Build Guide by Jebus McAzn
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^ Terrible color scheme? Tell that to Riot. :P ^
This guide will lead you through a slightly different style of playing Caitlyn. While many are currently building her as a standard ranged DPS carry, I have not seen a single game where a Caitlyn building cookie-cutter ranged DPS has been successful at actually carrying her team. This build does something different, focusing on spamming of abilities early-game to harass, transitioning into a strong mid-game ganking phase, and ending with a good mix of survivability and burst damage in the late-game.
AA = Auto-attack (Basic Attacks)
AD = Attack Damage
AP = Ability Power
AS = Attack Speed
AoE = Area of Effect
CC = Crowd Control (Stun, fear, slow, snare, etc)
CDR = Cooldown Reduction
DoT = Damage over Time
ELO = Elo rating (Rating system designed by Arpad Elo that is now used in gaming communities worldwide)
FB = First Blood
HP = Health
LS = Life Steal
MD = Magic Damage
MP = Mana
MR = Magic Resistance
MS = Movement Speed
OOM = Out of Mana
SV = Spell Vamp
DPS = Damage Per Second; also: Strong Auto-attacker
MDPS = Magical Damage Per Second; also:Strong spells; casters
MP5 = Mana Regeneration per 5 seconds
HP5 = Health Regeneration per 5 seconds
ArPen = Armor Penetration
MPen = Magic Penetration
I created this guide because of a lack of a current effective strategy for Caitlyn. I truly believe that this is a different and more effective way to play her, and if it isn't as successful for you, you can at least enjoy playing in a different style that will throw off your opponents. ^_^
-Absolutely stellar range on her auto-attack.
-Excellent last-hitting ability with her range and good attack animation.
-Amazing farming and harassing skill with her Piltover Peacemaker in all phases of the game.
-Fantastic burst damage with Headshot and the proc on Sheen/ Trinity Force
-Very strong "finisher" with her ultimate, whether it's against enemies you gank or against unsuspecting junglers.
-Extremely squishy. I cannot stress this enough.
-Very vulnerable to CC and focus-fire.
-Ultimate can be blocked.
-No real escape mechanism, as her 90 Caliber Net cannot be relied on all the time.
III. Skill Explanations
Headshot - This is a passive that makes Caitlyn very good at early game harass, and it's what makes Sheen so good on her. Every 8 shots, you fire an extra-powerful attack (think of it like Twisted Fate's Stacked Deck). Attacks while in brush count as 2. With this passive, you not only have superb harassing ability, but you also are great at last-hitting creep waves.
Piltover Peacemaker - With great range and decent splash damage, her Q is a reliable early-game tool to harass enemies with. We max this first because it's the most reliable skill on our set. Quite often I don't see Caitlyns nearly abusing this skill as much - this is usually because they are mana starved. More on that later.
Yordle Snap Trap - These are analogous to Nidalee's Bushwhack traps. When an enemy steps on them, they are revealed to you on the minimap, take damage, and are stunned. You can use this to trap the brush leading from the river to the side lanes (to protect against early ganks), in front of Dragon or Baron to keep an eye out, or when chasing/fleeing from an enemy to hinder their movement. This is maxed along with your E.
90 Caliber Net - This spell deals around the same amount of damage as your traps do, but anything it hits is slowed. In addition, the force from the blast knocks you back over terrain and through some walls. This is a fantastic escaping tool, as you can flash through most jungle walls with this spell quite easily. The damage also becomes quite noticeable in team fights, so you max this with your W.
Ace in the Hole - Your ultimate, and what made Caitlyn such a hyped champion when she came out. You fire a bullet at massive range (think Finales Funkeln range) and deal extremely good damage to one enemy champion. However, it can be blocked, so beware of tanks and the occasional Pantheon who will come in to take the bullet for their teammate.
IV. Summoner Spell Explanations
Ghost - This is one spell that you'll see in almost every high-ELO game and ranked match. The mobility from Ghost is absolutely fantastic, as it lets you chase, run away, get to team fights faster, initiate a gank, or run to a jungle area sooner. Given Caitlyn's squishiness, Ghost was a vital choice to extend her survivability as well as giving her that extra range to get one shot off or get in range for her ultimate.
