Kennen's Rise in League Champions Korea
For the last weeks and months we have seen a fairly stable meta in competitive League of Legends. Every role has had its highly contested picks like for example Azir and Viktor in the mid lane or Kalista and Sivir as marksmen. While that might be subject of change heading into worlds with an all new patch 5.18 and lots of changes to many champions it was recently that especially Korean teams introduced a new champion to the support role: Kennen. At first thought it appears to only be a niche pick which will not be seen very often however Kennen is now among the most played supports in Korea. This article features a closer look at the small yordle ninja and why he is a strong support.
Kennen is a champion that was added to League of Legends in early 2010. Even though he is a fairly old champion his kit has never been reworked. All of his abilities work exactly like they did when he was released.
Passive “Mark of the Storm”
Enemies hit by Kennen's abilities receive a Mark of the Storm for 6.25 seconds, stacking up to three times. At three stacks, the marks consume themselves to stun the target for 1.25 seconds and restore 25 energy.
If the stun is applied more than once within 7 seconds, it has a diminished effect and only stuns for approximately 0.5seconds.
Q: Thundering Shuriken
Active: Kennen throws a charged shuriken in a line in front of him, dealing magic damage to the first enemy it hits.
Damage: 75/115/155/195/235 (+75% AP);
W: Electrical Surge
Passive: Kennen deals bonus magic damage and applies a Mark of the Storm once every 5 basic attacks.
Active: Kennen sends out a surge of electricity to all nearby enemies afflicted by Mark of the Storm or caught in Slicing Maelstrom, dealing magic damage.
Damage: Passive: 40/50/60/70/80 % AD; Active: 65/95/125/155/185 (+55% AP)
Cooldown: 14/12/10/8/6; Energy Cost: 45
E: Lightning Rush
Active: Kennen transforms into a ball of electricity, losing the ability to use basic attacks but ignoring unit collision and doubling his movement speed for 2 seconds, while also gaining bonus armor and magic resistance for 4 seconds.
Kennen deals magic damage to all enemies he passes through, doubled against champions, and restores 40 energy the first time he damages an enemy with Lightning Rush.
Kennen can reactivate Lightning Rush to cancel the bonus movement speed, allowing him to use basic attacks again.
Cooldown: 10/9/8/7/6; Energy Cost: 100/95/90/85/80
R: Slicing Maelstrom
Active: Kennen summons a magical storm around himself for the next few seconds, dealing magic damage to a random nearby enemy champion within range every 0.25 seconds.
Slicing Maelstrom cannot hit the same target more than once every 0.5 seconds, and can only hit each target up to 3 times.
Damage per Bolt: 80/145/210 (+40% AP)
Cooldown: 120; Energy Cost: 0; Duration: 3/4/5
Strenghts and Weaknesses
Kennen is a very team fight oriented champion whose largest threat is his ultimate Slicing Maelstrom. If he can get to a good position in a fight, his ultimate in combination with his other abilities will devastate squishy enemies. He often manages to apply two passive stuns onto his priority targets which will stun them for a total time of almost 2 seconds in a fight while dealing a decent amount of damage to them even if Kennen did not stack a lot of Ability Power. Combined with additional Crowd Control by his team mates those enemy carries are often unable to contribute to a fight at all.
However Kennen's biggest flaw is that he has no gap closer to get into the middle of the enemy team which makes it fairly easy for his opponents to kite away from him before the fight really starts. That is especially the case if Kennen does not have his Summoner Spell Flash availiable. Therefore he needs his team to initiate fights for him allowing him to rush in with Lightning Rush and follow up with ultimate. Due to the fall of utility junglers like Amumu or recently Sejuani Kennen failed to fit into a team comp that offered enough engage for him to be able to get in the middle of the enemy team. Additionally Supports like Janna or Alistar that focus on disengaging fights and protecting the carries have become popular again. Therefore his absence from competitive play was both logical and inevitable.
