2017 Preseason: The Assassin Update

Much like the Mage Update of last Spring and the Marksmen Update of yesteryear, the Assassins will be receiving a major gameplay update for the preseason of the 2017 season of League of Legends. Riot has talked about this incoming list of changes very briefly over the course of the past few months, but recently, in an announcement written by Riot Statikk, they have finally shed some light on what we can expect to see changed and which champions we can expect to be impacted, without getting into too much detail.

Before we get into which champions are going to be hit, let’s talk a bit about why we think Riot is making a good call picking on the Assassins for an update.

The assassins “fantasy” has always been to outplay opponents, and in doing so, dishing out a metric dumpload of damage only by making the correct calls in split-second windows of time. “Fantasy” is the key word here, because since League of Legends has begun, this has not been the case with most of their assassins. More often than not, even with newer assassin champions, the goal becomes to dash in on a squishy champion, mash buttons, and somehow get out of the fight as the target explodes behind you like a scene from a J.J. Abrams movie as you put on sunglasses and walk away slowly with Metallica playing in the background. This has made for a very underwhelming assassin meta, meaning instead of picking complicated niches offered by champions to fill certain needs on a game-by-game basis, and using talent to maneuver that niche to make it effective, it simply boiled down to choosing the assassin that has the best numbers in the current patch for damage output and ease of execution. That means that when an assassin is ahead and can afford to pump the gold into raw damage, there is no outplay and it becomes only frustrating to play against. When they’re behind and can’t put gold into their raw damage, they’re frustrating (and useless) to play with regardless of talent level. The goal for these major updates is to shy away from getting killed and thinking, “Wow, that was bullshit,” and instead thinking, “Wow, I got outplayed,” to use the paraphrased words of Riot Statikk from his announcement.

So, who’s getting hit with the update hammer? Below we explore each champion’s directional goal and why this update will be useful to them. This document will be a living document. As Riot confirms changes, we will add to this page. For specific details, be sure to visit Riot’s official page on the new assassin changes.

The big four: These champions will be hit the hardest, as they need enough work for a gameplay update to be necessary, but not enough that they would need a complete rework (looking at you, Shaco).

leblanc.pngLeblanc: Leblanc is supposed to be tricky and deceptive, but as Statikk puts it, that really only shines through with her use of Distortion on the Rift. However, Leblanc’s deceptive kit and ability to play mind games mean absolutely nothing when she can just dash in on someone and they die before even having the chance to think about it. In other words, what’s the point of being deceptive if you kill before having the chance to deceive? In a nutshell, that’s Leblanc. We can probably expect to see some nerfs to her damage output, as well as adding a delay to when she can dash back out of fights, forcing her to have to really commit to making kills instead of just *dash* *poof* “/all cya nerds.”

Confirmed changes by Riot 20thCenturyFaux: 

  • LeBlanc’s Sigil of Malice is now her passive. The mark is applied by all her spells, cooks for 1.5 seconds, and can be popped by any spell for massive damage. If LeBlanc’s Q pops a charged Sigil of Malice, it chains to nearby ready Sigils (taking some of the waveclear duty off her W/RW).
  • Mirror Image is now a part of LeBlanc’s ultimate — when she copies a spell, she splits and both her and the clone cast the spell.
  • Mimic can now copy any spell, not just the most recently cast; she presses R secretly, and the next button press is the Mimic version of that spell.
  • Mimic’s R -> R is a new ability: LeBlanc creates a clone anywhere on the map. That clone runs toward the nearest enemy champion and casts a fake version of the most recent spell LeBlanc cast before creating the RR Mimic. This has a separate cooldown from the ult itself. 

talon.pngTalon: Talon, or as I like to call him, Discount Zed, is host to a lot of issues, and the only major thing that’s been changed on him over the past couple of years was that his silence was taken away and another slow was added to his arsenal. Where I think that was a good change, I do not believe it was what he needed, and that’s why I think this update is long overdue. Talon’s game play involves going invisible, running up to his squishy target close enough to dash, and then dumping the load of skills on the squishy target until they’re dead. If they don’t die due to Talon being behind, well that sucks for Talon, because he’s stuck in the middle of that fight now with no skills (Diana, is that you?). It sounds like Riot will add some more complicated features to his kit, adding a dynamic of skill and relying less on just having a bunch of items and headbutting your keyboard to kill. They mention also adding a way to navigate certain terrain to make his kit most useful, which sounds like it could be very unique.

