[Version 1: Initial draft of concept + ideas]
Discussions in C&G board and personal experience, along with statistics as seen on sites like Champion.GG agree: Karma is not in a good state.
The current Karma, after a relaunch and mini-reworks, has lost a large majority of her identity and has a kit that only works 'with' itself by virtue of necessity. Synergy between her W tether and E is not 'E helps landing W' so much as 'W requires E'. Synergy between the bulk of the RQ damage is not aided by her W rooting a target, a root is _required_.
That's not healthy, as it forces predictability and removes the options from the Karma player. The burden of skill is more on the opponents (not knowing Karma's kit well enough) than on the actions of the Karma player.
Karma's capabilities come in three parts, all of which have flaws:
_Poke/Damage_: Q and RQ deliver poke at 260+60% and an additional 175+30% and potentially 350+60%. However, the projectile is _slow_ and while the combined theoretical damage is high, it is mathematically impossible to land RQ on an enemy not suffering additional CC (more later). Karma's full damage combo is a paltry 1045+240% AP, far behind other mages with equal or better utility.
_Defense_: Karma has E/RE and W/RW for protection purposes, but in a non-selfish role these are insufficient due to the non-hard CC that W delivers, and the delay in doing so. This leaves healing (RW) and shield/speedboost (E, RE) for protective use - but she must choose between RW for a more significant (although still not 'hard') CC which heals only herself, and leaving a single target shield the only tool to compensate for this delay, or RE for an AOE shield (weaker on secondary targets) and a delayed root on W with no heal, which is likely to not be sufficient.
_General Utility_: Karma has RE to provide AOE shielding and a speed buff to the entire team. However, this speed buff lasts only 1.5 seconds, limiting its viability as a Talisman or Sivir ult alternative. Used offensively, the shield may be worn off before it mitigates damage, limiting the options for Karma to support her allies due to the fact that Mantra does not ignore OR reset cooldowns unlike other 'empowerments' e.g. Rengar. Karma has weak damage and only a delayed root to fall back on after attempting her 'utility' option.
Overall, Karma has "options" but is still ultimately inflexible. She has the option of focussing her strength to a single path of the three previously stated depending on her Mantra decision, but despite not having access to all options at once, her decision still does not allow her to match other champions in the chosen area. RE is weaker than a Sivir ult for its mobility provision. RW only marginally roots for longer than Morgana Q does, and requires Karma to be in danger for 2 seconds. RQ is... well, 525+90% AP sounds good on paper, but the rest of Karma's kit doesn't make up for the 3 second delay required.
Let's look at that:
RQ = Q + 175+30% + 1.5 seconds delay ->350+60%.
RQ leaves a slow field of radius 250, delays its second damage by 1.5 seconds, and slows targets by 50%.
Movement speed is units per second, so we can calculate the required MS to always escape the area thus:
250 (range to cover) / 1.5 (delay seconds) / 0.5 (50% slow) = 333.33MS.
Most base MS is at that level. Add any boot or mastery/rune/other item enhancement and nobody is caught.
I'll keep the kit concept, specific effects and numbers all separate. Numbers are largely arbitrary and totally subject to change, effects are ones I considered nice to have but still might be altered to some point.
I've tried to maintain close ties with the current kit to reduce the potential for "old karma's skillset was better" to become "new-old karma's skillset was better" as well as "old-old...". In addition, some of my 'effect' ideas are intended to bring back the "old Karma" feel while retaining the "new Karma" usability.
The fundamentals of the kit proposed are as follows:
+ Karma once again has __6 ranks__ in her basic abilities.
+ Karma once again has a maximum of __2 charges of Mantra stored__.
+ Karma's abilities may be enhanced __one or two times__ with stored Mantra charges to add and enhance effects.
+ BALANCE (1 Mantra) - Karma casts a spell that has an additional, polar opposite effect.
+ ENLIGHTENMENT (2 Mantra) - Karma casts an Enlightened spell that drastically improves the strength of the normal (and?) Balance effects.
Balancing the 'double Mantra' case is reliant upon the need to stack both charges to achieve the powerful effect, while one-Mantra choices are still relevant.
Passive: __HEART AND MIND__ - When Karma casts a Mantra empowered spell, all additional effects will act as if it was cast at the rank of her current highest rank ability.
_Inspired by the "Heart and mind as one" movement quote, this allows your in-the-moment decisions (the heart, or actions you know you need __right now__) to be as effective despite your skill order (the mind, or planned power progression). I'm not totally sure about this being the only passive effect - no effect at max level generally sucks (hi Zilean). Possibly allows an off-CD cast with Enlightenment?_
Q: __INNER FLAME__ - Karma casts a projectile skillshot which explodes upon colliding with an enemy, dealing damage and slowing in the radius.
RQ: __CLEANSING FLAME (Balance)__ - Inner Flame explodes upon collision with an enemy or at the end of its range, healing allies in the same radius.
RRQ: __SOULFLARE (Enlightenment)__ - The damage and healing of Inner/Cleansing Flame are increased by an amount depending on missing health, and a zone is left on the ground at the point of explosion (or under the target on direct collision) that explodes for additional, significant flat damage/healing after a short delay.
