League's littlest ninja leapt back into the LCS this week, bringing a whole storm of pain, stuns, and sweet breakdance skills with him!
Kennen has been particularly popular in the NA LCS, where the Heart of the Storm was picked or banned in nine out of the 10 games last week -- up from his two picks/bans the previous week. Teams in the EU LCS have been a little more hesitant -- only picking him three times last week, with no bans.
And their hesitance may be for good reason: Kennen has only accrued a 50% win rate in the last two weeks of the LCS. But there's a lot of potential in this yordle-sized ninja. Let's take a look at how he works, why he's strong, and what you can do to succeed when you play as him!
BALANCE IN ALL THINGS
Tiny ninja Kennen is a mage first and foremost, meaning that he's a damage dealer who relies on his abilities to dish out hefty hunks of hurt onto his enemies. But he also has some characteristics of marksmen, who rely on auto-attacks to steadily tear down their foes.
That's one of my favorite things about Kennen: he has a wide spread of abilities that give you options when playing him. Need some poke damage in lane to harass your opponent or kill creeps from a safe distance? His Thundering Shuriken skill shot is on a short cooldown with no mana cost (he uses energy that replenishes quickly).
Need to escape a gank from the enemy jungler? Just activate Lightning Surge to turn into a speedy ball of lightning and jet off to safety. And Lightning Surge is also great for jumping into a fight, since it boosts your defense and puts a debuff on enemies you pass through. It's nice to have options.
But for me, there's nothing more fun than catching the entire enemy team in his lethal lightning ring of death ultimate, Slicing Maelstrom.
TIME TO STRIKE
Winterfox's top laner Deongyheon "Avalon" Shin showed just how outrageous Kennen's damage can be, even early in the game. Watch him instantly delete three members of Team SoloMid in last week's match.
"Kennen is strong because of his effectiveness with magic penetration and Zhonya's Hourglass," Avalon explains. "He also has a very strong laning phase against most meta top laners. We picked him in that match because we knew Dyrus has a strong Kennen, and we wanted to focus on denying him the pick and going for teamfights."
But Avalon is quick to add a caveat that might scare off some solo queue heroes hoping to find their next carry. "I don't actually enjoy playing Kennen," he admits. "He relies very heavily on his ultimate, so when it's down, he's a weak champion. He also heavily needs coordinated teamwork and strong use of Teleport."
It's true: Kennen is being picked so much right now, primarily because he's so strong in teamfights and the LCS is an absolute bloodbath of teamfights at the moment. That's also why many players pick up Zhonya's Hourglass -- which Kennen can activate to become invulnerable after he's already created the life-destroying storm around him.
Team Liquid's top laner Diego "Quas" Ruiz recently showed off Kennen's strengths in their Week 6 win over Gravity. Check out how Quas counter-baits a gank and uses Kennen's mobility to avoid the fight until the exact moment that he knows he can dish out the most damage.
Notice how Quas uses Electrical Surge -- an ability that shoots electricity out of Kennen to all nearby enemies -- to stun multiple opponents to keep them inside of his lightning storm. That's all thanks to Kennen's passive, which causes his abilities and some auto-attacks, to apply a Mark of the Storm on his victims. When someone has three marks, they get stunned and take damage. It's a brutal surprise that experienced Kennens use to catch their opponents off guard.
Quas got a bit greedy at the end of that fight, but unlike Avalon, he's having a blast playing Kennen. "He's a strong laner that scales very well into the late game," he explains. "And he can have a huge impact in teamfights. He's got a lot of damage and lockdown in his kit, while also being able to pressure his lane."
LET'S DO IT!
As you may have suspected by now, Kennen works best in compositions built to teamfight often. Team Impulse's top laner Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong picked him as the best addition to their teamfight team composition in last week's match. "I picked Kennen because his ultimate deals a lot of area of effect damage and he has a decent amount of crowd control," he explains. "Because of that, he's one of the best champions to fit the teamfight comp we used last week."
Team Impulse: Kennen, Lee Sin, Karthus, Graves, Leona Team Liquid: Kennen, Rek'Sai, Lissandra, Corki, Braum Winterfox: Kennen, Jarvan IV, Viktor, Corki, Leona
Having a teammate that can force groups of enemies to stay close -- like Leona, Braum, or Jarvan IV -- is every Kennen's dream. The biggest downside to the ninja's Maelstrom ultimate is that opponents can walk out of it. But if the opponents get trapped, the tempest will make sure that they also get dead.
Karthus is an intriguing teammate choice too, because he also offers great front-line area-of-effect damage. He can't dive in like Kennen does, but if you can get your opponents stuck between your Kennen and Karthus, they're going to have a very bad day.
But, hey, if for some reason throwing shurikens, turning into a ball of lightning, and killing the entire enemy team at once doesn't sound like fun too you, maybe Impact can otherwise convince you. "Kennen is pretty cute," he says.
There you have it -- straight from the LCS pros. Now go forth and light up the Rift as Kennen, the Heart of the Tempest!
Josh Augustine's favorite champion is Karma, he's never enjoyed a Darius, and he will always go for the kill, even when he knows he shouldn't. He currently works as a game designer on EverQuest Next at Daybreak Games. He’d love to talk with you on Twitter.