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Kayn guide: How to play League's latest complicated jungler

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Assassin? Juggernaut? Try: JuggIn or maybe AssNaut

Ed. note: League of Legends champions evolve over time, and so this post will too. This is a living post that will be updated, added to and changed with Kayn’s state in the game.

Kayn is League of Legend’s newest champion. A hybrid monster, blurring the lines between assassin and juggernaut. Interesting, cool looking and fun as hell to play, Kayn could be League’s best new champion this year. The question then comes down to: what can he do and how well can he do it.

Well, he can do a lot ... and he does it very well.

Update, 8/11:

Kayn is a bizarre character that brings somewhat of a fresh, if not frustrating aspect to the jungle role. Kayn’s Darkin for feels far more powerful and more useful than his Shadow Assassin form. This is partially meta based of course (a tank bruiser with CC and lifesteal is obviously powerful right now), but Kayn’s Shadow Assassin just seems weaker than other assassin characters in the jungle. Currently, Kayn still feels weird in the game. Powerful, fun to play, interesting and very frustrating to play against.

The Build

Like all things Kayn related, we have to talk in twos. Because Kayn changes so drastically based on which form you evolve into, we are going to list off two different builds.

Shadow Assassin

Start:

Hunter’s Machete, potions

Jungle item:

Skirmishing Smite Warrior

Boots:

Boots of Swiftness/Mobility

Build:

The Black Cleaver

Duskblade of Draktharr

Death’s Dance

Guardian Angel

Darkin

Start:

Hunter’s Machete, potions

Jungle item:

Chilling Smite Warrior

Boots:

Ninja Tabi

Build:

Black Cleaver

Dead Man’s Plate

Spirit Visage

Titanic Hydra

Ability maxing

  1. Umbral Trespass (R)
  2. Reaping Slash (Q)
  3. Blade’s Reach (W)
  4. Shadow Step (E)

Runes and Masteries

For runes and masteries we want to take AD marks, tanky glpyhs and seals and attack speed quints.

Champion.gg

Our masteries are going to favor AD damage with the Fervor keystone while granting us a little extra tankiness and sustain through the 12 points in the Resolve tree.

The Kit

Passive - The Darkin Sycthe

Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What does it do:

Kayn’s passive is a little unique. At its base form, when you first start the game, it will allow you to collect essence from enemies. Once you have enough essence, you will be able to transform into either the Darkin or the Shadow Assassin. The process of essence collecting and transformation is a little strange, so we have a completely separate guide to help clarify things.

If you decide to go Darkin, you will heal for a significant portion of the damage you deal with your abilities. The Darkin form is a juggernaut, whose entire purpose it is to deal with tanks and beefier characters. As such, the extra sustain will help keep you around when the going gets tough. Think Warwick.

If you choose the Shadow Assassin, you passive is all about burst. Basically, when you first enter combat, you will deal significantly increased damage for a short period of time. This lets you really take advantage of your kit and surprise the hell out of some squishy champs on the enemy team. Think Kha’Zix.

Q - Reaping Slash

Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What does it do:

Kayn dashes forward, dealing damage as he goes. When he reaches his destination, he spins his scythe in a circle, dealing damage in a wide area. This ability does bonus damage to monsters.

Reaping Slash is Kayn’s main form of damage. It provides a very small amount of mobility and feels fantastic to use. It is on a very short cooldown and is used for both clear and catch-up. Kayn is already hard to get away from, and this ability just makes things worse for his victims. You will spend most of the game spamming Q.

Darkin: Deals percent of health damage when Kayn is in Darkin form, allowing him to bust tanks.

W - Blade’s Reach

Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What does it do:

Kayn stretches out his arm and slashes down with the scythe, dealing damage in a line in front of him. Enemies who are hit by Blade’s Reach become slowed.

While Kayn is strong and mobile, he doesn’t really have much range. While Blade’s Reach may not seem like much in the range department, it goes a long way to ensuring that the Shadow Reaper can hit enemies who get a little too far away. Blade’s Reach is great for finishing kills, but it can also be used to catch back up to an opponent.

