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Oct 10, 2016

Road to Pre-Season: Assassin Update

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Assassins Updated!

After the massive mage updates from last year, Riot's decided the next class up for an update is going to be the glass cannon melee burst class. This includes invisible champions like Shaco and Rengar, as well as high mobility assassins like Katarina and Fizz. Check out the full details below!

Road to Pre-Season: Assassin Update


Why Assassins?

With Pre-Season approaching, it’s time to revisit and clarify the conversation around the upcoming assassin update. In our last post about Roster Updates, we stressed two goals for the Assassin Updates: push the thematics/play patterns of the individual champions, and increase the overall game health of the class.
A class update isn’t just about crafting a complete experience for the players of a few champions. It’s also important that we bring new functionality to the class as a whole, as well as ensure they have the systemic tools they need to succeed. We’re doing a modernization pass on a number of assassins; think of these like miniature updates. In addition, we’re making sure that assassins have items that suit their class strengths. Finally, we’re revisiting stealth, a mechanic which has traditionally belonged to assassins.


As a group, we wanted to make sure assassins lived up to the “skill fantasy”, the idea that assassins are high skill cap champions. Assassins should have the ability to massively outplay their opponents, which also leaves them open to being outplayed. Overall, we want them to have strong success cases, strong failure cases, and clear ways for opponents to attempt to avoid dying.
On an individual level, a number of our assassins already have strong thematic fantasies, so we’re leaning into what exists already to inform their gameplay identities.

Game Health

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.
We also want to make assassins more fair, which isn’t the same as reducing assassin damage. In some cases, that means giving you more ability to fire back. In other cases, you need to be able to see an assassin coming and try to escape them. We want the Ashe who just got styled on to think “welp, I got outplayed”, not “that was bullshit”.

Major Assassin Updates

With assassins, we aimed to focus on updates that we feel like complete the characters, rather than on smaller scale updates. As such, four assassins (LeBlanc, Talon, Rengar, Katarina) are getting a significant amount of attention.
These four all had strong fantasies, but that hadn’t translated into strong gameplay identities. Because of those fantasies, we had a roadmap for discovering what gameplay mechanics we wanted them to have, and could make significant changes to meet those goals.

LeBlanc - The Deceiver

LeBlanc is supposed to be a deceptive illusionist, but in game that’s mostly expressed through clever use of Distortion. Her clone has the potential to create a lot of cool gameplay, giving her the ability to play mind games and run bait and switches, so we’re leaning into that aspect of her kit. LeBlanc should leave her opponents guessing what she’s doing, rewarding players who successfully see through her tricks, while punishing those who misread the situation.
Deception and mind games won’t mean much to LeBlanc if she’s killing her opponents before they have the ability to do anything. We also want to ensure that when LeBlanc does commit to a kill by dashing in, she has to stay in threat range for slightly longer, so that players who read her moves correctly feel like they can respond.

Talon - The Nimble Roamer

Talon looks like the type of dude who would hang out on top of a building all day waiting to jump down and kill you. Just you. Nobody else. What a jerk. But his actual gameplay has more to do with how quickly he can run at somebody to dash onto them.
Rather than run straight at you, we want Talon to use the terrain to his advantage as he tracks down his target across the map before mercilessly putting them down. We want the bulk of his damage to focus on that target, so that when he does damage to multiple targets, there’s more intent behind it.

Rengar - The Hunter

Rengar is the fiercest hunter on Summoner’s Rift, seeking out stronger and more dangerous prey to hone his skills. In game however, Rengar often finds it safer to repeatedly kill his weakest enemies. We like the snowballing hunt mechanic that the Bonetooth Necklace provides, but we want it to incentivize Rengar to seek out increasingly dangerous foes, not that poor Nami again and again (even if cats do love fish).
On top of that, we want Rengar’s empowered abilities to stand out, rather than be part of a chain of abilities. We’re amplifying the impact of, well-timed empowered abilities, so that Rengar players can feel like they’re making split-second decisions about their abilities and being rewarded for making the right calls.
Thrill of the Hunt also presented us with some direct areas for improvement. A hunt requires both a prey and a predator, but right now its gameplay are pretty one sided. Giving Rengar’s prey more directed information allows them to experience The Hunt as a game they participate in, not a thing that happens to them (or doesn’t).

