TFT Assassin Guide - Instantly Burst Your Enemies!
TFT Assassin Guide
As the cold September evenings came, more and more people tend to stay home. What's better to do than to play Teamfight Tactics? TFT's current popularity grew beyond imagination. It is why we prepared a series of TFT guides, that this guide is a part of. If you need some more general information, make sure to check the TFT Beginners Guide first!
No matter how badly their pathing and targeting are coded, one way or another, Assassins seem to find their way into the meta every time. It has been true for at least a few last TFT patches. Riot tends to over buff their damage, to the extent that it doesn't even matter who they're hitting. Even the tankiest units can be killed in three-four hits. Most of the defensive synergies are hopeless and helpless against huge burst than they are against sustained damage. While the major meta shift killed one of the popular Assassins builds, a few new ones instantly emerged to take its place.
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What that means is: you will see a lot of Assassin players in your games. You should probably consider playing them yourself. Even if you're not going to force them every game, building them when the items are right might be a good idea. Even if you don't want to play them, it's good to learn as much as you can about that build, to understand and learn how to counter them.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Assassins
First of all, they do a lot of damage. Their synergy provides both increased critical damage and higher critical strike chance (75%/150%/225% damage and 10%/20%/30% chance, when you have 3/6/9 of them). Second of all, they also jump across the board to the furthest enemy.
There's also a very limited amount of counterplay to Assassins. Of course, there are some positioning and itemization options, but nothing straight-up hard counters them. Well-itemized two-star Akali can annihilate pretty much any unit in the matter of few hits. She also deals with mixed damage. Thus her ability bursts incredibly hard, but the auto-attacks can't be ignored either.
Another strength is the fact that, as long as you have any non-Assassin unit on the board, Assassin's won't be targeted. During their leap and shortly after it, Assassins are invisible for the enemies. Opponent units will always walk forward and start attacking your non-Assassins.
Units rarely switch targets in Teamfight Tactics. Unless there are some weird movement on the board, or long-range dashes like Pyke, Kai'sa and Rengar's abilities, the unit won't switch target until it kills it. It creates an opportunity to buy a considerable amount of time for your Assassins. It was already a massive part of the old school Ninja + Elementalist + Assassins build that used Daisy as the main tank. A similar thing can often be achieved with Shen.
As far as weaknesses go, the most important one is how contested these units currently are. A lot of people try to play them, which makes it more challenging to hit your power spikes when you need them. The same goes for items, especially B.F. Swords and Sparring Gloves. It leads to another critical point. When two Assassin comps face each other, it's often "stomp or be stomped." If you encounter an enemy that plays a similar build but is currently stronger than you, you may easily lose over 20 HP in one round.
Build paths can also be a bit wonky. A lot of Assassin team comps are currently based on Ninjas, and you can only play one or all four of them if you don't want to lose the bonus damage. As we said, Akali is an incredibly contested four-cost unit, and Kennen has been meta basically since TFT started. Sometimes it may be difficult to get them early.
Endgame comps can also be hard to hit. If you want to keep four Ninjas, you'll likely hit a significant power spike at level 8. It's pretty late into the game, especially if there are stronger Assassin players in the lobby. There's a real risk of dying before hitting the endgame comp.
Key Units and Items
Akali – you might have deduced that from what I wrote earlier, but Akali is the c piece in almost any Assassin comp right now. First of all, she's the strongest Ninja that also usually finishes the synergy. You need her if you want to play all four, you should also go for her if you're only going for one Ninja in your comp.
Akali has considerable base damages, and she's the only champion in the game that can crit with her ability (other units need Jeweled Gauntlet). It makes her utilize the Assassin's trait exceptionally well. The same goes for Infinity Edge. Moreover, she's a great user of both the attack damage and spell power components of the Ninja passive. Akali with Rabadon's Deathcap and Infinity Edge can pretty much one shot through Dragon's Claw with her spell crit. At the same time, her Five Talon Strike has a really low mana cost and almost instant cast. She's just too strong to be ignored right now.
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Beyond that, it's pretty situational. If you're going for the four Ninja variant, all the remaining ones play an essential part. Shen is a great initial target that can buy a lot of time and even slow enemy attack speed with Iceborn Gauntlet. His Spirit's Refuge temporarily provides 100% dodge chance, letting you stack the Gauntlet procs quickly. Zed is a tremendous early game carry that will most likely top the damage charts until you get Akali. He's also really good with attack damage and attack speed items, but in general, we don't want to give him too much good stuff, because he stays in this comp till the end. Kennen, as usual, provides AoE CC and magic damage. He's exceptional with Guardian Angel and Youmuu's Ghostblade (for an extra Assassin and disruption in the enemy backline). If you hit these items and two-star Kennen early, you can play him as the carry and bench Zed.
