Jax Build Guide by EviLCorsaiR
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.
Welcome to my first guide!
Hello! This is my first guide on Mobafire.
I spent a lot of time working on this to try and make it to the same high standards of the great builds I use every day on here (unlike some of the other 'first builds' I see on here), so I'd really appreciate constructive feedback and criticism on how to improve this. In particular, if you downvote it, please tell me why so I can improve it!
Without further ado, welcome to the all new Jax!
(note: for the newer players here, Jax was reworked several months ago with the removal of dodge - disregard any reference to his old abilities and playstyle if you don't know what he was like before!)
An Introduction to the All New Jax
A while ago, Riot announced their plans to completely scrap the dodge stat from the game. This would mean significant changes being implemented for Jax, the one champion in the League who was built around dodge with his old Counter Strike ability (which, every time you dodged an attack, would let you damage surrounding enemies and damage them for one second).
While Leap Strike and Empower remain mostly the same (if I remember rightly there's small tweaks to the damage, starting off lower but ending higher, on both) Jax's passive Relentless Assault, Counter Strike and his ultimate Grandmaster's Might have all been completely reworked. I describe them in more detail in the Skill Sequence section.
I play Jax as an offtank. This means you need to be tanky as well as capable of doing a lot of damage.
I've also included a jungle section. With his new Counter Strike ability, Jax now has the ability to jungle both quickly and with relative ease, as well as being able to drop dragon himself faster than almost any other champion in the League. He's not an ideal jungler; if there's a better jungler on your team, let them do it, or if you're sure you want to jungle, go with a better jungler. However, it's always good to be aware of the jungle build.
Pros / Cons
Pros+ Capable of extremely high damage
+ One of the League's best duelists
+ Quite easy and fast in the jungle
+ Great gap closer and escape mechanism
- Not as tanky as he was before update
- Power drops if he loses stacks
- Hard to master
- Item reliant (who isn't?)
The great thing about Leap Strike is that it means we don't need Flash. Its range is greater than Flash, it's a great gap closer, and provided you have a sight ward or Wriggle's Lantern ready to use then you can jump over walls and out of a fight provided you're a fast clicker. There's a section about 'ward leaping' later in the guide.
Great for slowing an enemy if you've burnt Leap Strike and they're too far to stun with Counter Strike. People also often forget about its damage reduction, great for 1v1.
If you're jungling, take Smite. End of story. You NEED Smite to be an effective jungler. Can you jungle without it? Yes. Should you? No. Replace Exhaust with it if you're jungling.
With no need for Flash, we can take Ghost instead. A great gap closer, chase mechanism, and if we need to get out of a fight, a more reliable long term escape. Highly recommended.
Viable Summoner Spells
Note: apart from Flash, all of the below should only replace your Exhaust and not Ghost! (If you're jungling, do not replace Smite either!)
Hate me all you want for saying this, but it's a viable pick on almost any champion, including Jax. Everyone makes mistakes, and this makes it less punishing. Also fantastic for duels, just when they think you're dead, pop Heal and kill them. I wouldn't recommend it if you don't need it, other summoner spells are more useful, but this can help if you need time to learn your way around Jax.
Okay...some people like Surge. And on a champion like Jax who can make use of both the AS and AP, I can see the appeal. If you're going to use it on anyone, Jax would be ideal. I just don't think it's as effective as the other options are. Still, if you really want to take it, it's not as bad as other picks and it wouldn't be a bad choice. Not recommended for competitive play, however.
Speaking of bad choices...
Non-viable summoner spells
If CC is that big of a problem, pick up a Quicksilver Sash. Its recharge is lower, and it's cheap, and means you can pick a more useful summoner spell. Cleanse isn't a terrible pick but it's not viable in my opinion. If you're being CCed so hard that you can't get a kill even with Quicksilver Sash, you're probably doing something wrong.
No. If you've got mana problems while playing Jax, you're spamming your abilities too often. Even on mana hungry champions, you should be able to manage your mana well enough not to need Clarity. It takes up the space of a spell that could be used far more effectively if you learn how to manage your mana.
Great spell, and every team needs one. But it's the support that takes Clairvoyance. And you're not support. At least, I really hope you're not playing Jax as a support. If you are, something has gone badly wrong in your LoL career...
All the other summoner spells are fairly terrible and you shouldn't consider taking them on anyone, never mind Jax. Maybe some niche builds make use of them, but this one doesn't.
