I’m Shade, a somewhat decent league player with a peak rank of Diamond 1 80 lp on the NA server. This is the first guide I’ve ever written. My intentions for this guide are to share my particular methods and techniques used when playing Kayn; providing an extensive amount of knowledge on him, and what makes him so unique as a jungler.
My reasons for playing Kayn are that he’s a proactive Jungler, even if he isn’t ganking he’s generating pressure, and to be honest his assassin/bruiser duality draws parallels to me previously maining Rengar.
8/5/2019 update: Most of the guide has been changed heavily after being outdated for an excessive amount of time. I haven't been playing as actively as before so if you have conflicting opinions on any jungle matchups or see any obvious errors let me know so I can possibly adjust them.
Much of Kayn’s nuance comes down to pathing and fight positioning. You play a very “tempo” centric playstyle; meaning that you’re always doing something to either put yourself ahead or impact the map. Due to this, you want to have an extremely efficient clear path and keep tabs on opponent’s summoners and locations to enable snowballing.
Contrary to most early game junglers Kayn is rather weak at dueling but excels at clearing camps which enables him to heavily deny the enemy jungler while pushing himself ahead and this gold+xp lead gradually converts itself into the ability to duel enemies even as base Kayn.
Something I believe to be a misconception with Kayn is how many of the people playing him think that picking your form in champ select is the be all end all to form selection. Often times I won't choose my form in champ select. The ability to go Rhaast if your team needs him or Shadow Assassin if you're snowballing to end the game quickly definitely factors into my enjoyment as well as Kayn's usefulness.
The flexibility presented by Kayn’s duality in transformation makes him a good pick most of the time in champ select and comps. Having the choice to be a hard snowball assassin or frontline shredding bruiser/tank makes you a solid fit into the vast majority of compositions. There are cases where you would rather have something like a Lee Sin, Rek'Sai or Elise for gank pressure on losing lanes to make them into winning lanes.
Reason to pick Kayn over other junglers; Kayn is probably one of the premier snowball junglers in the game currently although as mentioned previously it’s in a different style. This is in regards to both forms, Rhaast with a lead is an immense frontline fighter that will shred through opposing teams and Shadow Assassin with a lead will kill anything he touches(Except tanks for the most part). Shadow Assassin is more snowball reliant but Rhaast is also just a safe fallback tank with the strong peel of his w and artificial tankiness through sustain even when behind.
The Darkin Scythe: Kayn wields an ancient, Sentient weapon, that battles with him for control. Each instance of damage against champions causes them to drop an orb that are automatically collected upon leaving combat (including after Kayn’s own death), filling a bar above Kayn’s portrait.
Once the bar is full, which scales down with game time, he can choose to either be overwhelmed by Rhaast or expel him to become the Shadow Assassin, based on whether he has damaged more melee or ranged champions. Once primed, the other option becomes available after 4 minutes, reduced by 5 seconds for each collected orb of their type after that.
The transformation can be only be performed by interacting with their portrait while on the summoning platform, permanently changing their abilities and granting them Homeguard.
This passive is what makes Kayn unique, the singular piece that brings his kit(s) together to form this cohesive double sided champion. Part of the reason why Base Kayn struggles to duel other champions is not having a passive early game due to this being his passive, but the transformations are worth the loss of a passive for the first 9-15 minutes of the game due to the immense power associated with his enhanced abilities post transformation. Generally even in a poor game you’ll get your transformation around 11 minutes sometimes later if you’re far behind, the reason I say 9 to 15 is because in some matches you’ll get your transformation at 11 minutes and have it be the completely wrong one for the game at hand and have to wait 4 minutes.
This delay is absolutely devastating in some scenarios and can lose you games, in those cases it’s okay to just take the form transformation and try to put the game into your favor with a form that might not have been your intention that game. Reaping Slash: Kayn dashes forward, dealing physical damage to all enemies he passes through before flourishing his scythe, dealing the same damage again to surrounding enemies.
This is Kayn’s core ability for clear. This ability plays an extremely vital part in his combination of clear speed and mobility. It’s a mix of this and his Shadow Step pushing his movement to very high levels that allow him to move around the map and teamfights very quickly. It’s important to note that both the dash and spin do damage which is vital to dealing optimal damage to anything you fight. Make sure to hit both parts of your Reaping Slash consistently on jungle monsters and attempt to do the same with champions as you lose out on massive amounts of damage from failing to do so. This makes it optimal to use your Reaping Slash at less than the max range which means using Shadow Step or Blade's Reach to close the gap sets you up to maximize your damage. Overall this is a very important ability to the cohesiveness of the kit.
Blade's Reach: After a short delay in which he can’t perform any other actions, Kayn performs an upwards sweep with his scythe, dealing physical damage to all enemies in a line and slowing them by 60%, decaying over 1.5 seconds
This is hands down Kayn’s bread and butter ability. This somewhat long range skillshot slow/nuke does a large portion of his damage to champions, although being marginally worse than Reaping Slash for clear. This in conjunction with his Shadow Step are the pieces of his kit that allow him to realistically gank pre-transformation. Being able to sneak up behind someone and tag them with a 60% slow allows the combination of you and your laner to get off large amounts of damage or burn the enemy’s summoners. This sets you up for another gank at a later time. The channel is somewhat lengthy, but the hitbox itself is pretty wide; due to this, it's important to pay attention to how your enemies move, so you can angle it for guaranteed contact. If this misses you lose a large portion of your damage potential and summoners/kills in many scenarios. You should put plenty of time into learning exactly where to place it in any given fight. Shadow Step: Kayn gains 40% bonus movement speed and ignores both terrain and unit collision for 1.5 seconds. This effect is ended preemptively be immobilizing effects. Upon entering a wall for the first time Kayn heals himself and if he’s not in combat with enemy champions the duration is increased considerably. While inside of terrain he’s able to see over walls but not into brush he doesn’t have vision of. Entering combat with a champion or leaving terrain reduces the remaining duration back to the default 1.5 seconds.
Kayn’s standout ability in terms of mobility and uniqueness. Walking through walls is what makes his ganks and invades at all prominent. Holding onto this ability while you’re invading without vision of enemies. This is extremely important to avoid dying when collapsed upon or found solo by an enemy jungler with the damage to kill you.
This ability also enables gank routes similar to Zac where you just come in from whatever angle you think is most likely to succeed: a great wall for executing on this is ganking the enemy mid laner from their raptor camp wall. Outside of that it’s whatever wall puts you in a good position to be successful in your gank or the teamfight. Angles of entrance are hard to teach but you’re generally going to be looking for a flank that allows you to chunk or kill an opponent if you can. Otherwise you just walk up and wait for opportunities to harass with Blade's Reach.
Umbral Trespass: Passively Kayn marks an enemy champion with Umbral Trespass for 3.5 seconds upon dealing damage to them.
Active: Kayn infests a marked enemy champion for 2.5 seconds, revealing them and becoming untargetable for the duration. Reactivating Umbral Trespass ends the effect early.
Upon reactivating Umbral Trespass or running out of time, Kayn exits the target towards the direction of his cursor dealing physical damage to them.
Kayn’s ultimate has plenty of utility packed into the invulnerability of it along with a nice chunk of damage, the damage dealing prerequisite makes it hard to get off when being chain CC’d or bursted from full. But the thing is having an ability that lets you dodge things on demand is very powerful. Most of the time it’s used to either secure a kill, stall for time, or dodge an ability. The primary nuance to this ability is predicting things. Examples are smiting an Annie and ulting her when you know she’s going to Summon: Tibbers. Another example is to ult someone you know is going to Flash and finish the kill. It has other niche uses as well such as following a Shen using his Stand United to a fight when he’s ulting another enemy or just straight up going along with someone using Teleport, similar thing applies to Twisted Fate and his Destiny. Hit him then ult to join him at his destination.
While you’re in base form your priority as Kayn is basically just to put yourself extremely far ahead in order to take advantage of your transformation spike and dominate the rest of the match. You route to maximize farm and look for ganks during this process; the more gold you secure during the time before your transformation the more devastating all the extra power you gain is going to be.
