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his armor pen boost is nice, but it's nowhere near the steroid abilities that make most of the more powerful dpsers successful. it's completely overshadowed by olaf's passive+vicious strikes, yi's highlander, xin's 3 talon+battle cry, jax's burst+relentless assult. etc. in short, kassadin SEVERELY lacks the dps to counterbalance his extreme squishiness.
basically, makeing a build revolving around one mediocre steroid ability is just silly.
This is very true and why you do not see melee kassadin in rank games. You would play the much stronger characters whose skills are more suited for physical DPS. But he is okay and fun to play as a melee character. If they boosted his W to give him 50 ArPen plus 50% attack speed, it would help balance him out more as an AD character. But don't forget, Kassadin has a sweet silence, area of affect slow and amazing initiating/escape ult on 4 sec cooldown. He has a lot of utility, so you have to build survivability with items.
IMO, to be a successful melee Kassadin player, you build him to counter the enemy's main DPS characters since he is a very strong assassin that is very hard to escape. Ashe, tristana,caitlain, twitch and basicaly any mage are prime targets.