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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  • #9 mooninites7

    What I got from this article

    "hey guys if you buy brutalizer, sheen, and greaves on caitlyn by you'll do fine!"


    please don't encourage people to be stupider than they already are. This was an absolutely awful post, by a generally well respected blog

  • #10 darkChozo

    "For this reason, you should probably cross out both Sheen and Brutalizer builds from your early-game checklist."

    I see how you could have come to that conclusion.

  • #12 CJTHeroofTime

    Yeah, it is pretty hard to get good information without actually reading an article.  Great comment, 10/10

  • #8 Cheapo5020

    You don't get Doran's just for damage, you get Doran's for the cost-efficient mix of stats. In particular, buying Doran's gives you additional health, really nice if you're in a lane with lots of action and want a little extra survivabilitiy. You also get some additional sustain (how needed it is though, is questionable, depending on when you get Doran's and if you have a vamp already or not). Doran's sustain is pretty strong early on then falls off, so I suspect that they'd be better on champions rushing IE, cause then you could put off building vamp sceptre.

    Anyway, saying that double Doran's is a noob trap (especially compared to zerker's + vamp) is really misleading if you don't talk about the additional benefits of building Dorans.

    EDIT: Looks like the guy below beat me to it.

    Last edited by Cheapo5020: 2/21/2013 11:35:08 AM
  • #7 ShakeNBakeUK

    Dunno if I agree with this article.

    BF Sword rush is very strong, yes.

    But I do not agree about runes. AD marks win at level 1, but it is only by a tiny amount. As soon as you buy a single AD item AFTER 1st trip back, ArP marks outscale AD marks HARD and late game they are crazy strong, adding up to 50 extra dmg per auto attack...

    Also, the Doran's Blade maths seems WAY off.
    2x Doran's Blades early game literally shits on EVERY other starting item setup. Nothing can match the cost efficiency of Doran's Blades. So I don't know if they missed out the 5 health per hit, or the bonus 80 health, but yeah, there is NOTHING for 900g you can buy that is better than 2x Doran's Blades.

    Also, Zerker Greaves. Attack speed early game is TRASH. Don't bother upgrading boots until after either BF Sword or IE / BT.

    Rushing boots / zerk shoes is the REAL n00b trap at bot lane at the moment...

    If you wanna win every single trade, Doran's Blade x1-2 -> BF Sword absolutely slam dunks everything.

    Just my 2c.

    Last edited by ShakeNBakeUK: 2/21/2013 11:23:21 AM
  • #22 RoakOriginal

    if i remember  correctly there was once article about runes for ad's... comparison of ad, arp, as runes... and arp outscaled ad not after first item but after like first 2 or 3 (it was after LW i think)... u should look up for it a bit...

    not sayin that u concentrate on practical use of stats later in your post (which i agree on that dorans are better for 1v1, but it's still nice knowing, if u can outplay your opponent anyway, what to build to maxime your income in dmg - as it is stated here), and ad runes are much  better then arp cuz of lasthitting (and even some abilities if they have high enough scaling ratio)

    so yeah you are right in most points, but seems like you tried to look more "pro" then is necessary and bit screwed...:D



  • #6 Edge363

    Im to the point where i think that adc's are just sticks with items attached. 

    The only one that isnt is Miss fortune, and shes so much more powerful than other adc's. Im starting to think that maybe the roles should be more balanced based on all other characters, not just there fit in there role. Because nerfing everybody except taric ends with taric having a staggeringly high win ratio, but then you pigeonhole alll support champions into support roles, even if there is competent counterplay. Becuase there overall kits are weak and myehh. Slowly there starting to make supports worth what they get. Which is nothing, i'll admit that taric is just broken right now, but so where all the other supports. but when you have an inflated role, then you have imbalance on the influence that a certain role can have. You know, Morello is always talking about how fighters are op or unbalanced. but maybe thats because you've nerfed bott lane into oblivion. The adc's i agree, there too strong, but instead of having pathetic champions with op itemization why not just nerf the itemization some more? Like with ad caster's? You didnt nerf every ad caster did you?(talking in third person) its just frustrating seeing a whole class of champions being forced into pairs, because now ad carry's arent very competent without a support, and supports are deadweight without someone to support, thats why killing the adc is so important in team fights. You lose 2 team members, the support AND the adc. Just my two cents.

  • #5 Sagiso

    Hey guys, just thought id drop my opinion here, as someone who is currently in the transitional period from competitive wow (5x gladiator) to competive league, seeing posts like that that demonstrate theory craft which until now i thought was missing from the league community, gives me faith in my decision to make the switch from WoW to league.

    Thanks :3

  • #4 Bad_Player

    Really interesting article!

    I've been staying in the past and just starting with boots, but maybe I'll start trying out a long sword start... (The only ADC I ever really play is Varus, and when I don't play him it's Sivir, so I like the boots since they don't have any other mobility.)

    Anyway, here's my question: 2xdblade+vamp obviously doesn't stack up well with other 2000g builds; but how does dblade+vamp stack up with 1500g builds? When the season first started, I abandoned 2xdblade+vamp for dblade+vamp, since that resulted in a similar price point as season 2, so I'm just wondering if it's any better.

  • #3 tronatula

    It depends on the champion. For example, I've seen Fnatic Rekkless played Twitch and he bought the items : Vampiric Scepter --> Statikk Shiv ---> BloodThirster ---> Sword of divine, because this build benefits from Twitch's passive and E. I've tested and it's better than rushing BloodThirster first.

  • #2 FinalValkyrie

    Lol @


    "oops forgot to buy items"

    Had me rolling.

  • #1 Nyxilis
    Been doing the long sword and 2 pots start for awhile now myself. Simply because it does lead to v. sceptor. It's just to useful, especially if you don't have a sustain support. Which lately, I see about half my games. It's either Taric, or something else. And if for some reason you don't take it, seems like everyone else is and suddenly you just can't trade blows or afford any poke.
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