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).


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.


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.


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.



  • #146 goldiieee

    When calculating burst damage did you factor in armour shred? For example, Corki's gattling gun shreds armour and I'm assuming you calculated that as part of his burst or Kog's caustic spittle reduces MR and armour. Sorry if you did calculate these things but you just haven't said.

  • #147 GentlemanGustaf

    Corki, no, because his burst is almost entirely magical, and comes BEFORE his E finishes up.

    Kog, no, because his burst is not really something you want to get in range to use your armor shred on before using. Your R is for long range poke; your E is for kiting, and your Q is so low range you really only use it during team-fights when you're getting dove.

  • #140 QuexFehftir

    Oh lol, I'm surprised no one has posted this already, or maybe they have, but as for ingame numbers he does true damage = to his damage before armor is applied.

  • #139 Ragnarok_Cometh

    I would like to see one of these posts specifically geared towards AD casters instead of ranged AD carries. Getting a mid game LW on Pantheon feels really powerful to me...but is it?

  • #136 Goumindong
    I haven't felt your posts were overly critical or poor in tone. I know mine isn't the best and so am not ever surprised if responses seem cold.
  • #132 sgtcolon

    I find the 1% AS per 2 AD rule of thumb very useful, I wonder could you compute a similar rule for %Crit rate per AD?

    I'm rather intrigued if Exectioners Calling or Cloak and Dagger might have any place in which they would compliment the standard AD carry build particularly well and could perhaps be worthwhile for a stronger mid game. I also wonder if you timed your build with levels gained whether you could produce a significant 'power spike' in this manner by using mid game items and scaling runes which could be linked to specific objectives (e.g. Baron spawning).

  • #137 nornamor

    Its been 3 year or so since i did the math so I might not remember it right.. so, sorry if I'm wrong..... but basicly after 150Ad and 60 bonus crit dmg (basicly an IE): crit>ad always.. without the crit dmg the breakeven is at around 190ad.....

  • #138 sgtcolon

    Just to clarify, are you saying crit% chance or crit% damage increase is > AD (after 150 AD)? It feels like you must mean crit% chance and if so that seems to suggest that Cloak and Dagger/Executioners calling might not be all that bad as cheap mid/late game boosting 4/5/6th items in some scenarios... Assuming Greaves, Vamp scept, IE, PD, LW, that's roughly +120 AD, 0.75 AS and 55% crit chance. So, 900 g could give you an additional 6% lifesteal and 15% crit chance from Executioner's Calling and/or 1450 g for 0.20 AS and 20% crit chance from Cloak and Dagger (not to mention 35 tenacity, although if you are this squishy I wonder how much that would really help you!). In total, Greaves, IE, PD, LW, EC and CaD, would give +120 AD, 90% crit chance (that sounds awesome!), 0.95 AS and 18% lifesteal. I wonder if tenacity stacks with the cleanse mastery...

    This sounds like it's probably a bit of a dumb 'gimmick' build, and it's really a shame that you'd probably lose out if you built EC and CaD earlier, when they'd initially seem to be more useful, but heck, it also sounds fun. I'll test this tonight :D Initial guestimates are that this would work particularly well on champs with AS or AD steroids (Twitch/Tristana I'm looking at you!)


    Edit: Just thought... could you change up to a scaling rune page to buff your mid/late game (like AD per level marks, MR per level glyphs, AD quints, Armour seals) and rush Greaves, LW, EC and CaD? (0.40 AS, 40 AD, 35% crit chance, 18% lifesteal, 40% ArmPen). This seems to give you a bit of everything you need, but for rather cheap, the aim being a very strong mid game perhaps? (i.e. make sure you have all this by the time Baron spawns? Is that even possible? :D) I can't remember the prices of all those items, but total cost probably is not too dissimilar to Greaves, 2 x Dorans, IE and Vamp scept... (0.20 AS, 100 AD, 25% crit chance, 50% crit  damage, 18% lifesteal). IE is sooo cost efficient though that it might still beat this build flat out, whatever runes you use... (I need to be better at maths... ) Anyone able to run some numbers to test it?

