Tahm Kench, the River King, is the ultimate defensive support in League of Legends. With a 49.19% win rate and a 1.59 pick rate in Solo Queue, he’s definitely not the be all end all solution to your bot lane problems, but he can be absolutely massive in the right circumstances. Let’s see when you should pick him, and how you can use Kench to carry more games!
Passive: An Acquired Taste
Tahm Kench’s auto attacks and damaging spells apply stacks of Acquired Taste for 5 seconds, dealing damage equal to a small percentage of target’s maximum health. Acquired Taste stacks up to 3 times and decays once every 0.5 seconds after it reaches its full duration. Tongue Lash [Q] and Devour [W] gain additional effects against enemies with 3 stacks.
How to use: On its own, Acquired Taste is fairly underwhelming. Sure, it’s nice to have some extra damage, but in the end, it doesn’t amount to much against most bottom lane champions. However, its synergy with Tongue Lash and Devour means you want to get 3 stacks on a priority target as soon as possible.
Q: Tongue Lash
After a short delay, Tahm Kench extends his tongue in the target direction, dealing damage to the first enemy it hits and slowing them for 2 seconds. If Tahm Kench casts Devour [W] during Tongue Lash, the second ability doesn’t cost any mana, and it can consume minions and non-epic monsters from a distance.
An Acquired Taste: Instead of slowing, Tongue Lash stuns the target enemy for 1.5 seconds.
How to Use: Tongue Lash is a great poking spell that deals a surprising amount of damage. Landing it on a squishy laner applies a long slow, which lets you walk up and stack up your passive with Qs and auto attacks. From then on, you can use Tongue Lash as a stun or cast Devour to finish off your target.
Tahm Kench swallows an enemy non-champion or an allied champion, making them untargetable and unable to perform any actions for up to 6 seconds at max rank. When Tahm Kench has an allied champion in his belly, his movement speed is increased. This bonus is doubled when moving towards enemy champions.
An Acquired Taste: Tahm Kench swallows the target enemy champion for half the duration, consuming their Acquired Taste stacks and slowing himself by 95%. In the meantime, the enemy champion is suppressed and untargetable.
After 1 second, Tahm Kench can spit out his target. Enemies also receive a huge amount of magic damage based on their maximum health. If Tahm Kench spits out a minion or a monster, they travel a longer distance, dealing AoE magic damage around the first enemy hit.
How to Use: Devour is one of the most versatile abilities in the game, and it’s also the main reason why Tahm Kench is picked. It has a ton of potential uses, and the most obvious one is saving your allies. Devouring a champion makes them untargetable, meaning you can protect teammates from skill shots, point-and-click abilities, and even projectiles like turret shots or auto attacks.
Combine that with the fact that you gain a sizeable movement speed boost after Devouring a teammate, and it’s easy to get out of harm’s way even in the stickiest situations. Of course, if you’re one second too late or one second too early, you can throw the entire fight. But mastering the Devour timing is one of the most challenging aspects of playing Tahm Kench.
Then there are offensive uses. Consuming a minion and spitting it in the face of one of the enemy laners does a lot in terms of damage. But generally, you don’t want to be using Devour this way since it costs quite a bit of mana, and the long cooldown leaves you vulnerable to the enemy initiation. Only cast Devour on minions if you’ve already pushed the enemy duo under its turret or if you need to finish off a runner.
The Acquired Taste version of the ability is more interesting. Not only does it deal a ridiculous amount of damage (up to 32% of target’s maximum health at max rank), but it also leaves no room for outplay. Of course, you’re quite slow during this time, but if you mix in a Flash, you can put an enemy carry right in the middle of your team.
E: Thick Skin
Passive: When Tahm Kench takes damage, he converts it into Grey Health. When he leaves combat, a portion of Grey Health (44% at max rank) is restored as hit points.
Active: Tahm Kench instantly converts his Grey Health into a shield. The shield slowly decays over 6 seconds.
How to use: Thick Skin means that every champion that wants to take you down has to get through two health bars. This makes you ridiculously tanky. Keep in mind that you don’t want to pop Thick Skin if you can avoid it because you’ll miss out on the health regen part of the ability. Cast the spell only when you absolutely have to.