This is my recommended setup. It's not the standard 21/9/0 that's meta on solo top nowadays, but I feel Jax benefits more from the extra points in Offense because of his hybrid nature. It should be fairly self explanatory. Summoner's Wrath for the improved Exhaust and Ghost, Weapon Expertise and Arcane Knowledge because Jax is a hybrid and can put both to good use, Lethality because we will be critting fairly often with our finished build, Vampirism for survivability, Sunder for ArP and Executioner for a great boost to damage.
We add a little bit of defense in the defensive tree. Hardiness is preferable, as it'll give you a better early game boost against enemy brusiers and AD carries, particularly if you're laning solo top.
If you find your defense lacking and need an early game boost, this is also an option. We sacrifice our extra critical chance and damage (because they aren't as important for damage as Arcane Knowledge , due to our high ability damage) in order to put some points into Durability and Veteran's Scars for the extra health overall, and a great early game health boost that can help you get first blood.
If you prefer to take utility over defense, then this is also an option. Good Hands for a helpful reduction in time spent dead (not that we should be dying much), Swiftness for a movement speed buff, Runic Affinity for the extra buff duration.
I'd advise against using Expanded Mind and Meditation . Mana isn't a huge problem for Jax if we don't spam our abilities early game, and by late game mana isn't a problem, so Expanded Mind is redundant.
For this, we take Butcher in the offense tree to help our damage against the neutral minions, Tough Skin to take less damage from them, Bladed Armor to increase our damage against them, and Vigor for better sustain while jungling, again taking MR over armor in the first tier, plus Summoner's Resolve for the improved Smite.
No, this setup doesn't take Runic Affinity , but I don't feel that it's absolutely necessary. The points in the defense tree greatly improve our sustain while in the jungle, making it easier. Of course, there's also the option to put the 9 points in utility instead.
If you want to take Runic Affinity , go for this. It means sacrificing Summoner's Resolve so we don't get the gold bonus from Smite, but that's not a big deal. Itdoes mean you're less sustainable in the jungle, but if you're an experienced jungler and don't feel you need the extra sustain from the defense tree, then this is a better option.
Greater Mark of Lethality
Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage
Greater Seal of Armor gives us greater early game armor against enemy hard hitters. They're used on many builds for good reason, and they work just as well on Jax. These are a must, I don't consider there to be any alternative.
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist provides great late game magic resist to help go against those pesky AP carries. (Why not flat MR glyphs? Because you shouldn't be laning against AP, and even if you are, their heavy damage starts when the per level MR already provides more MR than flat glyphs.)
Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage provides greater early game damage for harassment and fights, and makes last hitting easier. Typical on many an old Jax and they still work well now.
Other Viable Runes
Great for early game damage and a more traditional setup for Jax. You'll hit hard early game with them, but they fall off late game.
Your abilities are a great source of damage. These sacrifice some late game MR for a late game damage boost.
CDR = more spammable abilities = more damage. Great for chasing people. Don't spam too much or you will be out of mana often.
Viable on just about any champion, including Jax. Not necessarily the ideal choice, but gives a significant boost to early game survivability and could help to get First Blood.
|greater quintessence of desolation||
An alternative that has you hitting through more of their armor. Better mid-late game than Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage, but I prefer the latter for better early harass and last hitting.
Greater Mark of Lethality
Greater Mark of Attack Damage
Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage
The Greater Mark of Attack Damage and Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage increase your damage for faster jungle clears, and the greater mark of desolation provide more damage in ganks. I feel 3 Greater Mark of Attack Damage and 6 greater mark of desolation gives a good balance of damage and ArP.
Greater Seal of Armor are still a must, as the extra armor helps a lot in jungle sustainability. I like to take Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist to provide late game magic resist as well.
Other Viable Runes
All the runes listed for laning (not necessary ideal for jungling but can be used), plus:
Potentially a faster jungle clear, albeit less useful outside of the jungle and aren't my preference. They are viable choices, however.
Note: Some people like to take Greater Glyph of Attack Speed for jungling, but I advise against it. The boost in attack speed is tiny and there are much more useful glyphs for both in and outside of the jungle.
First, a summary of Jax's abilities because they've changed significantly.
Instead of added health scaling with AD and AP, Jax's new passive gives you stacks of AS in a fight (like his old ultimate). It only stacks up to 6, unlike his ultimate which stacked up to 10. But nevertheless, this is a great passive! Late game, with 6 stacks, you'll have an extra 84% attack speed - that's one and a half Phantom Dancers! This means we don't need to build as much AS as an offtank might otherwise.
