A Beginner’s Guide to Assassin Items
As of March 2019, there are currently 143 champions in League of Legends with a variety of different classes and play styles. In the fourth installment of our LoL items guide mini-series by PicklePants, we will discuss items that synergize well with assassins.
With Akali and various other champions doing incredibly well in Solo Queue, it is important that you understand what assassins build, whether you’re assassin player or looking to play against them. There are two main types of assassins, AD and AP (some are hybrid and use both), don’t worry because we’ll be covering all of their items.
The Basics of Building
Assassins can build a variety of items depending on who you play. They may build one or two assassins items while the rest of their build path can deviate towards other archetypes.
Because of this, we will only be discussing items that are designed and brought by assassins to improve their laning phase and overall damage output.
In our previous guides on Support items, tank items, and AP items, we included some basic terminology and added background info to help you understand how itemization works. I would recommend reading them if you haven’t yet, but here’s a TLDR for those who haven’t:
Every League of Legends item falls into one of two categories:
Items that are almost always brought on your champion.
Items that you may not necessarily purchase every game apart from when you specifically need them. For example, defensive items like Guardian Angel.
Pre Game Builds for Assassins
Here’s a build for Akali curated by our Challenger Coach Moriarty. If you’d like to try out the Pre Game, all you have to do is sign up!
Starting Items for Assassins
Assassins don’t really have the greatest of early games and usually take some time to get online (unless you’re Talon that is, who is responsible for 25% of First Bloods).
Most AD assassins will either go for a standard or defensive start so they can survive the laning phase. There are 4 potential starting items for AD assassins.
If an AD assassin is in a good matchup and has kill pressure, they may want to take Doran’s Blade so they can have the opportunity to kill the enemy early. Doran’s Blade gives AD, health, as well as life steal. This bonus AD and health will definitely help you win lane and survive the early game.
Examples of champions who benefit: Pyke, Rengar.
If the AD assassin is not in a very good matchup, for example, Talon versus Annie, he may start Doran’s Shield rather than Doran’s Blade. He would benefit from this as he wouldn’t get as-bullied by Annie’s autos and put behind early or forced to recall. Doran’s Shield provides an assassin with lots of bonus sustain which will give the champion in question more laning power and survivability.
Examples of champions who benefit: Pyke, Zed.
This will allow you to get your first item quicker and give you a slight increase in kill pressure.
Examples of champions who benefit: Talon, Zed, Nocturne.
This item is also great on AD assassins who rely on using their abilities frequently like Talon or Pyke as it gives both health and mana.
Examples of champions who benefit: Talon, Pyke.
An AP assassin also has 4 major options, with two of them being an aggressive start. Most offer mana regen capabilities, which isn’t surprising as AP assassins tend to rely more on abilities in comparison to their AD counterparts.
If you’re playing as a melee Assassin like Akali or Kassadin, you may favor taking Doran’s Shield for the bonus health and HP restoration to survive the early laning phase.
Doran’s Shield is great on melee champions as it will keep restoring your health and enable you to lane for longer and pick up CS safely.
Examples of champions who benefit: Akali, Kassadin, Katarina.
Most AP champions on Summoners Rift will start with Doran’s Ring as it gives them sustain and early damage which comes in handy during the laning phase. If you’re playing as a ranged AP assassin like Leblanc or Ahri, you can take Doran’s Ring for added laning power and sustain. This will allow you to use your abilities more frequently because you will have mana regeneration.
In addition to this, Doran’s Ring has a passive that assists you when it comes to last hitting minions. This will help you if your champion doesn’t have the greatest of auto-attack animations.
Examples of champions who benefit: Ahri, Leblanc, Fizz.
The Dark Seal
If you’re playing a champion who has kill potential early like Fizz or Katarina, you may benefit from a rather greedy start by taking The Dark Seal. This item rewards you for playing aggressively and for getting kills by providing you with bonus AP stacks.
AP is granted through gaining Glory which can be earned by killing an enemy which grants 2 Glory, or gaining an assist which gives 1. The Glory stacks can total up to 10 with a maximum of 30 bonus AP. However, you do lose stacks every time you die.
Examples of champions who benefit: Akali, Katarina, Fizz.
If you do not have any kill potential early, an assassin will benefit from taking this as it will allow you to lane for longer and not get bullied out of lane.
Examples of champions who benefit: Fizz, Akali, Katarina.
Remember: your champion may favor a certain starting item in every matchup. But, don’t be afraid to adjust your starting options if you’re not in the greatest of matchups.
Advanced items, also known as tier 2 or upgraded items, are items that have only been upgraded once. They consist of one or more basic components that eventually make up a completed item.
It’s tricky to discuss every advanced item that is available to an assassin because there are so many variations and different builds. Be sure to look at the next item you intend to purchase and from there, check to see what advanced items are needed to complete said item. Take a look at the stats that they provide and choose the advanced item you want based on the context of your match.
