A good friend of mine has long been in love with Kassadin. He loves the playstyle, but he really hates Kassadin’s early game. You know, that long, slow period before you hit level six and really get to have some fun.
We spend a lot of time talking about game design and champion design and what could be done differently. For Kassadin, we often return to the idea that his ult should be one of his three main skills, giving him the ability to blink earlier in the game, albeit with some reduced effectiveness.
Enter LeBlanc. LeBlanc is the kind of toon design that rubs me the wrong way because it borrows an existing paradigm and vastly improves upon it. Every game I played Leblanc I was shocked by how much she feels like Kassadin. Granted, she can’t teleport quite as far, but I think she makes up for it with her insane burst and the added control from her Ethereal Chains. In fact, I played Kassadin against a LeBlanc and got schooled during the laning phase for a couple reasons.
First, she’s ranged. It’s a huge farming advantage against a melee toon like Kassadin because it keeps her at a safe distance. If Kassadin wants to farm, he can either last hit with Null Sphere at the cost of mana, or he can get into melee range and get his ass handed to him. The LeBlanc Sigil -> Distortion combo is nasty against melee toons if done right, and unfortunately, Kassadin is a melee toon.
The thing is, LeBlanc is a lot of fun to play. She’s highly mobile, and it feels great to land your combo perfectly. It makes me sad that they haven’t put more effort into Kassadin’s design because they are so similar, but LeBlanc is just a stronger toon.
As much fun as LeBlanc is, I think Riot dropped the ball in a couple places with her design. First, the fact that she can blink to a location, deal big damage, and immediately blink back feels like really bad design. There’s virtually no risk, unless you manage to get silenced/snared in the .2 seconds you’re at your target location. That kind of mobility should come at some sort of cost, like it does for Kassadin.
The second problem is her passive, which I think fits really well into Zileas’ “or we could just fuck the player” design theme. LeBlanc’s passive isn’t all that effective at fooling the player. Once you know what it does, or know that you can ping LeBlanc before the passive procs and the real one will still be marked afterward, it’s just a matter of waiting the .5 seconds for her to reappear. For melee toons and auto attackers, the passive is actually a bit worse. Those kind of champions right click the enemy a lot, and when LeBlanc disappears it breaks both their auto attacks and their movement path. The players haven’t been fooled – LeBlanc can only be running just a few steps away unless distortion is off cooldown – they’ve been screwed by a mechanic that breaks the way the player plays the game, not the game itself. It’s the same reason Mind Control is such a frustrating mechanic in WoW, or the trick in a lot of games where suddenly your controls don’t work like they should (up is now left, left is now right, right is down, etc.) – those things artificially limit your ability to play the game as well as you otherwise could.
There is a way around it, but it’s something a lot of players either won’t know about or rarely use. When I chase champions, I click the ground ahead of them and use attack-move (press ‘a’ and left-click a spot on the ground) to land my auto attacks. It’s an old Dota tactic similar to orb-walking, and it makes LeBlanc’s passive as useless as it is against a caster.
Overall, I still like LeBlanc. I think she fits into the game much better than a lot of recent releases. I wish she wasn’t so much like Kassadin, and I wish her passive was different, but in the end she’s fun to play and not horrible to play against unless she’s hugely fed.