The Black Cleaver vs. Youmuu's Ghostblade

     VS.  

Note: this was written before the patch notes. However, the principles still apply even if the numbers are slightly off. 

We’ve seen Last Whisper vs. Black Cleaver and even Ghostblade vs. Phantom Dancer. Now it is time for Black Cleaver versus Ghostblade. Brutalizer builds into two different items, and clearly one of them, The Black Cleaver, has been heralded as the greater item. But is it always? Ghostblade sometimes might be a better choice.

Sometimes I’ll see AD Carries that aren’t Miss Fortune or Corki get Black Cleaver. Why that, and not Last Whisper? Sometimes I’ll see a basic attack champion like Xin Zhao or Nocturne get Black Cleaver, even though the only other source of physical damage might be an ad carry, and a bad one at that, and it is their only damage item. Why get Black Cleaver in that situation instead of Ghostblade?

First let’s review the pure numbers difference between the two.

The Black Cleaver: +250 health, +50 attack damage, +10% cooldown reduction. Unique: +10 armor penetration. Passive: Dealing physical damage to an enemy champion reduces their armor by 6.25% for 4 seconds. This effect stacks up to 4 times. Cost: 3000G (1,188), builds out of Brutalizer and Ruby Crystal.

Youmuu’s Ghostblade:  +30 attack damage, +15% critical strike chance, +10% cooldown reduction.  Unique: +20 armor penetration. Active: Gain +40% attack speed and +20% movement speed for 6 seconds (4 seconds for ranged champions) - 45 second cooldown. Cost: 2,700 G (563 G), builds out of Brutalizer and Avarice Blade.

Pure difference: Cleaver has 250 more health, 20 more damage, and a stacking teambuff penetration passive. Ghostblade has 15% more crit, 10 more flat penetration, 300 less gold cost (even less if you count Avarice Blade farm, of which you’ll likely get one or two hundred or even more if you work on other items first), and a movement speed/attack speed active. Both have the same 10% CDR.

On paper, Black Cleaver looks better. It certainly has more damage and it penetrates more armor, right? Let’s look at a target with 100 armor. We’ll assume the mastery Weapon Expertise is always being taken.

If it’s Ghostblade:  – 8% for 92 armor, -20 from penetration makes 72 armor for a Ghostblade user.

If it’s Black Cleaver:  the debuff is applied to everyone, and with four stacks, that leaves 75 armor for everyone, and for the BC wearer, that’s another – 8%, which takes it 69, then -10 from flat for 59. However, it not until after the third stack of Cleaver is applied that there is more armor penetrated. This means you must inflict three sources of damage before you have applied more penetration to a target.

Let’s apply it to a less armored champion, say a mid with 80 armor.

Ghostblade for 80: -8% for 73.6, -20, 53.6.

Black Cleaver for 80: 60 after all the ticks, -8% for 55.2, -10 flat to 45.2. Same caveat for needing the stacks first applies.

However, note that the difference between them shrinks the lower the armor of the target is. In the 100 armor instance, max stacks means a 13 armor pen difference. In the 80 armor difference, it’s 8.4.

This is mathematical proof of something intuitive about Black Cleaver: it is better the more armor your target has (after stacks).

To calculate the benefit of having four stacks of Black Cleaver the equation is (X  x .75)(.92) - 10. The benefit of Ghostblade is .92X -20, where X = armor. The .92 only applies if the 8% mastery is taken, which anyone equipping these items generally does. The leftover difference represents how much more armor pen there is on 4 ticks of Black Cleaver than there is from the extra 10 flat on BC.   

However, the huge caveat is that it’s only on the fourth tick. Keep in mind that it’s not until your fifth hit that you get the full benefit. On first hit, you have zero benefit and a stack is applied, then on second hit you benefit from the first stack and apply the second stack, etc. Some people you need to get most of the damage off before that happens, or they don’t have a stacker like Garen’s E or Pantheon’s E. Some are basic attack champs.