Confirmed changes:

  • His passive is now a three-hit passive that results in a bleed on the third hit.
  • His Q (Noxian Diplomacy) causes him now to leap to a target and deal damage, or if cast in melee range, cause a critical hit. Killing a unit with this gives Talon health.
  • His E is now a Vault that can be cast to jump over terrain.
  • The blades from Talon’s ult now converge on the first target he strikes while invisible, instead of on himself.
  • Particle changes, most notably to his Rake and Ult.

katarina.pngKatarina: Speaking of headbutting your keyboard to kill targets, let’s talk about Katarina. She is in a lot of the same bad situations as Talon, as she’s designed to be a thought-provoking champion to play, meaning she has to keep track of a lot of things (mostly CC cooldowns) to be most effective, take advantage of resets, and clean up the back end of a teamfight. The thing is, all she really ends up doing is trying to snowball into lategame and smash buttons to do raw damage to squishy targets. Not only is Katarina super useless if she’s behind, but she also has the potential to be useless when ahead, meaning if there is one misclick or a rogue Nami bubble hits her mid-combo, she’s out. The goal for her update is to make it less punishing if you’re hit by a rogue spell, making it easier to enter and exit fights, but it also sounds like we can expect to see a smaller damage output to compensate.

Confirmed changes by Riot Whale: 

  • The Dagger Katarina throws in her Q now stays on the ground after bouncing.
  • Sinister Steel has been replaced by a spell that directly allows her to place a Dagger where she is (after a delay), so she can jump back to it later.
  • She can Shunpo to her Daggers. Walking over a dagger/Shunpoing to one will effectively fully refund Shunpo’s cooldown and deal massive AoE damage around her (Pre-Rework Sinister Steel, but amped up WAY past 11 – like, nearly lethal amounts of damage).
    • She goes crazy and bounces all over the place killing everyone (but only if she sets herself up correctly). 

rengar.pngRengar: Ah, Rengar. Such a cool idea for a champion, but you’ve been the butt of so many jokes on Riot’s end for so long. For those of you who don’t know, this isn’t the first major gameplay rework to Rango. In fact, it’s his third. There was a time that he was permabanned from the LCS for just being too damn strong after one of those updates. The goal for Rengar’s changes will be to add uniqueness to his empowered abilities, instead of certain ones just becoming the typical part of a skill rotation. This way certain skills should be able to be used in certain situations and against certain targets to maximize effectiveness, therefore adding more thought to his current kit which currently consists of ulting, finding the squishiest and most behind target (often repeatedly), and making them go bye-bye. As in Talon’s situation, if he can’t get the kill due to being behind he’s now stuck as a squishy in the middle of a fight with no skills and no damage, making him what I like to call a “sitting cat.”

Confirmed changes by Riot Repertoire:

  • Passive has a bunch of changes
  • Q is a double attack skillshot
  • W heals recent damage and has CC break/immunity on the empowered version
  • E is mostly unchanged
  • R gives more signalling to opponents, but lasts longer, makes Rengar faster, and lets him auto-crit the Hunted target if he leaps to it. 

The minor changes: These champions will be changed a bit, whether it be because it’s all they need to fit the upcoming meta, or because a major gameplay update would just not be enough and they just have to be changed enough to work until they can receive their own rework. Changes in RED have been confirmed by Riot Shrieve.

Fizz: They want the fact that Fizz is one of the only assassins that can initiate a fight on his own to stand out more, while simultaneously pointing out that he’s a slippery little bugger to catch.

  • Fizz’s Chum the Waters (R) now summons different sized Sharks based upon how far his fish flies before activating
  • Seastone Trident ( W ) has been reworked into providing a bigger payout when timed effectively 

Kha’zix: I feel like this has been said before about Kha’zix a few times, but the goal this time around is to make his evolutions all viable and unique, instead of just having one or two obvious choices. I think we can expect to see a nerf to his evolved Q here. They want him to be able to enter and exit fights repeatedly, which sounds like his reset mechanic on his leap or his invisibility might be changed as well.