This remains unchanged, and also remains awesome. You can jump to enemies, making it a great gap closer. You can jump to allies (champions and minions) to get out of a fight. But you can also jump to wards. That alone means that as long as you've got a sight ward in your inventory, or Wriggle's Lantern, you can 'flash' over a wall with Leap Strike.
Counter Strike has been significantly re-worked. Now when you use it, you dodge ALL of your incoming attacks for 2 seconds, stunning and damaging enemies at the end of the duration. While its cooldown is longer so we can't stun as often, it's more reliable in a fight, means you can stun an enemy without being attacked yourself, and those 2 seconds can save your life if you're targeted by their AD carry. After 1 second, you can also end it early to apply the damage and stun.
Jax's ultimate has been reworked AGAIN in the Lulu update. You still get the same passive, but now the active increases your armor and magic resist for 8 seconds, with the prior scaling with AD and the latter with AP. Particularly with our mid-late game item set, this provides a huge boost to survivability in a fight.
For the lane, take the first point in Leap Strike. It's the most useful skill to take first, providing a great gap closer and escape mechanism right from level 1. Follow up with Empower and then Counter Strike. Max Empower first, as it'll provide a great damage boost. Follow it up with maxing Leap Strike for even more damage. Leave Counter Strike to last, because we get its utility (dodge and stun) for their full durations straight from level 1 and the damage it does doesn't compare to your other abilities.
NOTE: Empower can be taken at level 1, followed by Leap Strike at level 2 and then continuing with the build above, to provide greater damage from level 1. This does mean sacrificing your escape mechanism and gap closer at level 1. Down to preference.
Start with Counter Strike at level 1. With the two second block and one second stun, it's basically 3 seconds of no damage from jungle minions. Follow it up with Empower at level 2 and leave Leap Strike until level 3, as it's not needed until you start ganking. After that, it's identical to the lane sequence.
The item build is very flexible. While I've outlined my preferred sequence below, that's not always possible (or ideal) and you should definitely deviate from it when it benefits you.
In particular - pick up more defensive items early if it benefits you. You won't be able to build this much damage in every game, and you should definitely go for more defense if you're being focused often.
There are plenty of ways to build Jax that work. The recommended build above is my current favourite, it focuses more on autoattacks than ability damage, giving you very strong damage, sustain, and good defenses. But it's similarly viable to build a lot more defensively, with less damage.
Recommended Starting Items:
I prefer to start with Boots of Speed and three Health Potions. It makes last hitting easier particularly when you're against a champion with good harass, as you can get in quickly, last hit a minion, and get back out again faster. It also helps to avoid early ganks and run from fights you can't win, particularly if the enemy doesn't have boots. Therefore, it helps to sustain us in lane, keeping us there for longer. It also means we've already started on our boots, saving us money in the long run (compared to a Doran's item which doesn't build into anything and you end up selling).
Provides you with more early health to survive a fight, possibly helping you get first blood, as well as ability power for damage and mana regen for sustainability. Not my preferred item, but a good alternative.
I wouldn't recommend it, but the extra damage will help with last hitting and the lifesteal will increase sustainability. I'd prefer Doran's Ring for the AP and mana regen, in the early game.
What to do if you underfarm
Everyone has terrible games. Even the 2100 Elo pros have terrible games. Maybe you're laning against someone more skilled than you, or someone who's a good counter. You'll find farming hard. If you are underfarmed, you don't want to proceed with the build as normal.
After a weak earlygame with poor farm, stacking Doran's items can help you get back into the game. Doran's items provide the best stats in the game for the gold they cost. The reason we don't fill our inventory with them is that they don't build into anything. In a scenario where you're underfarmed and/or finding your lane difficult, an extra Doran's Blade can give you a significant advantage. I'd prefer to stack Doran's Blade on Jax rather than Doran's Ring as I prefer to focus on autoattack damage. Just make sure you buy no more than 3 so you don't wreck your build, and that's worst case scenario (stick to just the extra one if you only need a small boost).
On first recall, you can either finish your boots or start your Wriggle's Lantern.
The above is personal preference. On most top laners I personally prefer Ninja Tabi for the greater early game against the typical enemy AD top, but I don't play in high level ranked so I don't often see strong crowd control. If the enemy team has substantial crowd control, going for Mercury's Treads is a no brainer. It's viable to buy Ninja Tabi early for the better lane, then selling them and buying Mercury's Treads as teamfights start to break out and the cc becomes a problem.