So yes, on Pantheon or Garen, where basic attacks are not the main source of damage, but casted abilities are, and the shredding occurs rapidly, go for Black Cleaver. You want to get in, blow them up quickly, and get out. If you don’t finish the job, you’re hoping someone else does fast.

But, what if you are Xin Zhao or Nocturne? Xin Xhao has 3 ways to deal damage: his charge, which is magic, his basic attack (Q and W just boost his basic attacks), and his ult. Nocturn has his ult (which has a very long cooldown), his Q, and his basic attacks. You’d have to charge in and get Three Talon Strike off, then the ult or another hit before all the stacks are on. As Noc, you’d have to get three regular hits off if you just hit with Q, and two if you use your ult, four if you don’t ult and fail to hit with Q.

Generally, as Xin and Nocturne, you want to have someone lose most of their health by the time your knockup of fear combo is over, or at least be at the point where if they stay, they’re dead, and they have to run. If they run and you can’t catch them, you didn’t benefit from all the stacks. If you want them to die quickly, you won’t have time to benefit from the stacks either. To benefit from the stacks, you’d have to get six sources of physical damage in if you have more penetration from the third stack. That’s two or three basic attacks on Xin, four to six on Nocturne.

I’m not saying never build Black Cleaver, but what kind of fights are you getting into? Will you get that many hits on a single target? Sometimes, yes. You are the bigger guy and you will be spending a lot of time on a bigger guy. But usually, you are going for squishier targets. In this case, Ghostblade is actually better. In the four to six-hit scenario, you will probably get at least one of them. More importantly, you’ll have the active, which increases your damage and your ability to stick on someone until you can get another combo off, a combo which might not occur were you to not have it. It depends on who you are chasing.  Your initial abilities like Three Talon Strike and Duskbringer will hit harder, as they are often your first hits. Ghostblade thus helps your first piece of burst more.

And again, it costs at least 450 gold less (150 gold off Avarice Blade is easily obtained even if you’re rushing Ghostblade).

Part of Season 3’s itemization is to give access to abilities that champs normally wouldn’t have. Tiamat/Hydra gives melees AOE. Runaan’s gives AD carries AOE. Sword of the Divine gives burst to non-burst champions. Twin Shadows and Shard of True Ice gives CC moves to non-cc champions. Even Mikael’s Crucible gives a heal to non-healers. Seraph’s gives a shield. Youmuu’s, perhaps less popular than even all of these, gives mobility and escapes to people who don’t have escapes. The old one was just for chasing and only lasted four seconds for running away. I finally tried one of these out on Nocturne (who has Q to help escape, but still) and let me tell you, six seconds with no conditions attached to it is a really, really long time in a chase. The cooldown is only 45 seconds, even less than Shurelya’s, which is better than the old cooldown.

Factors in favor of taking Black Cleaver:

  • There are armor stackers. The more total armor on the other team, the better Black Cleaver is
  • You aren’t carrying and tend to be getting assists
  • You have good Cleaver-stacking abilities (Garen’s E, Pantheon’s E, Wukong’s Ult)
  • There are a lot of other physical damage dealers on your team
  • The above is even more so if no one else bought a Cleaver either. If someone else has one, you can both only stack the four stacks once. If one of you has BC and the other has GB, that is more total penetration

Factors in favor of taking Ghostblade:

  • You don’t have many other physical damage dealers
  • The other team doesn’t stack armor, or only one non-crucial target does (possible, if they are simply getting a Warmog’s and damage)
  • You are a basic-attack focused champion and have poor Cleaver-Stacking Abilities
  • You are an assassin and the majority of your damage comes early, then you just need to chase to finish off.
  • You need a 6-second 20% move speed / 40% attack speed buff with 45-second cooldown to help you get in and out for higher-risk, higher-reward plays.
  • Minor: you are struggling to get 1,188 gold in one outing. The most expensive piece of Ghostblade is 563, the recipe cost, plus with Avarice Blade Gold it costs more than 300 gold less.

