Design Choices in League of Legends – Champion Classes

What differentiates champion kits? This week, I’ll be diving into issues of champion design by dividing characters into classes. Previously, I clarified the differences between tanks, bruisers, and assassins, but there is so much more to do!


The most crucial class in League of Legends is the carry. The carry can be seen as the champion around which the primary function of the game (killing the nexus) is won. Ultimately, a game cannot be won without doing damage. Winning games is precipitated by killing objectives, whether they be neutral (buffs/dragon/baron) or enemy (tower/inhibitor/nexus). Objectives typically have a lot of health, and as such, carries bring sustained damage to take them down.

To give simplified examples, Cassiopeia and Karthus kill neutral objectives far more quickly than other mages, while Jinx kills towers at an absolutely ridiculous pace, and this is what makes them “carries” as opposed to simply “mages” or “auto-attackers” (although most auto-attackers are carries by virtue of the spammability of auto-attacks)

Carries have to be able to put out damage over multiple dimensions: time and targets. This means that a carry should have some way to survive a fight, whether that be mobility, range, or sheer tankiness. However, survivability can be neglected by putting enough damage onto enough targets: why damage one target for three seconds when you can damage five targets for one second?


The marksman has consistent single-target ranged damage, along with the range or mobility to remain safe while churning that damage out. The marksman is perhaps the most crucial carry, and has been a staple of almost every competitive team ever. The only exception I can think of is A Picture of a Goose and their Jarvan/Leona lane, and in that game, APictureOfAGoose compensated by purchasing Wriggle’s Lantern on Shaco, Tryndamere, and Jarvan, giving them very strong neutral objective sustained damage.

Of course, not all objectives are taken in a vacuum. The extended damage of a marksman also makes them very strong in teamfights. Their job is not necessarily to prioritize for the most crucial targets, but also simply to survive. As a result, a lot of their damage goes onto tankier champions, making % Penetration items crucial for their ability to do damage.

Most marksmen are what we typically call AD Carries. However, It may be safe to categorize a champion like Cassiopeia as a marksman, thanks to her extremely high and reliable damage. Cassiopeia differs from ADC marksmen in (at least) two ways.

  1. Magical, not Physical Damage
  2. Suffers when switching targets thanks to Twin Fang’s interaction with her abilities.

Defining Examples: Caitlyn, Tristana, Vayne, Cassiopeia?


The Flamethrower is the other main teamfighter of the LoL world. Like the marksman, the Flamethrower is a carry, and thus has high sustained damage. Unlike the marksman, the Flamethrower specializes in heavy AoE damage, giving them slightly less damage onto any single target, but devastating damage overall.

Sometimes, the Flamethrower may have abilities that can be used advantageously on a single target, but they perform best in AoE situations. They have lower range and mobility than Marksmen, and typically make up for it with some form of survivability, such as Vladimir’s sustain or Karthus’ passive.

Defining Examples: Brand, Karthus, Vladimir, somebody?


The Mortar does not have the mobility or the high single-target damage of the marksman, or the AoE damage of the Flamethrower. However, the Mortar makes up for their lower damage with range and disengage. The Mortar puts out damage without the threat of retaliation, thanks to having exceptionally high range and strong single target stopping power (typically through CC).

Defining Examples: Jayce, Xerath, Ziggs, Ezreal?


The Melee Carry is a contentious class in League of Legends, with many calling it weak or questioning its existence or value. However, the theory is simple: a melee carry is much like a marksman who sacrifices the safety of range in exchange for even more damage. In exchange, they are given much stronger scaling, and an ability which allows them to block damage exceptionally well when used skillfully. Typically, this character has very short ranged, but spammable mobility.

Defining Examples: Master Yi, Riven, Yasuo, Irelia?


If the Melee Carry makes up for being melee with extreme mobility, the Hyper Carry simply takes forever to ramp up, but once he does, becomes an unstoppable monster that can 1v3. Scaling that is based off of tankiness is almost a necessity, although Nasus simply scales infinitely independently of items. All Hyper Carries also have insane base stats. Typically, Hyper Carries lack mobility, which forces them to scale up hard before being a factor, lest they be kited by Marksmen.