If you're playing four Wild (that currently works well with Assassins), you're going to need strong Rengar and Gnar. You don't have to item-stack them, but they are the only really useful Wilds that you can get. Rengar can also work as a secondary carry next to Akali. Just like Zed, he's good with attack speed and AD.
Finally, you can still play Void Assassins - they just look completely different than the last patch. This time a lot of the emphasis is placed on the high-cost Void units. Hitting Cho'Gath and eventually, Kai'sa is essential, which makes this comp a bit difficult to play.
Infinity Edge – when you get the critical damage multiplier from Assassins trait and add another one from this item, you can get to some vast numbers. Both the class and the item also provide extra crit chance. It's best used on Akali (because of the inherent ability to crit with her spell), Zed and Rengar. The last two deal a lot of damage with auto-attacks so that they can gain a lot from this item.
Youmuu's Ghostblade – it's not as important as it used to be. However, it still can sometimes open up the possibility of going six Assassins, or enable you to get them a level sooner. The difference between playing five or six is massive so that the item might be handy – at least in some variants of the comp.
Dragon's Claw – since TFT started, Assassins had the most problems with defensive AoE spells. Well-itemized Kennen or Morgana can sometimes one-shot the whole Assassin team with a good ultimate. Giving your Akali a Dragon's Claw can often counter that. It's also a generally recommended item against spell-damage heavy opponents.
Frozen Heart – it might seem weird at first, but Frozen Heart works really well on units like Pyke. The 35% attack speed debuff lasts four seconds and applies to every nearby unit. It means that when Pyke ults through the whole enemy team, he can apply it to everyone and it will probably last until he ults again and reapplies it. It works the best against auto-attack heavy comps, but it's useful against everyone, as it slows their mana generation. Moreover, this item stacks – you can reduce enemy attack speed by more than 35%. That's why you can often see Pykes with two or sometimes even three Frozen Hearts at the same time.
Hextech Gunblade – it's the best sustain item for Akali. She deals with a lot of mixed damage, so healing for 25% of it is really valuable. Just remember - only build it after you already have an Infinity Edge for her. B.F. Sword is priceless, and you need to prioritize items, that it's building into.
The remaining items are somewhat situational. You can always use attack damage, spell power, critical chance, and attack speed. In terms of pure defense, Frozen Heart and Dragon's Claw are currently the most useful, so you should focus on the offensive or at least hybrid items.
B.F. Sword – you can never have too many B.F. Swords as an Assassin player. It's a component of Infinity Edge – the core item for this build. If you need another Assassin, you can also use it for Ghostblade. It also builds into both life steal items and the Guardian Angel. Take it whenever you can – I mean it. The only exception to that rule is finishing the Infinity Edge when you need the other component. It currently is the most contested item, because both the Assassins and the Assassin counters need it in their builds.
Sparring Gloves – mostly you want it since it's the second component of Infinity Edge. If you get a lot of Gloves, you can play an Iceborn Gauntlet on Shen or make Thief's Gloves for one of your Assassins. However, it's generally better to hold them for a second or even third Infinity Edge.
Spatula – I would go for it only if I wanted six Assassins. If you're not going for that variant, I recommend ignoring this item. Besides Ghostblade, Yuumi on Akali can also be decent, since it provides spell power and mana generation.
Needlessly Large Rod – Akali can use items like Hextech Gunblade or Rabadon's Deathcap. If you're running four Ninjas, you might want a Morellonomicon for Kennen.
Recurve Bow – Zed and Rengar for sure can make great use of that. If one of them has an Infinity Edge, you can get even more damage with extra attack speed. You can build a Rapid Firecannon – an additional range makes your unit less likely to get blocked. You shouldn't give it to Akali though, as her ult is melee range, so she won't use it unless enemy literally walks into her. Phantom Dancer and Titanic Hydra are also worth considering. Guinsoo's Rageblade used to be useful on Rengar, but currently, it's quite unlikely that he'll be able to stack it. You will either win or lose rounds quickly.
Negatron Cloak – it builds into Dragon's Claw (Akali) and Bloodthirster (Rengar/Zed). Not that high priority, though.
Tear of the Goddess – Seraph's Embrace and Luden's Echo are viable Akali items. Of course, it also builds into Frozen Heart.
Chain Vest and Giant's Belt are in general, the lowest priority. Go for them only if you already have the other components (you pretty much only want Frozen Heart, Morellonomicon and maybe Guardian Angel).
A build that's packed with synergies. It utilizes four Wild, three Assassins, three Shapeshifters, two Brawlers, two Hextech and Akali as the single Ninja.