One note: I feel Gustaf has done tons of analysis on AD Carries, even including this item, so there’s little need to discuss it. Also this article is full. To me this item is rarely a good idea on AD Carries, partly based on already done research, but here are the brief notes. The ability is worse and you have different options than melee champions do. You should get BC if you’re MF or Corki, and you should get PD, IE, Shiv, or Sword of the Divine for crit first, and LW if you need penetration and aren’t getting BC. If you’re getting Avarice Blade early to get a little gold, it’s probably better to get Statikk Shiv. In short, I feel it’s BC vs. LW for AD Carries, and BC vs. GB for melee. 

Anyway, yes I’ll say it: Ghostblade is secret OP on the right champions.  You shouldn’t automatically buy one or the other on some champions.

Best,

Old Man Eyebrows 

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Comments

  • #46 beatup12

    I don't understand why you don't do the calculations with LW, because if you are going to go for YGB then you will go for LW. With the ArP (8%) masterie it adds up to 43% ArP and that the changes the amount of Armor you bypass because of the fact that BC lowers the targets armor while YGB gives you just flat Armor Penetration/Bypass.

    (I always build YGB on tryn) 

  • #45 Apra

    What I find interesting is the fact that everyone assumes that Black Cleaver is a superior choice for all AD Carries.

    I actually get Youmuus on Miss Fortune instead. Let me explain why:

    I have a ton of Armor Penetration masteries, which gives me 24 flat ARP + 8%. This makes CSing in the early levels more challenging for sure, but I will usually win trades against the opposing ADC. I rush a Blood Thirster first of all (starting with longsword and 2 pots) and then brutalizer for the extra 10 ARP. This gives me 44 + 8% armor pen VERY early in the game, reducing their squishies' armor to almost nothing early. Why do I choose this on a champion like MF who can stack BC very quickly? Its simple.. her ultimate deals physical AOE damage, and I want it to penetrate their armor. The funny thing about flat armor pen, is that it works best against other squishies - what this means is that my ultimate will prioritize damage against those who should probably be our focus to kill first. When I ult a team, and their carries or support are in the line of fire, they melt in seconds.

  • #38 Nordramor1

    Ran some basic math assuming a Darius vs. Darius top at level 9. One builds YG+LS, the other just a BC.

    Youmuu's Ghostblade doesn't wind up doing as well as I would have hoped in duels. The active on YG's is great and brings down the kill time by about two seconds, but this is heavily countered by the +200 health on the BC, which adds back in almost 2 seconds worth of life at lower levels.

    YG's active is still great for the other reasons, but as an early item to try and dunk on people, it suffers compared to early health items.

  • #39 EuWGasgano

    Quote from Nordramor1 »

    Ran some basic math assuming a Darius vs. Darius top at level 9. One builds YG+LS, the other just a BC.

    Youmuu's Ghostblade doesn't wind up doing as well as I would have hoped in duels. The active on YG's is great and brings down the kill time by about two seconds, but this is heavily countered by the +200 health on the BC, which adds back in almost 2 seconds worth of life at lower levels.

    YG's active is still great for the other reasons, but as an early item to try and dunk on people, it suffers compared to early health items.

    Of course, thats why everybody keeps telling 'Health is op early'. Did you consider that Ghostblade is much cheaper then Black Cleaver?

  • #40 Nordramor1

    Quote from EuWGasgano »

    Did you consider that Ghostblade is much cheaper then Black Cleaver?


    Yes. Calculations were done assuming YG+Longsword vs. Black Cleaver.

    With Darius's heavy kit damage, most of the damage at level 9 is kit. All-in with BC at level 9, Darius does ~1000 actual health damage (after resistances) through skills alone. This is against a target with ~1750 actual health.

    Darius vs Darius, all-in at level 9, both equipped with BCs, will only last 7-8 seconds.

    If one Darius has YG+LS instead of BC, the fight will only last 5-6 seconds. The Darius with YG+LS has an insignificant time advantage (less than 0.2 seconds), but it will come down to lag / skill. If the Darii simo-dunk one another, bleed damage would kill the survivor (tie).