Base Kayn is weaker than most junglers in a straight duel for the first few levels but after that you’re fine against most and can actually kill a fair portion of the jungle pool during invades at around level 5.
But mostly Kayn attempts to avoid enemy junglers by clearing quickly so they can’t invade him and taking camps where they won’t be. His ganks aren’t particularly good but due to the routes he can take with Shadow Step they’re not bad either. Depending on the clear path you take there’s certain intervals where you will be looking to gank either mid or one of the side-lanes.
Take the allied raptor camp
Then you go straight to your red making sure to Shadow Step through the wall so you can can clear the camp faster.
Q over the wall to krugs, smite them and use Shadow Step when it comes back up for the free hp.
After doing these three camps you have pretty flexible choices.
You can gank enemy mid/sidelane.
You can path into the enemy jungle and either look for them or take camps.
You can go to your blueside and clear the camps there then do scuttle.
You're basically always going to start raptors so nothing shocking here.
Shadowstep through the wall to red.
You're only going to kill the 2 small murk wolves, they die to 1 auto+both portions of Q and talisman/red buff.
Finally we clear blue and hit level 3 off it.
This clear is a bit cheesy but the basis of it is that raptors+red buff+2 small wolves+blue gets you level 3 and sets you up for an easy gank on the blue sidelane or mid.
In terms of ganks associated with pathing I generally have a camp associated with specific ganks, although sometimes the ganks outweigh the camps and you need to keep your eyes peeled for that(Going mid when you have a level 6 Malzahar is more important than your raptor camp). Keeping your eyes peeled for obvious ganks from the enemy jungler such as two of your lanes being shoved under tower and one shoving up matters as well. Being there is more important than one camp.
Camps and lane to gank looks roughly like this
Doing either raptor camp = look for gank mid
Doing Red = think about whether mid or respective side-lane has a good gank.
Doing Krugs = look for side-lane gank
Doing Blue = look for mid/side-lane gank
Doing Scuttle = look for mid/side-lane gank.
If no prospective ganks just recall and keep cycling clear or look to invade and get vision in the enemy jg/river to defend your laners from ganks.
Many people newer to Kayn make a mistake where they camp whatever lane has a champion correlative to their transformation but this is just straight up wrong. There is no lane priority to get your transformation until roughly 8 and a half minutes when hitting enemies gives a large amount of bar for transforming, even then you don’t rush the gank and just wait for a nice opportunity. This is because you don't want to tunnel vision on form and want to play around win condition lanes as much as possible.
3. You have enough mobility in the form of Q, E, and r to generally avoid his crit zones but he's a pretty strong champ and might not be very easy to kill with his R and Ninja Tabi
2. He's hard to counterjungle because he clears camps very quickly and difficult to kill due to aftershock. However it's pretty good to scrap with him if you're looking to transition into Rhaast due to his low kill pressure excluding when his ult is up.
3. You have a good duel against him, particularly after warrior spike. With Warrior completed you can tear into Ekko's hp pool using Reaping Slash and Blade's Reach. Your ultimate is also useful for following his if you're capable of killing him after the heal.
5. She usually doesn't have enough damage to kill you outright early game by herself. You also have a fantastic duel against her, even if you get hit by Cocoon around level 7 with Warrior powerspike. Her main threat against you is in skirmishes due to the power of Cocoon. If she lands it on you or a teammate they'll likely get bursted.
3. Her lack of Demon Shade early makes her pretty easy to deal with since you can see her coming and play around it. You win duels where you're the aggressor due to her being unable to get charm off in combat. Post 6 it gets considerably harder due to Demon Shade and her ultimate.
8. This scarecrow is a constant thorn in your side as Kayn. Fear and Silence are annoying mechanics to try and deal with as an AD caster. His Bountiful Harvest will outright kill you if you attempt to stay in ult for full duration at half hp due to the interaction where he continues draining untargetable enemies. He does however struggle to kill you by himself due to his lackluster sticking power. You'll want to run away if he tries to fight you. Very rough matchup in general.
10. Fatman is pretty good at fighting you while also just having this massive early game pressure you can't hope to mirror. You lose all 2v2s until transformations and struggle to 1v1 him early game. While you're farming up a storm he's pretty free to put your laners behind. You can try to help based on enemy lanes but it doesn't always work out.
5. You're on about even terms with Graves early game due to the fact that you're both just going to farm and maybe get a gank or two off successfully. You both become quite strong off warrior spike, although you win the 1v1 if you don't get hit by the delayed damage portion from End of the Line.
8. Hecarim's early game dueling is quite strong with conqueror so it's generally better to avoid fighting him unless you're certain you can win it but he comes online hard with warrior and you'll be at a huge power deficit until form at that point.
1. Kayn has a really good matchup into Ivern because of how quickly you can take his marked camps putting him drastically behind if he doesn't path in a way where you never see his marked camps.
9. His early pressure around the map is immense and he'll generally kill you if you run into eachother.
7.His early ganks are quite strong with red buff and you can't realistically 1v1 him. It's possible to win skirmishes but that depends on team comps more than anything.
4. Karthus jungle has an extremely efficient clear speed so you'll struggle to find him without warding ahead of time but you can usually kill him if you catch him out on a camp, although he can turn it in his favor if his hp is high enough due to his massive damage output.
7. Kha'Zix wins pretty hard early but doesn't have enough damage to outright kill you before you slip away with Reaping Slash and Shadow Step. As long as you don't waste those cooldowns you should be alright. It gets much harder at level 6 if he evolves his Q.
10. You don't actually have enough damage to do anything meaningful to them, this combined with the fact that they have a solid amount of mobility and a slow allows them to kill you the majority of the time if they catch you while they have red. Playing against Kindred is hard as Kayn.
7. Although Lee's early game doesn't have the same dominance it used to he's still a very strong ganking champion and duelist early game which gives him a solid opportunity to put you and your team behind, but this matchup is pretty volatile since you can come out ahead in skirmishes or even the one on one if you play well.
8. Master Yi is a horrible matchup for basically the entire game including early unless you really get rolling in form and he plays poorly. You'll bascially never beata him without a noticeable lead or your team backing you
8. One of the highest early pressure junglers. If nidalee finds you while she has red buff you are almost certainly blowing flash or dying if there's no convenient escape making itself present. If she finds you in river she just autos you with red buff until she gets an opportunity to spear for free. This matchup becomes a lot easier at level 6 and onward when you have some ad and enough damage from skills to pop her.
5. Nocturne beats you in a 1v1 but you can just walk away from him if necessary. He's a farm oriented jungler until level 6. You win hard with form if you're even and you win prior to form if you pay attention to the map state and countergank his ults.
4. His early ganks are pretty decent and you're not going to win 2v2 against Nunu until you have more items and even then it might not be easy depending on his laner.
10. He has the ability to catch you out early game even with your mobility thanks to Ghost and Undertow. Even with your Q if Olaf finds you he will generally force you to blow flash or die unless there's a wall close enough to escape with e.
7. Rammus is one of the highest early pressure tanks due to Powerball and Frenzying Taunt. You don't really have kill pressure on him at any point early and he can ruin your laners.
7. Rek'Sai is a strong early game jungler and will almost certainly kill you if she ever makes it into unburrow range thanks to just how much strong her early damage is. She's not phenomenal past that point against you though.
7. This matchup throughout the entire game involves a lot of who jumps the other but throughout the earlygame Rengar is at advantage because his damage output is just so high compared to yours in duels and skirmishes.
8. Sejuani is kind of like Gragas in that her bountiful CC allows her to have strong ganks early and put your team ahead while there's nothing you can do to intercede since her 2v2 is one of the best in the game.
4. Shaco doesn't really do enough damage to outright kill you in the early game but you need to be wary of him counterganking you. He comes online and starts being pretty strong when he finishes Tiamat and attackspeed boots.
2. Shyvana is a pretty weak jungler early game to the point where her team will thoroughly struggle in most matches but her dueling isn't bad so it's better to play for ganks.
6. Skarner has a clearspeed comparable to yours and is a strong duelist early with strong 2v2 due to his CC+damage output. Although he's rather easy to avoid and it is possible to win 2v2s against him.
5. Sylas has somewhat better ganks than you early but he takes a lot of damage during his clears presenting invade opportunities where you can blow his summs or kill him. Outside of these factors you're pretty even since you both have weaker than average early games.
7. You can't duel him and he's pretty sticky with way better ganks than you for the first couple levels. Be careful not to run face-first into him or you'll have to blow summs/maybe die. You can sometimes win later in the early game as long as his R is down if he hasn't itemized tabi.
3. the only scenario where you realistically die early to him is if you run into him when he's walking midlane level 2 with red buff and he just autos you to death. If he seems likely to go red->mid. you could do the same and try to turnkill by counterganking the cheese. Try to catch him out in his jungle when possible. Matchup can get noticeably difficult if he goes tabi after redsmite and plays well.
7. Udyr is actually a really strong duelist with potent early ganks. Luckily for you the Bear Stance movespeed steroid is pretty low early game so you should be able to use Reaping Slash and Shadow Step for an easy escape when running into him. His ganking + dueling potential makes him a serious threat in the early game.
9. Vi is one of the junglers with enough mobility + damage to kill you easily early on due to the long range of her Vault Breaker along with the raw damage provided by her kit. Her ganks are also better than yours basically the entire time until you transform. Even arguably better post transformation.
6. Volibear is much stronger early than Kayn as both a duelist and a ganker. His clear is quite bad so you might be able to just out tempo him. At level 6 Volibear can easily kill you before you can get away if you waste Shadow Step.
7. Warwick's Blood Hunt actually gives him so much movespeed he can keep up to you using both Reaping Slash and Shadow Step if you get low during an invade, he also has really good level 3 ganks compared to your lackluster ones. Be careful not to run into him in the early levels and watch out for his ult at 6 during ganks or counterganks. Try to dodge his ult with your own when possible.
1. This champion is very underwhelming in general and that doesn't change much as Kayn, his damage is much lower than yours even early on so he doesn't present much of a threat
9. Xin has very high early damage output and you won't realistically beat him in duels or 2v2s pre form. His ganks are also very strong making him a proper threat early.
1. Zac has a slow clear which gives you a good opportunity to take camps away from him and put him far behind. His early dueling isn't great either and the only cases where he'd really beat you are early skirmishes where both his lanes rotate.
The first thing you need to think about in regards to Rhaast is when should I transform into Rhaast rather than Shadow Assassin? Most of it comes down to preference or the state of the match you’re in but I recommend picking Rhaast in games that are clearly going to go long or games that you need to contribute some form of tank/bruiser presence rather than assassinate specific targets. Such as in a game where the enemy adc is easily dealt with or behind and they have strong tanks that will win them fights rather than their carries.
Some team comps also just naturally dictate a Rhaast pick due to stacking tanks. A good example for picking Rhaast over SA in champ select is multiple bruisers or tanks that you won't be capable of dealing with if you're not Rhaast. In these games you'll either try to catch out the damage dealers if possible or just frontline and shred the opposing tanks playing a front to back fight.
Upon transforming into Rhaast your abilities are changed drastically to fit your new Darkin form.
The Darkin Scythe: Rhaast Rhaast heals for 34-43% based on level percent of the post-mitigation(after resists and other reductions) damage he deals to champions
This passive completely dictates Rhaast’s ability to function as a drain tanking bruiser. The majority of his tankiness comes from dealing damage to champions and regaining his health. This makes Bramble Vest, Morellonomicon, and Executioner’s calling extremely effective items against him that you have to keep an eye out for. Particularly Morellonomicon and Executioners as they have an easier proc condition than Bramble Vest since they just need to hit you and not the other way around
Without this passive Rhaast would play completely different in how he positions and his build path to compensate for the lack of sustain. Due to just how much he’s healing from The Darkin Scythe in conjunction with the changes his ult receives listed further down Spirit Visage and raw health Black Cleaver become particularly potent buys compared to other items.
Reaping Slash: Rhaast The damage of both halves of Reaping Slash is modified to do 50% of total ad + (5% max hp+ 4% per 100 bonus AD)
If you’re hitting both halves of Q it deals damage equal to 100% AD + 10% max hp + 4% per 100 AD.
Most of the Rhaast builds go Warrior Cleaver so using that as a baseline Kayn Q will often deal 1/4th of an average tank's hp before resistances letting him rip through their hp pools really quickly with Reaping Slash: Rhaast
In terms of damage to squishier targets,His Q still does a large amount of damage, often up to 1/3rd of their hp bar. He frequently chunks them out even harder than he does tanky targets since they don't itemize armor. Making him very effective at killing both squishy and tanky targets.
Blade's Reach: Rhaast Damage remains the same, it is modified to have a one second knockup upon being hit by it.
Yet another reason why Blade's Reach is absolutely Kayn’s bread and butter ability. CC makes or breaks some bruisers and this is definitely true for Rhaast, being given the ability to hit both parts of your Q for free after landing w adds so much more damage that you could potentially miss without the knock up. Not only that but it’s just a solid ability in general due to being able to peel for your team with the knockup and enabling combos with things such as Miss Fortune ult, Ornn ult, Ezreal ult, Anything that’s very impactful when given a chance to hit for free is very potent with this ability. These factors are another reason why it’s very important to aim Kayn W in all it’s forms well. Umbral Trespass: Rhaast The damage is changed from it’s base to 10%(+13% per 100 bonus AD) max health physical damage and heals him for 7%(+9.1% per 100 bonus AD) of the targets maximum health.
This change is absolutely insane for Rhaast’s sustain levels and ability to tear through other tanky characters, especially when taking into consideration the double dip with the damage dealt healing him due to his passive.
Using Level 11 Ashe with Doran’s Blade as an example his ultimate as Rhaast with Warrior and Cleaver deals roughly 300 damage while also healing roughly 300 damage.
Let’s use a level 18 Sej as an example for extremes. Most Sej players have around 4,500 hp at level 18 with 6 items. We’re going to assume his level is 18 while keeping his damage items at Warrior+Cleaver but we’re also going to give him a spirit visage which increases his healing by 30%. The ult deals about 1050 damage and heals Rhaast for a number somewhere in the ballpark of 1500. This means that in the extreme late game with lots of items on Rhaast and opposing tanks he can heal for nearly his entire hp pool if he goes a more AD centric build.
This enables you to continue fighting on very low hp numbers then just ult a target to heal and proceed to fight for an even longer period than you already were while also having the option to chunk out a large portion of a tank’s health pool. There are still many cases where you can use this to either stick to a carry and/or finish a kill on them after landing Blade's Reach: Rhaast, Reaping Slash: Rhaast, and some autos.
Conqueror is my keystone of choice when I know I'm going Rhaast in champ select, in cases where I'm not sure I'd probably favor Dark Harvest or Electrocute for the flexibility. The healing and damage from conqueror is just too good in extended skirmishes as well as pre transformation to pass up when you know that you're going Rhaast.
Triumph is the only particularly good option in this row for Rhaast, the extra health really comes in handy sometimes and the other two choices aren't that great.
You'll probably want to go Legend: Tenacity in most games but it's very common for teams to not have enough CC to justify it and in those cases you can just go for Legend: Alacrity instead.
The bonus damage from this is definitely worthwhile and it's not like the other options provide anything other than damage, recently some high elo Kayn players have been running Last Stand instead so you may want to try that and see what feels better.
Secondary Tree Choices
This rune is extremely efficient but is obviously delayed power since you get your boots later in the game. It's pretty worthwhile if you decide to splash inspiration and should be taken with cosmic insight.
