Darius Build Guide by Diencarmine
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Hello, and welcome to my first guide. I'm going to run through the way that I play Darius, and show you the item/mastery/rune choices that I've made whenever I've played him. I am fully aware that there are other ways to play Darius, and I've played several of them, so I will be justifying my choices for each item/mastery/rune in the relevant section.
This guide is built around items/runes/masteries as they exist in season 2. When season 3 goes live and I have a chance to test out the new items/masteries, then I'll be updating the relevant sections of the guide.
Pros / Cons
The Pro's and Con's of Darius:
- If built correctly, can deal massive damage to multiple or single targets
- One of the hardest snowballing champions in the league, if he gets ahead he's stupidly hard to stop
- Is reasonably hard to shut down, very few "hard" counters
- Quite easy to gank for due to Apprehend.
- If he gets shut down, then he can be a real hinderance to your team
- Skillset forces you to take flash as he has no other escapes otherwise
- While he has a low entrance difficulty, it's hard to master the range of both his Decimate and his Apprehend
A rundown of Darius
Darius is a melee ranged fighter that uses a mix of physical, magic and true damage. He is fairly versatile, being able to fill the role of melee carry, bruiser or sometimes offtank. However, building him as a melee carry or offtank, to my mind, wastes his enormous potential for destroying people as the melee roles is far too squishy and will be instantly blown up in a teamfight, while the offtank role generally doesnt build enough damage to get to the backline and kill the carries on the enemy team.
Some people play Darius as a pure tank. To me, this is a bad move. While he can be built to be extremely tanky, sacrificing damage items for more survability will simply mean that you'll go in first, be completely useless and then be left alone facing five enemies since you couldnt do anything to disrupt the enemy team.
There is, however, a slight problem with Darius that is unrelated to either his skillset, the skill of the person playing him or the enemy team composition. Since a fed Darius is such an intimidating presence in a game, many teams will go out of their way to shut Darius down hard even if this means they neglect focus onto other lanes. Put simply, people hate Darius, and will go to extreme measures to kill him, even if this means a 4 on 1 or even 5 on 1 gank at times. Be prepared for this.
I take Greater Quintessence of Desolation to improve my early damage output. Pre lvl6, darius deals nearly all of his damage as physical damage (since he does not yet have his ultimate and his passive needs a lot bonus attack damage to scale up well) and given that a lot of champions do not have large ammounts of armour early on (unless they invest runes/gold into buying extra) Darius can deal good damage early on with these quintessences.
Why not flat attack damage quintessences?
This was a question put to me when I last uploaded the guide, so I decided to include an explaination. Due to my guide being based around mid-late game power with some early lane dominance thrown in with Wriggle's Lantern, I decided to forgo getting a The Brutalizer and instead head to more powerful items. This means that apart from the (eventual) 35% armour penetration I get from both the Weapon Expertise mastery and Apprehend, I have no armour pen at all. While late game this is not as problem, early on (between levels 1-4 and then levels 4-14, I have only 10% and 15% armour penetration. Given that this is early on, many champions do not have significant armour at this point in time, so percentage armour penetration doesnt let me deal as much damage as flat armour penetration.
For marks, I take Greater Mark of Attack Damage. Essentially, this means that I dont need to buy a Doran's Blade early to help with last hitting.
For glyphs, I take Greater Glyph of Magic Resist to mitage early magic damage, since quite a few top lane champions deal some magic damage.
For seals, I take Greater Seal of Armor, to mitigate early physical damage. If I'm facing an AP champion in the top lane ( Vladimir, Rumble, Kennen), I might choose to swap them out for scaling magic resist seals to ensure a safeish lane
When I play Darius, I use a 9/21/0 mastery build, taking the bonus resistence, health, health regen, cooldown reduction and damage reduction masteries in defence and the increased percentage armour penetration in offence. This build gives me the durability needed to trade with opponents in lane, gives me increased sustain while in lane and also gives me some much needed offensive capability.
Why not 21/9/0 or 21/0/9?