Flash - I debated strongly about the second summoner spell for quite a while, but in the end, I settled on Flash. As a bursty champion, sometimes the ability to Flash to an enemy and take them out with one last Headshot-powered, Trinity Force-proc shot is vital for securing the kill. Flash remains useful in other scenarios, like fleeing from enemies or chasing them down, or just getting your positioning better in a team fight. Still, there are plenty of other spells you can choose.
IV(a). Considerable Summoner Spells
Cleanse - This would have to be my second choice on Caitlyn. She lacks any real kind of escape mechanism, as I said before, so Cleanse can be vital for escaping those CCs that Caitlyn is so vulnerable to. Consider this in ranked matches against teams with lots of CC or debuff champions, like Galio, Rammus, and Teemo.
Exhaust - As with any ranged carry, it's always useful to not only slow down enemies you're trying to gank, but to completely gimp the power of their spells and autoattacks while also lowering their defenses. Exhaust is very nice for ensuring a kill or to use on their strongest physical carry and keep them out of the battle for a few seconds more.
Teleport - While this is a more interesting option, Teleport is viable for many teams, especially those that buy a lot of wards. Note that with a reliable ward-buyer (such as a jungler, like my jungle Amumu build), you have sight around Dragon, Baron, and hopefully the enemy jungle as well. Let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying than Teleporting to a patch of brush, watching an enemy jungler get low, and sniping him in the face, stealing his buffs. It's also useful for Teleporting to locations where you can cast your ultimate easily and get kills on unsuspecting champions.
V. Rune Explanations
Greater Mark of Desolation
Greater Mark of DesolationGreater Marks of Desolation allow Caitlyn to really have that early-game armor penetration that makes her autoattacks just do so much damage. They become useful throughout the entire game, as the flat armor penetration is not nullified in any way by Youmuu's Ghostblade's flat armor penetration, and vice-versa.
Greater Seals of Clarity help give Caitlyn the staying power she needs early game to not have to go back to refresh her mana pool. This build starts off with a Sapphire Crystal, so with these seals, you can stay in lane, liberally using your abilities, and not have to port back until well after level 6.
Greater Glyphs of Focus are nice utility and help reduce her cooldowns. This keeps her ultimate available slightly more often and also complements Golem buff nicely, which you may obtain in the mid-game. One option, as suggested by Phreak in Caitlyn's champion spotlight, is to get both Seals and Glyphs of Clarity. However, note that Phreak started with a Doran's Blade, which does not give you that early-game mana advantage that this build has.
Greater Quintessences of Fortitude are used instead of armor penetration quints to compensate for Caitlyn's lack of health early-game. One of the small disadvantages of not starting with a Doran's Blade is that you become more squishy - these quints remedy that quite easily and can pay off in all phases of the game.
VI. Mastery Explanations
I went with standard 21/0/9 ranged carry masteries. Note that Caitlyn can just as easily go 9/0/21, but this particular build needs to be as bursty as possible - hence the full offense tree.
I grab improved critical chance over improved Ability Power because Caitlyn operates much more on physical damage than AP damage.
I get cooldown reduction so I can take Archaic Knowledge, which can actually make a large difference in the damage you deal with your W and E abilities. I then get armor penetration and slightly increased attack speed.
From there, I take improved base damage, improved critical damage, and Havoc, giving me permanently increased damage by 5%.
In the utility tree, I get mana/health regen and improved Ghost. I then take bonus experience so I can level faster - this is essential as a carry. Finally I get extended monster buff durations, so when I snipe junglers, take Lizard, or when my team gets Baron, it'll last 15% longer. These are very self-explanatory masteries.
VII. Core Item Build Sequence
Starting out, you'll want to grab a Sapphire Crystal. This is the first decision that many people challenge. Don't most ranged carries get Doran's Blade? Doesn't the extra health, damage, and lifesteal increase your laning ability? This is true - but you have to take a look at most ranged carries.
