Kled, the Cantankerous Cavalier, is coming to League of Legends with the release of patch 6.16 and he is bringing his weird pet lizard Skaarl with him. Kled has been up on the PBE for 2 weeks now, and in that time I have had the opportunity to play several game as the cranky top laner. Kled is, in short, a weird little Yordle, with a weird little hat, and a weird axe/spear, who rides a weird lizard thing, but can also sometimes fall off of that weird lizard thing, and sometimes kill people. He also has two health bars.
Kled is one of two things. He is either a tornado of death and destruction that will run over his enemies with the power of 1,000 Tryndamere's. Or, he is a wet noodle that will struggle to maintain relevance at all. Going hard all the time is Kled’s general mantra.
Kled will find success against champions that he can bully in lane or with great jungle support. Similarly, Kled will fall behind if matched against a poke heavy champion, a duelist with any kind of damage mitigation component, such as Jax’s Counter Strike, or if his lane opponent has significant jungle support. Players who find success with Kled will be able dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge through the enemy lane, waiting for that perfect moment to strike. However, players who are separated from Skaarl in lane due to poke will have a pretty tough time farming, harassing, or staying alive. There is a real “ebb and flow” to playing Kled in lane. So let’s look at what this lizard riding Yordle can do.
Passive - Skaarl The Cowardly Lizard
How It Works: When understanding what Kled is and how he works, his passive is by far his most important ability. The player controls Skaarl herself for most of the time, with Kled riding on top of her back. When Skaarl loses all of her health, she bucks Kled off and retreats into the nearest brush. The player then takes control of Kled and his abilities change. If Kled can manage to refill his Courage meter, Skaarl will rejoin him on the battlefield.
When I say that Kled has 2 health bars, one for Skaarl and one for Kled himself, i'm not being hyperbolic. Looking at his health bar there are literally two separate numbers and a dividing line that declares where Skaarl’s health ends and Kled’s begins. Kled will always be riding on Skaarl’s back by default and can only be kicked off by Skaarl’s “retreat” after she takes enough damage.
Losing Skaarl is rough, especially in lane. Kled is going to struggle against champions that can easily poke him down and harass him. When dismounted, Kled actually loses damage. His auto attacks will only deal 80% of their normal value. Also, all bonus health he acquires through items are only attributed to Skaarl’s health bar - meaning that it is impossible to give base Kled any extra health outside of leveling up.
Easy to kill and low on damage, Kled is extremely vulnerable on his own. More often than not after losing Skaarl, I decided to make the safe decision and return to base which automatically reunites the two. Courage, the resource which determines when Skaarl will return, caps out at 100 and the grind for it can be rather slow. You only get 4 from killing an enemy minion, meaning that you will be mountless and vulnerable for a long time if that is your only way back on. However, if you are in a position to fight or push the wave, you have a chance to regain Skaarl quickly.
Attacking a tower or epic monster (i.e. Baron, Vilemaw, the Elemental Drakes, Elder Dragon, or this website's namesake, the Rift Herald) will gain you 5 Courage per hit and attacking an enemy champion will gain you a whopping 15 Courage per hit. Killing or assisting in the death of an enemy champion will grant a flat 20 Courage instantly. When 100 Courage is reached and Skaarl returns, she will be at 50% of her max health, although there is a brief delay between reaching 100 Courage and being reunited. This is effectively a massive heal for Kled and can easily bring him back into combat for quite some time.
This passive makes Kled an incredible duelist that requires good instincts and game knowledge to use effectively. With the massive speed boost that Kled has on his own, picking a fight with an enemy champion is easy, and as long as you are auto attacking effectively, you will gain Skaarl back in no time. However, knowing is half the battle. If you foolishly jump into a fight that you cannot win and your enemy kills you before you can max out your Courage, you will find yourself respawning back in fountain.
Q (Mounted) - Bear Trap On A Rope (Recommended to unlock at level 1, max 2nd)
How It Works: Kled’s Q is his only ability that will actually change depending on if he is mounted or not. When the angry Yordle is riding the derpy lizard, he has Bear Trap on a Rope as his Q. Kled throws a bear trap at his foe, dealing damage in a straight line. If the bear trap hits an enemy champion or big monster, it latches onto them. If Kled manages to stay within range for a short time, the target is pulled towards Kled, dealing large damage and slowing them.
