Kensei: Builds, Playstyle, and Discussion

“You will be reborn as a chicken.”

Welcome to the forum-built introduction to Kensei, part of our #guides series! If you’re new to Kensei and would like an overview, you’re in the right place! You’ll find builds, playstyle tips, and other resources by clicking the links below.

DISCUSSION: 4.2 | 4.7

If you’d like to contribute, please do! These posts are wikis that forum members can edit. Post your builds and playstyle tips! But don’t make it too detailed. The goal is a quick, easy-to-browse overview for players who are new to this hero. You may want to check out our other hero #guides for examples!

This thread is also for discussion, so feel free to reply with comments and questions about Kensei and the builds and tips posted here.

Kensei Builds

Duelist build (Meta) (:vgroles_carry_bot: (5v5) || :vgroles_carry: :vgroles_jungle: (3v3) — better jungler )

:vgitem_serpentmask: :vgitem_breakingpoint: :vgitem_bonesaw: :vgitem_halcyonchargers:

:vgitem_sorrowblade: :vgitem_spellsword: (choose 1)
:vgitem_aegis: :vgitem_slumberinghusk: :vgitem_celestialshroud: :vgitem_atlaspauldron: :vgitem_metaljacket: (1 or 2 — personal preference :vgitem_aegis: ). In 4.7 the most common build is with 2 defensive items instead of another offensive one.

Build description

Kensei is better at sustain, this build is designed to win duels thanks to his health barrier, which paired with serpent mask makes him really hard to kill, allowing him to stack BP. BP has great synergy with his kit, and the bonesaw provides AS and helps against high armour heroes like tanks or those carries who are are afraid of you, other AS items doesn’t work well since PS doesn’t stack with SM and TT is not good unless you paired with TM. SB and SSw are situational, you can build another defensive item instead if you need. In 4.6 :vgitem_journeyboots: : got nerfed, since then they are no longer useful enough to justify building them over :vgitem_halcyonchargers:, this means that you don’t need :vgitem_spellsword: to maintain your energy, that paired with how the meta changed, it’s better to build 2 defensive items.

added by @ VaKTaBi, update 4.7

High damage (non meta build) (:vgroles_carry_bot: (5v5) || :vgroles_carry: :vgroles_jungle: (3v3) — better jungler)

:vgitem_sorrowblade: :vgitem_halcyonchargers:

:vgitem_bonesaw: :vgitem_poisonedshiv: :vgitem_breakingpoint: (2 or 3)
:vgitem_serpentmask: :vgitem_spellsword: (1 of them unless you build 3 AS items)
:vgitem_aegis: :vgitem_slumberinghusk: :vgitem_celestialshroud: :vgitem_atlaspauldron: :vgitem_metaljacket: (1 or 2 — Personal preference :vgitem_aegis: )

Build description

This build is against squishy heroes who can be shutdown quick or if your playstyle is more aggressive. I prefer the PS and BS over BP, but if you build PS you can’t buy SM. The good part of this (without BP) us that it allows you to build more defense since you won’t loose too much damage compared with the build of SM BP BS (in which building a second defensive item means loosing too much damage — but sometimes is the only thing you can do)

4.7 changes:
With the last nerfs to :vgitem_journeyboots: they are no longer a good item in almost any build, it’s better to go :vgitem_halcyonchargers:.

added by @ VaKTaBi, update 4.7

add more builds here

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Kensei Playstyle Tips

Kensei 3v3 jungle and 5v5 botlane

Kensei 3v3 jungler

He can be played as laner too, but it’s better to play him in jungle since in lane the enemy laner can harass you really hard.

Earlygame: At the start of the match I always recommend building :vgitem_t1_weaponblade: and :vgitem_t1_bookofeulogies: if you are looking to build :vgitem_serpentmask: or :vgitem_t1_weaponblade: if you want to build the more aggressive build with :vgitem_sorrowblade:, but NEVER build :vgitem_t2_stormguardbanner: nor :vgitem_stormcrown: . Start putting a cam in you kraken bush so you can see if the enemy is gonna invade your jungle or no (they usually take the old treant and that’s all), then start with your big monsters, treant and then, if you are safe, go to your small monsters.
Build always :vgitem_t2_heavysteel: before :vgitem_t2_barbedneedle:.

Kensei is very weak in early, and any other jungler hero can defeat him in 1v1 so you should try to play safe and only rotate to lane if the enemy is pressuring, but just to help your laner to clear faster (do not steal their farm).

Midgame: Once you have your first t3 item you can star banking lane, and depending who is the enemy jungler, invading the enemy jungle, but you won’t be strong until you have 3 t3 items, so in midgame just be a little bit aggressive (if you can).