Rhaast loves all manner of cdr, he's very happy to have the extra 5% flat for clearing early while also cherishing the 5% cap increase later in the game while shredding through frontlines. Summoner and active item reductions are considerably less relevant than straight up cdr but are both nice additions.
The healing from Ravenous hunter definitely stacks up over the course of the game. You'll frequently heal upwards of 4000 over the course of a match from this rune and in some games much more than that.
Zombie ward is a very prominent rune for junglers currently because of all the extra vision you get from clearing wards. My recommended splash is Zombie Ward/Ravenous hunter currently.
Sudden Impact is a pretty strong rune in terms of damage and if you favor it you could opt to drop Zombie Ward or Ravenous Hunter but I don't think it's worth more than them currently.
Rhaast is capable of filling 3 roles in a team. He is capable of being an assassin with a lethality build, a carry centric bruiser by going a very high damage bruiser build such as Warrior, Cleaver, GA, Visage, and Mortal Reminder with Tabi as boots. As well as a tankier bruiser with a build such as Warrior, Cleaver, Visage, Randuins, and more defensive items or a GA. He has a ton of flexibility in his build and this really helps him thrive.
Example of a good game to go lethality Rhaast - You are very far ahead at 10 minutes and get Rhaast as your transformation. The enemy team has 2 tanks that are currently building health rather than resistances. You will deal so much damage to the opposing team, both squishy and tank because of the massive amount of % hp against the hp stacking tanks in combination with the effectiveness of lethality against squishy targets.
Example of a good game to go high damage bruiser - Your team has 1 tank or you are very far ahead against a well rounded team comp with either one fed tank or two+ generic tanks. This is somewhat like lethality Rhaast but better against armor and scaling well compared to it.
Example game for tankier bruiser - Going against a team where it’s hard to consistently hit enemies to sustain such as going against strong peel. A good case for building this way would be a team such as Sej, Alistar, and Syndra. Your damage numbers will be much lower than the previous two builds but you’ll provide a stronger tank presence and play a more peel centric style than the other two.
Unfortunately no example for this build.
Outside of just deciding form and build you end up having to think about angle of approach regularly due to Shadow Step, even as Rhaast sometimes you just want to hard dive the carries and make their life hell. Which to be fair is helpful for disrupting the teamfight. But there’s also scenarios where you just butt heads with the enemy frontline for the entire fight and hope your carries can do a solid job and win the fight with you as their aide.
In the event you decide diving the carries is your goal for a particular fight you take similar approaches to how you would as Shadow Assassin which is to say you attempt to deny enemy vision of the area over a wall in a team fight.(Maybe even going so far as to drop a pink ward on the raptor camp to deny wards in the camp). Then once it’s time to enter, either as engage or follow-up based on the state of the game you come in from the side of the walls.
Rhaast has a window of power that lasts up until adcs or mages have enough items to tear through his hp in which he’s an absolute monstrosity on the rift and can win a large portion of teamfights by himself with careful placement of W and good target selection. Once this window ends even on more carry oriented builds you have to pay much more attention to positioning since even with the massive amounts of vamp, hp and resistance you itemize, these threats will tear you apart at a certain point.
Skirmisher's Sabre - Warrior: Core item on Rhaast, you only skip out on this if you feel that you really need blue smite due to how much value you get out of it in fights.
Stalker's Blade - Warrior: Primarily taken over red smite if you really need the ability to smite+ult in order to dodge some abilities or stick to a target.
Black Cleaver: Core item, you basically never go a game without cleaver. The stats are just too good and the only time you should delay it after Warrior is if you really need resists.
Spirit Visage: If the enemy team isn't full AD you probably want visage at some point. The extra healing and stats are phenomenal. Build Spectre's Cowl before Cleaver when you really need early MR.
Ninja Tabi: You’re going to be building these boots frequently due to just how effective they are against AD champions and you already want to build spirit visage. Going these allows you go to Warrior->Cleaver->Visage. Buy them when convenient in your buildpath, generally at some point between Warrior and Cleaver.
Mercury's Treads: You’ll likely be building these boots as the only alternative to tabi due to the tenacity and magic resist to deal with crowd control or ap threats. Get an armor item or armor component before Spirit Visage if you go these with ad threats in the game.
Dead Man's Plate: Useful for extra mobility if the game doesn’t call for a Randuin's Omen. Probably best if you’re going to be running at carries in a teamfight or need an armor item that isn’t Randuins.
Thornmail: Solid item against teams with lots of sustain or as a very late game(5th or 6th) armor item. Against heavy healing build Bramble Vest and sit on it either before or after cleaver.
Adaptive Helm: Really strong item against ap threats with plenty of damage over time such as Syndra, Cassio, Brand, Malzahar, etc. Don’t go this before spirit visage. You generally build it after visage and an armor item, but only in games with very heavy ap damage and for a tankier build.
Sterak's Gage: Extremely situational item when considering the option to go Tenacity rune and Merc Treads. You’ll generally build this later into the game against heavy CC teams. It’s strongest in a scenario when you have enough resists backing it so that you don’t just get popped through the extra health anyways..
Guardian Angel: Just a solid all around item, better on damage oriented Kayn builds since you’re easier to kill anyways and the extra AD helps considerably. I would recommend this after Warrior Cleaver if you’re snowballed as it helps you maintain the lead by preventing deaths that would lose you pressure and also functions as a damage item. Build it 4th or 5th if you don't have a noticeable lead.
Maw of Malmortius: Solid item against heavy ap, if you're going a high damage build you can buy hexdrinker after warrior and finish maw after cleaver. Visage is generally better there but sometimes the maw is justifiable and against heavy ap teams you can build both.
Mortal Reminder: It’s like Thornmail but for AD Rhaast, go Executioner's Calling early against heavy sustain teams(Generally between Warrior and Cleaver). Upgrade to Mortal Reminder when you find the pen worthwhile and don’t particularly need more tank items at the time.
Lord Dominik's Regards: Good against extremely heavy armor teams. You probably won't get enough value out of this unless your team is full AD or you're against multiple supertanks such as Malphite.
Duskblade of Draktharr: Core item on Lethality Rhaast, It adds a massive amount of damage to your w+aa+q combo and if you ult after using the duskblade passive it refreshes giving you another chunk of damage.
Youmuu's Ghostblade: Another item for lethality Rhaast, always built after duskblade if you go it at all. The out of combat movement speed plus the active are really nice together to gap close and land an easy w to kill a target. Still situational and not a core part of lethality Rhaast. Only real core items are warrior cleaver even on lethality Rhaast.
Edge of Night: The third of the lethality trio and one that’s particularly good against specific champions, such as Janna using her Howling Gale, Monsoon or possibly both? Edge of Night gives you a chance to get W off and kill her before she peels you off. It’s also really useful when you’re looking for extra lethality but not more cdr. Such as when you have Warrior/Cleaver/Dusk or Warrior/Cleaver/Visage.
Death's Dance: Generally built when you feel like you can justify a pure damage item but want to be a little bit tankier(mostly due to the vamp and taking damage over time). Not incredibly good in most games but good enough to build every few.
3. Thanks to your damage output to tanky targets in conjunction with your CC and sustain Rhaast makes quick work of Aatrox, although you still want to be wary of his Q due to the amount of damage he'll get off on you if he hits crits which makes the fight a lot harder if he lands them.
1. Amumu can do very little against Rhaast except ult and run away. In a teamfight you need to be wary of dying to his team's follow up when he bandage toss + ults you. Teamfights can be rough against him if he's consistently hitting ult on your carries. Look do to similar things to his with w in some fights and peel your carries in others.
2. Ekko can chunk you pretty low with his combo but your retaliation will often force him to blow his ult or die if you have cooldowns up, since you can get Blade's Reach: Rhaast off for basically free if he dashes into you. He becomes a non factor when you finish visage.
5. This is basically a skill matchup since she actually has the damage to tear you apart even through a decent amount of magic resist, but if she doesn't land cocoon she will lose fights with you at all points, eventually the matchup sways hard in your favor due to Spirit Visage and your strength in teamfights. She still brings a lot of pick potential with her Cocoon though so keep that in mind
8. She will almost always have the jump on you thanks to her passive, if her charm hits you there's a highchance you're dead even through MR due to it shredding a massive percentage of your magic resist while also having a lengthy duration that she or her team can free hit you if it goes off.
6. This matchup was much harder in the past for Rhaast but Fiddlesticks doesn't really do enough damage once you finish visage to be the terror he was before. He's still pretty threatening due to silence and fear being very effective CC against an AD caster.
7.The amounts of peel present in his kit makes your life harder than normal. It's very easy to get ulted into the enemy team earlier in the game before you have tank items as well.
6. Relatively even matchup if you hold Blade's Reach: Rhaast until he uses Quickdraw, goes pretty heavily into his favor if you don't go more than two damage items. The outcome of this matchup is usually decided pre-transformation based on who can snowball harder through both farm and kills. Graves with a lead beats you handily but the same is true for you with a lead.
6. Hecarim is more of a squishy killer than anything else but his dueling isn't horrible due to his dps from Rampage and Trinity Force. He'll generally lose if he commits to a 1v1 with you but he can win with a lead and Executioner's Calling or Bramble Vest. His teamfight will usually consist of trying to nuke one of your carries or land a huge ult while yours is more about whether you want to try and peel Hecarim off your carries or dive his backline as well.
6. He has a decent 1v1 with you until later in the game while also providing strong peel/engage for his team in fights against you and yours. His Demacian Standard-> Dragon Strike and Cataclysm make him more formidable than you in most grouped fights if you don't have a massive lead or knock him out of combo. If you time it well you can knock him out of his E-Q using your Blade's Reach: Rhaast.
7. You have potential to kill Jax for a while midgame but his extremely high damage in conjunction with his stun makes it pretty difficult and you'll almost certainly lose when he finishes Spear of Shojin.
2. Immobile mage jungler without any actual tools to fight back. You should look to catch him out when possible and kill him. He has very high damage output but not high enough to kill you before you can kill him.
7. Kha'zix is a pretty difficult one on one as Rhaast, but it's doable if you're solid at predictions and happen to hit Blade's Reach: Rhaast semi frequently on stealthed Kha players. His ability to tear through your hp pool with his isolation damage if you miss W makes the duel rather difficult. Kha'zix struggles in organized teamfights. If you play to peel him off your carries with Blade's Reach: Rhaast it will lower his effectiveness a lot. He looks for moments of opportunity to enter fights so if you're on relatively even terms as a team and group it's difficult for him to do much.
11. Incredibly hard matchup as Rhaast, Their mix of mobility to dodge your abilities and raw damage to tear apart your health pool in combination with Lamb's Respite make this matchup very difficult and they also function as a hypercarry in teamfights providing a ton of damage.
4. Dealing with Lee Sin as Rhaast is really easy assuming you don't position poorly enough to get kicked into his team and die. You can interrupt Resonating Strike with Blade's Reach: Rhaast if you time it well.
10. He shreds your health bar with little chance for you to retaliate because he will Alpha Strike your Blade's Reach: Rhaast which makes you miss out on a large portion of damage but more importantly dodges the knockup where you would get even more free damage in while he can't retaliate. The matchup is okay for the first item or so but after he gets his second item it becomes nigh impossible to beat him in a 1v1. His teamfight suffers hard as a melee carry though, if you hold Blade's Reach: Rhaast until he alphas a teammate you can knock him up resulting in a fairly easy kill.
6. Fighting Nidalee is pretty similar to a fight with Graves, You have to hold Blade's Reach: Rhaast until she uses Pounce while simultaneously trying to avoid getting chunked out by spears. An important thing to keep in mind is that you have sustain as Rhaast in teamfights and positioning yourself to block spears thrown at your carries can be vital to winning the fight since their hp is more valuable than yours in terms of dealing damage.
6. The ability to spellshield Blade's Reach: Rhaast actually gives him a pretty reasonable 1v1 with you for the majority/all of the game depending on his itemization. His teamfight is lackluster compared to yours and you can generally peel whoever he ults onto using Blade's Reach: Rhaast.
2. He's another softy tank that can't actually do anything to you and just gets torn apart by % hp. Look to end his Absolute Zero preemptively by knocking him up with Blade's Reach: Rhaast. His teamfight can be a lot more oppressive than yours if his carries are ahead due to the amount of CC he provides and his hp pool.
6. Olaf is a strong duelist but your overwhelmingly high % hp numbers and sustain give you an edge in the fight with him, he can still come out on top thanks to his sustained damage and healing so make sure you know your limits when deciding to duel him. In teamfights he's kind of like Nunu in that he permaslows your team members but rather than empowering his team he just tries to do a lot of damage to the targets he's slowing.
8. Rammus is surprisingly effective against Rhaast due to his defensive steroid being strong enough to take very little damage even from high %hp numbers. Not to mention the fact that for most of the game he'll be reducing your healing heavily due to thornmail being a core item on him. Taunt is just really effective CC in general but being hit by it during early fights often equates to a death if you don't have proper backup.
4. This one on one is in your favor but not considerably so, Rek'sai has very high amounts of damage available to her You'll generally be able to land Blade's Reach: Rhaast for free in the 1v1 since she has to gapclose for her Unburrow. If this hits the 1v1 becomes heavily in your favor so Rek'sai has to play it smart to actually get on you. In teamfights she's a lot worse than you due to her limited options for playstyle forcing her to primarily try and solo out your carries since Unburrow isn't effective peel.
3. This cat is declawed rather easily by Ninja Tabi and a bit more armor at some point. The matchup is heavily in your favor for both teamfights and duels but don't disrespect the damage of his Savagery, it can quickly eat through your health pool if you're not careful. When possible use Blade's Reach: Rhaast on him as he attempts to jump a carry to interrupt it and most likely kill him.
2. This was a lot harder before her overtuned damage got nerfed but thanks to those nerfs this matchup is really easy in both duels and teamfights. Go merc treads to avoid being chain stunned by her, if you decide to go blue smite there's potential to smite ult someone to dodge her ult which helps a lot.
4. Shaco isn't particularly good against you but with his r and grievous wounds he does enough damage to 1v1 you if he has a lead or outplays you with his boxes or deceive. Very hard to hit W on him.
3. Shyvana is really difficult to deal with in any capacity as a melee duelist, you're not really going to win most duels with her unless you accumulate a large lead and she skips out on Ninja Tabi due to her incredibly high damage, but she struggles to stick to you which makes getting away from her if she fights you and is in a position to win rather easy. The primary way to beat Shyvana as Rhaast is to teamfight and peel her with Blade's Reach: Rhaast while focusing her down with your team when she dives.
4. Depending on the enemy team you may need to go Quicksilver Sash but as Rhaast you have a very good matchup into Skarner both in fights and by yourself. You can knock him up when he ults or tries to ult a teammate to mitigate a lot of his effectiveness.
5. Sylas can be either really difficult or really easy based on the ults he's capable of stealing as well as the skill of the Sylas player. This matchup is really variable and can skew either way. The person playing better in the match will usually win. If he wastes his Abscond it becomes very easy to hit Blade's Reach: Rhaast and screw him over.
4. His 1v1 is good against most champs but you just do way too much damage for him to handle unless he has a massive lead, Blade's Reach: Rhaast and Pillar of Ice are about even in teamfights but his ultimate shredding the resists and hp of you or a teammate gives him a bit of an edge in lategame teamfights due to the powerful utility of reducing a tank's defensive stats and allowing his team to shred them as well as being a full tank to frontline. During mid and early game teamfights your damage contribution is way too high compared to his and puts you at advantage.
4. This matchup really comes down to if you're able to touch Twitch in teamfights without dying, if he's really fed or has his team playing around him it can get extremely difficult, same principle for 1v1 to be fair. If you can't reach Twitch quickly he will kill you but if you touch him he'll usually roll over and die.