_Bring the duality of old Heavenly Wave back: Ally healing! Retains the current enhanced damage property on an Enlightened cast._
_Alternative: RRQ involves a hard CC of some sort._
W: __FOCUSED RESOLVE__ - Karma tethers to an enemy or jungle monster, dealing damage over time and rooting the target after a delay.
RW: __DETERMINED RESOLVE (Balance)__ - Focused Resolve now reduces the damage dealt by its target and slows for its duration.
RRW: __SPIRIT BOND (Enlightenment)__ - The tether slow is enhanced, and it now applies its slow to all enemies who touch it, as well as speeding up allies who touch it by the same amount. Damage is increased and the target is __stunned__ at the end of the duration instead of rooted.
_Dying while waiting for W root is a very real problem for Karma. The damage-dealt reduction will help with this. Might be a bit weak compared to current RW though._
_Old Spirit Bond had the problem of 'burden of knowledge'. New RRW has that as a bonus effect but doesn't rely on it, as the target is now hard CC'd and Karma gets better damage out of the deal._
E: __INSPIRE__ - Karma shields a target and grants them a short increase in movement speed.
RE: __DEFIANCE (Balance)__ - Inspire now explodes around the target, dealing damage to all enemies in the area.
RRE: __RALLY (Enlightenment)__ - Shield on target is increased and this increase value is now granted along with an enhanced movement speed bonus to all allied targets in the area. Defiance damage dealt to enemies is increased.
_Also identifies Karma as the 'spiritual leader' she is by rallying her allies (Fervor would have worked but Kayle already has it). Passive ensures this shield is agnostic of skill order, an important factor which was lost between reworks._
R: __MANTRA__ - Karma prepares an empowered form of her next spell. Empowerment and stored charges stack up to 2 times. A single Mantra creates Balance, giving a spell power of the opposite form (e.g. Offense into defense). Casting both Mantra causes Karma to reach Enlightenment, granting her transcendental power in her next spell, adding the Balance effect and enhancing both initial and additional effects.
Karma learns Mantra at level one and does not need to increase the rank of this spell.
Spell damage and basic attacks reduce Mantra's cooldown.
__VERY subject to change.__ Bear in mind that Karma needs a double-Mantra to reach her peak potential, but I've brought back the 'ult feel' by increasing the time requirment for a double-Mantra stack accordingly.
I've aimed for a damage power level somewhat on par with Lux/Morgana/Orianna, as these are all 'mages' with a little bonus support in the kit in the form of 'a shield' and 'cc'.
Q: 80 / 120 / 160 / 200 / 240 / 280 + 60% AP (Damage)
RQ: 60 / 90 / 120 / 150 / 180 / 240 + 45% AP (Healing)
RRQ: 15% Missing Health (initial), after the delay 100 / 160 / 220 / 280 / 340 / 400 + 90% AP Damage, 80 / 120 / 160 / 200 / 240 / 280+60% AP healing
_Keep the delay, but add reward to that combo instead of staying mediocre. I'd like to see some slight missile speed increase for the Q projectile too._
W: 90 / 140 / 190 / 240 / 290 / 340 + 90% AP over 2 seconds, roots for 1 / 1.25 / 1.5 / 1.75 / 2 / 2.25 seconds after the delay
RW: 20% damage reduction, 25% slow
RRW: +90 / 140 / 190 / 240 / 290 / 340 + 90% AP damage, stuns target at end. "Crossing the beam" slow/speedup by 40%.
_Sacrifices the missing-health damage output of RRQ to add the hard CC and beam utility. Maybe add back damage to enemies crossing it?_
E: 80 / 110 / 140 / 170 / 200 / 230 + 60% AP shield, 40 / 45 / 50 / 55 / 60 / 65 % MS bonus for 1.5 seconds.
RE: 80 / 110 / 140 / 170 / 200 / 230 + 60% AP damage.
RRE: + 60 / 100 / 140 / 180 / 220 / 240 + 60% AP AOE shield, + 50 / 75 / 100 / 125 / 150 / 175 + 45% AP Damage. 65% MS bonus at all ranks, increased to 2 second duration.
R: (Current cooldown values?)
Spell hits reduce Mantra's cooldown by 2/2.5/3 seconds (levels 1/7/13). Autoattacks reduce Mantra's cooldown by 1/1.5/2 seconds.
These values are halved to 1/1.25/1.5 seconds and 0.5/0.75/1 seconds respectively if Karma currently has a Mantra charge available (stored or cast R but not used).
Damage is pretty par among Enlightenment combos:
RRQ + W = 680+340 = 1020 + 240% AP (plus 15% missing health and healing)
RRW + Q = 780+280 = 1060 + 240% AP (but adds the utility/hard CC)
RRE + Q + W = 280+340+405 = 1025 + 255% AP (only slight scaling increase, but more 'reliable', and helps team come and pick up the difference).
RE + Q + W is a softer damage combo of 850+210% damage but leaves a Mantra open for other things (in a two-mantra situation).
Respectable damage is metered out by the fact that if you aren't going in with an RW or RQ as well, you lack defenses to stick around for a full W and you have to get in range _before_ casting RE, so you can't use the speed buff for that.
The reduction in 'free CD' when one Mantra is available stops Karma having full Enlightenment available too often.
That's all for now. Comment away and I'll probably edit for tweaks based on feedback (that isn't just "omg no op").