Example Situation: Zed vs Syndra:
Zed vs Syndra is a rather common matchup. One of Zed’s core items is Duskblade of Draktharr. There are two very good advanced items that build into it which are Caulfield’s Warhammer which would provide Zed with bonus attack damage and cooldown reduction, allowing him to poke more. The second option is Serrated Dirk which also gives AD and lethality.
To some extent, your choice of which item you may buy would depend on what suits you best and what you prefer. I feel that Warhammer would be better on Zed as it allows you to use your abilities more often. It also reduces the cooldown of your ultimate, which can give you more pressure in lane.
Complete (finished) Items
Completed items are items that can no longer be upgraded finished. Assassins have a variety of items that will benefit them greatly and allow them to one shot the enemy. However, some items that we list are not designed just for assassins.
In this section, we will go over all of the main items available to both AD and AP Assassins while also touching on some items that will assist them when they try to take down an enemy champion. Let’s start with AD Champs, shall we?
Completed AD Assassin Items
Blade of the Ruined King
Blade of the Ruined King, or Bork as it’s commonly known, is a pretty good item on some assassins as it will allow you to burst players down and close the gap when chasing them. Many assassins are melee, and can struggle to get onto a squishy ranged target – especially if they have CC like Varus or Vayne. Bork’s active will slow down the enemy while also dealing some damage. Its passive will also come in handy as it will allow you to take down even the healthiest of targets with the bonus on hit damage. Bork provides attack damage, attack speed as well as lifesteal.
Beware this item has fallen out of favor with some pure assassins who prefer other items that we will move on to shortly (circa Patch 9.5). We wanted to include it for those who were interested. Right now, it’s moreso for champions that are kind of hybrids between assassins and marksmen.
Examples of champions who benefit: Vayne, Twitch.
Duskblade of Draktharr
Items that provide lethality such as Duskblade are crucial for assassins to deal burst damage and be able to get in and out of a skirmish. Lethality basically allows you to deal slightly more damage to champions who don’t build armor, or who have less armor than others. For example, lethality works great against squishy targets rather than tanks. Duskblade provides a whopping 21 lethality which is fantastic on an assassin. It also provides a healthy amount of damage as well as 10% cooldown reduction. This will allow AD assassins to use their abilities more frequently and with greater effect.
It specifically has a very good passive for assassins as it allows you to seek and destroy wards, traps and always tell you when you’re spotted by a nearby ward. This passive comes in handy (when it’s not on cooldown) as you can tell if an area is warded before trying to roam around the map and pick up kills. This will directly influence how you move around the map and what success rate you have to roaming.
Duskblade’s secondary passive gives you bonus attack damage against a champion and also provides a slow (on melee Assassins- not ranged) for 0.25 seconds. This passive can be achieved by going unseen for at least 1 second.
Examples of champions who benefit: Talon, Zed, Kha’Zix.
Edge of Night
This item is quite good on assassins as it provides them with a lot of damage, bonus lethality, as well as health. This bonus health, while minimal, will come in handy and allow assassins to stay alive for slightly longer.
Edge of Night’s active is a channel that grants a spell shield afterward that lasts for 7 seconds. The spell shield will block the next ability you’re hit with, which makes it fantastic when you’re trying to dive and get into the enemies backline. It will help you get around peelers and prevent yourself from getting focused down by burst as you get in and out.
Examples of champions who benefit: Talon, Zed, Rengar.
Lord Dominik’s Regards
An assassin will pray on unexpecting targets who are squishy during the early/mid game. However, in the later stages of the game, they may not be able to one shot or burst anybody down when champions start buying armor. Lord Dominik’s is a good item to get if the enemy is starting to get tanky as it provides armor penetration.
Examples of champions who benefit: any assassin against a tank with a large amount of armor.
Similar to Lord Dominik’s, Mortal Reminder will allow you to penetrate the enemies defensive armament thanks to the bonus armor pen this item provides. In addition to the AD and armor penetration, you also get the Executioner’s passive which inflicts grievous wounds onto the enemy target.
You should get this item if the enemy has lots of self-sustain or healing as it directly debuffs their regeneration and healing effect.
Examples of champions who benefit: any assassin when playing against tanks that stack armor and health regen.
The Black Cleaver
The Black Cleaver is a good item for many assassins at it gives you a variety of stats that can allow you to assassinate the enemy. It provides AD, CDR, and health which will all come in handy.
It also has 2 passives that basically enhance an assassins play style by reducing the enemies defense and escape ability.
Examples of champions who benefit: Zed, Pyke, Talon.
Youmuu’s is an item that will allow you to move around the map quickly and apply pressure to other lanes. It will allow you to chase down enemies thanks to its passive and active which increases your movement speed.
Youmuu’s gives attack damage, cooldown reduction and a lot of lethality, making it ideal for many assassins.
Examples of champions who benefit: Pyke, Nocturne, Zed.
Ninja Tabi is a good item to have if you’re against enemies who are mostly AD or if you’re laning against an AD champion. Ninja Tabi provides both movement speed and armor.