While it is true that Darius can be built with a full offence built that incorporates some defence (a typical AD carry build) or a full offence build that includes extended neutral buff duration, from my experience it really isnt worth it. While having the 21 points in offence does increase your damage somewhat, when I swapped out the my 9/21/0 masteries (actually at the time the setup I used for Irelia) I didnt actually notice any difference in the damage I was putting out, and the extra surviability was just so noticeable.
I did try out the 21/0/9 build (taking the extra mana and mana regen masteries as well as extended neutral buff duration) but on Darius I really dont seem to run out of mana that much unless I constantly spam my skills, which you really dont need to do.
On Darius, I start with Boots of Speed and three health potions. For me, this gives me the best sustain early on in lane (so long as I dont engage in too many early engagements before my power starts to ramp up) as opposed to a Doran's Blade or a Doran's Shield. While the blade does give me some damage, health and lifesteal, the fact it doesnt build into anything useful later on makes it a less attractive option for starting off.
Truth is, I havent actually tested the Doran's Shield, but I havent had a problem with sustain while using boots and three health potions, so really it's down to personal prefence.
Early Game Items:
On my first return to base, I generally pick up a Philosopher's Stone, a Sight Ward and a few Health Potions if I have any money left over. After this, I generally get a Heart of Gold or a Wriggle's Lantern. I get both of them early on, but the order I get them in depends on how well I'm doing in lane. If I have an advantage over my opponent (either through a sucessful gank or simply outlaning them) I get a Heart of Gold , but if I'm struggling in the lane (either from getting ganked or losing out to my lane opponent) I'll go straight for the Wriggle's Lantern.
Mid Game Items:
By the time I reach the beginning of late game, I should have the money for a Phage (and a Hexdrinker if I've managed to pick up some kills early on). These two items should give you the damage you need while you build up to your Warmog's Armor. At the end of mid game (just before the major teamfights start) you should be working on your Atma's Impaler (or, if you're doing very well, you should have finished it)
Late Game Items:
In terms of items, this part of the game is the most variable. There are three items you should be aiming for. A Frozen Mallet (upgraded from the Phage you bought earlier), a Maw of Malmortius(upgraded from your Hexdrinker) and a The Bloodthirster. (bought by selling Wriggle's Lantern. The order that you get these items in is entirely dependant on what you need at this point. If you need extra health and sticking power, get a Frozen Mallet first. If you need more magic resist ( because the enemy AP carry is dominating) then get a Maw of Malmortius. If you need more raw damage, or you dont need the extra survivability grated by the other two items, get a The Bloodthirster.
Once you have your full build, you should pick up all three elixers ( Elixer of Fortitude, Elixer of Brilliance and Elixer of Agility) for extra health, damage, cooldown reduction and crit chance
While I generally buy a Frozen Mallet fairly late on, there are some arguements for getting it early. Really, an early frozen mallet is best when you're unsure in your use of Apprehend or if you're facing an opponent whom you can kill but has a good escape mechanism (eg Kennan). However, once you become more confident with your use of Apprehend, you should be able to rely less on the Frozen Mallet to keep your opponent from escaping.
Warmog's Armor is a key part of my build, but I have seen sucessful Darius builds where it isnt used. For me, it's main use is granting me survability and damage through Atma's Impaler. It does require quite a bit of farming to charge the passive effect on it, which is why I reccomend getting this item during the mid game, when there are still plenty of oppertunities to farm large ammounts of creeps.
Atma's Impaler, to me, is simply a great item for Darius. It gives him plenty of attack damage for building large ammounts of health, it gives him crit chance on his auto attacks and it gives him loads of armour to help him last longer in drawn out fights
Personally, I am a massive fan of The Bloodthirster on Darius, because it gives the most attack damage in the game (bar Sword of the Occult, and buying one of those is like painting a gigantic target on your own head) and large ammounts of lifesteal for 1 on 1 fights. However, there are times when the lifesteal isnt actually needed on Darius, so I put this into the optional items list.
Similar in usefulness to Darius is the Infinity Edge. It doesnt give any lifesteal, which The Bloodthirster does, but it does give an awesome passive benefit, 25% crit chance and more importantly, a stable 80 attack damage that doesnt drop off if you die. Personally, I dont often buy it, but it is a very good option for Darius as long as he doesnt need the lifesteal (since you will be selling Wriggle's Lantern in order to buy it).
