Normally, I like to end my posts with a song of the day. Sometimes it's related to League of Legends, sometimes it's not. In this case, I thought we'd start off with some mood music. Watch it once. Put it on listenonrepeat in the background. Then read the article.
Song of the Day:
Trinity Force: Overpowered or Overrated?
Gentleman Gustaf here to talk to about one of the most iconic items in all League of Legends, Trinity Force. Without it, hybrid champs would have even fewer options, the metagolem build from a year ago would have had no flair, and Phreak's punchline would be 'a lot of damage'.
First, let's just go over the qualities of Trinity Force.
Overpowered Reason #0 - Appearance
We all know what the Tri-Force looks like, but just in case you've forgotten:
Really, we should be done here. If you're not sold already, I only have one question for you: what sort of horrible childhood did you have that didn't include the following?
Now that we've got the most important part out of the way, what is Trinity Force?
Overpowered Reason #1 - Slot Efficiency
Trinity Force is a heavily general item that gives many different stats, and is one of the most slot-efficient items in the game. What do I mean by slot efficiency? When completed, its gold value (the value of the stats it gives) is high with respect to its cost. Let's take a look.
Trinity Force gives you the most stats of any game, both in the number of different stats it provides (7), and in the gold value of those stats (see spoiler for math) totals to 4742!
30 AP - 600 gold
30 AD - 1100 gold
30% AS - 788 gold
15% Crit - 692 gold
250 Health - 645 gold
250 Mana - 500 gold
12% Move Speed - 418 gold
Holy smokes, Batman! That's a lot of stats!
And that's not even counting the upgraded Sheen proc or slow! On the other hand...
Overrated Reason #1 - Build Slot Inefficiency
But while Trinity Force is slot efficient when finished, it is not very easy to build. Why? Well, Trinity Force builds from three items, Phage, Zeal, and Sheen. This makes it somewhat slot inefficient to build, while it is slot efficient to have. As such, it should typically be rushed to avoid filling up your inventory. What does the stat efficiency of its component parts look like (see spoiler for exact math)?
Phage - 1241 Gold
18 AD - 660 Gold
225 Health - 581 Gold
Sheen - 1000 Gold
25 AP - 500 Gold
250 Mana - 500 Gold
Zeal - 1195 Gold
20% AS - 525 Gold
10% Crit - 461 Gold
12% MS - 209 Gold
Each individual item within Trinity Force is not that gold efficient: Phage is worth less than it costs (although it comes with a slow which is hard to quantify), Sheen is worth less than it costs (although, again, Sheen proc is hard to quantify), and Zeal is worth exactly what it costs. But once you have all three items, the combine cost is extremely low (375) for the value it provides (1334). But it's not just the combine cost that's low...
Overpowered Reason #2 - Build Path Ease
Much like with Frozen Heart, each component of Trinity Force is very convenient to build; as it has no large components, unlike items like Infinity Edge or Rabadon's Deathcap, which means you are steadily increasing in power throughout the game. Looking at the graph below, you can see this very clearly; the curve for Tri-Force spends more time ahead than the other two do; that's a lot of time to abuse advantages:
Overrated Reason #2 - Wasted stats
Gentleman Gustaf, why does it matter that Trinity Force has crazy stat efficiency? Manamune may be stat efficient, but you don't want it on a manaless champion with low cooldowns, like Riven.
Good question: first, let's try to quantify the Sheen proc by comparing it to AD (math again in the spoiler).
Trinity Force's proc does (best case scenario) 1.5 times your base AD every 2 seconds. Base AD ranges from 42-58 at level 1 to 91-130 at level 18. This means that at level 1, the proc does 63-87 damage, and at level 18, 136-195 damage. So the amount of AD you need to equal the power of Trinity Force's proc at level 18 ranges from 68/AS to 98/AS, depending on the champion.
The Sheen proc gives a whopping 2493-3594 gold value! Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is. Trinity Force isn't going to boost your AD scaling abilities. So on a champion with a lot of AD scaling, you probably will prefer the AD even more. But that's not all. Not only will the Sheen proc not boost your skills, but Trinity Force also gives you a lot of stats, more than most champions can use.
