Kassadin is the mages' anti-mage. Kassadin serves two purposes in the league of legends matches, to shut down the opposing AP carry and to do work as an extremely mobile assassin. This build looks to create a heavy hitting Kassadin who is not blue reliant and can survive jumping directly into team fights.
In this build I will cover some basic Kassadin strategies and combinations. In addition I will provide some personal favorite modifications to the build for those really good or bad games. Also, be sure to pay attention to the teamwork section since Kassadin play is sometimes radically effected by your team composition.
You may notice the runes aren't completely sensible when you examine the build. This is because I am lacking in rune pages and have a general page adjusted for two or three different AP carries. I will address this in the section "Runes" below.
For Kassadin's runes you want to capitalize on his overwhelming power in the mid game and to assist your build in its weaker points. To do this I propose running stacking AP runes, like Greater Glyph of Force and Greater Seal of Force, with Greater Marks of Insight for some flat magic penetration.
As you can see, my page is mostly the advised but includes a good bit of stacking mana and mana regeneration runes. While these mana runes are not detrimental to Kassadin, especially in the early game, they are insignificant in the mid and late game after you have picked up Tear of the Goddess and Catalyst. So if you have the chance you should switch them out before matches where you will be using Kassadin.
If you aren't one who likes to wait until the mid game to start truly playing Kassadin you should trade out the stacking AP runes for flat AP runes. This will give you a significant buff in the early game and allow you to hit very hard, especially with your force pulse and null sphere abilities.
Note: Read the section on taking Flash as a summoner spell when playing aggressive early.
I also am a big fan of taking flat magic resistance runes with this build. When doing so the build will peak later and make the jump from Rod of Ages to Hextech and then Arch Angel's Staff significantly more difficult. As a the trade off you become even more of an anti-mage and this helps Kassadin do his duty even more so than magic penetration runes.
The masteries I have set up are based on dealing high damage to your lane opponent whilst prolonging the laning phase as long as possible.
It should be an obvious choice for any mage assassin to use the minimum 21 points in offense and go down the ability power ladder to reach "executioner". The 22nd point in offense takes "summoner's wrath" in order to utilize its bonuses on both ignite and exhaust.
The remaining 8 points go into utility because they are arguably more useful than throwing 8 points into defense. If the points were to go into the defense tree they would more than likely go into bonus magic resistance and armor. Both would be decent on Kassadin in the early game, but neither scales into the late game like "expanded mind". The bonus 12 mana per level pays off by level 10, it allows for one extra cast of your ultimate before you run out of mana. To compliment the bonus mana I take "meditation".
Now you have two points which I have not explained. The point in "improved recall" helps to return you to your lane just a split second sooner. Also, being able to get out of possibly bad situations, i.e. being caught basing, faster is a good thing. Similarly I took the point in "scout" for team play reasons which will be expanded upon later.
Items & Basic Play by Location in Build
Starting boots and pots is a necessity for the early game with this build. Pre-level 6 Kassadin is easily bullied about the lane, and you should play him passively. Without flash it is hard to escape ganks or poke from ranged opponents. Likewise, it is hard to close to auto attacking distance as Kassadin pre-level 6. Boots and pots helps with both the problem of being vulnerable to early poke and ganks from the opposition's jungler or other lanes.
Your first trip to base is ideally at 1000 to 1300 gold. This will allow you to pick up your Tear of the Goddess and if possible an Elixir of Brilliance. If you have been doing a decent job on creep and haven't been slain in any ganks or exchanges in lane this recall should come very quickly. It is after this recall you should ask for blue. The period where you are stacking your Tear of Goddess doesn't require blue, but the extra spamming from the cool down bonus and mana regeneration is wondrous. (Just like for any AP Carry) If you get blue, you should begin to play more aggressively. When you hit level 6, if you haven't already, and have Tear of the Goddess this is the time Kassadin should go on the offensive and start forcing his opponent out of lane.
