Cantankerous isn't a word to be used lightly. If something can be described by it, then it really needs to be a special sort of ornrey. When looking at Kled, League of Legends' newest champion, I can't think of a better word to describe him.
He's rugged, mean, and just a tad bit nuts. Or a whole lot of nuts. That's not his fault, though. Fighting in every Noxian battle and recieving everi Noxian battle award can do funny things to a tiny old yordle. Maybe Kled was stoic and noble like Darius in his past, but now he resembles more of a reality show hillbilly than a decorated general. A weird lizard creature named Skaarl is his noble steed and best/only friend, and together they engage enemies with one simple goal in mind - killing everyone.
This translates pretty well in-game, where the unique relationship between Kled and Skaarl manifests in both his variable abilities and their dual lifebars. Debuting in patch 6.16, Kled has made a splash in top lane, for better or worse. My time with the Cantankerous Cavalier has been interesting to say the least. Let's take a look at what he has to offer.
Kled's passive is the crux of his kit and the apple of his eye. Skaarl, the Cowardly Lizard, is Kled's trusty steed atop which he rides into glorious battle. Skaarl has her own separate life bar, and it gets depleted first in combat. When she's defeated, she makes a break for the nearest bush, leaving Kled all by himself. When buying bonus health, it only gets applied to Skaarl.
When dismounted, Kled's abilities change, as some things can only be done on lizardback. The yordle's auto-attack range increases, and he gets bonus movement speed when moving towards enemies. He does only 80% of his normal damage, though, so even though he can pick fights pretty easily, he's definitely not as tough without back-up.
To get Skaarl back, you have to fill up her Courage meter. Replacing mana, the Courage meter is only filled when Kled demonstrates that the battle is going in his favor. Last hitting minions, beating on turrets, or attacking/killing enemy champions will fill the meter. At 100, Skaarl will rush to the fray, and the duo will be reunited. Minions give the least amount of Courage per kill at 4. Hitting an epic jungle monster like Herald or the Drakes, or attacking turrets grants 5 Courage every hit. Every blow struck on an enemy champion grants 15 Courage, and killing a champion grants 20.
Skaarl returns at half health, but having her back is the most important thing. Kled's dueling potential is at its peak when on Skaarl's back. That said, being overprotective of her can lead to ruin, as she is Kled's secret weapon when it comes to being as aggro as possible in short bursts and with little notice. Skaarl's retreat is more like a margin for error when you zigged instead of zagging, and should be used as such. That said, as soon as Kled is dismounted, playing defensively is the smartest move. Farming under tower until you know you can land enough strikes in quick succession to call Skaarl back has been the general practice so far. Should you be killed, Skaarl will return automatically upon respawn.
The eloquently named Bear Trap on a Rope is Kled's Q while mounted, and it's exactly what it sounds like. Kled launches his snare in a straight line, doing damage to everything it touches. If it comes into contact with a big monster or a champion, it latches on. After a short period, it reels the target in, slowing them and doing additional damage. In order to make the second half of this happen, Kled has to stay within range until the channel is done. So unlike Nautilus or Thresh, who can rely on the pull no matter what distance they hit the target from, Kled has to be ready to jump into melee shortly after the pull.
This can present a problem against lane opponents who can just dash away, like Gnar or Shen. They can save their leaps and dashes to time against your Q, making it very difficult to use it as a proper engage. Alternatively, not every lane opponent should be recklessly dragged to you. Folks like Jax can easily just Counter Strike when latched, so any and all follow up attacks will get neutralized. It takes a great deal of practice to learn the best time to use the attack. A bit of a silver lining is that this skill shot pull isn't impeded by minions, and it actually can be used as a clear tool.
When dismounted, Kled draws his Pocket Pistol, and it becomes his Q. It fires a fan of pellets that does 20% bonus damage with every pellet that hits the target after the first. It has 2 charges, each with lengthy 20 second cooldowns that really task you with using this effectively. You shouldn't be spamming this, as it is your most effective tool for staying threatening in-lane.
Besides the bonus damage for hitting a champion with multiple pellets, each pellet also restores 5% of Skaarl's Courage. On top of that, the recoil flings Kled in the opposite direction, giving you an escape option when the dive happens or the jungler comes along. In my experience, you are almost always better off holding onto a shot for escape purposes than attempting to poke with it. And farming with this Q can be a pretty big waste, as the cooldown is long, the single pellet damage isn't incredible, and the bonus Courage gain from hitting a champ is higher per pellet than killing minions. Kled's overly aggressive, but he doesn't have to be foolish.
