[GUIDE] Melee Kassadin - AKA Inyourfaceagainadin, AKA Hashashadin
(Disclaimer - This guide is from February, and is not very current. I am currently doing research in the current state of the game, to update this guide, something which should happen in the next few days.)
Let me first start by stating that I have over 100 wins with Kassadin, with ~1.5:1 W:L ratio. A few of the losses, were me trying AP builds out - I can't get my head around them even after learning other mages, but probably just because I have such a strong affinity for Kass as a melee. I play somewhere in the mid ELO. I often like to think I am high-mid, just on the cusp of higher tier play. I like it here, I think the top ELO game is less interesting, and I'm happy to not belong to it until the game has evolved a bit more in design. That said, I have not seen this build and this playstyle in "totally pro and competitive" match, but it is highly effective against people who are in no way new to the game.
Personally, I feel that Kassadin's entire design, is melee-centric, and that by going AP you are restricting your potential. Further, I believe that the only reason that the current paradigm of AP builds for Kass is merely due to the game itself, and the fact that Kassadin has such extreme survivability if you stay at range, that it's -easy- to do well with him as Sniperdin. However, looking at the character, we see multiple points of synergy for a melee killer - Hashashinadin. First, most people seem to think that Nether Blade is useless. Further, they pose arguments such as "if you go melee, how do you keep from running OOM?", as if they think that playing as melee, you will have a 5-0-5-3 skill build at level 16. Second point, abilities used around you boost your attack speed. This is, in fact, a big deal, not just for your damage output, but for that sweet sweet mana leech. Now, combine this with a Silence that hits like a truck and stifles escape or retaliation, a Slow that also hits hard, and tends to be fairly spammable, and the single best pursuit/escape skill in the game, and I just can't comprehend why so few people are even willing to give up their decent AP ratios, and generally very conservative playstyles.
The role of melee Kassadin is simple, you pull the linchpin. It starts in solo mid, where 90% of matches I come out ahead of the other party - in some cases pulling a kill out of an enemy gank attempt. By level 7-8 you can easily pop out of nowhere, burst someone for ~700 damage, and then proceed to cut them down - in my experience one of the best gankers in the game. By late game, your Orbs will not hit all that hard as a harass when 5v5 skirmishes are going on, but once engagement is made, you are the Ryze/Twitch/Kat/Ashe/etc killer. In late game, there is often an inverse corrolation between damage potential and survivability. This works because the 'glass cannon' sits behind their meat, and safely annihilates your team. Kassadin invalidates this, and forces the enemy to choose between exploiting their full killing ability and being helpless against you, or investing in survivability, and bringing less burst to the table for group fights.
The irony here is that with lifesteal and mana leech, survivability items do not help people that much against you, since it means you are less frightened of the retaliatory burst, and you are quite prepared to outlast them - OR eat the burst, and simply Riftwalk away, having sown chaos and discord in the enemy ranks, to provide opportunities for the rest of your team. You are also a solo tower pusher. With this character build, you can tear towers down fairly fast, and you can escape all but the most perfectly executed gank attempts. As melee Kass, you are exempt from calls for "all together", and such things, because of these 3 reasons; you can take care of yourself fine, you can perform useful acts solo while the other 4 together, AND if you arrive several seconds late to a team fight where everyone is at 50% health and have blown their disables... well, hello Triple Kill.
Okay, I will skip the numbers, and just describe, because it's not about the raw numbers themselves, but rather what you can do with what.
Passive - Weapon Mastery? (I don't think it's called that, but I haven't looked in ages and I'm not logged in, so this is from the databse!) - This is 15% shielding from abilities, and gives you that sweet sweet attack speed buff that will be on you pretty much for 100% of your fighting. Why people play in a way that makes your passive ineffective, I do not know.
Q - Null Sphere - This is a quality Silence, and a powerful nuke. The uses for this ability are endless, and I push it to 5 as fast as possible.
W - Nether Blade - Not too useful at the start, when you aren't chain casting, and mana pools are small. When I was a n00b, I pushed this skill HARD, and at 6 I would just Q>Riftwalk>attack, and often get all my mana back to harass again shortly after. This is not as effective against skilled opponents as pure Q harassing though, so I would not recommend it. Nether Blade is a powerful mid-late game tool, it's not the focal point of the char.