The second recall is to finish Sorcerer's Boots. This recall requires 750 gold but usually it is nice if you can hold out to 1000 gold. Similarly, you should grab your item and if possible refresh your Elixir of Brilliance.
Now the build begins to become more difficult, farming up to Catalyst at 1325 gold takes some time. As soon as you can get Catalyst recall. The sooner you get Catalyst the better. Just like when you picked up Tear of the Goddess, you should begin to play even more aggressively.
At this point you can expect the laning phases to be ending, if you are lucky they are still going strong and you can capitalize on this. From here on out you should get items as available. Prioritize them in the following order; Rod of Ages, Hextech Revolver, Archangel's Staff, Rylais, and Deathcap. Below is my reasoning behind building each item. (Note: Also Gunblade, but if you get that fed you can build whatever you want)
Rod of Ages: This is why you have Catalyst in the build. I argue Rod of Ages over Banshees Veil because Kassadin is already a mage assassin and if you are playing him properly you should have no problems killing the other AP carry. Also, the extra health and mana allows for more casts of your Rift Walk. (I myself, with blue, have gotten to 11 casts in a row)
Hextech Revolver: Spellvamp is awesome on mages. For Kassadin you can use your ult for some quick health, or in the worst case scenario use Force Pulse to regain upwards of 600 HP after purchasing Hextech Revolver.
Arch Angel's Staff: Finishing off your Tear of the Goddess will grant you a massive amount of AP and make you hit even harder. Enjoy it, use it, build it. It is a must have on Kassadin. In the rare game when you are wishing to utilize your attack damage more than your ability power the Tear of the Goddess easily builds into Manamune
Rylai's Crystal Scepter: More health, more slow, and more AP. This item is great on Kassadin and with this build it puts you over that edge. Once you get Rylai's turrets mean nothing to Kassadin and your opponents will not be able to escape once you hit them with a Force Pulse. I have also traded this item out for Void Staff in games where my team was very tanky and multiple opponents had percent health damage items.
Rabadon's Deathcap: I simply believe Deathcap is the best item for an AP Carry. If it bother's you how late in the build Deathcap comes then feel free to build it earlier. But this build was made for surviving everything your target could throw at you. In Kassadin's case most AP carries wont kill you outright and you will have more than enough damage to finish them off without the Deathcap. The Deathcap will live up to its name this late in games. Kill's will start rolling in during those key late game team fights.
**Hextech Gunblade/Will of the Ancients: As the finishing touch to an expensive build when you are fed as hell it doesn't matter all that much which way you swing on this decision. I usually take Hextech Gunblade because it helps with damage output during the cool down phase after you have cast your combo onto your opponent.
My picks for Kassadin's skill sequence is based on a simple philosophy. Prioritize in the following order; Ultimate, Crowd Control, Steroids, Other. Within that philosophy there lies another philosophy, the more damage and area of effect the better.
Below is my ranking of Kassadin's skills and their classifications by my philosophy.
CC = Crowd Control AOE = Area of Effect ST = Steriod U = Ultimate
Rift Walk (R): (U, ST, AOE) It grants you insane mobility and a good deal of damage. In addition, this skill stacks upon itself. There is an extra 100 mana added to the cost for casting it again successively, but it also adds one more stack of damage. It is really nice to achieve five or six stacks before one initiates into a team fight. Mastering use of this skill will separate good Kassadin players from great Kassadin players.
Force Pulse (E): (CC, AOE) Force Pulse is Kassadin's hardest hitting skill. Although it does require a stacking effect based on the number of nearby spells cast to activate, it remains a reliable skill. Many times Force Pulse comes after a Rift Walk initiation or escape. The slow is massive and combined with Exhaust it keeps an opponent well within or out of reach. Force Pulse also hits a cone, allowing you to assault multiple opponents at once.
