With most champion releases, I’m able to get a solid four or five games on day one from which I can write my impressions. With Karma, that was a little more difficult. No doubt the low IP cost had something to do with that. This morning I finally nabbed another game with her, bringing my total up to a whopping three, but I’ve also seen her in every game I’ve played, so I think I can give a decent idea of what it’s like to play Karma.
For starters, Karma has a pretty fun skillset. When a teamfight starts and you get to hit your Spirit Bond, throw an amplified shield on a friendly target, and hit your allies for a nice heal plus some damage to the enemy, it feels really good. The downside is that once you’ve done that, you’re forced to float around the back of the fight for a while, sometimes for the whole duration. Her Heavenly Wave has a pretty small cast range, and her other cooldowns are long, so your durability plummets as soon as you’ve cast those spells. This isn’t really an issue if your team has a lot of disable. If that’s not the case, well, you better be pretty careful.
As for her game presence, I can’t say Karma does things better than or above and beyond other champions. In most cases, I think I’d still rather have a Morgana than Karma, even though her heal can get pretty big into the late game. The biggest issue is that Karma only has two reliable damage spells, and one of them requires a Mantra charge. Without Mantra, she has one short range, AOE nuke and a very conditional laser beam slow thing.
Karma is also highly susceptible to early lane harass. She does have a heal and a shield, but if you’re using those regularly, you’ll run out of mana pretty quickly. I’ve played against Karma with a couple decent harassers and pushed her out of lane without much trouble. That’s a problem, because she’s very item dependent. She does pretty well in a solo lane, though. There’s less incoming damage to worry about and she can farm pretty well with Heavenly Wave and an improved shield. Unfortunately, I have a hard time justifying a solo lane for her. She doesn’t hit that ‘wow’ point that other characters do when they get ahead, usually because of a combination of gaining an ultimate and overleveling the duo lanes. She hits a little bit harder, but it’s not the kind of damage that will carry a team. Your best bet is to lane with a champion who has huge lane presence, someone like Xin Zhao or perhaps the new Renekton.
I think Karma ultimately suffers from the three-skill design. I consistently felt like I was missing something when I played her, like I was always underleveled, waiting to get a skill point that I would never get. I rarely felt like I had Mantra when I needed it; the refresh timer feels long in the midst of a fight and the bonus effects are sort of necessary to be truly effective in a fight so I burn it early. I think it would have been more interesting if she worked a bit like Annie – storing up Mantra by casting spells. Her ultimate could then be some kind of meditative state, a self buff that allowed her to always cast Mantra-powered spells for the next six seconds.
I haven’t had a chance to try full support Karma, and maybe she feels a little bit better in that situation. As it stands, I think she’s a little to easy to shut down in the lane phase. She’s definitely fun when you get to use her skills, but those situations feel few and far between.