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Learning how to build new items and pivot your builds

Let’s do an experiment with Spellbinder.

With Patch 8.4, Riot changed a bunch of new items and added in something special. Introducing Spellbinder, an item that would make Deathfire Grasp blush. This new tool grants movement speed and additional AP after being charged up. It’s perfect for all the AP assassins in the world.

Well, this new item is great an all, but how do you know if you should buy it?

This is a conundrum for lots of folks when new items come out. Hell, even when Ornn released last year people were buying his upgrades as their second or third item. Just because something is new in the shop doesn’t mean you should buy it. Instead, you need to think about the situations you’re in and the situations the item itself is built for.

I remember when they first added Dead Man’s Plate to the game. I was playing top at the time and it was the only item I ever wanted to build. Now, this is a bad example because Dead Man’s Plate was build able on basically everyone back in the day. Still, the mentality is still there.

It’s new, it’s different, I want to try it.

Maybe you play mid but you don’t play burst mages. Well, then if you want to win the choice is brought to you. Do you keep playing casters and not build the new item? Or do you expand your horizons, playing a new type of champ and using the new item all at once. I would recommend the later, as it’ll make you a better player.

But that’s the key, isn’t it? The goal of adding in new content like this is to keep the game fresh for all of is. Regardless of if you play mid or ADC or support or whatever, you’ll come across Spellbinder. It adds a new gameplay element (potentially) into every single game you play. That’s why you have to understand it. Even if it’s something you’ll never build, learning all the items in League is key to success.

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So how do we know that this is an assassin item for AP mages? This may seem basic, but it’s fairly simple to overlook. Using Spellbinder as our example, let’s look at the stats.

  • 100 AP
  • 10 percent movement speed

When you first hear that, you might think, “This would be great on Ryze since he’s so slow and needs to stack AP.” To some extent, you’re right. Building this on Ryze could be useful, and I’m not sure I could begrudge you for trying it. But when we look at the abilities itself we see how it fits into assassins a bit more.

  • UNIQUE Passive - Spellsteal: Gains a charge each time a nearby enemy or allied champion, including yourself, uses an ability, up to a maximum of 100 charges.
  • UNIQUE Active - Spellburst: Grants 1-100 (based on charges) ability power for four seconds, and 0.3-30 percent (based on charges) bonus movement speed decaying over four seconds (60 second cooldown).

Now, we’ve been saying that this is built for assassins for this entire article. And, in truth, it is. If you aren’t imagining Fizz or LB with this monstrosity then you haven’t known true fear. But by taking an extra second or two, we can ask ourselves some questions about this item, and learn where the potential lies.

  1. Who benefits from increased movement speed at all times?
  2. Who benefits from a short increase to their ability power?
  3. Who benefits from a short burst of movement speed?
  4. Who slings spells fast enough to charge this quickly?

Assassins are the obvious choice here because they can be the answer for questions 1-4. However, there are more options here than just assassins. Let’s think about the mages where you might want to take Ghost: Ryze, Twisted Fate, Vladimir.

Ryze is extremely slow. In fact, it’s his biggest negative point. So, like Ghost, Spellbinder can be used to fix some of his problems? He benefits from increased movement speed all the time, he benefits from a burst of AP (admittedly less than some assassins, but his ability to lock down and sling a ton of spells in four seconds is incredible), he benefits from a burst of movement speed, and he uses spells constantly.

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Now let’s look at TF. TF isn’t as much of a burst mage as Ryze, relying on more than just one or two spells to finish the job. So while he gains benefits from 1-3, they aren’t as significant as Ryze. But on Ryze, some of those things are actually overkill.

Once Ryze hits a certain point, he doesn’t really need extra AP to kill you in one combo, he just needs the speed. TF, on the other hand, has potential there. If you can use Spellbinder to charge up, run forward, hit a gold card and then throw you’re Q, you could deal quite a bit of damage.

Vladimir is actually a great example of someone who probably shouldn’t take Spellbinder. Vlad is into longer fights, making Spellbinder far less useful as an AP item. For the speed, it’s excellent. However, Vlad is about hoping in, getting some damage down, and surviving until he can do it again. He gains benefits from questions 1 and 3 but doesn’t sling fast enough for 4 or gain enough from one or two empowered spells for 2.

So when looking at the Ghost using mages, the tier list seems to be Ryze > TF > Vlad.

Well, theoretically that is. See, while theory crafting is excellent, it isn’t perfect. As of this writing, Spellbinder is only a few hours old. However, a quick look at ProBuilds will tell you that all kinds of pros are building Spellbinder on Vlad. Then, if you take it into the practice tool yourself, you begin to see why.

When testing a theory against your own brain, it’s easy to forget how long four seconds is in game. So with Ryze, Spellbinder is less effective than you might think. Why? Cause Ryze should never take more than four seconds to kill you. Vlad, on the other hand, gets an opportunity to drop almost his entire combo on someone, increasing the end damage of his Hemoplague.

And that’s the final lesson of building. You may have a brilliant idea that you ultimately dismiss because you overlook a small detail. Or, you dismiss a build because it didn’t work once. Or, the build idea was never good and you were just wrong. Theory is awesome but trial and error is at the heart of League of Legends.

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Ultimately, this is how you answer questions in game. You may not have time to really do the math in the middle of a match, but over time you’ll learn to understand the uses for each weapon. Then, as you become familiar with a specific champion and their strengths, you can start to pull items that aren’t “typical” of that champion into your own builds.

You can probably go into a League game and build the same thing over and over and over again and win 50 percent of your matches like you’re supposed to. But that is extremely inefficient and will result in a lot of matches where you are very inconsistent. Learning to shake up your build is key to learning League. Once you can answer those kinds of questions for yourself, there’s no telling the kinds of weird, effective pivots you can make mid-game.

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