E - Force Pulse - Very nice ability. However, I level it in tandem with W, as with this build they are of equal importance. Also, since you are not an AP focus, you don't have to worry TOO much about maximizing targets. That is, you aren't look at this as an "AOE damage spell", which it is, but you are looking at it as a disabler, which it is more useful as. So, AP wants to hit as many people as it can, melee just cares that the right person/people got hit.
R - Riftwalk - Yes, Cakewalk is your zen assassin poetry skill. With a melee build, you're not really going to worry about doing damage with Rifting (though in early ganks, that 100 damage always helps!), but you will use it to confound, disturb, horrify, and frustrate the enemy. No one is safe from you, and unless they brought friends, no one can pin you down and kill you.
Honestly, my build is 9/21/0. I prefer this build specifically for its overall versatility, and NOT for its precise synergy with any one particular champion. Key points in the use of this build are Archaic Knowledge for 15% Magic Pen, Nimbleness to occasionally help save your life, Veteran's Scars for 60hp, and Ardor for AP and AS buff, not to mention Tenacity whose 4% damage reduction helps even when you are not - or can not attack(ing) your opponent. While I can see either Offensive or Utility being smarter for AP Kass, I do believe that with a melee orientation, the passive boosts to your survivability from Defensive tree masteries synergize better with the build, and allow you to focus heavily on killing ability in your gear build.
Currently my rune page gives; 15% Attack Speed (Marks), 12 HP regen @ 18 (thinking of swapping for flat rate regen for early game benefit - Seals), 24 mana regen @ 18 (by level 5 it's a free Meki, for better spamming, and more endurance vs manaless opponents - Seals+Glyphs+Quints), 3.9 Armor Pen just because (Quint), and 5.3 MR @ 18 (Glyphs). This rune build is heavily regen oriented for strong early game harassing, with a focus on mana regen so that you can keep a minimal amount of mana around no matter what, without any regen items. The Attack Speed is highly synergistic with many builds, allowing you to push your damage earlier in your gearset.
For a very long time, I always used Heal + Ignite. There's going to be some jokers who will say "Heal? LOLz nub", but I fell in love with it in CB when it was quite potent. Even after the nerf, like clockwork I would simply skirmish til both of us were ~50%, then Q>R>E>Ignite>Heal and it was almost 100% guaranteed comfortable kill. As solo mid, locking in that first kill against the enemy carry is nearly worth justifying both summoner spells, even if they are of marginal use later.
Unfortunately, the Ignite buff made it a MUCH more common summoner spell, and it is a great disincentive from using Heal, since the smart time to actually use the Heal, coincides with the smart time for your opponent to Ignite you. Currently, I use Ghost+Ignite, though with your role in the group, especially if you insist on using Offensive masteries, you can easily have the upgrades for both Exhaust and Ignite, which makes them highly attractive.
Otherwise, there are simply no strong compelling choices for Kassadin. Yes, Flash can sometimes be chained with Riftwalk for daring exploits. Teleport can be handy for anyone, but your run speed will be very high, and Riftwalk helps you get here or there quickly enough. Smite? No. Perhaps Cleanse, though I must admit I've just never used it. Rally/Fort/Clair could all give some team benefit instead of the Ghost. Personally, I feel that Ignite is a must-have, since you are a master of 1v1 and soft target neutralization.
But depending on playstyle and team makeup, that second spell could be just about anything, and as long as you use it well, it will enhance your strengths (just no Clarity on melee build, come on!).
1 - (1) Q
2 - (1) E
3 - (2) Q
4 - (1) w
5 - (3) Q
6 - (1) R
7 - (4) Q
8 - (2) E
9 - (2) W
Q is your harassing/skirmishing spell. Since you are not going heavily AP, it is essential that you push the ability up quickly, as damage ramps up fast - and the efficiency ramps up even faster. Rank 1 Q is nearly useless, and will burn through your mana far faster than you can wear anyone down. You will want to bide your time until level 3, and once your Q is rank 2, it's time to put pressure on.
