General Guide by TheItemGuru
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.
Just like every champion, every item has its own place in the League of Legends. Each item functions uniquely, and the difference between a good item choice and a bad one can make all the difference for how a match turns out. For your champion has 5 abilities (one passive) that are set in stone for that champion forever, but no matter who you picked the items you purchase are entirely up to you--you could pack a Rabadon's Deathcap on Malzahar just as easily as you could buy a Frozen Mallet for him (they are the same price).
Of course, just because they cost the same doesn't make them the same, especially on a champion like Malzahar. As such, great care should go into what item you should purchase, who you should buy it for, and when it needs to be bought. That is what this guide is for--examining each item for its role in the game. Let's get started, shall we?
The item in question for today's guide is the Sunfire Cape, a defensive item that is common in many Tank and Fighter builds.
However, just because it is common doesn't make it a "Keep-it-simple-stupid" item that everyone should build on every Champion they own, or even for every Tank or Fighter they own. Spirit Visage is a common item too, but that doesn't mean you should build it on Shyvana just because you build it on Nasus or Renekton. You can throw a game surprisingly easily by building the wrong item, or even buying one at the wrong time.
Gold Advantage is important, and gold earned from being ahead in the game shouldn't be wasted (nor should gold be wasted when you are behind). Every fight is different and just because you got First Blood doesn't guarantee a victory against your opponent next time. They may have learned from their mistakes, purchased a counter-item, or bought a much-needed core item in their build. Don't waste time and money on the wrong items! In a game where everyone is constantly improving their stats and attacks, items can be just as important as maintaining your level with everyone else.
That in mind, let's examine the basics behind the Sunfire Cape as well as find out where its place in LoL really is.
Pros And Cons
Sunfire Cape is good in some areas and not-so-good in others:
|+ Both Health and Armor
+ Damaging Aura
+ Not Abhorrently Expensive
+ Scaling Damage Into Late Game
|Sunfire Cape is useful in a number of areas. It's one of the few items to give Health and Armor together, and it has a very powerful Aura to boot. It scales well into late game, and it does damage per second to every nearby foe, making it useful for pretty much everything from defending swamped towers to pushing lanes to teamfighting. It can be a useful asset to any champion who needs it, and doesn't require a ton of coordination or planning to be of great use.|
|+ Sub-par Health/Armor Stats
+ Mildly Awkward Build
+ Nerfed Early Game Usefulness
+ Competes Poorly with Other Tank Items
|Sunfire cape may be one of the few items to give both Health and Armor, but it doesn't give much of either, and can pale in comparison to the other Tank items. It is useful mid-to-late game, but has to wait as its use early-on has been nerfed. It's also not for everyone, or for anytime, and must be incorporated carefully into any build.|
Sunfire Cape is primarily a defensive item. It grants 450 Health and 45 Armor. These are a good combination because Health without Armor is easy to take huge chunks out of, and Armor without Health is easy to whittle down. As such these two are best built together, and having them both packaged in one item is a definite plus.
Cost and Recipe:
This item costs 2650 Gold to buy. Not cheap by any means, but far from being one of the more costly items out there. It builds from the Giant's Belt and the Chain Vest, and costs an additional 930 Gold to finish. This can be slightly awkward as both the required items don't build from anything themselves and are decently expensive for Level 1 items, as well as the near-1000 extra gold it costs to complete the item even with the two recipe items in your inventory. I maintain the opinion that the most convenient items cost barely anything to complete after the recipe items are purchased, but as long as you can control your spending whenever returning to base (or as long as you can lane and farm well enough without needed to Recall to save up enough successfully), you will be able to purchase it without too much trouble. There are far more awkward builds out there.
Now for the Unique Passive: Sunfire Cape does Magic Damage per second to nearby enemies. This used to be a flat 40 Damage Per Second, but the item has since been changed to a level-based 25+ Level (so if you are level 6, it will do 25+6 (31) magic damage to enemies each second). At the time, I heard many people complain about the change, but as long as you are level 16-18, it will do more than before.
Even so, this makes Sunfire Cape not an ideal Early-Game item to build, as you'll be losing out on damage each and every second. As such, Sunfire Cape makes for a better Mid-Game item: as Mid-Game is where it is both easiest to build and where its damage will be the most apparent. It can also be a welcome addition Late-Game, and there's no reason to sell it by that time. So it's best that you already have it by the 40-minute mark.
So from this we can conclude that Sunfire Cape is a Mid-Game item for Health, Armor, and Damage. It can seem costly early-on, but it isn't meant to be built early on, and saves its true uses for later in the match. It also has a Unique Passive, and isn't a prime candidate for building multiples.
Most people probably wouldn't have learned anything new about Sunfire Cape by this point, as the basics are, well, merely basic. Despite its apparent simplicity, however, this item has several key elements that are what make it so useful as well as situational. This is the Advanced Uses Section.
Now, during my LoL youth, I disliked this item. In fact, I thought it was the most Overrated Item in the entire game. This was for a number of reasons--cons which remain today. Namely, that the item had both poor Health and Armor stats for the price, and because of the existence of Randuin's Omen.
These are true: Compared to other similarly-priced items, Sunfire Cape gives both poor Health and Armor, barely more than the items it is built from (70 more Health and 5 more Armor). In addition, Randuin's Omen gives far better stats for only 350 more Gold. Randuin's Omen is the enemy of Sunfire Cape, and it is statistically superior in every way. Anyone seeking tankyness should purchase Randuin's over Sunfire. So then why should anyone ever build Sunfire? Ever?