His return was somewhat surprising at first because the meta has not changed in favor of Kennen in the last couple of months. Even though Tanks like Malphite, Maokai, etc. which provide Kennen exactly the engage he wants to follow up on have been played for quite a while Kennen has been in an odd place where he would not find a space in a team as a top or mid laner. For more details on how and why that is the case see below in the section "Which Role is best for Kennen?" where his ability to fit into a team comp will be discussed explicitly. However Kennen benefits from more than just Tanks who will run face first into their enemies and lock them up for him: The bottom lane features a lot of more utility based marksmen like Sivir or Ashe who can offer Kennen the tools he needs to engage as well. Probably the worse of the two is Sivir who can speed him up with her ultimate On the Hunt contrary to the engage potential of an Enchanted Christal Arrow from Ashe.
Even above these two there is Kalista whose synergy with Kennen is amazingly strong. Not only can she throw him straight in the enemy team with her ultimate Fate's Call giving Kennen the precious gap closer his kit lacks. Supplementary Kennen and Kalista offer a very strong synergy in laning phase as early as level one where they can put out an immense amount of damage together with their high damage Auto Attacks and Kalista's W's Passive.
Which Role is best for Kennen?
Due to the fact that every team only offers five spots for five different champions including Kennen always means excluding someone else. That being said teams and coaches need to make a choice where Kennen fits the team best if they want to field him. In the past we have seen him as a mid lane or top lane mage as well as a marksman. However he is rather lackluster in any of those roles nowadays.
Mid Lane today features champions like Viktor, Twisted Fate and Azir with a lot of wave clear and the ability to one shot their opponents in the later stages of the game. Kennen lacks both of those key concepts. He is not able to clear the wave quickly especially not from distance. His only possibility of dealing AoE Damage is to rush in with Lightning Rush (E) and apply stacks of his passive to all minions. Then he can trigger his Electrical Surge (W) to deal damage to all minions he hit before. However due to his relatively low scaling that might not even be enough later in the game. Moreover he could easily be caught and killed by the enemy team if he dove straight into their minions. His single target damage can be very high but is unfortunately random with his ultimate. It can not be guaranteed that it hits the high priority targets first and therefore he can never really focus fire on the opposing carries in a team fight.
While Kennen could possibly get away with those flaws and still be played successfully on the mid lane in Solo Queue, competitive play is a lot more coordinated and his weaknesses would be very easily exploited by any team.
Top Lane traditionally features either very tanky or split push oriented champions like Maokai, Malphite or Gankplank, Fiora. However sometimes more supportive casters like Lulu are played in very special Comps like the infamous Juggermaw. Being neither a split pusher nor a tank putting Kennen Top would come at the cost of not having either. Most of the times a team without a strong Tank is doomed in big five versus five team fights because they lack a front line who can soak up damage for their carries. A team without a split pushing champion however can only win the game by team fighting and if they cannot win their fights they will most of the time get outmaneuvered by the superior map presence a team with a split pusher has. As you can see Kennen being neither of those two types of a champion would make winning a game very hard. The enemy team could either rotate around them and never fight them or if they have a strong team fight composition themselves they might just take the fights, win them and win the game from there.
Again Kennen top lane can work in solo queue and will most of the time work just fine there due to the lack of team play and coordination, but in competitive play Kennen is not a strong pick in the top lane.
As an AD Carry in the bottom lane Kennen has fallen out of favor relatively quickly after Riot nerfed his W when he was super popular. He does not offer any scaling off Attack Damage except for his W's passive which leads to other marksmen vastly outscaling him in the later stages of the game.
This is equally the case in solo queue where Kennen will not offer enough to be a decent marksman either.
The bottom lane however offers a second role for players which is the support role. This is where Kennen has shined for the last couple of months. Aside from the before mentioned synergy with three of the most popular marksmen Kennen's weaknesses like the lack of wave clear or the inability of focusing all his damage on a high priority target are well covered because there are other team members who are going to fulfill those duties. His team can still pick a tank or a split pusher because Kennen has not taken away his spot. It will however mostly be a tank in the top lane who offers a strong engage that the little storm ninja can follow in team fights.
