Vladimir has been a season 6 staple pick ever since the mid season update and after a short hiatus, he’s coming back in full force and has solidified his position as one of the most contested mid lane picks around the world.
On Patch 6.9 and with subsequent buffs on 6.10, Vladimir gained more healing through his empowered Transfusion and Hemoplague but also a new skill giving him AoE damage for added waveclear and an extra slow.
From then on, the Crimson Reaper was hit with several nerfs, mostly targeting his damage, and reverting his passive towards the old numbers so he wouldn’t do so much damage while building for resistances and health items such as Spirit Visage, Protobelt or even Warmog’s.
These nerfs made him drop in popularity but never really pushed him away as he was picked over a dozen of times at the World Championship.
Fast forward to pre-season and Vladimir was completely forgotten with the assassin update and the resurgence of LeBlanc.
Why is he showing up now?
Vladimir got buffs recently, but part of why he’s showing up now is because other meta mids have been toned down. Ryze and LeBlanc have been getting successive nerfs that have heavily reduced their priority in matches, which in turn opens up space for Vladimir to be played more.
An AP centric Hemomancer
Vladimir got buffs recently on Patch 7.3, but it’s important to look further back to understand his resurgence alongside his more AP centric build.
Passive: Crimson Pact
Back when Transfusion was nerfed, Vladimir's passive was also reverted back to how it was before his midseason update. These changes mean he no longer gets so much AP from stacking Health, but he gets more Health from stacking AP.
E: Tides of Blood
Alongside the 6.13 changes incentivizing AP over health, Transfusion’s heal AP ratio was buffed, as was the AP scaling on Tides of Blood damage, this removes the need to go for Spirit Visage to increase his healing and instead go for more offensive itemization such as Abyssal Scepter, that will provide the AP to bolster Transfusion's heal while also granting defensive stats.
Despite a weaker empowered Transfusion, the spell's base damage was buffed back to 6.13 values, and the AP ratio is even slightly stronger
With his more AP centric build, Vladimir became a bigger threat in 1v1 duels while still maintaining his status as a powerful team fighting mage.
After completing his first item, Vlad is now probably stronger than most of his mid lane counterparts and unlike the old midseason 6 version, he can easily all in opponents. The added damage to Transfusion and Tides of Blood really pack a punch, especially when augmented by Hemoplague’s Damage Amplification.
A Mage in the Side Lane
If you watch LCS you’ve probably heard the sentence 1-3-1 over and over again. In very simple terms, A 1-3-1 is when a team splits up and has 1 champion in each side lane with the main force holding the midlane. Usually, the mid laner and top laner are the ones playing in the long lanes where they can use their kit to its full extent and put pressure in more than one lane.
Vladimir is one of these champions. He doesn’t really want to sit mid because his waveclear is rather poor and requires him to expose himself to damage due to his short spell range. Instead and given his fantastic scaling, he’s better suited to sitting in a side lane and pressuring his opponent in a 1v1. If a kill isn’t possible, then roaming and collapsing in the mid lane is always an option.
Against most meta mids, Vladimir has this advantage. He can put pressure in a side lane where champions such as Orianna or Syndra don’t want to be. During the mid game they can’t respond to Vladimir and are forced to stay back to catch the wave after he pushes it in, as attempting a 1v1 is a certain loss.
This gives Vladimir’s team the advantage to make the macro decisions and map movements to get or extend leads, which can be achieved through using side lane pressure to collapse mid and force a teamfight or instead call the jungler to help Vladimir dive in a 2v1 for an easy kill.
So, how exactly do you stop a tanky blood wielding mage running at you and going untargetable when you try to fight back?
Buying healing reduction items such as Morellonomicon or Executioner’s Calling as well as bringing Ignite are usually good options, but there are other ways to deal with Vladimir.
Option one is not letting him get to that stage. As mentioned above, Vladimir’s laning is not that strong and against Orianna, Syndra, Viktor and many others he will simply get pushed in and be stuck under turret in the early stages of the game.
In professional matches, Vladimir only has a 33% win rate against Syndra and Orianna. While these two champions usually won’t be able to kill him (and 2v2 skirmishes after level 6 are also ill-advised), they can easily push him under turret with superior wave clear.