    This is assuming the YG active is available. If YG's active is unavailable, BC wins the duel by about 1 second (roughly 1 autoattack). It would be close, but the BC wielder may survive the bleed out.

    Other champions with lower level 9 kit damage benefit more from YG. If you remove Darius's execute (Noxian Guillotine) from the equation, the fight favors YG+LS by about 0.5 seconds in a duel lasting 8-9 seconds. That's starting to be a bit more statistically significant.  The sweet spot for YG is in fights lasting between 6-10 seconds, long enough to make full use of the active, but not short enough to be mostly kit-based damage.

    Last edited by Nordramor1: 2/4/2013 8:30:25 PM
  • #41 Nordramor1

    So at around level 9 and assuming defensive masteries...

    YG is inferior to BC (in duels) whenever it's active is unavailable.

    YG is very slightly better (in duels) when it's active is available.

    YG is better at chasing any target, and escaping melee targets, when it's active is available. May not be better for escaping ranged ganks or ganks with hard CC (you're squishy).

    YG is inferior when Ignite is factored into duels (BC health wins again).

    YG has a place in the toplane, but it is specific.

    • Not great to purchase early against champions with high burst (duels under 6s).
    • Not great to purchase early against champions that will drag fights out.
    • Great for escpaing gank attempts and chasing.
    • Great for bullying a lane.
    • Great for escaping a bully lane.

    BC's a safe, idiot-proof bet though. AD + Health is great at level 9, especially with defensive masteries.

    Fun Darius Level 9 Dueling Facts for 3k gold:

    • Phage + B.F. Sword. Marginally better for dueling than BC, plus the proc is great for chasing.
    • B.F. Sword + Longsword + Giant's Belt. No bells and whistles, amazing dueling stats, beats most other combinations due to raw stat muscle.
    • Sunfire Cape + Longsword. Very effective dueling combination. BC has more DPS, even considering cape's armor vs armor shred on BC, and, the cape's bonus magic damage. But Cape has +250 health, and the DPS difference is not enough to overcome the health gap quickly enough.
    Last edited by Nordramor1: 2/4/2013 9:48:51 PM
  • #35 Cerbereth

    I do like Youmoo's ghostblade on Nocturne and I am pretty sure Riot even put it in his recommended items list.

    Anyway I hope Riot leaves Youmoo's unnerfed unlike black cleaver which just got nerfed this patch.

     

  • #31 HaIfhearted

    Everyone is always like "blah blah blah armor penetration", but why does it seem like you have all forgotten about crit?

    I find it extremely hard to believe that outside of section in the article where Eyebrows lists the items stats, there is not a single mention of the 15% crit chance that Youmuus has, even within the talks occurring in the comments.

    While the number is fairly low on its own, I don't think I have to tell anyone here about the power of multiplicative scaling. It's what makes AD carries so powerful, after all.

    15% crit is enough to randomly win you duels against other champions, especially if your champion is mostly an autoattacker, like Xin or Noct, and can really help said autoattack-based champs quickly burst down squishies.

    Last edited by HaIfhearted: 2/1/2013 2:44:45 PM
  • #32 Dj0z

    Quote from HaIfhearted »

    Everyone is always like "blah blah blah armor penetration", but why does it seem like you have all forgotten about crit?

    I find it extremely hard to believe that outside of section in the article where Eyebrows lists the items stats, there is not a single mention of the 15% crit chance that Youmuus has, even within the talks occurring in the comments.

    While the number is fairly low on its own, I don't think I have to tell anyone here about the power of multiplicative scaling. It's what makes AD carries so powerful, after all.

    15% crit is enough to randomly win you duels against other champions, especially if your champion is mostly an autoattacker, like Xin or Noct, and can really help said autoattack-based champs quickly burst down squishies.

    And that's not even the full story. While BC has 2 of the multiplicative physical DPS stats (AD and pen), Youmuu's has every single one (AD, pen, AS, crit), which makes it synergize automatically well with whatever other source of those stats that your champ or your items give. Like, on Noc, that +55 AD from Q and the variable AS bonus from W, which as you may have noticed, are already multiplicating each other.

