Kai'Sa: A look at LoL's newest champion

(Image Credit: Gabriel.Gagne)

Riot released information about the new ADC champ Kai'sa today, and my grumpy morning brain is already a bit skeptical.

Don't get me wrong, the champ looks good. Great even. In fact, she looks almost too great. As if her kit has too many options for damage/mobility/survivability that she will completely outclass her AD carry counterparts. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, I'll fill you in.

Passive: Second Skin

I'm basically Vayne, m'kay?

Kai'sa's basic attacks mark her target with a stack of plasma. Upon putting 5 stacks of plasma on an enemy, they get bursted for percentage damage based on their missing health. Allies' CC effects also add stacks of plasma, so in all likelihood you'll usually need to deal around 3-4 attacks per target. 

As a secondary passive effect, and this is key for why I have my worries for this champion, Kai'sa's abilities can be upgraded once she obtains the right amount of stats and experience, granting them much stronger effects. We'll get into them more as we move along. 

Q: Icathian Rain

Swain's R, but upgradeable. 

An auto-aim ability that even distributes damaging missiles to nearby enemies around you. I'm not here to make the case that this champion looks like a no-skill release, I'm just making the point that she has an AOE (or single target, in some instances) ability. 

If you happen to have enough bonus attack damage, this ability gets upgraded and releases more missiles: m0aR DMG.

W: Void Seeker

Jhin 2.0.

The carry fires off a beam of magic damaging / champion revealing energy with the distance comparable to Jhin's w. 

It can't root your enemies, but it will reveal them for a period of time and also adds a stack of plasma for their troubles.

Upgraded, this ability gets a boost in damage and a partial cooldown refund on successful hits, though keep in mind you will need to build AP to get this bonus effect. Its pretty nifty, and the least spectacular of all her abilities, but also opens up the question of AP Kai'sa will be viable.

E: Supercharger

Run n' gun is for suckers.

Gain a burst of movement speed, but lose the ability to attack. When the movement speed is lost, Kai'sa gains the ability to attack with a side of extra attack speed. Essentially, this looks like the "get me out of trouble" ability combined with a "I'm not actually in trouble, I'm baiting you." 

Basic attacks reduce the cooldown of the E. It's pretty good, and the interaction between champions and having to pay attention to whether they can attack or not isn't new, but it's good to see as a means to offer more variety to the game. 

My worries with this specific ability start where Vayne's strengths end. Should you build enough attack speed, the ability will receive true invisibility while charging up, giving you even more options to avoid getting pinched in a bad spot during skirmishes. 

This means that all you have to do to become what looks like a better late game ADC than the current best late game ADC is build attack speed, which you were probably going to do anyway with Kai'sa and her plasma passive. 

The attack speed gets you your stacks onto enemies quicker, makes you a viable tank melter, and gets you the ability to go invisible while also setting that invisibility's cooldown lower.

I don't mean to complain before I even see this champion in action, but to me, this ability seems like something that makes a "make or break" situation. That is to say, as soon as this champion's stat-line becomes just barely good enough to survive an LCS laning phase, she is immediately better than any other ADC. As soon as she isn't good enough to last the early game, she probably isn't good enough to play at all. No in-between.

That's all speculation, but there are certain champions (Yi?) that this is a problem with and I'd hate to see that same issue come up onto newer releases, and this kit looks like it could be the perfect cooking pot to create such a mess. And I haven't even gotten to the ultimate yet!

R: Killer Instinct

Juke, shield, escape, engage, and stick all in one! Order now!

This ability looks good to me. It will reward good players and open windows to punish bad ones, while not adding too much fire-power to a kit that already looks insane. 

Should an enemy be marked with your passive plasma, you have the option to press that R key and quickly dash (not teleport) next to them. And the distance is pretty big for a dash, so keep that in mind. 

At the end of the dash, Kai'sa gains a shield for her troubles. This ability encourages risky play, which I like, so I don't have any gripes with it.

My issue with the information given to us about this champion so far is that it seems to take a lot from the identity of other champions and (probably) do it better. Jhin's high distance abilities, Vayne's basic attack stacks (which also do percentage health damage), Vayne's invisibility, and Tristana's attack speed buff are all things that immediately come to mind. 

All she's missing are axes to catch in between basic attacks and you've got yourself the prototype, the only ADC you'll ever need.

For those who aren't on board, consider the Gnar and Jayce conundrum. 

Jayce is a champion who can poke for damage, attack from a distance, jump on enemies, and make himself tanky-er while switching to melee attacks for up close encounters and mana regen.

Then Gnar comes along. A champion who can poke for damage and slow, attack from a distance and deal an extra percentage health damage, can jump on enemies or jump away from them, and make himself tanky-er while switching to melee attacks for up close encounters. 

Other differences include Gnar's ability to actually teamfight with his R, and the fact that Gnar can spam his abilities due to low cooldowns, and using energy as a resource instead of mana. 

Basically, Gnar takes away what makes Jayce the champion he is and in many ways does it better. Why even play Jayce against opponents who know what they're doing?  The only reason you should be is if they change Gnar, or make him objectively worse than Jayce from a mathematical perspective. While it's always debatable, Gnar seems to get the better end of that verdict.

And that situation is one I feel like Kai'sa could create on release. With the severity of her kit, she's either going to be outrageously strong and be insta-banned, or hilariously underpowered and never played. Nothing in between.

But I hope I'm wrong. Maybe I'll have my nerves calmed down and tomorrow I'll realize that she actually provides the perfect amount of change that the game needs to shake up the meta just a bit. 

Just maybe.

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