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How is Kai’Sa a week after release?

Playing as her, with her, against her, and how she can be better

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Kai’Sa has been out for exactly a week today. With an ADC winrate of about 43 percent, she’s doing ... better than some other new champions but certainly not great. However, just because she isn’t the best doesn’t mean we haven’t played with and against her.

To celebrate her first week, Austen Goslin and Ryan Gilliam are here to chat about Kai’Sa.

Ryan

We’re gonna start with the positive impressions, because I really love Kai’Sa. Now, it’s impossible to deny that she has problems, problems that Austen will go in depth on in his section, but playing her feels awesome, if a little undertuned.

Starting off with her laning phase, she feels calculated to play, having to balance her range perfectly against her opponent. Her wave clear is fantastic and there are few more satisfying things than lowering the health of a full wave only to execute it all with a hail of missiles. Her poke is also really strong. While her W offers absolutely zero utility (which sucks, by the way), it does deal a boatload of damage in lane. It feels almost reminiscent of Jinx’s Zap damage when she first released years and years ago. But unlike Zap, Kai’Sa’s W has no indicator, making it much harder to dodge.

But her E and her ult feel almost useless in lane. At the early stages, before you scale up, asking Kai’Sa to forgo farming and any kind of pressure by Naruto running around for a second is a lot. Too much, in fact. I would never and have never used Supercharge in a early game trade and have instead opted to use it as a speed boost into or out of a fight. The main usefulness here is simply the turret taking power that it has.

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Her ultimate feels a little better but still pretty bad. If you’re up, you can use your six to dive the enemy lane and get out with the massive shield. I suppose you could also use it to follow up on a gank. But the the problem comes in when you consider how long it takes to kill a full health target as Kai’Sa in the early game. If you don’t hit five autos, you’re doing very little damage to a target. Throwing yourself into them when you’re low on stats is a great way to lose everything you’ve worked in lane to achieve.

But this is where we get into my big problems with Kai’Sa. We’re living in a world where Riot is asking Kai’Sa players to lose auto attacks to gain an attack speed steroid. A steroid that plenty of other champs (Tristana and Kog for example) get for free. It’s a unique idea that feel incorrectly implemented. Maybe if Supercharged autos stacked her passive faster? Or if nearby enemies took stacks while Kai’Sa was Supercharing? There are ways to fix it but in its current iteration it feels extremely situational.

Her ultimate is also problematic. I know for a fact that Austen will also mention this but the cooldown is so damn long. Why is there a 100+ second cooldown on a dash ability that gives you a shield. That is all the ability does and it doesn’t even have multiple charges. Ahri, Akali, Irelia, and Diana all have similar abilities that can be used much more frequently or at least have charges. It makes no sense and it feels really bad to dash into a fight only to die or to watch the enemy get away. Well, guess I have to wait two more minutes to dash in again.

I have one final beef with Kai’Sa and that’s the ultimate range. You have this long range W that exists to tag an enemy target with plasma so you can ult over to them. But the ult range is shorter than the W range. WHY? WHY IS IT LIKE THAT? My reward for a max range W is frustratingly slamming my fist into the R button and screaming about it not working? There isn’t even a slow on the W, for the love of god. They need to be the same range and it needs to happen yesterday.

All of that sucks and I hope it all changes. But that hasn’t stopped me from locking Kai’Sa over and over and over again. She’s just extremely fun to play. She has great outplay potential and fighting duels with her just makes me feel like an awesome player. There’s almost nothing to say about her mid and late game because once she get’s stats she feels like a dream.

Kai’Sa’s problem is that there is almost no reason to pick her up instead of another, better AD Carry. We’re so close to being there with Kai’Sa and I have no doubts she’ll get the buffs she needs. It’s just hard to look at her and see an awesome champion that Riot was clearly terrified would release extremely OP. That sucks for now but might just be great news for her future.

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Austen

Julia Lee/Polygon

I have a great appreciation for anyone who likes Kai’Sa, because right now she feels a few patches away from being a good champion. It’s not that she is bad, or that her kit is bad, it’s that it never quite comes together into something completely coherent. Almost all of her abilities are one or two changes away from working perfectly and making making one of League’s most fun to play characters. So let’s talk about how each ability could maybe feel just a little bit better.

Kai’Sa’s passive is fine. It takes too many shots and feels out of step with the rest of League of Legends, making her bonus damage feel like a surprise rather than a reward, but that’s okay and isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Her Q on the other hand, is simply too random to feel rewarding at the moment. Fighting in a minion wave could mean that none of Kai’Sa’s missiles hit a target she wanted, and could leave her missing a substantial amount of damage. Prioritizing plasma marked targets or at least champions would be a nice way to fix this. That would help her feel like she has a little bit more control over the one ability she can regularly use in a teamfight.

Void Seeker, Kai’Sa’s W, is actually pretty good, or it would be if her Q was reliable. That being said, a little utiliity on this spell would certainly do Kai’Sa some good. Even if it was just a 20 percent slow, it would give her kit just a little more control over the game.

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Supercharger is certainly Kai’Sa’s most problematic ability. On the one hand, it’s bonus attack speed in the late game can be pretty substantial. On the other, if she were to cast this in a teamfight she would lose at least one, maybe even two auto attacks, which can be make or break with the game on the line. But I think there’s plenty that can be done here. Maybe tone down the length of the buff, make it a little weaker, and Kai’Sa could be allowed to auto attack while the ability channels. If she attacks, her stealth is broken immediately. They certainly aren’t foolproof changes, but I think it would be enough to let Kai’Sa players feel like they can use the ability a little more freely.

Finally, Kai’Sa’s ultimate. At the end of the day, this ability and it’s change could make changes to the rest of the kit — outside of her Q which could definitely use something —almost unnecessary. I think Kai’Sa’s ultimate needs a significantly shorter cooldown. There’s a world in which Kai’Sa’s ultimate has a cooldown of something like 30 seconds and doesn’t give her a shield. While that would probably be the most fun version of the champion, I don’t think that’s quite necessary. Why not 70 seconds all game, with a weaker shield?

Kai’Sa has some interesting abilities in her kit, but she pays with them heavily with her complete lack of CC and extremely low offensive mobility. The one saving grace for her can be her ultimate but right now, it’s far too limited by its cooldown in early and midgame skirmishes. With any combination of these few changes though, Kai’Sa could feel like she has a little more control over the game, rather than so often being at the mercy of her teammates, the enemies, or worst of all, simple randomness.