Good teams use these advantages to have their mid laners roam to the side lanes or instead invade with their junglers, hunting for their opponent or simply warding up the enemy jungle and stealing camps to start building a lead. Keeping him down and gaining substantial leads before he’s relevant can be a good answer.
(Out)match his Late Game
While not used as frequently, some teams have opted to picking other scaling picks to match Vladimir’s scaling and them beat him in later stages.
Fnatic’s mid laner Caps counter picked Vladimir with Kayle. Kayle is usually not seen in the mid lane because she just gets poked down heavily against most meta picks, but against Vladimir the range disparity is no longer there and Kayle can even push Vladimir in.
In the mid game, you want to put Kayle in a side lane as she’s a terrific splitpusher with fantastic tools to fight 1v1 duels. She scales phenomenally and spikes hard once she finishes her Nashor’s Tooth and Guinsoo’s Rageblade core items. Intervention can block Hemoplague’s pop damage and the consistent damage from Kayle is usually enough to bring down Vladimir before he can heal back up.
Similarly and also in the EU LCS, Sencux picked Kassadin as a response to Nukeduck’s Vladimir. Kassadin is seldom picked and reserved to counter pick scenarios, as he can be heavily punished by most control mages in early levels, but Vlad can’t and the Void Walker gets to freely scale and grab his Rod of Ages without much trouble.
Kassadin is then much more suited towards a side lane, where he can chase or flee with Rift Walk and start farming up to grab more items as he scales towards the late game.
The introduction of Courage of the Colossus brought excitement amongst tank and bruiser players as they were gaining access to extra survivability in form of a gigantic shield. But for those without Hard Crowd Control or a reliable means of proccing were losing a viable keystone in Strength of the Ages.
Champions like Olaf and Nunu were in a weird spot after 6.22. Olaf was forced to go into a more aggressive route with Fervor, which wasn’t bad but made him easier to take down. Nunu on the other hand completely lost his only good keystone and was forced into running Grasp of the Undying or Bond of Stone, which were suboptimal options for a jungler.
Patch 7.5 brought a new Keystone to replace the very underused Bond of Stone and while there aren’t many champions using it currently, it definitely helped a small niche.
How it works
After you crowd control an opponent, they will be marked and basic attacks from your allies (doesn’t work on the keystone wielder) will heal them for 2 seconds. 40 of the value is instant (so 2 + 1% of your max health) and the other 60% is over the course of the two seconds (the remaining 3 + 1.5% of your max health).
The on-hit component stacks and the heal over time duration refresh on-hit.
What this means is if you re-apply a slow multiple times for example your allies will gain those initial 40% over and over, once per CC application.
Who are the best users?
Beware, because the Yeti has a Keystone once again.
Nunu was thrown into obscurity with the patch 6.22 changes and removal of Strength of the Ages. Now he has a keystone to fulfill his role once again and on Patch 7.5 his win rate in higher brackets spiked up to around 53%.
An added 5% health increase on top of the 15% from Cinderhulk and up to 10% from 'Consume' stacks mean he can easily reach 4000, 5000 health by late game.
Nunu has always been about buffing his carries while debuffing opponents. 'Blood Boil' provides the attack speed and movement speed and 'Ice Blast' will slow enemies, reduce their attack speed and make them prime targets for allied vamping. He works best with auto based carries such as Kog’maw, Jinx or Caitlyn.
Was one of the only Bond of Stone users
Tahm Kench does have ways of proccing Courage of the Colossus, either by throwing out a 'Tongue Lash' on a target with 3 stacks of his passive or by devouring them. Requiring these 3 stacks of An Acquired Taste is rather unreliable however, so he benefits much more from the extra maximum health.
While not nearly as easy to apply as Nunu, any 'Tongue Lash' that hits will proc Stoneborn.
Doesn't always need the Shield from Courage of the Colossus
Similarly to Nunu, Braum’s win rate also rocketed this patch, across all levels of play. Most players have been playing him with Stoneborn Pact. While Courage of the Colossus can be activated reliably through his passive stacks or with his ultimate, he already has sufficient tank stats with Armor and Magic Resist from ‘Stand Behind Me’ and Damage Reduction from 'Unbreakable'.