Lategame: once you have 3 t3 items you can start duel with almost every hero, so make sure you get some kills.
About when to build defense, I usually build it once I have :vgitem_serpentmask: :vgitem_breakingpoint: and :vgitem_t2_blazingsalvo: (always build :vgitem_t2_blazingsalvo: before building raw damage (:vgitem_t2_piercingspear:)), when basically you have enough AS to sustain during long teamfights.

For 3v3 lane, most 5v5 things can be applied, but one note: Range heroes can harass you more than a roam would do, so in certain situations, playing Kensei in lane is asking for a loose.

Botlane 5v5:

Early: Start, as in 3v3 jungler with :vgitem_t1_bookofeulogies: and :vgitem_t1_weaponblade:. Tray to play safe, that means that you should try to play under turret and don’t try to kill the enemy, the meta top laners are really strong. The main problem here is fighting roams who doesn’t rely on skillshots (Yates, Grace, Flicker…) or range heroes (Lorelai), but you shouldn’t be afraid of fighting against San Feng, since you can dodge easily his B with your A or, if you are at melee range, you have enough time to get on his back. When farming don’t use your A, it deals low damage, so better keep it in the case they try to gank you, if that happens, use your B with one minion and your A to your turret to scape from them.

Mid and lategame: You are Kensei, which means that if you get your second t3 item, you can defeat in 1v1 most tanks, so don’t be afraid of fighting them. In most cases you have more range than them , so you can “poke” them to test your damage.


  1. Try to engage without using any hability, and when I say engage I mean just poking the melee heroes, usually tanks, until you have a clear opportunity to kill the enemy laner, use your B frequently, so the enemy can’t be sure when will you use your C
  2. If you engage with your C, don’t use all of your A charges, the A can be used to avoid skillshots or, in combination with your B to slow the enemy or scape. Use your A primarily to chat them if they try to scape.
  3. Thanks to the low cooldowns, he doesn’t need to go straight forward the enemy laner, so you can combine your B and A to move around.
  4. If you are playing Kensei in lane, it’s very possible that you need to buy early t1 defense, to make sure you survive.
  5. The B + A combo allows Kensei to go through most walls, so use it to move around jungle.
added by @VaKTaBi, update 4.2

Dealing with Kensei


If he is played as laner you just need to poke, that means that with you play a sniper, you can just AA Kensei when he wants to last hit, so he will be loosing his health slowly but eventually he will die, if you try to gank him, then would happen what used to happen with lane Glaive, he will just use his B + A combo to scape.

If he is played as jungler, you should invade him all the time, is not hard, he can’t kill you, so you need to steal all his jungle monsters, no need of killing him, so if he scapes, don’t chase him, just farm, kill bounties only gives you gold when the enemy is ahead or have a killed several times your team.

In draft, you can play against him in lane everything, in jungle… everything, but there are some heroes that can be more effective than others: WP jungler: Grumpjaw, he can snowball almost everyone in jungle, and Kensei wont be able to kill him untin he gets his 3 or even 4 offensive item, so you have a ton of time to snowball; CP junglers: Koshka, Skye (who can deal with Kensei in any stage of the game exceot mid ─ if they are paired in gold). Some heroes that works really well against him: Malene, Lyra, Magnus (his directional stun doesnt allow Kensei to go straight forward you nor chase), Caine (with his low cooldown dash and his A he can keep the distance and deal a ton of damage to him), Kinetic (her B + A combo gives Kensei a hard time dealing with you), Baron with his burst potential (however depends on many things like build, positioning…), and Silvernail with his tripwires. Except Malene all those needs a team that can help them (Ardan does this pretty good). You can always use a CC comp to shut him down, Baptiste and, specially Ylva, are greats against dives, so Kensei will have a hard time dealing with you, but your team needs to abuse your CC and chain their own CC.


In 5v5 he can only be played as bot alner, so you need a top alner who can deal with him, some options are: Grumpjaw, Lorelai, Malene, Adagio… but only in the very early unles you build CP or WP, which is not usually the case; Yates, some warriors like Joule or Glaive, Blackfeather… You need to harass him (which is not hard) and poke as hard as you are able.

During teamfights your team needs to keep together and try not to give BP stacks for free (most tanks are not close anought to their laner so he can penalize Kensei if he attacks your tanks), poke comps does extremly well against Kensei, and Lyra is a great roam against him.

