Kha’Zix has been picked or banned in nearly 70% of the games in the Demacia Championship 2017 tournament so far. He has still been a lower priority than dominant champions like Azir, Miss Fortune, and Ornn, but Kha’Zix’s presence is definitely noteworthy. His rise is partly due to buffs, and partly due to matchups in the current meta.
Kha’Zix’s most recent changes were a nerf to his Q, Taste Their Fear, which reduced his bonus AD ratio from 120% to 110%; an increase to his isolation damage by 15%; and an increase to his ultimate’s basic active stealth duration as well as his ultimate’s evolved brush stealth duration to 3 seconds, with an invisibility linger duration of 1.5 seconds. Also, as part of the rune system rework, Kha’Zix received an 8 base damage increase, an extra 4 damage on his passive, an extra 5 from his Q, and another extra 5 from his W. Add in another 15% increased isolation damage from the previous patch (7.13) and Kha’Zix overall received a big stats boost.
There’s more to Kha’Zix’s surge than just damage numbers; his fit in the meta is based on the strengths and weaknesses he brings to the table. Kha’Zix’s strengths include:
- High damage spells with low cooldowns
- Strong dueling power
- Very strong synergy/spike with Duskblade of Draktharr
- Very high Movement Speed with Evolved Void Assault
- Strong backline threat, with amplified power if the target is isolated
He has fairly typical weaknesses for an assassin:
- Not the strongest in teamfights
- No “hard” crowd control
- Very weak against tanks: struggles against strong peel-focused team fight compositions
In the Demacia Championship 2017, Kha’Zix is often being picked within the first two rotations, often in the first rotation on red side or the second rotation on blue. Kha’Zix picks have come after common bans of Sejuani, Shen, Camille and Jayce. Sejuani is the S-tier jungler on the current patch, while Shen and Camille both throw a wrench in Kha’Zix’s plans with strong peel and lockdown CC, squashing the bug before he can land his damage. If Sejuani is picked, it is usually countered with a Jarvan IV pick, another champion that Kha’Zix can struggle against, though not as much. Throughout most other jungle matchups, Kha’Zix is pretty good.
Kha’Zix is picked is because he can handle most dueling matchups (Rengar, Nidalee, Shyvana) pretty well and he can be picked blind once the Sejuani is banned. As a result, his team can get a stronger counterpick in one of the lanes. In this tournament specifically, Kha’Zix is being picked with a double tank setup on his team, such as Ornn and Alistar or Shen and Tahm Kench.
Game 1 between EDG and BYU offered an example of the type of draft that can allow Kha’Zix to be effective. EDG bans Sejuani on the red side and BYU first picks Jarvan IV. EDG opts for a Kha’Zix pick in their second rotation after drafting Malzahar and Ezreal in the first. They round the draft off with Shen and Tahm Kench, two strong tanks that can help Kha’Zix invade into the enemy jungle or set up for dives. Kha’Zix prefers having pushing lanes to set him up for jungle invasions and strong team fighting to set up his backline-threat play pattern. In this game, the Kha’Zix pick was very successful, beginning with a gank to secure an important early kill in the bottom lane and later using his mid and bot lanes’ priority to invade the jungle, supported by Shen’s ultimate, Stand United.
Kha’Zix is not well-rounded enough to be an every-game pick, however. In game 2 between the same two teams, for example, EDG drafted a different style composition, opting for Jarvan IV and Malzahar in their first rotation on red side and setting themselves up to choose a top lane Vladimir with their final counter pick. This would not have provided the double tank setup that Kha’Zix prefers. BYU decided against picking Kha’Zix on the blue side and opted for Lee Sin, a champion that has been rising in popularity as the tournament continues. It is likely that BYU wanted to go for a more early game-oriented jungler since they were decimated early by EDG in game 1.
Game 2 between WE and FunPlus provides of Kha’Zix being picked unsuccessfully. After FunPlus selects Kha’Zix early on the red side, WE drafts strong CC in Ornn, Malzahar, and Gragas support. FunPlus did not draft the common double tank composition to go with their Kha’Zix, instead taking Gangplank in the top lane. To match the dueling strength of the Kha’Zix, WE also picked Rengar. As the game played out, Team WE used their team fight advantages wisely and exploited Kha’Zix’s weaknesses to win the game.
Overall, Kha’Zix’s successes and failures in the Demacia Championship show that he is a strong pick, but one that must be used correctly and built around properly in order to be effective.
Albert Pariente-Cohen is currently a Data BD at DemystData, a writer for EsportsHeaven, and an analyst for Wind and Rain. Follow him on Twitter at @AlbertPCoh.