I'm a strong believer that math can only get you so far when it comes to building. Theory informs decisions also. I mean, sure, you can use attack damage seals and glyphs, but in trades and throughout the game, are they going to serve you as well as armor and magic resist? Heck, attack speed glyphs are just as good, if not better (no, we're not going to analyze AS vs. damage glyphs today, just take flat or scaled MR).
There's the maths, and then there's the applied use of the maths. Pure math is generally not the entire picture (with runes and auto-attack based damage being notable exceptions, and we're covering those, and even then there are caveats and assumptions).
This is actually the approach I've always used, including in my analysis of Haunting Guise and Executioner's Calling, two of my "harder" math pieces. Rather than tell you something is good or bad, I like to present the evidence and make a case, saying "if these are the conditions, then ______ is actually a good idea." If the conditions are common and people can easily imagine it, they'll agree. If the scenario isn't realistic, well, pity me, 'cuz I'm a fool.
Now that I've warmed you up, I'll say it: I think there is a use for destruction marks. Not just sometimes, but most of the time in some cases. As in, there are champs for whom you might get these usually.
When Destruction runes were released I was drawn to them. They seemed very interesting and I picked up a set right away. In my defense, I had IP to burn and I always have enough for each new champ, so sue me. They actually were stronger before the buff to magic penetration glyphs and quints, but they are weak. They have a Quint Quotient of two, and for a long time it seemed clear that damage, armor pen and magic pen marks were better and that flat AP or damage quints were clearly better. But recently, I honed in on the closest commonly used relative, and that's magic pen marks. The difference is really this: 3.4 Magic Pen vs. 9 Armor Pen. I bold that because it is the simplest and most important difference. Destruction marks are 5.1 mpen and 9 arpen, Insight marks are equal to 8.5 magic pen. You are trading 3.4 magic pen for 9 armor pen. You could also view it as giving up 6 of 15 armor pen to get 3.4 Mpen, but that doesn't sound nearly as good, does it?
Mages auto-attack a lot in jungle skirmishes and with harrassment in early and mid game. Do you know how much armor mages have? Here's a list. Keep in mind some mages grab armor seals, but most don't. Here's an old chart of mine I used on resistances.
Early to mid game, you're looking at 30-40 armor on your lane opponent. Most mages grab the 3 points in damage for masteries, then gain about 3 every level. So, at level 2, if you're Ahri, your auto-attack is 59. If you're facing a Morgana with no armor runes or masteries, her armor will be 22.6. If you have 9 armor pen, it goes down to 13.6. That lops off about 6% armor reduction. 6% of 59 is...3.5 damage! That's 3.5 more damage per auto-attack. That's...not a big deal. This is why I'm not doing stricter math for it.
Okay, well what about clearing wraiths and last-hitting minions? Instead of 10% damage reduction, it's 1 or something, and at level 7 the same Ahri would have 15 more damage for 74...that's an extra 7 damage or so on a minion hit. Easier last-hitting, more damage to dragon and baron. Okay, that's actually something, but not enough perhaps to ditch 3.4 magic pen.
So what about auto-attacking as an important part of play? The people that use magic pen mid are mostly mages at mid. They will still be building ap, but not damage. I wondered, who of those wants to auto-attack anyway? I have compiled an alphabetical list:
That's quite the list! Where to even begin? Well, I started with my favorite but not best mid, Ziggs. He wants to use auto-attacks. But hmm. He isn't going to be using them much, and it's only 1 of his 5 abilities. And unlike the other 4, it's not AOE. I don't even want to look at the math there.
Specific Examples of using Destruction Marks
Let's narrow it down some more then. Who actually unavoidably has auto-attacking as part of dealing mage damage?
Of course! Twisted Fate's W is based off of auto-attacks. No matter what, Twisted Fate is going to deal some auto-attacks out. You stun, Q, and then try to get one more hit in maybe, then back off. Go back in, due it again, trying to proc E.
At level 9 with 100 AP, TF will have his Q at level 5, his W at level 2, his E at level 1, and his ult. He'll have 79 damage if he has the 3 points in damage on offense runes, which is what most mages do. So, in the above situation we can total his damage as such:
- Q: 325 (260 + 65 from 100 AP) magic damage
- W (gold): 141.5 (79 from attack damage + 22.5 ability + 40 from AP) magic damage
- E: 95 magic damage (55 + 40 ability power)
- One auto-attack: 79
Total of 79 physical and 561.5 magic damage, with another 79 damage per auto-attack. Here it is clear that 3.4 mpen is greater than 9 arpen. That's not too good at all.
Well, what about Lich Bane? Lich Bane does not proc extra magic damage. It adds physical damage. What if you poke with 300 AP at Level 15? You get a gold and Q and then you run.
- Q will deal 455 (260 + 195 ap ratio) magic damage
- W will deal 264 (45 + 120 + 99 ad) magic damage
- Lich Bane Proc will deal 300 physical damage (proc is not added to the W)
Q and W are 719 magic damage. Proc is 300 magic damage. That's 3.4 penetration for a 455 and 264 and 9 points of pen for a 300. And targets generally have more armor than they do MR, and penetration doesn't work as hard at higher levels. I wouldn't get them on Twisted Fate, even though he does do a lot of auto-attacking and has an attack-speed boost. He needs the burst, not the chip.