The true answer comes not from the stats, but from the Unique Passive. This is the point most worth emphasizing: CONTINUAL MAGIC DAMAGE PER SECOND UNCHECKED IS A POWERFUL THING.
Sunfire Cape is not a defensive item. There are far better choices for that. No, Sunfire Cape is an item meant to be built offensively. It is the aura that sets this item apart from the rest, as its damage is an invaluable asset that few other items can give. Unchecked, this item can wreak unseen havoc upon your enemies. It is not an item whose damage can be avoided like Thornmail, nor is it an item that makes you undesirable to target like Randuin's Omen.
This item demands immediate attention--so long as you linger while you have it you cannot be ignored. A tank with Sunfire Cape in the middle of the enemy team must be dealt with, even if they have no CC or DPS of their own. If the enemy stays they will die. Sunfire Cape does little immediate damage, but the longer you stay near your foes the more Health this item will continuously take from them. Coupled with Thornmail or Frozen Heart, a champion with Sunfire Cape becomes a plague to the enemy--someone who must die, but who is a pain to even attack. Even the most undamaging of champions can be a major problem with this item.
Now, this plays the most to the strengths of champions who can make the most of its passive. Champions who don't do well amongst the enemy should avoid Sunfire Cape (I don't care how tanky you're building your new metagame Xerath, don't get this item). It's also best suited on champions who preform better in the midst of several enemies (such as Xin Zhao, Wukong, or Irelia), or desperately need a damaging aura to push lanes better or assist in teamfights (many supports can have poor lane pushing potential).
Sunfire Cape works best when used with Champions who compliment its greatest strengths:
Champions With Their Own Auras:
Shyvana, Udyr, Amumu, and Garen (to name a few) all have their own abilities for damaging nearby foes. Coupled with Sunfire Cape, they will do even more damage per second just with their presence alone. Add an Aegis of the Legion or an Enchantment: Captain and you're ready to lead the charge (each sold separately).
It's important to know which items Proc with Sunfire Cape and which ones do not. If you or an Ally utilizes an Abyssal Scepter or the Wit's End, it will help the Sunfire Cape do more damage. This also applies to Sorcerer's Shoes and the Morellonomicon Passive. However, Sunfire Cape does not stack with the Rylai's Crystal Scepter or the Liandry's Torment Passives. These may seem like minor details, but they are worth mentioning nonetheless for those building these items together.
Tanky Jungle Fighters:
Sunfire Cape won't do a whole lot to speeding up your Jungle Route, but it can be useful both for your presence in Ganking as well as Late-Game. A Jungler with no presence is a failed one, and Sunfire Cape gives more presence during a fight than most other items. It can also be useful for Junglers who trap foes like Jarvan IV and Skarner as well as Junglers with incredible diving power like Vi and Nocturne. Just BE CAREFUL AROUND ENEMY TOWERS--YOU DO DAMAGE PER SECOND AND CANNOT TOGGLE IT! That alone can make this item something worth avoiding for some Junglers.
Things To Avoid
Champions Who Can't Take the Heat!
Do not build this item on Champions who can't survive! The key to utilizing Sunfire Cape is the basic assumption that you're going to live long enough for it to do more than 80 damage. Do not build this item as an item for squishy Champs like AD Carries or Mages, even if you are looking for a durability item. Sunfire Cape gives poor stats and is better replaced with other items like Randuin's Omen or Guardian Angel if you're looking for a little extra Health or Armor.
Building Tank for Tankyness Sake:
What I mean by this is that the greatest aspect of Sunfire Cape is it's damaging power. If its the Health or Armor you're after, buy the Randuin's Omen. If you're there to tank and tank only, there are far better options for you with only six slots to spare (5 counting out the Boots). Sunfire Cape is not for those who want to be invincible, nor is it a must-have on tanks who do plenty of damage already (Champions like Cho'Gath and Darius are fully capable of killing without this item and are generally better off building other things). This is an item for those looking for free damage. Those who don't need it shouldn't get it. Which leads me to my last point...
Building It Every Game:
If you build the same six items in the same order every single game, then you are a fool. Adaptability is a must in LoL, because each match can play out differently. Nowhere is this more true than with Tank Items. Do not build Sunfire Cape against an all-AP team. Do not build it when you don't need it. If you die too fast for it to take effect because this game isn't going so well, switch to Randuin's Omen for the superior stats. If the enemy team (for whatever reason) has an unbelievable amount of Magic Resist, switch to Randuin's Omen. Sunfire Cape can be more of a counter-item than you'd think, and it must be treated as such whenever you are considering building it. No two LoL games are the same--be careful how you build!
This is a situational item for those who are able to play situationally! Sunfire Cape performs better and better the longer you survive, and it gives you a touch of that survivability all on its own, but that's not enough. To fully utilize its potential, you need to do the rest yourself. That means building Tanky, placing yourself in the midst of your enemies, and making sure your team can follow up. Sunfire Cape won't do you much good in a 1v5 under an enemy turret.
Sunfire Cape is an item that boosts your power and presence in a fight, and it punishes those who choose to ignore you. Those that are forced to face you will feel the wrath of your allies. With it, you can both be a force to be reckoned with as well as be a better support to your friends. Misuse it, and it will only serve as a sub-par Tank item at best. Use it wisely!
I hope this guide has opened your eyes to the usefulness of the Sunfire Cape, and I hope you will make better use of it in the future (be it by using it properly or not at all!) All feedback is greatly appreciated. Just try not to steal Penta Kills with it... Good luck to you!