Stoneborn is rather easy to apply with 'Winter’s Bite' and re-apply with 'Concussive Blows' and the first one allows him to proc it from ranged, which is important in trades so his lane partner can start healing up.
An alternative, more defensive option
While it likely will never be his main keystone, Stoneborn Pact is a viable alternative for Olaf players looking to build more tanky and be more durable with the talents from the Resolve Tree. He can constantly re-apply the keystone with consecutive 'Undertows', but it doesn’t really fit the play pattern of a raging berserker running in to maul enemy carries. If only the mark healed him…
The addition of the new keystone brought new interactions with other items in the game.
For Rylai’s, Brand comes to mind as his passive 'Blaze' constantly re-applies Rylai’s, thus refreshing the keystone multiple times for added healing.
- For Mallet, Gnar is the one user that springs to everyone’s mind, but it’s unlikely players will ever consider giving up Fervor or Grasp for extra damage in lane.
Ardent Censer is an item that is mainly seen on enchanter type supports such as Lulu, Janna or Soraka, who can heal or shield allies to activate its passive for their allies.
Stoneborn Pact also procs Ardent Censer because it’s a heal, so if your allies attack an enemy target marked by the rune, they will gain the benefits of the item.
This would work with Brand, as mentioned above, especially if he has a Rylai’s Crystal Scepter. Other players have been experimenting with other champions.
With 'Blood Boil' and a rune marked enemy from Ice Blast, Nunu can grant his teammates up to 80% Attack Speed and 40 on hit health (+ 2.5% of Nunu’s Maximum Health) becoming the ultimate ADC buffer.
- Ashe Support might sound like a troll pick, but it might be in a similar spot as Miss Fortune, where the utility provided is enough for the Frost Archer to be drafted into the support role.
With 'Frost Shot' and 'Volley', Ashe can constantly apply slows on targets for allies to heal off of it. Her healing numbers with the keystone are halved, but she can apply slows multiple times in a short span of time, which most champions aren’t able to. Adding an Ardent Censer to her build can then increase her healing with Stoneborn even further.
Aside from that, Ashe retains her utility skills that are useful in the Support role: long range initiation with Enchanted Crystallized Arrow and constant scouting with Hawkshot.
Still not convinced? Well challenger player Naeun (Also known as Chorong, who played in the NA Challenger Series) has been doing quite well with it!
Click the previews below to check out the skins in full 3D!
God Fist Lee Sin
Smaller Patch this time around. After the heavy nerfs to Lethality ADC's in 7.5, some are getting some love this patch to make up them more healthy with other buffs. Riot continues to try to put Aatrox in a healthier spot and Warlord's got a very substantial buff, especially for Crit ADCs!
Check out the full changes below to get ready for the patch to hit live:
Galio, the Colossus, will be updated with the launch of patch 7.6! If you're not familiar with the rework, you can check out our post!
Summoner's Rift: Jungle
When looking to itemize defensively against other AP mages, Abyssal Scepter is a fairly common option that offers a bit of both worlds with both offensive and defensive stats, but it’s not the same item that was so frequently purchased throughout past seasons.
Between champion reworks, mastery tweaks and item rebalancing there’s a lot that went on in preseason and sometimes it becomes hard to keep up with all the constant changes. Amongst them was a change to Abyssal Scepter’s passive that might have gone unnoticed or simply misunderstood by some players.
Before we start it’s important to look at the old Abyssal Scepter and how it worked. We looked at it just over a year ago back in the beginning of Season 6.
Back then, this was how Abyssal Scepter looked:
Abyssal Scepter (Pre Patch 6.9)
+70 Ability Power
+50 Magic Resistance|
UNIQUE: Nearby enemy champions have their Magic Resistance Reduced by 20 (700 units).
In AP vs AP matchups in the mid lane, whoever could rush and finish the item first would usually be winning the lane. The sheer AP combined with the 20 Magic Resistance Reduction (basically penetration that applies for you and your teammates) would give a ton of damage against the opponent while getting a chunk of Magic Resistance from the Negatron Cloak side of the item would completely negate most of his damage.
