League of Legends received a new playable character, Tahm Kench, this week. While a new champion ought to be a happy occasion, it's usually just a source of annoyance for me.

My irritation doesn't stem from Tahm himself. He's interesting to play and can contribute a lot to his team. His Devour ability lets him swallow an ally to save them from death or swallow an enemy to remove them from the battle. Tahm's ultimate, which allows him to teleport himself and an ally across the map, is incredibly useful for ambushing enemies or tackling objectives. He has the potential to be a top-tier character.

The key word here, though, is "potential." Tahm can be a great character. The problem is that no one knows how to play him yet. While some champions can attack from afar, Tahm has to get up close to be effective. You need to hit an enemy three times before you can Devour them, but doing so slows you down considerably. This leaves you vulnerable to attacks from other nearby enemies. Furthermore, his shield scales up based on how much health you've lost recently so you need to time it well. Cast the shield too early and it's weak. Cast it too late and you'll be dead.

Then there's his ultimate ability, Abyssal Voyage. While a teleport for two is handy, you have to be cautious with its use. The teleport requires a cast time and the enemy can see your destination if it's in their field of vision. The risk of using Abyssal Voyage is high, too. The ability can put Tahm, a character with no easy escape moves, well behind enemy lines.



I don't doubt that players will master Tahm, or master playing alongside him, in time. However, I'd rather not get teamed up with them while they're still learning the basics. Every Tahm I've seen in a PvP match so far has gotten absolutely crushed. If they're playing top lane, they get pushed around by their opponent. Support Tahms die repeatedly to the enemy marksmen, who then go on a rampage with all the gold they earned from these easy kills.

Tahm's the most popular champion to play right now but also the worst performing. In the solo queue for Ranked matches, his win rate is an abysmal 36.5% according to LOLKing. In the Ranked queue for premade teams, he's only winning 39.5% of matches.

It's hard to avoid one of these clumsy new Tahm Kench players if you're doing Ranked matches on your own. The only way to pick characters for Ranked is a Draft. Each team bans three champions and then all the players take turns picking their own champion. In other words, a teammate can unilaterally decide to play Tahm - even though they have next to no experience with him - and there's nothing his teammates can do about it. Their only choices are:
  • Leave the game, which hurts their ranking slightly and then also leaves them open to be matched up with another Tahm newbie for their next match.
  • Ban Tahm Kench so their teammates can't play him. This isn't ideal, either, because they could be using that ban on a more dangerous champion that they other team could play. Furthermore, there's a one-in-five chance that the player who wants to play Tahm will end up in charge of bans.
There are plenty of other things that can and do go wrong in Ranked matches. You can wind up with a teammate who disconnects at launch, intentionally feeds kills to the other team, or just acts like an asshat. Players now have to worry about being matched up with a very inexperienced Tahm. This seems to be a problem with every new champion, especially if they require an unusual playstyle and aren't overtuned at launch.

I understand that players of a new champion are in a Catch-22 situation. They need to play the character against human opponents to learn it properly but no one wants to team up with them. I wish that Riot would enact some kind of moratorium on new champions for Ranked matches. Give players two weeks or so to train their new characters in Normal mode before they can take them into Ranked matches.

New champions aren't a common occurrence in League of Legends. Riot has only released three thus far this year. Players ought to be pleased when a new character arrives because of the variety they bring. Riot needs to find a way to more smoothly add these champions into LoL so it doesn't hurt the competition at the heart of the game.

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