This is Kled’s only ranged farming tool while mounted and his only CC outside of his ultimate. This ability is very powerful, both in the damage that it deals and the positional advantage that it affords Kled. While it is not necessarily a death sentence to the enemy champion, being pulled into Kled’s melee range is not ideal to one’s survivability.
One thing that is really important to note here is that throwing this ability means picking a fight. Kled must stay close to the target in order to get the pull, the slow, and the large damage chunk. This means that Kled’s movements will be very predictable against his enemy. Being predictable means that Kled may be forced to eat a skillshot or two before his trap actually pulls. This ability is great when Kled has an advantage and can afford some extra poke, but can be very dangerous when Kled is behind. Going hard may be Kled’s mantra, but if you are going to pull a Jax into your face, you better be ready for a fight.
Q (Unmounted) - Pocket Pistol (Recommended to unlock at level 1, max 2nd)
How It Works: Strange as it may seem, this is Kled’s ability that will take the most restraint to use properly. Kled fires a small shotgun, dealing damage in a cone in front of him and propelling him backwards away from the shot. Pocket pistol is on a charge system, and charges have long individual cooldowns. A 20 second cooldown per charge (up to 2) is pretty lengthy when you have such limited mobility. While the damage here is nice, the fact that the ability propels Kled away from the blast is the most important element. Kled is very immobile when he is on his own, especially if he is trying to run away.
It is important that Kled players maintain restraint when using this ability in lane, being careful to leave themselves an escape opportunity. More often than not, holding onto a shot is better than using it to poke or farm. An intelligent opponent will know how many charges a Kled player has. Saving that knockback to save your life from an aggressive dive or a jungle gank may end up being much more useful than the small amount of damage or farm that it provides. On the other hand, this ability can also be used to chase in a long fight. Firing Pocket Pistol away from your enemy will throw Kled into their faces, which can be helpful when chasing after flashes.
W - Violent Tendencies (Recommended to unlock at level 2, max 1st)
How It Works: Violent Tendencies is Kled’s bread and butter ability and the main source of his damage. Even better, it is completely passive! Auto attacking will cause Kled to frenzy, attacking faster and faster before eventually dealing percent of health damage on the 4th hit. Think of this like any other attack steroid, but instead of being activatable whenever you would like, the first auto attack that Kled uses after Violent Tendencies comes off cooldown will automatically start a 4 second timer. If Kled fails to auto anyone or anything in this window of time, Violent Tendencies will go back on cooldown. If Kled makes it to this 4th strike within the time limit, it will do massive burst damage to his target.
This ability requires some intelligent play to make it work. Killing minions with Violent Tendencies is quick and effective but it can rob Kled of a solid chance at big damage. Kled’s axe glows orange when Violent Tendencies is available. This can be a huge warning sign, making it easy for opponents to wait to strike until its is on cooldown, leaving you with one less damaging ability.
Using Bear Trap on a Rope to pull in an enemy champion is the best way to guarantee some hits with Violent Tendencies, but otherwise you should try and weave your way into the minion wave to farm, using the first 3 hits for farming and the 4th hit for poking your opponent. This particular poking technique is not foreign if you are familiar with how to play Jhin in the bot lane.
I recommend maxing this ability first because it will not only give it a shorter cooldown, making it easier to use, but it will also increase the damage of the 4th hit. That being said, it is important to note that if you are struggling in lane, you should switch to maxing Bear Trap on a Rope/Pocket Pistol, which will allow you to farm from a safe distance easier.
E (Mounted Only) - Jousting (Recommended to unlock at level 3, max 3rd)
How It Works: This ability is 1) only usable if Kled is atop his buddy Skaarl and 2) Kled’s main source of mobility. Casting E will cause Kled to dash in a targeted direction, dealing a little bit of damage to everything in his path. Pretty straight forward. However, 2 things make this ability more interesting. The first is that if Kled and Skaarl dash into an enemy champion, they gain movement speed and the ability can be reactivated, allowing them to dash back through the same target. This allows for some really creative opportunities to stick to your target and be very slippery in teamfights. The second is a restriction; Jousting cannot go through walls. Kled has no way out of a lot of sticky situations, so you have to be smart about where you go in the jungle when your flash is down.
