Gentleman Gustaf here to talk about AD Carries once again. Of course, AD Carry items may be changing drastically in the near future, so today's post is going to have a much different tone than previous posts about AD Carries. When I started this series, it was about one simply truth: different AD Carries are different, and yet we itemize the same. I intended to show how each AD Carry should have slightly different itemization paths. In some ways, I succeeded. In other ways I failed. But what I really learned in immersing myself in the class is that it doesn't matter. Establishing different set builds for different AD Carries is indeed more mathematically efficient, and can yield unique advantages. But it doesn't change the fact that those builds are set. What is interesting about an itemization system is that it gives more than just discrete stats. If every champion builds the same items every game, you may as well replace gold with stats: when you reach 1650 gold, you get +45 AD; when you reach 2625, you get another +25 AD, and so on. You could even just make it continuous over those durations, it fails to make the game interesting. I am not saying that League of Legends, as it is, is a bad game, just that itemization as it is doesn't add much to the game because of how concrete it is.
It is for this reason that champions like Jayce, Cho'Gath, Lee Sin, and Irelia, have been among my favorites. Their kits are interesting and useful enough that your itemization can really vary. Jayce is really the extreme example: he can be built AD, bruiser, or even off-tank. Cho can turn damage on or off, with AP (RoA/Abyssal/Rabadon's) or AS (Wit's End), but he also loves tank items like Frozen Heart. Lee Sin can be built with early damage or as a support tank, and Irelia can build whatever she wants and still be OP (nerfs please). But they are the exception, rather than the rule. Why is this?
This is due to a combination of two things: very pointed kits with little variation available, and very weak alternative items.
Riven is the clearest example of a pointed kit; she has only one offensive stat that matters to her: AD. Graves is a semi-clear example: he is much like Tristana during the laning phase, but his ratios are AD instead of AP. I do not mean to imply that AP Tristana is viable, but she could certainly be balanced in such a way as to make her so. Graves has no such option (short of giving Smoke Screen a 4.0 AP ratio). This reliance on one stat makes it very hard to have alternative itemization be viable. For example, Riven builds loads of AD. As such, you would expect AS to become viable on her late game. But her non auto attack AD ratios are so high (and her cooldowns so low) that there is simply no point at which Riven has to make the choice of 'do I want more burst (AD), or more sustained damage (AS)?' because AD gets her everything she wants. She even has a bit of the problem of AD giving her tankiness. I'm not saying this makes Riven over or underpowered, it just makes her a very one-sided champion. And some champions in League should be one-sided, much the same as having some generic champions in League of Legends makes the non-generic ones more notable. But the proportion of champions for whom that is true has only increased over time, as champions who could get away with building strangely have typically drawn nerfs (see Trinity Force on Ezreal, most recently) until those strategies were no longer very strong.
Weak Item Alternatives
As for items being weak, it is very clear to come up with examples. Black Cleaver, for example, only gives 45 Armor Pen at max stacks. This means that LW beats it at 112.5 Armor and above, at least for Armor Pen. Black Cleaver may give slightly more AD and some AS, but because it requires 3 consecutive attacks on a target to even start giving the full Armor Pen, it is simply strictly inferior. It does give more AD and AS, but given that most targets will be even tankier, Moreover, it has conceptual issues in that it is confusing who its optimal target is. Black Cleaver, being flat Armor Pen (as opposed to Last Whisper's % Pen), is better against targets with low armor. However, to get the full effect, you have to have attacked a target 3 times, at which point (if it is squishy) it is probably almost dead anyway. On the other hand, the targets you can put a lot of consecutive attacks onto are unlikely to be very bothered by a reduction of 45 Armor. So it seems like the only champions you want it against are health stacking tanks with low armor.