Why Wriggle's Lantern?
Whether you're laning or jungling, you should build this. Why? It gives a cheap boost to AD, armor and lifesteal. We can put all three to great use. There's also the free ward every 3 minutes. This has great synergy with Leap Strike and can get us out of a situation where we don't have a sight ward.
Start with a Vampiric Scepter. No alternative. This gives us all the jungle sustain we need; you could potentially jungle endlessly all the way from level 1 without ever having to go back. (I wouldn't recommend never recalling though.)
After this, the build is identical to the lane build. Get Boots of Speed when you can, finish Wriggle's Lantern, and follow the build as usual.
I said it before, and I'll say it now: if you're being pummeled due to the lack of defense, start building defensive items early. Take a look at the optionals that I suggest later in the guide, and build the ones that are suitable for your situation. Simply buying a chain mail is a big help against hard hitting AD champions (possibly building into a Thornmail against seriously fed ADs) whereas a Negatron Cloak helps a bunch against those pesky AP carries (possibly building into the relatively cheap Quicksilver Sash for anti-cc duty).
No two games are ever the same. You should never stick to one build all the time. Hextech Gunblade should always be built first in my opinion, for the significant damage boost and sustain it provides (as well as the active).
Sometimes you'll find you need to build more defense than usual, earlier than usual. If so, I'd recommend getting a defensive item straight after Hextech Gunblade. Every single item you buy (apart from Hextech Gunblade) provides armor, MR or health for added bulkiness, but none of them provide as much of a boost as you can get from a purely defensive item.
Why Hextech Gunblade? Despite the nerf to it, this is still perfect for Jax. Attack damage and ability power give a good boost to your overall damage. Life steal and spell vamp give you great sustain in a fight. The active stops enemies from running from you.
Why no Guinsoo's Rageblade? I had Guinsoo's Rageblade in my build for a long time. In my opinion, it doesn't work as well as the recommended build now. Every item you get provides either defense or sustain, Guinsoo's Rageblade doesn't. It also relies on those stacks to be useful for damage. Overall, I prefer not to get it.
Maw of Malmortius
Built for Olaf. Still works well on Jax. Combines well with the huge lifesteal you have (30% with masteries, Wriggle's Lantern and Hextech Gunblade) as all of a sudden when you're low health, you're healing up all of your damage. This also gives us an MR boost (we've already got armor from Wriggle's Lantern) as well as the useful spell shield.
Okay, so now you've got your core items. Your damage output should already be very high and you shouldn't be dying easily either, unless the enemy is really fed or you're playing aggressively. Where to go from here? This is where your build is most flexible.
There are two different setups that you could use here, that I feel are ideal:
Which one you go for depends on the situation. The Trinity Force build is typically more popular. It deals more damage than the former build, and has more health, but is also significantly more expensive and has less armor. The former build is better if you aren't making as much gold, or if you're against heavier AD (due to the significantly higher armor).
Now you've finished your build. Many of your games won't even last this long, but if they have, where to go from here? There's the elixirs, which I go through below, giving a further good boost.
If you're in a game that lasts for a very long time, then sell Wriggle's Lantern to pick up an extra offensive item - or if you need it, another defensive item. This will happen very rarely though.
A good balance of damage, sustain, and defense that should work well against most team comps.
Same as the build above, but with Mercury's Treads instead due to more (and better utilised) crowd control effects in ranked play.
You'll still have considerable defense, but you deal more damage. I've come to prefer my new build, but Trinity Force is still an excellent build for Jax, albeit an expensive one.
Competitive Trinity Force
As with the competitive Mallet/Atma's build, this one uses Mercury's Treads instead due to more (and better utilised) crowd control effects in ranked play.
Place trust in your damage. Start whacking them and you're healing any incoming damage. Very risky however, you're squishy so long as you're not hitting anything! Not recommended for competitive play, good for when you're stomping the enemy team.
Against very AP heavy teams
This would only be if three or four of the enemies were bursty high AP champions. Very strong MR will really annoy the fed enemy Veigar, who all of a sudden can't one shot you. You also have little extra armor, so don't use it against a team with a good AP carry.
Against very AD heavy teams
This would likely only be if the enemy has no (or weak) AP. The extra armor of Thornmail really helps against AD, and its passive literally makes the enemy kill themselves as they attack you. You're opening yourself up to hits from AP champions, with no extra MR, so not for use against teams with a good AP carry.
