Introduction submitted by
, I am Kindra Returns V, a Katarina one-trick with one of the highest number of Katarina games played this season.
With the Mage roster update on the way, the Assassin update
is one that could be coming soon
. Since Katarina (along with Talon and Akali) have been mentioned as possible candidates for major changes™, we as a community can discuss what we feel Katarina’s role in League should be before any designers decide on potentially strange directions
that might change her identity
in ways that will alienate current Katarina players.
I initially planned
to do multiple smaller posts on different aspects of Katarina, but feedback convinced me to condense the discussion. Even though we may not be representative of the League community as a whole, this is a step in the right direction, and Rioters who frequent this subreddit can pass on anything they find interesting to the right people. Now, without further ado… Katarina’s “Fantasy”
When discussing champion reworks nowadays, Riot often uses “identity” and “gameplay fantasy” as foci. In the interest of clarity, I will do the same here.
The goal of an assassin is removing the enemy carries from the fight. Some (Kha’zix, Rengar) do this by killing the enemy out of position. Some (Zed, LeBlanc) throw themselves into the fray, focusing the enemy down with a rotation and backing out for a clean kill. Some (Twisted Fate, Ahri) are constantly zoning carries and applying pressure, forcing the enemy to avoid being picked off.
Katarina is an assassin that takes an entirely different approach. Lorewise, Katarina is a famed Noxian assassin whose passion for killing is in constant conflict with her sense of duty. Notably, she once chose to take out a passing Demacian general instead of her assigned target, earning her characteristic eye-scar when forced to fight “no matter the cost” to take out her now heavily-guarded original mark.
This should be reflected in her gameplay. Most assassins have the goal, and only goal, of dealing with the target that their team wants them to deal with. Katarinas should feel torn. Do they fulfill their responsibility to their team, and eliminate the carry right away? Or do they go for an opportunity to kill something else first, just because they can
In game, this should translate to the Katarina player having to choose, every fight, whether to commit to diving into the fight and cut down the backline in a risky one-for-one trade, or to strive for the reset
on a vulnerable enemy that allows them to clean up the rest. High risks, high rewards. A little greedy, a lot selfish. This is what Katarina should feel like. Katarina’s Current State
Katarina currently is sitting in a bad place. This is not necessarily true from a balance perspective, since winrate or pickrate-wise there are certainly champions that are worse off
From a gameplay perspective, however, Katarina is not delivering as well as she can, for a multitude of reasons. There are clarity issues, her gameplay is often binary and uninteractive, and is rewarding the right things in the wrong ways.
Most notably, her reset mechanic combined with instant AoE burst leads to game health issues (kill one, kill them all) unless a full rotation of abilities has low base damage and scaling. On the other hand, having a full rotation of abilities do little damage to enemies without a reset makes Katarina the assassin most embarrassingly terribly at 1v1s, even against isolated squishy supports.
Katarina is dangerous to entire teams when ahead, so snowballing is an important issue to consider. Making Katarina more item-dependent than level-dependent helps enemy teams fight her when behind, but making it too hard to push an advantage incentivizes Katarina players to be passive and KS their way to full build before anyone else.
Katarina’s dependency on resets also sometime motivates passive teamfighting, forcing players to just wait for an assist before they can even risk contributing, or wait until the 4v5 has lowered the enemy team’s health sufficiently for her to clean up. Alternatively, Katarinas may build tanky so that they can risk fighting for a reset, weakening their contribution another way by flattening out the high-risk, high-reward rest playstyle to low-risk, low-reward. Both are boring, unthematic playstyles that shoudn’t be rewarded or used as an “optimal way to play” Katarina.
- Things that should be improved:
- Clarity issues: Sword wielding assassin builds AP, daggers do magic damage
- Clarity issues: Lightly armored assassin sometimes builds resistances or health to survive long enough for a reset
- Game Health issues: AoE burst resets lead to a “kill one, kill all” chain that cannot be balanced without low damage on individual ability rotations
- Challenging to 1v1 enemies until mid-late, even when they have no cc or escapes, due to lack of single-target damage or “outplay potential”
- Ult damage sometimes feels unrewarding early game even with a full channel, the enemy should always be fighting to get out of the zone or interrupt the channel, rather than be willing to stand in the middle and autoattack Katarina to death
- Things that are working well:
- Ability-based damage rather than autoattack dependency for a flashy playstyle that screams to the enemy “Focus me first!”
