Kayn, the Shadow Reaper, is League of Legends’ newest edgelord, and as such, he’s one of the coolest champions that’s been released in a while. Between the shadow magic, constant struggle with demonic possession, and brooding voiceover, there’s a lot about Kayn that makes him just simply cool. That being said, it’s not a surprise that so many fans are excited to play him.
Playing him is very fun, but also a bit of a daunting task, though, because his kit is fairly complicated when you consider his unique transformation mechanic. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. He’s an in-depth champion guide for Kayn, League’s official Zed fanboy.
While Kayn has the potential to work both as a mid laner and a top laner in very specific circumstances, he excels the most as a jungler, so that’s what this guide will focus on. He’s a high AD jungler, much like Kha’Zix or Rengar, with a ton of mobility and ganking tools and some AoE damage to make his jungle clear a bit easier.
His transformation mechanic is a little confusing at first glance, but it’s not terribly difficult once you figure out how it works. Essentially, he has one transformation each game, and his transformation is chosen out of two possible options—shadow form and demon form. His abilities aren’t replaced completely like Gnar when he transforms, they’re just altered. Shadow form offers boosted mobility and power against ranged targets on the backline, and demon form has tons of self sustain and percent-health damage for those pesky tanks on the frontline. You have access to transform after getting only one kill, which is a very low requirement. After you get one kill, you have access to instantly transform to one of your options. If you can’t seem to get a kill, you can access the transformation just by fighting champions, but it takes much longer.
Killing a ranged victim will give him access to his shadow form, and killing a melee victim allows him to go into his Darkin form. If you get a kill on one type of champion, you can actually stall your transformation for a few minutes to try to get a kill on the other type, if you prefer. That way, even if you get a kill on one type of champion, you still have a window to transform into the other option. If you can’t seem to transform before mid game arrives, Kayn starts to fall off in terms of efficiency, and he falls off hard, so it’s best to rush for your transformation as early as possible.
Kayn’s runes are standard for most AD jungle assassins.
- Marks: 9x Greater Mark of Attack Damage
- Glyphs: 9x Greater Glyph of Magic Resist (Optional: Replace three MR glyphs with Major Cooldown Reduction as he’s very ability-driven)
- Seals: 9x Greater Seal of Armor
- Quintessence: 3x Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage
The AD marks and quints give Kayn some serious damage on his high AD scaling abilities. He doesn’t need to run attack speed marks like some AD junglers due to his high cleave damage and low cooldowns—just keep the AD coming. The armor quints are for helping him survive clearing his camps and early ganks, because he’s pretty darn squishy. The glyphs are his biggest uncertainty, simply because you can get away with three options, depending on the game—cooldown reduction, magic resist, and scaling magic resist are all decent choices, and it’ll depend on your playstyle.
There is some wiggle room for Kayn’s masteries, but there are a few must-haves to really get the most out of his kit. For instance, Thunderlord’s Decree is the best choice in most cases due to his high burst damage in all forms, and it really adds a lot to his earlier ganks as well. Stormraider’s Surge is a situational option that can be taken if the enemy team’s carries have a ton of peel or escape tools at their disposal.
The other two important ones in the Cunning tree are Assassin and Merciless, two options that in tandem provide a large damage boost, and since Kayn is an assassin that will often work alone to pick off stragglers, he’s going to get a lot out of them. In the Ferocity tree, all of the options are more or less necessities. Fury is great for camp clear, Fresh Blood is great for early ganks (although Expose Weakness is an excellent choice for late game), and Vampirism helps his survivability in the jungle when paired with the Hunter’s Machete.
Flash and Smite are obvious choices on most junglers, and since Kayn isn’t one of the niche champions that can take advantage of Ignite, Ghost, or Teleport over Flash, we’re going to stick with Flash paired up with the necessary Smite.
Kayn’s starting jungle item should be the Hunter’s Machete over the Talisman. His high AD will take advantage of the bonus lifesteal on the item, and you shouldn’t have a hard time staying at high health when clearing camps.