When he does get into combat, though, Violent Tendencies is his money maker. A passive W, it gives Kled's next four attacks 150% bonus attack speed for four seconds. It activates as soon as Kled attacks, and will hit cooldown whether you get all four attacks off or not. The last attack does bonus damage, including a percentage of the target's missing health.
Like Jhin, effective burst damage management involves working around that fourth attack. Unlike Jhin, who can afford to be patient and meticulous with where he shoots, Kled has to basically go all-in whenever he wants that burst. This is very, very risky and involves a lot of good decision making.
When Violent Tendencies is active, Kled's axe will glow, which is a pretty big tell for him and his opponent. It makes Kled pretty easy to counter play if he's waiting passively to push until it's active. And though the autos fire in rapid succession, there's still plenty of time for Kled to be stopped in some way. An un-shielded Pantheon will actually take every auto EXCEPT the one you want to nail him with, for example. You can try to sneak the forth hit on people by spreading the other three around on minions, but using the attack to farm really robs you of Kled's real damage potential.
The ideal combo involves roping targets in with the Bear Trap and pouncing on them after they're pulled in. As stated before, though, getting a target on the hook has its own share of issues. Your best bet involves trying to keep a constant presence inside the enemies waves so you're never too far away to slap a quick flurry on them.
Jousting is Kled's E ability, and it's only available when Skaarl is present. Putting Skaarl's dexterity to the test, the pair dashes in a target direction, doing light damage to everything they pass over. This is the most mobile the duo will be while laning, and, as it can be used to engage, it is also a reliable way to get out of dodge. It cannot dash over walls, though, so if Flash is down, be very careful about using the jungle as your escape.
When using it to engage, if Kled and Skaarl make contact with an enemy champion, they get a movement speed bonus. Also, upon reactivation, they can dash back through the champion. This gives the tag team some really competent stickiness. Should they hit a champion who is moving erratically to get away, the reactivation helps put them back in the crosshairs.
His ultimate, Chaaaaaaaarge! will look familiar to Sion players. After choosing a location on the map within range, Skaarl curls up into a ball, and Kled sounds his warhorn. They bounce together down a marked trajectory to the target site, knocking up and damaging the first champion they hit for a percentage of their maximum health as damage. Sion's version of this only goes in a straight line, but they have similar uses - hard engagements.
Kled's ult has a couple more bells and whistles, though. The target spot marked by Kled has a zone surrounding it. If Kled makes it to his spot untouched, and there's someone within the zone, he will automatically hone in on them. You don't have to be precise with Chaaaaaaaarge!, just willing and able. Secondly, he leaves a speed boost aura in his wake, giving him and all allies nearby a big movement speed buff while moving within it. This allows your team to attack at the same speed and as a unit, should you choose. ALSO, Kled gets a shield that lasts a couple of seconds after impact. What's not to love about this?
Well, it doesn't do the most damage, for starters. But if it's the engage that you want, Kled's W has plenty of pain to give. Enemies can intercept you early, just like with Sion. So if you wanted to hit Lux but instead Leona jumps in and takes the hit, you're stuck with the tank until you readjust. The spot of attack is marked as well. The skill required to make Sion's ult work might be gone because of the auto-pathing, but the range and predictive nature of it all puts a lot of the Chaaaaaaaarge!'s fate in too many hands.
But Kled's ultimate has a big range, and it's always a threat. When he's on the field, you have to play around him, not his items. An ideology that Riot has been trying to perfect for years.
Riot isn't being hyperbolic when they call Kled aggressive. He NEEDS to be in combat to be effective. He has no substantial poke game, and his dash does pitiful damage. His lethality is loaded into his melee suite, and he needs to be slapping champions in order to feel useful.
In-lane you are almost completely reliant on Violent Tendencies in order to be a threat. The push/pull of farming and harassing will follow the rhythm of your W's cooldown, and it will make you pretty easy to time as far as the enemy is concerned. You don't want to waste the flurry on minions, but the enemy isn't going to make it easy for you when your axe begins to glow.