Maw of Malmortius
I do normally include Maw of Malmortius in my build, but if there isnt a large ammount of magic damage on the enemy team (if the enemy mid isnt a hyper carry like Karthus or someone who can burst really hard like LeBlanc or Veigar) then I generally go for a different offensive item in that slow and pick up Mercury's Treads instead of Ninja Tabi
While Frozen Heart is an item I normally build on Gangplank, it's passive can work wonders on Darius, especially against champions who rely on attack speed ( Jax, Irelia) since them trying to fight Darius 1 on 1 will be that much harder. The stats on it are also really good for Darius, in particular the 20% cooldown reduction.
If my opponent in top lane doesnt generally depend on auto attacks ( Tryndamere, Jax) and the enemy team has a lot of cc, then I'll pick these boots up instead of Ninja Tabi. They're also good to take if I dont pick up a Maw of Malmortius just to add to my magic resist
Items I dont consider useful
For some champions, buying a Trinity Force is a complete no-brainer ( Irelia, Jax, Hecarim) since it's often their main source of damage. I've tried using Trinity Force on Darius and to my mind it just doesnt pack enough impact to be worth the 4000 gold investment on it. The occasional proc from Phage is useful, but is nowhere near as good as a Frozen Mallet, and the Sheen proc is slightly wasted since Darius has two skills which he will use to proc Sheen ( Decimate and Crippling Strike) which are on fairly high cooldowns.
Force of Nature
I've not used this item on many champions, but those I do use it on are generally not primary damage dealers ( Singed, Malphite) or are tanky champions that rely on base damages ( Warwick). For me, while it does give insane health regen when combined with Warmogs Armor and Frozen Mallet, it lacks the attack damage that Darius so desperatly wants, which makes Maw of Malmortius a better option for me.
Randiun's Omen is, to be fair, an awesome item. It gives health, cooldown reduction, armour and a sick passive for teamfights, and yet I dont build it on Darius. The reason is as before, that it doesnt give attack damage, and Darius's Crippling Strike actually slows attack speed anyway, so the passive ability is less useful in a 1 on 1 situation (in a teamfight, you should have some kind of tank going in, and they'll probaby buy this item since it is so amazing).
Why double gold per five items?
In my reccomended build for most games, I include an early Philosopher's Stone and Heart of Gold just afterwards. However, this seems a bit counterproductive to many people, since Darius is one of those top lanes (personally, I place him in a group with Irelia and Olaf) who really wants to snowball and get completely out of control.
While this is a valid strategy, it does rely on several factors which wont always be there for you in every match:
- A good matchup in toplane. While this is a prime factor for nearly every top lane, it will slow down or even completely stop Darius's snowball if he goes up against them. Prime examples of this are Kayle, who can stop Darius dead in his tracks with her ultimate, Yorick with his amazing lane control, pushing power and strong early game and Rengar, who'se early game damage is stupidly good at the time of writing (this will change depending on how Rengar changes over time).
- Good co-ordination with your jungler/early ganks for you. If Darius picks up kills early, then he goes on a rampage. That said, you wont have the jungler working exclusivly for you in every game. It not only depends on the enemy team comp, but also on the jungler. If you have someone like Warwick jungling for you, they probably wont gank until they have Infinite Duress, so early ganks are not on the menu, but if you have someone like Lee Sin, Maokai, Nautilus or Alistar then you can, and probably will, recieve early ganks.
If those two factors are in your favour (good lane matchup for you, a strong early ganking jungler) then Darius can snowball early, but if they're not (and often they're not) then you either need to kill your lane opponent 1 on 1 (perfectly possible with a good lane matchup) or knuckle down, farm like a madman and aim for lategame. I like to compare Darius with Olaf, since it me they have similar power curves throughout the game. Both have reasonable early game with some good burst damage ( Decimate for Darius, Reckless Swing for Olaf), both can snowball really hard and both have awesome late games when they get their full build.
To achieve the full build without getting plenty of kills/assists, I get the gold per five items. To my mind, the extra gold helps so much it's worth the early investment.
