For some reason I have been having a lot of trouble writing this piece. I want to really love the new Karma, but I can’t quite do it. I want to tell you that old Karma was the best, but that isn’t really true either. What I can tell you is that Karma will be rehabilitated back to “played” champion status. What I can’t tell you is this will be done by making her an amazing support.
Before reading this post, you should definitely check out a nice preview of new Karma’s abilities here. As always, Surrender at 20 has put down an excellent video, and I would much rather focus on the impact of her abilities than what her abilities actually are.
One of the keys to understanding new Karma is to understand why old Karma didn’t work. As some of the Riot designers themselves pointed out, old Karma was almost entirely team reliant. Her abilities, in and of themselves, weren’t what would win fights. What Karma could do was add just enough additional damage and tankiness to allow her allies to win fights they otherwise might not have won.
Isn’t that what all supports do? Yes, but most supports have the ability to do things that make life a lot easier for their teammates. Lulu has the ability to shield and heal an ally, and slow, knockup and cupcake enemies. Lulu not only enhances her friends but can actively harm her opponents, making them easier to kill. Other than a fairly weak and non damaging slow, Karma never really had the ability to CC opponents. If her allies weren’t half decent, just having some extra shield and damage weren’t going to make a big difference.
In a support lane, Karma just didn’t do things as good as other supports. The short range of her Q made it almost impossible to poke with. Her shield was decent, but other champions like Lulu and Janna could do the same thing with greater benefits. For a Karma shield to be most effective her ADC would be required to get very close to their opponents and open themselves up to counterattack. A Janna shield, in comparison, allows Janna’s ally to keep their distance while still gaining maximum benefit from the shield. Karma’s W barely warrants mention, as the ability did not effectively provide damage and only offered a minor slow or speed boost.
The same is true of her heal, which required the use of a Mantra and some AP to actually be anywhere near as effective as other support’s heals. You wouldn’t play Karma as a support because she didn’t feel great to play and didn’t give you the same benefit that other supports did. The most played champions in League of Legends are the ones that feel nice to play and make people feel like they could carry their team, or at least make a difference, with those champions. Karma never felt very nice to play and did not give you the feeling that you could carry a game with her. You could help your teammates win the game, but even that was never as easy as it was with other champs.
If you will allow me to digress for a moment, where I loved old Karma best was on the Twisted Treeline. Put Karma together with two bruisers who deal decent damage and Karma could turn those bruisers into unstoppable killing machines. Because most of the fighting would be done at close range, Karma would be able to use both her Q and her E to maximum effect. A Renekton with an additional shield, speed buff and magic burst damage is a scary thing. And if that didn’t kill the enemy, Karma could step in with her Q and finish off any survivors.
New Karma definitely feels and looks better. Her basic dress and all of her other skins look very nice and much more cheerful than her old ones. Regardless of its impact, her Q feels very nice to cast and gives her some decent poke – something that is a staple for popular mids and supports. Her W now provides a more solid benefit with its ability to root an opponent and heal Karma for large amounts of health when she enhances it. Her shield remains the same, except with an additional speed bonus. The speed bonus is an ok touch, as it gives her or her ally some additional ability to actually get in or get out of combat and make better use of the shield.
Finally, the Mantra bonuses on all of her spells really do feel like game changers. Riot wanted you to feel like you made an important choice each time you chose an ability to Mantra, and it really does feel that way. With this does come some regret, if you choose wrong, but hitting a Mantra’d Q or shielding your entire team with a Mantra’d W does feel very satisfying. The cooldown on this ability is just long enough to make you miss it, but with some CDR and her passive, she is not really without her Mantra long enough to warrant a complaint.
I do think that these changes will succeed in making Karma more playable, but mainly as an AP mid. I believe this will be the case because her ratios are solid and her kit has been altered to give her more consistent damage and poke. She is not as strictly short ranged as she was before and can now do respectable damage even when her mantra is down. When her mantra is up, she is able to throw out a burst combo as dangerous as any in the game (slow with her Q, begin a snare with her W and hit a Mantra’d Q just before the snare kicks in so that the opponent is hit with both parts of the Mantra’d Q).
Giving Karma a snare actually gives her options on how to fight opponents instead of just shielding herself and hoping her opponent would fight till the death. She is still somewhat short ranged, and having only one mantra does limit her usefulness when it is on CDR, but I believe this can be overcome easily by building her somewhat tanky and with CDR. Unlike old Karma, new Karma will still offer decent damage even if you build her tanky. When you play new Karma as an AP mid, you actually feel that you have a champion that you can carry a game with.
Where I am not convinced that Karma will see more play time is as a support. I just do not feel that the changes made to her really make Karma more useful than most other supports. The Q changes do give her a bit more poke, but the problem with her new Q is that it cannot poke through the creep wave. Most non tanky supports have abilities that are able to poke through or over the creep wave to zone enemies. Opponents will be able to simply hide behind their creeps to avoid taking damage from Karma.
The snare on her W will be ok for catching out opponents, but a snare in bot lane is always a tricky thing. Unlike a stun, snares still allow enemy champions to attack and cast some spells. A snare can effectively prevent a melee champ from doing damage, but ADC’s will be able to continue to fire even though Karma has snared them, especially because the snare has a short range to begin with. I would much rather take a Taric or Leona stun than a Karma snare, and I think many support players will make the same choice.
As far as Karma’s shield goes, I don’t really think that enough has changed to make it any more viable than it was before. It still suffers from the same drawbacks that I mentioned above. Yes, her ability to cast her shield on multiple allies in teamfights and give out an additional speed bonus will be nice, but a one second speed burst isn’t a big enough benefit to make her shield even as useful as a Janna or Lulu shield. I never really felt like Karma’s heal was that big of a game changer, and now she does not even have that sustain to help her ADC out with.
On the whole, I guess I have to give the Karma changes a thumbs up. She looks good, she feels nice to play and I believe she will actually see some decent play time now. This is what Riot wanted, and it will be fun to see what players can do with her if they feel that she can win games. Mid Karma feels like a choice that is just as viable as any other mainstream mid and she should be just as capable of making big plays.
The problem is that I don’t really see the changes making support Karma any more or less viable than she was before. It seems to me that Riot has decided that the way to rehabilitate Karma is as an AP mid, or even a top bruiser, not as a support. Again, I am torn. I think these changes are good for Karma, but they are not really any better for support Karma players. They say that Karma will come to you for being nice, but in this case, I think new Karma will only come to you if you practice playing mid.