With the most recent patch, Riot finally brought changes to the beloved (by the one playing him) and hated (by the people playing against him) Kassadin to the live server, and the changes are nothing short of a rework. While his numbers were changed again, there were also substantial changes to the way his kit works. I tried to come up with ways to make him work and found a “new” play style which could work out better than sticking to his old role. I’d like to discuss how Kassadin’s new kit is different than his old one and how you can adjust your game play to make it work – kind of. Keep in mind, this is not the definitive guide to playing Kassidin, but just a suggestion from one writer’s ideas.
But why a rework?
This is likely no news for you: Kassadin was one of the most problematic champions over the last two years. Constant changes were made to try and bring his power level down, changing around numbers and scalings in his kit – without ever making him truly weak. At the end, players and the balancing team had to admit that the advantages of his kit were too huge to balance him based on number changes (without making him too weak or unfun to play.) Two dimensional kits like his are inherently hard to balance – they are extremely reliable and hard to counter play (In this case: Rift Walk, which also is the integral piece of Kassadin’s design, and Null Sphere’s silence were the worst problems).
Therefore, Riot’s balance team decided to change his strengths around as much as possible without taking away Kassadin’s classic core design: keeping the insane mobility of Rift Walk while giving him new drawbacks.
What was changed…
|Void Stone was not gutted as hard as it was when the last “rework” hit Kassadin: instead, it stays at 15% reduced magic damage. The second part was changed: instead of gaining attack speed trough magic damage taken, Kassadin now ignores unit collison.While this means that he has even greater potential sticking power and escaping options, it takes quite a lot of “free” stats away from his kit, substantially weakening his damage over time.This wouldn’t change much when thinking about the old Kassadin – you rarely ever tried sticking around after bursting your target, but Kassadins new kit is a lot more dependent on his new W.|
|Null Sphere no longer silences it’s target – instead, Kassadin instantly gains a magic damage shield when casting it. This is a huge nerf for his overall kit’s strength – but it also opens up counter play to his damage, harass and burst without taking away the anti-mage aspect of his kit. Especially in laning, the skill can still fill a similar role in harassing enemies without taking much damage – as long as the matchup is based on magic damage.|
|Nether Blade got separated into a passive and an active component. The passive part gives Kassadin permanent magic damage on-hit, while the mana gain on every attack is gone. Instead, it’s new active resets his auto attack-counter while giving him high magic damage on his next attack, which also restores a percentage of his missing mana. The amount of mana restored is not bad when hitting a minion or monster, but huge when hitting an enemy champion. These changes provide his kit with a third burst tool, and an important one at that: with all of his base damages lowered significantly, he needs all the scaling he can get. The permanent on hit damage is kind of counter-intuitive right now: his kit does not really provide enough defense for him to stay in melee range for auto attacks, neither does it actually reward multiple attacks (the damage of the passive part is just too low.) On the other side, his kit has pretty low base damages and with only one crowd control effect now, which makes his possible debut as a bruiser much worse (but playable).|
|Force Pulse was changed the least: only the damage numbers were adjusted.|
|Rift Walk lost a lot of damage, too: but it’s core mechanic was also changed. Instead of costing a fixed amount of mana more for each cast in a certain period of time, it’s cost doubles on every cast for up to 1200 mana cost. It gained a small damage-for-mana ratio, but it is really tiny and does not reward going for pure mana right now… or does it? The time it takes for the charges to vanish is also much much longer.|
… and what the player needs to change
With all these changes in mind, one thing is clear: Riot wants Kassadin to use his W. It is no longer a question of risk/reward – Kassadin pretty much needs to hit a champion with Nether Blade mid-fight. Why? Because that is the only way to fuel the insane cost of Rift Walk. I found that this was the only way to utilize the new style of his ultimate: with a 3-second cooldown on his main chasing- and escaping-tool, and the big need to get in and out of fights due to highly range dependent damage output paired with low tanking potential, Kassadin simply needs to use his Rift Walk as much as possible. And this does actually work when you can manage to hit your target with Nether Blade.
But that also means that you need to maximize the amount of missing mana that it can restore. I tried to adjust my build to bring in even more mana and some more bruiser-like stats since you need to get just a bit closer now. I found that Iceborn Gauntlet can be a great substitute for the recently nerfed Lich Bane (since you need to auto attack anyways, both are very efficient buys on Kassadin now). 70 points of Ability Power, a nice amount of cooldown reduction and a huge increase of the mana pool make it a rather attractive buy – not even mentioning the great defensive armor and the even stronger sticking power it provides. While not your choice for first item to complete, Iceborn Gauntlet could be a real asset to help replicate old Kassidin’s burst.
Archangel’s Staff and Rod of Ages still are very important core items for Kassadin in my opinion – even more so with the new high dependency on a big (and mostly empty) mana pool. I also tried a very tanky bruiser-like build utilizing Frozen Heart and Iceborn Gauntlet as well as Abyssal Scepter, and it kind of worked – but it really is sub-optimal right now due to the very low base damages brought by Kassadin. With changes to his W (and probably base damages, but I wouldn’t bet on it) we could witness the emergence of a new bruiser Kassadin.
His AP scaling actually rewards going for fragile builds though. This makes Kassadin insanely risky to play to his fullest potential: if you want to stick to your target, you need to spend a very big load of mana, and you still have a good chance to escape. But if the target is able to avoid Nether Blade, you are a sitting duck for 3 seconds at best… and 12 seconds at worst.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing: the changes increased the counter play to Kassadin a lot. You can now actually react to a Kassadin popping up, and if you react before he can auto attack you, this can have massive repercussions for the void assassin. His risk/reward-ratio is probably the highest of all champions right now. I don’t think he is weak or a bad pick – but he is definitely very risky to pick into bad match ups; at least until we see what Riot will do with his numbers. I think that all changes have a good direction, and that experience will be more important than ever when playing him at the moment… experience with his new kit, that is.