Null Sphere (Q): (CC) Null Sphere casts silence and deals damage to a target opponent. Target the AP Carry, or in the rare case somebody who is chasing you down, and it can help with securing kills or escaping from bad situations.
Nether Blade (W): (ST) Granting you bonus magic damage on auto attacks and some mana returned for damage dealt, Nether Blade is the definition of a Steroid ability. Use your Nether Blade to assist with creep under tower and always when you engage on an enemy.
There are games where you might find yourself having trouble getting into range to land your Force Pulse. If this is the case, or if you are regularly forced to avoid in their face initiation, you should begin leveling your Null Sphere instead of Force Pulse. As always, you should level Nether Blade last. Even in games where you are having problems with creep score you should level Force Pulse before Nether Blade. Force Pulse can be use to quickly clear creep when placed correctly.
Exhaust and Ignite are my recommended pair. Although I will say some words about possible alternate combos and why I chose Exhaust Ignite over them.
Exhaust Ignite: This combination is weak on Kassadin pre-level 6. But once you begin to level Rift Walk and have that mobility the combination is the most helpful for maximizing the pain Kassadin can dish out. Exhaust stacks on top of Force Pulse, and is a painful slow in its own right. Ignite is amazing for Kassadin because he is a burst caster. Every once in a while there will be opponents who would escape with less than 100 HP and Ignite picks those up. Simply put, Ignite is the best spell to have for securing kills whether you did the damage or not and is a must have.
Flash in place of Exhaust: In general I like this spell. It is by far the most overpowered and useful spell in the game. It provides an escape and a gap closer. An instant fix for being out of position. In the early game, especially pre-level 6, it helps Kassadin. Flash also allows you to play more aggressively all game. Yet, when Kassadin hits level 6 he has a pocket flash which has a cool down of less than 10 seconds. It will take some experience, but in most cases Flash is unnecessary on Kassadin.
Ghost in place of Exhaust: Ghost allows you to avoid minions and provides an amazing movement speed boost. For similar reasons that I do not take Flash on Kassadin I do not take Ghost. Ghost might help you catch the opponent, but Exhaust helps all your team close on the opponent.
I have split this section into three subsections in order to focus on more exact aspects of the game at one time. The sections I will go over are team fighting, warding & buff sharing, and ganking.
Basic team fighting as Kassadin will involve Kassadin skirting the edge of the fight or even coming in over a wall with Rift Walk. Generally you do not want to get into the thick of the fight as Kassadin. Your basic initiation into an ideal team fight should be to find the opposition's AP or AD carry, hit them with a Null Sphere, activate Nether Blade, Rift Walk to just in front/behind of them, and hit them with Force Pulse and Exhaust immediately. Save Ignite until the second round of spell casting.
If the opposition's carry survived your initial burst stay on top of them and auto attack until your spells, notably Rift Walk, come back up. If you have Rift Walk and they are at a decent amount of health (600 + HP) use it to damage them and to place yourself on top of them. Cast Ignite and Null Sphere when it is off cool down and keep auto attacking. Try to keep your Force Pulse unless it is easy to hit two or three opponents at once with it. Finish the kill by continuing to combo Rift Walk, Null Sphere, and a spammed Nether Blade.
After slaying one of the carries. You should prioritize shutting down the opposing spell casters with Null Sphere and Rift Walk. Once you get Force Pulse use it and try to eliminate those at low health or to slow opponents who are chasing allies or being chased by allies. If the other carry is still alive and well, repeat your first combination and deal with them similarly.
This build allows Kassadin to play more like a bruiser than usual. If the opposing team has low crowd control ability it might be just as easy to jump directly into the fight, maximizing the area of effect from Rift Walk and Force Pulse, as it is to skirt the fight and pick out a target to sit on. Another bonus to being more bruiser like is Kassadin usually has to shy away from two verse one battles in lane. In the later game this build allows for easy two verse one battling and even for diving under turrets to burst down the especially squishy on opposing teams.