- “Selfish” kit that doesn’t contribute CC or other utility for team is in character, she brings only damage but brings a lot of it
- Squishy melee with no sustain results in challenging laning phase that enemy can exploit before Katarina scales into mid-late game killing machine
- Manaless nature is thematically correct (always ready to fight) and gameplay appropriate (players do not have to be scared of going OOM because of a reset)
- Gameplay focuses on predictive decision making, identifying opportunities, and timing for outplay potential rather than pure mechanical ability (“Shunpo to dodge Charm” vs “Use ult to cancel the skillshot bouncing blades animation and reset AA”)
- Ward-jumping and Shunpo-ing for survivability, for damage, or to reposition is a decision that should be important to make
- Enemy teams that have a lot of cc/health/sustain/survival abilities are clear counters to Katarina, while teams ignoring Kat when at low health will be punished
- What should come out of an update:
- Better strategic identity / Reason to choose Katarina over other similar assassins (e.g. Katarina for resets and cleanup, Akali for single-target damage and stealth outplay, Talon for AoE burst and objective pressure)
- More emphasis on importance of choice and timing for reset decision-making, rather than mindlessly moving on after every reset to the next low enemy
- Encourage aggressive risk-reward gameplay, rather than passively waiting for resets
- Remove instant AoE basic ability, so that resets can be better balanced
- Focus more power in Shunpo and Death Lotus since they are defining abilities (Make enemies feel more rewarded for interrupting DL / make Katarina feel rewarded for channeling DL longer)
Following are ideas for a suggested rework, with explanations underneath.
- Only affects basic abilities
- Bouncing Blades
- Bounce damage once again is reduced for subsequent targets
- Bounce damage does physical damage and scales very well with Bonus AD, no AP scaling
- Mark damage remains magic damage, and scales off AP
- After it hits the first target, Katarina can reactivate Q while it is in flight to blink to the blade, do magic damage in a small AoE, and stop further bounces
- The blink damage scales off AP and increases for every bounce that has occurred, reaching maximum after having bounced on 4 targets
- Death Lotus
- Now a basic ability with very high cooldown (~50 sec at rank 1)
- Voluntarily ending it early or fully channeling reduces cooldown by 60%, enemy interrupts set it to full cooldown
- Shorter max channel time, low base damage, but high AP and Bonus AD scaling that increases per rank in W
- Throws a maximum of 30 daggers per channel, 10 at each of three targets. Rate at which daggers are thrown accelerates over the channel (~4 per second at beginning up to ~8 per second at the end)
- Prioritizes enemies with lower percent health remaining
- Applies grievous wounds and does physical damage
- Blinks to target unit, and disjoints any targeted projectiles currently targeted at Katarina
- If target is enemy champion, does magic damage with base and scaling as well as a portion of the damage (scaling off AP) Katarina would have taken from disjointed projectiles
- If target is not enemy champion, reduces Shunpo CD by 60% and does no damage
- Killer Instincts
- New Ultimate: For a short time after activation, Katarina’s autoattacks and spells do up to an additional (X) true damage to champions, based on the target’s missing health. Takedowns refresh this duration.
- X has very low base, high scaling on both AP and Bonus AD
The Voracity change is slight, since resets are a core part of Katarina’s identity. It refreshes both Bouncing Blades and Shunpo, reduces Death Lotus’ CD noticeably, but does not affect
Katarina’s new ult. That will be discussed later.
For Bouncing Blades, the bounce damage falloff encourages AD Katarina to once again get in range of her lane opponent to poke them directly, rather than sit back and farm from a distance. Meanwhile, AP Katarina is rewarded with strong burst for strategically hitting her target with a later bounce, at the risk of putting herself in danger. The blink is meant to be the aggressive, less reliable version of Shunpo, with the additional kit mobility balanced by the inability to directly choose a destination.
Also important are the scaling changes. By changing the initial damage to scale off AD, Katarina now has to make a conscious decision whether to build AD to focus on poking, or AP to focus on all-ins. This is reflected in the damage type. If Katarina is building AD, build armor to reduce both her melee autos and ranged dagger poke. If she is building AP, the magical mark and teleport will be doing magic damage, so build magic resistance.