    Last edited by Dj0z: 2/2/2013 2:15:43 AM
  • #37 pagansaint

    Oh most think about it, they just don't include it with the item comparison for the primary desired effects, AD and Armor Shred.

    It is particularly good for going Atmogs for example, 30% crit plus a Ghost substitute/chain to put the bruiser on whoever needs to die.

  • #42 zBlackBoxz

    Atmogs + YG seems like it would be really cool. Especially since you'll get more damage as you build more health - and health is supposed to be OP right now or something like that. 

    While I'm sure it has been done before, I'd be interested to see how it compares to compares to similarly priced load-outs. (I'd do the calculations myself, but I'm at work >_<)

  • #43 EuWGasgano

    Quote from zBlackBoxz »

    Atmogs + YG seems like it would be really cool. Especially since you'll get more damage as you build more health - and health is supposed to be OP right now or something like that. 

    While I'm sure it has been done before, I'd be interested to see how it compares to compares to similarly priced load-outs. (I'd do the calculations myself, but I'm at work >_<)


    On Xin i run Frozen Mallet instead of Warmogs but yeah, Ghostblade + Atmas all the time ;)

  • #44 Dj0z

    Seconded. Mogs Atma YG IE Mercs + whatever, there, now your noc deals damage.

  • #18 Nordramor1

    Even after the slight upcoming changes to BC, Youmuu's is a very gold-inefficient item before it's active. The Black Cleaver is much closer to efficiency before it's extra effects.

    Even if you factor in a slight boost to Youmuu's efficiency for the Avarice Blade component (~100 gold), it's still not as gold efficient as Black Cleaver.

    On champions that can apply BC stacks quickly, you get easy armor shred for yourself and your ADC. Champions like Vi can nearly instantly stack 3 procs of BC with abilities and autos (Vault Breaker, AA, Excessive Force in ~1s). 15% more armor shred on a target with 80 armor is roughly a +6% damage boost, and if your ADC is pulling 180 DPS at roughly 1 AA per second, that's worth slightly more than a 400g Longsword.

    That being said, the active on Youmuu's is very strong. It wins trades that were otherwise close or unwinnable. It's an amazing escape or chase where it was otherwise a failure. The active on Youmuu's Ghostblade, and Blade of the Ruined King, are for dunking on people in lane and snowballing. But you need to rush them (first item) to capitalize upon them the most. Very few people are willing to go Boots+YG in the first 10 minutes, but it can snowball your lane if you do.

    But when it comes to late-game teamfights, the gold efficiency and team efficiency of Black Cleaver wins on most champions. You can build The Brutalizer early, then wait until the teamfight phase to finish the Black Cleaver to get the most out of your build.

    Compared to other items, Y'sG doesn't have enough AD to boost AD-centric abilities. AD's hidden synergy with champion abilities means that high-AD efficient items are intrinsically better than low-AD efficient items.

    So the Bloodthrister will continue to be OP, because it provides a stupid 100 AD at max stacks, or 4000g worth of AD for only 3200g. YG, on the other hand, provides a measily 1200g worth of AD for 2700g.

    But hey, if you can snowball in your lane with YG or BotRK's actives, you can theoretically make back enough gold to cover their inefficiency. It's a risk-vs-reward kind of play, where if you fail to wrack up the kills, you're going to suffer later game.

    Last edited by Nordramor1: 2/1/2013 10:24:55 AM
  • #19 Nordramor1

    Also, by comparison, look at Deathfire Grasp. It's slightly inefficient for it's stats, but just slightly. It has a very powerful active, one that can easily do 150-300 damage at midgame, and increase damage taken by another 100-200 in trades. It's a common AP snowball item as well that helps you win trades and duels.

    But DFG's gold efficiency is much better than either YG's or BotRK. And, the active benefits your entire team, not just you, so it gets even better if you have an AP jungles like Cho'Gath that can benefit from the +20% magic damage. It's also an AP-heavy item, so it scales well with most abilities.