Take Miss Fortune, a prime example of a carry who stacks Doran's Blades often. Her prime harassing skill is Double Up, which is single-target and is usually used for its "bounce" effect, which can be hard to aim. I have never seen a single Miss Fortune spam Double Up every time it recharges and harass successfully with it. Some choose to spam their Q and their E, Make it Rain. These Miss Fortunes run out of mana so fast in mid lane that it's not even funny. MF is an example of a ranged carry who does not need to spam her abilities often, meaning she can afford to take that Doran's Blade. Some mid carries like Ashe, Tristana, or Twitch don't really have a harass skill that they can spam often. Sure, Ashe has Volley, but it's on a pretty high cooldown at early levels and Ashe goes OOM pretty fast if she spam it anyway.
Caitlyn is not one of these champs. Her Q, Piltover Peacemaker, is on a pretty low cooldown (10 seconds) and can reliably hit one or two champions in the enemy lane as well as hitting the majority, if not all, of a creep wave at the same time. Her Yordle Snap Traps need to be spammed for their sight, stun, and damage. Buying a Sapphire Crystal over a Doran's Blade as your starting item will give you a HUGE edge early game, as you'll be spamming your abilities like no other Caitlyn around, zoning your opponents easily. I've seen many Caitlyns with Doran's Blade just standing around, autoattacking in the early game. You NEED to harass with your Q and you NEED to keep your traps up to prevent ganks as well as to do damage. Doran's Blade does not let you do that.
After Sapphire Crystal, you'll want to get your Sheen and your Boots of Speed (if not your Mercury's Treads) on your first trip back. Sheen makes your burst damage absolutely insane. With the combo of your Headshot triggering and your Sheen triggering, you can burst out upwards of 200, 250 damage in one attack at level 6 or 7. The best part is that it costs no mana or gold, and you can keep up your harass with your skills. If you notice that your Headshot is about to trigger, simply fire off your Piltover Peacemaker and autoattack, triggering Sheen and Headshot on your next attack. If your Peacemaker landed, that's even more damage. With this burst combo, you can zone your opponents incredibly easily in any lane and have amazing damage in general.
If you haven't already, get level 2 boots on your next trip back. The choice of getting Berserker's Greaves and Mercury's Treads is up to you. Because you're more burst and not DPS, you don't really need the extra attack speed game, and Merc Treads make you much more survivable against casters and MDPS users in general. However, if you're really winning, or if there's not that much MDPS/CC on the enemy team, you can go ahead and get Greaves, as they'll increase your damage output late-game. This is a matter of preference - survivability or damage. In addition, it is also plausible to go for the Ionian Boots of Lucidity - albeit this is not recommended as Mercury's Treads just gives you amazing survivability.
Get your Brutalizer afterward to improve the overall increase in damage - the armor penetration plus the cooldowns drastically increases your DPS. Then buy a B. F. Sword, which you'll later be turning into an Infinity Edge. But before you complete it, finish Trinity Force first, as the increase in burst is more important.
Turn that Brutalizer into Youmuu's Ghostblade, for the awesome active and the extra critical chance. Note that now you'll be criticaling a lot more often, improving your DPS to around that of a standard ranged carry at this point - except that you have much better burst damage.
At this point, your main item build is done, and you can branch into the following items based on what you need.
VIII. Situational Items
These are for when your team is pretty ahead of the enemy team and you are only concerned about how fast you can kill enemies. You haven't been focused much, probably because of very good tanks on your side (COUGH AMUMU) and you're comfortable with being squishy in exchange for huge damage.
The Bloodthirster - This gives you the most damage out of any one item in the game, aside from maxed Sword of the Occult. Combined with its lifesteal, you can dish out a lot more damage and stay alive slightly longer in late-game team fights. This is a very solid option.
The Black Cleaver - With its change in patch 18.104.22.168, it now provides attack speed, damage, and an extremely quick armor debuff (up to 45 armor). Consider this when facing tanks with a lot of armor ( Malphite, Rammus) or simply when you want to shred squishies faster.