This is a noticeable difference, with her signature move changed to a basic ability. This was done for a few reasons. First, it still allows Voracity to reduce Death Lotus’ cooldown. Second, Katarina’s signature ability is now a strength to play around even from the start, like Blitzcrank’s grab or Garen’s spin. Katarina’s opponents now have to be careful not to waste CC and overextend, or an early Death Lotus could force them to back. Finally, this opens up options for Katarina to play more aggressively and strategically early, deciding whether to try to snowball mid, wait for the enemy jungler in a bush, or early gank other lanes for even more risk-reward.
At the same time, this provides new weaknesses. Without Sinister Steel, Katarina has little waveclear to push or cs, no MS buff to dodge skillshots, and cannot even proc Blade marks on minions without using autoattacks. This will make her laning a weak point that the enemy can exploit, especially if she risks an early roam away and fails. Later on, resets also no longer have instant AoE burst, especially with only a partial reset on her abilities, making them more balanceable.
With such a high cooldown, Katarina makes a gamble whenever she uses it. Successful trades and kills will result in the cooldown being reduced substantially, encouraging aggressive play. Failing to use it well will be punished heavily, especially if the enemy successfully interrupts it. It is her main damage source, and without it, she is left with only 2 abilities for a long window. The acceleration rewards enemies who shut it down earlier, potentially only getting hit with a dagger or two instead of 10.
Making it physical damage once again increases clarity (daggers are physical), and keeping grievous wounds as one of Katarina’s few utility contributions enforces Katarina’s niche better. If enemies want to live at low heath against Katarina, they can’t just heal, they need to stop her with cc or have a support shield them.
This is similar to the current Shunpo, but has more power loaded into it with the removal of Sinister Steel. If Katarina wants to use it to dodge damage or chase, it will stay on a low cooldown. But if she wants to use it in a trade, she will be forced to commit to the fight.
This is especially important since it is now a single-target magic damage nuke. It is a large part of AP Katarina’s damage, and using it right will help start a chain of single-target resets. Use it wrong, and Katarina has no escape and no damage.
The disjoint power re-emphasizes how Shunpo has both offensive and defensive uses. It no longer provides damage reduction, but negating targeted projectiles like autoattacks or certain abilities can potentially win you a fight if used well, and would distinguish Katarina’s mobility from other blinks like Talon’s and wardjumps like Lee’s.
When this defensive disjoint is timed at the same time as an aggressive engage, Katarina can turn the enemy’s strength against them. This encourages both building AP to do more return damage, and building less tanky, so that the damage Katarina would have received
is higher. Like many other characteristic spells in recent reworks (Poppy dashblock, Taric AoE invincibility), this new Shunpo is very strong, but only in certain situations.
This is a new ability that is meant to reinforce Katarina’s role as the cleanup assassin. After activation, Katarina will do little to no extra damage when fighting healthy enemies, while doing tons of damage to finish off weaker enemies. This has a particular synergy with a fully channeled Death Lotus: it can be applied over 30 times in mere seconds, making it even more important for enemies to shut down Katarina’s channel.
The choice of true damage emphasizes that Katarina will
kill you when you are at low health, no matter your resistances. Note that this does not scale off %health directly, but increases to a flat amount based on missing health. Enemies are always rewarded for building straight health or shielding off damage to survive. The flat damage prevents tanks from being punished for building tanky, and keeps squishies on their toes instead of encouraging them to build resistance/damage items.
The power of this ability is meant to be an important, and small, window where Katarina’s cleanup and reset power are massively heightened. By choosing not to have this ability reduced by Voracity, enemies are able to always know how long until Katarina hits full power again, rather than trying to guess how many resets she received. This also allows the cooldown of this ability to be balanced independently of the rest of Katarina’s resetting kit, limiting her dominance when ahead and keeping her relevant when behind. The Product
This rework improves both the clarity and gameplay health of Katarina, while reinforcing her identity as a mobile cleanup champion.
Katarinas that build AD will have better poke and sustained damage, and can be built against with armor. Katarinas that build AP will have better all-ins and burst, and enemies can build against her with magic resistance. Enemies can always build health or shield items (Steraks, FotM, Locket) to protect themselves.