Why I consider Philosopher's Stone to be such a good item for Darius
As a toplane, Darius has a specific weakness, namely his lack of sustain. While you can mitigate this with defensive masteries (extra health regen), you are unable to take the extra mana masteries in utility because you need the offence, so the extra health and mana regen on Philosopher's Stone is perfect for Darius as it allows him to stay in lane longer and also use his skills on demand, since (apart from his ultimate) they do not have large mana consts associated with them and Decimate is such a good farming tool.
While I've found my item progression to work fine in most situations, I did have it pointed out to me that I didnt include a section on more cost-effective items early on. Essentially, these are the items you should buy if you are starting to snowball, and there isnt really an enemy champion that's any kind of threat to you (a situation that arises suprisingly often if you're jungler is good and you take the Teleport/ Flash combo to gank other lanes)
This should be your first target for a snowball item. If you are dominating your lane, picking up plenty of kills or just have the best part of 3000 gold before your first b for proper items (after picking up gold per 5 items/ Wriggle's Lantern) then you should get the components of this item.
Why wouldnt you get Sword of the Occult for snowballing?
Technically, Sword of the Occult is better for snowballing than The Bloodthirster, but building a pure snowball item is like running into a pride of lions while covered in meat. People hate Darius enough, dont give them any more reasons to camp your lane. Also, while The Bloodthirster relies on any kind of kill (minions and champions) to fill it's power up, Sword of the Occult relies upon you killing champions, so after getting a few kills people will stay the hell away from you.
No, I have not gone insane. If I snowball hard enough, I will build a Phantom Dancer for extra damage. Darius scales reasonably well with attack speed (nowhere near as well as he scales with attack damage, but not badly), and all the stats on this item are very useful for Darius, particularly the movement speed bonus the item gives. Combine that with Frozen Mallet, and no-one will ever escape you
For Darius, taking Decimate at lvl 1 is my personal preference, but I cant think of any reason you'd take Crippling Strike or Apprehend first unless you're going for an early invade and you want as much cc as possible. That said, if you have a character on your team that has a reliable cc at lvl 1 ( Morgana, Blitzcrank, Alistar, Taric) then you can take Decimate at lvl 1 for an invade.
I max out Decimate by lvl 9, since in lane it gives the best harrasment onto enemy champions (with correct useage of the outer edge mechanic) and gives great farming potential at higher ranks with some attack damage. You should practise hitting champions with the edge of the blade for maximum effectiveness, but dont be afraid of hitting it while the champion is next to you in a straight fight.
Never pull someone in with Apprehend and then use Decimate. Always use Decimate and then use Apprehend to pull them in.
I max Crippling Strike second, by lvl 13, since it is a good source of damage and cc but is not required early game since your auto attacks wont make up that much of your damage early on. You generally want to delay the use of Crippling Strike in 1 on 1 engagements, since using it with 4 or 5 stacks of Hemorrhage applied to them will allow you to spam the skill with a much lower cooldown. The exceptions to this is when you are fighting a champion that relies on attack speed ( Irelia, Fiora) or when you know they are going to run straight away instead of stand and fight
I max Apprehend last, but I take a point in it early so I can take advantage of the utility. The passive bonus is good, but not amazingly required until late game, where champions start to get large ammounts of armour.
Good use of Apprehend is paramount to playing Darius well. It doesnt matter that you can use Decimate perfectly every time if you screw up your grabs because you'll just never catch anyone. The main mistake made with Apprehend is that people use it to initaite fights. While it is effective at doing this, this should only be done in a few situations (pulling someone over a wall in the jungle, pulling someone in to bait them into a counter gank). Other than those situations, the most effective use of Apprehend is to pull enemy champions back in once they have disengaged. This is especially effective against champions such as Irelia who have no escapes outside of Flash, as you can simply pull them back in once they have flashed.
Whenever Noxian Guillotine is available, I always take a point in it. While I am aware there are champions who sometimes delay getting their ultimate in order to max one of their skills faster, Darius is not one of those champions.
Many people will play Darius as a melee version of Karthus and killsteal with Noxian Guillotine. While you can do that, just because Noxian Guillotine refreshes upon getting a killing blow does not mean that that is all you use it for. It can be used in a 1 on 1 fight where you are losing in order to turn the fight around, it can be used in a gank/countergank to softed up a tanky target in order to let a harder carry take the kill and it can be used in a teamfight to do maximum damage to one of their carries who is doing particularly well.