    Last edited by sgtcolon: 8/17/2012 2:39:34 AM
  • #127 FatsXL

    Corkis true damage scales off the damage he deals, not his raw damage. Therefore the more armor he penetrates the more true damage he does.

  • #133 GentlemanGustaf

    Quote from FatsXL »

    Corkis true damage scales off the damage he deals, not his raw damage. Therefore the more armor he penetrates the more true damage he does.

    Nope: Corki's auto-attacks deal 10% of his total physical damage before armor adjustment, as additional true damage to minions, monsters, and champions.

  • #141 FatsXL

    That isn't how it works, I have a feeling you got that form the LoL wiki site, but it isn't correct. It's been confirmed by Riot that it scales off of your actual damage. Further the in game tooltip states -- "Corki's basic attacks deal 10% additional true damage to minions, monsters, and champions.". There's nothing in there about pre armor calculations.

  • #142 GentlemanGustaf

    Can you point me to this? If it is true, it would be very good for me to know, but right now, you haven't really given me reason to believe it (i'll probably go test it in a custom in a few hours)

  • #143 MerryLane

    That's what I had heard too.

    But there are like 15 different interpretations for this passive.

    1) it s only a +10 pct higher damage
    2) 10 pct of his total AD deals true damage as bonus
    3) 10 pct of Corki's damage is dealt as true damage before armor reduction (so, crits too)
    4) same than 3 but with sheen and trinity procs too

    I personnally never tried and figure that out, but if you say his passive deals 10 pct of his AA damage as true dmg, well I trusted you :p

    Last edited by MerryLane: 8/19/2012 11:56:31 PM
  • #144 GentlemanGustaf

    My understanding was that 3) was accurate. Phreak seemed to suggest that 4) was accurate in his Corki spotlight, but I don't know if it is the case.

  • #125 KultoDeSkaro

    Why no mention of black cleaver?

  • #131 Goumindong

    As a third item, black cleaver is not really worth considering. It is worth considering if its your only offensive item and/or you're diving carries

    For an AD carry it can be a first purchase, since it has a lot of power in early to mid game team fights when even tanks will have very little armor and no one has enough damage to make targets explode before the stacks are on them.

    Later in the game though it is strictly inferior to Last Whisper for an AD carry. There is a "break point" in target Armor where after 2 or 3 hits the Cleaver will be doing more DPS. But there are no targets that are going to survive long enough for you to make up the extra damage the LW did on the first couple attacks. Any target that has the survivability will also be almost guaranteed have enough armor that LW will be a strictly better option against them.

    That being said, if you find yourself against a tank that has <150 armor or so and two warmogs the Cleaver will be a better option and probably will not be significantly weaker than the LW against squishy targets.

  • #113 Goumindong

    So, there is a pretty big problem with this analysis: Well, two actually, but the first is the most important.

    1) We do not care about 8 second DPS. We care about the number of seconds it takes to get to X HP where X is the amount of hit points your target has. We care about the sequential time to kill, with each new target likely being another burst rather than sustained DPS due to positioning. In addition we care about the value of the first kill more than the value of later kills because every target taken out of the fight is a reduction in the effective DPS and CC. This magnifies the effectiveness of your entire team and increases the time that you are alive.

    2) Ability use is situational based on the carry and often slows down the damage rate of a carry with IE/PD/third damage item. We can tell that the analysis is flawed in this regard because "no steroid ashe" seems to have the same armor break point for 8 second DPS as "90% attack speed steroid Tristana" which will not happen since both of them lose DPS and Burst by activating their abilities [other than the steroid] once they have a PD and Tristana gains significantly less than Ashe from the second PD due to her AS steroid.


    Corollary to the first point: Everyone has 100+ armor. The lowest level 18 armor possible, with flat armor yellows and 3 points in the defensive armor masteries while the support has an aegis is 92. That is assuming they have heimerdinger on their team. Zyra, Tristana, Twitch, and Heimer are the only champions which will have under 100 armor in those situations[Champions which can boost their armor above that value excluded]

    And of course, armor items are pretty common: Zhonya's, Wriggles, Ninja-tabi, Guardian Angel, are all staples of various builds.