Trolling with that lifesteal
Please don't. Just don't. (If you can pull this off, your enemies will hate you forever. But no, this isn't a serious or competitive build.)
Recommended Defensive Items:
If their AD carry is pounding you into the dirt, pick this up. They'll literally kill themselves. This is 'worst case scenario super-fed- Tryndamere' though. Don't buy it unless their AD carry is a HUGE problem.
If their AP carry is pounding you into the dirt, pick this up. It won't deal damage back like Thornmail unfortunately, but it provides more MR than any other item in the game, a nice boost to hp5 for better sustain between fights, and the extra movement speed helps if you need to replace boots. Like Thornmail, only pick it up if you REALLY need it.
A good alternative to an Atma's Impaler against an AP heavy team, giving a nice dose of MR, good AS, and a nice on hit damage bonus as well.
Great synergy with Atma's Impaler and a potential replacement for Wriggle's Lantern if you get into 'late late' game, giving you a great survivability boost. I prefer to take Frozen Mallet (if I don't take Trinity Force) for the added offense but Warmog's Armor provides a lot more health when you've farmed it up to full stacks. Makes a great last item once your defenses are already high.
Recommended Offensive Items:
Armor, attack speed, attack damage, and a very powerful passive against HP stackers makes this a great pick against enemy AD heavy teams, or teams stacking health.
In a game when you've snowballed, this is feasible. The lifesteal of this combined with Wriggle's Lantern means you can just jump in there and tear up the enemy, healing up any damage they do to you. I wouldn't recommend it in most games though, only in ones with weaker enemies that can't counter you properly.
For a more offensive Jax, working particularly well with lifesteal for sustain, tear their armor to shreds with an extra dose of damage for good measure.
Sometimes you'll find yourself in what I like to call 'late late' game, when you've got a very balanced game lasting for more than 50 minutes. Sometimes you'll come to a case when you've bought all your items and the gold is stacking up. What to spend it on? Simple! Elixirs! Each one will give you a 4 minute buff when used (this buff will last through death, but the timer continues to run while you're dead). If you don't have any inventory room, you'll use it the moment you buy it!
For 400 gold, this gives you sight of all nearby stealthed objects - whether it's an enemy Twitch, an enemy sight ward or an enemy teemo's *******ed shroom, you can see it all. The downside is you lose it when you die.
When should you pick it up? Unless it's 'late late' game, I'd say only pick it up if the 'stealth' aspect of stealth champions is really giving you trouble. Remember, it's not cheap, you lose it if you die, and these champions will focus you if you have it. As an offtank, I really wouldn't recommend picking it up unless it's in very late game and you have 400 spare gold lying around.
Early game - Laning
I've included generic information in the bottom of the section that you should read if you're not already experienced at laning a solo top. Don't bother if you are experienced.
I think Jax is one of the strongest top laners in the game. He can trade blows with most enemies (if his mana permits it) and has excellent sustain after you've got lifesteal. Nevertheless, try to avoid harassment from enemies where possible. If you want to harass them yourself, hit them with an autoattack and immediately follow up with Empower when they come forward to last hit a minion (try to keep an eye on the health of your minions to predict when they will). If you get in a fight with them, use Counter Strike for avoiding their autoattacks and to stun them, and Leap Strike to follow after them if they run (if you think you can get the kill).
Make sure you don't spam too much and burn all your mana. Jax doesn't have a big mana pool, and Leap Strike and Counter Strike are both very mana hungry. You can use Empower to last hit, but make that occasional as that can go through mana fast as well if you use it constantly. You don't want to run out of mana and then get ganked, so you can't stun them or Leap Strike away.
Note: The below is mostly general information. If you're already an experienced player, you're probably already aware of most, if not all, of it.
Concentrate on last hitting - In the earlygame, new/inexperienced players will autoattack minions continuously. This creates two problems: firstly, you can't control when you land a blow to finish them off, so you'll lose some last hits (and hence gold) to your minions, and secondly (and arguably worse) you push your lane forwards. More on that below.
Basically, you should concentrate on running around zoning (more on zoning below), and when you see a minion with low enough health for you to one-hit, run in and smash it (provided it's safe to do so). Let your minions bring enemy minions down to low health. If you're having problems with it, you can use Empower to help you last hit, but try to do it on a 'need to' basis rather than as regular habit as it will drain your mana.