Shadow Assassin: Range is increased and the ability casts while Kayn is still moving.

The second part there is what really matters. Essentially, you can add another ability into your assassin rotation without slowing yourself down at all. No wind up, no slow down, no lost kills. This keeps your momentum going, allowing you to focus more on keeping up with your foe.

Darkin: Enemies hit by Blade’s Reach are briefly knocked into the air.

This provides Kayn with some much needed CC. Now, Kayn can interrupt abilities, stop those following him in their tracks and set up kills for his allies. This is one of the main reasons why you want to choose the Darkin form. It is a fast and strong form of CC that catches enemies off guard.

E - Shadow Step

Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What does it do:

Kayn speeds up, allowing him to travel through walls as if they didn’t exist at all. Kayn is also healed when he first enters a wall.

This ability is fairly straight forward. Kayn can walk through walls, and mess people up because of it. This allows Kayn to gank from odd places and path through the jungle extremely quickly. It is also a small form of sustain, giving him a little bit of health between camps. The cooldown starts high, but goes down significantly as the ability is leveled up.

Shadow Assassin: Movement speed is increased and Kayn cannot be slowed while in walls.

R - Umbral Trespass

Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What does it do:

When Kayn damages an enemy champion, he marks them. If he is within range, Kayn can leap into the bodies of champions that he has marked, riding along with them wherever they go. Eventually, Kayn will get kicked out of the body, dealing massive damage on his way.

This ability is excellent for dodging incoming damage and finding a safe haven for a fight. Similarly, it is the best way to finish off someone with low health, securing the kill by living inside of them. The ultimate is fairly straightforward, but it gains quite a bit depending on the transformation you have chosen.

Shadow Assassin: Resets your passive cooldown.

This requires a bit of observation on Kayn’s part, so that you don’t waste it. Basically, when you pop out of an enemy, the game will recognize it like you are entering combat for the first time. This will grant you a ton of burst damage for a few seconds, allowing you to quickly target another foe or finish off the body you were just inhabiting.

Darkin: Deals damage based on max health and heals Kayn significantly.

The tank buster damage is, of course, a huge help. However, the heal is probably the most significant aspect of this particular ability. If Kayn can jump into a tank with a lot of health, he can heal for a significant portion of his health bar. Kayn can start the fight by diving hard, and then refresh himself via the enemy tank. It allows him to keep going long after he should be gone.

Conclusion

From a gameplay perspective, Kayn is one of the coolest and most interesting characters in the League of Legends roster. The ability to pick up a champion and change your playstyle completely based on the trajectory of the game will be a massive benefit to both solo queue players and professionals.

What matters more than any of that, is that he is a blast to play. Thematically, he feels perfect. The way he looks, sounds and acts all fits nicely with how he plays. Considering that he is coming from the same gameplay lead as champions like Tahm Kench and Lucian, this isn’t particularly surprising.

With Kayn, Riot is continuing to prove that they have a lot up their sleeve. He is reminiscent of champions like Bard or Ivern, not in playstyle, but in philosophy. Bard opened the world of League to ultimates that could aid or harm both friend and foe (paving the way for Tahm Kench). Ivern took a simple mechanic like jungle clearing and flipped it on its head. Kayn brings a fluidity between assassin and juggernaut that we have previously only seen in poorly balanced champions. This time, it is on purpose and it is spectacularly fun.

Kayn continues the legacy of encouraging us for the future while also making us fear for our present. He is actually two, simple champions resting inside one complex shell. He is fast to pick up and easy to understand when you are behind the controls. However, I fear that Kayn is going to take some serious time to learn counters for. Once he has been out for several weeks and people understand what he can do, life should be a little easier, but for now, fear the reaper.

Riot Games

Last updated on 8/11/17

Relocated the ability maxing suggestions. Added a suggestion for runes and masteries, the information of which came from Champion.gg. Finally, added some gameplay thoughts that I have formulated after playing Kayn in a live environment.