All of my philosophical issues now aside, and ignoring the weakness of current alternatives here is how I think about AD Carry itemization and how I make itemizing decisions, both pre-game and in-game:
How to pick AD Carry items
First, I consider my champion's abilities. Is the character mainly an auto attacker (Kog'Maw or Tristana)? I should consider AS and on-hit and Crit items. Is the character mainly an AD caster (Graves or Caitlyn)? I want more Armor Pen and AD. Does the champion already have buffs to one stat (of AD/Crit/AS/Armor Pen)? Focus on the others! But unlike most people, I do think AD Carry items can be situational. For example, on most bursty AD champions plus Varus, I get Brutalizer if I get an early lead (first blood or 20 cs lead). And if you think that's too crazy, let me call your attention to the #1 player on the NA ladder, Aphromoo, who often does that on champions like Varus. On that note, he also runs full Armor Pen Marks and Quints on Draven, something I highly recommend, and something which synergizes exceedingly well with his passive, and keeps you doing true damage until level 9 or 10 with a Brutalizer.
After that, I consider my Support. If they have an AD buff, I get more AS/Crit/Pen. If they have an AS buff (hello Nunu), I get more AD. If they have a Pen buff... well, no supports do yet, but I can dream.
Then there are considerations of damage vs sustain vs burst. IE+PD gives you the highest teamfight damage by cost. BT beats IE alone (by cost). BT also gives better burst, especially when followed up by LW. It also keeps you alive better in fights. So a champion who goes IE will likely fall behind vs a champion who goes BT first, all other things being even. On the other hand, what if you get ahead? Do you rush IE, since you'll get it at the same time as they get BT, and thus be ahead? Do you rush BT and further cement your lead? Really, there are four considerations:
- How much AD scaling do you have? Graves loves BT. Caitlyn loves BT. Tristana? Not so much.
- How much raw damage do you have naturally? Kog and Vayne hurt no matter what, and don't need IE to dominate. BT lets them live longer through sustain, while not hurting their damage as much.
- How likely are you to be able to use your sustain? If the enemy team is bursty, it's almost useless.
- Are you a snowbally champion? Abuse that with BT. Are you not? Get IE to maximize teamfight strength with IE PD as soon as possible.
Then comes the question to get PD or LW:
- Are you bursty? LW is good
- Do you have other ways to hurt tanks (Kog/Vayne)? PD may be better.
- Do you need kiting more than other champions? PD is better.
On that note, I won't be putting the math up for Draven/MF/Ashe, but I think you can make some inferences from my post. If not, I'll be listing the damage optimal builds, as well as what I get, for every AD Carry at the end of this post.
New Black Cleaver
Finally, Xypherous has teased the new Black Cleaver (which now builds from Brutalizer) for us. He also seems to imply that Brutalizer will build into Last Whisper.
The Black Cleaver
- +45 Attack Damage
- +10% Cooldown Reduction
- +10 Armor Penetration
- Passive: Dealing physical damage to an enemy reduces their Armor by 5% for 6 seconds. This effect stacks up to 5 times on the same target.
This item, which people have speculated may be an AD Carry usable upgrade for Brutalizer, is not. It is actually worse than the previous Black Cleaver in some ways (for AD Carries). The only buff it gets is allowing abilities to stack the effect. But the carries who came close to liking BC before didn't HAVE physical abilities, so they won't like that, especially without the Attack Speed. It is now a buff for those carries who have abilities, as it gives CDR and flat Armor Pen, but those carries were never the ones who might like it. The only person I might consider it on would be MF on a heavily physical team, as the reduction would effect the whole team. But overall, the numbers are far down. You can get up to 25% reduction with 5 stacks. For that to equal the 45 Armor Reduction Black Cleaver currently gives, that means the target needs to break 180 armor, and remember, current Black Cleaver is bad.. It's even worse when stacked with Last Whisper, as the percentages will stack multiplicatively.
It is a great buff to tanky AD Casters, who can now get Brutalizer for burst early game, and upgrade to Black Cleaver late game as part of a tankier build where they apply this debuff to the other team to help their AD Carry, but that's beyond the scope of this post.
The Gentleman's Builds
Without further ado here are the AD Carry builds, all in one place (I only discuss my first three items because I almost ALWAYS get GA next, unless I'm in a protection composition). But first, some abbreviations.
IE - Infinity Edge
LW - Last Whisper
PD - Phantom Dancer
YG - Youmuu's Ghostblade
BC - Black Cleaver (just kidding)
BT - Bloodthirster
TF - Trinity Force
Ashe - Ashe is boring. Her mathematically efficient build is irrelevant; all you need to know about Ashe is that she needs to kite, and getting an early crit is awesome. So get IE/PD/LW on her, and don't let anybody get in range ever.
