The first few weeks of a champion's life in League of Legends are crazy. Everyone's trying to figure out "the best way" to use it, and because they're rarely perfectly balanced at launch, champions often get slammed with big buffs or nerfs pretty quickly--only to have those changes reversed as soon as the community figures out a new way to play them. That's why we've held off judgment on Cassiopeia until now. Now that the smoke has cleared, the buffs have landed, and she's no longer flavor-of-the-month, should you keep this half-woman-half-snake poison champion in your arsenal? Hell yeah, you should! And here's why.
When she was released in late December, Cassiopeia was recieved by the community quite well, for both her ability design and art style. I wasn't sold on her right away, though. It wasn't until patch 184.108.40.206 (released in January) that she was really allowed to blossom into her full potential, with added mobility and a bit more pow to her punches. Since then, Cassi's been a lot of fun to play, and I like that she is one of the few champions that fulfills the role of sustained damage. Playing as Cassiopeia reminds me of my World of Warcraft days, when I was constantly mashing the spell buttons--frantic and exhilarating.
Cassiopeia was once a woman. She's the younger sister of Katarina (a blade-whirling dervish champion), but never as deadly. What Cassiopeia lacked in killer instinct she made up with seductive guile. Her charm and elegance could extract even the direst of secrets from foreign dignitaries. But after betraying an oath of secrecy she took with her hand on a strange serpentine saber, Cassiopeia was transformed into the half-serpent form she has today. She hasn't lost her seductive powers, and the snake venom now flowing in her body gives her an upper hand in battle--overall, not a bad deal for Cassi if I may say so myself.
Her poisonous arsenal
All of Cassiopeia's abilities tap into her inner adder (gross), and are themed around the powers of mythical serpent-women like Medusa:
- Noxious Blast: Cassiopeia casts a poison blast at a target location that does high poison damage over three seconds and grants a brief movement speed buff to Cassiopeia.
- Miasma: Like a spitting cobra, Cassiopeia sprays a target location with poison, dealing area targeting damage over time and slowing movement.
- Twin Fang: Cassiopeia unleashes a ranged spell at the target, dealing high damage. If the target is poisoned, it reduces the cool down of her next Twin Fang to .5 seconds.
- Petrifying Gaze (Ultimate): Like Medusa of Greek mythology, Cassiopeia blasts a target area with petrifying magic, turning all those facing her into stone, slowing those who are turned away, and dealing high damage to all in the area.
- Deadly Cadence (Passive): After casting a spell, any subsequent spells will cost 10% less for the next five seconds. This ability stacks up to 5 times.
When leveling Cassiopeia, you want to start the match with a point in Noxious Blast, followed by a point into Twin Fang and Miasma. After that, there's room for customization, but I prefer to prioritize my skills in this order:
1. Petrifying gaze
2. Twin fang
3. Noxious blast
The basic strategy for playing Cassiopeia is simple. Since Cassiopeia is a sustained damage caster, you have to make use of all her abilities constantly. Really focus on landing your Noxious Blast and Twin Fang combo. Noxious Blast is tricky to use because it has a delay and a relatively short range. If you can internalize the maximum range for Noxious Blast and always know at a glance what you'd hit with it from your distance, harassing enemies becomes relatively straightforward.
Twin Fang is even more key to success after the 220.127.116.11 patch. Whenever you poison an enemy champion with either Miasma or Noxious Blast, hit the poisoned champion with Twin Fang, if at all possible. Twin Fang's passive reduces the cooldown on itself to .5 seconds when casting on poisoned champions making it spammable. And the patch made Twin Fang scale better with ability power, making it hit much harder now--especially on innately fragile champions.
Finding the right friends
But just knowing how to use Cassiopeia's abilities isn't enough to be competitive in LoL. Finding champions to ally with is just as important as tweaking your build. Laning with a champion that has crowd controlling abilities that complement your own is always important. Nowadays, the best lane partner for Cassiopeia is Karthas. Karthas can slow down your enemies and assist in bursting them down with you while they're crawling.
Ranged and crowd control-specialist caster champions have a particular synergy with Cassiopeia, so try to lane with them whenever possible. If that's not an option, be sure to opt for the champion with a slowing effect like Nunu. Another thing to keep in mind: other champions' poison effects will combo with her Twin Fang ability, so Teemo and Singed make great allies as well.