Warding & Buff Sharing
These are two of the small nuances of the game which can determine the winning team from the losing team in a tough fight. Both are important and both effect Kassadin play.
In most games there should be a dedicated support who is warding the map. If the support is warding well then Kassadin should more than likely ignore buying wards unless it is for a key spot in lane or river, ie Baron. Kassadin loves having a well warded jungle, especially when he is going on the aggressive. If one is in need of gaining kills and the opposing jungler is weak or the laning phase is over, warding the opposing jungle is a great option. Since Kassadin is so mobile with Rift Walk he can easily steal a warded buff or even steal a kill off of an out of position opponent. I advise taking one or two wards if you have extra gold on the Catalyst recall and use them to ward a path to the opponent's blue buff.
Buff Sharing for Kassadin should be simple. Although red buff has some nice effects Kassadin really doesn't need it. Feed red buff to the AD carry or AD bruiser and let them reap the benefits. The big buff for Kassadin is blue buff. Blue buff is never a bad thing to have. If the allied jungler does not need blue buff it should be fed to Kassadin whenever it comes up, Kassadin can be very blue dependent. Kassadin loves spamming abilities and at level 16 Rift Walk with blue buff has a two second cool down period. In order to allow for a more team composition alternatives the build above accounts for mana problems with both a Catalyst and a Tear of the Goddess.
Ganks are Kassadin's best friends post-level 6 and his worst enemy pre-level 6. There are three approximate periods of ganking psychology for Kassadin play: Pre-Level 6, level 6+ Laning, and Dominance.
Pre-level 6 Kassadin should not be in position to be ganked by an opponent and should wave off all allied ganks. If Kassadin is playing Exhaust Ignite as recommended there is a significant lack of mobility and as a burst caster ganks can go bad quickly if the opponent isn't killed outright. Likewise, Kassadin has no good escapes until level 6 when played Exhaust Ignite.
It is at level 6 that Kassadin begins to look forward to ganks. The only time Kassadin is vulnerable to ganks is when Rift Walk is on cool down or he is out of mana. Basically the laning phase from here on out involves waiting until Kassadin is either pushed back under turret or the opponent's jungler is seen in another lane, and then Rift Walking into a combo to assault the opponent in lane.
During the level 6+ laning if you get an allied gank on your opponent you should Rift Walk and Null Sphere immediately. Many AP carries do not have natural escapes and take Flash to account for it. Null Sphere gets rid of those escapes and Rift Walking allows for closing of the gap followed by a Force Pulse. Kill them and retreat, basic gank play.
If the game is going really well and Kassadin's lane is won the Dominance period of ganking has arrived. Play aggressively and force the opponent out of lane. Retreat behind turret as if recalling and instead Rift Walk over a wall and go to top or bottom lane. Kassadin is amazing for ganking from either turret in the "fiddlesticks spot". Kassadin should go through one of the two tri-bushes on the lane he is planning to gank. Ping when Rift Walk is ready and wait for the ally(s) in lane to engage. Rift Walk over the wall into the lane and lead with Force Pulse and Nether Blade. Use Ignite, Exhaust, and Null Sphere as needed to secure the kills. Then recall and return to your lane.
Kassadin is the premier anti-mage and this build seeks to make him even more so. The bruiser like characteristics of this build allow him to play more aggressively and take more abuse, which means more kills.
This build set and play style is very vulnerable and weak pre-level 6 but then picks up and steamrolls into a powerhouse build during the late game. Opposing carries will fear Kassadin, but it wont matter since nobody has mobility like he does. In addition, a Kassadin who doesn't require buffs to do his duty allows for the rest of the team to be further strengthened. Kassadin is a mighty AP carry and can shut down any other carry when played correctly.
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this guide and build. Please vote and comment. I do plan on adding a farming chapter at a later date, but I wanted to get this guide out now. Thanks again and enjoy the Kassadin play.