The KT Rolster organization flexed their strategic muscle over the past weekend with impressive wins in IEM Katowice and OGN Champions Spring 2014 by the Bullets and Arrows, respectively. While the former, more senior, team accomplished a flawless run en route to the world championship, they employed an interesting team composition in the semifinals against Gambit Gaming, one which was used mere hours earlier by their sister team, KT Arrows, in their own 2-0 sweep against Prime Optimus.
The composition centres around Kha’Zix in the jungle, a champion that will surely see an incredible spike in usage in most of the major pro leagues. A recent buff to his Evolved Active Camouflage enabled an incredible amount of mobility that allows the Voidreaver to slip in and out of teamfight situations and do considerable amounts of damage while taking barely any in return with the help of Void Assault and a number of other abilities offered by specific champions, namely Karma and Shen.
Kha’Zix: Kha is the centrepiece of the composition. He’s a fantastic jungler with great mobility around the map, allowing for great ganks early, and formidable teamfight presence late. His evolved active camouflage (R) allows him to slip into teamfights thanks to additional activations and most importantly, 50% damage reduction. As this reddit post indicates, Kha’s ultimate is easily abused by shields provided by Shen, Karma, and the lifeline from Hexdrinker/Maw of Malmortius to virtually double his effective health during Void Assault activations.
Shen: Shen provides amazing synergy with Kha’zix when he activates Void Assault. The shield provided by Stand United increases Kha’Zix’s ability to tank, but the global mobility provided by Shen allows him to not only split push from afar, but also effortlessly enter the thick of battle through Kha’Zix’s Void Assault and Leap. The mobility and damage reduction that Kha’Zix provides results in a very effective Submarine combo, originally showcased by KT Rolster Bullets during Champions Summer 2013.
Karma: With the changes to support gold per 10 items in patch 4.3, Spellthief’s Edge is now an incredibly effective item to use on Karma because of its increased income and poke potential. However, Karma’s incredible synergy with Kha’Zix due to Inspire (granting both a shield and additional movement speed) makes her an incredibly useful support. Her usefulness is amplified even further by the open space provided by the mid-lane when she and her AD carry swap. The space allows her to poke more freely and push more quickly with inner flame, and the distance between mid and the outer lanes gives her avenues to roam and provide gank support at very little opportunity cost.
Carry Customization: the AP and AD carry in this case can be interchangeable to suit the needs of a given strategy, and the resulting champions used in these positions can alter the overall composition without negatively affecting Kha’Zix’s effectiveness. One useful trait that should be present for either champion is a mobility spell that allows them to reposition and/or pass through narrow walls such as the lip surrounding Baron or Dragon. In both games from KT Bullets and KT Arrows, AP Gragas was used, while the AD carry alternated between Caitlyn and Lucian. All three champions have great pushing ability and repositioning tools to allow them to move in and out of the Baron/Dragon pit.
The goal of the composition is to use Kha’Zix’s early game aggressiveness to establish lane pressure and capture early objectives such as towers and subsequent dragons. Kha’Zix has plenty of tools at his disposal that, when amplified with the utility provided by Shen and Karma, will give him incredible teamfight presence and dragon clear due to Unseen Threat and Taste Their Fear. Accumulated advantages from pick-oriented comps will allow Kha’Zix’s team to set up superior picks, leading to further objectives, while the map pressure provided by push-heavy comps will allow the Kha’Zix team to control neutral objectives more effectively.
In the early game, the goal is to swap Karma’s duo lane into the mid lane to pressure the defending champion or champions’ tower with superior poke and push. The Kha’Zix team’s mid laner swaps to the side-lane closest to their own Golem buff for easy access to the buff during later respawns. In some cases, the mid-laner will be 1 versus 2, which is why a good wave-clearing champion like Gragas works here. He will either be limited to farming under tower versus the enemy bot duo, at a reasonably neutral matchup against the enemy top-laner, or at a mana advantage against the other mid-laner due to proximity to blue buff. The pressure provided by the 2v1 Karma mid allows Kha’Zix to either counter-jungle effectively or provide gank pressure in the side lanes. Karma can also roam with her great mobility, as she has been used in the past as a utility jungler.
In a distant side-lane, Shen fits reasonably well into the current Season 4 meta, as he can withstand the early aggression from Renekton, and free-farms against other split-pushing tanks like Shyvana and Mundo. His job is to farm efficiently and target Kha’Zix with Stand United when teamfights are about to begin. Even if the spell is interrupted by the opposing champion, the shield effect will still be utilized better than most other potential targets.