Katarina herself is discouraged from building tanky, CDR, or mana items, limiting itemization as both a strength (allows for a focus on straight AD and AP that reinforces role of damage-dealer) and a weakness (some item paths are inaccessible or undesirable).
Low health enemies are guaranteed to die to Katarina unless their tanks and supports can intervene quickly with CC and shields. Shunpo and Death Lotus are reinforced as Katarina’s unique strengths, encouraging aggressive play when enemies are successfully baited and outsmarted.
Moreover, due to Bouncing Blades and Shunpo, Katarina’s strategic niche is reinforced as a very mobile melee assassin that has to commit and lock herself in one spot to do the majority of her damage.
At the same time, there are clear weaknesses and counterplay options. Katarina’s abilities are ineffective against minions, monsters, and towers, making her objective control weak. Teams with AoE cc like Amumu, Skarner, or Gnar do well against her, as Katarina has few options to react. Tanky enemies, teams who can stay healthy, and teams that can keep Katarina at a range they like are also strong against her. Summary
- Make resets more manageable to balance by reducing instant burst and adding delays in Katarina’s combo without just adding cast times
- Add blink onto Q to reinforce identity as very mobile assassin
- Reduce Q spam poke power by having bounces scale off AD instead of AP
- Remove Sinister Steel, replace it with modified Death Lotus
- Shunpo disjoints projectiles
- Ultimate adds flat true damage to Katarina’s abilities and AAs when activated, hurting low health enemies more, CD not reduced by passive cooldown reset
These are not meant to be “leaks,” or planned abilities, simply examples of possible ability changes that could be used in the Assassin update. Please provide feedback below, if anything seems interesting this could be our chance to influence Riot’s Champion Update team with potential ideas to preserve Katarina’s identity before it is too late and they cement themselves in a certain direction. And thanks for reading!
(lore moved to separate post here
My aim with this kit is to bring back the old LB burst and feel while fulfilling the demands Riot has for her to be healthy and balanceable. I think at the very least I've come up with some interesting ideas Riot might not have considered to keep some of the "op" things from her old kit but incorporated in a way that widens the window for counterplay. As well as deepening the kit wherever there was space left to do so. And with that I give you the LeBlanc, Katarina and Rengar 3-way lovechild kit.
- (1) Sigil Of Malice - (has no coolodown for procing on repeated targets) LeBlanc's abilities mark enemies with Sigil Of Malice. After 1.5 seconds her malice reaches its peak and her next ability that damages the enemy is empowered and its cooldown reset.
- (2) Short Temper - Cooldown reduction has no effect on LeBlanc's damaging abilities but instead reduces the cook time of Sigil Of Malice (0.75s with max cdr) and the cooldown of Shadow Of The Rose.
- Q - Magnifying Glass - (cooldown 6/8/10/12/14/16s) Leblanc channels for (0.5/0.7/0.9/1.1/1.3/1.5s) and magnifies a small orb of light through ethereal glass that hits the enemy. (interacts as a laser) Empowered - The light beam reflects off all nearby maliced targets and blinds them for 1 second.
- W - Distortion - (cooldown 6/7/8/9/10/11/12s) LeBlanc warps space and time to dash to a target location. She can snap back to the point she cast this spell for 4 seconds after it's off cooldown. Empowered - LeBlanc gains a spell shield that blocks the next enemy ability for 1.5 seconds.
- E - Ethereal Chains - (cooldown 6/7/9/12/16/21s) No longer a 2-hit spell. LeBlanc hurls heavy ethereal chains that slow the enemy by 10/20/30/40/50/60% for 1.5 seconds while held within its tether range. Empowered - The enemy is rooted for 1.5 seconds.
- (1) Encore - (cooldown 12/24/36/48/60s) LeBlanc repeats her last used ability. (50/100/150/175/200% damage of repeated ability) Empowered - LeBlanc goes invisible for 1 second and gets a short burst of movement speed.
