Electric Yordle Power – Why Kennen is Getting Picked Like Crazy in the NA LCS
It may be the year of the serpent- but it’s the week of the Yordle, Kennen has been showing his furry face in the LCS again. We’re going to take a look at the favored Yordle and figure out why this Ionian has gone from a 0% Pick or Ban rate in the North American LCS to a whopping 90%. When a character becomes a common staple in LCS games there has to be some quality that transitioned them from viable to vital. It’s time to explore a little bit of Kennen’s history and his current skill-set in order to figure out why he’s so strong.
How does Kennen fare early game?
When weighing the viability of a champion, the first question always asked is “how does the champ lane (or jungle)?” It’s important to remember that professional League of Legends laning has a lot more variation than normal play. Lanes have been swapping like crazy and junglers are getting different amounts of buffs. The normal 1v1 top, 1v1 mid, and 2v2 bottom setup, or even the common 1v2 top, 1v1 mid, and 2v1 bottom setup aren’t even close to being guaranteed. While he has been run as an AD Carry in the post, his resurgence in the scene is based primarily off his soloing capabilities- particularly the solo off-lane (1v2 or 1v1 Top/Bot).
In this older video, Kennen is able to kill Irelia due to his high poke damage before the fight starts.
In the 1v1 Top/Bot:
Kennen is an amazing 1v1 champion in the laning phase. He has the range of a standard AD Carry (550), a very high base attack speed, an escape ability, a stun, and a really powerful level six all-in ability. What that leads to is really aggressive level one pressure with Kennen constantly autoattacking and throwing out Thundering Shurikens. This constant pressure doesn’t really stop as he levels up and unlocks his other abilities. Lightning Rush is both an initiation tool and escape tool, and Electrical Surge works as both a great pressure tool and a solid disengage. If he’s against a lower-range character, or someone who needs levels before they’re effective – like Vladimir – Kennen applies enough pressure to control the lane. If it’s a lane he can’t win, he can always play a safer game focusing on farm via autoattacking and tossing out Shurikens.
In the 1v2 Top/Bot:
It was surprising to hear that Kennen was played as a 1v2er, since at first glance he seems too squishy to spend enough time in the lane. However, his Q can be used to help last hit creeps, and eventually can be spammed to try and keep a creepwave smaller and more manageable. Lightning Rush is one of the best anti-dive skills in the game for the 1v2, it provides a tiny bit of tankiness and enough movespeed to escape characters using ghost, and is also available before most players have boots. An organized 3v1 turret dive can survive single-target CCs and Elise’s Rappel, but if they can’t reach Kennen in the first place he’s safe. Doran’s Blade is also a popular starting item, allowing Kennen to fight off a support with his high AD while providing more HP to survive ganks. He has decent kill potential with a jungle gank due to his CC and ability to close the distance on those pesky non-mobile supports. Having someone who can’t really fail alleviates a lot of pressure, since he’ll either be freefarming or dodging ganks.
Cloud9’s Kennen player Hai
What does he do mid to late game?
Kennen has a forgiving power-curve where he stays generally strong, with the exception of a mid-game lull where he’s easily blown up, but doesn’t quite have his Zhonya’s. If the Yordle goes in without that Zhonya’s as the first initiator, he dies, and he dies quickly. Once he does pick up the Hourglass or if someone else is hard initiating first like Zac, that issue is gone. When he does initiate, it is an incredibly disruptive action and has ridiculously high damage. His stun is only one second long, but it’s likely to trigger a second time.
But what about his damage?
His damage is absolutely insane. In a team fight one of Kennen’s big goals is to get close to an important squishy enemy, and land every skill he can on them. His reliable single target burst at level 11 with 100 AP is 1220, which with an Ignite can kill an AD carry very easily. His AoE damage is less consistent, but if optimal he’s only missing a Shuriken, which still leaves him dealing 910 damage. What gets more impressive is how well Kennen scales, with his whopping 3.5:1 Single Target AP Ratio, and 1:2.75 AoE Ratio. Once he builds a Zhonya’s he can survive long enough to output his crazy damage, and at that point it’s up to his team to have some decent clean up and lockdown to win team fights. The reason his ratios are so comparable to a character like Veigar is due to all his abilities having AP Ratios unlike casters like Annie and Veigar, and the bonkers 1.2:1 AP Ratio max single target damage on his ultimate.
What made him popular?
Kennen has had great damage output, crowd control, and initiation for quite a while now, even before he started getting picked around the world. He had massive usability issues though, due to a resource that other champions aren’t quite as limited by: Energy. All of his skills used to need quite a bit of energy, including his ultimate, and using his full combo required more than his maximum energy allowed. He does have a total of 65 energy return from his passive and Lightning Rush, but it’s not always possible for Kennen to close the gap, and Electrical Surge can’t proc the passive if the Kennen is trying to hold the spell for when his ultimate is activated.
When his ultimate still used energy, a level 11 Kennen using his Slicing Maelstrom needed the following: 45 energy on a max rank Shuriken, 45 on Electrical Surge, 100 on a Rank 1 Lightning Rush, and finally 45 on his ultimate. That’s 235 energy, which means if anything happens to his energy management his efficiency goes way down and he has to wait for energy – a death sentence in tight games. That issue is gone though, and his counterplay is limited.
Ways to Counter Kennen
There’s one amazing way to counter Kennen: knockbacks. Someone like Janna can use Monsoon to knock Kennen away and keep him from getting that solid ultimate down. A champion like Ezreal might be able to get away easily, but if Kennen isn’t knocked back himself then Lightning Rush will let him keep up with Ezreal and keep pecking away with his ultimate. Heavy disengagement really is the key, but heavy disengagement isn’t highly valued in the LCS right now. It was shown by CLG vs Cloud9 though, that the more skills you have to keep Kennen away, the less he can do.
He wins or survives both 1v1 and 1v2 lanes.
He doesn’t have a huge weakness at any point in the game.
His damage and usability are crazy.
His usability has gone through the roof since they changed his energy costs
His only real counter is the unpopular heavy disengagement
It makes sense that he’s being picked now, and hell, he should have seen earlier play, but it’s cool to see him where he is. It’s unlikely that Kennen will stay top tier for very long as disengage gets more valued, but it’s very cool to see his quick growth. If you have any questions or comments about the character, feel free to leave a comment or follow me @LeagueOfStudio.
-Christopher “Studio” Grant