The Wild synergy ensures that you never miss your attacks. This way, you won't get countered by random Yordle players or Phantom Dancer users. Assassins, of course, bring a lot of damage to the equation. As usual, Akali will be your primary carry, but placing some items on Rengar and maybe Pyke or Gnar is also worth considering. These four are pretty much your core units. You could do without Pyke, but having this much utility from an Assassin is excellent, so I would stick with him basically every game.
I'm not going to lie - most of the Wild units are not that great for an Assassin comp. However, the synergy is valuable, so it can be worth to run them regardless. There are a few ways that you can round this comp out. The easiest and most flexible approach is adding Brawlers. Extra frontline and crowd control can become handy.
If you have a Youmuu's Ghostblade, you will be able to hit 4 Wild 6 Assassins on level 8. It's a huge power spike that significantly increases your damage. If you're highrolling but can't get the Ghostblade, you can also consider Four Wild, four Ninjas, and three Assassins. This version has a weird build path though since you need level 8 to activate both Wild and Ninja. If you get an early Akali, you can easily carry yourself with four Ninjas and three Assassins though. Then you can finally finish off your comp with the addition of Wilds.
It's definitely not the highest damage Assassin build, but it adds a lot of utility and tankiness from the non-Assassin units and synergies. It also significantly limits the possibilities of counterplay, by making sure that your attacks can't be dodged.
Four Ninjas six Assassins
These four Ninja, six Assassin setup has a very high damage output but lack any other synergies that can help out (most notably Wild).
This build can utilize the Youmuu's Ghostblade, to get to its power spike quicker. Without it, you'll need level 8, while the item lets you hit it on 7. You want to give it to Kennen, making Shen the only non-Assassin on your board and the primary focus of your opponents. To make the best use of the synergies, we choose Ninjas as our designated carries. It means that you should give them all the items (with the exception of a Frozen Heart – it still belongs to Pyke).
If you decide to play this team comp, I strongly recommend collecting all the Zeds and Kennens that you can. With Youmuu's Ghostblade, there's pretty much no reason to level past 7. Using your gold to three-star the double empowered units (if there's enough left in the pool) is more valuable than adding more pieces on the board. Just remember to scout. If almost everyone is playing Ninjas and you're still missing a lot, you're unlikely ever to hit them. It doesn't matter how much you roll.
Skipping the Wild synergy, makes this build somewhat susceptible to dodging. That being said, Kennen and to some extent Akali can do a lot of damage with their spells. It can often be enough. Besides, heavy dodging compositions are not played that often. They aren't too powerful either, so even if you have troubles with a Yordle team comp or multiple Phantom Dancers, they're likely to be eliminated by the rest of your lobby. You'll be fine, as long as you can beat everyone else.
This build is exceptionally reliant on Akali. You need her not only to be your main carry but also to activate the Ninja trait. You're not using one-cost units, and you don't have to three-star anything (it's more of a luxury than a necessity), so you might want to rush to level 6 or 7. Akali will be contested, and you need her to finish top four.
Void Brawler Assassins
The four Void, four Brawler and three Assassin setup have a powerful frontline that can buy a lot of time.
This comp doesn't have too much in common with the Hyperroll Void Assassins from 9.18. You could theoretically still play the old version, but Kassadin does significantly less damage now. Besides, you won't unlock the Void synergy until you hit Cho'Gath.
However, there's an entirely new comp that uses the recently introduced five-cost unit – Kai'sa. That being said, we're still going to play Akali as one of our primary carries. With others being Cho'gath and the aforementioned Kai'sa. This strategy has kind of a nice build path through Brawlers (Rek' sai and Cho'gath are core units, but you can even play four Brawlers at specific points). Even if you're not win streaking, you shouldn't be losing too much HP.
Kai'sa is not the most overpowered unit at the moment, but she has a huge amount of base attack speed, which makes her a great user of items like Giant Slayer and Guinsoo's Rageblade. She doesn't burst as hard as some other Assassins, but she tends to stay safe thanks to her ability to attack from range as well as the ultimate that lets her reposition and provides a shield.
The comp can theoretically come online on level 7 with four Void, four Brawlers and three Assassins. That being said, you will need a Kai'sa as well as two-starred Akali and Cho'gath to come online, which can be pretty challenging to get at that point. The other option is to push for six Assassins that can be reached at level 8 (or level 7 with Ghostblade).
I wouldn't recommend forcing this to build every game. In general, relying that much on the high-cost unit is pretty dangerous in this meta. Player damage has been nerfed, but you can still lose a lot in a single round when people hit their power spikes, and you're waiting for some key champions. That being said, it's one of the best Brawler-focused builds in the game.
