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How Riot designed Pyke, an assassin in the body of a support

Bringing together two unlikely positions couldn’t have been easy

Riot Games

Pyke is one of the most unique champions Riot has ever revealed. In a world where League has five very concrete roles — a world we’ve all been living in for about five years — the thought of an assassin support seems silly at best. But if you’ve seen his kit and watched his teaser video, you’ve seen Pyke go 1-on-1 with Graves and triple kill in a teamfight.

Pyke is a different kind of support, one that firmly believes that the best defense is a good offense. After all, the enemies can’t kill your AD if they’re already dead. To get an idea of how Pyke works and the ides behind his kit, The Rift Herald sat down with Jonathan “EndlessPillows” Fuller, Pyke’s lead champion designer, and Ryan “Reav3” Mireles, lead producer on the champion team.

“He is very traditional assassin, in terms of he wants to win the early game, he wants to leave lane with a lead, and take over the map,” said Fuller. “Pyke wants to make it so every lane is scared of him, every jungler is scared of him, and if you run into him, you’re most likely going to get killed. He wants to end the game early. But if Pyke is really late game and people are always forcing teamfights, he has the advantage of having more of those support aspects as a fallback.”

At its core, this is Pyke’s identity. He is an assassin first and support second. But that isn’t to say this his supporting capabilities are poor. When Pyke falls behind, he relies more on his crowd control and support aspects. But if he’s able to get ahead, he becomes an extra carry for the enemy team to worry about.

Riot Games

In the mid game, Pyke seems to play like a traditional assassin, roaming and looking for picks or pushing squishy targets into side lanes. The goal for Pyke is the same as any normal assassin, but the tools he uses are different. For example, his time to kill is somewhat slower than Zed’s, but thanks to Pyke’s ability to hold you in place, they’re both equally effective at getting kills.

Pyke is versatile in almost every aspect but one. He will never be your off-tank the way Braum or Thresh will. Thanks to his passive, his greatest strength is also his biggest weakness.

“Pyke cannot get bonus health from any source,” said Fuller. “From runes he can’t get bonus health, from items he can’t get bonus health, and even abilities that grant bonus health instead grant him damage. So Lulu’s ultimate is actually a damage steroid for Pyke. He is intended to be very squishy. That is one of the core weaknesses of the character, is that he has a lot of tools, agency, and mobility, but if he get’s caught out, he dies quickly.”

Because of how squishy he is, Pyke is able to be both assassin and support in one without being overpowered in a traditional sense. He can roam and solo kill the jungler if he’s fed enough. He can move mid and gank the mid laner. Or he can set up an assassination against Janna in lane, since his ultimate’s execution ignores shields.

Riot Games

This is where the team was able to really build the other aspect of his kit, the one where health regenerates when he’s unseen. Pyke is essentially rewarded for sick plays that he makes. If Pyke is able to jump in, kill someone and get out, he doesn’t have to back like traditional assassins. Instead, Pyke can hide in a bush for a second and rejoin the fight relatively healthy.

This is part of why Pyke is intended to build AD items, with Fuller suggesting that a full support item Pyke would be an interesting “off build.” In some ways, Pyke is the ultimate fantasy of people who get auto-filled support only to pick Yasuo, insisting that they have a 80 percent win rate on it and to “trust me, bro.” But Pyke is so much more than that, he’s built to combine two worlds that couldn’t be farther apart.

“Pyke is a great support for carry focused players, but hopefully not only those players,” said Fuller. “He should also be a great support for players who enjoy the dynamic of a duo lane in general. But we didn’t see a great avenue to deliver more from a high agency, kill focused playstyle in bot lane. So we wanted to deliver something like that to players who still wanted to work with someone, but ‘hey, instead of me buffing my ADC and then they kill everybody, I’m going to help them kill people just as much.’”

Almost all of League’s current supports are a similar style. They operate in the lanes of powerful utility abilities but weak damage. Pyke offers a support that doesn’t have to sacrifice utility for damage, and whose weakness is instead one League's most important stats: health.

Ultimately, we’ll have to wait until Pyke is in the hands of all players and the best of the best before we can deem his execution as a success. But from a pure idea perspective, Pyke is one of the most refreshing champions to come to League of Legends in a very long time.

Pyke will most likely hit live servers with patch 8.11.

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