Don't push the lane (most of the time anyway) - Pushing your lane further towards the enemy turret is problematic for a number of reasons. It allows enemy champions to turret hug, making it harder to kill/harass them. It makes it harder for you to get last hits when they can harass you under turret protection. If they decide to attack you, you've got further to run to safety. But worst of all, it makes it extremely easy for you to be ganked.
All an enemy needs to do is come straight from the river towards you, sandwiching you between them and their turret, and you're pretty much screwed unless they have absolutely no crowd control and you've got plenty of health.
There are times you should push the lane - pushing it before you recall is ideal to make sure the enemy can't push to your turret - but most of the time, make sure the furthest you are in your lane is in the middle.
Don't let the enemy push to your turret - This seems to go against what I've said above, but you ideally want to keep their minions somewhere between the middle of the lane and about 2/3rds of the way towards your turret.
The problem with being under your turret is while it provides greater protection for you, it also steals minion kills from you and so means you'll end up with less gold. If the enemy is pushing forwards hard, then be more aggressive with their minions. Still make sure you get the last hits, but also attack the minions some more before that.
Minion kills are your main priority - you heard that right, you should concentrate more on their minions than on the enemy champions, in the early game. Simple fact: you'll get more gold for 10 minion last hits than for a champion kill (if you don't get a bonus e.g. first blood, end streak). Think of the amount of work it takes to kill the enemy champion, and then the amount of work it takes to kill a minion. Don't give up a last hit just to harass the enemy!
At the same time, I'm not saying don't try to kill the enemy champion. If you see a good opportunity to drop them, go for it. Just try not to make harassing them a priority over last hitting.
Map awareness is key - You should be glancing at the minimap every few seconds. If an enemy champion is suddenly missing - particularly if it's in the lane closest to yours - then watch out for a gank. Play defensively if they're missing and stay away from potential entry points for gankers. (For example, if you're bottom lane pushed to around the middle and their mid champion goes missing, stay closer to the bushes at the very bottom than the river, which is a potential entry point for them.)
While your teammates should call out 'ss' or 'mia' if a champion is missing from their lane (as should you), they might be too busy to do so, or they might have not noticed their missing enemy. Map awareness saves lives, FACT. Good map awareness also helps you to spot potential gank opportunities - more on that later.
Zoning is an incredibly important aspect during the lane phase. Unlike other DoTA games, you can't kill your own minions to deny the enemy a last hit. So how do you stop them from getting minion kills? Simple: Zone properly.
Zoning is all about controlling space. If you have control of the area around you, so that the enemy would have to risk damage to get a last hit, they'll be reluctant to do so. The more minion kills you can discourage them from getting, the more behind they'll be.
This is an excellent video that explains what zoning is and how to do it, and I'd highly recommend watching it.
When should I recall for items, health and/or mana? When should I stay in lane?
There are several issues you will always have with recalling:
- It opens your turret up to attack by the enemy
- It makes laning harder for your lane teammate (if you have one)
- It allows your enemies to free farm, while you're not earning any gold
Firstly, and I'll say this now: if you're seriously low on health, particularly to an extent that you're worried about being turret dived, recall. Worrying about the above means nothing if you get killed anyway.
What if your health isn't critically low, but it's down to, say, 200-300? Take a look at the enemy champions, and assess the situation. How much damage could they do? Could they kill you easily, or would it be tough for them to do so? Are they also low on health?
The key thing here is not to take risks, but also not to be overcautious. If you think your enemies are not in a position to kill you, keep on laning until they are.
As for mana, that's not as much of an issue for Jax. You should never have to recall for mana. If you're running that low, you're spamming your abilities too often.
With items...don't recall, unless you're seriously behind on items. You'll find there's an opportunity later when you need to recall anyway, and then you'll realise you could have got 250 gold in that time where you recalled to pick up Ninja Tabi. Did you really need that item so soon?
If you do need to recall, push your lane as far as you can if it's safe to do so. If you can get your minion waves to the enemy turret, this will help in two ways; it will make it very hard for them to get to your turret before you're back, and it also denies the enemy some last hits.
Early game - Jungling
So you've decided to jungle Jax instead? I won't go over what jungling is and the basics of it here, so if you need to know, look up a jungling guide here.
When jungling, general fight procedure is to open the fight by attacking the largest minion in the mob. Don't use Counter Strike straight away unless you're at least 100 health down, as you waste potential lifesteal during those 3 seconds where the jungle minions can't hit you. Once it's unlocked, use Empower whenever it's available. Time it in between two autoattacks; if done correctly, it will not reset your autoattack timer, so you get a 'free' attack in between two autoattacks, increasing your damage output over time. Use Leap Strike to clear camps only if you have blue buff. After your first blue buff is gone, you should be able to clear camps without Counter Strike as well - save that mana!
