League is a game where thousands of individual factors interact with each other in complex ways that allow for nearly infinite possible outcomes. How much you understand these factors and their interactions with each other determines how much success you will see. Champions are packages of factors, each with unique ability combinations that are designed to allow them to succeed in some situations, but be outclassed in others. We refer to these packages of factors that each champion has as “kits,” and the more you can understand about each champion’s kit, and its relationship with others, the better.
A “kit” is a compilation of tools, tools being what the character’s abilities can do. Carries‘ kits are usually all about damage, how they can inflict more and more. Tanks‘ kits’ are usually designed around durability, with things like shields and HP/AR/MR/Tenacity bonuses, supports want utility in the form of buffs/debuffs, CC, terrain creation, etc. and bruisers generally want a little bit of everything.
For determining how a champion should be played, you have to use some imagination and creative logic. Let’s look at the kit of someone relatively simple like Vlad.
- Passive: Vlad’s HP and AP scale off each other, with AP having a significantly better scaling factor. This tells us he is designed to be a lategame character, since his passive is heavily item dependent. The idea is that it is weaker early, average to above average mid-game, and strong late game. It also tells us he is designed to be a Tanky Carry.
- Q: Single-target Damage and heal, long cooldown at first that gets very short with level. Not the best ratio, but when you consider the cooldown AND the fact that it heals independent of spellvamp it’s quite strong with time.
- W: short MS boost, untargetability, ignored unit collision. Primarily a self-peeling tool, can be used as soft CC very situationally, and heals for a bit (but this is almost negligible considering the health cost). AOE Damage scales off of health, so it’s quite counter intuitive to use this ability for damage (if you were to build health to increase it’s damage you would have to use your only defensive spell to go aggressive with…) except very situationally.
- E: AOE Damage, increase self-healing abilities (though not spellvamp), get progressively better with each use up to 4 times (but also more expensive in terms of hp cost). Low scaling, but quick cooldown.
- R: Damage Amplification for 5 seconds and then ult damage hits, much like a zed ult, only this will amplify damage from all sources except true damage (baron, towers, minions, other allies, etc.).
Some starting factors to consider are: resource type, ranged/melee, mobility, hardiness, general scaling, sustain, kill potential, ability combinations, and item interactions.
Vladimir is manaless, which basically means he is better at long, drawn out engages and weaker in short, bursty ones, and late game he has an extra slot. He is ranged, so he can easily harass melee champions, especially those who lack immediate gapclosers (Singed, Nasus, Trundle), but his early game weakness and lack of dueling potential make him very weak to those with gap closers (Irelia, Xin, Jax). His abilities are all pretty short range, which means he’s going to take damage when he trades most of the time, but that’s okay, he has healing and tankiness built in through his passive and q. Spell Vamp is very good on him for this reason (as well as others).
His damages aren’t that great for bursting, but because of his short cooldowns and the increasing effectiveness of his Es, he excells at extended fights. As he needs to last in fights to maximize his potential, he needs to be tanky, which his passive allows him to do. Spell Vamp is really good on him for this reason (and because it replaces his health costs). Also, his W allows him to get off another set of abilities if used correctly. A well-used Zhonya’s is also allows for another set of cooldowns to be used. So, while he can do a lot of damage in addition to taking a lot, he needs items (Spell Vamp, Zhonya’s, etc) to do this. He is both limited and empowered by his kit because it lets him be an AP hypercarry, while also being an off-tank, but only if he gets his items. Without them, he is very weak. Now, let’s go on to how these abilities can be used:
Oftentimes you can understand how to maximize an ability by comparing it to others and noting the differences.
- R is a great engage tool, it should be used as soon in a fight as possible, and since he gets pretty tanky (a “tool” he gets from his passive) with multiple escape mechanisms (“tools” he gets from his W and Zhonya’s), he can do this. Because the damage is delayed, it is harder to use and less practical in a lot of situations than an ult with an immediate effect (Gragas, Katarina, Annie), in return, the damage amplification allows for more total damage. However, it is an AOE ult, making the individual damage less (compare to Veigar, Syndra, Mordekaiser), requiring it to hit 3+ targets to be “worth” in most contexts.