R - Chaaaaaaaarge!!! (Recommended to level at 6, 11, 16)
How It Works:
Kled targets a location within a large range and sounds his horn. Skaarl begins to bounce along the ground and Kled leaps on top of her, and they begin to gain momentum, moving faster the farther they go. Kled surrounds himself in a powerful shield and a movement aura that allows allied champions to run alongside he and Skaarl at the same speed. The first enemy champion that is intercepted by Kled and friends will be knocked up and damaged.
When I first read about this ability, I thought to myself, “gee, that sounds a lot like Sion’s ultimate mixed with Sivir’s ultimate.” And you know what? I still think that. Oh, and he also gets a shield as well. This ultimate is nothing short of stacked. As in, it has a lot of effects and is very powerful. It even removes the skill cap of Sion’s ultimate. Kled just targets a location on the map and is guided there by pathfinding AI while Sion has to steer his way into lane, avoiding rocks and walls (all the while risking looking very stupid if he runs into one).
It may not do a lot of damage, but that is not what makes it scary. Playing against a Kled will leave you in a perpetual state of panic, waiting to hear his little bugle bellow across the map. When he starts his ultimate you have to move or die. Because he is coming, and Hell’s coming with him.
Kled is strangely naturally tanky, so with this build we are going to focus on building mostly damage, with a few situational tank items.
The Black Cleaver
Black Cleaver is great on Kled, because it gives him a little bit of health, some great damage, and, most importantly, the ability to stick to targets with the Phage passive: Rage. This will probably be Kled’s go-to first purchase.
Ravenous Hydra offers some extra AoE for farming, some extra damage and some life steal. This item is great for getting the upper hand in duels and life stealing for long enough to get Skaarl back when Kled is on his own. This is a solid second or third item and great in most situations.
If you find yourself ahead in a game, why not pick up one of League of Legends’ most powerful items. Youmuu’s will help you gain Courage quickly with its active, while dealing some massive damage on every auto attack.
Maw of Malmortius
Picking up one of the Lifeline items can be very helpful for adding damage and keeping Kled alive in prolonged engagements. While it is technically impossible for Kled to get 1-shot, adding extra survivability to Skaarl or to Kled himself can be very helpful. Picking up an early Hexdrinker against an AP Top Laner can be crucial, while picking up a Sterak’s Gage against a mostly AD comp will save you some headaches.
Adding some extra waveclear and attack speed to Kled is not necessarily a bad idea for duels and for split pushing. Being able to auto attack faster and with a little extra burst damage could help Kled immensely in getting Skaarl back quickly.
Dead Man’s Plate
Finally, Dead Man’s Plate is a great item for added survivability and speed, which can make following up after using Kled’s ultimate very effective.
Oh look, it’s Kled riding a Chocobo in his launch skin, Sir Kled.
Team fights with Kled can be a little bit ridiculous. More often than not, your goal is to dive in and tunnel vision onto one of the opposing threats and take them out. The beautiful thing about Kled in many of those situations is that he is easy to lose track of, meaning that he has a way of making big cleanups later in fights.
Kled can be extremely difficult to take down. You see, the same ability or auto that kills Skaarl does no residual damage to Kled. This means that Skaarl could have 7 health and a 10,000 stack Veigar Q would only kill Skaarl, leaving Kled untouched. Moreover, Kled is actually invulnerable for a moment after being knocked off of Kled, presumably meaning that any CC attached to Kled while riding Skaarl is broken when the two are separated. That is a ridiculously strong mechanic and a scary prospect when considering higher-level play.
I am currently unsure how to feel about Kled. He is very fun and satisfying to play when you are doing well. He is fun to watch, and promises to give viewers a lot of moments spent holding their breath. However, the nature of his passive is a little concerning to me. Playing against a fed Kled can feel hopeless, and playing as a weak Kled can feel the same way. As players grow in skill and as we see how he does in the live environment things will change, and he will most likely end up as a cool and interesting champion to play with and against. For the time being though, we are in for some rough trial and error, but isn’t that what League is all about?
Kled is one of the strangest champions to be released in recent memory. It has been a while since we have seen a champion with such a limited middle ground. Kled feels more at home when compared to older top laners such as Jax, Irelia, and Tryndamere than he does Gnar or Poppy. He rewards going hard into the enemy team and having no escape plan. In this way, he plays like an assassin in the body of a juggernaut. He is a weird little mess, in the best way possible.
*images courtesy of Riot Games, Surrenderat20.net, and Tombstone (1993, Cinergi Pictures Entertainment)