Furthermore, the aura used to apply to everything within range, meaning whoever had it would push waves faster and gain control of the lane, being able to use that advantage to roam and find advantages elsewhere while the opponent would be stuck under tower.
In Season 6’s mid season, Riot rebalanced the item, giving the passive a scaling component, reduced its Ability Power and increased its Magic Resistance.
While the item was less oppressive upon completion, it was still too strong and a rush item and finishing it still decided matchups often. Riot changed it once again, in the big Preseason 2017 patch.
Patch 6.22 Notes:
“Abyssal Scepter is a must-rush item. When purchased before the opposing team can build magic resist, it provides (sigh) tons of damage. But once the other team builds into defenses, Scepter starts to fall off. This gave it a natural rivalry with Aegis of the Legion’s teamwide aura. Now that Aegis no longer beefs up carry resistances, Abyssal Scepter would run unchecked early and take too long to fall off. We’re pushing it away from that early power spike and making it feel useful at all stages of the game.”
In theory, both passives end up increasing damage, but the old passive was much more impactful in the early stages, where a flat magic resistance reduction can translate to much more than 10% increased damage.
What’s important to retain is that new Abyssal Passive outperforms the old one at higher MR thresholds, the breakeven point is different depending on how many Magic Penetration sources a champion has. With only Abyssal it would be at 175 MR at level 18, adding Sorcerer’s Shoes and Void Staff, the new passive would outperform over 158 MR.
Comparing the two iterations is interesting, but doesn’t give us much more, so no point on dwelling on it. Let’s look at WHY the item is a poor early game purchase.
Overpaying for Magic Resistance
Abyssal Scepter is a 2750 gold item that gives 60 Magic Resistance, but for only 720 gold, Negatron Cloak can be bought, that will grant 40 Magic Resistance. Let’s say the enemy Syndra is ahead and has Magic Penetration Marks and Sorcerer’s Shoes.
Assuming a typical ranged AP mid lane setup, Negatron would increase Magic Resistance from 34 to 74 (33.85% damage reduction) and Abyssal would increase it to 94 (41.58% damage reduction). Naturally, in an all in by a champion like Syndra with a 7 Sphere Unleashed Power the 20 Magic Resistance difference will definitely make a difference but in shorter trades it's not that problematic.
If you REALLY needed the Magic Resist to survive lane however, you could just add a Null-Magic Mantle on top of that Negatron purchase and get 65 Magic Resistance for 1170 gold, which is 1580 less than building the full item.
What would I build that Null-Magic Mantle into?
That Null Magic Mantle could then be upgraded into Mercury’s Treads or a Spectre’s Cowl for a Banshee’s Veil purchase instead. Alternatively, you could just sell it later in the game
“But that’s not efficient”
Neither is selling Doran’s Ring, but you probably do it every game. To give a quick comparison, while Doran’s sell price is only 160g (40% return), selling a Null Magic Mantle will give you 315 gold (70% return).
Without Mana or Mana Regen items, mid laners tend to run out of mana fast and quickly lose control of the lane
This is the main point I really want to look at and explain. Having pushing lanes and being able to pressure your opponent is extremely important, especially in competitive and the meta has been centered around having pushing lanes for a long time. Being able to push lanes faster than your opponent can lead to moving into the enemy jungle for deep wards or roams and mid lane is an excellent point in the map to translate a lead to other roles.
For most mid laners, Morellonomicon is the quintessential item. It grants 20% CDR, a good chunk of AP, mana and more importantly, restores 20% of a champion’s maximum mana on kill or assist. Even Lost Chapter (one of Morellonomicon’s components) already makes a huge difference, as it restores mana on level up.
In certain matchups it’s important to have that Magic Resistance to survive trades, but the mana is also important to have control over the lane. Let’s compare two builds that cost around the same gold.
The stats on build B might look slightly inferior, but it’s important to highlight how important that flat mana and mana restoration are to be able to stay and have control over the lane.
At 3620 gold, build B turns into Morellonomicon and Negatron Cloak and with similar gold build 1 would only be able to have Abyssal Scepter and a Fiendish Codex or Lost Chapter.