That said, taking as many kills as you can is not an entirely terrible strategy as long as you maintain the snowball and dont starve out the other carries on your team. If he gets far enough ahead, Darius can carry a game hard, but dont rely on that happening since League of Legends is a team game and you cant win 1 v 5.
For summoner spells, I generally take Exhaust/ Flash or Teleport/ Flash when in top lane, while sometimes taking Ignite/ Flash
Exhaust/ Flash combo.
I take this combo when I'm facing an opponent that relies heavily on trading with me or auto attacks as their main form of damage ( Irelia, Tryndamere, Fiora) since this means that I can overpower them in a 1 on 1 fight and force them to try and run or stop them from escaping when my jungler is ganking if we dont bring enough cc (if the jungler is someone like Shyvana or Gangplank)
Teleport/ Flash combo.
I take this combo when I know I'll overpower my opponent without needed Ignite or Exhaust and so will be able to go to other lanes with Teleport and gank without warning, when I'm facing someone else running Teleport so they wont be able to help out in other lanes without me coming in to stop them, when I'm facing Shen (although Darius can stop him altogether by using Apprehend to break the channel. Even if you have to burn Flash to do it, it's worth it as he wont be able to invervene in a fight in another lane and possibly turn the fight in their favour) or when I'm facing a very hard pushing champion with good harass ( Kayle or Yorick) and I dont want to be out of lane for a long time when I purchase items.
I take this combo when I want a healing reduction debuff to counter healing champions ( Vladimir, Dr. Mundo) or when I want extra damage for extended fights.
Some common lane matchups
In this section, I'll go over the lane matchups I've played as Darius, and give you my thoughts about how to win the lane (or at least not lose it). This section wont cover every toplane champion, since I havent played against all of them and as such I wouldnt feel comfortable giving advice on how to counter those champions. As I play more matchups with Darius and get a better feel for those matchups (I'm not going to deliver a verdict after one game) then I'll add them to the list.
Difficulty Rating: Easy
While not a common toplaner, you do occasionally see Akali played in the top lane. Pre-6, she cant really touch you, since moving into range to hit you with Mark of the Assassin means she has to step into range of your Decimate's outer edge, which deals more damage as well as applying your passive.
Even when she goes into her Twilight Shroud she's not safe, since AOE damage still hits her while she's stealthed and when she leaves the shroud you can just pull her back towards you.
Post six, she becomes slightly more dangerous, since her burst potential increases massively when she gets her Shadow Dance, but if you build early magic resist (I suggest rushing a Hexdrinker instead of your Heart of Gold or buying a Null Magic Mantle as your first item) then her burst wont really do much to you, and you'll simply be able to turn around and cut her in half with Noxian Guillotine.
Recommended Summoner Spells: Flash/ Exhaust
Difficulty Rating: Hard
Ooh boy, you just got counterpicked. Matchup's like this are why I dislike picking Darius first in ranked play. Malphite is a brick wall in the top lane, with great harrass, built in sustain from his Granite Shield and damage gained from building armour. While closing into range of Darius is a bad idea for most champions, Malphite wants to you do it. He'll just Ground Slam you, win the trade and then hit you with Seismic Shard to stop you escaping.
The best thing to do in this lane is play conservatively. Pick armour pen quintessences and marks, and get early gold per five items. You want to play for mid-late game, as although Malphite becomes a complete monster in late game teamfights, mid game they tend not to build much health, concentrating instead on getting their Frozen Heart or their Randuin's Omen. This leaves them rather vunerable to you, since your passive deals magic damage, and your Noxian Guillotine deals true damage.
Recommended Summoner Spells: Flash/ Ignite
Difficulty Rating: Medium/Hard
This is an odd matchup to judge, at least for me personally. I've got up against really really bad Irelia's, and just completely stomped them, but then run into a good Irelia in the next match and actually had a pretty hard time of things. Irelia's main strengths are her early sustain and her heavy damage with just a few items (nearly always a Trinity Force or a Wit's End), which can really screw over a Darius early on. While your damage (without item investment) is higher pre lvl 9, after that she starts to outdamage you until you get the last rank in your ultimate, so while you normally wont lose your lane, you also wont snowball. To win this lane, you either need your lane opponent to not be that good with Irelia (dont expect this to happen in ranked games) or for your jungeler to put early pressure.