What to buy
Playing as Cassiopeia, I prefer starting the game with the Ruby Crystal; not only does it make you a tougher target, but it also leads into your next item: Catalyst of the Protector. It is important when buying items to always have your endgame items in mind. In this case, Ruby Crystal leads directly into your Catalyst of the Protector which will eventually make a Rod of Ages. Building items like Rod of Ages is crucial for Cassiopeia because it has stats that you can never have enough of (Health and ability power).
These are the items you should be looking to buy asap:
- Ruby crystal: +180 health
- Boots of speed: Enhanced movement speed 1
- Catalyst of the protector: +290 health and +325 mana. Passively restores 300 health and 250 mana when your champion levels up
Focus on last hitting the enemy minions to boost your income. When you go back to base next, pick up Boots of Speed and upgrade your Ruby Crystal to a Catalyst of the Protector. Be sure to go back during the next few minutes when you can afford to upgrade your boots to Sorcerer's Shoes.
When the late game begins, you should already have a Rod of Ages pumping out the beautiful additional mana, health, and ability power every minute and should be well on your way or already have a Rylai's Crystal Scepter. Also, I would recommend picking up a Mejai's Soulstealer, since you will gain plenty of stacks due to the AoE nature of Cassiopeia's abilities.
After you've reached endgame and purchased those items, your next step depends on how the match is going. If you're facerolling the enemy, grab Rabadon's Deathcap for more damage to end the match quicker. But if you're facing some serious resistance, go for the Zhonya's Hourglass for additional survivability.
This is Cassiopeia's end game inventory. Ideally, you should shoot for these items every game:
- Sorcerer's shoes: +20 magic penetration and enhanced movement speed 2
- Rylai's crystal scepter: +500 health and +80 ability power. Spells slow enemies for 1.5 seconds
- Rod of ages: +450 health, +525 mana, and +60 ability power. Passively increases health, mana, and ability power every minute)
- Mejai's soulstealer: +20 ability power and grants stacks that increase ability power when you kill champions. At 20 stacks, all cooldowns reduced by 15%
- Rabadon's deathcap: +155 ability power and increases total ability power by 30%
- Zhonya's hourglass: +100 ability power and +50 armor. On use, makes your champion invulnerable to enemy spells and attacks for two seconds, but prevents you from taking actions
If you can dodge a snake, you can dodge a ball
If you find yourself laning against Cassi, you're in for some pain. Before the January 4th, 2011 18.104.22.168 patch, Cassiopeia was a snake that only Indiana Jones would fear (and even then, more of a distaste than actual fear), but now she's more dangerous than ever. Her biggest weaknesses are her reliance on non-targetable abilities (such as Noxious Blast) and her low defenses.
The biggest tip I can offer when facing this champion is to keep moving and dodge her abilities. Since she only has one ability that can directly target a champion, she relies on being able to anticipate her enemies' movement. If you're close to her and moving compulsively, it's extremely difficult for Cassiopeia to land her abilities.
Another important thing to remember is that although she possesses weak defenses, you have to catch her to hit her. I recommend engaging her with a stunning or slowing ability, and while she's disabled, unload everything you've got on her before she pops her movement speed buff and slithers away. Champions such as Pantheon, Mundo and Rammus are great at causing Cassiopeia grief.
“How do you really feel?”
After Cassiopeia was released, I was disappointed in her lackluster performance. But playing Cassiopeia after the latest patch that tweaked her abilities, it's an entirely different story. I often find myself unwittingly cackling at some of the stuff I can do with her now.
I love caster champions, and enjoyed the first couple of months in beta almost exclusively as Annie. Currently, I love playing champions like Veigar and Malzahar. Cassiopeia is a welcome addition to my caster champion arsenal. Not only is she a Noxious Blast to play, but she's got two swanky skins: a Wild West rattlesnake and a sea serpent siren. Both skins look fantastic and will ultimately come down a decision of individual taste.
If you're looking for a caster to play, and enjoy dealing sustained damage, I'm pleased to report--now that Cassi's in the balanced state she'll likely remain at for the long-term--that this snake charmer might just be the champion for you. If you tried her out at first and she felt a bit weak, I hope our guide will help you jump back in and test out the new Cassiopeia! Now get out there and vomit some acid on people.