- Start with Vampiric Scepter and use your skill point to unlock Counter Strike.
- Start jungling with wolves. Ask for your teammates to do extra damage at wolves, but make sure you pull them.
- Proceed to clear the Ancient Golem camp for blue buff. Ask for a pull from your team. Smite the big golem when it's down to about 430 health.
- Unlock Empower. Gank top if the opportunity is open.
- Clear the wraith camp. Unlock Leap Strike. Gank mid if the opportunity is open.
- Clear the small golem camp.
- Clear Lizard Camp for red buff. Smite the big lizard when it's down to around 460 health. Gank bot if the opportunity is open.
Even if you don't get the damage at wolves and pull at blue, you should still never drop below half health using the standard build. With the damage and pull, you should be close to pull. On first recall pick up Boots of Speed and complete Wriggle's Lantern as far as you can. (I usually have the gold to pick up the Cloth Armor and Long Sword on first recall.) When jungling while the buff camps aren't up, and they won't be up for another minute or so (time it, buff camps take 5 minutes to respawn) then use Smite on the biggest minion in the camp while you clear it.
Jax is good for early ganks. After your first two camps you have Counter Strike and Empower, which gives you a stun and good damage, so if the opportunity is there to gank top (and you think it will result in a kill or force a Flash) do so. Same for mid after wraiths (and then you'll have Leap Strike for excellent initiation), and same for bot after lizard camp.
Jax works very well as an active ganker. If the opportunity is there, take it. You're bulky, and you bring a near unavoidable stun (if you time it right) to any lane, as well as strong damage. But don't neglect clearing camps either, don't sit in a bush waiting for a gank opportunity. Start up Counter Strike before you jump on the enemy with Leap Strike - time it so you can stun them almost immediately, so you can get some damage in even if they Flash afterwards.
No matter how careful a player is, they will inevitably come across a scenario where they're cornered with no means of escape, if their Flash is down.
Except for you. You're Jax! You can ward jump!
Imagine the following scenario...you've just killed dragon (or attempted to) but enemies are coming up behind you. You're on low health and trapped in the little enclosure.
Simply run up to the wall at the back...
Drop a sight ward or Wriggle's Lantern ward over the wall...
And then use Leap Strike to jump to the ward!
Now there's no way the enemy can catch up to you unless they have Flash up themselves, or some other form of blink (e.g. Riftwalk). I always like to make sure I have a couple of spare sight wards (and Wriggle's Lantern), they've saved my life on more than one occasion!
Pulling this off is easy, but doing it quickly takes good timing (and low latency).
Remember to constantly be looking for nearby walls to ward jump over, just in case you need to escape from a tough situation.
I'd like to say this first off:
Teamfights in the late game are the most important part of the game. You MUST stick with your team at ALL times. Do NOT leave to jungle. Do NOT leave to push a minion wave or save a turret. Teamfights are your number ONE priority.
The sign of a bad player is one who walks off to do exactly what I've described above. As soon as they do, it's a 4v5. If it's a 4v5, your team is at serious disadvantage. If your team dies, you potentially lose the game (or at least one inhibitor) because of the monstrously long respawn times. THAT is why teamfights are so important.
It doesn't matter if the two teams are both mid and seem to be just staring at each other. As soon as you leave, a good team will engage as your team is at a disadvantage. Stick with your team.
Jax is not an ideal initiator. Unlike the Jax of old, you can't jump into a 1v3 and come out the victor unless you're seriously fed. While you can potentially initiate, you're capable of a LOT of damage - more than the average offtank - and so you're more important as a damage dealer (and chaser). Ideally, your team's tank should initiate - an Amumu Bandage Toss, a Rammus Powerball or a Galio Idol of Durand.
Allow a teamfight to initiate, or wait for a teamfight to break out. Once it does, jump in and take out the highest value enemy targets. These are usually the enemy AD and AP carries. Their AD carry in particular is capable of tearing your entire team apart in seconds. But many AD carries build as glass cannons; you focus them and you will bring them down very fast, or at least bring them low enough to take them out of the fight.