In a match between Afreeca Freecs and KT Rolster, Kuro’s Orianna had to play against Pawn on Azir, a champion known for being able to dish out a lot of consistent damage from afar and bully opponents with his constant harass. Kuro built an early Negatron Cloak but didn’t upgrade it until later in the game.
Perkz did something similar versus Febiven on Azir and both Froggen and Jensen built an early Negatron to negate each other’s damage, but never upgraded the item.
On the other side of the spectrum, Piglet did a questionable build on Orianna that might have just partly compromised his team in the mid game.
By rushing Abyssal Scepter and neglecting any kind of Mana Sustain, he was constantly pushed in and could never respond to Froggen's Pressure. Echo Fox used their pushing lanes in mid and top to constantly move into the enemy jungle and place vision.
A champion might not always be making use of the Aura and its value depends on the game.
It’s important to note that Abyssal Scepter’s Aura only has 700 range and you are paying for that Aura since the item is only 96.42% gold efficient.
While champions such as Vladimir, Fizz, Ekko or Katarina use the aura frequently as they need to be close to their targets to deal damage, others such as Orianna or Syndra generally stay outside of that range when attempting to trade or deal damage to an opponent.
Naturally, how well the aura is used will depend on the opposing laner and how fights play out, but some champions make use of the aura better than others because they're in range while hitting opposing champions.
The value of the Aura also depends on the team composition. The damage increase is only for Magic Damage, so in a game where the jungler is Elise and the top laner is Nautilus the aura becomes much more valuable than in a game where the rest of the team composition only dishes out physical damage.
Abyssal Scepter's passive is not the early game focused aura it used to be so much of its appeal as an early game purchase has been lost.
The Magic Resistance it grants is not that high considering the item price. For 720 gold you can purchase Negatron Cloak and sit on it and if you need more Magic Resistance, grabbing an extra Null-Magic Mantle to then upgrade to Mercury's Treads, Spectre's Cowl or even selling it is a better idea.
The need for mana sustain to be able to have presence in lane and to be able to push out minions faster is extremely important, so early purchases such as Lost Chapter and Morellonomicon are extremely important
Abyssal's Aura is only 700 units and the item's base stats don't pay for the item alone, so long ranged mages don't fully utilize the aura. The aura is also more or less valuable depending on the other magic damage sources on your team.
League of Legends is a constantly changing game, frequent patches result in champions constantly rising and falling in performance and popularity (with both direct and indirects changes).
This season, the AD Carry role has seen many different champions at the top, at distinctly different time periods, different metas if you will and currently, we might be currently witnessing another shift.
The Past - Preseason Meta
In Preseason 2017, Twitch and Vayne were the two most popular AD Carries. With the minor update to assassins, Twitch was given longer stealth periods (now camouflage), allowing him to reposition better in fights and play around killing isolated targets. Vayne on the other hand benefitted from Fervor of Battle nerfs that pushed away the competition, alongside direct buffs to her kit in previous patches.
The competitive season started all around the world and it was obvious these two carries weren’t going to last. Following swift and targeted nerfs, Twitch saw little play and Vayne even less.
In a meta where AD Carries are currently too item dependant to be relevant in most games, the two preseason rulers lost priority in favor of utility and crowd control in the form of Ashe and Jhin. Varus showed up later and became the go to Marksman as the Lethality buffs hit the Rift.
What happened in the last few patches
After the Lethality buffs on Patch 7.2, any champion that could use and abuse the stat became meta, these last patches have been all about containing specific champions. Edge of Night and Youmuu’s Ghostblade both received nerfs and Varus, Miss Fortune and Jhin were all nerfed; directly through their kits and their Keystone Mastery of choice (Deathfire Touch).
As a result, these three champions all took a big hit in popularity while also heavily dipping in performance.
Simultaneously, other important changes went through
Maximum life steal against enemy champions reduced to 15% from 20%.
New Effect: Moving or attacking makes an attack Energized Energized attacks grant 1% - 50% (based on level) lifesteal and 30% movement speed for 0.75 seconds.
The go to mastery for most AD carries in Season 7 was initially nerfed and more recently in 7.5 reworked. Currently, the mastery is underwhelming and it went from almost mandatory to situational.
