By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Dead Fish
For weeks, we as players of League of Legends were treated to cryptic laughter, and a teaser video about an entity with an endless hunger who just wanted to go places. And some poor sap let him in. That gives us Tahm Kench, the River King. Tahm Kench reminds me of a Catfish, mixed with a “Crossroads Devil” or something from the Voodoo tradition where a man comes to a crossroads, seeking some kind of skill or ability; there’s always a price to be paid, and Tahm’s is to sate his never-ending hunger. He’s capable of making big plays and saving lives, even if he’s not as tanky as Leona or Taric, and lacks a “teamfight ult,” he brings his own brand of utility and harassment to any game he’s a part of. He can be an AP tank, dealing loads of magic damage, or simply build hp and armor, being obnoxious and in the way. There are lots of options for the River King, and we’ll cover an appetizer’s worth here.
He’s a support primary, but is also fairly tanky and can be seen top lane; while he’s fantastic with a partner, Tahm Kench can work on his own, with his incredible poke and “Thick Skin” creating shields for him. If he’s not taking constant poke damage, he likely won’t be getting pushed out of lane thanks to that. Despite not being able to lance in like Leona, pairing him with Kalista could create a lane that forces people to bite off more than they can chew (the puns can’t all be winners, okay?). You can’t spam skills with Tahm. Players need to be aware of how much mana they have, or else when the crucial time comes to devour your carry and run them to safety, you might not be able to afford it!
I’ve heard quite a few different ways to build Tahm as far as Masteries go. Right now though, I’m trying to mix aggressiveness with tankiness. I’m running three Armor Quintessences, Hybrid Penetration Reds, Scaling Health Yellows, and Magic Resistance Blues. I’ve also tried Health Quints and Armor Reds. I’m of the opinion that one could forgo the MR Blues if the other team isn’t AP heavy bot lane, and utilize that for more poking, but that’s ultimately up to you. Normally on a support, despite playing tank supports, I prefer to have more utility instead of more defense. Tahm is a bit difference with his defense scaling straight into power, making me choose to run 0-21-9, to be as tanky as I can possibly be in lane right out of the gate. So I have a little less gold starting, but that’s okay. I have a utility alternative set-up I’m still experimenting with, but ultimately it comes down to how comfortable I am with who I’m laning with and what our strategy is.
Your goal with Tahm Kench is to be tanky and intrusive. Your build will reflect the fairly standard tank build in bot lane, with Sightstone, Face of the Mountain, Righteous Glory, Locket of the Iron Solari, Randuin’s Omen. Boots vary from player to player, and while Mobility Boots will make it easier for you to get into position for Devour shenanigans, I also am keen on tankier choices. If I’m being pressured and abused, tanky boots will go a longer way than mobility. Righteous Glory will aid you in getting into position to spit enemies up, grab your carry, or get into the sweet spot for your ultimate. And thanks to his ult giving your abilities scaling damage based on health, you can go aggressive and choose items like Warmogs Armor, or other heavy HP items to allow you to absorb hits and still dish out punishment.
What makes Tahm Kench special is his passive. After three hits on a champion, his abilities change. “An Acquired Taste” will be obvious when it occurs, as there’s a fish icon next to the champion you’re hitting, and the final icon is a fat-looking red fish. With An Acquired Taste, your Q stuns instead of slows, and it will let you utilize your W (Devour) on that enemy champion, instead of minions and your allies. His Q is his poke, slapping the first target with his tongue, but if you tap W while it’s in the air, it will gulp up the first minion it hits from a safe distance. Also note that if you are pressing with Q, you want to land your second Q as soon as it goes off cooldown, so you can continue to apply stacks and get ready to devour. Devour is another fun harass tool where you can gulp up any creature in the game except Baron, Dragon, Red Buff and Blue buff. You can grab them and spit them out at the enemy or waves of minions. When it hits/runs out of its range it detonates, doing damage in a small area. Definitely something to be aware of. His E, Thick Skin, creates “gray health,” which he will rapidly regenerate when not taking damage for at least 2 seconds. Or he can pop it to give a shield that dwindles fast, but will help you get to safety!
Abyssal Voyage, Kench’s ultimate is tricky but hilarious to surprise the enemy with. Though it has a very obvious tell when you’re coming to lane with it, you can bring a friend along for the ride! When you activate it, you click where you want to go in a pretty large radius (similar to Pantheon), and you can wait for someone to click you and hop in your mouth. Otherwise, you can hit it again to go alone, traveling through the water and suddenly arriving! It can also serve as an escape for you and the carry, provided you can go one second without taking damage, you can swim your way to safety, ruining the enemy’s four man gank squad. In addition, your skills and damage now also deal additional damage based on your bonus health (runes, items, masteries, spells, etc).
It can be said that Tahm Kench’s W is one of the best abilities in the game. You can devour an ally and run them to a fight with bonus movement speed or save them from death and run away with them in your mouth! You can activate items during this time, so you can Righteous Glory in/away, or grab the enemy carry with the most kills, deny that person vision or movement (essentially a 2 second stun), then activate Zhonya’s to keep that hypercarry out of the fight even longer! Tahm takes focus, and planning. You can’t recklessly spam skills, but utilizing them correctly can put enemies out of a fight, and create situations your opponents cannot possibly prepare for, such as a sudden gank from bot lane as the mid-laner commits too hard.
Then, if you’re packing Teleport, you can head top lane, smash them, and go back, nice and full. Also be aware that Devour is a defensive tool for many reasons. You can, in addition to simply saving someone from an ult, or a gank, let your jungler dive the tower, devour him and prevent the tower from continually aggroing them, spit ‘em out, and now you can just knock it over! You can also harass the enemy jungler if your team is moving through the jungle by denying them the Frog buff with a quick Q-W combo over the wall to steal it. Is this going to cause us to see Sated Devourer Kench bot-lane? Maybe not, but think of the possibilities!
Tahm Kench is not going to be a flavor of the month champion; he will be a mainstay with the amazing amount of utility he could possibly bring to a team. That’s not to say he’s overpowered, plus he has plenty of enemies that counter him. Janna ruins his day with knock-ups, slows, and her steroid shields. Her entire kit is built to stop him from doing his job. If you can poke him hard enough, he will be a non-issue and have to back out, leaving his carry vulnerable. He’s all about positioning, awareness, and skillshots, probably more than many supports. He’s not going to just walk into lane with no match experience and win, and you can’t hit buttons with reckless abandon like Sona with mana regen runes.
Tahm Kench’s appetite cannot be quenched, but perhaps Summoner’s Rift will be a good place to start.