Jhin's assembling his gun and orchestrating his grand entrance onto the Rift. He's meticulous and calculating - League's slowest marksman yet. But when the murderous artist gets you in his sights, when he catches you off-guard, there's not much that'll save you from an inevitable, perfect death.
Jhin's gun - Whisper - chambers four shots, the last of which always crits and applies extra damage based on a portion of his target's missing health. After firing all four shots, Jhin takes a moment to reload.
Jhin's crits deal less damage than normal, and his attack speed doesn't actually scale with attack speed. Instead, Jhin gains attack damage from any attack speed and crit chance he earns through itemization and runes, while crits give him a burst of movement based on his attack speed.
Jhin throws a canister at a nearby targeted enemy. After landing, the canister bounces up to four times on other nearby enemies. Killing an enemy with Dancing Grenade causes the following bounces to deal extra damage.
Passive: Enemy champions that have been struck by Jhin's basic attacks, Captive Audience, or any allied damage are marked for a few seconds.
Active: Jhin fires a massively long range shot that damages all enemy minions and the first enemy champion in a target direction. If the enemy champion he strikes has already been marked, they're briefly rooted, while Jhin himself gains a burst of movement speed.
Jhin places a trap on the ground that turns invisible after arming. Enemy champions that walk over the trap trigger it, revealing and marking them with Deadly Flourish and creating a large slowing zone. After a brief pause, the trap detonates, damaging all enemies inside its explosion.
Jhin fully assembles his weapon before taking aim in a target direction, revealing all marked targets in a huge area. He can then fire four rounds that stop at the first enemy champion struck, slowing them and dealing damage based on their missing health. Jhin's fourth and final shot with Curtain Call deals massively increased damage and is guaranteed to crit.
Jhin's a different kind of marksman. While most look to whittle their opponents down with a constant barrage of sapping attacks, Jhin's fastidious to the extreme, and thrives when he handpicks his opportunities to strike. In lane, he's best off saving his valuable bullets for last-hitting, keeping track of his ammo count and looking for moments when he can expend his fourth bullet - his deadliest - on his lane opponent. Jhin's basic attack range is distinctly average at best, making him relatively easy to harass in lane. That's where the Virtuoso can turn to Dancing Grenade, using the bouncing canister to secure last hits from relative safety, and even apply effective harassment if his opponents stick too close to their minion waves.
Still, Jhin's low attack speed will often see him pushed under tower, and having to fire off his shots to last hit instead of harass. Here's the thing, though: when Jhin correctly plans for this, when he places a few of his Captive Audience traps as he falls back, he'll be perfectly placed to call on his jungler and slowly close the noose around his hapless opponents' necks. As the gank starts, Jhin and his allies work best initiating the attack and corralling their targets towards their pre-set traps. Once they trigger, Jhin can follow up immediately with Deadly Flourish, damaging his target and rooting them inside the trap's slow zone as it ticks down toward zero. The explosion, which they're now guaranteed to be caught inside, chunks them down further, setting the stage for Jhin's fourth and final bullet. They'll die, one way or another.
Traps being traps, they also make perfect defensive cover for Jhin when he decides to aim his iron sights at his enemies and get aggressive. While these opportunities are rare, a fortuitous crit against a weakened enemy doesn't just give Jhin the chance to kill his target, but also the means to chase. Jhin excels here, following up on enemy marks with Deadly Flourish to root his target as he blows them away with basic attacks. Overextending generally attracts enemy junglers, of course, but if Jhin manages to pull the trigger on his fourth and final shot, the guaranteed crit (and therefore guaranteed speed boost) should help him speed away as his would-be killer slogs through the Virtuoso's traps.
Once he's set up, Jhin's great at objective control, thanks in part to his traps. By placing Captive Audience traps on the enemy team's easiest path to Dragon, Jhin earns his team advance notice of any impending arrivals, and can temporarily root marked enemy junglers with Deadly Flourish. Even if they continue their advance, Jhin can throw in a Dancing Grenade to apply damage to grouped enemies before carefully picking off his targets with basic attacks. He's poor at securing objectives himself - his slow attack speed alone sees to that - but he gives his team a huge boost toward securing objectives when he plans out and prepares for the fight in the areas around them.
Then there's Jhin's ultimate. Curtain Call gives Jhin and his team huge leverage over objectives when the Virtuoso is able to set up and prepare his sniper nest. The ability has huge range, but only within a set angle, giving Jhin a few key considerations to think about as he searches for his grassy knoll. Set up too close and he'll make an easy target for enemy assassins; too far and he'll render himself irrelevant after he's spent his ult; set up poorly and he'll risk losing sight of the battle as it shifts around. Get his position just right and Jhin will wreak havoc from afar before moving in to finish the fight up close.