- (2) Shadow Of The Rose - (cooldown 60/75/90/105/120s) LeBlanc's Encore turns into Shadow Of The Rose when it's off cooldown. Shadow Of The Rose's cooldown is separate and does not affect the cooldown of Encore. Once activated, Encore can be used normally. LeBlanc goes invisible for 1 second and projects a clone next to her that mirrors all of her movements and abilities along the x-axis relative to the direction she is facing when she casts this ability. (clone duration 2/3.5/5/6.5/8s) (clone damage 20/40/60/70/80%) (clone health 25/33/33/50/66%)
: These numbers are estimates. Is there something that's broken here? Probably, but I'm just trying to give the gist. Numbers can easily be changed, it's the core that's important. As far as damage goes I'd imagine she'd have strong scalings that keep her relevant into late game. Specifically I think if a person puts 6 points into Q it should be a feared ability and have serious one-shot potential on its own to compensate for the 1.5s channel time. How Q Might Look
: I envision during the channel time LeBlanc would put her hands a bit forward as a turbulent glass-like disc is summoned before her. When the channel finishes the turbulence settles and she sees her reflection in the ethereal glass as she puts her hand up to it and generates a small glowing orb of greyish light that magnifies through the glass into a beam that fires at the enemy. Note on Q
: I deliberated for a while on the drastic change to Q, changing it to a channelled laser. But I think it fits so nicely in her kit and fixes a lot of her balancing issues that it outweighs the unfamiliarity. For one I think it works better thematically, "Shatter Orb" is kind of random IMO. But even if you don't like how I implemented it thematically, having Q be a channel makes it a much less safe ability and more outplayable while still allowing it to be very high burst, maintaining its assassinate potential. Getting a good channel off would require good positioning from W and R, or good deception (hiding on a bush) making the kit more cohesive and giving her a tradeoff for the strong mobility. Also it helps give her added decievetrickster pressure if she channels it with multiple enemies in its range. They all have to respect it since they won't know which was targeted.
Examples Bread and Butter Combos
Instant snap back on W is back! - but you gotta earn it. The old QW is still viable, let the malice cook and then W in to get the empowered reset (and a spell sheild to boot). There's more flavors though. You can land an E first, starting the malice, then W in for the reset and a quick trade, or stay in with the spell sheild for a bit and get some extra poke before the snap back expires. These are reversible now too. So you can W in first, wait for malice, fire the Q off to get the empowered blind then fire another Q immediately after for a pre-6 double Q. Then if you're level 3 and have E up, you can let the second Q cook and hit the E for an empowered stun to end the trade and catch some last hits. Another flavor of the same combo would be E(cook)QQ and W can be saved as an evasion tool.
The W is more versatile now as well. Getting the reset for the instant snap back is nice but deliberately not getting it is a viable option as well. If it doesn't get reset, at 1 point the snap back on the W starts after 6 seconds up until a max of 10, so if you W away to escape there's now the potential for a surprise re-engage thanks to the prolonged snap back. I think there's more potential in this option than even I've imagined yet. If you max it out at 6 points then you can only snap back after 12 seconds up to a max of 16 (without a reset). That's a long ass time with serious re-engage potential. But of course it's a double-edged sword since if you W into the wrong place there's not much recourse for escape unless your flash or R is up. One other trick I thought of with this new W is that you could Q or E a jungle camp and then W into it after it cooks, then R over a wall to engage and finish off a kill or blow up a squishy, then immediately W back to safety. I feel like it's a stronger ability overall if used in the right hands and weaker if used without much thought or planning. Wave Clear and Mobility
This kit would have two main options for wave clear. Both W and Q would be viable for this. If you maxed Q, it would be pretty similar to how she clears in post-rework - you W the wave and then Q will bounce on all maliced targets. But in this kit, to do that safely you'd likely want to hit a minion first with E, let the malice cook, then W onto the wave making sure to hit the maliced minion to get an instant snap back, snap back and hit a safe Q for the bounce.
If you max W instead for your wave clear you'd want to start similar to the Q-max way by hitting a minion in the wave first with Q or E and then W-ing into the wave so you get the reset and snap back instantly if you need the safety. If you don't need the safety then W will still do lots of damage and you can simply W the wave and wait the 12 seconds for it to come back up. The New Ultimate
LeBlanc's new ultimate has two faces: the familiar mimic ability, now renamed to "Encore" to fit better with her theme, and Shadow Of The Rose which gives her an active clone to play with. Like all her other skills, it can be deliberately capped at 1 point to have an Encore with just a 12 second cooldown and a SotR at 60s (or ~30s with max cdr). The tradeoff of the low cooldown will be the skill's damage and utility. Encore will only do 50% of the repeated ability, and the clone from SotR will have a short 2 second duration, just 20% damage and only 25% health. However, it's going to be up more and almost to a spammable level, for the players that want to make a lot of clone-based deception plays over a high damage build waiting for long cooldowns to come up.