    And of course, armor boosting abilities are more common and stronger than armor shred abilities. Taric/Sona/Soraka/Orianna/Galio all have abilities that increase the armor of their team, or at least one member of their team by significant amounts. Most bruisers have ways to increase their armor temporarily for a fight, which they almost assuredly will be using.

    Short answer: Buy Last Whisper instead of a second PD.

    Last edited by Goumindong: 8/15/2012 5:23:58 PM
  • #114 GentlemanGustaf

    1) 8 second dps can just as easily be converted to regular dps. Your abilities and attacks are regularly spaced out over that interval. On a champion like Ezreal, you have your Q, on a champion like Ashe, you have W, on a champion like Sivir you have W, and all this means is that you're mostly auto attacking with occasional ability use. I used 8 second dps only as an arbitrary benchmark, but you can simply transfer this to any interval of damage you want.

    2) This only serves to support my point. Ability use, late game, is not a major part of most AD carries' damage (ezreal and Graves disagree, but they are exceptions, rather than rules). As such, the weaknesses of PD (doesn't affect abilities) are less pronounced.

    3) The reason Ashe has the same break-point is because of her W. Her W is an AD scaling physical ability, which makes LW better than PD. Tristana's AS buff makes LW better than PD as well. Tristana does not want to use her abilities late game, and early game her attack speed is low enough that attacks will not be lost.

    4) I agree that everybody has 100+ Armor. This is why it's important that you read the whole post and see that I ONLY recommend PD on the champions who have breakeven points of above 250, Corki, Kog, and Vayne.

    5) The overall point is as follows. You get last-whisper so that defenses do not reduce your damage to negligible amounts. Kog and Corki and Vayne have abilities that naturally counteract tankiness. As such, they do not need LW. Worse, LW does not synergize with their abilities, as said abilities are magical and true damage.

  • #119 Goumindong

    1) Actually they are not evenly spaced out. The first attack comes at time zero and front loads your damage. Characters with attack resets that can get a second attack off very quickly ignore the majority of the attack speed advantage until their abilities are on CD and this front loads damage more. Characters with damage bonuses on the first attack will lead off with that attack and again, front load the damage.

    This is also why Last Whisper is a strictly better late game item compared to Black Cleaver. Black Cleaver may do more DPS, but everything dies before you make up the early damage advantage that LW has. The only targets that would not die before you make up the difference are targets that LW does more DPS too.

    3) Ashe's w reduces her DPS if used once she has IE and PD. Its cast time is longer than an attack animation and it cannot crit. This means that the 8 second DPS from trist and ashe should look very similar [aside from Ashe's possible auto crit on attack one] if and only if trist does not use her attack speed steroid or if trist reduces her damage by using her ultimate and e, negating the value of her steroid.

    4) Yes, but on those characters what is the burst time to kill? We note that in all instances the "burst" you have listed is higher for LW over PD [though its probably not the best indication since it seems to be skill use]. If we start out at time zero, with more damage on the Last Whisper build for all characters, then there must be a break point between 0 seconds and "never" where PD starts to overcome it.

    You will notice on your 8 second DPS charts that the values at 140 armor between PD and LW are very small even for Kog-Maw, Vayne, and Corki. You will also notice that the burst damage all has LW higher over PD by a similar amount. If we assume for a second that you have evenly spaced damage after your burst[vayne] is about 3.5 seconds at which point she will have done about 3500 post resist damage. Enough to kill most tanks without any help.

    Now, this isn't entirely perfect, damage done in League is discrete and not continuous, so we cannot simply use a fixed point theorem to show how there must be a point where these two situations must be equal. But we can infer that there will be points above or below such a theoretical fixed point where one is better than the other. And we can infer on which side which item will be stronger.

    Last edited by Goumindong: 8/15/2012 5:23:13 PM
  • #120 MerryLane

    You must understand tho that it's almost the only way estimating champions' damage output without the need of CERN's computers.

    If you are not happy with this "estimation" which only goal is to give clues on champions' necessities and then advice on their build path, you'd better write articles and post them here.

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