Clever use of Jousting is where you'll get the most from this. Dash in quickly and unload your stored attacks. When done, dash out again using the reactivation. It might not always lead to safety, but that's up to you to determine. Also, if you can hit a champ with Bear Trap before the flurry, pulling them in and saving your Joust for a quick retreat, it can be as hard to deal with as a good poke session.
When locked into combat, you'll have to make the conscious decision to stick around or not. If knocked off of Skaarl, remember that hits on a champion will bring her back faster. If you think you can last a few extra seconds, stay. Autos plus close range Pocket Pistols will bring your lizard back to you sooner than you think.
When teamfighting, you are a skirmisher. Jumping into the thick of it really isn't Kled's forte, even though his mobility can make him difficult to keep under-thumb in the swirling chaos. Focusing on a single target is the key, and on the fringe of a fight is where he is most effective. He's great for isolating junglers or counter-charging assassins who leap into the back lines of your group or lurk in the shadows. If the enemy is split pushing, Kled is the perfect answer to it. In one-v-one he excels - but don't push it if things are looking crowded.
One note specifically about Skaarl: she's treated as being separate from Kled as far as how they take damage is concerned. If Skaarl has 100 life, and a high stacked Nasus Q melts that bar away, the remaining damage doesn't flow into Kled's bar. If CC is applied to Skaarl before she dies, it doesn't affect Kled once he is dismounted.
Kled plays especially nice with folks like Alistar, Garen, or Dr. Mundo, as mobility tends to be their weakness, and Chaaaaaaarge! gets them into the fight where they are most dangerous. Being supported by a Lulu, Kindred, or Taric can help turn what was a suicide mission into a heroic victory. Gnar, Jax, and Quinn will give Kled issues in-lane, though. Their mobility is hard to counter.
Interestingly, Kled and Skaarl make a pretty tanky team naturally, so it may be worth investing in attack damage while still keeping survivability in mind. Don't go whole hog like early Darius builds, though.
In my experience, a Hydra weapon is a must-buy. The AoE damage does wonders for your split pushing game, and your farming potential goes through the roof (especially when you're dismounted and last-hitting minions is that much more important). Which one to build - Ravenous or Titanic - is a bigger question. The life steal and damage is great for his dueling potential if you are even in-lane, and can give you that extra sustain if you're bulling well but can't seem to close the deal. Titanic will bulk you up, and if it's looking like you're going to be the only tank on the team, it might be worth picking this instead.
The only other "must-buy" item for Kled, in my opinion, is the Black Cleaver. The health and attack power bonuses are good. The Cleaver's signature armor shred will make Kled that much more lethal in bursts. Rage gives him the move speed buff to stick to a target in order to finish those Violent Tendencies flurries. Like most physical melee top laners, BC is right at home in his kit, and complements Kled's particular strengths well. This is arguably a first buy, but I think you can get away with buying it after Hydra in an even lane.
From here, you can get a little experimental.
If the enemy has a lot of AD, or you just want to make everyone easier to catch while also making Skaarl beefier, you could do worse than a Frozen Mallet. Some of the wackier health builds I've seen feature this weapon, and with a proper lead, Kled can start to be incredibly frustrating to kill.
To further protect yourself from AD comps, Sterak's Gage could be a good grab. The longer a skirmish or team fight, the more damage Kled will probably take. Gage ensures that your chances of survival in these extended fights remain high by granting extra life and AD eventually. And since Kled can't really be one-shot killed (because of the dual life bars) you will have a good chance of activating this when taking lots of damage.
As far as dueling is concerned, there are few better weapons in the game tailored for the task than Death's Dance. The AD is high with a significant lifesteal - two things Kled is a big fan of. The CDR works well with him too, since his skills are resource-less and are solely limited by cooldowns. The damage-as-DOT trick can also buy him some time to put the finishing touches on his enemies.
For the blue-collar-every-man-of-melee fighters, Dead Man's Plate is never a bad choice on Kled. The extra speed from Dreadnought helps his engage potential, with a significant health and armor boost that'll let Skaarl stay around longer. The extra auto-attack damage after a good Chaaaaaaaarge! is also delicious.
If being really annoying is your aim, and the enemy has some particularly potent AP output, Guardian Angel might be a good pick. Chaaaaaaaarging in and wreaking havoc on the enemy doesn't have to end just because you died. Note: When revived, only Kled comes back. You will have to do the requisite work to bring Skaarl out of hiding.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.