The Assassin Update: Goodbye One-Shots, Hello Counter-Play!

No more one-shots! Finally, the Riot boffins have figured out that one-second kills and unfair fights simply aren’t fun. It took them long enough.

The newest class update has been to the assassin class (arguably something that was even more urgent than the mage update), and I have to say that it’s looking good so far. Riot has said that they want to add in more elements of counter-play (always welcome) and make each assassin more “complete” in terms of having defining characteristics and themes to their kit. They are basically aiming to create an all-round healthier gaming environment for players, not through “tentative” changes to balancing. These changes were, let’s face it, almost invisible (much like some of our familiar invisibility-boasting assassins) to the average player. No matter how much they “nerfed” Rengar, he could still jump out of nowhere and kill you in less than a second. No matter how much they changed Katarina’s scaling, she still had the capacity to wipe out an entire team in record time.

It’s over now though folks. The dark days of spontaneous death-by-assassin have come to an end. Sort of. The four “main” reworks were targeted at Rengar, Talon, Katarina and LeBlanc. However, this doesn’t give a complete idea of the scale of the changes at all, as multiple other things, such as how stealth works and a new stat called “Lethality,” have been altered or added.

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Rengar

One of the biggest reworks was of course assigned to our friend, the top-cat of the jungle, Mr. Rengar. In short, his Q is now a short dash and does AoE damage, and he caps at only four stacks of ferocity, which are gained even when his abilities don’t land and fall away once he is out of combat. His ultimate is now a “camouflage,” which means he can be seen if he is near enemies. In my opinion, Rengar’s changes are very healthy and take the ridiculous “stack up to max ferocity, gank a lane and get a million kills” strategy out of the game entirely, which is great. It also means that you can no longer walk into the middle of a team (or through a team) to the backline and explode them without being seen. Well done Riot.

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Talon

Next we have Talon, the second of our AD assassins. Nothing matters here except his E. There are other changes but no one cares about them. His E is what is keeping me, and everyone else who knows about it, awake at night. Riot has given Talon parkour. He can jump over any wall in the jungle. Can I be the first to ask Riot “what were you thinking?” He now has basically unlimited mobility through the jungle, and although there is a cooldown on walls that he has jumped over recently this really isn’t much of a crutch to him.

While you try and wrap your head around these changes note also that Kha’Zix has been given a fairly sizeable polish of his own. His Empowered claws now have increased range, lower cooldown on isolated targets, and he gains a short burst of speed and invisibility when he walks through any brush if he upgrades his ultimate and is out of combat. This means that both Kha’Zix and Talon have a ridiculous amount of mobility in the jungle, and to be honest I actually like it. I know I complained but you have to admit- it fits their lore perfectly. I’m sure there will be some hot-fixes or follow up changes once these updates hit the live servers, but once it is in the general ball park of “balanced,” I’ll be happy. Well done again Riot.

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Katarina

Next on the list is that sassy, red-haired Noxian Katarina. She is the nemesis of squishy teams and unwary AD Carries. Before you were never safe- especially not under your tower- but now… you’re still not safe. She does a whole lot of damage. And she can still jump around all over the place. And she still has no mana. Basically the changes to Katarina have been targeted towards the player experience more than changing much to do with balance. She still fits into that niche role of an AoE assassin, however, getting to that point will now be significantly more interesting and enjoyable.

Her Q “Bouncing Blades” now bouncing off the first two enemies and lands on the ground. Katarina can now “Shunpo” to the blade. She can no longer Shunpo to wards, thus taking out the high skill-cap, although infuriating, ability to hop around at will. Hopping to her blade does refresh the cooldown, however, allowing for some “sick” plays in the near future. Additionally, hopping to a blade (or even walking over it) activates her old AoE damaging ability “Sinister Steel.” Her new W ability now leaves a blade on the ground where she cast it. This will add some really interesting rotations and mechanics to her kit. Riot, you’re on a roll.

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LeBlanc

Lastly, we have LeBlanc. Riot has taken away the instantaneous, ridiculous damage from her Q and W combo. Thanks be to God, that thing was the definition of anti-fun (for the opponent that is). Now her Q still applies a mark, but it takes a few seconds for it to charge up to the state where it can be detonated for extra damage. This change (although it seems obvious now) was a smart one and adds a lot more counter-play, especially in lane. Her ultimate now acts more like a Karma ultimate, where you activate it and then choose which ability to replicate. This takes out the capacity for accidentally mimicking the wrong ability. It sounds stupid but it happens. Even to experienced players. However, now all of her abilities mark the enemy. “Sigil of Malice” is now her passive, again opening the door to some way more interesting combos aside from just Q + E. Riot, that’s a full house. Keep it up.

As you can see, I’m a fan of these changes. Riot stated that it intended to make each assassin fit into a specific role- defining them both in terms of their lore and by giving them interesting things to bring to the team. Whereas before the choice of what assassin to play simply depended on that champion’s current stats, now it is far more nuanced. However, we’ll only know how successful this update is when it hits live servers. Good luck out their gamers, and remember if you’re planning on chasing Talon through the jungle, don’t bother. He’s evolved into Ezio Auditore, and we all know that no one catches Ezio Auditore.

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