Ages ago, there was nearly a champion named Rob Blackblade. Poor Rob didn't make it into the game, seeing as how, Riot admits, "he didn't keep with League's art style." I think this is fortunate for us, as 'The Dashing Rogue' was as bland as they come. His presence would've made League worse, IMO, and Riot dodged a bullet when they ditched him.
The niche remains though - that unfulfilled fantasy of the thief. No champion in League embodies this archetype, even though some come close. A quick Google search reveals that there is demand for a thief champion, if only for the sake of saying that League has a thief in her roster. The kits I see put forth though, aren't convincing. Many fall into the trap of turning their would-be thief into "just another assassin". You know what I'm talking about - one of these leather-clad, dual-wielding, gold-snatching, faceless DnD characters.
The potential is there though! Riot has all the pieces in place for a thief champion, all they need is nudge in the right direction.
An Honest Thief
Imoen is a Support-Marksman and a crafty thief. Wielding her magical key, she is capable of picking locks and opening doors from a distance, letting her travel unseen down dark and mysterious corridors. She can also spy on enemies from afar through special keyholes and steal potent spells en route to your allies or aimed at her. She is adept at hiding, capable of attacking without being revealed - although her attacks give away her position - and very lucky. Always seeking to have fun, she can find treasures deep in enemy territory, rewarding both her and her allies.
For Riot to do a thief in League any justice, they must NOT do the typical grim cut-purse or gutter-skulk stereotype that I mentioned earlier.
I began to think, "where in Runeterra would a legendary thief most likely come from?" The answer should be obvious: the Bilgewater. What better place for a thief than a land of pirates, outlaws, and con-men? With the setting in mind, her character evolved. Suddenly, the questionable act of stealing is somewhat moral - she steals from the thieves! But why does she steal? It's not for money, or even because she needs too, or because it's 'the right thing to do'. She does it for the challenge. It's fun for her. Like a child playing at make-believe.
It was then I realized that our thief champion was, in fact, a little girl. Older than Annie but younger than Ekko, she was this spunky, sarcastic, energetic waif living an almost care-free lifestyle in a place that is, by all accounts, not a very nice place to be.
Almost at the same time, I knew that she needed to wield a key as her weapon. It just makes sense doesn't it? What more useful tool could a thief have at his or her disposal than a key that could open any door, and unlock any container or seal? Unfortunately, that idea had already been done in the form a of blade.
But wait! What if, instead of using her key like a sword, she used it like a gun? So she became a Support / Marksman in my mind, and I attempted to give her abilities that suited her. I also tried to think of how she would look, and her silhouette in game. What I imagined was a little girl, with an oversized key-gun, and a cloak large enough for a grown man (perhaps alluding to a master-teacher-thief of hers?) that was bright and gaudy, a rainbow of colors. This use of contrasting elements - the idea of a 'sneaky' character who wore loud, bright clothing - rang true to me.
It also helped cement her personality, which is that of CeeCee, with a little bit of Jinx and Vi, with a touch of Pinkie Pie, and Mabel Pines. She's also reminiscent of Pippy Longstockings in many ways, and even Peter Pan.
She's this brazen little girl who is equal parts cutely naive and cruelly clever when she needs to be, but one of League's most light-hearted champions. Let me put it this way: if Braum is the champion who jovially jumps in front of that Morgana Q to save you, laughing it off with ease, this girl is the champion who jumps in front of Braum - stealing Morg's Q - just so she could see the look on their faces. To quote Riot (talking about Braum, who she shares a lot with) she is 'causally invincible... not a reckless disregard for person safety, but a complete non-acknowledgement that other things are threatening.' She is still very innocent, and her world is viewed through a lens of child-like wonder.
I'm sure there are many more characters to which countless players can recognize and identify with her, which is why I feel so strongly that this is a powerfully resonant thematic, one worthy of League of Legends.
UPDATE: In a random game of LoL, I encountered a user by the name of 'MouseGirl'. It then hit me that Imoen could be (should be) a yordle. Yordles already share some qualities with hamsters and gerbils, it should be no stretch of the imagination to imagine a mousey yordle thief. The transition from making her a normal human girl into a mousey yordle wasn't difficult, and I think her being a yordle makes even more sense thematically. Whenever and wherever mice have been anthropomorphized, they are almost always depicted as using materials / tools that they've 'stolen' from the humans that they exist alongside. It was quite a serendipitous encounter, and I'm not sure I would've made the connection if I hadn't met MouseGirl, haha.
UPDATE 8/31/16 : I've given her a new ultimate based on the feedback I've gotten so far, namely, that she still didn't feel like a thief. Hopefully, her Treasure! / Cache! ability captures the fantasy of sneaking into dangerous territory, finding the prize, and getting out. I also think it gives her an incentive to roam / explore when the enemies are away or not much is going on, much like Bard's passive. The Treasure! Spheres also give her something to build her crit during a teamfight when other targets aren't available or are too risky to get near. She can also 'pop' a chest during a fight to heal her allies. :)
Questions For The Community
Is she a thematically resonant champion? Do her abilities, artwork, and personality make sense? i.e. does she come together in a thematically cohesive way? Does she look fun to play? Over-loaded? Over-powered?
Do her ability names, and their effects, make logical sense given what you know about thieves from gaming, popular culture, *cough* personal experience *cough*, i.e. can you savor the flavor?
Let me know!