Over the past few years, #RiotGames has been rolling out massive overhauls to several of its classes of champions and the item sets that those champions use.
The first was juggernauts (e.g. Skarner, Darius), then marksmen (e.g. Sivir, Graves), and then mages (e.g. Vel'Koz, Anivia). Perhaps the most anticipated of these roll outs has been assassins because of the unique role they occupy in the game and the difficulty in balancing them.
The assassin's job is to quickly eliminate other champions from the map, but often this effect was achieved without reasonable reaction time or realistic counter-play from opponents; especially if the assassin player had snowballed their advantage into a huge lead.
On the other hand, if an assassin player got too far behind early, their lack of utility left them almost useless later in the game. Or to hear Riot's language about it:
"When we looked at the pool of assassins, one common problem stood out: a lack of meaningful interactivity. It isn’t the damage that is the problem, but the feeling of not having any chance to outplay or even react to them. As a result, fed assassins feel pointless to play against, while trailing assassins feel pointless to play as or with. Ultimately, we want to empower assassin players to be make aggressive, flashy plays (insert Faker vs Ryu joke here), and know they’ve earned it."
While there are many things still in the air, Riot has rolled out their initial thoughts on the assassin class and reworked many of our favorite champions.
There are four major redesigns and then a series of smaller ones—we'll be going over the major ones first.
Disclaimer: These changes are very much in beta and will likely change a lot before they are rolled out as part of the Pre-Season Patch.
Talon - Now With Parkour
Talon previously occupied a weird space where it was almost always better to pick more flexible mobile champions like Zed or Katarina. Talon was only able to go into a fight and otherwise had relatively low mobility for an assassin. He didn't have a way to quickly move around the map.
Talon's kit is mostly unchanged, but there are some nuanced differences between the old and the new. His new passive (Blade's End) marks a champion when Talon hits them with a spell. After three marks, Talon can trigger a damage-over-time bleed effect by auto attacking that champion.
He retains his ability to dash to targets from range (Q, Noxian Diplomacy), but he now is able to use his Noxian Diplomacy to critical hit an enemy in melee range. Talon also still has his ranged wave clear ability (W, Rake), as well as his ultimate (R, Shadow Assault), but it's his E that is the takes Talon in a totally new direction.
Assassin's Path (E) is a new ability that lets Talon instantly leap over almost any terrain with a very low cooldown—though he can't jump over the same terrain multiple times in a short time period. This lets him traverse the map almost unimpeded.
Riot has now answered the question of "Why should I play Talon?" by giving him unparalleled mobility in the assassin class.
Leblanc - Trickier Than Ever
Leblanc had the classic problem of a unique kit that provided almost no counterplay for opponents. Over the years, Riot has tried varying many things in her kit—like removing the silence on her Q (Sigil of Silence)—but they've never managed to get her into a healthy spot.
Her new kit changes the feel of her abilities and play pattern, but keeps her thematic deceptive nature.
They've kept two abilities the same (W, Distortion) and (E, Ethereal Chains), but have significantly altered her Passive and Q to give her a more unique feel.
Her former Q is now a Passive (Sigil of Malice); after being damaged by Leblanc's abilities, targets will get marked. After a few seconds when the mark activates, subsequent abilities will shatter the mark for increased damage.
Leblanc's new Q (Shatter Orb) sends out a projectile at target champion for damage. But here's the kicker: if the ability shatters a Sigil of Malice, it will shatter all other nearby Sigils as well for powerful AoE damage.
Her new ultimate (R, Mimic) is a little confusing, and in practice it's actually hard to determine how it'll work. Activating her ultimate will create a cloned version of Leblanc that will cast one of Leblanc's spells as Leblanc herself does.
If you choose to Mimic the ultimate itself, it will instead create a clone of Leblanc that will cast a non-damaging version of one of Leblanc's spells.
The idea is that you aren't sure which Leblanc is the real one, which will cast spells, and if they will damage you or not. It feeds into her deceiver fantasy, but it seems initially hard to control.
Either way, Riot has managed to give Leblanc a healthier play pattern and a more interactive kit.
Rengar - Knife Cat Has Some New Tricks
Rengar was the worst offender of the "OP if ahead, useless if behind" paradigm that prompted the assassin update, and he has historically been one of the hardest champions in the game to balance because of his railroaded kit. Let's just say his update was a long time coming.