R: Abyssal Voyage
Passive: Tahm Kench’s auto attacks, Tongue Lash [Q], and the second part of Devour [W] deal bonus magic damage.
Active: Tahm Kench channels for 6 seconds, highlighting the path to his intended destination. During this time, he opens his maw, and one of his allies can jump in to follow Tahm’s Abyssal Voyage. If an ally went in, Tahm Kench will automatically emerge at the target location after a brief delay. If not, he can recast the ability manually.
Taking damage during the channel interrupts Abyssal Voyage, putting it on a slightly reduced cooldown. If Tahm Kench has Devoured someone, this spell can’t be activated.
How to Use: The passive part of Tahm’s ultimate is simple enough, but its active is the real game-changer. Think of it as Twisted Fate’s Destiny that allows you to take a passenger for the ride. Picking the right time to cast Abyssal Voyage is one of the most complex—and rewarding—parts of playing Tahm Kench. If you time it well enough, you can get a ton of free kills and influence the entire map, but if you fail, you’ll end up teleporting to your death.
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R > Q > W > E
Tongue Lash [Q] is great for trading and poking in the laning phase, so it’s best to max it first. Put points into Devour [W] second to get more utility in the mid game. Finally, level up Thick Skin for that extra bit of tankiness and sustainability. Don’t forget to rank up Abyssal Voyage [R] whenever you can.
Tahm Kench Runes and Summoner Spells
Since Tahm Kench is a defensive support, he always wants to start with the Resolve tree. Pick Guardian as your keystone—other options aren’t nearly as easy to proc—and follow up with Font of Life for its synergy with Tongue Lash [Q]. Get Iron Skin and Second Wind to have an easier time in the laning phase.
Next, you want to branch out into the Inspiration path. The optimal choices here are Magical Footwear (more movement speed + free t1 boots) and Approach Velocity (better chance of saving CC’d teammates). However, runes like Celestial Body and Biscuit Delivery also have their merits, especially in tough matchups.
Tahm Kench doesn’t have any gap closers, so Flash pretty much has to be one of his summoner spells. In a similar fashion, you want to grab Exhaust to protect your carries. In the rare case you’re playing a favorable matchup, you can get Ignite to have some kill pressure.
Tahm Kench Build
1.) Face of the Mountain > Ninja Tabi > Ruby Sightstone > Locket of the Iron Solari > Knight’s Vow> Gargoyle Stoneplate
Tahm Kench is a tank in every sense of the word, and his core build reflects that. You want to start with Relic Shield and gradually build it up into the Face of the Mountain for the amazing combination of health, CDR, and a point-and-click shield. Ninja Tabi is perfect for mitigating damage from marksmen, the main tank busters in League of Legends. As for Ruby Sightstone, it’s the ideal choice due to its synergy with active items.
Grab Locket of the Iron Solari to provide an even bigger shield in those do-or-die moments. Knight’s Vow is a potent Kench item because you have a ton of health, so splitting some damage with your carries is no big deal. Finally, Gargoyle Stoneplate will turn you nigh unkillable for 4 seconds, which is exactly what you want in the late game.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t rush your final item if there are still neutral objectives on the map. Instead, save the slot for Control Wards. Securing vision control will open up many more opportunities than any item ever will.
Tahm Kench has a lot of situational items to consider. First, take a look at boots upgrades. Ninja Tabi is great and all, but it does nothing against AP damage and heavy crowd control, so purchase Mercury’s Treads if you’re having trouble with these. Meanwhile, Boots of Swiftness are incredible for navigating teamfights, and Boots of Mobility are the perfect fit for the roaming playstyle.
Eye of the Equinox is a viable (and cheaper) alternative Ruby Sightstone that provides an extra item slot. Fill it up with Redemption—the stats on it aren’t outstanding, but the active can easily turn a lost teamfight. Frozen Heart is a strong item against team comps with several auto attackers, and you can even buy Randuin’s Omen if you want to get tankier yourself.
Another item to consider is Righteous Glory. Sure, you’re not the best initiator, but when push comes to shove, you want to be able to reach priority targets, and Righteous Glory’s active is ideal for that.