Katarina - The Pentakiller

Katarina has a hard job: wait for for the right targets to be in the right positions, track all of the opposing crowd controls, gauge her burst against the remaining champions’ health, and only when she sees the perfect moment, strike. Once she does, she needs to hit her basic abilities several times in a fraction of a second, leaving her a lot of room for error. If she succeeds, she can chain kill after kill and clean up a teamfight. If she fails, a single stray CC or mispressed key can turn all that planning into just a fantasy.
We want to empower Katarina to make those plays even when the stars aren’t perfectly aligned. We’re giving her more mobility to dance in and out of the fight until she can start the reset train going, and making her spellcasts more meaningful and deliberate.
But we also want her opponents to be able to tell what’s happening. We’re slowing down her abilities, and giving opponents a better indication of where Katarina is and where she’s going so that they can better respond to her threat.

Assassin Class Update

Minor Assassin Updates

While the major updates are the headline, there is still room to provide class-scope change to other assassins.


Fizz has a pretty unique role: he’s one of the few assassins who can initiate on his own, and we wanted to accentuate that. We’re also giving him more room to play around his slippery mobility, so that - above all assassins - Fizz is the hardest to pin down and peel.


Evolution is a cool concept, but it seems like there are just optimal choices. We want each of Kha’Zix’s evolutions to feel unique and worthy, so that Kha’Zix players feel empowered to adapt their character to the current game state and their own playstyle. Between his jump and his stealth, Kha’Zix has a lot of ways to stick to a target. Kha’Zix should be popping in and out of the fight and chunking you each time, then finishing you off.


We don’t feel like Ekko is too far off; he’s one of the more popular champions in the game, and has supported a number of different builds. That being said, we would like to see him better aligned with being a squishy damage dealer, not a tanky disruptor. We’re hoping to solidify his identity as a mobile, delayed damage dealer.


Shaco could use a lot of love, enough that we can’t solve all of his problems as part of a class update. However, that’s no reason to ignore The Demon Jester. Shaco has always been known for his niche combat tricks, but we want to make those feel more relevant in teamfights and skirmishes. With that being said, his early game ganks need to be toned down. Shaco players should feel good about tricking their opponents, rather than merely appearing out of nowhere at level 3 and ruining their lane.


Much like Shaco, Akali has several issues that scope too high for a class update. We’re updating stealth, and we hope the impact of those changes alone will be a huge boon to Akali players. On top of that, we’re exploring giving her more tools than just damage and invisibility, so that she feels better about choices that aren’t “fight” or “hide for a bit”.


Zed is a pretty badass champion already, but that doesn’t mean he has no room for improvement. In Zed’s case, we’re concerned that he’s a bit too consistent. We want him to feel like he has good matchups and bad matchups, so we’re tweaking his laning phase, and giving him added benefits for killing the right target with Death Mark.


Itemization for assassins has historically been mostly about stats: what item gives you the most damage? We want assassin’s items to give them utility to make them better at starting the right fights, whether that’s avoiding detection, moving more quickly around the map, or benefitting their team as a whole.
We’re also updating Flat Armor Penetration. Flat Armor Penetration is stronger when assassins are ahead, and weaker when they’ve fallen behind, giving them the most power when they least need it. We’re refactoring the scaling of those items to give them more consistent damage, and to help them feel more useful even when they fall behind.


Finally, there’s stealth. Stealth has been a tricky subject in League of Legends forever. Understanding the problems with stealth required us to dig into the underlying purpose of stealth. As it turns out, champions use stealth for two distinct purposes. One is more tactical, allowing champions to move about the map undetected and catch opponents by surprise. The other is as a combat trick, allowing champions to briefly disengage, break aggro, and re-engage with the element of surprise.
We have not clearly separated those two types of stealth, and so we’re doing a consistency pass on stealths, and breaking them into two categories: camouflage and invisibility. For a simple rubric, long stealths aimed at dodging wards are Camouflages, while short stealths used as combat tricks are Invisibilities.


Invisibility — our short-term stealth — should be a high moment for its users, giving them a brief respite in a teamfight to reposition and re-enter the teamfight from a new angle. Having invisibility countered by a 75 gold pink ward feels bad, simply put. We don’t want such an impactful mechanic to be so easily countered, and so pink wards will no longer reveal invisible champions. This allows for more a more consistent environment in which to balance stealth champions.


Camouflage is our new name for the tactical stealth. Camouflaged champions will still be revealed by pink wards, allowing you to track them on the map.

Phew! That’s a lot, so feel free to ask any questions in the comments. We’ll be announcing specifics soon, so stay tuned for more information!


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