League of Legends’ Gwen Slices the Competition in Style

Imagine getting a line-up fade from The Hallowed Seamstress...

My brain still hasn’t registered that a new League of Legends character drops once every other month. That time has come again, however, and Gwen the Hallowed Seamstress is cutting it up on Summoner’s Rift.

Gwen is a fighter that hails from the Shadow Isles: a fallen kingdom of despair that Riot Games spent the first chunk of this year fleshing out narratively. It all started with January’s Ruination cinematic, starring everyone’s favourite ghoul slaying couple, Lucian and Senna, in an intense battle with Viego, the new emo boy champion. 

Riot has teased Viego for years. And now is a huge moment for the king that lost the love of his life and the corrupted isles surrounded by tears. A story-focused RPG called “Ruined King: A League of Legends Story” is also in development, which looks to be an even more in-depth dive into his broken heart, as well as the terror he caused in the absence of his wife. The Season 2021 livestream detailed that the three champions following Viego would also fit into this twisted storyline. Although many fans speculated the next champion would be Viego’s wife herself, Isolde, her doll Gwen is actually the first of the ruined kingdom rollout. Now what can this ghastly barber do?

Gwen Doll

Sew What Can She Do?

Gwen truly holds her own in the top lane, dashing in and snipping down even the tankiest enemies with percentage health damage. She usually goes for extended skirmishes — a playstyle that reminds me of Fiora or Samira, champions that thrive in longer fights. When played optimally, Gwen turns the rift into her own domain, able to kite, catch, and bait enemies with ease. She has all the elements for a deadly AP top or mid laner, and I can see her becoming a menace once more people master her sporadic style. Let’s dig into her abilities and see how effective this sewing kit really is.

Passive – Thousand Cuts

“Gwen’s basic attacks deal bonus on-hit magic damage based on a percentage of her enemies’ maximum health. Basic attacks against champions will heal her for some of the damage dealt.”

This passive is one of the core reasons Gwen can face beefier enemies. It’s such a great tool for trading. An ability power focused passive with percentage health scaling that also heals you feels like a gift from the gods in the island that is top lane. It’s not the strongest ability during the opening moments of a match, but it does more damage and returns more health the later the game goes.

Q – Snip Snip!

“Gwen rapidly snips her scissors between two and six times, dealing magic damage in a cone. At a minimum, Gwen will snip twice, adding one snip per basic attack Gwen has landed on an enemy (up to four for a total of six). Enemies in the center of each snip take true damage, as well as the bonus magic damage from Thousand Cuts.”

Gwen gets her rhythm from “Snip Snip!,” which generates stacks on auto-attacks. It forces her to play more aggressive, outputting a constant stream of hits in order to maximize damage. When I first played her, this felt oddly clunky, but when you find the flow and chain it with other abilities it becomes a fluid and effective way to deal huge chunks of true damage every few seconds. Snip Snip! also works well in skirmishes against more than one foe. It all just hinges on paying attention to your stacks. It’s extraordinarily fun to give enemies a true damage fade.

W – Hallowed Mist

“Gwen spins up the Hallowed Mist to surround her for five seconds, gaining some armor and magic resist when in it. Enemies outside the Mist cannot target Gwen or hit her with any abilities. The mist will move to follow Gwen the first time she tries to leave it, but will dissipate the next time.”

Hallowed Mist is one of Gwen’s quirkiest moves. Think Akali shroud meets Yasuo Wind Wall: an unreal saving grace when positioned properly. Although she’s still visible, it makes Gwen untouchable to any ability outside, which almost feels like cheating when it works. Needless to say I’m a fan of this one. Though it’s completely useless against most melee champs, and there are a whole lot of those in the top lane. 

E – Skip ’n Slash

“Gwen dashes a short distance and empowers her attacks with increased range, speed, and on-hit magic damage for four seconds. Attacking an enemy during this time refunds 50% of this ability’s cooldown.”

A dash designed for chasing, this move is incredibly satisfying to play with. Gwen’s agility stems from Skip ‘n Slash, and the extended attack range is notable, allowing you to stretch and snip foes that think they’re safe. Just remember that using this Champion’s E is the only time it’s  cool to run or dash with scissors.

R – Needlework

“Gwen can cast Needlework up to three times, but needs to hit an enemy within 8 seconds to unlock each subsequent cast. Each cast fires needles in a line that deal magic damage, slow enemies, and apply Gwen’s Thousand Cuts bonus magic damage.

The first cast will fire one needle, the second will fire three, and the final cast will fire five, for a total of nine needles and nine applications of Thousand Cuts to enemies hit.”

Honestly, this move is underwhelming… Every instance feels like it should do way more damage than it actually does. Right now I see players using this barrage of needles primarily for the slow during a teamfight, or to secure a chase in conjunction with Skip ‘n Slash. Not every move is a hit, but she carries a well-rounded set of abilities for a plethora of situations!

Threading the Needle

I found myself getting lost while reading the lore surrounding Gwen. While she’s emotionally tied to Viego’s lover, she despises the man and his objective. All her narrative actions are in direct opposition to his mist, and give a clear vision of what Gwen stands for. Overall there’s a sense of interconnectivity that makes it some of the most fascinating League character development in recent memory. It simultaneously ties loose narrative threads together and breathes life into a vague in-game region neglected in the past.

When you’ve been playing for years, League of Legends feels like a playground of endless battle on a map that (mostly) stays the same. The thrills you get come from the motley crew of characters; how they interact both mechanically and narratively are what fuels each match and causes people to log back in and queue, queue, queue. The recent focus on developing expansive, moody lore around the Shadow Isles and the people like Gwen who are inextricable from it, has been a refreshing direction to see League take. 

In the early 2010s, the original League narrative was playing catch-up with its cast of characters and abilities. Now, in the 2020s, the situation is reversed. The story is quite clearly defining the gameplay. It’s hard to play Gwen without thinking about the Shadow Isles’ plot. It adds purpose to her already eccentric kit of abilities and makes me excited to see what else pours out of the heart of a broken king. 

As the world of League continues to expand — now a multi-genre/media experience that is more than MOBA or esport — it seems to be figuring itself out while it grows at rapid pace. So many solid, yet easily missable short stories are doing the heavy lifting to round out the League of Legends universe, while enhancing its past, present, and future characters. The Shadow Isles narrative build-up, specifically Gwen’s addition to the champion pool, proves the best parts of modern League of Legends come from the writing.

[Both Riot Games and Fanbyte are owned by the same parent company, Tencent. We don’t often, like, chill together or anything, though. I think Riot’s office is pretty close to the L.A. office where our bosses work? That’s about it.]