Who else is a Lich Bane champ, ooh, I know.
Level 15, 300 AP with a Lich Bane, E is at level 3, W and Q:
- Q is 570
- W is 570
- Lich Bane Proc is 451 physical damage (300 + enrage ad + 3 from masteries + base).
Level 9, 100 AP W at 5, Q at 2, E and R at 1, sheen equipped:
- Q is 215
- W is 390
- Sheen proc is 212 (100 + enrage ad + 3 from masteries + base) attack damage.
One thing to keep in mind with Sion is that when you are mid, the lane opponent is likely to have some MR to resist the burst, but not any armor. Furthermore, sometimes your W will pop, leaving just the 570 and 451. 3.4 Penetration points in 570 are not going to be as much in 451 assuming the armor and mr are about the same value. In the case of an ap champ, you can assume the MR will often actually be higher. Lastly, his E scales harder at 17 and 18, and his ult involves attack speed, lifesteal, and auto-attacks. Lastly, some players are smart enough not to get hit by w but will take a stun and auto-attack or two. You might only be able to stun and auto-attack unless it's a group fight. I think I'd get these on him.
I can't go in depth on every champion, here are some I'd recommend trying them on to see for yourself, and some I wouldn't.
Don't try Destruction Marks On These Champs
- Any ad carry or support. Damage, Gold, Armor, so many better things you can be doing here.
- Hybridy tops like Yorick, Poppy, Jax, or Kayle, enticing as it looks. While many of their abilities are magic-based, they still scale off attack damage and AP. If you do that math for Jax, damage marks will give damage to his auto-attacks and his magic and his physical abilities, that is, in his passive/autos, Q, W, and E. Penetration of either kind splits too much, even mixed penetration.
- Junglers, generally. Though some jungle builds grab a handful of but not full set of armor pen marks, and if the champ is right and magic damage is a lot of the creep-killing damage in cases such as Cho'Gath, Mao'Kai, Amumu, Sejuani, or Diana, you could try it, but I'd stick with attack speed, AP, or something defensive.
Destruction Marks work Better with these situations and mid champs:
- Champions that use Sheen/Lich Bane, Wit's End, or Ionic Spark.
- Any champion that gets in a lot of auto-attacks but has a lot of magic based damage. This will also depend on your team comp and theirs. If you have a Nautilus and you're going to add two or three auto-attacks on, that's great.
- Champions that get Void Staff. Void Staff makes flat magic penetration weaker. Yet, you still want some earlier game with your sorc boots, or you're just going merc's. In this case you're thinking either 8.5/46 vs. 5.1/46 or 28.5/46 vs. 25.1/46. In these cases, 9 armor pen looks much better.
- Melees. Most Melees try to get in and then finish off with some autos. Katarina has gunblade, and will dash in and use an auto-attack, and Gragas' W increases his attack damage, meaning sometimes you dash, Q, and auto. Diana, Akali, Eve, Fizz, Nidalee, and Kassadin try to get a hit in when they go in and out (or in and in and in).
- AP Teemo and AP Yi. But please don't play AP Teemo and AP Yi.
- Bruiser Cho'Gath. If you're not going high AP and you get a wit's end and a shurelya's or something, you'll be dealing a decent amount of physical damage also. Also, Cho'Gath has the highest level 18 base attack damage in the game.
- Champions that auto-attack a lot. Did you know that Kennen, Eve and Teemo have the respective top three highest attack speeds at level 18? Did you know that Akali is 4th, Orianna is 6th, and Nidalee and Kassadin are 8th and 9th? And that all of these champs have auto-attack and magic-based abilities?
- Eve. She fits a lot of this criteria, has an attack speed boost, most of her abilities are close ranged, and many Eve's build sheen/Lich Bane, though DFG first is now the norm. If an enemy is managing to survive the DFG/Ult combo or Eve is in a fight where doesn't have her ult up, that armor pen is convenient. Also, some Eve's go boots of mobility. If you're only going to have 9/10 mpen for a while, the higher MR on enemies makes the 3.4 points less relevant. As mentioned in the Void Staff bullet above, The nature of penetration scaling (see the resistances chart above) means that 25.1 compared to 29.5 is worse than 5.1 compared to 8.5. It's not required--I just see lots of Eve's having to do lots of auto-attacks. And Eve will end up going for anyone and everyone through the course of a long game, and that includes squishies.
Actually worth using?
Generally, the expectation is that destruction marks are bad and that's true. However, I'm persuaded that like health per level seals on some mids, and mana runes on Singed or Ryze, destruction marks can actually add a nice surprise element that your opponents won't notice. Plus, you get easier last-hitting, better damage vs. neutrals, and better harrass in lane, especially from levels 1-8.
If you give them a try and you love them or hate them, come back, let me know.
Old Man Eyebrows
This week's eyebrows: