures that await them.
“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” says Harvey Dent, before a raging fire turns him into the Batman rogue Two-Face.
And maybe Pantheon has lived long enough.
A solid (not standout) champion
In a game like League of Legends, where playable characters consist of ninja hamsters and undead behemoths, Pantheon never quite stood out.
Released only four months after League’s initial launch, Pantheon is a Spartan-inspired spearman specializing in single-target elimination, tower diving, and finishing kills. But characters like Master Yi, Jax, and Kassadin could do the same things.
What Pantheon brought to the table was reliability, safety, and early-game domination. But sometimes, a fighter with a shield, a spear, and a straightforward game plan are all a player needs.
How it all started
Early Pantheon Model
Pantheon’s original kit is remarkably similar to his current one. Before the rework, his kit emphasized a deeper focus on single-target elimination and close-range combat. His passive provided a shield that would block any auto attack or turret shot after four auto attacks of his own or a cast of his W. And that made him a lethal tower diver.
Functionally, his spells remain nearly identical, but possibly the most crucial difference is with his Q, Spear Shot. Originally a point-and-click spell, Spear Shot dealt incredible damage on a short cooldown for a moderate mana cost. Its consistency and usefulness in harassing lane opponents or last-hitting minions helped make Pantheon a terrifying opponent at early levels in the game, especially when paired with his point-and-click W, which allowed him to dash and stun an opponent.
Pantheon was the ultimate in bullying the lane and winning early game matches by harassing, tower diving, and executing opponents who couldn’t trade with him. Between his E ability (Heartseeker Strike, a high-damage area spell that passively provided a guaranteed critical strike to basic attacks) and Spear Shot, he could crush any champion who fell below 15% life.
But even the mightiest soldiers have weaknesses, and Pantheon’s was undoubtedly his steep falloff after laning.
Even the ultimate stays the same
Pantheon’s ultimate was Grand Skyfall, essentially a variation of his current ultimate, which made him land on a single point and deal damage to everything in its zone. It was a fantastic ganking tool and a great way to return to lane- and conditional-fight starter.
While his kit geared him towards immense single-target damage and fantastic pressure as a ganker who could help his other lanes after he got ahead, in team fights he lacked utility and fell off hard unless he heavily itemized around damage. Even then, itemizing strictly for damage meant lacking a beefy top laner on the front line. He could still delete targets if they were caught out or if teams broke up formation and left carries open, but in high-level League of Legends, where teams are well-oiled units, Pantheon struggled to make much impact later in the game.
Pantheon’s place in the competitive meta would shift over time, with his presence in pro play usually being in the jungle to utilize his effective ganking skills more prominently than in the top lane. But the simplicity of his kit and plummeting usefulness as matches carried on made him a polarizing champion.
Faced with these issues, Riot set out to make a more versatile and useful champion out of the basic kit Pantheon started with. What they created was a one-man army.
Credit: Riot Games
Pantheon becomes Unbreakable
In July 2019, Pantheon was reborn as the Unbreakable Spear. And while he certainly looked more modern and spruced up, players found a similar kit to the original with only a few modern updates.
What stayed the same:
- Nearly identical W
- Ultimate still meant for jumping into or initiating fights
- Some modifications to W damage zones
- Q became a skillshot that could be charged and thrown through multiple targets or tapped for quick damage
Adding to the list, Pantheon’s passive could empower his spells after five auto attacks or spell casts, and his ultimate now came with passive armor penetration that scaled with ability level, making him even more dangerous in one-on-one fights.
The big change? Pantheon’s E. Now it was an ability that caused him to throw up his shield, move slowly, and strike in front of him continuously with a special property. Any attack from the direction the shield was facing was completely blocked, even working against turret shots. That shield wall gave him more utility to teams, and his stock quickly rose in the competitive world.
But it came at a cost.
One man, a lot of ban
When we call Pantheon a one-man army, we mean it. In the time since his rework, Pantheon has found competitive success in four of the game’s five roles. And that versatility made him a pick/ban priority across numerous patches.
- 2019 World tournament – banned throughout the entirety of the group stage
- 2021 LCS Lock-In tournament – banned in every match
Though he was redesigned and intended to be a top lane tower diving warrior, Pantheon has proven valuable all over the map. He’s an effective ganker with damage to clear jungle paths and help win lanes, a damage-focused AD beast who can take on high-priority opponents in the mid lane, and a support who can catch out opponents with targeted CC and burst them down with solid damage of his own. And that’s all while maintaining effectiveness in the top lane that he was initially built for.
If the team needs a split pusher or wants presence in multiple parts of the map, Pantheon can use his ultimate to jump into the fight or engage when needed. That flexibility benefits teams immensely because they can secure Pantheon early, then slot him where needed or most effective with their planned composition.
Combine his already powerful diving kit with high base movement speed and items like Black Cleaver, Goredrinker, and Youmuu’s Ghostblade, and he becomes a terrifying champion to face off against. Even if later stages of the game are reached where he still has a bit of a drop off, Pantheon remains useful thanks to his inherent armor penetration, single-target threat, and shield wall to block attacks for the team.
A rework that went too far?
Pantheon unquestionably became a stronger champion after his rework. And he holds a consistent place in the competitive world of League of Legends as Riot ponders how to refocus him for the top lane.
But he’s seen a sharp decline in play in recent patches as his kit and some key build items like Goredrinker have been nerfed. Even though the days of his shield wall blocking turret shots is long gone, never count a warrior out. The game will shift and settle with different patches, but a simple, dependable soldier is always ready to answer the call when needed. Maybe just in time to die a hero.