Let me run you through a quick example, Riven. Riven really benefits from Attack Damage, Health, Page's slow, and Movement Speed, benefits somewhat from Attack Speed and Crit Chance, and doesn't care about Mana or AP at all, plus has some synergy with the Sheen proc. So let's value Attack Damage, Health, Page's slow, and Movement Speed at full value, Attack Speed and Crit Chance at half, and Mana and AP not at all; this means she only benefits from 2903 of the gold value of Trinity Force (see spoiler for math):
30 AP - 0 gold
30 AD - 1100 gold
30% AS - 394 gold
15% Crit - 346 gold
250 Health - 645 gold
250 Mana - 0 gold
12% Move Speed - 418 gold
Overpowered Reason #3 - Really Good First
Let's compare Bloodthirster to Trinity Force over a 13 second interval. You should get 2 shields, 2 stuns, and 1Q (3 uses).
With Bloodthirster, you gain 100 damage on each attack, gain 70 damage on each activation of Q, and 100 on each stun, 100 health on each shield, and a hefty chunk of damage on your ult.
With Trinity Force, you only gain 30 on each auto attack, gain a few more attacks, crit on a few attacks, gain 21 damage on each Q, 30 on each stun, 30 on your shield, and a good deal on your ult. But the Trinity Force proc gives you an effective boost of 155 damage on each of your skills, or to use the technical term:
So Trinity Force is still quite good; it gives so many stats it's hard for it NOT to be good. Even in the example I cherry picked, a champion who is basically MADE of AD ratios, Trinity Force performs admirably. Is there any reason NOT to get Trinity Force?
Overrated Reason #3 - Lack Synergy with other items
It turns out that the main problem Trinity Force has isn't Trinity Force, but what to get next. Even in the worst case scenario, Trinity Force does so much for most any champion with low cooldowns and spammable abilities. The main problem Trinity Force runs into is a lack of synergy with future damage items. Let's say you get an Infinity Edge on a champion. Any future Attack Speed or Attack Damage or Crit Chance items are now worth EVEN MORE to you, because of stat multiplicativity. But let's say you rushed Trinity Force. Sure, you've got some AS, AD, and Crit Chance. But nowhere near as much as you would have with Bloodthirster, Infinity Edge, or Phantom Dancer. Where does your damage come from? Sheen procs.
Ok, that's easy enough, we just need to find a stat that's multiplicative with Sheen procs!
Good thinking Johnny, but unfortunately, there aren't many. The proc is determined by base AD, so once you hit level 18, it's not growing anymore. The only way to increase its damage is through Armor Penetration. Remember that metagolem build people complained about where people built just Trinity Force for damage, then tanked up hard? They were relying on the unusually high base damage on Trinity Force and relying on their defensive stats for multiplicativity (well, that and Atma's).
However, there is one item that, while it doesn't synergize particularly well with Trinity Force, maximizes its output. This item is also the BEST ITEM IN THE GAME. Remember that Sheen proc? With Frozen Heart, you get it all of the time! If you pick up Frozen Heart, all of a sudden, even though you're playing a champion like Irelia (less ability spam than Riven), you can still spam Trinity Force procs. Unfortunately, all this means is that champions can run Trinity Force at higher efficiency; because of the 2 second cooldown, you still can't increase the potential of Trinity Force, only approach it better. So Frozen Heart just makes the awesome item that is Trinity Force more accessible to champions with higher cooldowns; it doesn't make Trinity Force any better.
Final reason to get Tri-Force
What happens if you get Tri-Force?
And really, what more could you ask for?
So is Trinity Force overpowered, or overrated?
If Trinity Force is the only offensive item you're planning on getting, then it's obscenely good. So bruisers who can get Trinity Force followed by all tank items can do very well with it, as they will deal - you guessed it - tons of damage while being exceedingly hard to kill.
If you are a hybrid champion who can take advantage of all of the stats it offers efficiently, and reap the benefits of all the gold value, you benefit a lot from picking it up, as it brings - surprise - tons of damage.
On the other hand, if you plan to build a lot of future damage, you're probably better off without Trinity Force; its efficiency will trail off over time. That's why you don't see Trinity Force on champions like Sivir or Vayne: despite their ability to spam sheen procs with Tumble/Ricochet, they will get more late game from an item that synergizes well with other damage items like Infinity Edge, Phantom Dancer, and Last Whisper.
For Ezreal, my answer is simple; Ezreal's Q (Mystic Shot) applies the slow from Trinity Force, which allows him to kite very well and at great distance. It also allows him to initiate chases from a very large distance. For Corki, I am going to exercise a rare moment of arrogance and say that I think getting Trinity Force on Corki is the incorrect choice, despite its wide acclaim and the seeming synergy it has with a champion with spammable abilities with AP AND AD ratios. However, those are the reasons it is commonly purchased on him: spammable skills with both AP and AD ratios; it is a strong choice, but not always the best choice.
If you want to see this article in video form, you can here.