A good item for countering Irelia is Ninja Tabi, since a lot of Irelia's damage comes from her auto attacks.
Recommended Summoner Spells: Flash/ Exhaust
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Jayce is a difficult matchup for Darius, simply because Jayce has a strong early game, awesome poke, a good disengage with his Thundering Blow/ Acceleration Gate and a pseudo-dash with his To The Skies!. This makes it very hard for Darius to get close to Jayce and keep him there long enough to get a kill on him. However, Jayce needs to snowball his lane to stay relevant towards the later stages of the game, and Darius will get naturally stronger as the game goes on even if he doesnt snowball (although, as previously stated, he really wants to snowball). High ammounts of sustain and armour will mitigate a lot of the advantage that Jayce gets in lane, so early Ninja Tabi and a Philosopher's Stone will work very well.
Jayce used to be a much more scary prospect, but recent nerfs have blunted his offence quite a bit.
Recommended Summoner Spells: Flash/ Exhaust
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Jax is a fairly standard lane for Darius. Neither champion has a massive advantage over the other as although Jax is an anti-ad champion, Darius deals all kinds of damage so the major advantage of Jax is negated. Really, the winner of this lane depends on the skill of the players with their respective champions and the attention the respective junglers pay to the top lane.
As with any champion that depends on auto attacks, Ninja Tabi is a great choice but if you find yourself facing long engagements with Jax then Mercury's Treads would be a better option since the stun from Counter Strike is often the factor that saves Jax and dooms his opponent. Other items that are good are Randuin's Omen and Frozen Heart since Jax gets progressivly increasing attack speed from his passive.
Recommended Summoner Spells: Flash/ Exhaust
Difficulty Rating: Medium
One of my favorite champions for top lane, Olaf can be a complete beast if you let him. His early game burst (lvls 5-9) is awesome due to Reckless Swing and he has built in sustain with Vicious Strikes. Despite all that, this lane can still go the way of Darius even if Olaf builds an advantage early. To put in simply, neither champion will win this lane early. If you fall behind, you have a chance to catch up because both of these guys require their full build to make them unstoppable.
Recommended Summoner Spells: Flash/ Exhaust
Difficulty Rating: Easy
If you get this lane matchup then you are in for one of the easiest lanes you'll ever have. Talon is a great champion, but his kit makes him much better suited to mid lane than top because his burst simply cant kill you if you're a bruiser. His Rake does middling damage, but to hit you with it, he has to move close enough that you can either pull him in or hit him with Decimate, which will hurt him a lot more. Stacking armour shuts him down completely, and his damage sucks if he buys surviability items. Kill him and start your rampage.
Recommended Summoner Spells: Flash/ Exhaust or Flash/ Teleport
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Shen is another great pick for toplane, but not a champion that shuts Darius down. While Darius is vunerable to hard cc, Shen simply cant either kill or stop Darius from farming in the laning phase which means that Darius is free to go elsewhere for his kills. In fact, picking Shen against Darius is a bad idea, since Stand United can be interrupted by Apprehend, putting the ability on cooldown and preventing Shen from having his feared global presence.
The item that basically lets Darius be safe in this lane is just Mercury's Treads, since the main threat from Shen is his Shadow Dash taunt, so with some magic resist and those boots, Darius can just farm and murder his way to endgame.
Recommended Summoner Spells: Flash/ Teleport
Basically, the above build is how I play Darius. I stress this is not set in stone, and the runes, masteries and items choices are entirely up to you. I do provide comments and advice on how to use his skills properly, but again you might disagree with me and use them differently.
I would definitely recommend giving Darius a go. He's a very fun champion to play that doesnt require that much skill with him to play (although he's slightly tricky to master) and of course, he has the potential to be a complete monster at all stages of the game.
More sections will be added soon (as soon as I finish them), mainly a list of good and bad lane opponents for Darius and a teamfighting guide. Hope you have fun.