3. Udyr does a lot of damage and might be able to win the 1v1 in some games but his teamfight is horrible and he can't really stick to you even if he's in a position where he can win the fight. Your W also invalidates him even more in teamfights since tagging him with any CC often ruins his chance to contribute unless he has Flash up.
8. This matchup is difficult until you have a lot of items under your belt by which point she might have already dictated the outcome of the game, it's a lot easier if you're playing well and Blade's Reach: Rhaast her out of Vault Breaker. Your teamfight is better than Vi's since she's very squishy for the majority of the game due to needing offensive itemization.
2. Volibear wants to stack health, which you're completely fine with due to high % hp numbers. His one on one is pretty good against you if he has a lead but once you have Warrior Cleaver he shouldn't be winning 1v1 in any scenario. Buy Bramble vest kind of early against him to reduce his passive healing if you feel the need. Try to knock him out of his Q with Blade's Reach: Rhaast to avoid him flipping important carries.
5. The 1v1 should be pretty close but often won't wrap up before teams get involved due to the tankiness and sustain of both parties. In a team fight environment you can reduce his impact a lot by hitting him with your W during either his E or the channeling portion of his R where he's suppressing a teammate.
1. This champion is really bad against you due to being all burst damage with nothing really meaningful after blowing his combo. You have to itemize Ninja Tabi or he will have enough damage to nuke you until you itemize armor much later in the match. His teamfight is really good if he's able to enter without being spotted so getting your team to ward angles he might approach from is really good.
5. Xin is a pretty strong duelist and is liable to have a lead from the early game giving him an edge for a bit, but even with this in mind you can beat him in a 1v1 pretty reasonably. His teamfight is worse than yours, he's another prime candidate to peel with W off a carry.
1. He's never going to take a duel with you because there's absolutely zero way he wins it with his very low damage output, however he can stall for a relatively long time if you try bringing the fight to him, giving his team plenty of time to come pick you off. In teamfights he's much stronger than you but if you position around your carries you can knock him out of Elastic Slingshot and save them from being brought into his team and dying.
The first thing you need to ponder is “Will Shadow Assassin be the correct choice in this match?” Shadow Assassin excels at pushing a lead into a won game against squishy characters. He genuinely struggles against tanks and some bruisers because of how little damage he deals to them, even with a massive lead many tanks or tankier targets will be able to take you in a 1v1 with ease.
So when thinking about going Shadow Assassin you have to ask yourself, how fed am I?, Does the enemy team comp have effective answers to me? One of these answers being massive amounts of peel. Another question you have to ask yourself is “Can I push my lead enough to win this game before carries have strong defensive items like Guardian Angel or Zhonya's Hourglass”. This question is posed primarily because you fall off later on just as any other assassin does. It’s also hard to kill an adc later in the game when your only options are have flash up or run at them in a teamfight and hope you last long enough to kill them. Angle of approach becomes even more important when teamfights start breaking out while playing Shadow Assassin as they completely dictate whether you can enter the fight at all. Sometimes you pick the wrong angle and just have to walk away.
Upon transforming into Shadow Assassin your abilities are changed heavily to suit your new murderous style.
The Darkin Scythe: Shadow Assassin - For the first 3 seconds in combat with an enemy champion Kayn deals 12-44% of his post-mitigation damage as bonus magic damage. This effect becomes available again after 8 seconds out of combat or using his ultimate Umbral Trespass.
This passive is actually much more impactful than the numbers make it seem, an extra 12-44% of numbers like 1300-4000 is really impactful. A combo using your ultimate after it deals 12-44% increased damage on 1 W, 2 Qs, 1-2 autos, Duskblade, Whatever keystone you’re using, and your ultimate. This is especially potent when taking into consideration that the damage is magic which gives you a slight mix of physical/magic damage that causes you to be slightly harder to itemize against. Even without using your ultimate it’s still increased damage on w q aa as well as your keystone which is generally enough damage to kill any target that isn’t itemizing defensively. Blade's Reach: Shadow Assassin - The range of Blade’s Reach is increased by 200 and a clone of Kayn casts Blade’s Reach instead allowing him to move and use abilities during the cast.
BREAD AND BUTTER, while both the change to Rhaast’s W and the change to SA’s W are very impactful, this change turns him into a completely different champion that not many compare to in terms of how his kit flows together. This enables the highest burst combo on Kayn that removes squishies from the game faster than most people are capable of reacting. You generally use this ability when you’re either comboing for a kill or just as high damage poke. Be cautious when using this as poke due to the fact it disables your passive for 8 seconds upon doing so making you potentially lose out on hundreds of damage.
Shadow Step: Shadow Assassin Shadow Step's cooldown is reduced to 8 seconds at all ranks. Casting Shadow Step removes slows and makes Kayn immune to them for the duration. Additionally, entering terrain will increase the Movement speed icon bonus movement speed to 80% for the remaining duration.
This ability is THE pick/roam ability. The ability to go through terrain while seeing over walls really helps you scout for and kill opponents you aren’t aware of, or hunt down those you are aware of. Keep in mind that you can’t see in brush so dipping out of the wall and quickly back in to check a bush can be valuable at times.
The massive movement steroid associated with this ability and the cooldown being put at a flat 8 seconds allows for some insane map rotations which equates to a massive amount of pressure generated from how quickly you traverse the entire map. You’ll want to route in a way that allows you to continuously run through walls to maximize use of this ability but that isn’t particularly difficult given how many walls are on the map.
Umbral Trespass: Shadow Assassin- The range of Umbral Trespass is extended by 200 units and upon exiting the target your passive is refreshed.
The extra 200 units makes a huge difference on the effectiveness of your ultimate, I’ve a secured an innumerable amount of kills with the extra range on W+R that I would have missed as Rhaast or Base Kayn. 200 might not sound like much but it makes a massive difference in just how effective this ability is. As a point of reference 100 units is 1 teemo.
Resetting SA’s passive is not to be underestimated either. Assuming a best case scenario after comboing you deal 12-44% increased damage on one Auto, Both parts of one Q and a duskblade proc which can easily deal over one thousand damage to a squishy target meaning this reset can provide hundreds of extra damage on your combo.
Dark Harvest is my keystone of choice over Electrocute on Shadow Assassin due to the upfront damage compared to Electrocute's 3 hit proc with delay on the damage. I'm also generally able to get off multiple procs in a large number of fights which makes it wholly outweigh the other options from my perspective.
This is easily the best non keystone mastery in the game on Shadow Assassin and we'll be taking it every game due to the permanent uptime with the short cooldown of Reaping Slash along with the relative weakness of the competing runes.
Eyeball collection is a debatably better option in this tree for snowballing but the value associated with extra vision from this rune is very nice, especially when we go duskblade and sweeper to clear vision. Realistically you can go either.
The healing on Ravenous is really strong and the movement speed from relentless is overkill when you're going shadow assassin since you already have E, Youmuu's, and Maybe Mobi boots.
Secondary Tree Choices
This rune isn't that good by itself but it's the 2nd best choice in the tree as a splash when you dip in to grab the next rune
This rune is easily one of the best in the game and sometimes you'll even want it as SA to avoid CC deaths and get away with killing carries.
Absolute focus is a nice rune for the flat damage provided by it and gets a lot of value from a champ trying to maximize their damage output like SA Kayn.
If you're not huge on absolute focus Transcendence is another really good choice since it lets you cdr cap with warrior/dusk/youmuu's and cdr is an incredibly good stat on Kayn.
One of the best runes in the game for scaling damage and the usual go to for SA splash. This rune helps keep your damage high as the game goes on.
This is probably the highest midgame value rune to splash since free boots is the equivalent of getting a kill. It doesn't scale as well as sorcery but it gives you a big spike when you hit it.
If you're going boots you realistically only take this rune. Even if the other runes were decent this is just too good to pass up because of the cdr.
Unlike Rhaast, Shadow Assassin is only capable of filling one role in a team. Squishy killer, destroyer of adc’s hopes and dreams. As SA your goal is to make any carry champion on the enemy team have a hellish time by nuking them when given the chance. His build is a much more straightforward than the myriad options available to Rhaast but there is still some decisions you make throughout the game on which items to purchase over others.