  • Created unique strengths for each Evolution and balanced their power
  • Void Spike ( W ) provides more Crowd Control
  • Void Assault (R) provides more Map Mobility 

Ekko: Remember when Ekko was released and intended to be an assassin? Yeah, I don’t either. That being said, Riot is going to try to align Ekko with his original purpose of being an assassin and finally shy him away from being a tanky distraction. I expect raw damage to be nerfed and AP scalings to be increased noticeably.

  • Increased effectiveness for building AP and making riskier plays
  • Chronobreaking (R) through Parallel Convergence ( W ) will activate the stun and shield 

Shaco: Statikk points out that a gameplay update wouldn’t be enough to sate the changes necessary for Shaco, but that something has to be done in the meantime. The goal of his changes will be to mitigate the ability to just show up in a lane or the enemy jungle at level 2 or 3 to nuke someone and instead to increase his deceptive theme and maneuvering. They also want his presence in teamfights to be improved as right now its effectiveness is similar to Teemo’s.

  • Early game abuse reduced, tricks increased while providing more playmaking and teamfighting options in the late game
  • Backstab (Passive) has a cooldown, but provides a greater effect
  • Shaco’s Deceive (Q) duration starts small and scales with rank
  • Shaco can place Jack in the Boxes ( W ) while Invisible, briefly revealing him 

Akali: Akali is in the same boat as Shaco (needing a big rework), and while she is considered a “diver” like Diana rather than an assassin by many, she still needs to be touched a bit to improve her quality of life in the meantime. It sounds like they will be giving her more utility and tools instead of raw damage to move away from the whack-a-mole style of her gameplay which boils down to dealing damage, hiding until cooldowns are back up, and then dealing more damage. Invisibility in the whole game is receiving a huge change as well, and we expect her to benefit from that the most.

  • You now dash before dropping your Twilight Shroud ( W ). Also Pink Wards no longer reveal you
  • Twin Disciplines (Passive) has been reworked into a more interactive pattern 

Zed: Zed is a very unique champion, and Riot believes (and I agree with them) that his theme has already been accomplished and his core kit already matches his fantasy… Except that it’s just too damn easy. He’s shadowy and badass and has a clear element of surprise, but when he ults a squishy, hits skills, and then taps his ult again to poof away- there is almost no counterplay even on a behind Zed. That being “Zed,” it sounds like nerfs are headed in this general direction.

  • Zed’s Living Shadow ( W ) no longer has a passive that grants him bonus Attack Damage
  • The strongest victim of Zed’s Death Mark (R) permanently grants him a % of their Attack Damage 

That’s it for the champions!

Items will be changed as well, just like with the Mage, Juggernaut, and Marksman updates of yore. It sounds like there will be a focus in changing armor penetration items, and I feel Riot explains it the best:

“We’re also updating Flat Armor Penetration. Flat Armor Penetration is stronger when assassins are ahead, and weaker when they’ve fallen behind, giving them the most power when they least need it. We’re refactoring the scaling of those items to give them more consistent damage, and to help them feel more useful even when they fall behind.”

The other big update will be to stealth, making it so that Pink Wards will no longer reveal stealthed champions, but will still reveal what Riot is calling “camouflaged” champions. It sounds like the difference between invisibility and camouflage is that invisibility is usually short-lived and in the heat of combat, like Akali or Kha’zix, whereas camouflage is a persistent effect, like Evelynn.

Confirmed changes:

  • STEALTH  has been  broken up into Camouflage and Invisibility
    • “Stealth – Camouflaged: This character is hidden from view. It is revealed by nearby enemy champions and turrets.”
      • Camouflage examples: Evelynn Passive, Twitch Q, Rengar R
    • “Stealth – Invisible: X can only be revealed by nearby enemy Turrets.”
      • Invisibility examples: Vayne R+Q, Wukong W, etc

That’s all we know for now! Be sure to like this post and follow us by hitting the Follow Doran’s Blog button below to stay up to date on news on the Assassin update as well as all other League of Legends updates. Have a good one!


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Editor-in-Chief and Owner of Smite Steal Esports | Follow me on Twitter @aaronmickunas

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