A gigantic man-eating catfish arrived in League of Legends yesterday. His name is Tahm Kench, AKA "The River King." And the newly-minted champion seems pretty freaking awesome so far.
I've only managed to play a few games with Kench so far, and it always takes a little while for League of Legends' gigantic player community to really get a sense of a new addition to its playable character roster. But here's the key stuff about the new guy that I've picked up on so far.
His abilities are very...unique.
League of Legends developer Riot Games has described Tahm Kench as a tank support character. This means that he's technically supposed to fit into League's ever-evolving meta-game as a bottom lane character who assists his nearby allies by helping them take out enemy targets (by, say, stunning and slowing them down) and generally keeping his teammates alive. He does this in a few key ways.
First there's his default tongue-based attacks. Because why wouldn't a big fat catfish use his tongue as his primary weapon?
Thanks to his passive trait "an acquired taste," Tahm's standard attacks stack on top of one another whenever he focuses on a specific target. The stacks are indicated by a cute little fish icon that turns red and starts to make a nibbling motion once it maxes out:
Once he gets to three stacks, his special abilities -- the ones cast by pressing Q, W, E, and R -- reach their full potential as well. His Q move "tongue lash," for instance, shoots the guy's long pink member out in a particular direction:
Normally, this just gives an enemy target a wet slap in the face that slows them down for a second. But after three charges, it stuns them instead. He could also use devour, his "W," to swallow a fully-stacked enemy target and carry them around in his belly for a few seconds.
These two abilities, paired together with his passive, give Tahm Kench a ton of crowd control (cc) power -- allowing him to isolate and immobilize targets to keep them out of the fight so he and his allies can focus all their damage-dealing on one opponent at a time. So since he's already a tanky guy, you could easily do something like, say, body-block an enemy champion from trying to escape back behind their base's defences by first slowing him with your tongue attacks, then stunning them so you can catch up, swallow them, and deposit them somewhere for you and your friends to all wail on together.
His swallow works the other way around, too, allowing Kench to pick up an ally for a few seconds. This pairs well with the guy's high level of endurance as a tank and his E move, which summons a shield around him. If an ally steps a little too close to danger, then, you can execute a life-saving combo by swallowing him or her, running in the opposite direction while simultaneously shielding yourself, and carry your teammate back to safety. But since Kench receives a tiny but crucial speed boost while carrying an ally towards a fight, it's often wiser to use Devour to help taxi them over to a tactical advantage.
Or do both at once. In its champion spotlight for Tahm Kench, Riot showed a particular badass example of the catfish's basic abilities working together in perfect harmony. When his teammate got caught in a crater made by an opponent, Tahm scooped her up a moment before she would have died, dashed left into the jungle (and away from him enemies), then dropped her out so she could retaliate with a long-rank snipe:
Kench's champion-eating abilities don't just end there, though. His ultimate ability (the one cast by pressing R that you unlock at level 6) allows him to teleport anywhere in a large circle. Better yet, he can take a teammate along with him. Once Kench presses R, he scrunches down and unhinges his jaw for someone to step in:
...and then the two of them dart over to Kench's destination:
Unlike Devour, Kench's ult can't just swallow whomever Tahm feels like eating. A teammate has to click on open-mouthed Tahm to go on the journey with him. This opens up a lot of great teamwork possibilities (and arguments). In the GIFs above, for instance, you can see Kench picking up his ally Amumu (a cute little mummy champion) while they're both in the jungle, then zapping a precious few feet to the right so they can jump in on an unsuspecting opponent. It's also a great way for you to deposit an ally tank into the center of a teamfight. Or pair it with an area-of-effect stun for some powerful womb-combo-ing. Or help them escape from a fight.
Oh man. The possibilities are endless.
Kench's gameplay mechanics are fun and solid in their own right, but what really makes him a blast to play as is the way his character design pairs with his ability kit.This isn't some standard knight in shiny armour or scantily clad big-breasted women of the wildnerness. He's a giant catfish. He wears a tiny little top hat, speaks in a handsome southern drawl, and wields his drooling tongue as if it were a battleaxe. Fans have been particularly excited by the impressive amount of character-specific dialogue he brings into the game with his many food-related jokes:
Seeing impressive new characters like this really helps show how Riot's aesthetic for drawing its playable monsters has evolved and improved over the years. Like many of the newer champions, Kench has proven himself instantly memorable thanks to his many silly quirks and idiosyncrasies.
He has a ton of viability
As I said before, Tahm Kench was made as a support character. This is League of Legends, though. Players are never satisfied to leave a champion consigned to a single position. Kench has already proven himself to be surprisingly flexible (despite his massive girth) when it comes to his position on a given League of Legends team.
Largely, that's thank to his incredible tankiness and utility. Whereas other supports might not survive for very long on their own because of their low health stats or lack of offensive abilities, Kench can be an adept soloist in the right hands given the many ways he's able to attack, stun, and constantly reposition himself (and others) on the battle field.
A lot of high-level League of Legends players have already started taking him to top lane -- a place normally reserved for the beefiest tanks and bruiser characters in the game:
I've also heard some people have been toying around with him in the jungle as well.
Kench has only been out in the wild for a day, so it's impossible to see what place he'll really end up having in League of Legends. But the guy is off to a fun start.
Pictures: Surrender at 20