If Exhaust is up, use it on the enemy AD carry when they start attacking your team. For two seconds, their damage output is reduced by 70%. That's a huge advantage to your team, as that's several thousand damage negated if the enemy AD carry is built right and knows how to play. Jump in with Leap Strike when their AD carry starts hitting your team hard. Focus that carry. The damage will either cause them to hesitate/run, giving your team the upper hand, or you'll outright kill him/her.
Stick on their AD carry, and once he/she is down, focus on their AP carry. Don't worry if the enemy team starts focusing you. That should give the opportunity for your team's AD carry to step in and wreck the enemy team. As an offtank, you want to try to draw the focus if possible. And if they don't focus you, you kill their AD carry. Simples. Even if you die, that focus shifted from your carries onto you can win the teamfight.
The right timing of Counter Strike in a fight is crucial. On one hand, it's incredibly useful in situations where you're getting focused; the 2s of dodge it provides is enough to save your life, or at least allows you and your team to pile on the pain in that time. On the other hand, it's also got a stun, and if the enemy team is clumped together, stunning them all at once could be deadly. If either opportunity comes up, use it. Don't hesitate.
Good timing of Empower can seriously increase your damage output. Remember, try to time it in between autoattacks, this means it'll be used as an extra attack in between them. If you time it immediately after an autoattack, you'll strike again instantly, which can deal a lot of damage very quickly. Use it as often as you can, it's a seriously powerful part of your damage.
The right timing of your ultimate is crucial. It's a huge defensive boost. Use it as soon as you leap into the fight, and you're very tanky indeed even without many defensive items. That makes it all the harder for the enemy team to take care of you. It's on a relatively low cooldown, so don't be afraid of using it.
Remember, as usual, don't take risks but don't be too cautious either. If it's obvious that a teamfight is lost, get out of there. But if you can still win it, stay in there and pummel their highest damagers. As soon as one team loses a champion, that drastically changes the fight.
In the case that you and your team do have to run from a fight, split up! Don't all run together in the same direction. By splitting up the enemy will either have to focus on one or two of you, or split up to take you; a good time to launch an unexpected assault on them. By splitting up, it ensures only one or two of you will die as the enemy chases you, so the others can escape and defend your team's Nexus.
If necessary, draw the enemy team's attention on yourself and let your squishies escape. If your carries are playing well, they'll have a lot of kills and so they're worth more gold than you are. If your death can save a carry's life, do it (unless the carry is terrible).
Remember that ambushes can be very effective. If a team ambushes another, those few seconds before the enemy team can react can make a huge difference. Generally, with two fairly evenly matched teams, if one team ambushes another, they will win the teamfight.
The morale of that? Try to set up ambushes. And never walk into one. Stick as a 5 when walking through bushes; if one of you is even a couple of meters ahead, they're an easy target, and any team one man down is bound to lose.
Better yet, you should always know where the enemy team is by warding effectively. sight wards are only 75 gold each, and only a couple of them placed on the map at a time makes a huge difference to your team.
So, this was my Jax guide. I hope you like it. As before, any and all constructive feedback would be greatly appreciated.
To finish up, I highly recommend that you watch the Jax champion spotlight. It shows great gameplay of Jax and displays quite a few techniques I describe in the guide. Of course, I'd recommend using my build and jungle route, not the one from the spotlight!
A massive thanks to jhoijhoi and her making a guide guide, it was a great help for formatting this guide and I've also used some of her line dividers. Thanks jhoijhoi!
Thanks to ClearDays for giving me the first chunk of significant constructive criticism. I feel it's really helped to improve my guide, particularly the item build section.
Thanks to 87alphaone, who helped me with my rune selection and item order. Check out his Jax guide as well, gives you an alternate idea of how to build Jax. (Having options is never bad!)
Help me improve my guide, and get your name in this list! I'm always looking for ways to improve!
19 January 2012 - v1.0 - Guide first published
20 January 2012 - v1.1 - Ward jumping section added with pictures, minor edits
23 January 2012 - v1.2 - Sigificant updates to rune and item sections, minor mastery changes, removed Baron section
25 January 2012 - v1.3 - MORE significant updates to items, jungle runes updated, minor format changes
30 January 2012 - v1.31 - Added Frozen Mallet and an anecdote to the items section.
22 March 2012 - v1.4 - Updated with changes to ultimate in the Lulu update
13 May 2012 - v1.5 - Significant update! Huge build change, parts of the guide have been updated and changed (particularly the item build), formatting changed as well in some areas
15 May 2012 - v1.51 - Small corrections, and added Trinity builds to the 'Cheat Sheet'