Another interesting thing about her R is that it can get a reset. So let's say you max out her ultimate to 5 points, giving you a 60s Encore. Your mimicked ability will do a hefty 200% damage, and you can reset the full 60s cooldown if you proc sigil with it! But if you don't get that sigil proc you're going to be boned for a while. And SotR gets pretty insane with 5 points as well. It will have a 120s cooldown (~60s with max cdr) and an 8s clone with 66% health dealing 80% of your normal damage. The plays you can make with something like this would really only be limited to your imagination. You could activate SotR and do a WR in two opposite directions dealing massive damage in two places at once since your damage is on the abilities themselves instead of her passive. Or you could manipulate the reflected clone's direction so it hits the same target along with you, adding an additional 80% damage from the clone to any combos you land on the target. It would be great for escapes as well. Activate SotR and then W in two different directions. The clone is fully targetable and deals damage as well so if used cleverly it would be hard to know which is the real LeBlanc. Different Play Styles
This is by no means exhaustive, just a few off the top of my head. Play-Making Trickster
- Single point in W for added mobility, maxing Q and E for the burst in Q and to keep R a low cooldown. For items and masteries you want to cap out cdr to 45% to get SoM and SotR cooldown as low as possible. Play style will include activating SotR in a bush by nearby enemies and W-ing out of it, sending your clone into them to fish for expensive cooldowns, then snapping back on your W after 6 seconds (or walking back if its faster) and using R to mimic-W in close range, then hitting your E to get a 60% slow, walking up a bit further if you need to so your 1.5 second Q channel will go through, and firing the Q which can easily one-shot a squishy, then using the R snap back after 6 seconds to disengage. One-Shot Tank-Melter
- For items we're going full damage, so RoA, Rabadons, Void Staff, etc. Max Q, W and R, leaving 1 point in E. E will be used primarily to start SoM. We have massive damage on our R, Q and W now, but any misstep could mean lights out since our escape's cooldown is very punishing and we have very little utility on E. A play might include W-ing over a wall then activating SotR and immedately using R to mimic W onto our target(s) dealing 280% the normal damage of W if we hit with our clone as well. Now sigil is cooking on all the targets. So right after we channel our Q which has a 1.5 second channel time, but we're in range close enough from the R and it's going to bounce off all of them so they need to expend multiple cooldowns if they want to escape. If the channel goes through it will do 180% damage if the clone was in range as well and they're blinded for 1 second from the empowerment and our Q is immediately back up. We can use E now to start another SoM on a nearby target and immediately cast Q again to get the 180% right after, blinding them again and putting Q off cooldown for a second time. By this time W is about to come back up and we can use it to reposition/escape if we need to, with a third Q ready for whatever else needs to be done.
With this kit it's easy to know when you're in the most danger around LeBlanc, are you maliced or not? This fulfills Riot's demand for making her threat more telegraphed, enabling more counterplay. I tried to move everything op about her old kit onto her passive (instant snap back and root on E) without it being as binary as "she proced her passive so she did 2k true damage to me ggwp".
I feel like LB should be the champion equivalent of Mejai's - if she gets ahead her one-shot potential is real and katarina-esque in its spammability granted she gets good resets, but unlike old LB a failed rotation or miscalculated engage/escape will likely result in very punishing cooldowns or her life. When you lock in LeBlanc it should feel like you're laying down the gauntlet. If old LB was a gamble stating "I'm going to pop off or lose this game" then this LB is the gambler that put his house's mortage on a roll of cee-lo. Each successive point in the same skill massively increases that skill's potency, but at the fatal cost of its cooldown. The solution? Unleash your malice (get empowered reset) or die trying.
With each ability maxing at 6 points, and 5 for her ultimate, thoughtful point allocation would be as much a part of her build as itemization. Deciding to cap an ability early at just one or two points, stunting its potency and cooldown, would allow for quite different spell rotations and play styles to be possible.
Okay that's all I got. If you feel so inclined leave a comment and let me know what you think. Any feedback/criticism is appreciated. Thanks for reading!