It will also block the enemies auto attack damage when you go in to trade. This will be vital when you’re trying to take down an assassin.
Examples of champions who benefit: any assassin into an AD-heavy comp.
Boots of Mobility
Mobility Boots will allow you to quickly move around the map and take down enemies who are out of position. However, they do not provide any defensive stats like Ninja Tabi or Mercury’s Treads.
Boots of Mobility provide a lot of out of combat movement speed which is especially useful when roaming and catching rotating enemies.
Examples of champions who benefit: Talon.
Mercury’s Treads will give you some protection against AP champions and also reduce the duration of the enemies crowd control effects – allowing you to move around more freely. Examples of champions who benefit: any assassin into an AP-heavy comp, or with a ton of crowd control.
That’s about it for AD assassins. Of course, there are a plethora of other items that are not designed for assassins but they can purchase. We have just included some items that benefit them, but there are more depending on who you play. Let’s move on to AP Assassins.
Completed AP Assassins Items
Hextech Gunblade is an item that provides AD and AP, as well as added sustain whenever an AP assassin goes in for trades. This is because Hextech Gunblade has a passive that heals for the damage you deal to the enemy. However, if you have AOE abilities, the healing will be reduced to 33%. Gunblade also has an active that deals damage and slows the target. This will allow an assassin to get onto the enemy and close the gap between them. Like other Hextech items, the cooldown will be shared, meaning if one is used, all of them will go on cooldown. We’ve discussed this previously in our other AP items guide if you want to learn more.
Examples of champions who benefit: Akali, Katarina.
Luden’s Echo is a very strong, but expensive item that many AP champions and assassins alike purchase every game. It provides lots of AP, a huge chunk of mana and 20% cooldown reduction. Luden’s has a passive that grants 10% cooldown reduction – totaling at 20% CDR. Additionally, the secondary passive gives you stacks which can be traded in for extra damage when you go to trade or for an exchange.
Stacks are given by casting abilities that provide 10 stacks each. Stacks can also be earned by moving around. When you have 100 stacks, the next ability you use that hits an enemy target will deal increased damage and splash to nearby enemy minions/champions.
Examples of champions who benefit: Ahri. Leblanc.
Void Staff is a must have on assassins as it allows you to burst through the enemies defensives with ease.
Void Staff gives a lot of AP and magic penetration which every AP champion needs if their opponents are stacking magic resistance.
Examples of champions who benefit: Akali, Ahri, Fizz.
Sorcerer’s Shoes are the go-to booties for an AP champion because they provide you with magic penetration that will allow your abilities to really hit home when you use them on the enemy. Sorcerer’s Shoes gives +18 magic pen and 45 movement speed to ensure that you secure an assassination.
Tips and Tricks
Here are some tips for itemization as an assassin:
- Learn when to adapt.
- Every champion has a variety of viable options when it comes to building items. Make sure to adapt your build path to the context of champions in your match.
- Remember to buy Control Wards.
- It’s not just the Supports job to buy Control Wards. Buying them can also make your life easier since you can make more opportunities by picks by denying vision in key areas.
- Don’t forget your magic/armor penetration.
- During the mid and late game, you’ll often need to buy penetration to break through the enemy’s defensive stats.
- You can get magic pen through items like Void Staff and armor pen through Mortal Reminder.
- Adjust your starting item.
- Assassins need the best start in the game so they’re able to gain a lead and, start to snowball. One way you can survive and get the best start to the game is by adjusting which items you start with. If you’re in a difficult matchup, take a more defensive item, to begin with so you do not get bullied and forced to back early. Doran’s Shield is good against ranged champions.
How to find the right build path
If you’re not sure how to build your assassin, here are a few recommendations:
- Research Summoner Profiles
- Keep track of your own builds or of any other summoner with our Summoner Profile feature.
- Copy the build from the Pre-game.
- As we mentioned at the top of the article, the Pre Game is a quick and easy way to get a great build when you aren’t sure what’s optimal.
- Trial and error.
- Play normal matches and try to find a build path based on what works well for your champion and your playstyle.
- Try Probuilds.net.
- Find out what the pros are building! Search by a player or champion.
- Try out some of the recommended items.
- Although it’s not always the best build, the client’s recommendations tend to usually be in line with what your champion wants.
That’s about it for our assassin LoL item guide. You may notice that there are not many “assassin” items in this guide.
The reason for this is many assassins don’t just build items that are just designed for their class. For example, an AP assassin can also buy Zhonyas or Deathcap – those are not assassin only items and they work for lots of champions.
Many assassins will pick some assassin designed items, but also choose items that are more commonly found on AD champions or AP mages too. Make sure you check out the other item guides if you’re looking to understand what other champions or classes should build, and tune in next time for AD itemization!
We hope you enjoyed and learned from this assassin item guide article. You can find Picklepants in our Discord if you’d like to pick his brain.