How To Play Against Assassins

Zed Striking a Pose

Assassins are infamous for being frustrating to play against. Playing against them often feels overwhelming for players who lack the proper knowledge to deal with them. In this article, I will provide you with an overview of measures you can take against assassins, and why these measures work.

Why Dying to an Assassin is (Very) Bad

Any time you get killed in lane it feels bad. However, dying to an assassin is worse than dying to a control mage. Why? Because assassins benefit even more than usual from getting to their first and second item powerspikes faster. That is where assassins are at their strongest, relative to other champions in the game. By accelerating so quickly, they become even more overpowering than they already would have been in the mid-game. This allows them to snowball and keep their enemies from closing the gap in power, and maintain their lead.

Furthermore, when an assassin gets a lead, you have to play super safe just to avoid dying. This gives the assassin free reign to roam to your other lanes, killing them and snowballing even more. So, how can you avoid getting into this situation?

How to Not Die to Assassins

Harass them Early On in Lane

Most assassins are quite weak early without having access to all their abilities. Also, most of them are melee range. In order to punish them for this weakness, throw an auto attack or a spell at them every time they walk up to grab a cs during the first few levels.

Respect their Level 6 Powerspike

An assassin’s ultimate is often the core of their kit and will enable them to burst you down from close to full hp. Be very mindful of the level 6 all-in and adjust your positioning to play closer to your turret. By staying near to your tower, you force the assassin to overextend to try to kill you. This opens them up to jungle pressure (or makes it hard for them to gank you).

Zed’s ultimate gives him a huge spike in damage – often allowing him to win early fights

Grab a resistance item and/or a second Doran’s on your first back 

By making yourself tankier, you reduce the likelihood that the assassin will be able to 100-0 you. Remember – it doesn’t matter how low you get as long as you don’t die.

  • As an AP champion, try sitting on a Null-Magic Mantle (that you’ll eventually build into a Banshee’s Veil or Mercury’s Treads) or a Seeker’s Arm-Guard. 
  • As an AD champion, picking up an early Hexdrinker or Ninja Tabi works pretty well. 

Always Bring Exhaust

It might seem like the obvious choices for defensive Summoner Spells would be Heal and Barrier, but when playing versus assassins Exhaust is almost always superior. Heal gets cut in half in an all-in because assassins often take Ignite, so that choice is immediately sub-par. For Barrier, though, we have to look a bit more at the damage that Barrier and Exhaust can prevent. In the following example, I used Zed versus Orianna, both at level 6 with standard runes and starting items. Barrier is assumed to be fully consumed (no shield is wasted) and Exhaust is assumed to be used immediately after Zed engages so that it blocks the majority of his damage (excluding the pop from his Death Mark).

Summoner Spell Total damage dealt by Zed
Barrier 665.35
Exhaust 596.21

As you can see, Exhaust prevents a lot more damage than Barrier. This difference gets even larger as the game goes on, because Exhaust reduces damage dealt by a percentage – Barrier only prevents a flat amount. The reason this is fair is that Exhaust is a targeted spell, and has a short range. However, since assassins are trying to close the gap into melee range onto you anyway, it becomes very easy to exhaust them. 

Don’t Stick Around at Low Health

Instead, recall and heal up – Don’t be greedy. You will probably lose some cs, but that’s a small price to pay if it stops the assassin from snowballing. Remember – because assassins tend to fall off once you group up, all you have to do is survive. Going even IS winning. Even losing a little bit in CS can easily be made up by one good teamfight in the mid-game.

How to Stop an Assassin from Killing Your Team

So now you know how to stop dying to assassins in lane – but what if you mess up? Maybe you get ganked, maybe you greed for a little bit of CS, but now the Assassin has a lead over you and you have to stop pushing. How do you stop your team from feeding them even more when they roam?

Almost Never Follow the Roam

The assassin could be waiting for you somewhere in a bush where you don’t have vision and when you walk by, well… you’re as good as dead. Therefore, you won’t be able to follow safely unless you have complete vision of the river so you can be sure you aren’t getting JeBaited.

Waiting until the assassin is already bot and then following also tends to go poorly. This is because by the time you finally get there, the fight is probably already over and you have simply wasted your time. Therefore, your best bet is to push mid and, as long as you have vision of the enemy mid, try to chip at his mid tower to deny him as much cs as possible.

Your team might blame you for this if they don’t understand how to play against an assassin and this might create conflict in your team. Whatever you do, if they rage at you, don’t rage back. If you’re more focused on talking to your team than actually playing the game, things will quickly snowball out of control.

Don’t be Scared to Buy Control Wards

Always buy a Control Ward when you go back to base. The extra vision control you get when combined with your trinket is simply too good to pass up for the mere cost of 75 gold. Usually, you’ll want to place the Control Ward somewhere where the assassin is unlikely to check, but that sees them leaving lane – for example in the bush next to the wall in midlane as shown below.

This ward will give you fair warning if your opponent tries to roam botlane.

If your lane opponent leaves lane through the midlane bottom bush, you will see them pass your Control Ward and can ping your botlane to back off. If your botlane is pushed to their tower or low, the assassin may dive them – tell them it’s best to give up their tower. At the same time, you want to start pushing midlane as fast as you can. You do this to try and force your lane opponent to come back mid in order to not lose as much cs. If you see him in botlane you can push the tower, but if you don’t see him don’t take the risk and simply stay safe.

Ping Aggressively When They Leave Lane

The best thing you can do is spam ping the path that the enemy mid is taking. Ping from midlane to botlane and ping some “careful” pings right on top of their heads. In addition to that, you can also ping the enemy’s champion portrait in the scoreboard to let your team know exactly who is coming.

Letting your team know who is coming is vital information to convey

In my experience, if people see the direction that the threat is coming from they’re more likely to back off. So, it’s your job to make sure that the river is lit up like a Christmas tree.

Group up ASAP

Assassins thrive in a chaotic environment where there is little coordination between the enemy teammates. They are strong when they are able to pick people off one by one. An ADC farming alone in botlane is a juicy target for an assassin. That’s why the best way to counter assassins is to group. Assassins are pretty underwhelming in teamfights, as they lack the survivability needed to stay alive when jumping into a 5-man group to pick off the enemy carry.

When towers start to fall, tell your team to group mid. The assassin will most likely start splitpushing at some point. In that case, send your tank to defend against him. The tank will probably not be able to kill the assassin, but at least the other way around is unlikely to happen as well. Then, when teamfights roll around, than control mages who can win a teamfight with a single spell start to outshine assassins. 

A four-man Shockwave by Orianna to instantly win a lategame teamfight

In Conclusion

To close off this article, remember that assassins thrive in chaotic situations; they become less threatening the longer the game goes. By deny them the opportunity to snowball off of you and your team, you’ll have a much easier time dealing with them in the mid- and lategame. Remember: what makes an assassin’s job the hardest is teamwork. Communicate with your team from the start of the game. Tell them what your plan is and encourage them to work together in order to pull this off. Above all, stay positive and don’t respond to flame from your team.

Stay tuned for the next article, in which I will be going more in-depth on how to lane against specific assassin champions, and what to watch out for when playing against them.

Editor’s Note

The information in this article does not change from patch to patch. It has to do with the fundamental definition of what an assassin does in the game. The individual articles, however, may not reflect appropriate tactics on the current patch. Proceed with caution, and keep your critical thinking hat on.

Akali Ekko Shaco Katarina
Zed Talon Nidalee Fizz



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