Defensive items for AD Carries

So you've followed my advice, and you're (probably) sitting on three of BT/SS/LW/IE. What next? It's time for your defensive item! Common knowledge suggests GA (Guardian Angel), but I'm going to argue that there are a wide array of alternative choices.


Resistances vs Health

Let's assume you're facing a comp with an even split of physical/magic damage to start: here's our graph from previously:

So you're an AD Carry, and you're sitting at about 2k health, and about 130-145 resistances (85 armor + 45-60 MR, depending on flat or scaling glyphs). Notice anything? You're WAY away from the best-fit line for maximizing tankiness. At 2k health, you only want about 75 points in resistances, TOTAL, and at 130-145 resistances, you want closer to 2500 HP. And that's assuming no % Pen. With the likelihood that you face % Pen, that's only less in the way of resistances you should get. However, since I'm going to argue for more health oriented items, I will do so from the perspective of a lack of penetration items, so that my argument will be all the more valid should they be bought.

Guardian Angel - 2600 gold

Standard defensive itemization has you getting a Guardian Angel, and it's not hard to see why; it gives you both Armor and MR, and a nice 'res' ability. However, adding the 50 armor and 30 MR puts you up to about 225 resistances, somewhere you don't optimally want to be before reaching 3250 health. To put this in perspective, your EHP with 225 resistances and 2k health is 4250 EHP. If you stay on the prescribed line, you reach 4125 just by buying up to the aforementioned 2500 health (or just a Giant's Belt and a bit). Of course, GA still has the res effect, but:

  1. The res effect has you pop up into a waiting enemy team as much as it saves you
  2. GA almost losing in tankiness to a GIANT'S BELT means the res effect has to be ludicrously good to pay off.

So what other items are available?

Pure Defensive items

Warmog's Armor - 2830 gold

A lot of players have started to consider this defensive item standard: it gives you a huge chunk of health, which everybody wants. But on AD Carries, it feels even stronger, since health is what you want, given the above graph. I by no means want to understate the value of this item by the shortness of this section, but what Warmog's gives you is so mind-numbingly simply that elaborating on it seems silly: it's a stat stick for health. Your EHP ends up being 4950, a pretty significant improvement over GA. A special note needs to be made for Graves: his passive is super fantastic with Warmog's, giving you an addition 300 EHP.

Randuin's Omen - 3100 gold

Randuin's Omen is one of those sexy, unsung items. It gives you 500 Health (bringing you to the line you're aiming at), but on top of that, it gives you a HUGE chunk of armor. It brings your EHP to 5000 (you jealous, Warmog's?). On top of that, it gives you a nice AS and MS slow on-hit (you jealous, Frozen Mallet?), and if you're in a panic, you can pop its active for a 4 second MS slow!

Banshee's Veil - 2610

Banshee's Veil brings your EHP to 4500, but it's pretty heavily concentrated in magic damage The spell-shield effect is nice against some teams, but useless against many other teams, either because it affects nothing, or because they can freely pop it. Most of the time, I'd just get Mercurial Scimitar + (optionally) Frozen Mallet instead of Banshee's Veil.

Hybrid Offensive/Defensive Items

Some items are hybrid offensive/defensive items; they have lower defensive stats but give some offensive capabilities.

Frozen Mallet - 3300 gold

Frozen Mallet, to me, is the perfect hybrid item. On the one hand, it's not entirely defensive; it gives you 30 AD. On the other hand, it gives you health enough to get you to the optimization line and past it (and past it is where you want to be, since we're assuming no %pen at all!). On the third hand (hey, some of us are mutants!), it also gives you a perma-slow, and every AD Carry loves those. Against a team with few hard gap-closers, this item is a no-brainer. It brings your EHP to 4455. This means you're tankier than with GA, but with no res effect. On the plus side, you have slows for days, so maybe you can avoid some of that damage. A special note needs to be made for Graves: his passive is super fantastic with Frozen Mallet, giving you an addition 300 EHP, although the kiting is a bit weaker, given his low range.

Quicksilver Sash - 1660 gold

QSS only brings your EHP to 3750, but it also gives you the ability to cleanse out of any CC; a pretty fantastic active. On top of that, it upgrades to Mercurial Scimitar, which gives you both offensive and defensive stats. If I get Mercurial Scimitar, it tends to be against magic damage and CC heavy teams, and I tend to pair it with a Frozen Mallet, for another hybrid offensive/defensive item. The combination of two hybrid items is basically the same as one pure offensive and one pure defensive item, but with the utility from both defensive items.

Frozen Fist - 3400 gold

Ezreal Qs. The CDR + AP just doesn't really help any other AD Carry, and only Ezreal can proc the slow easily, quickly, and at a distance.

Maw of Malmortius - 3200 gold

You end up with 3660 EHP (less than QSS), and an additional 280 EHP vs magic damage. I find this lackluster. Since AD Carries are already stacking AD, the damage increase is less important for them, plus htey can't survive that well at low health. On top of that, Maw isn't always a great item on tanky ADs.