Don't get baited into trying to three-star Kha'zix. He's not that important in this comp. He's just an enabler of two synergies. You can also bench him early on to play more Brawlers. Overall, it's a pretty risky strategy, that's not that contested (with the obvious exception of Akali). Not too many people play Brawlers right now, so two-starring them shouldn't be difficult.
Ninja Elementalist Assassins
The classic Ninja, Elementalist, Assassin comp provides a lot of mixed damage but it can also get killed relatively easily.
This one is definitely a blast from the past. This build has been pretty much the first meta-strategy in ranked TFT. Now it's coming back, mostly due to the sheer power of Akali. This comp can spike hard on level seven with three Elementalists, four Ninjas and one extra Assassin to activate the trait (it's usually Pyke or Evelynn).
You want to position in a way that Daisy is the first one to get focused by the opponent units. It should be doable with all your units in the bottom row and Elementalists in the middle. The primary carry is Akali, but some items on Kennen, Zed, Pyke, or even Brand are also worth considering. When you can get Anivia, you should get her in. She's perfect against Draven comps that you may struggle with. If there are no Draven or three-star Vayne players in the lobby, you can skip her.
The general idea is pretty simple – Akali, Zed, and sometimes Brand will deal with the damage, while the remaining units provide some tankiness, utility, and crowd control. It doesn't have to be your endgame comp either. You can use Elementalists as a transition to six Assassins or something else. It's a potent mid-game build.
Besides the possibility of getting outscaled, there are two other important drawbacks. Firstly, your Elementalists don't have too much of a frontline. Daisy and Shen might not be enough to make sure that your Brand gets his ult off every round. He's not the primary carry in this build, but that's still some value lost. The same goes for Anivia if you find her. Secondly, we include two kinds of "feast or famine" synergies. Losing a bunch of health while having three Ninjas and two Elementalists is not fun at all. In general, you should only go for this variant if you hit an early Brand.
Pivoting out of Assassins
Unfortunately, there are no great pivots out of the Assassin comps. Of course, it all depends on how hard you have committed, but it will be a hard transition for sure. You can use an Infinity Edge and Shen to shift into a Draven-focused Blademasters comp, but that pretty much means replacing all the other units in your comp. Maybe except the case, that you were running Katarina – she can stay for the Imperial synergy. At the same time, you're going to need to find a whole lot of frontline that you don't have.
If you were going for Wild Assassins, you can instead go into Wild Shapeshifters. It will let you keep a lot of units and play Rengar as one of the carries. He can use Infinity Edge even without the Assassin synergy – the same goes for pretty much any AD or attack speed item. Most Shapeshifters deal damage with auto-attacks, so the Assassin itemization can be at least decent on them.
The last option is to build Elementalists around Kennen and go into a build that uses this synergy alongside Demons and Sorcerers. The good news is, this comp is perfect against Assassins, and the reason that your pivot is probably that too many people go for this comp. There is bad news too, though. Pretty much no one in this comp can use the core Assassins items super well.
While the main carry in every Assassin comp is almost always the same unit, the supporting cast around it can differ a lot. No matter which variant you choose to go with, the general idea is the same. Use the high burst damage from crits, to kill the enemy carries before they can clean up the fight.
They can use two damage multipliers – one from their Trait bonus, the other from Infinity Edge. In Akali's case, there's also a base damage buff from Ninja synergy (whether it's one or four). That makes Assassins deal tons of damage almost instantly – most of it is loaded in auto-attacks and Akali's low mana cost ability. They are a meta-defining synergy in 9.19, and I recommend trying this team comp out. If any major change is applied, we'll do our best to keep this guide updated.
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What is Assassin's class trait in Teamfight Tactics?
TFT Classes and Synergies are what defines the game. The Assassins' specific trait is that they jump to the furthest enemy and have a bonus crit chance with additional crit damage.
Who is the strongest Assassin champion now?
In the current patch, it's Akali, by far. It's because of high base damages and the unique ability to crit with her spell.
What are the best Akali items in TFT?
Currently, the best items to build on Akali are Infinity Edge, Hextech Gunblade, Rabadon's Deathcap, Dragon's Claw and Seraph's Embrace. Build Infinity Edge and two of the remaining ones, and you're good to go.
How to counter Assassins in TFT?
The optimal way to counter Assassins is by positioning your main team in the middle of your board while leaving Assassin baits in both bottom corners. Assassins always target the furthest units, so they will jump on the baits, leaving you more time to deal with them. You can also play Guardian Angel and Morellonomicon on Kennen or Morgana for the AoE damage and CC.
Are Void Assassins still good?
The hyperroll Void Assassins TFT team comp has been nerfed, and they're not top tier anymore. However, you can play another variant of a similar composition that focuses on pushing levels instead of rolling and relies on Akali, Cho'gath and Kai' sa as carries.