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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  • #50 darknmy

    Well not all ADC are alike! For ez I'd rush AD, for kog I'd rush AD and AS, but for Urgot pen and CDR. For Caitlyn I'd rush IE first, so I can maximize 21-9-0 use of masteries, but BT 1st for Ez and BoRK 1st for Kog and PD 2nd. For every single ADC you can find a different suit of builds, that don't go together in a one graph of effectiveness. 

    For example Ez 2nd item could be SS, FF, IE, LW!? For kog I would prefer PD. For Caitlyn probably PD and Urgot is just Urgots Maramune and BC. 

  • #49 Itachi

    Aren't Ionian Boots of Lucidity good on Ezreal?

  • #44 sgtcolon

    To be honest, it is pretty simple, first or second back and you are looking to be in a position to pick up your first BF Sword. If you are not, you are going to get any sensible combination of Doran's, Boots, Long sword, Dagger, Pick axe and Vamp Scepter, depending on what you can afford / need the most. Very few champs (even less than for S2) might consider getting an early Phage or Brutaliser.

    One additional point, Zeal is very strong in lane right now, a number of pro's and high Elo solo queue players traverse through builds like Boots of speed + BF + Zeal if they need the MS, even over tier1-2 boots. It can be a tough choice when you are forced to base before you have enough gold for your next ideal purchase. Whether to save it for the rush and return to lane potentially significantly weaker than your counter part, or to spend it on parts for future items, but risk delaying your first major item. Making the right choices here is often crucial.

  • #43 Dj0z

    Couple interesting points in there

  • #42 Aldrahill

    ... This articles conclusion is rather confusing. 

    You state that 2x Doran's + Vamp Scepter is a noob trap. I assume you're saying that because of how this used to be the meta in season 2? At the present moment, going a brutalizer just simply doesn't help snowball your lane as much as just getting straight damage does; combine that with the fact that, if you are ahead and get a brutalizer, you lack the bonus health from the doran's as well as lacking any form of sustain.

    I mean Draven ADC, and unless I get an early double kill and am able to back and buy a BF sword, I alost always get a vamp scepter and a dorans. Why? 80 health, 20 AD, 5 health return on kill and 10% life steal is simply too good to pass up. Compared to the 25 AD and 10% cdr of the brutalizer, the 5 damage simply isn't worth losing almost every trade, as the enemy adc will simply come back with the aforementioned vamp scepter and will thus then be able to trade, cs and get health back, and then win the next trade. 

  • #40 Bullobulli

    1- Only Sivir has a skill that reset the attack-timer. Not "most popular adc"

    2- MF for SURE does not have such a skill.

    3- Vayne has Tumble. Tumble reset the attack-timer but has a long animation and during the animation u can't attack so that reset is pretty useless. 

    Also you didn't consider dps from champion's physical skills so you mark brutalizer under BF but you miss the cdr stats on it and the arp on it which influences the dps both of aas and of skills (influencing also skills BASE dmg obviously). I know you can't calculate that for any champ since any champ has different skills but those numbers are misleading since they do not take into account this things i said.

    I like your work but you're sometimes kinda inaccurate xD

  • #41 Hannya11

    isnt mf Q use on hits and reset aa timer? also ez reset his timer with Q, quinn will use E as aa and passive reset and isnt draven Q reset aa timer too? 

  • #45 Dj0z

    (draven's Q doesn't reset his AA)

  • #46 Bullobulli

    Quote from Hannya11 »

    isnt mf Q use on hits and reset aa timer? also ez reset his timer with Q, quinn will use E as aa and passive reset and isnt draven Q reset aa timer too? 

    NO, NO,i don't know about quinn since im not in the pbe and i can't try.. and NO. Why writing an answer without having the DECENCY of taking info before doing it?

  • #47 Bullobulli

    Quote from Hannya11 »

    isnt mf Q use on hits and reset aa timer? also ez reset his timer with Q, quinn will use E as aa and passive reset and isnt draven Q reset aa timer too? 

    No, no, i don't know about quinn yet and No. Inform yourself before writing plz.

  • #48 PalestineBeFree

    MF's Q is an autoattack reset dude =/

  • #51 Bullobulli

    Quote from PalestineBeFree »

    MF's Q is an autoattack reset dude =/

    No. Stop saying false things guys. Get yourself informed before writing.

  • #52 PalestineBeFree

    Quote from Bullobulli »

    Quote from PalestineBeFree »

    MF's Q is an autoattack reset dude =/

    No. Stop saying false things guys. Get yourself informed before writing.

    How is it not? O.o

    Its a skill that resets her autoattack timer.... hence its its an autoattack reset

    Its not a skill that activates on next attack, like say draven's Q

    It has an additional benefit but that doesnt change the fact that it is an autoattack reset 

    If you think otherwise then explain dont just say "False" =___=

  • #53 Bullobulli

    Quote from PalestineBeFree »

    Quote from Bullobulli »

    Quote from PalestineBeFree »

    MF's Q is an autoattack reset dude =/

    No. Stop saying false things guys. Get yourself informed before writing.