Beyond that, you want to level E and W in tandem, as a stronger slow and faster mana leech are both of equal, but secondary importance.
First, let me just say, MOST games I have started with Vampiric Scepter. You will be facing a ranged opponent, so this seems counter productive, but after level 3, you should be able to tell them to back off, and you will need to push to keep them from easily pushing the minion waves into your tower, which will deprive you of much gold.
Lately however, I often start with Meki + 2 HP pots. The Meki will NOT be built into anything, but you only lose maybe ~130g when you sell it, and the constant Null Sphere bombardment can make your early game harassment very potent. So, that in mind, I will use that as a starting point to describe your basic gear build:
1: Meki + 2 HP pots
2: Basic Boots
3: Vampiric Scepter
4a: Emblem of Valor
4b: Merc Treads (if you are facing a mage or Ashe, you often want Treads first, otherwise, Emblem)
8: complete Triforce
9: complete Stark's
Most games now, this is complete around level 13-14, it is the 25min mark, and the enemy is surrenduring.
If the game continues, attack speed is quite high, and I often go right into a Bloodthirster. Rageblade can be very interesting as well, to promote the hybrid aspects of the char/build. Sometimes if money starts to get tight (close match, harder to get clean ganks, having to defend towers more), I will piece together a Malady since it gives constant incremental gains (450g - 420g - 420g - 600g), though this is the absolute max on attack speed. If they have a strong Malph or Rammus stacking Armor, then Last Whisper next, though again, that's all the AS you want. If they have troublesome mages, then Force of Nature is my favorite, but Banshee's Veil or Abyssal Scepter are strong choices as well.
I know, looking at these item choices, you are mystified that I am not totally ignoring AP. I would never say that AP isn't useful for Kassadin, however enhancing the damage of your spells is secondary to insuring adequate lifesteal, supporting rapid mana leech, and ripping people's faces off in close quarters.
Gameplay-wise, the irony here is that when you burst someone to 50% out of nowhere, and you are hacking at them with 1.5+ AS, and draining their mana like crazy... most people run - but few will make it to safety, since you are built to stick to them like glue.
Enemies for melee Kassadin to avoid as much as possible:
Udyr - he is the hard counter to melee Kass
Warwick - if he stands his ground, his life steal can change the fight around
Annie - she is afraid of no one, and after initial burst can have you low enough to finish
Mundo - too much hp, no mana to leech, not a good 1v1 prospect
Tryndamere - he will punish you as he gets lower, and if he gets his ult off you will be forced to flee
Master Yi - gank him early and slow him down, because later in the game Highlander will just own you
Primary targets in group battles:
Ryze - Silence him, and take him out before he bursts
Twitch - Riftwalk behind him when he pops out, if he kills you, you saved the group, if not, burn him fast
Eve - Silence makes AP Eve a pussycat, and she'll lay right down for you, saving lives
Ashe - Crystal Arrow and Volley make a geared Ashe a threat in 5v5, but her basic instinct is to run from you, to her death
Anyone Squishy - Mages and Ranged DPS first, usually - it's often best to start with lowest HP and domino your way up the team. You can kill just about anyone on their team and walk away with a smile, BUT it takes time to chew up anyone with real meat, so get your kills as fast as you can, relying on your extreme mobility to get you on target, and to hopefully preserve your life if you take too much heat.
I cannot seem to get a good start with Kass in a side lane, so it's solo mid or play another char.
Level 1-2: Just hang back, soak exps to get to level 3. If you started with Meki, then Silence your opponent if they act aggressive, but try to conserve mana.
Level 3-5: Start harassing aggressively. There is no need to push the minions all the way to the enemy tower, though I often do, to reduce last hit chances for them, they are the enemy carry after all.
Level 6: The only real reason NOT to push to their tower, is so that once you can Riftwalk, you have the room to unleash your trademark Q>R>E>Ignite kill combo. Sometimes I just push to the tower, keep pressure on, and then at 6 I pill back to shop, getting back to the tower just as they push to it. Then they are wide open and ready for execution.
