Introduction to the Guide
I certainly do enjoy the simplicity of a mage type character in most video games nowadays. The burst damage that they are capable of is fun to dish out. Annie is a great burst damage champion in League of Legends and she comes equipped with fairly decent sustained damage with her low cooldowns. The addition of her passive allowing her stun makes her even more efficient in a game like League of Legends. Annie is my favorite champion in League of Legends and this post is simply to show off the basic gameplay and build that I use when playing her. I'm definitely not a top tier player however I do perform very well when using these tactics and methods.
As an aside I am a history major and therefore I write a lot but don't understand anything about math, computers, etc. including how to link things into the text. I in advance apologize for the lengthy description and I hope it makes sense to everyone without the assistance of in text links to the items/skills that I am describing.
Also, note that more than just a "build" I wanted this post to highlight an offensive play style for Annie and a guide to as many details in her gameplay as I could think of at the time I wrote this.
Foreword on skill order, runes, items, etc.
Everyone seems to play the champions very differently in this game. That being said I'm sure there are places where items could be switched out and runes could be swapped. There are also different sequences to leveling your abilities. The most important thing to keep in mind is that not every match is going to go the same way. The beauty of a game like League of Legends is that the player has to constantly adapt to the opposition and the situation, must a like a Starcraft II player or any RTS for that matter.
Firstly, I strongly believe that these masteries are the best for Annie and the best for many of the casters in the League. The Magic Penetration, AP build up, and CD reduction are perfect for a low cost of 9 mastery points. The 21 points in Utility help Annie with sustained damage with all of the CD reduction, movement, and mana improvements. I don't see any better way to spend the 30 mastery points.
Second, I DO see where many of my item choices will be attacked. This build leaves Annie quite fragile with the lack of any defensive items other than perhaps the Rylai's. It's my opinion however that if you engage correctly and let your teammates who are melee or tank types do their job you should have little to fear with a smaller hp pool and more burst capability.
The skill sequence also shows my very offensive play style by not taking molten shield until level 10. Many players are taking molten shield as early as level 5 but I find it be a waste of the skill point so early in the game. Other than charging your stun a little more quickly it has a much less important role in the early/mid game prior to level 10. I think that Annie players need to take advantage of the damage she can deal as early as possible. This means grabbing Incinerate, Disintegrate, and Tibbers as quickly as you can. Building your stun shouldn't be an issue as you will be last hitting minions with Disintegrate like its your job. I also think it's important that you take advantage of flashing, stunning, igniting, and killing squishier opposing champions so that you can stay farmed up for the mid to late game when Annie's burst combos have a lessened effect on tanks and beefier DPS.
Finally, my runes are quite different from many Annie builds that I encounter lately. Many players swear by Magic Penetration and straight ability power. In my opinion however the extra HP in the early game is much more beneficial than the extra boost to ability power. This is especially so if you follow my play style described in the "gameplay" sections. The Cooldown reduction glyphs also supplement the fact that my only cooldown reduction gained from items is if you get a full Mejai's Soulstealer.
The first items we take are Sapphire Crystal and 2 Health potions. Health potions help you lane longer while the Sapphire Crystal gives you room to harass without fear of running low on mana. Many players are taking Doran's ring and a single health potion however I feel that there is no need to take a Doran's item in the beginning as Annie. The Health runes that are implemented in this build make up for the hp bonus and if you stay on top of last hitting minions with disintegrate you won't need the MP5. The 15 ability power is the only real benefit to grabbing Dorans in the beginning but the reason I don't is that you can't use it to build anything later. Getting the Sapphire crystal allows for a little smoother transition into the mid and late game.
Taking Disintegrate first allows you last hit minions a little easily. If you do slay the minion with it you are refunded the mana cost which means you should never run low on mana during the early laning phase. I think of it as having an auto-attack that hits for more damage when last hitting the minions. Although the animation is pretty fast it may seem like there is a slight delay when Annie casts the spell so plan accordingly as you would for any champion last hitting.
Ideally you want to take middle lane however the side lanes are just as good and giving up middle to a better carry hero is always the right choice. Regardless of lane remember that you want to be last hitting minions, gaining exp, and getting gold as long as you can. You should really try not to return to base before you're at least level 6 or 7.
The extra mana you get from the Sapphire Crystal allows you to be a very efficient harasser. If you play offensively like me simply auto attack the enemy champions whenever you can since you last hit with disintegrate you won't need the auto attack for minions. Annie's auto attack has a pretty long range so don't be shy when harassing either middle or side lanes. Once you have built up a stun by casting disintegrate on the minions you have to choose whether to stun the enemy champion or continue last hitting minions.
I personally switch it up and cast my spells on the champions and save the auto attack to last hit. (This is the best part of harassing with Annie, you can last hit minions while also dealing damage to the enemy champions). You should begin the harass at level 2 when you have disintegrate and incinerate. Stun using your Disintegrate and then move into range to hit them with Incinerate. Often times enemy champs will retreat when you move in to stun, simply back out and then immediately turn back in, this tactic will catch the enemy as they turn to come back to the minion line allowing you to get your stun off and maybe hit the minions AND enemy champion with incinerate.