Notable Champion Interactions


Frozen Mallet stacks with her slow, which can either be ridiculous or redundant.


Frozen Mallet is better the higher your range is, and Caitlyn has high range...



Frozen Fist is ridiculous with Mystic Shot


Health is great with his passive

Miss Fortune

Frozen Mallet is great with her passive



Frozen Mallet is better the higher your range is, and Tristana has high range...


Frozen Mallet hits all Spray and Pray targets




Frozen Mallet makes getting 3 consecutive hits easier


Gentleman's Pick

I'm a fan of Frozen Mallet, although I'm coming around to Randuin's, especially against a team of 2 or more auto-attackers. Pure dps with a GA to break focus seems to be falling out of the meta for AD Carries; they either bring loads of AoE damage (Twitch/MF/Graves), or they kite like no tomorrow (Ezreal/Graves). There is something to be said for the psychological power of 'I don't want to focus him' that GA provides, but then again, the bars of health have a similar effect. On top of that, it seems likely that somebody will have at least Aegis of the Legion, giving you even more resistances, thus making Health items even better.


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  • #64 Undetectedhack

    Have you calculated flat Magic penetration ? AP have 30-50 Mpen usually. that'd reduce AD's MR to about 0 and would make Magic Resistance a lot more appealing.

    well sorry if you have calculated it but I can not see you mention it anywhere and seems like no one asked too. 

    Last edited by Undetectedhack: 3/9/2013 7:32:26 PM
  • #65 JioDerako

    All that flat Mpen is part of the reason health-stacking has become so popular, actually; that, and the fact that a team will often have multiple AD damage-dealers, and then just the AP carry dealing heavy magic damage.
    Your standard AP carry has all that flat Mpen (boots, runes, masteries, and probably a Haunting Guise somewhere in there), so your base MR - and possibly runes - is pretty much null-and-void. You can build a decent chunk of MR with QSS, plus the CC removal as a bonus, but unless the team is CC-heavy, it's not providing any bonuses against the rest of the team (their top and jungle are probably both AD-based and gunning for you). In this case, a Giant's Belt (and subsequent upgrade) will provide close to the same effective resistances, but it works against all types of damage.

    The other thing that's had an impact on the meta is, there really aren't a lot of good MR item options, especially for an ADC. There's Maw, which is pretty lackluster (as mentioned in the article). Banshee's Veil, but QSS is generally better there unless your main concerns are pokes and one-off spells (Karthus, etc). Possibly Spirit Visage; it does give a boost to your lifesteal, but that's requiring you to be in combat to get the benefits there. Everything else is mostly geared towards support, tank, or AP champions.
    None of the options give a lot of defense against non-APs, so you either need to be very confident the bruisers won't get to you, or build another defensive item somewhere in there. And a Void Staff on the AP has a huge impact on your defenses, while a health item would be unaffected.

    I don't know if he's calculated it in there, I don't think penetration is calculated in regards to effective health. Just pointing out that I don't think MR items can really compete with the likes of Warmog's and such, with exceptions of course when your opponents are heavily skewed towards magical or physical damage. (top-lane Rumble + AP mid, jungler is either tanky or AP-based? MR is looking pretty good right now.)

  • #58 BuddyBoombox

    Sweet!  This is exactly what I asked for in the comments for your last article!  I'd like to think you are awesome and just listening to a fan, so even if its not the case, just let my illusion stand :P

    This is interesting though, I never thought of Randuin's Omen as its just a bruiser item in my mind, glad you brought it up!  The only thing I wonder about is adding 70 resistances, wouldn't that mean that we are pushing the need for health even further to be optimal?  We'd still be 500 HP behind optimal EHP line and like you said, assuming % pen only makes this worse?  Basically, the passive/active has to be worth a lot, it seems, to pick it over frozen mallet.

    Last edited by BuddyBoombox: 2/8/2013 12:23:22 PM
  • #60 GentlemanGustaf

    I've been thinking on this idea for awhile (I go Mallet and get flamed for it all the time), but pushed it to the forefront after getting a few requests for it.

    I never thought of Randuin's Omen in that way either until I saw it in game. My first thought was 'that's dumb!', and then I thought about the stat.


    Yeah, it puts you way over the optimal point, but it gives you SO MUCH GOLD VALUE of defensive stats that it's ok. Plus the active and passives on it are fantastic. You can even rush Warden's mail (after 2-3 offensive items) vs a team of Irelia Xin or something just for that passive. As BT FF Ezreal has shown us, it's sometimes ok to get early defenses on AD Carries.


  • #62 BuddyBoombox

    Strange visions of a  teemo build just popped into my head, with liandry's and FM as core... maybe a runaan's... tanky teemo seems stupid though.  Then again, isn't playing teemo a bad idea to start?


  • #63 GentlemanGustaf

    I'll suppose I'll let the cat out of the bag: I do a Teemo build sort of like this which is DIRTY.

    Early in Pre-Season 3, I got stuck playing Teemo top. The opposing jungler said 'Oh look, it's Gentleman Gustaf. I bet he's going to craft the mathematically perfect build for Teemo and then suck because math doesn't matter.'