Level 7-10: Once you have Emblem+Treads+Zeal, your run speed will be quite high, and your killing capacity will be blossoming as well. If mid tower is hurt, push to finish it, if not, do some quick ganking. At this point, if you compare the amount of AP one could purchase for the amount of gold you've spent, your ability to pursue and kill is significantly higher at this stage of the game. Right now, it's all about killing to maintain your advantage, so you can push to Triforce ASAP. If you got the quick kill at 6, you'll likely be the target of at least 1 gank attempt. Be wily, and keep your focus, gank attempts are like extra chances for you to kill. Often, people will tower dive you if they get you low before you get away - you have all the tools to turn this into a kill rather than a death (unless you are for some reason OOM, then be happy you run pretty fast!).
Level 11+: After the completion of Trinity, you are truly maturing as a character. You spam spells, so you will proc your damage boost constantly. Force Pulse coupled with the passive slow will insure no one escapes your fury. It takes 3+ people to have a realistic chance to pin you down and kill you, so dominate the map, pick off stragglers, steal buffs, kill dragon, push neglected towers. Once you have Triforce complete, your abilities to gank/farm/push are phenomenal, you have no reason (other than fail team) not to ride your wave of dominance to the inevitable Surrender, or Nexus kill.
Justice will be served..... with a cream and garlic sauce, and your choice of wine.
considering your analysis and your record I'm ready to try it out. Though I'm surprised about taking the defensive tree over offense. But yah.. gonna try this out.
Very nice guide with great detail - well done.
This is a solid alternate build to AP Kass. I have done very similar builds to this with great success, although I believe AP Kass is much more effective in general.
Also, I really like the choice of Heal+Ignite to solo, however, I prefer to carry teleport over heal.
I would suggest getting a sapphire crystal over meki at the start since you can build it into sheen later. I start off with sapphire and mana regen quints and yellows with absolutely no mana problems. I think statistically sapphire would be pretty much the same in the end as meki for Kassadin up to level 4 or 5. However the runes could make a big difference in having a sapphire crystal start work.
Thanks for the feedback, you guys. I put a lot of time and thought into this, I hope that someone finds it useful.
Seal of approval here, I'm already known by atleast a handful for my AP guide and my mastery of AP kass, but I'd been testing DPS kass for a while, and I settled on a build that focused around trinity and starks. Only thing I'd suggest is maybe rethinking the skill build and maxing pulse over sphere purely because it costs less mana and you're mana hungry with a phys build until hyper late game.
just a thought really on the skill lineup, other than that you've got a solid guide on your hands.
The mana issues are precisely why I have a large number of mana regen runes in my build, actually. And it's also why I started using Meki as my start item. Doran's Ring could fill the same role I suppose, though you get only 1 HP pot that way.
On an unrelated note, I was visited by someone in a dream, some time back. He told me his name was Kijik. o.O Though he made me promise to make careful note of the enunciation, what I have written down is Kiythdjigk. Weird stuff, huh?
I really like to give AD kassadin a try. I've played alot of AP kassadin, and i think that works like a charm.
Always run ignite/cleanse combo. Cleanse is just far too good for him, stuns are the only thing that keeps him from getting away or finishing someone off. With cleanse and your flash its just perfect.
What do you think about wit's end for even more mana disruption? Enemy ryze will be useless with a silence and no mana left when you eat him!
Just tried this build; VERY SUCCESSFUL. Thank you so much for this, AP Kassadin is junk compared to your build.
To all you newbie Kassadin players out there, or Kassadin players to be.. I believe 75% of these forums guides to be junk. This guide shinines among them.
Only problem with dps kass is that you'd run short of mana for your ult which serves as a 5s cd flash late in the game if you can afford double the mana cost. Also dps heroes always have gimped hp unless you go frozen mallet and/or a bv.
I've definitely tried a lot of Kassadin, and the problem I've found with melee is he just doesn't compete against the other dps. Cause his own damage isn't increased at all. He has a fairly good middle game once you get trinity force, but as the game gets longer his effectiveness diminishes. And wit's end always seems like a good idea but for me it has always fallen short.
Not a huge fan of the concept that it can only work solo mid or play someone else.
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