Continue this harass and last hitting until level 6. With a bit of luck you have the enemy champion at around 60% hp give or take a small amount. Continue on until you have built a stun. Rather than stun with disintegrate flash in and ensure that you hit the enemy champion or champions with your ultimate (Summon: Tibber's), follow this by casting Disintegrate, Incinerate, and Igniting. If you do this fast enough you will be able to nuke them before the stun wears off, remember there is no global cooldown on your spells like in World of Warcraft. Auto attack enemy unless you're positive they are going to die. Level 6 should almost always be a kill level for Annie in the early game. This will also be your basic nuke combo for the duration of the game minus flashing in as this will get you targeted and killed immediately :(
After hopefully getting a couple of kills by level 6 or 7 return to base and get your Sorcerer's Shoes. The movement speed and magic penetration are vital to your success in the midgame and transition into the late game. You also have a big choice to make on your first return to base. What item are you going to build first? I like to judge the opposition early on and how easy it has been in the early laning game. If the opposition seems weak grab Mejai's because gaining stacks is pretty easy for Annie when the enemies aren't fairly skilled. If the opposition seems strong save up and start building rabadon's deathcap. This new item is amazing for Annie and will grant you a huge boost to Ability Power for the mid game allowing you to be much more deadly than an Annie who would normally build Rod of Ages.
Speaking of Rod of Ages I know many casters are favoring this item for the survivability and snowballing effect. The problem with this item for me is that it costs alot of money...I mean alot of money and I think that you get a mix of "i wanna live but i wanna do damage" sort of item. Going straight for the big damage dealing items just seems more "fun" and more appropriate for a burst damage champion like Annie. If you are really getting hit hard however, by all means get the Rod of Ages instead, catalyst is an amazing item for newer players and vets alike however straight damage is, in my opinion, the better path to take.
-Last hit minions using Disintegrate, it costs no mana if you kill the minion
-Harass enemy champions by stunning with Disintegrate and nuking with Incinerate
-Choose your item path based on the skill level and aggression of the opposition, Mejai's or Rod of Ages are good items to grab early
At this point you ideally want to have your Sorcerer's Shoes, Mejai's Soulstealer (if you are having an easy time getting champion kills and the opposition seems weaker than your team), and have started your Rabadon's Deathcap. Keep in mind that if you are struggling you should start your Rod of Ages but this will set you back for the mid game as far as having enough gold to get a quick Rabadon's or Archangels.
The mid game also offers another avenue for choice as far as item selection goes. I personally try to grab Archangel's Staff for the mana, regen, and solid increase of your ability power. Like the early game however, you must choose your items based on the opposition. If you having trouble staying alive grab Rylai's instead. The HP bonus will help you stay alive and the slow is great for kiting melee opponents. As a bonus you are still gaining a decent amount of ability power. Either way, building BOTH of these items at some point is a great choice for Annie. Rylai's can be a powerful offensive item once your team starts pushing and can supplement a defensive play style if need be.
The midgame is very similar to the early game, simply continue last hitting minions with Disintegrate and whenever possible, if you please, harass using your stun and Incinerate. Now that the game has progressed past level 6 teams will start ganking, if they haven't already. I'm personally not a big fan of ganking early simply because if it fails you lose a lot valuable time last hitting minions and gaining experience points. Regardless of the ganking count in the early game, ganks will be coming in the mid game. Don't rely on MIA calls to save you from ganks. Try to keep an eye on the minimap to see if 5 enemy champions are present if not you need to be aware of your position in the lane. Don't push too far if you notice that champions from another lane are missing. Likewise if you notice that enemy champions have pushed far into your team's lane charge a stun and head over to gank them.
When ganking in the mid game it is perfectly acceptable to use the early game rotation to nuke enemies. Start by flashingand then casting your Ultimate (trying your best to hit more than 1 champion if more than 1 is present/also be sure that your stun is charged so that your Ultimate will stun then enemy champions). If you successfully got the jump on the enemies and stunned,finish them off the same way you would in the early game with Disintegrate, Incinerate, and Ignite. It is important to remember that this tactic is effective in small battles and ganks. Once larger team fights occur (5 on 5) you will no longer want to use flash as a form of landing your Ultimate and initiating, this is explained in the Late Game Section.
Other important aspects of the mid game include the jungle buffs. As Annie you want to try and get the Blue Golem Buff whenever you can. The increased mana regen and cooldown reduction makes your sustained damage amazing for both fights and ganks.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that you need to abuse your stun as much as possible when fighting enemy champions. ALWAYS try to have your stun up. This means casting Molten Shield whenever you can, even if you don't need to the defensive benefits. If mana allows, especially with the blue buff cast Incinerate just get to the extra stack of your Pyromania. If you're at the base buying items cast your Incinerate to build stacks, it's free why not? Annie without a stun can still deal a lot of damage but if you open with a 1.75 second stun you can cast all of your spell rotation before the stun wears off. This means you putting out all of your damage BEFORE the enemies can activate their own abilities. Even after the effect wears off you should be able to get another Disintegrate off and possible even an Incinerate if you stayed in range of your target.