Hopefully, with enough tower pressure and/or gank potential, the Kha’Zix team’s winning lane will allow vision control to be established, allowing them to secure neutral objectives such as Dragon. Further objectives and Baron can be secured with similar vision setups and picks. In late-game situations, the sheer amount of damage mitigation provided by the sum of effective health effects and a very good submarine combo with split-pushing Shen can tip a fight immediately in the Kha’Zix team’s favor.
Case Study: KT Rolster Arrows
Arrows is the first KT Rolster team to employ the Kha’Zix comp, putting a high priority on first-pick Kha’Zix on blue side. Letting Kassadin slip through picks and bans heavily lures Arrows’ opponent, Prime Optimus, to pick the coveted Kassadin for their first go-around. Arrows’ comp and 2v1 setup is incredibly favourable against Kassadin, as it limits his roam post-6, and forces Thresh to support. This results in a very favourable matchup between Gragas and Jinx in the bot lane. Since he’s only 1v1, Gragas isn’t particularly starved for Blessing of the Ancient Golem here.
Kha’Zix is piloted by the highly aggressive KaKAO, who spends most of the early game invading Prime Optimus’ jungle, and setting up impressive ganks on the bottom lane to snowball Rookie’s Gragas. Hachani is the MVP of the game here, with incredible roaming ganks on Karma.
In this early play, Hachani rotates down late after Kha’KAO goes in for a kill against ZetNjin’s Jinx. Jinx flashes over the wall towards Old B, who jungles for Prime Optimus on Lee Sin. Without any ward coverage in the river, Karma shoots a Soulflare over the dragon pit into the tri-brush, allowing a kill to go onto Kha’Zix; she catches up to the fleeing Lee Sin (Flee Sin!) and Flash-Focus Resolve to secure her own kill and gain double buffs.
The early snowball provided by this exchange allows KaKAO to go crazy all over the map, stealing jungle camps whenever he pleases, and securing numerous dragons. The execution by Arrows is a bit shaky, as a few early misplays in the first few levels leaves Arrow without Flash on Lucian, as well as a Flash-less Rookie on Gragas. KaKAO’s frantic pace and Hachani’s perfect decision-making with Karma allows the Arrows to balloon their lead to an insurmountable advantage.
Case Study: KT Rolster Bullets
KT Bullets happens upon an opportunity to repeat the same strategy against a much fiercer opponent in Gambit Gaming at the IEM Katowice quarterfinals. A strange similar pick and ban phase unfolds between both teams, with blue-side Bullets prioritizing the Kha’Zix pick in the first game of the series. Gambit gives Alex Ich his comfort pick with LeBlanc, but a Caitlyn/Karma response in the next go-around reveals the second piece of the combo. Caitlyn/Karma is incredibly push and poke-heavy, which causes incredible problems for Alex early on.
A lack of level 1 missteps from the Bullets allows them to pressure towers incredibly early on, forcing Gambit to respond to the 2v1 mid swap by rotating Genja and Edward to the same lane on Varus and Leona, respectively. This comes at the cost of leaving Alex in the top lane against Ryu’s Gragas, who has direct access to Blue, and a very long lane that leaves LeBlanc incredibly weary to use her mobility spells for waveclear. It also prevents Alex Ich from roaming on said champion.
One notable variation on the strategy here is giving inSec empty lane farm on the insect. This gives him a substantial item advantage over Diamondprox on Nocturne, and also further abuses Kha’Zix’s survivability during teamfights. This is a signature strategy for the Bullets, who rely on inSec to be an annoying presence on the map while the rest of the team take other objectives such as Baron.
It is perhaps due to this item advantage that allows the Bullets to execute the submarine combo in multiple situations such as the one described below:
At 34 minutes, KTB begin securing vision in the Baron area, and as Gambit postures inside their own upper jungle behind the pit, the Bullets make their move. With LeBlanc showing in the bottom lane against Leopard on Shen, Leopard decides to back away from the minion wave to Stand United onto inSec, who is already stealthing through the jungle towards Genja in the far back. Ryu engages onto Edward and Diamond from the pit, with Mafa providing cover fire on Karma. This sudden move draws Genja in just briefly enough to allow Kha’Zix and Shen to jump in directly to the back lines. This forces Diamond to use Paranoia defensively, an indicator that the teamfight has already swung in Bullets’ favor. They force Gambit back, which allows them to take free objectives off the map.
Kha’Zix is already a powerful champion, but with a detailed strategic framework offered by the synergy between Void Assault and health effects from Karma and Shen, KT Rolster managed to abuse the champion’s strength to its limits. It is no accident that both teams showcased this particular strategy within hours of each other; it is reflective of how KT is a close-knit, strategically minded collection of unique talents. Both teams know the strengths and weakness of their respective groups, and have applied the above strategy to suit their needs. The playstyle varies between the two, but the outcome is the same: an evolved style of dominant Kha’Zix gameplay, reflective of a constantly evolving esports organization.