Jhin has two viable strategies in teamfights: either appear at the start of the battle, or at the end. If he chooses to stick with his team, he takes up a traditional backline position, setting up traps to protect his fellow squishes while aiming Deadly Flourish at marked targets. Dancing Grenade only adds to the carnage, and when the enemy team starts to flee, Jhin's perfectly positioned to fully assemble Whisper and cut the remaining enemies down with Curtain Call.
Alternatively, Jhin can choose to set the stage early by firing off his ultfirst. This makes him an unusual character in a teamfight because he won't actually be seen, at least initially. And while enemy teams might first revel in the apparently lopsided fight, they'll quickly realize that the Virtuoso's absence is deliberate. Jhin's presence may not be felt, but his bullets absolutely will. Curtain Call deals less damage to high health enemies, but the ability's slow will hinder enemy frontliners from getting to where they want to be, and stop vulnerable enemies from squirming away from Jhin's damage dealing allies. More importantly, Curtain Call will start to pin Jhin's enemies down, forcing them to hide behind their tankier allies or run for cover. And even when his ult's spent, Jhin can contribute to fights, locking down marked targets with Deadly Flourish so his allies can clean up the fight and push on toward victory.
Darius and Jhin make for an unusual combination. While most marksmen deal more damage than juggernauts, Darius is such an oppressive force that Jhin can actually complement his strengths by simply pinning targets down with Deadly Flourish and Curtain Call while Darius does... well, what Darius does. Which is dunk.
Concentrating Jhin's power into four deadly bullets means that champions that can negate one or two of said bullets will effectively halve the Virtuoso's short term damage output. Enter Yasuo, who will happily Wind Wall Jhin's basic attacks away before cutting him down under a flurry of steel.
One of League's crowd control supertanks, Nautilus has enough snares, knock-ups, pulls, and slows to stop multiple enemies from reaching Jhin. This helps keep the Virtuoso alive, obviously, but more importantly, encourages him to get closer than he'd otherwise be comfortable and do some serious damage with his basic attacks.
Four bullets are enough to take down plenty of targets, but not J4, who'll happily flag n drag his way over to Jhin before laying into him inside Cataclysm. All while shouting 'Demacia' really loudly, of course.
Morgana's super strong alongside Jhin because she has plenty of reliable ways to mark his enemies. The dream is Dark Binding into Deadly Flourish, obviously, which wrecks most enemies, but even if Morgana tags her enemy with Tormented Shadow, Jhin will still have opportunities to fire off his W and snare his enemy for a few moments, which in turn sets up a perfect Dark Binding opportunity.
Lucian makes for a pretty hefty thorn in Jhin's side. Not only is he mobile enough to dodge most of Jhin's abilities with Relentless Pursuit, he also packs plenty of burst. So, while Jhin's forced to rely on his basic attacks to deal reliable but slow damage, Lucian can tag the Virtuoso with Ardent Blaze before rushing in to apply the hurt with Piercing Light. This is not Jhin's favorite gun show.
Our initial goal was pretty clear: we wanted to deliver on a sniping fantasy that was notably different from Caitlyn's long range gunning. If anything, her fast rate of fire and unlimited ammo aligns her closer to a semiautomatic rifle-wielding gunner, whereas we wanted to really explore what it felt like to use an old fashioned, bolt-action sniper rifle. We aimed for a champion who had slow and impactful shots, who could express skill through their long-range snipes, and who'd apply pressure with their shots even if they missed. One way or another, every shot would count.
Early sketches focused on a mysterious robot cowboy bounty hunting sniper - not the easiest elevator pitch - but the concept quickly hit the proverbial icebox as we focused on other further developed concepts. A couple of champs progressed from concept into production, in fact, while our sniper chilled out in his icebox, including a certain death-centric duo. After we figured out Kindred's theme, we felt that a bounty system was a better fit for them, so pulled the mechanic from the sniper. Without the bounty hunting, we were still left with a mysterious robot cowboy sniper - still a cool idea, and still something we wanted to explore. So we came back, set on executing this long-range sniping fantasy. Initially, we just gave him a sniper rifle, but the range and speed still felt too close to Caitlyn, so we started thinking of ways to differentiate him. We eventually settled on the concept of a constructible weapon, something that looked like a short-range sidearm for basic attacks, but that could be assembled for long-range sniping with his abilities. The idea stuck, so August started looking at ways to necessitate planning and execution, emphasizing carefully timed and placed shots as opposed to your average marksman's attack speed-fueled barrage of withering basic attacks. As we started discussing the concept internally, we quickly realized that the term 'sniper' felt wrong - there was just too much overlap with Caitlyn, and the term implied that everything he did would be at supreme range - so we started thinking about a better development term for the character.