Some general tips:

  1. Assassins does, in general great against him, Reza can deal with him even in lategame if played well, and snowball him easily in early and midgame.
  2. Try to build :vgitem_atlaspauldron:, is more effective than building :vgitem_poisonedshiv:.
    Mages (or Skye) can build :vgitem_frostburn: to keep the distance, and it works really well against him.
  3. Bursty heroes are also great against Kensei (reason why Caine and Baron does well), so any hero who can abuse :vgitem_tensionbow: effectively can snowball and, potentially, win the match.
  4. In top Joule has an easy time against Kensei, however Kensei can change that in midgame in certain situations. In lategame Joule still beats Kensei.
added by @VaKTaBi, update 4.2

add more tips here

Other Kensei Resources

Concept Art
Voice Lines

Official Hero Spotlight:

Kensei is in a weird spot some people abuse him because a lot of people don’t know how to handle him , like I was playing a 5v5 ranked with t7 teammates and enemy Kensei was killing them and I thought it low tier problem , but hellsdevil in his stream banned Kensei because even high tier players don’t know either .

It took people a lot of time to realize how to fight saw , krul and reim , I hope people understand Kensei strength and how to counter him instead of feeding him and make the game worst .

Kensei can outplay most heroes, basically he only looses against high burst heroes and Skye, apart from those, how would you fight against Kensei?

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Thats just false. He isnt like Krul or Saw whuch you just need to know how to counter them. He is banned because he is strong, a good Kensei can hard carry almost everything given the opportunity. Its not that they dont know how to counter him.

Banned heroes can be banned because they are strong too, otherwise baron would had never been banned.

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I don’t see Kensei banned in streams , I think the way to fight is not 1v1 or 2v1 , you supposed to pick cc heroes and gank him constantly in 5v5 and make the ranged heroes fight him , the problem is people giving him stacks and make him 2 shot the carries , I mentioned saw , krul and reim , because they all abused their power because people lack the knowledge , don’t fight Kensei period , the more he kills people the more stronger he gets because less people going to fight him next , and the most noticeable things of his playstyle is diving the carries and that’s a big opportunity to kill him cc and burst down bye Kensei.

A good Kensei will disengage easily if you gank him, his playstyle is to make split pushing, so you need to stop him, and to do that you need to send someone to kill him, but he can win most 1v1 or even 2v1 duels.

When he engages is not easy to chain CC on him, since he will just attack your front line until your laner is vulnerable. He is not easy to counter thanks to his outplay potential, and saying people don’t know how to fight him is just wrong. There is no a real way of playing against Kensei, I mean, there is not a manual about how to do so like if he were SAW (like you use the AP, then chain CC and blah blah blah, there is nothing similar about Kensei)

The idea is you don’t need frontline , you supposed to keep the distance , if Kensei keep chasing he is going to die , so if the frontline has atlas and pulseweave and wartreads that’s enough to keep the distance and counter Kensei , I don’t see the point of fighting him , just like when I used to play the old reim people fighting me and saving me from dying because I keep getting my fortified health , the same for Kensei you keep giving him barrier and life steal , keep the distance and kill him.

Is harder to keep the distance against Kensei, compared with Reim.

Krul Saw Reim have weaknesses in their kits which makes them easy to counter, Kensei doesn’t have any weaknesses in his kit if anything his kit is broken by design. Kensei is only counterable cause of his weak early game but there isn’t an item or a hero that is considered a direct counter to him.

Try Skye, she works really well agains Kensei… in 1v1, because we all know that Skye in 5v5 sucks.

Skye is okay and she’s pretty good against kensei early to mid game, late game kensei still recks everything

Lategame Skye destroys Kensei, is in midgame when Kensei can beat Skye. At least in 3v3, but I’m talking about a 1v1 situations, so it shouldn’t matter in which map are you playing.

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What are your thoughts on Ylva’s kit mathing up vs Kensei? @VaKTaBi

I’m not saying Ylva beats Kensei, but I feel she’d be a viable pick against him.

She does only good agains Kensei if she can chain her CC with her team, in 1v1 Ylva just lacks of consistent damage, and Kensei can survive her burst, moreover, if Kensei blocks her ult she can’t do anything against him.

If you pick her with a good CC como sure, she is good against Kensei.

Yeah I’ve seen tony and YLVA giving Kensei hard time , I think tony with any burst damage hero can stop Kensei , and because of kensei playstyle when he mess up he runs so a lot of heroes can’t finish him , but I noticed kinetic and Caine are good at that , finishing disengaging enemies .

Like if they buff krul , reim and Rona , Kensei will drop to his assassin role , I don’t like heroes with the ability to hard carry teams , I used to hate Skye but being a meta in 3v3 is protecting the game mode from Kensei .

Krul, Reim and Rona has different uses, you can’t compare them. I don’t know why you hate so much Kensei, one of the few heroes who requieres skill…

Also, Kinetic and Cain fall against Kensei in 1v1, but if they are well protected Kensei can’t engage and kill them.

Iam not hating on Kensei , if they buff these heroes he can’t 1v1 everyone , Iam not saying kinetic and Cain 1v1 , Iam against 1v1 kensei or even 2v1 .