Your build is primarily going to be Warrior->Duskblade-Youmuu’s->More damage items with very little flexibility in the first few items and a limited pool for later choices compared to Rhaast as well.
As Shadow Assassin you’re also given less options than Rhaast in terms of how you approach fights. You are forced into playing around unexpected angles which also makes vision control of areas very important. You need to buy lots of pink wards and make use of Duskblade + Sweeper(At level 9) to deny vision of areas you might try entering a fight from. It’s helpful to remember you can tell if an area is warded based on whether you’re getting the duskblade passive(The damage one, not the vision one).
Outside of approaching from odd angles sometimes you do still position with your team as Shadow Assassin and just attempt to land poke with your W to chip away at tank’s hp or put a squishy at dangerous hp numbers. It’s possible depending on which carry champion you hit to just ult them after landing w as poke and kill them outright with auto q once you exit, or in the case of being really snowballed W+R actually kills some squishies.
In regards to the previous statement about W+R killing squishies at times it’s very important to know your damage on Shadow Assassin in order to properly estimate kill ranges and above all else to be aware you are an assassin and need to keep track of enemy cooldowns to avoid being peeled off and rendered irrelevant to the point or to avoid being killed by having something such as Sej Ult thrown at you or Gragas slamming belly first into you.
Another topic I’d like to touch on for Shadow Assassin, and just assassins in general is that a key skill is knowing WHEN to pull the trigger on a combo or look for a pick, while also being careful not to get picked in any way. If you die/blow flash you lose tons of presence. If you die AND blow flash you’re giving up so much by being removed from the map and losing your important gap closer for combo As mentioned previously tracking enemy cooldowns is important, but so is tracking positioning of both enemies and allies along with your allied cooldowns. Keeping track of these things allows you to successfully make your picks in fights without dying more often than not. Knowing when you can and cannot successfully kill an enemy carry while escaping is important. So is knowing when your team wins if you kill the enemy adc, even at the cost of your own life. Yeah, it’s worth dying 1 for 1 to kill the Vayne that's killing your entire team. Obviously we prefer to avoid this but sometimes it's the only feasible play.
Stalker's Blade - Warrior: Core item. Being able to dodge abilities on demand is even more prominent on Shadow Assassin than Rhaast due to building much more aggressively with little or no sustain. You can smite a target and be able to follow them when they flash away even if you didn’t ult immediately due to the combination of 200 extra range on ult and the slow allowing you to close the gap with relative ease against most targets. You also don't get much uptime autoattacking targets to make use of red smite.
Skirmisher's Sabre - Warrior: I would advise against building this in most games. Your damage is all upfront and you’re not looking to duel people. You could occasionally build it if you feel like it will enable a 1v1 that's important to the match.
Duskblade of Draktharr: Core to Shadow Assassin, adds entirely too much damage to give up. 2 Duskblade procs can do over 600 damage in a fight due to your passive, in conjunction with the combination of lethality, ad, cdr, and most importantly vision denial. It is absolutely vital to Shadow Assassin.
Ninja Tabi: Defensive boots are always good, these are particularly good on SA for the same reason they’re good on any other character. Itemizing against autoattacking AD champs is generally a good idea when in most games their toplaner, adc, and jungler will be autoattacking you, even the tanky ap junglers and nidalee end up autoing you often.
Mercury's Treads: Anti CC, important against champions like lissandra to avoid being locked out of doing anything until you’re dead. Good mr item in general and get even more value against high CC teams.
Mobility Boots: Really good in combination with your e and Youmuu’s to zip around the map and look for picks/deny vision. These are more of a snowball item than anything else so be careful about which games you buy them in since you’ll be much squishier and more prone to getting popped.
Youmuu's Ghostblade: Another bread and butter lethality item, there are a few very rare cases where you’ll buy this before Duskblade to be everywhere on the map with Youmuu’s + mobis. It’s primarily when you already have a massive lead going into your second item. Otherwise you buy this after duskblade in the vast majority of games.
Edge of Night: Situational lethality item that’s really good against a decent amount of champions such as Lux or Zoe who have one defensive ability and supports like Janna or Sona who only have their ultimate to reliably peel for themselves/their marksman. You’ll have to pick between this and Youmuu’s in some of your games but you can often get away with building both.
Guardian Angel: Extremely good item for the playstyle associated with Shadow Assassin, you’ll build this 4th in most games due to having enough damage from Warrior and 2 Lethality items to already kill priority targets. Guardian angel allows you to take 1 for 1 trades that would otherwise be bad and make them good due to becoming 1 for 0 or to make an already good 1 for 1(Killing important carry) even better since it’s yet again a 1 for 0. Sometimes you can go GA immediately after duskblade depending on the gamestate and if you feel like the armor or revive will contribute a lot.
Maw of Malmortius: build hexdrinker in between warrior and duskblade when playing against heavy ap teams in order to mitigate large portions of their damage. Sometimes when I go maw I prefer skipping out on Youmuu's Ghostblade and building Edge of Night in conjunction with it to mitigate even more of the damage from the types of champions that I need maw against.
Mortal Reminder: Good item against sustain heavy teams, especially since you’ll likely need % pen at some point. Buy Executioner's Calling early against the aforementioned sustain heavy teams. You might need this to kill adcs with lifesteal later in the game as well.
Mercurial Scimitar Vital in many scenarios, being able to shrug off CC is huge for assassins getting access to their priority targets. You'll generally just build Quicksilver Sash early and upgrade to Scimitar much later in the game.
Black Cleaver: You won't build this on Shadow Assassin in most games but sometimes you can justify it if you went SA rather than Rhaast against an armor stacking team for example.
Death's Dance: This item isn't really good on SA the majority of the time but you can justify it in some games if you find yourself really needing some kind of sustain other than Ravenous Hunter since none of the other healing items are really worth building.
Dead Man's Plate: This is one of a few purely defensive items I think are situationally good on Shadow Assassin. It’s really nice with your e and whatever other mobility you build to close the gap and is a solid defensive item against high AD teams.
Randuin's Omen: This item is just good on nearly any champion against two+ crit champions. Think about building this later in the game against Yasuo/Trynd/Corki/Multiple adcs on the same team.
Adaptive Helm: Build extremely situationally against ap teams as a late game item. SA isn’t really a fan of any other purely defensive MR items.
4. He's generally going to itemize mostly health/damage items and will probably go tabi against you making him difficult to kill but you have a decent window before he beefs up to snowball and keep him out of the game. He struggles to hit crit Q's if you make good use of your mobility and ultimate which gives you a bit of an edge in that regard as well.
6. He does quite a bit of damage and can outshot you if he goes runic while also being pretty difficult to kill with Aftershock popped. You might also have to go Quicksilver Sash if you're not able to wait for him to ult before entering the fight. If he decides to go the tank build instead of ap aftershock you can't kill him but he's much less scary.
1. He's a squishy, skillshot reliant mage in the Jungle against a high mobility high burst assassin. Catch him out in his jungle and dodge his Sear for easy kills or sums.
8. Due to her passive she'll nearly always have the jump on you, excluding if you ward her jungle camps and pick her then. Maw of Malmortius is an extremely good item if she is in the game due to the magic damage shield's value against her massive burst and MR shred on charm. Consider Quicksilver Sash as well if you're dying in her charm duration.
10. As Shadow Assassin this particular scarecrow should terrify you, his fear screws you in both 1v1 with him and teamfights where he disrupts your combo and enables his team to kill you in the duration. Bountiful Harvest hitting you during your ultimate will often kill you outright if you don't go Maw of Malmortius and you can't realistically kill him without a massive lead if he goes Zhonya's Hourglass which he already wants to for Hourglass + Crowstorm. Consider going QSS after duskblade if he gets a lead.