    How is it not? O.o

    Its a skill that resets her autoattack timer.... hence its its an autoattack reset

    Its not a skill that activates on next attack, like say draven's Q

    It has an additional benefit but that doesnt change the fact that it is an autoattack reset 

    If you think otherwise then explain dont just say "False" =___=

    Simply it is not. Double Up does not reset the attack timer. Simply you can time it well between an attack and another but it does NOT reset the swing timer. It's simple what more i have to explain? If you make 1.5 attacks/second you can attack then make a Double Up then attack again but the 2 AA are always at 1.5 seconds between them. A reset is a skill that CHANGE the time between your AAs. Mf Q is NOT such a skill. SIMPLE . I dunno how to explain this in a more accurate way.

    Last edited by Bullobulli: 2/26/2013 2:13:28 AM
  • #38 brbafkftw

    First off, I suck at ADC and never (ok, hardly ever) play it. That' just as a preface.

    While the title of the article is a bit of a misnomer, I do think (obviously can't speak for the author) that the main content was to compare cost effectiveness of DPS from different builds and the resulting cost effectiveness of DPS from the next logical item choice stemming from those initial builds. Utility was rarely mentioned in the article so that leads me to believe that the extra HP from Doran's items were not really considered.

    In terms of "utility" (read - something math cannot really specify) I think a vamp scepter approaches that of Doran's items. The HP gained is nice to be sure, but the cost effectiveness doesn't seem that great to me. Considering the extra HP would mostly protect from burst, I would rather just buy a ward or two and avoid the gank and the related burst.

    A single Doran's Blade seems to be enough in most situations and considering the similar price of Long Swords and their obvious superior (and versatile) build paths, getting an extra Long Sword would be the more cost effective path.

    With the reminder that I rarely play ADC, when I do I start Long Sword + 2 and when I have enough to get Greaves and Vamp scepter I usually go back. Depending on how the lane is going I will either have Greaves, vamp, BF sword, or Greaves, vamp, doran's, pickaxe. I tend to get this no matter which ADC I am playing and then I vary the build from there. Is this best? I have no idea, but it usually works well enough and no one has ever yelled at me in the game chat :D.

    Anyway (without using the TL:DR) I guess I'm trying to say that Long Swords > Doran's Blades in the current meta because... cost effectiveness and actual build paths > a little extra HP and marginal on-hit health.

  • #36 Talamare

    In 25 seconds, you only managed to proc Sheen 3x?

    Something wrong there

  • #34 sgtcolon

    I do not think you buy double Doran's / Vamp Scepter for the best damage. No one is thinking that when they do it. They are however thinking that they need the sustain and survivability to survive a rough early game. So, 'noob trap' seems a bit of a misnomer, perhaps you should say that it is not an efficient build for maximising mid-late game DPS, but if it allows you to survive your laning phase and CS, then by all means take that hit. However, I do think that most ADCs should be able to get away with just one Doran's though and that 2 is the absolute max you should ever consider buying.

    Further to this, lifesteal quints and Doran's start is pretty strong right now and should be included in the considerations.

    In a nutshell, you need to consider sustain more in your appraisal of this information (particularly with the prevalence of non-sustain supports), but nonetheless it's a good read and confirms that past dogma for prioritising AD for strong trading / easy CS'ing still holds true.

  • #31 Darky5102

    Quite possibly the worst Math posts on RoG in a while. Doran's Blades + Vampiric is better than B.F. Sword because it can be bought in 3 different pieces (so if you're forced to go back to lane with less than 1550 gold, you will actually come back to lane stronger). It's also better because it gives FLAT HEALTH and HP EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU AUTOATTACK SOMETHING. Please compare the effectiveness of B.F. Sword's sustain to 2Dblades+vamp's sustain. Amount of HP back per autoattack/0 = Error, you're bad. 


    Also, getting Crit Chance glove will make kill the enemy 0 seconds faster than if you had no items? Tooooooooootally legit. You either don't check your math before you post it and you're just bad at maths.

    Last edited by Darky5102: 2/21/2013 4:23:54 PM
  • #32 iCursor

    This was about damage, not anything else. It's clearly understood except by you. True, the sustain from vamp2xdorans gives HP and sustain, so that's something you buy when you're really in a bad lane and need the chance to stay alive from burst and need the sustain for harass. This is not "buy this, not that", it's "This gives the most damage for your money if you cared to know". Damage isn't really comparable to sustain and HP in any other form than cost effectiveness, and stat cost effectiveness means literally nothing in this situation, even you should realize that.

    Furthermore, crit chance glove does give a different DPS, you should check the math closer yourself.

    This article does however not uncover something new, all this should be pretty common knowledge.

  • #33 Kontossis

    Err, I dont' really see that this post was only about damage.  The title of the article is: Early Game Builds, What is best for ad carries. Doran's blades are perfectly viable and to say it's a noob trap in the TL;DR just seems very dumb to say.  

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