League of Legends: Karmarama!
By Jason Harper (Hhean), OnRPG League Reporter
Usually I don’t write about reworks, but this time I’m making an exception. Karma hasn’t so much been updated as gouged from the game and replaced by a thematically similar character with the same name.
The new Karma is a utility mage with little crowd control, yet has a good defensive trick in return. Her damage output isn’t great, but her range is particularly long. While she’s suited to being either a mid or support choice, she’ll likely return to her old position of not being in any games. Orianna, Morgana and Lux players could wish to play as her if they enjoy a handicap.
Her enhanced shield is a Locket and Reverie combined
Her mantra grants her an ‘ultimate’ right from level 1
She pretty much has three ultimates
Has poor matchups against most mid laners
Her ‘ultimates’ are not as strong individually as most other characters’
Possesses no hard crowd control (Has an AoE slow and a snare)
Has no reliable crowd control
Damage output is poor without using mantra (and even then isn’t great)
Gathering Fire [Passive]: The cooldown on Karma’s mantra lowers every time she lands a spell or hits an enemy champion with an auto-attack. Encourages you to always use Mantra as your opening spell, rather than hold onto it. Why this passive isn’t just rolled into Mantra is beyond me.
Mantra [R]: Enhances Karma’s next spell to gain additional effects. These additional effects scale with Mantra’s level, not with the original ability. While these abilities are given different names to their base counterparts, they still share the same cooldowns, unlike Rengar.
Inner Flame [Q]: Skillshot that explodes in an AoE on the first target it hits, slowing every enemy hit. This is her go-to ability, both for pushing and harass. Its slow projectile speed (relative to other skillshot harassment tools, like Ezreal’s Arcane Shot) makes it easy to avoid, and is easily blocked by minion waves.
Soulflare [Mantra Q]: The skillshot deals additional damage, then leaves behind a slowing field the size of the blast. If an enemy is still in the field when it disappears, they will be dealt additional damage. Most damaging of Karma’s abilities, with a total 1.8 ability ratio as of the time of writing. Due to the low cooldown of Inner Flame, this is her most often used Mantra ability, as she can use it at the start of a fight and still be able to get off another few casts to lower the cooldown of Mantra.
The main use of this ability is to drop it on an enemy that can’t move (either due to your own snare or crowd control from an ally) so they eat the full damage of both blasts for a good deal of damage. The other, less frequent trick to pull is to fire the skill shot at an advancing pack of enemy champions, using the created slow field stall them. This is especially effective in narrow parts of the jungle where the enemy can’t simply walk around the field.
Focused Resolve [W]: Karma tethers herself to a nearby enemy champion, dealing damage over time. If the tether expires and the enemy is still in range, they will be snared.
Renewal [Mantra W]: The snare deals additional damage while healing Karma based on a percentage of her missing health. This is intended to be her main duelling tool, but the health drain will only grant you enough health to survive one or two auto attacks. Since you can only target champions with the ability, you can’t use this as a normal sustain tool. No-one is going to be dumb enough to let you heal off them without trading for some damage.
Inspire [E]: Karma grants a shield and speed boost to a targeted ally.
Defiance [Mantra E]: Grants a speed boost and a portion of the shield to all allies in range (Stacks with the shield on the original target), while also releasing a burst of AoE damage. While this is a great ability, it will always have parts of it go to waste. If you’re using it as an engage/disengage tool (Like a Shurelya’s Reverie) at the start of a fight, the damage component is going to go to waste, as you’re not going to be using it in range of the enemy. If you’re using it to protect your allies in the middle of a brawl (as a Locket of the Iron Solari), then you get the bonus of hurting the enemy, but the movement speed bonus is often wasted.
Combos & Shenanigans
Her basic combo is to use her Inspire to close ground with its movement speed boost, snare the enemy with Focused Resolve then smack them with a quick Inner Fire while they’re a sitting duck. If she can’t get in reach, then using Inner Fire’s slow to get close enough to use Focused Resolve is sometimes necessary.
Enhance her abilities as is called for in a given situation. Soulflare is best for damage and area denial, Renewal is a very situational tool that will help her win duels when both Karma and her enemy are on low health, and Defiance provides a good deal of utility in larger engagements.
When I played Karma on the PBE, I actually thought she was some time away from launch, as she felt so weak I couldn’t believe Riot considered her finished. The fact that she’s made it to live after receiving a nerf completely boggles my mind. She has a synergistic kit that rewards flexibility and quick thinking, which is usually the mark of a good character. Yet glaring oversights in her design prevent her from being anywhere near viable.
In order to be a successful mid laner, you really need at least two of three criteria: Good wave clear, good crowd control tools, good roaming capabilities. Being able to duel your lane opponent is good, but is not necessary if you can either push your lane out and gank or lock your opponent down long enough for your jungle to murder them. Karma has none of these things, and can’t even fight a large number of the common mid lane picks in her lane.
As a support, you’re looking for sustain, defensive utility and crowd control. Of those, Karma brings a great bit of defensive utility with her enhanced shield, but her complete lack of hard crowd control and sustain makes her a poor choice. Her reliance on AP scaling was the death knell of her previous incarnation’s support attempts, and unfortunately the shiney new model is no different. While she is taking her time to scale to a point where her abilities are useful, her AD carry is going to get bullied out of the lane.
She’s still better than the old Karma, but no longer being awful doesn’t mean she’s good. With more testing and tweaking she could have been quite an interesting, versatile pick. As she is right now though, she’s a fun choice that has nearly no impact on the game.
If you already have her, give her a spin once more, just don’t expect to win your games. If you’re interested in her, resist your desire to impulse buy.
To discuss the new Karma yourselves, post in the massive League of Legends thread in the free to play MMOs section, or post in the comments section below. If you haven’t tried League of Legends yet, you’re missing out.