Madred's Bloodrazor - This gives you more attack speed and deals magic damage based on the maximum health of an enemy. Consider this choice when facing tanks who stack HP instead of armor/magic resist, such as Cho'Gath, as it will tear through them.
Sword of the Divine - More attack speed and a kick-*** active? This is great for focusing tanks or taking towers down quickly, as well as actually being able to hit a Jax, Sivir, or Udyr who just has too high of a dodge chance (although with Phantom Dancer's nerf, this is less likely to happen).
Zeke's Harbinger - A great choice for a team with 2 or 3 physical carries. This gives a deadly aura that improves your team's physical presence in team fights while also debuffing the armor of surrounding enemy champions.
Phantom Dancer - All three of the bonuses that this item gives you are fantastic. Your attack speed skyrockets, and your critical chance is raised to about 75%. The movement speed doesn't hurt either.
These are for when you want to ensure your survivability late game, when there's one champion that's been focusing you and repeatedly killing you, or when your team is at a disadvantage and you need to stay alive longer. I honestly recommend these over the above offensive items, even when you're winning.
Banshee's Veil - This will probably be an item that you should get most games. Banshee's Veil screws up champions that heavily rely on combos or one single skill, such as Malphite, Anivia, or Karthus. In addition, it gives you health and mana, as well as magic resist, increasing your overall survivability and letting you spam skills more.
Guardian Angel - Another fantastic option to get. You are focused a lot late-game as a squishy carry. Not only does GA keep you alive longer because of its armor/magic resist, it revives you in the event of your death, which can be extremely disruptive to the enemy team. Oftentimes a team will have one or two champions who dive past your tanks just to focus the carry down. A lot of times, they succeed. GA makes sure that this kamikaze attack is wasted on you, since you can revive and clean up their team later.
Thornmail - This is fantastic for teams with a lot of physical carries. Survivability on top of reflecting damage is always good.
Quicksilver Sash - Use this against teams that have a champion whose ultimate you NEED to counter, such as Warwick, Malzahar, Vladimir, or Mordekaiser. Quicksilver Sash can save you from these ultimates, whereas Cleanse fails to stop Infinite Duress or Nether Grasp.
By popular demand, here's a section detailing the items I recommend most and why:
Banshee's Veil - Just the survivability on this thing is really important - it saves you from stuns, snares, or the occasional AoE ultimate. If you've seen CLG vs. Epik, game 2, you know that the main carry, Kog'Maw (played by the one and only HotshotGG) dies numerous times mid game because stuns from Annie, Heimerdinger, and Amumu. Banshee's Veil is the best item to prevent that from happening.
Guardian Angel - This is great for disruption and survivability. You will be the first target to be focused if you're doing your job right. Guardian Angel gives you the armor and magic resist to survive those assaults as the rest of your team takes them out. But in the event that they do successfully kill you, Guardian Angel brings you up seconds later and makes their kamikaze effort almost worthless.
The Bloodthirster - This gives the most attack damage out of any item, and the lifesteal is great too. With your high attack speed, you need high base damage to abuse it - what better choice than The Bloodthirster?
Madred's Bloodrazor - Another way you could go is by way of the Bloodrazor, which abuses your already phenomenal attack speed and punishes just about everyone with it. With this, you start to mimic a Kog'Maw's playstyle, abusing long range and extremely high attack speed to win.
IX. Early Game Playstyle
Caitlyn is actually fine in any of the three lanes - solo top, solo mid, or dual lane bottom. She holds an impressive mid carry presence and has good single target harass, but performs just as well in bottom lane with her superior range and burst abilities.
-Harass with Headshot as much as possible.
-Use your superior range to annoy enemy champions, especially melee mid champs like Katarina. Be careful not to overextend.
-Last hit groups of minions with Piltover Peacemaker.
-"Ward" the two bushes leading to mid lane with Yordle Snap Trap. Place them in the middle of the brush as that is where most champions tend to go first.
