Yelling About Last Whisper

Yelling About Last Whisper: Necessity or Overrated?

It may be called Last Whisper, but a lot of people (my self included) have done a lot of yelling about this item, and with good reason. Last Whisper is a really, really strong item. It lets AD carries do appreciable damage to tanks/off-tanks/bruisers, who are often the only safe targets for them. This may not sound like a big deal, but it's often the difference between the big guy on the other team boxing your carry all the way out of the fight and taking no damage, and him dying doing his job. If you get Bloodthirster, sure, you sustain through the fight, but how does that matter if you're never a part of any fights? On top of that, getting Last Whisper disincentivizes two of the strongest defensive items in the game, Randuin's Omen and Frozen Heart (although they are still worth it). I've argued elsewhere very strongly for always buying Last Whisper over Bloodthirster. And yet, in this post, I'm here to tell you that you should not necessarily always be getting Last Whisper. It's a tall order, but I hope to prove it.

The Background

So, to sum up the history, we have a few important facts.

 

  • First, as we saw here, Last Whisper pretty much trounces Bloodthirster
  • Second, IE is downright dirty on AD carries. You get 3 of the 5 stats that matter to you, including the only crit damage you can get from items, and one of only 3 sources in the game.
  • Third, Phantom Dancer gives you MS plus AS, making it pretty necessary for kiting and dps.
  • Fourth, you need LW for damage vs tanks
  • Fifth, you need BT for sustain
  • Sixth, you need a defensive item.

 

From these, we normally get the following build order: IE -> Vamp Scepter -> PD -> LW -> Defensive Item -> BT.
There are occasional variations (BT first or Defensive item earlier or later), but they're very situational.
 
And yet I'm about to tell you that this is all wrong.
 

Stat Balance

To start, as we saw here, you want 2 points of AD for every % of Attack Speed. Well, as DiffTheEnder observes, we have this when we have IE + PD + Berserker's Greaves. Then we go out and get LW and BT, which gives 140 AD and no AS. And to be fair, it's very understandable. After all, we can't sacrifice our IE, we can't sacrifice our Armor Pen, and we NEED our sustain. Right? Well, I'll take the need for sustain as true, for now, since it can't really be replaced. But Armor Pen and IE both just give damage. There's no rule that says where you have to get your damage from, you just have to maximize it. I think you'll trust my basic, unstated math that getting rid of IE is a bad idea. But why is it such a bad idea to get rid of Last Whisper? The basic, logical answer is that PD will increase your damage vs squishies, but not tanky champions, and the squishies already die right away anyway, and you spend most of your time attacking tanky champions anyway. So explain this, a graph of dps as a function of third item: Phantom Dancer or Last Whisper. The assumptions are 21/x/x and AD mark/quints, and the use of 'dps' is a bit of a misnomer, as I really mean '8 seconds of auto attacking and using abilities whenever they come up', and a target with 3000 health (a bruiser or a tank) and 0 armor:

 But Gentleman Gustaf, of course LW loses to Phantom Dancer at 0 armor. Its main stat is Armor Penetration!


Ok, fair enough, but you have to go to 63 armor to break even with MF:

79 for Sivir:

89 for Graves

 92 for Ezreal:

110 for Tristana:

111 for Ashe:

138 for Caitlyn:

You'll notice three champions left off of this list, Corki, Kog'Maw, and Vayne:

This is because on these champions, the breakeven point is unreasonably high or non-existent. To reach a break-even point where LW beats PD on Kog, you have to assume an average enemy health of under 2500. This is somewhat misleading, as your W will not always be up. On Vayne and Corki, because of the true damage, no amount of armor can cause LW to beat out PD. In fact, past a certain point, more Armor makes LW a less palatable choice, simply because the amount of true damage you are getting is far outstripping how much physical damage you could gain.

Just to rant a bit on Corki; sure, Vayne is super annoying with her % Health true damage and stuff, and she was mega OP and now is just strong, but balanced by her pathetic laning phase. But Corki wins most lanes. And on top of that, he has true damage that scales off of his regular damage. Corki has true damage that can CRIT! Let me just say that one more time so the magnitude of how mind-breakingly OP Corki is. He has true damage. On every attack. That SCALES OFF OF his damage. That can CRIT! If you don't want to play Corki after hearing that, you don't understand fun or power. But essentially, it lets your auto attacks (to an extent) ignore armor. Isn’t that exactly what Armor Penetration is for?

Classes of AD Carries

First, let us look at the champions who really prefer LW (those with a break-even point below 100). Each has a number of abilities which do physical damage and scale off of AD. As such, they benefit highly from Last Whisper. Moreover, each has an AS buff, meaning less attack speed is needed to reach your equilibrium.

In the middle, we have Tristana, who has no AD scaling abilities (making PD more palatable) but a huge Attack Speed buff (making LW more palatable) and Ashe/Caitlyn, who have AD scaling abilities but no Attack Speed buff.

Finally, we have Corki, Vayne, and Kog'Maw, all of whom have huge on-hit abilities of non-physical damage, and minimal AS buffs (Kog'Maw has a small one). Vayne even has an AD buff! Essentially, the more AS buffs a champion has, and the more AD scaling and physical abilities, the more that champion wants LW over PD, and the more on-hit effects or AD buffs a champion has, the more that champion wants PD over LW. Given that multiple champions on a team will tend to exceed 100, I only really recommend going IE/PD/PD (with BT as your 4th damage item, and a defensive item at some point) on Corki, Kog'Maw, and Vayne, and MAYBE Caitlyn if the other team is low on Armor. On these champions, this will give you superior damage, but also enhanced mobility.

And Our Stat Balance?

Interestingly enough, the 55% AS on that PD calls for another 110 AD (according to our 1% per 2 AD rule). BT will give us that remaining 100 AD. On the other hand, if the champion already has an attack speed buff, it only takes 70% (about what most AD carries get in an AS buff) to equal the 140 AD that BT + LW gives you.

Some Last Words

So I'm not saying that you should replace LW with PD all the time. I'm not even saying you should do it most of the time. But on Corki, Vayne, and Kog'Maw, you're only doing yourself a favor if you get PD instead of LW, because you are better equalizing your AD and AS, and you are maximizing the value of your on-hit abilities.

I think this has gone overlooked for so long because people got too hung up on comparing Bloodthirster and Last Whisper. However, I think it is increasingly important (as the game becomes more and more standardized) to not see AD carries as some indistinct blob, and buy 'AD carry items', but instead to see AD carries for their kits, and get items which synergize with them. This is not something entirely unseen at higher levels of play, but it is very rare outside of tournament play (where things such as AD urgot have arisen).

Teaser

I've been promising a mega-post that will link my previous articles together; it will be my next post, and I hope it will offer a lot of insight into one of the most basic and far-reaching mechanics in the game.

Acknowledgements

If this post made you rage, blame ex-ADV writer Bird of Prey, because he's the one who made me argue with him.

And thank you for all of the comments. This article was clearly interesting and controversial to a lot of people, and I love sparking controversy. I don't require that you agree with me, I just want people to think about these things, instead of just doing what some guide told them.


Summary

Last Whisper is considered a necessity on AD carries because it allows you to do consistent damage to tanks, who are often your only safe targets in team fights (as an AD carry). Some AD carries already have anti-tank abilities, namely Vayne (%health true damage), Corki (%damage true damage), and Kog (%health magic damage) that are benefited by attack speed. Since they gain a significant amount of damage from their non-physical abilities, including damage that is targeted at killing tanks, they do not need anti-tank items. Moreover, since the damage on their anti-tank abilities is quite significant, and is not physical damage, it does not benefit from Last Whisper.

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