The term 'Deadeye' fit perfectly, encompassing aspects of a long range killer without the excess baggage that came with the sniper term. August started diving into this Every Shot Counts idea, and implemented an ammo system for his basic attacks. Meanwhile, Deadly Flourish quickly turned into the longest range basic ability in the game, but would be most effective when his allies had already marked his target. This was our attempt to bring the feeling of spotting - where others call out targets for their sniper to shoot - to League! What's more, Deadly Flourish, along with Curtain Call, tied into the sniping fantasy much better, because they cover huge range, but most importantly, can miss. This added a ton of skill into the abilities, of course, and would mentally affect Deadeye's target even if he didn't land his shot. You've seen movies where soldiers run for cover after a sniper takes his first shot, and that was a heavy inspiration for the feel we wanted to convey with Deadeye.
Massive range meant that Deadeye needed to set up his sniping nest too, which became a really important part of his gameplay as we started testing his kit. Deadeye had to think about where he could be most effective, and while enemy teams would start piling in thinking they were on the better end of a 4v5, they quickly learned their lesson and started asking themselves that single, fear-laced question: "Where's the sniper?"
Four is the magic number
August fixed Deadeye's ammo count to four - the low number meant that every shot count, and meant we could ramp up the damage so that, well, every shot hurt, too - and we liked the idea of the fourth shot being the deadliest from a mechanics perspective. But why would Deadeye save his most powerful shot for last? We started looking at his character, and actively turned the number four into a common repeating motif for him. Deadeye doesn't want to just kill you - he wants to kill you perfectly by slowly building up to a sublime death. Odin started thinking of Deadeye as an artist, and built in references to music - specifically opera - in his voice lines and personality. We doubled down and repeated four as a key number in his kit, with four bounces on his grenades, and four Curtain Call shots. We found that this actually echoes well with our own world, where the word 'four' sounds like the word 'death' in Chinese, and is, because of that, a deeply feared and unlucky number in many parts of Asia. It was perfect for Deadeye.
It's all in the eyes
His theme and mechanics were taking shape, so we started experimenting with Deadeye's visuals. We were still trying ideas around this robot cowboy look, but wanted to see how different factions around Runeterra would shape Deadeye's appearance. We tried out some Zaun designs, gave Deadeye a mask and made his gender ambiguous. Next we wanted to try adding some unsettling asymmetry to his shape. Larry drew up a few silhouettes, and one really grabbed the team:
Why the hump? What was that thing? It formed a strong point of curiosity for us that we loved, alongside the constructible gun. Next Larry drew up some animation studies, and we saw what the hump actually was - part of his weapon - and how he moved. Stakeholders were instantly on board, so we iterated further, turning Deadeye into a Darkin, then a woman. Next we tried Ionia, and immediately found traction with their ornate architecture and form over function design ethos. Settling there, we elongated his body and turned his mask into a real intricate work of art. We steered away from robotics because it lacked the elegance that Deadeye's character was fast developing, and didn't click with his burgeoning feel. In fact, we knew the character was turning into a pretty nasty killer, but in order for him to be truly terrifying, we wanted him to look approachable. Deadeye needed to appear human, appear normal, only to realize as you drew closer that something was off. Really off. We came to call this 'The Lie'.
Odin continued refining Deadeye - now named Jhin - into a monster. But not the Rek'Sai-style rip-your-head-off-and-eat-your-heart kind of monster. We wanted Jhin to be a real psychopathic killer, someone who you could interact with, but who wasn't all there. He seems to be smiling, but he's not: that's just his mask. Jhin searches for a justification for doing what he does, and similar to Dexter, Deadeye might appear normal, but is a true monster inside, hellbent on his art and giving his victims the perfect death.
Butterflies and Roses
We were on the home stretch. We took a look at Jhin's weapons, and aimed specifically at creating magical guns rather than strictly ballistic weapons. Hammering home his artistic aspirations, we looked at Jhin's rifle, and added a fountain pen-like nib to its barrel. Finally, we applied a color pass to him, and decided to give him bright, lively shades that emphasized his peacocking. His main three shades - purple, white, and gold - directly reference Roman emperors, so while Jhin's very much equipped to kill, he's also dressed to impress.
Finally, and this isn't normally something we reference in these articles, but that original robot cowboy concept did actually make its way onto the Rift. It's his launch skin - High Noon Jhin - a nice little hat-tip to the original concept that created the Virtuoso.