-If being chased or focused down, do the trick that Phreak demonstrated in the champion spotlight - run into the lower edge of the brush by the river and fire your 90 Caliber Net so you phase over the ledge.
-Have your jungler ward the enemy buffs so you can run over if needed and icon=Ace in the Holesnipe the opposing jungle.
-Use the brush to your advantage by triggering Headshot faster and harassing more with it.
-When being chased, simply use 90 Caliber Net to fire yourself closer to your turret.
-Have your jungler ward the enemy red buff (if you're on the blue team) or the enemy blue buff (if you're on the purple team) so you can try to steal.
-Trap the brush leading from the river to the lane so you can pick up on ganks.
-Trap the brush in the corner if you're pushing your lane hard - this way, if you retreat a bit, you can see if they decide to check the brush. Try to buy a ward and put it there as well.
-Very similar to solo mid playstyle overall.
-Try to lane with a tank, preferably one with some sort of crowd control. Ideal tanks are Amumu, Shen, and Rammus as they all have a stun/taunt that lets you just pound on enemy champs very hard.
-Like with solo top lane, you want to ward the exact same locations.
-Stay behind your tank at all times - your range lets you harass from a safe distance, but have your tank there just in case.
-Try to get last hits with Piltover Peacemaker - as a carry, you need the gold more than your tank does.
X. Mid to Late Game Playstyle
The ganks have started. You might have been the one to start them. Anyway, at this point, you should be running around ganking people and getting involved in team fights. The important thing to remember here is placement.
Caitlyn is a fantastic ganker. Find an overextended lane and go gank it - approach from the back so when you fire your 90 Caliber Net, it will hit them, slow them, and propel you in the direction that they're likely to run. Place your traps and try to lead them with it, don't plant it directly on them. Try to initiate with Piltover Peacemaker, shoot off a Headshot+ Sheen-boosted autoattack, and when they get low enough, Ace in the Hole for the kill. Caitlyn can reliably gank almost anyone this way, especially if you get lucky with Phage procs.
In a team fight, you do NOT want to be on the front lines. Regardless of the bit of extra health from Phage, you will still be focused down extremely fast by enemy champs. Stay back, spam Q as often as possible, lay your traps in logical locations, and even shoot your net for some extra damage. Once team fights start, stay behind your tanks and play as a typical ranged DPS - except spam your skills as much as humanly possible. In that sense, you are very much like Ezreal, albeit more confined to single-target damage. Focus their squishy down and don't die.
Late game, the same principles apply. By now you have your completed item build, plus one or two defensive items. When a fight breaks out, pop your Youmuu's Ghostblade's active and focus down a squishy - but don't overextend yourself past your tanks. That is the one most important thing to remember - Caitlyn has amazing range, why not abuse it? If you're not in range of their squishies, they're not in range of you, and they can't hurt you. There is no need to walk out in front of your tanks to get shots off when you die three seconds later.
Try to use your ultimate when the fight has simmered down and there is a smaller chance of it being blocked - the exception to this rule, of course, being when there is an extremely high-priority target on the opposing team. In that case, try to angle the shot so that it's much harder for their tanks to intercept.
In terms of item builds, you usually want to get at least a Banshee's Veil/ Guardian Angel in almost all scenarios. The rest is up to you - just follow section 8's guidelines.
This guide is, again, a different look at Caitlyn. It's not the typical ranged DPS carry you see - it's more centered on abilities, survivability, and well-timed ultimates. I firmly believe that this Caitlyn has a place in the metagame as a potent force - one that isn't nearly seen enough in most games.
So the next time you see a Caitlyn asking if she should buy a Doran's Blade and head mid, say "No. Sapphire Crystal."
See you on the Fields.
-Changed item build to rush Trinity Force before Infinity Edge.
-Changed item build again to get Brutalizer and B.F. Sword before Trinity Force.
-Changed skill order to max W in conjunction with E.
-Added "Recommended Items" subsection.
-Finished guide. Published guide.
-Wrote everything up to Early Game Playstyle
-Wrote everything up to Mastery explanations (chapter 5).