Defining Examples: Nasus, Udyr, Jax?


Some champions do not have the same impact as a carry, but have the ability to prevent the enemy carries from carrying out their own function. Some of these champions do so by killing the carries, while others do this with debuffs or even simple zoning. We can call this class the “Anti-Carry”, because their function is to disrupt the function of the carry.


The Assassin’s job is to kill a key target (preferably a carry) within one rotation of their abilities. Much like the marksman, they focus on single-target damage. However, their damage is very combo-based, and once their combo is expended they have lower overall damage than marksmen.

Defining Examples: Kha’Zix, Talon, Zed


If the Assassin is the one-shot version of the marksman, the grenade is the one-shot version of the Flamethrower, with a ton of AoE damage that comes out in one burst, but lower overall damage after their cooldowns have expired. They normally have to get into range through surprise to make up for their high damage, and also benefit highly from Zhonya’s Hourglass to keep them alive through their first combo.

Defining Examples: Fiddlesticks, Kennen


If the Mortar uses their range to never be engaged upon, the Pick uses their ranged CC to single out one target and destroy them immediately. They typically have high-single target burst that is chained on top of a single, long-ranged CC.

Defining Examples: Lux, Syndra, Veigar


If the Melee Carry uses mobility to put out damage, the Opportunist uses mobility to single out a key target. They typically have one single-target CC which can be used to set up kills, and need to maneuver into position to eliminate the right target.

Defining Examples: Ahri, LeBlanc, Twisted Fate


The Bruiser Tank is the less unstoppable form of the Hyper Carry, with lower late-game damage and less overall tankiness. However, the bruiser tank has two things that the Hyper Carry does not: a gap-closer, and hard CC (typically but not always a knockup). While the hyper-carry wants to scale up before charging unstoppably into the enemy team, the Bruiser Tank wants to dive into the backline and burst, CC, or zone the enemy carries away from the fight, depending on whether they have built damage, CDR, or tankiness. However, their hybrid-style builds allow them to do all three of these things depending on the circumstance, making them very safe and stable picks.

Defining Examples: Jarvan/Vi/Xin, Renekton, Nocturne?


Pro-Carry is a clunky word. “Support” would be a much better one, but support is already in use in the LoL lexicon, and so I am intentionally avoiding it. Where the Anti-Carry’s job is to disrupt the enemy carries at all costs, the Pro-Carry’s job is to make the carry’s job easier.


The Buff-Bot has a simple job: amplify the power of your carries directly and numerically. In this sense, they are the most archetypal Pro-Carry, hence their distinction as “pure supports” by many.

Defining Examples: Janna, Lulu, Sona, Nunu?


I struggled with the Initiator class and where to put them. The Initiator  brings heavy CC that allows them to start off a fight, preferably by CCing the enemy carries. As such, it might seem reasonable to put them into the “Anti-Carry” class. However, the Anti-Carries all have some way of dealing with Carries on their own, while Initiators do not. An Initiator’s job is to lock up the enemy team (carries included) so that their team can follow up. In that sense, the Initiator is more about enabling their carries than they are about shutting down the enemies’ carries, even if they do the former by way of the latter.

Defining Examples: Leona, Malphite, Amumu


While the Opportunist and the Pick seek enemy champions to burst them on their own, the Hook enables the burst of their own team with single-target CC. The Hook’s sole job is to isolate a key opponent from their team so that his team can burst them down.

Defining Examples: Blitzcrank, Thresh, Skarner, Rammus


While the Initiator disrupts the enemy team to allow your carries to destroy them, the Peel is focused on preventing the enemy team from destroying your carries. It should be noted that CC is not their only recourse, as Thresh “peels” for his carries by moving them around the map with his lantern.

Defining Examples: Maokai, Nautilus, Thresh


The Zoner stops the enemy anti-carries not by CCing them, but by using AoE effects to zone them away from the enemy carries (although many of those AoE effects are CCs)

Defining Examples: Anivia, Rumble, Zyra, Nunu?


Mattias “Gentleman Gustaf” Lehman is a gaming and esports nerd who has ranked as high as Diamond 1 in solo queue and Diamond 3 in arranged 5s.

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