Kennen can play to his strengths very well as a support. He can protect his team by offering a three to five second zone that threatens to stun and damage anyone who dives in. He can as well throw himself into the enemy team and place the danger zone in the middle of them. He can use his Lightning Rush (E) to quickly roam and place wards. His level 6 all in potential is very strong and can give his lane a strong advantage and offers a strong threat at dragon. Besides Kennen is a very strong counter against the strongest Support currently, Braum. Braum excels at blocking damage and crowd control abilities for his team and thereby peeling for his carries while they deal a lot of damage. Kennen however does not rely on projectiles that can be blocked by Unbreakable to stun and damage enemies. While Braum can negate or reduce the damage onto himself he cannot stop Kennen's Ultimate from hitting his teammates and eventually stunning them.
As a support champion Kennen does not have a lot of income. While he can be effective without items every Kennen player loves to build items like Zhonya's Hourglass or Rylai's Cristal Scepter for more durability while he stands in the middle of the enemy team. Not having access to those items due to the lack of gold makes him a very squishy yordle who can be killed in teamfights very fast if he dives in. Unlike other engage champions such as Alistar, Leona, Nautilus or Thresh he does not have lots of defensive stats built in his kit.
To my knowledge Kennen has never been played competitively as a jungler and will therefore not be considered an option in the jungle in this article. I believe that his ganks could be decent but he would be too vulnerable to counter jungling and his clear would be very slow. Therefore I do not consider Kennen as a jungler.
Exemplary use of Kennen in competitive play
Kennen is a champion that can bully his opponents with his high damaging auto attacks during the laning phase. As soon as he hits level 2 he has the potential of stunning an enemy very quickly if they walk in his auto attack range with Electrical Surge's empovered auto attack plus the active of both Electrical Surge (W) and Thundering Shuriken (Q). The following clip shows SKT Wolf doing exactly that against KT in the LCK Summer Finals.
Notice how Wolf on Kennen stands very aggressively allowing him to follow up on his Q with an auto attack and his W immediately. Piccaboo on Thresh has no time to react once Kennen hit him. Not only is Thresh now stunned for over a second he also takes a lot of damage from just Kennen while Sivir can farm safely. The reengage fails because Kennen can retreat with Lightning Rush (E). The threat of both Sivir and Kennen as well as the lack of minions on KT's side forces them under their turret where Kennen can now harass Sivir while Thresh needs to go warding. With both players on KT being quite low now they would have to recall and give up a decent amount of gold if SKT had stayed in the top lane. However with both Kennen and Sivir recalling the good trade for SKT is not as significant as it could have been.
However Kennen has to be careful not to position himself too far forward. Back in the regular season Najin's Pure played Kennen versus SKT and takes a lot of damage at level one because he positioned himself badly.
Alistar does not even hit Kennen with an ability but safes his Pulverize to turn onto Lucian as soon as he tries to assist Kennen. The little yordle's attacks trigger most blue minions to attack him dealing too much damage to him and forcing him to retreat. Meanwhile Lucian tried to trade damage onto Vayne and gets turned on by both Alistar and her as soon as Kennen was forced back. When Kennen reengages to safe his team mate and deal further damage to Vayne he gets hit again and barely survives.
Generally speaking Kennen's laning phase is very decent due to his high base damage and his strong single target lockdown potential. Aside from being strong in lane Kennen is very great at roaming and creating advantages elsewhere on the map. The next clip shows once again Wolf on Kennen taking advantage of Piccaboo on Thresh.
Kennen, who has not been able to purchase his Boots of Mobility yet moves from the bot lane up in his own jungle. His E gives him a great movement speed bonus which allows him to catch up to Piccaboo who left his lane earlier. Kennen then sits in the bush for around two seconds when Thresh walks in to put down a ward. Not having his W passive available Kennen needs all his Spells to trigger his passive stun forcing him to flash on top of Thresh eventually. Once the stun is triggered, Elise and Riven can follow up with more stuns and damage leaving Thresh with nothing he can do and ultimately dying to Riven. Even though Wolf greatly profits from Piccaboo's overconfident warding Kennen provides him the tools necessary to take advantage of it.