-Keep an eye on the mini map, be aware of your position in the lane and make sure you can account for enemy champions
-When ganking, using the summoner spell "Flash" is a great way to initiate, catch the enemies off guard, and land your Ultimate/stun
-Quite possibly the most important thing to keep in mind is that you ALWAYS want to be charging your stun and ready to use it at any given moment, also remember that if you use your Ultimate or Incinerate the stun affects all enemies who are caught in the Area of Effect damage.
By this point you should have farmed most of your items and have gotten a few stacks of your Mejai's Soulstealer built up. Once again the late game items are interchangeable based on necessity. If the enemy tanks or champions in general are building a lot of Magic Resistance then you definitely want to build a Void Staff. If they are building other items such as HP, armor, or other such things then the Void Staff is not necessary and in my opinion a waste of gold. The exact link escapes me at the moment but there is a great page on this site in which all the math and calculations are made showing when it's appropriate to build a Void Staff as opposed to items such as Haunting Guise which give a straight 20 Magic Penetration.
The late game is perhaps defined exclusively by the large scale team fights and pushes that will occur. These types of battles and movements can occur in the mid game as well however every champion in the match will be stronger and capable of dealing more damage since everyone will be farmed up at this point. In any 5 versus 5 engagement DO NOT initiate using your flash. This was okay during the mid game and early game but will not be beneficial for the late game. Your job as a mage type champion is to wait back until AFTER the Tank and Melee DPS have initiated the battle. The other benefit of delaying your entry into the team fight is that this cluster causes most enemies to gather closer together, this means you will hit nearly all of the opposing team with your Ultimate and Incinerate.
Choosing your targets carefully is another important part of the team fight. Annie has very high burst damage capabilities so you can easily take down an opposing mage champion or support champion. Enemies who are built more fragile such as Tristana, Sona, Soraka, Miss Fortune, and Twitch are all very crucial to an enemy team. Taking down one of these targets quickly will greatly hinder the oppositions ability to succeed in the team fight. Even if you don't manage to kill them you more than likely cause them to disengage and thus be of no further use to the initial clash between teams.
You rotation is still the same remembering to stun with your Summon: Tibbers. The only difference here is that I usually pop my Molten Shield immediately after casting my stun in case the opposition switch to you as their kill target. Remember that you will have time to cast Molten Shield and then cast your Incinerate. If you manage to hit around 3 enemy champions these two spells will deal a very large amount of damage to them and allow your team to finish them off if you don't. Spam your Disintegrate on the kill target which most likely be the DPS carry on the opposing team. Be sure to Ignite the kill target as well if they aren't obviously going to be slain. Definitely Ignite the kill target if the opposition has a way to heal that champion i.e. Sona, Soraka, Kayle.
Think of this rotation as activating your R > E > W > Q > D (or F if your Ignite is F). Be sure to ALWAYS be spamming your Q and W when possible to get more stuns on the enemy team. Stuns change team fights so drastically in League of Legends it's almost silly! Remember not use your Flash anymore to initiate team fights as this will get you killed. Rather Flash will become your means to escape if the enemies have chosen you as their kill target which many teams will because of Annie's Stun and Burst.
-Lane whenever possible remembering to keep an eye on the minimap for ganks, just like in the midgame
-Do not initiate team fights, be patient wait for a good opportunity to drop your Ultimate on more than 1 enemy champion
-Remember to target squishier targets but the enemy carry champion NEEDS to die first
-SPAM your spells, the more stuns the better.
This is the basic gameplay and strategy that I use when playing Annie. It lacks a lot of qualities that other builds incorporate and let's face it most AP builds are almost identical. The main things that I hope Annie players will take from my guide is the play style and aggressive early to mid game.
Too often Annie's are charging their stun mid battle which means that you are getting so many less stuns in than a player who charges Pyromania throughout their movement around the map. Stuns are game breaking and Annie's stun lasts for a decent duration!
Remember you have the ability to burst down an enemy very quickly! If you see an opportunity (early and mid game) to flash in and stun DO IT! Chances are you will get a kill and 2 stacks on your Mejai's Soulstealer.
I like to think that I analyze situations very well and develop my strategies accordingly however I know that this build and play is lacking elements that other players may find key to being successful. As a gamer I am completely open to criticism and suggestions, I want to get better at the game and so do others so please feel free to enlighten me with your thoughts on playing Annie. I know there are certain game facts that I don't quite understand such as the cooldown reduction max which is rumored to be like 40%??? These kinds of things are pivotal to being successful and any comments regarding these elements of the game would be greatly appreciated!
Once again I apologize for the long descriptions and lack of links but I tried to make it more clear by using the font color which was simple enough for me to understand :)
I hope this guide can be helpful to new players who take up Annie and can maybe even assist those who are long time Annie fans.
P.S. There should definitely be a skin for Annie where Tibbers is a Panda Bear