His crowd control ability (E, Bola) is unchanged for the most part, but the rest of his kit has been changed significantly.
His new Passive is really the combination of two parts of his current kit Unseen Predator and Bonetooth Necklace.
Unseen Predator still enables him to leap from bushes onto targets from afar and he still gets ferocity from his abilities, but now he also gets increased movement speed when he uses a full ferocity ability. Bonetooth Necklace gives him a trophy when he takes down an enemy champion, which permanently increases his attack damage.
Rengar's Q (Savagery) is now a damage ability that cleaves units in a frontal arc, and also moves him forward just slightly.
His W (Battle Roar) still does magic damage around him, but now also heals him without ferocity stacks. If he has four ferocity stacks, he breaks all CC and becomes CC immune for a short duration.
His ultimate (R, Thrill of the Hunt) is still a stealth ability that gives him increased movement speed, but now he can see only the closest champion to him (instead of all champions), and the stealth lasts for a very long time. In the demo of the ability it lasts near 20 seconds, which is significantly longer than the previous cap of 12 seconds.
Overall, this keeps Rengar's identity as a hunter, but gives a less one-shot play pattern.
Katarina - Harder To Be A Spinning Top Of Death
In the same way that Rengar snowballs games, Katarina snowballs teamfights. Her reset mechanic has made her one of the most controversial champions in the game because of how deadly she is in the hands of a skilled player.
In her update, Riot hoped to get rid of some of the more spam-happy play patterns, and keep her skill cap high.
Her passive (Voracity) and ultimate (R, Death Lotus) are identical to what they were before; the resets aren't going anywhere. But it's in the rest of the kit that her new play pattern becomes clear.
To that end, I think it makes most sense to start with her E (Shunpo). This ability is largely unchanged, except that when Katarina targets a dagger, Shunpo's cooldown is reset instantly. Keep that in mind as we go down the list.
Her Q (Bouncing Blade) is also almost identical to her current build, but instead of disappearing, the dagger will fall to the ground after bouncing off the last target. This also makes it a Shunpo target. Bouncing Blade also has a passive component: If Katarina picks up a dagger, she will twirl and do AoE damage around her—very similar to her old W (Sinister Steel)
Katarina's new W is Preparation. She will throw a dagger straight into the air and gain increased movement speed for a short time. This is primarily used to setup an escape after she goes in for a trade or all in, but can also be used for increased damage in teamfights.
The combination of these abilities sets up a Katarina who is mobile around the battlefield, throwing daggers straight up in the air and at opponents, hoping to get resets to setup more combos. It's a little harder to pull off than before, but now has even more outplay potential.
- Fizz: Shark from Chum The Waters (R) now gets larger depending on distance traveled.
- Zed: When he kills an enemy with Death Mark (R), gains a permanent portion of their attack damage.
- Akali: Now blinks a short distance and leaves a Twilight Shroud (W) behind her at her original location when she uses Shadow Dance (R).
- Kha'Zix: Evolutions are being tuned to be more in line with his isolation take downs.
- Shaco: Clone drops 3 Jack-in-the-Boxes and causes enemies to flee when it dies.
- Ekko: Passive no longer slows, but Chronobreak (R) triggers Parallel Convergence (W) as he travels back in time.
Riot also announced that they were overhauling armor penetration as a statistic. There is a lot of nuance here, but what you need to know is there is a new stat called Lethality that scales with your opponents level.
Here are some of the items:
Serrated Dirk keeps its spot as the main item for assassins, but they also get a few new toys to play with.
Poacher's Dirk tries to live out the fantasy of stealing jungle camps away. We don't know if this is required for Serrated Dirk or if it's an alternate build path.
Edge of Night is an item used to counter mages or supports with hard CC.
Duskblade of Draktharr always skewed towards assassins, but this has been reworked to be even more in tune with the assassin playstyle.
Similarly, Youmuu's Ghostblade has been given even more movement speed, but had the attack speed component of its active removed.
Stealth Changes; Now Even More Sneaky
The final change involves a clarification on stealth types in the game. They are being broken into Camouflage and Invisibility:
- Camouflage: Long lasting, strategic stealth
- Invisibility: Short term, tactical stealth
The basic summary of the change is that Camouflage is still detectable by Pink Wards but Invisibility is not. Invisibility is the more common of the mechanics, found on champions like Shaco, Wukong, and Vayne. Camouflage is native to champions like Evelynn and Rengar.
Now you're all caught up!
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