Caitlyn - Caitlyn is a pretty good kiter as well, making IE/PD/LW quite strong on her. I prefer an earlier LW on her for burst. Depending on how much kiting I need, based on their bruisers and on how long the laning phase drags on, I'll get LW after IE, after Zeal, or after PD. If the team has no poke at all, and we're abusing them with poke, I'll get an early BT for the strength of Q and R. If I get an early lead, and can rely on range + E + peel to kite, I will get Brutalizer, eventually getting YG instead of PD.
Corki - Corki is, in my opinion, lackluster after his nerfs. He still can dominate in the laning phase, but doesn't have the late game he used to. If I get an early lead, I will get a Brutalizer, and go IE YG BC. Otherwise, I go IE PD BC. But mostly, I don't play Corki anymore.
Draven - First off, I run Armor Pen Marks and Quints. I rush Brutalizer if I get the hint of a lead, and with how strong Draven is in lane, you will. I then rush BT if I have a lead (which you mostly should). Then I rush LW because who needs move speed when you have your W. Then I get PD if I need more kite power, but otherwise, it's straight to IE. If I'm not dominating, I'll typically go BT or IE into LW, followed by PD.
Graves - If I get ahead early, I get a Brutalizer, then a BT. Otherwise, I go for a BT. After that, I get LW and then PD (or YG if I got Brutalizer).
Kog'Maw - IE + PD + PD or IE + PD + YG. I typically rush IE, but if I follow my own math, I should probably start PD + Pickaxe. I just think there are enough moments in lane where you only attack once or twice that AS that early is wasted. I never get Madred's Bloodrazor (it doesn't get an abbreviation). I guess I might against Mundo + Olaf. I occasionally like BT instead of IE, but when getting 2 PDs, the naturally synergy with IE is just too good. If I'm running Kog, it's in a protect comp, anyway.
Miss Fortune - IE + LW + PD. Brutalizer can pay off, but you don't get enough out of the CDR. I might get BT over IE for early dominance.
Sivir - IE+ LW + PD is my go-to build. I'd get YG instead of PD, but I'd be scared of just dying whenever my ult's down, even with Spell Shield. Your range is so low, you need to be able to get in and out. I might replace IE with BT for burst and sustain, but the low range makes me worried about that.
Tristana - IE + LW + PD. Depending on my mood, I like to think BC (instead of LW) and YG (instead of PD) are good, but only in circumstances where you have an abundance of peel and a paucity of dive in the former case, and a paucity of peel but an abundance of dive in the latter case.
Varus - Early kill means Brutalizer. Otherwise, IE LW PD, unless they have no CC reduction and we have good peel (making his ult + BC very strong). Unlike other champions, I never turn Brutalizer into YG. I just sell it late game.
Vayne - Typically, I go BT + PD + IE. IE PD PD slightly wins in damage, but sustain on Vayne is downright broken. In fact, sustain on all AD Carries is quite good, but they need to be able to put out damage, so only those with high damage can rush BT. Vayne has high damage.
The more I play, the more I appreciate the early Bloodthirster, and I wouldn't be surprised to start getting it on more and more champions, as it hits a timing window before IE finishes that lets you snowball slight advantages.
In all, the only significant changes that are mathematically viable and don't fall prey to practicalities are:
- Early Brutalizer on champions who have a lot of AD scaling abilities. The AD, the Armor Pen, and the CDR all help a lot to increase your lane dominance, and Ghostblade's late game is by no means bad, although using the active correctly takes practice.
- Early BT on anybody with really high damage through steroids, and really high AD scaling. If the other AD goes for IE, you can abuse them in lane for a time. All it takes is clearing 2 waves of minions to beat them in AD, and you'll have lifesteal. If you don't take an advantage before they get IE, their teamfight presence will grow much more quickly than yours when they get Zeal and PD.
- Trinity Force on Ezreal.
- New Black Cleaver is good on tanky AD Casters, not AD Carries. Use it as a debuff for your team, not a buff for your damage.