His core items will always be the Warrior enchantment following by the Black Cleaver and topped off with either Ninja Tabi or Mercury’s Treads depending on who’s fed on the enemy team. His high AoE damage means that he has windows to apply armor reduction to the entire enemy team, and the cooldown reduction from both the Warrior and the Cleaver are necessities for his ability-focused playstyle.
After his three core items are built, Kayn can start building situationally, and there are a ton of situational options for him. Guardian Angel is excellent if you’re ahead. The Death’s Dance is great if you need a huge boost in damage with a bit more survivability and even more cooldown reduction. If you need to go tankier, the new Thornmail is great for armor while the Spirit Visage and the Maw of Malmortius are great MR items. There are others not mentioned here, such as the Trinity Force, Ravenous Hydra, and more that could also work depending on the game.
You’ll want to max Kayn’s Q first, as it is his primary gap closer, camp clearer, and damage dealer. Taking a second point in his Q at level three is a good option if you don’t plan on ganking right away.
Maxing Kayn’s W second is your best bet, as it will be used in almost all of your ganks and trades, and will be a great tool for sticking to your victims that will try their damnedest to escape you.
His E is a very useful macro mobility tool that allows you to move through your own jungle and the enemy jungle unhindered, but it has very little effect on you when you start damaging an opponent. If you’re using it while ganking, you’ll only use it once to get behind the enemy, so it’s best to max this regular ability last.
Kayn’s ultimate ability is really, really cool. After damaging an enemy, he can hide in their body, and when he leaves, he deals a ton of damage. This ability can be used in a ton of cool ways, such as on a teleporting enemy or an ulting Shen to instantly countergank and save your team.
On the blue side, much like most junglers, you’ll want to start on your Red Buff so you get the best leash possible from your bot lane. Alternatively, you can start Raptors as Kayn has one of the best early Raptor clears in the game. If you choose to do Red first, move to Raptors second, and then across the map to your Blue Buff. After that, look to gank. If there are no good opportunities to gank or counter-gank, clear the rest of your blue jungle and recall for some early items.
On the red side, clear your camps in the same way, just reverse it. Start at Blue Buff, work your way over to Raptors, and then onto Red. After Red, look to gank or finish clearing that side of the jungle before your first back.
Kayn’s E, Shadowstep, gives him the perfect tool for ganking from any unexpected angle you can think of. Ganking through river like a normal jungler would be a complete waste of this tool, so you should look to use it as often as possible to create great ganks. Once you hit your victim, lead off with a Q to close in on them and then slow with a W, and they’ll almost have to blow a Flash or some big mobility cooldown to escape your grasp.
During the mid-game, Kayn hits a huge power spike upon transforming in either direction, and as such, he should focus on prioritizing targets that are most vulnerable to whichever form he’s in. If he’s the Darken, focusing melee targets or even frontline tanks will benefit his team the most, and likewise, diving to the backline will start to be his focus if he goes Shadow form.
During the later stages of the game, you’re a big asset when it comes to setting up objectives and teamfighting. With your big AoE damage on the Q and priority damage on your ultimate, you can pretty much kill whomever you’d like. If you’re the darkin, going for the front line will help your team to keep your other carries alive, but in Shadow form, he can cleave his way right to the backline and start blowing people up. Either way, stick to your team. Kayn is not a great splitpusher.
With his E, Kayn can easily set up objectives by walking through a wall and placing a ward or catching a lone enemy on their way to ward or contest a big monster. Otherwise, Kayn’s just a walking damage machine, and he can actually be pretty difficult to kill depending on your build, so you may find yourself the center of the enemy’s focus more often than not.
Don’t be afraid to dive into teams as long as your team is with you, though. That’s where Kayn really shines. He doesn’t need to create big flanks like other AD assassins, and he has a lot of tools at his disposal.