While he is still laning Kennen can very well follow up on ganks from his jungler. In a game between the KOO Tigers and CJ Entus KOO's GorillA plays Kennen and sets up a successful gank together with Hojin.
The engage onto MadLife is done by Rek'Sai while Kennen tracks him with a fast combo to stun Leona. However the damage is not enough and MadLife survives. Kennen gets overly aggressive here and flashes into tower range although he does not have any abilities available just to get another basic attack onto him. He has to retreat instantly and almost dies to Ashe and Ignite. Resulting from Ashe over pursuing herself to kill Kennen, his team can finally pick up a kill onto her.
However this scene shows perfectly how hard Kennen can be punished if he overextends in a fight. He survives with about 15 HP after his desperate attempt to get the kill on Leona. They want the kill badly because Shen in the top lane had already picked up a kill before and is soon to hit level 6 making ganks against CJ much harder. Therefore this might be their only chance in a while to get a kill which is why they invest that much into it.
Kennen can also be used to gank other lanes effectively like the last clip shows.
Chei rushes out of Jin Air's base with Boots of Mobility and Lightning Rush which allows him to get into top lane really fast. As soon as Malphite gets the go signal from his team he initiates with Unstoppable Force onto Fiora. Kennen has to use his Flash to get in range for his Ultimate. He uses Electrical Surge get an additional Stack of his passive on Fiora which leads to a quicker Application of the stun and makes it impossible for her to escape the gank. Ignite and consecutive attacks from both Kennen and Malphite as well as a Preyseeker from Rek'Sai finish off the kill to stop Fiora's snowballing in lane against Malphite who got killed by Najin earlier.
When it comes to team fighting Kennen is usually trying to get into the enemy team without thinking of how he might get out again if things do not work out well for his team. Apart from the fact that he is very fragile as a support due to the lack of defensive items he will also be underleveled most of the time because he will not be picking up farm or experience but instead will be roaming around the map.
That being said a closer look at Kennen's team fighting in professional play is needed to analyze how he is able to fight successfully. The first video is once again from a game in the KR Regionals between Najin and Jin Air.
Jin Air are in a 2 vs 3 disadvantage when the tower dive happens. They know that Najin wants to kill Malphite and therefore Kennen is waiting to run in and help Malphite win the fight. As soon as LeBlanc sees him he rushes towards the turret where Malphite uses Unstoppable Force on Elise and Fiora immediately. Elise gets stunned by his Slicing Maelstrom very soon and ends up dying without being able to get away with her E. LeBlanc is able to follow Kennen and can deal enough damage to him that Fiora can kill him. Afterwards Fiora and Malphite both are unable to escape and the fight ends with a 2 for 2.
If Kennen could have avoided the early burst of damage from LeBlanc the fight would have ended much better for Jin Air. He can still do well in the fight because he is able to get his full ultimate off before he dies. Had LeBlanc not missed her W Skill Distortion Kennen might have not been so lucky and probably unable to fight without getting turned on and dying straight away.
In the next clip we will see a similar scenario. In the finals SKT catch Ssumday and force him to flash away. KT tries to back off but SKT forces the fight.
SKT initiate the fight with an Enchanted Christal Arrow from Bang onto KT's Support Piccaboo. Wolf flashes in to get on top of KT's Backline and hits Gragas with his E as well as one tick of his ultimate. He then manages to catch both Thresh and Cassiopeia in his Ultimate and is able to stun three Enemies just before he gets himself stunned by Cassiopeia, too. Gragas is thereby unable to disengage the fight with his Explosive Cask. While Kennen is stunned his ultimate keeps hitting Cassiopeia and Thresh and they both take a lot of damage. In the meantime Corki, who is just barely out of Kennen's range, keeps hitting him and finally kills him.
