Early Game Builds: What Is Best for AD Carries?

Early Game Builds: What Is Best for AD Carries?

In last week's edition of #VVinning, we investigated the damage output of mid-game and late-game builds with a damage analysis of the buffed Blade of the Ruined King.  Today, I thought that we could take a small step back and look at the damage output of the early game before we have enough gold to get a major item.  If you remember what we found last week, the damage output from rushing an Infinity Edge over a Bloodthirster or Blade of the Ruined King did not change much by the items that you built first.  

But before you get to your first big damage, there are a lot of item choices to be made.  Your damage output will vary depending on what you build, and among the good item choices there are also many bad ones.  Should you rush a vamp scepter into a Zeal?  Is a Doran's Blade enough?  Will these items give enough of an early game advantage to delay that Bloodthirster?  Or should you go for that big item right away?  Keep reading to find out!

To keep things constant between posts, we're going to be using the same premises as last week.  Our sample AD Carry will use Caitlyn's base stats (typical base stats and scaling) and a Cho'Gath with no ultimate stacks on the receiving end of the damage.  AD marks and quints will be used as well as full offensive/defensive masteries.

All calculations were made with the AD Carry Damage Spreadsheet by a cool guy named VVinrar.  If I forget to include a certain item build in this post, you can find out the answers to your questions by downloading the spreadsheet and inputting the parameters that you want.

Before we jump into the main analysis, I want to make a few points about the way AD carries are designed.  By default, an AD carry has weaker offensive scaling that is weaker than the defensive scaling of most champions.  Using our base case champions with only masteries as examples, a champion becomes increasingly harder to kill over time because of health scaling.  These scaling gains begin to decrease around level 9-11, which is exactly when you start to build your major damage items.  Effectively, carries aren't efficient killers until both their offensive scaling (levels) and their items kick in.  Before that point, they're depending on early game items and the rest of their team to make them effective killers.  And that's exactly the point of this article.  We're here to find out the fastest way to push these carries into mid-game superiority.

Simply put, using both AD marks and quints gives you a bigger level one advantage than any other combination of runes.  While armor penetration is nice in the endgame, they do little in the game, which is the time that you need them the most.  While attack speed provides a damage per second output close to that of AD, champions with or autoattack reset skills (basically most popular AD carries) will benefit more from total damage scaling like AD or armor pen.  Because of the maximum damage output provided by AD runes as seen in the below chart, I will be using AD runes in all calculations made from here onwards.

Note that raw DPS calculated in the table below is calculated as a function of offensive stats only, and since the effect of armor penetration depends on the strength of the enemy target, it is not included in the raw output.  The calculations below are made with a Caitlyn vs. Cho'Gath level 1 base case.

At the beginning of the game, everybody starts off with a whopping 475 gold.  If you're a support, you might even get more than that, but that's not likely as an AD carry.  Anyways, with 475 gold, you don't have a whole lot of offensive choices.  You'll probably end up with with some variation of the following builds:

  • Longsword, 2 potions
  • Doran's Blade
  • Dagger, 2 potions
  • Brawler's Gloves, 2 potions
  • Boots, 3 potions
  • Oops, forgot to buy items

Again, with such a small amount of starting gold, your itemization choices don't make a huge deal of difference.  The longsword (or Doran's Blade) is at this point your strongest pick.  As noted previously, longsword bonus DPS will stack if your champion has autoattack-resetting skills with AD ratios.  Even if you don't pick a longsword start, it's not the worst thing in the world.  Since you don't have any real items yet, starting with boots isn't a terrible decision as number of autoattacks needed to kill somebody is only one or two extra hits in your laning phase.  This can easily be made up if you are playing a champion with longer range, or if you can "outplay" your laning opponent in trades just once every few minutes.

In the below table, I've put in a number of item variations you can build with around 2000 gold.  At this point, we're going to pretend you're a level 7 Caitlyn that's trying to kill a level 9 Cho'Gath without too many defensive items -- he will only have a bonus Ruby Crystal to keep him alive.

There's an interesting trend here.  At your first shopping trip, stacking bonus attack damage is better than stacking attack speed.  The optimal build for damage output you can get at this price point is rushing a B.F. Sword.  Conversely, building a vamp scepter and two Doran's Blades is an even worse pick than the "noob trap" of rushing Berserker's Greaves and Zeal.  In terms of kill time, rushing a Brutalizer and then continuing your build is the best way to assert early-game dominance, although this does slightly hurt your mid-game as the only thing you can build the item into is a Black Cleaver.

Despite difference damage output choices you can make here, there aren't a whole lot of ways an AD Carry can f*ck up their build at this point of the game.  Base stats still do the majority of the damage here, and items only put a tiny bit of fluffing.  Anything you buy will have to a strong transition build in the near future if you buy it now.  For this reason, you should probably cross out both Sheen and Brutalizer builds from your early-game checklist.  Go on and stack the damage!

The first time you went shopping, you probably decided what you wanted to build.  What you build with 5,000 gold price point should have been decided by what you had with 2,000 gold.  It doesn't make sense to buy Pickaxe and then suddenly buy a Bloodthirster.  As you can see below, there are some build paths that are clear winners and some that are clear losers.  For example, the Sheen/Brutalizer rush that was popular pre-Season One clearly loses out against sustained damage builds.  

This base case is against a Cho'Gath with only a full Rod of Ages.

Interestingly enough, spending the exact same amount of gold with a BT-based build versus an IE rush will give you a similar DPS.  While it may match up in damage now, it will end up being outpaced in damage, especially if you put additional critical strike chance on top of your Infinity Edge.

If you stick along a general build path of stacking attack damage in the early game, you shouldn't go wrong.  If you go all fancy and build weird items (cough, rushing attack speed), you'll end up with a lot less damage than optimal builds, especially if you are a champion like Vayne or Miss Fortune that has an autoattack-resetting skill.  Go for attack damage first and then attack speed, and you should be bursting down your enemies in no time.  The only exception to this rule is if you feel rushing a Brutalizer will snowball you harder than any conventional build.

What build should you go for?  Berserker's Greaves are a must, but not much is mandatory beyond that point.  As long as you follow common early game builds (except for stacking Doran's on top of vamp scepters) you should be fine.  As noted in last week's post, damage is very similar across popular builds after building your first big item.  The damage difference comes mainly from what you choose to put in your second and third items.  As long as you don't go overboard in stacking early game items, the average AD carry should be fine transitioning into the midgame.

In my personal opinion (this opinion not being backed up by math), Doran's Blade isn't really that good right now because of the increased versatility of vampiric scepter.  Previously, vamp scepter was a whole separate item that didn't give any extra damage, but now you're forced to buy the longsword to get the lifesteal.  While it's not quite as good as Doran's Blade, its too easy to transition to the midgame with a vamp scepter and get the items you want while getting the stats you need.

TL;DR: Vampiric Scepter + 2x Doran's Blade = noob trap.  Build literally anything but that.

And once again, if you have any unanswered questions stemming from this article, explore the possibilities by downloading VVinrar's ADC Damage Spreadsheet.  Cheers, and see you next week!


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