Starting Items

Something I’ve noticed is that new people don’t really think too much about starting items. When I was just starting there wasn’t recommended items which made things even more confusing.  However, the items you start with can set the tone of your lane. Being aware of who you are going against in lane and what you should start is a big step in the road to becoming a better player. Instead of immediately buying the recommended starting items as soon as you load into game, let’s take a look at why they’re recommended and what might work better for you.

The defensive starts:
When you are playing a late game champion, your opposing laner has an extremely good early game, or feel as though you will not win your lane and would prefer to farm safely it is better to take these starts. Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the different defensive starts you might want to try:

  • Doran's ShieldHealth potDoran’s Shield and 1 health pot  – This is a common defensive start that you may see in top lane. It’s better off used if you feel you’re going to survive in lane rather than kill. This is less commonly used since the Doran’s Shield nerf but it can still be useful in the right situation.
  • Cloth armor and 5 pots – This is if you know your lane opponent is an early strong AD champion, you need to sustain or you feel you cannot win lane. It does not give you as many early defensive stats as the Doran’s Shield but this might be an option if you have 0 built in sustain.  I strongly advice starting Doran’s Shield over this as due to the new patch, cloth armor no longer builds into many useful starting items. However, if you truly are having troubles with little pots then use this to break you into learning a new champion, then move onto Doran’s Shield.
  • ruby crystalRuby Crystal and 2 health pots – This is a very situational start. However, on champions that scale well with health I sometimes take this.  For example, Dr. Mundo scales entirely off hp, so sometimes I will take this when I play him

Offensive Starts:
These are the starts that you will see 85% of the time as either mid/adc or top. An offensive start will help you snowball in lane much harder but they are also less forgiving if you get behind in lane. Let’s take a look at some useful offensive item starts:

  • Doran’s Blade and 1 health pot – This is the staple ADC (and most top laners) starting items at the moment. It is also a strong start for AD mid laners who feel confident. ADC’s will usually always start this because you have a support in lane, the possibility of life steal quints anyways, and you’re ranged making it all the easier to make use of the Doran’s passive.  AD mid laners should take caution when using this start. It is very unforgiving, but also helps you snowball very well.  Make good use of the potion because you may not be able to auto attack very much to benefit from the Doran passive. The same logic applies to top lane.
  • Doran’s Ring and 2 health pots – This is the AP mid equivalent of a Doran’s Blade and 1 health pots. This start give you some AP, health and mana regen plus extra sustain for the constant harass war that mid is. You will want this on most AP champions that you can kill with pre level 6 or right at level 6.  This comes with the exception of melee AP mids, but we will discuss that in a little bit.
  • Long Sword and 3 health pots – This start can be good, typically for bruisers/fighters such as Riven and Yasuo. It has high damage, and allows you to stay longer in lane as you have more sustain and more ability to make trades. It’s also very gold efficient as you won’t have to sell the item later in the game since you will be building something out of the long sword.
  • Sapphire Crystal and 2 health pots – This is extremely situational to the point where I considered not putting it here.  Generally this is only taken on Ryze because he scales off of mana making this a sustain and offensive start. Most other mids who need a sustain start will not take this.

Sustain Starts:
These are good to take if you know you don’t need a lot of items to do damage, but you need to wait a few levels to get that power spike. These are often the melee mid laners, or mid laners who don’t have a very strong lane but can be useful later in the game.

  • 2 Faerie Charms and 3 health pots – I will see this start sometimes on mid laners who require the use of a lot of mana early, but don’t have a lot of kill potential. This usually helps for champions such as Nidalee and Orianna. While those nid spears hurt, one spear won’t get you low enough for her to flash in and outright kill you at level 3.
  • Crystalline Flask and 3 Health pots – This is a combination seen a lot on mid laners who just have to sustain through the early levels until they get their kill potential. Mostly used for melee AP mids as they otherwise would have little sustain as far as health goes. The flask is nice because it lets you sustain with mana and health. This lets you use spells to farm should you need to and stay in lane until your damage spike. Consider this for champions such as Fizz, Diana and Kassadin.

Support Starts:
While I don’t usually like to tell people to build certain things on specific roles, these are probably starts you only want to take on supports. They are mostly gold gain item starts that only take effect with a lane partner, making them only useful for bot lane anyways. In case you’re wondering why most of these starts go over 475 gold it is because I’m assuming you have the extra support masteries in the utility tree that allow you to start with 515 gold. Additionally, the biscuits come from the utility tree of masteries as well, and is generally recommended for supports. If you don’t have these masteries then don’t worry too much. You can just start with one less health pot.

  • Spellthief’s edge, 4 biscuits (health pots) – This is for supports who scale well with AP and can harass well in lane with spells.  You get gold from hitting opponents so make sure you have a way to constantly attack and harass before choosing this item.
  • Ancient Coin, 4 biscuits – This is for supports who don’t have too much poke and who have a team that would need a speed boost to engage. (Note that ancient coin builds into what was once called Shurelya’s Reverie. An item that gives a team wide speed boost on activiation. It is now called Talisman of Ascension)
    Special Cases to consider:
    Thresh – Benefits from Ancient coin because he has a short auto attack range (that is still considered ranged over melee), as well as no real poking ability. The speed also helps his team engage if he gets a good hook off.  If you do start this build it is not recommended you straight rush into Talisman because you need to get a little tanky to survive any engages you make.
    Morgana – Personally I’ve been playing Morgana a lot lately and I find that I like the active of Talisman better than the active of a fully built spellthief’s edge. However, Morgana makes it so easy to abuse the passive of spellthief. Something I do, and you can consider on other champions, is starting with a spellthief, abuse the passive in lane, and then switch it out for a Talisman later on for team fights.
  • Relic Shield, 4 biscuits – This is generally used for melee supports who need to be a bit tanky to survive in lane. It’s benefit of an execution ability on minions can only be used by melee auto attacks. Ranged supports can still take advantage of the passive if they can last hit.
    The special thresh case: I’ve seen people swing both ways with Runic and Coin. It’s harder to take advantage of the passive with thresh because your auto attack range is so short and not considered melee, however the extra beefiness helps out a lot as you may be putting yourself in consistent danger. Try out both and see which you like best.

Side Note: Something you can consider for these support starts is to take 3 health pots and one mana pot. This can be used if you’re running a very mana hungry support, such as Janna.

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