Due to his Flash his team is unable to follow up and kill the stunned enemies straightaway. However it is still the correct play to flash in and keep both of KT's carries away from his team. As soon as they take out Kennen KT has already lost their entire frontline and there is no protection left for their carries. The large area of Slicing Maelstrom(R) blocks the entire path between Gragas and Corki and splits KT apart. They have to fight at two fronts which they are unable to do because one side lacks damage while the other side lacks protection. As soon as Thresh and Gragas are killed the Carries are easy prey for SKT. They end up trading one Kill for an ace, a tower and baron which basically wins them the game.
Owing to the fact that he cannot create a very significant gold income in the support role Kennen always has to respect the threat of being killed very quickly in a fight. It is therefore really difficult to force engages as Kennen and there is always the chance that it will backfire if he goes in too agressively. Najin in this case are looking desperately for an opportunity to engage onto Jin Air. They are slightly ahead in Gold but due to the large amount of wave clear by especially Orianna they are unable to siege towers and thus need to force fights in order to get a meaningful advantage.
In this case Kennen engages at a very unfavorable time. Not only has he not been in range to benefit from Sivirs Ultimate On The Hunt but neither Rek'Sai nor Viktor nor Maokai are in position to provide follow up or damage as soon as he engages onto Braum, Elise and Orianna. He is only able to stun Braum because Orianna is able to peel away from him and Elise can avoid the stun by using her E. Braum's and Ashe's Ultimate both hit Kennen and lock him up while Elise and Orianna deal a lot of damage to him. Braum can escape without even using a Summoner Spell as soon as Kennen's crowd controll effects have ended because of the lack of follow up. He gets away just by using his W to hop over to Orianna. Elise lands again on the ground and is able to kill Kennen before flashing over the wall to safety.
With Kennen dead Najin is in too big of a disadvantage to continue to fight. The threat of a wombo combo with Malphite's Unstoppable Force and Orianna's Shockwave is too highand they have to retreat. Jin Air on the other side do not want to brute force an engage either and are happy with the pick they got onto Kennen.
Later in the same game Jin Air managed to accumulate a 6k gold lead as well as a baron buff. With their Baron empowered Minions they siege the bottom Tier 2 turret when Najin tries do stop them by forcing a fight.
This time Maokai teleports first and arrives early enough to properly follow up after Rek'sai and Kennen engaged onto Jin Air. They are able to lock down Orianna completely by hitthing her with the knock up of Rek'sai's Unburrow and then Kennen hitting her with a Q, an E and a tick of his Ultimate. Finally Maokai roots her in place and Kennen is able to stun her again with another two ticks of his Ultimate and his W. Najin kill her before she can even get her Ultimate off. Kennen's Ultimate also hits Chaser on Elise and Chei on Braum who gets stunned as well but can escape easily as off Najin focussing so hard on Orianna. When Malphite arrives to the fight Jin Air is already on retreat an he can only slow Najin down.
Kennen cannot provide much during the following chase because the threat of locking multiple players in his ultmate is already gone. Najin has to stop chasing but has managed to hold their tower for now.
Kennen has been working very well in Korea for the last weeks. He has an overall win rate of 62 percent in 21 games in the regular season, the playoffs and the regionals combined. However other regions have yet to include Kennen into their Support meta. That raises the question if Kennen fits into Korean meta so well for a specific reason or if other regions are going to pick him up soon. One thing that is very beneficial for him is that the Korean meta is more passive than most of the other regions as the teams are always looking for the perfect time and place to initiate a fight. Since Kennen has a very similar play stile and needs to carefully plan ahead he is fitting in perfectly. The more hasty and chaotic meta of the other regions could possibly harm his success as he might die a lot more while having less overall impact in fights. Furthermore Braum has been played in Korea for much longer than in all other regions and thus finding a strong counter pick against him had a very high priority compared to other regions.
That being said I am convinced that he could work very well if teams try and build a team around his strengths and carefully plan their engages. I expect to see a decent amount of Kennen during the World Championship in October and probably he will end up being a highly contested Support pick throughout the entire tournament.
On a further note I was unable to embed the videos because youtube would not let me embed them with time stamps so I just provided the Links.