8. If he doesn't go Ninja Tabi relatively early you have a small window to kill him a couple times but after that he just kills you with Devastating Charge into Onslaught of Shadows while you do nearly zero damage to him thanks to the armor he itemizes against you.
8. He will kill you faster than you can kill him with the massive amounts of burst present in his kit. If he goes a damage centric build you have some opportunities to kill him but it's basically whoever gets the jump on the other wins. Should he opt for a bruiser build instead, he can still one shot you for a large portion of the game while also contributing heavily to team fights.
3. You want to ward his jungle and try to catch him out as much as possible since he can't effectively itemize armor early due to needing other items first. You can just kill him with little repercussions but be careful if you get hit by Wall of Pain with Reaping Slash on cooldown since it gives him a chance to turn kill you, even if you already killed him. Consider itemizing MR or Edge of Night as the game goes on because Requiem will start hitting for half your health bar.
6. If he itemizes more armor than just Ninja Tabi early on the matchup is pretty hard but if he doesn't you can snowball really hard off him by oneshotting him over and over. If he goes even he can present a large threat to you in teamfights with Dragon's Rage
10. Any half decent Yi player will meditate your burst and then proceed to beat you black and blue. This matchup is okay if he doesn't go Ninja Tabi since you can kill him even without a large portion of your damage but if he builds Ninja Tabi as well as more armor to compliment it at some point it's nigh impossible.
6. Another jumpscare matchup, if she lands a spear on you from fog of war you're probably dead to Pounce Takedown. But the same is also true for you popping combo on her. At some point during the match you're both liable to itemize defensively against eachother(Zhonyas/Tabi on Nidalee, Maw on Shadow Assassin). After this happens you have low kill pressure on eachother unless one of you mispositions heavily and gets caught out with no help from their team.
6. His ability to spellshield your Blade's Reach: Shadow Assassin isn't to be underestimated, The massive damage loss hurts a lot but you can generally win 1v1 against him without it. It can get rough if he has a lead and tabi, but the same is true for you against him. This makes the matchup pretty even against assassin nocturne but if he goes bruiser you lose the 1v1. Teamfight presence is decided by who plays better, how well is he using Paranoia, are you killing the targets you need to be?
5. Nunu is a meatwall tank with one consistent peel ability in his kit that's consistently effective against Kayn. He's not very scary for you in teamfights and honestly probably one of the tanks Kayn is most likely to beat in a 1v1.
9. If you snowball early there are a few opportunities to burst olaf before he gets armor, outside of that good luck my friend. This monstrous duelist will absolutely kill you if he finds you and you aren't able to hop any walls, his teamfight presence with Undertow's brutal permaslow and his ability to negate CC temporarily and beat your teammates head in isn't to be underestimated.
10. You literally cannot even dream of killing him, you're forced to go Quicksilver Sash because being taunted is equivalent to a death on Shadow Assassin. Due to 1. Being a tank, and 2. his overall kit. This small spiked ball has an insane teamfight comparatively to you
5. Rek'sai would like nothing more than to go Stalker's Blade - Warrior into Black Cleaver. This is actually pretty convenient for you since it means she won't have enough defensive stats to survive your damage output even with Ninja Tabi. However she is a very strong duelist anyways and fights are slightly in her favor for the majority of the game, becoming heavily in her favor if she gets further armor. She struggles to stick to you though so realistically you get to pick most of your fights with Rek'sai
5. The armor from Ninja Tabi and Guardian Angel go a long ways in this matchup but it's basically like every other assassin matchup where you establish vision control and kill the enemy before they see you. His pressure is entirely based around his ultimate while yours has no such limitation. You get to exert a lot more map pressure given the cooldown on Thrill of the Hunt.
10. There's this pattern where SA really hates playing against tanks, particularly tanks with uncouth amounts of crowd control in their kit. Playing against Sej is really hard and you need to keep track of Glacial Prison's cooldown to avoid dying for free.
1. This champion is really bad, try to deny vision in his jungle and kill him before he can q. Ninja Tabi mitigate basically the entirety of his damage if he manages to snowball.
5. Shyvana is a very high damage bruiser and will probably 2 shot you if you commit to fighting her so it's generally better to play around her with your team and just kill her carries. She struggles to stick to you so it's not that hard to play around her 1v1 strength. Depending on the game her teamfight impact can be higher or much lower than yours.
8. Skarner is pretty difficult due to his ability to peel with you with his E or even ult you if you don't go QSS and that really diminishes your effectiveness until you can justify buying the item. You can't beat him in a 1v1 but that's not too surprising since he's a tank.
7. Sylas has an incredibly strong mid/late and frequently itemizes both defensive boots Ninja Tabi and Zhonya's Hourglass along with having health from his itemization in the form of Hextech Rocketbelt making him noticeably harder than an average carry to oneshot. And if he lands his rotation properly he can kill you outright. His impact on the game overall will vary heavily but he should beat you frequently if you're not snowballing.
7. Kind of like Olaf, there are windows where you can nuke him early but he's a strong duelist that itemizes armor so you're going to be hurting later on. His teamfight presence is strong with Pillar of Ice but he struggles to peel you most of the time if you don't set yourself up to get caught by his Pillar
2. He's like Tristana but infinitely worse against assassins, ward up his jungle and look to pick him out over and over again to snowball. If he's not incredibly far behind before teamfights break out the game becomes much harder to win, and if it reaches lategame you lose the match most of the time.
4. Udyr is a phenomenal duelist but he's not really mobile enough to mess with you too much. If he builds armor you can't kill him but you can just slow him with W and run away most of the time. He can peel you alright in teamfights if he just sits on his carry and bear slaps you but that's not common. Generally your teamfight impact will be much higher than his
8. Vi one shots you, she's pretty hard to oneshot thanks to Blast Shield in conjunction with Ninja Tabi and HP from Trinity Force. It's still possible to oneshot her if you're ahead or she didn't go tabi making the matchup noticeably easier. Her teamfight depends on how well she's playing but it's kind of like yours in that she needs to do her best to make picks or kill carries. You do a better job at killing carries in most scenarios so your team fight should be better in that regard but Vi has really good lockdown if she decides to single you out and peel you in teamfights.
10. Volibear is a big beefy tank with a bit of CC, two forms of peel and a large amount of damage. Kayn does not like tanks that CC him, let alone tanks that can both CC and pop him.
10. If Warwick is on point with his Primal Howl usage he can reduce your damage by nearly half early and more than half later in the game, all of your damage is frontloaded so this means that he effectively takes half as much damage from you if he uses Primal Howl at a proper time. He's also a tank with good sticking potential and damage output which already makes him a huge threat to you. Let alone the peel from his E and R.
3. The amount of burst damage he has is comparable to yours and his ability to open from stealth or use stealth to dodge your abilities gives him an edge if he has a lead. If he doesn't have a solid lead Tabi nullify him as a champion since his damage is undertuned.
7. His teamfight is honestly not that great but his Q and R provide decent peel if he decides to play around you and can shut down a lot of your chances to kill a carry. On the flipside you're capable of beating him in the 1v1 for a large portion of the game since he doesn't build early armor the majority of the time instead favoring warrior/trinity/steraks.
4. If Zac is still relevant by the time you transform he can mess you up a bit with Elastic Slingshot and Let's Bounce! if you get hit by them in fights. They're really telegraphed though and you should be able to avoid them quite easily
Before I continue, I'd like to give special thanks to Hoppermh for some help with bbcode techniques.
And my fantastic friend Quin. He helped me/made the vast majority of the art used throughout the guide(The Rhaast poorly edited onto Shadow Assassin is most certainly mine though. He was a great help and the graphics of this guide were definitely carried by him.
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If you Reaping Slash into a wall that is too thick to jump over the amount of time it takes to get off both parts of the damage is much lower, this is especially true if you q when you’re already against a wall. This is useful for winning close 1v1s sometimes or getting off your damage faster when someone facechecks a bush you’re in as you can get both parts of Reaping Slash off basically instantly in melee range of a wall that is too thick for your Reaping Slash to go over.