Consider how an ability works, and what types of situations it can be used to maximum effectiveness, and the opposite, what could cause it to be ineffective or even harmful.
- His W will reset tower aggro so he can tower dive very well. It will also reset minion aggro. Depending on the mental state of the enemy team it may reset champion aggro as well. Because it makes him untargetable and not invulnerable he is very vulnerable to DoTs (e.g. ignite, posion, etc.), especially becauseit takes health to use, but it is still very good (with perfect timing) against things such as Caitlyn and Darius ults.
Don’t forget that most of the game revolves around minions and towers, not champions. How a champion interacts with the static factors of the game is easy to overlook, but doesn’t make it any less foolish to do so.
- E is very useful for clearing minion waves, giving him some viability as a splitpusher. If you run ghost on him that viability increases significantly. In order to get Es off on multiple members of the enemy team you have to pretty much be in the middle of them, meaning you probably want to be in a dive comp so you don’t get nuked right away, and pool/Zhonya’s use will be key.
- Because many of the tools in his kit (W,E,R) are multi-target, once he has any form of spellvamp he is good at fighting in enemy minion waves because he can sustain back health (although he has to be careful of their damage if he uses autoattacks).
Every champion has to deal in areas they are weak in, as well as those they are strong in. Think about what tools they have to survive the situations they don’t like, and how they can use those to bridge from a bad situation to a good one.
- Q is his only single-target ability, it is the first you should level because it gives the best 1v1 potential for laning, it will also increase his ability to sustain in lane, and is the only ability without a health cost (so you don’t kill yourself laning. Because of the need to max this first his teamfight potential is largely delayed until L 13 when his E is maxed. Because it restores health as well as damages the enemy (and the fact he has no mana) he is very good at repeated trades. If Vlad can force trades with his opponent while still at early levels he can run them out of mana very quickly (the cooldown is very long at low levels, so he has to be trading as soon as the cd comes up, and using his autos along with his Qs).
- Because he is reliant on getting close for a long time to get off multiple cooldowns he is quite susceptible to CC. There is also danger of getting tunnel vision that leads to being kited along viciously.
Summoner Spells are factors very similar to Items and Abilities, so you should consider which summoners synergize/counterplay the best.
- Because his ult works well as an execute, ignite is not the best option usually (although I take it because I’m a bad Vlad and cant get kills without it because it gives him more dueling potential in lane).
- Because of the sustained damage that he can give, as well as his lack of gapclosers/CC, Ghost is a good option for chasing down kills. Because he isn’t AD, he doesn’t need to stop and auto attack, so its fairly easy to keep getting E+Q combos off (although they do stop his running), assuming you have a long distance over which you can run.
- Flash is very handy for escaping as well as jumping in to get off a combo to get a kill whether or not you are carrying ignite.
I could probably go on for a bit longer, but that should give you the basic idea. Think about how well a character takes Baron/Dragon, how much they benefit from red/blue buff, how fast they can clear each jungle camp at each stage of the game, how well they benefit from bush play, what items/summoners work well, etc. Every context that you can think of, think of how that champion’s abilities could be used in it, and rate them as good, bad, great, terrible, or okay for each scenario. Their performance in any given context is really what a character’s kit is, and the better they do overall, the stronger their kit is. In some ways, the biggest limitation to a champion’s kit is the summoner’s imagination.
This should give you a foundation for understanding kits, and now that we have established what they are, I will conclude my thoughts on how they should be used in a soon-coming article. I highly recommend you do something similar to what I did with Vlad with one of your favorite champions, you may find that it helps you understand them better, or establishes what you already know more concretely in your mind.
I love feedback, and I love talking League even more. Please drop your thoughts into a comment below 😀