    20 minutes later I'm like 10-1 and asking things like 'does this seem mathematically viable to you? I'm not sure, but it seems to be working.'

    If you knew me, you'd know that that's basically the WORST I can be instigated into; as a general rule, I only all-chat to say things like 'nice play' (seriously, not sarcastically), or to respond to people who recognize me (normally with '<3'). When I play with friends in Skype, the most common thing I say is "STOP TYPING" (to somebody who is upset).

    But if there is one reportable game in my entire career of LoL, it was this one, because every time he died to me (a lot, since I split push top all game, and 1v2'd him and his top again and again), I asked something like 'so, do you have any tweaks to suggest to my build?' Although, it may have come across as seeking constructive criticism, so perhaps it wasn't at all reportable, but if the person reading the tribunal report could hear my tone, it would be :P

    Lesson? Feel free to insult me in game. Call me a noob or a bad player and I will generally say 'sorry, my bad, I made a mistake', EVEN IF I THINK I DIDN'T. I care mostly about winning, and the best way to do that is to maintain morale. But if you say math isn't a viable way to search for answers I will fuck your shit up without the slightest ounce of regret.

    I'm not going to put this build here because I HATE Teemo, but you can find it in other guides on the internet. It does end with a Liandry's, as well as some auto-attack related items, and it's important to remember that poison procs neither Liandry's nor Rylai's, so itemize around that.

  • #53 mitcherrman

    have you considered that with lifesteal, resistances are better? because say you lifesteal 10 health an attack. that 10 health is much stronger with 100 resistances and 1000 health than 10 resistances and 10,000 health.

    because of this logic, unless the enemy is completely burst oriented, i go for resists over health.

  • #47 vicious2500
    Frozen mallet would go good on varus with the long range too. Sometimes I wonder if people remember he's in the game. Wouldn't frozen fist work good on him too?
  • #56 sgtcolon

    Quote from vicious2500 »

    Frozen mallet would go good on varus with the long range too. Sometimes I wonder if people remember he's in the game. Wouldn't frozen fist work good on him too?

    FM is fantastic on Varus. One of the best attack ranges and already has a slow and a root so you can really stick to almost any targets as well as self peel.

  • #57 MerryLane

    Imho if you play Varus you should already play him in a suited teamcomposition.
    With champions that already have huge peel power for you.

    Sure FM brings something, but I'm not sure that it solves his problems, or hard enough.

  • #59 sgtcolon

    Quote from MerryLane »

    Imho if you play Varus you should already play him in a suited teamcomposition.
    With champions that already have huge peel power for you.

    Sure FM brings something, but I'm not sure that it solves his problems, or hard enough.

    I used to think like that too, but something changed and I realised just how strong Varus can be in almost any team composition. He has very flexible builds and play style. You can work him into almost any composition, which is great because he is so strong in lane.

  • #45 Hannya11

    And how about spirit visage?  

    This item give good defencive stast when fight versus hard ap team without cc. passive help if your sup is taric/sona and on full stacked bt give u bonus 4% lifesteal and cdr help to champs like graves/ez/mf/twitch.

  • #44 Tricer

    I was thinking that Frozen Fist would work well for Varus.

    It gives him Cooldown reduction, the 40ap ups the passive on his W, and it helps him overcome his weakness of no escape. Thoughts??

  • #55 sgtcolon

    Quote from Tricer »

    I was thinking that Frozen Fist would work well for Varus.

    It gives him Cooldown reduction, the 40ap ups the passive on his W, and it helps him overcome his weakness of no escape. Thoughts??

    FM is much better. It's borderline OP on Varus. So much utility.

  • #43 Wishead

    why did you forget banshee's?

    I Love it on carries when they got stuff like naut ult/maokai's W and got alot of magic dmg

  • #42 lazule2

    Don't forget Kog'Maw!

  • #41 Hazuu

    Honestly the only legitimately viable defensive items on ADCs are GA, Warmogs and Scimitar. Warmogs if they've got ridiculous dive potential (in team fights), Scimitar if they've got a retarded amount of foolproof CC, GA for everything else. Although GA honestly isn't amazing anymore, but it's usable.

    Randuin's is an interesting item. It's a very, very situational item though. Warmogs outclasses it in general. I don't think Mallet is a good item because it's pretty expensive and you lose a LOT of damage building it. Red buff is a decent substitute. Fist is a great item on Ezreal, but in general only Ezreal (unless I'm forgetting somebody). Maw is just lol because Warmogs/GA outclasses it so bad.

    Last edited by Hazuu: 2/7/2013 6:58:39 AM
  • #48 GentlemanGustaf

    I don't get this reasoning: you lose a lot of damage building Mallet, but not Warmog's?

  • #49 corallein

    With the increasing popularity of all-physical teams, Randuin's Omen becomes much better as a situational pickup over Warmog's.

    Banshee's Veil is also a situational pickup, depending on the enemy team comp. For example, if the enemy is running AP Nidalee without a reliable way to poke off the shield (like Ashe Volley), then BV can help a lot.

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