Fervor of Battle
Stack Duration increased from 6 to 8 seconds
Let’s get this straight, while Fervor of Battle still isn’t nearly as attractive for ADC’s as it was before, with physical on hit damage and spell stacking, the increased stack duration makes it much more attractive for AD carries again as they can now keep it up for longer and stack it in prolonged trades or fights, even if they’re pushed out and forced to reposition.
Bonus Armor Penetration increased from 30% to 45%
Attack Damage reduced from 25 to 10
Part of why auto based carries haven’t been doing well this season is because they have limited solutions to deal with tanks. While Last Whisper may have lost part of its attack damage, the percentage armor penetration increase on a relatively cheap purchase makes the item much more attractive as a mid game purchase to deal with armor stacking.
Blade of the Ruined King
Combine cost reduced from 900 gold (3400 total) to 800 gold (3300 total).
Attack Damage increased from 25 to 40.
Attack Speed reduced from 40% to 25%.
Life Steal increased from 10% to 15%.
Active damage changed from 10% of targets max health as physical damage to 100 magic damage.
Damage dealt by the active is no longer converted to a heal.
Passive on-hit damage now has a minimum of 10 15 on hit damage.
This change had a lot of people scratching their heads on what it would change. The AD increase over the Attack Speed nerf is most definitely welcome, as the role has sufficient ways of increasing that stat, with Berserker’s Greaves and Zeal items. The active did lose part of its appeal, but the life steal increase means there’s now another option to make sure carries are healing back up fast enough without having to grab a Bloodthirster.
With Lethality AD Carries losing a lot of their relevance, who are their successors?
Buffs to Fervor and BotRK benefit him greatly
The Prodigal Explorer has steadily been gaining traction since nerfs pushed away some of the former top tier marksmen on 7.4. In previous patches and in order to make it through lane, Ezreal would have to run Warlord’s Bloodlust to be able to keep up in sustain or to simply not get poked and bullied out of lane.
These changes, alongside a general meta shift further away from mage supports and into enchanter type supports such as Lulu have helped him greatly to get through laning phase. The 7.5 changes are the icing on the cake.
8 seconds on Fervor stacks means that even in fights where Ezreal is heavily zoned out, he can still keep stacking with max range Mystic Shots.
The Blade of the Ruined King changes benefit him more than any other carry, as Ezreal isn’t reliant on basic attacks and Mystic Shot apply the buffed Attack Damage, Lifesteal and on hit damage.
Over in competitive, Ezreal was the most picked champion last week and it’s very likely this trend will continue for the near future.
Picks of the week - 7th of March to 12th of March - Source
Buffs to cast animations and BotRK
Lucian has really shown up this patch, his play rate tripled and he rocketed to a podium position in AD Carry popularity, as the 2nd most played in the current patch.
Most of this is due to the cast time changes to his spells, making his animations more smooth as he ranks up abilities, alongside the BotRK buff which he benefits a ton from, especially with the additional AD and on hit damage that Lucian makes very good use of with his passive Lightslinger.
While he has only seen a couple of games in competitive, as regions start playing on Patch 7.5 it’s possible that he will start seeing more play.
Consistently high damage throughout the game, can bully many lane matchups
Given her high range and relevant damage throughout all stages of the game, it’s no surprise Caitlyn is amongst the most popular champions. The nerfs to Jhin and Varus alone were enough to both increase her priority in professional play and her performances in ranked matches as there aren’t many champions that can withstand Caitlyn’s superior range.
Are there others?
While not as popular, there are other AD carries that will show up frequently in the coming patches
Jhin and Ashe are likely to still see play, especially in competitive. This is much due to their sheer utility and ability to set up picks with long range initiation.
Kalista's recent buffs alongside the changes to Blade of the Ruined King make her a more attractive pick currently (she didn't need the attack speed as she already itemizes heavily for that stat), especially if she doesn't have to lane versus Varus and Jhin constantly, her play rate and win rate have been going up steadily and it's very likely we will see more of her in both ranked and competitive.
Sivir is still a solid pick for team utility, waveclear and an absolute 6 item terror.
- Kog’maw has been dominating ranked in the last few patches, as he synergizes greatly from laning with enchanter supports. He does require a lot of setup and for a composition to be built around him though, which will make it hard for him to show up in competitive.