    For some reason, Riot thinks it's okay to have AP/Magic damage items with dunk actives that are only slightly gold inefficient, and also have huge ability synergy. Meanwhile YG and BotRK, beacuse they're physical, must be very gold inefficient and have terrible ability synergy ratios.

    Go figure.

    Last edited by Nordramor1: 2/1/2013 10:36:45 AM
  • #20 DirtySlanderer

    I think Eyebrows probably agrees with you here, but maybe you missed the point of the article?  He's suggesting that, although Black Cleaver is more gold efficient and a better buy overall, YG may be a better purchase on SOME champions.  He lists Nocturne and Xin Zhao as examples; two champions who have almost no abilities that would apply the armor shred.  He's basically pointing out that YG can be better on champs like Xin and Noct because it will drastically increase their 4-6 second burst beyond what cleaver offers, since they are more likely to be focusing a carry and less likely to be applying BC stacks to everyone.

    Anyway, his entire article is suggesting that YG is a potentially better choice for champs who don't apply BC stacks very quickly, but that they may still want to take BC if they are going for a more supportive/tanky role and less of a bursty/assassin role.  I'm not too sure you read the article.

  • #21 Zalfi

    This holds especially true with the upcoming changes to BC. Since the passive applies about the same amount of armor shred (actually 1% more) but it applies it slower, this means that YG will be slightly better than it is now for champs that can't apply stacks easily/quickly or who are aiming to 100-0 someone under the 6 seconds of active. Someone like Xin and Nocturne work here, but like you said Vi can apply 3/5 stacks almost instantly with Q-AA-E and her E applies stacks in AoE. So BC will generally be better for her because of how easily she stacks it.

  • #22 Nordramor1

    Slight difference; I'm implying that building YG's is an all-in snowball decision made early, during the laning phase. You can do that even on champions that can stack BC quickly, like Garen. Rational; Garen early has long early cooldowns; if you're doing to all-in on someone, you Decisive Strike -> Judgement -> YG's. This gives you a potential unbeatable DPS for a ~10 second duel. Rushing BC would not give you that kind of edge.

    YG, due to it's gold inefficiency, is a bad late-game item, period. That doesn't make BC a good item on Xin Zhao late either. But you'd probably be better off investing in a BT than a YG late with Xin Zhao regardless.

    If someone wants to do the math on builds, I bet you'd find that a gold-efficient buid involving BT's or IE's on champs like Xin Zhao would still beat out YG. The ability synergy ratios are just too good to pass up on those items, compared to YG.

  • #24 Nordramor1

    Also, I'm not sure why we're saying that champions with AS steroids benefit in a substantial way from even more AS steroids. The way the math usually works, if you have an AS steroid, you normally get more DPS efficiency out of building AD / Crit and sometimes on-hit effects.

    So the flaw with YG is likely a meta one:

    * Bruisers generally only build one offensive item for much of the game, maybe a second towards the end (Hexdrinker / Maw / Phage / Mallet being popular)

    * YG is not a good late-game offensive item for anyone with an existing AS steroid or those that rely on high-AD ratio ability burst

    So is there a class of bruisers that do not have AS steroids, can't apply BC stacks quickly, but benefit a lot from pumped-up autos?

    I'll contend that some bruisers like Garen and Riven can capitalize a lot on YG, despite their already strong capitalization on BC.

    Would love to see some early YG, late BC builds on Garen and Riven, as both benefit heavily from all of the stats on each item, neither has an existing AS steriod, and both can apply BC stacks quickly later.

     

    Last edited by Nordramor1: 2/1/2013 12:12:58 PM
  • #26 zBlackBoxz

    Darius comes to mind as a potential.

    He likes the sticking power from the MS, and he likes quickly applying his stacks. Unfortunately, he's not wild about the crit :( 

    He also might like the bonus AD from BT more... Soooo, that one should probably be mathed out =|

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