Tahm Kench Playstyle
When to pick Tahm Kench?
Tahm Kench is the ultimate counter pick. You never want to blind-pick him without seeing at least a part of the enemy team comp, but once you spot an assassin or two, you’re good to go. Tahm also wants to be accompanied by a strong hypercarry and a potent initiator to make it easier to navigate through teamfights. Finally, don’t forget about lane matchups…
Tahm Kench Matchups and Counters
Tahm Kench loses lane to utility supports like Sona, Nami, Janna, and Lulu. Mages will have an easy time poking him out while tank supports like Braum and Taric will be able to match his utility. So are there any decent matchups at all then? Just one. Tahm Kench absolutely demolishes most initiators, and supports like Bard, Morgana, Thresh, and Leona will be hard-pressed to find an opening against the oversized frog.
Laning Phase and Early Game
Tahm Kench’s laning isn’t his forte. Still, that doesn’t mean that you have to stand behind your AD carry and become a Devour [W] bot. Instead, weave in and out of brushes and poke your enemies with Tongue Lash [Q]. Save your Relic Shield stacks for the second minion wave to instantly kill two melee minions and secure a level advantage.
At level 2, put a point into Devour and look to start a fight. If you manage to land your Q, you can build up Acquired Taste stacks and consume an enemy champion. Even if they’re healthy, you’ll deal a ton of damage, but if you’ve been diligent about poking, you can even force summoners or even secure a kill. Mix in Ignite on top of that, and most squishies are as good as dead.
Level 3 presents another powerspike because you now have access to Thick Skin [E]. Grey Health makes you far tankier than most supports, which means you and want to trade hit points as much as possible. Still, most of your trades will come down to connecting Tongue Lashes, and these things aren’t exactly easy to hit. If you’ve secured lane priority, feel free to Devour minions and throw them at the opposing bot lane for some extra damage, but don’t get carried away. You never want to get initiated on without having your W ready.
In a more likely scenario, you’ll be laning on the back foot. Devour will be invaluable here, so try to protect your AD carry from as many skill shots and auto attacks as you can. If you’re getting pushed in, and the enemy duo used its crowd control abilities, try to walk up and Devour a minion or connect a Tongue Lash to relieve some pressure.
Your level 6 isn’t that strong in the laning phase, but it opens up quite a few playmaking opportunities. Communicate with your AD carry or your jungler and try to set up a 3-man gank in another lane. If you pull it off, you can easily secure a kill and translate it into a turret or a neutral objective.
In the mid game, Tahm Kench is responsible for peeling. You should always be next to your carries to protect them from bruisers, assassins, and crowd control spells. When a teamfight breaks out, focus on using Devour [W] defensively while building up Acquired Taste stacks and peeling with Tongue Lash [Q] stuns. Thick Skin [E] will be great for keeping you in fights but don’t wait too long to activate it. Few things are as embarrassing as dying with an unused bar of Grey Health.
Remember that Tahm Kench has a few windows to ramp up aggression. Your main tool is Abyssal Voyage [R]. Most Solo Queue players won’t respect your ultimate, so you can easily catch them out in the river, especially if one of your allies follows you.
Devour also acts as a great playmaking ability. For one, you can spit out your allies over terrain, so you can throw your marksman over the wall or launch your jungler into the Dragon pit for a steal. In a similar fashion, you can Devour a person on the other side of a wall, which can be a real lifesaver.
In the late game, Tahm Kench thrives in prolonged teamfights. With the amount of defensive stats you’ve accumulated, you’ll easily survive in the middle of a 5v5 while building up Acquired Taste stacks and disrupting your enemies. An offensive Devour is a potent tank buster, and you can finish off a wounded Shen or a Cho’Gath if they don’t respect your passive.
Another area where Tahm Kench shines is rotations. Abyssal Voyage [R] presents a perfect opportunity to move around the map and blindside your opponents by securing objectives. The only thing left is to find the right time to use it.
Tahm Kench is a potent counter pick. You never want to be picking him blind, but when he finds a good matchup, Tahm can seamlessly carry the entire game. And if you devote time to mastering his abilities, Kench will be a very powerful pocket pick on your Solo Queue climb.
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