Why You Should Not Rush Abyssal Scepter
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.