Core Build Philosophy: Grant sufficient cooldown reduction to Leona to enable frequent stuns, ults and applications of her passive, all while providing a solid, difficult-to-kill tank.
So you're interested in Leona? At first I imagine you're taken in by her good looks, but if you get used to her strengths, you'll find she's a hell of a tank.
Leona's deal is simple. In exchange for giving up strong direct damage, you receive heavy crowd control and disruption abilities. That would be OK on its face, except you also get the ability to inject some damage back into the fight via Leona's passive.
The Riot preview for Leona was a string of, "well then I did this and I got a kill here" and "I popped my ult for a double-kill there." That's all terribly optimistic and serves to sell Leona short of what she's really good at, which is setting up kills and protecting your team.
Pre-Game (Runes, Masteries, Summoner Spells)
Mark of Insight x9: Magic penetration is the best option here. Nearly all of Leona's damage is magic based, and this should help ensure most of it gets through.
Seal of Vitality x9: HP. You're a tank! Take the scaling HP seals, which will help in the mid- and late-game when you start team fights.
Glyph of Warding x9: Magic Resist. You're a tank! Taking some here helps against early-game casters and also compensates for the item build taking armor first.
Quintessence of Swiftness x2: Movement speed quints are generally taken by more aggressive characters, but in the case of Leona, I like two to increase the chances of tracking down a fleeing squishy in the early game. Leona is already fairly slow, and compensating for that helps throughout the course of the game. (Personal Note: I choose not to take a third movement speed quint because I'm not looking to chase over long distances, but rather, to make up the last few steps on someone with the same boots and no movement quits.)
Quintessence of Fortitude x1: HP! Taking three of these is an option, but movement speed is a personal preference.
Leona's masteries are straightforward. Skip Ardor altogether, as Leona's AP scaling is poor and her physical attack speed is largely irrelevant. Instead, take a bit of extra HP regen to help with early-game harass.
The Offense tree opens up 3% cooldown reduction, as well as 15% spell penetration. The additional spell penetration is taken to maximize what damage Leona does put out from her ult, from Eclipse and from her passive.
Exhaust: Great utility. Use aggressively to guarantee a kill, or use defensively to keep that "Brostorming" Fiddlesticks at bay.
Fortify: This was a neat one to experiment with, with the mastery invested of course. It introduces the possibility of turret splash for a kill on an unsuspecting enemy, and the +9 minion damage is not to be underestimated. This doesn't help in team fights, which is why Exhaust is in the primary build.
Clairvoyance: Ideally you have a true support who has taken this, but if you're solo queueing for normals and nobody has it, it can be worth taking. In higher level games, wards can be enough for your local space.
Teleport: Leona can save a tower with Eclipse + ult on a massive minion wave. It costs her the ult cooldown, but saving a tower is always worth it. Teleport also helps to compensate for bad map positioning, allowing for more team fight participation. It isn't optimal, but it shouldn't be laughed at.
In-Game Build (Skills, Items)
Start with Q for a stun, which can help defend against early aggression or enable early aggression for your team. Get E next, for a quick Q/E combo takedown. From this point on, you prioritize R > Q > W > E.
Max Q to reduce the cooldown on Leona's bread-and-butter ability, her stun. Get W up behind that, to aid with farming and with damage mitigation. Use E to get you in the thick of things in combat. It still procs your passive on targets it hits, and the damage it does itself is less important than the bonus your team gets.
I've spelled out the item build pretty explicitly until the mid-game. Generally speaking, buy as much as you can per trip home as you can, in the order as specified. Try to stay in the field as long as you can. Your presence is felt more in a fight than it is trying to catch up to one!
Start with the health regen neck and a potion for early lane harass. Save up enough such that you can complete a Philosopher's Stone and your basic boots. This gives you a decent base of GP/10 and mana/HP regen. Sometimes it is possible to include a cloak toward your Mercury's Treads in your first buy as well. Do so, if you can.
On your next trip back, you should be able to afford to finish your Mercury's Treads. Your next priority is to armor up, get some more GP/10 and drop your cooldowns, in that order. Each of these intermediary items is used later on by the two core items you're building, and provides baseline tanking ability for the mid-game.
Once you've picked up the Chain Vest, the Heart of Gold and the Kindlegem, you're good to finish Randuin's, with the completion of your Warden's Mail, the addition of a Cloth Shirt and the final pattern purchase. You can also click to finish Shurelia's and move on to bigger and badder items.
From this point, further item purchases are situational. A Giant's Belt is almost always a good choice, as it can form a Sunfire Cape or Frozen Mallet. Some games I will follow up with a Thornmail, and others with a Banshee's Veil. Tailor your response to the best player on their team, not just to who you are or were laning against.
This build's opening may leave some questions:
Why not complete Randuin's or Shurelia's before starting on the other?
Both Shurelia's and Randuin's consume GP/10 items. In order to get the most use out of the GP/10 items, it is best to leave them producing as long as is reasonable.
Why not take some AP?
Leona's conversion ratios for AP are not great, and damage is not her focus. Most of Leona's damage is done in an area of effect, and is designed to grind down and control an enemy team rather than burst them out. Instead, maximize cooldown reduction and apply Leona's passive as frequently as possible for bonus damage from your team.
Taking Control of a Match
Leona requires two things to be played well: situational awareness and the ability to hit skill shots. Functionally, Leona is an initiator. Entering a bad fight often means committing your team to a bad fight. Missing a skill shot often means missing a great chance to put an overextended enemy carry down and make progress on a tower. If you do a good job watching your minimap, hit skill shots and don't mind helping to direct your team, read on!
Generally Leona will duo-lane at bottom. Control your bushes, and take opportunities to stun overly aggressive enemies. Even if you're laning with a support, you can occasionally get kills between Leona's own damage, that of the support, and Leona's passive procs. If you're laning with a more aggressive champion, don't be afraid to push up and get a stun off. A well-landed stun can often spell death, especially with Exhaust.
It is very critical not to stress Leona's mana and to stay in-lane for EXP and CS. As such, avoid using Eclipse outside of when its shield would be of value in the early going. Once a Philosopher's Stone is complete, Eclipse can be used a bit more for farming.
Mid-Game and Beyond
Leona starts to come into her own as laning breaks down into skirmishes and all-out team fights. There is a bit of a mentality shift, from "stun everything that moves" to "find the most dangerous target and stun them." If playing against characters with channeled ults, be prepared to stun them when they come out. Leona can absolutely shut down Miss Fortune, Nunu and Fiddlesticks if they try to use their ult within her range. To play Leona well, you must analyze the other team's composition. Leona has the ability to thoroughly disrupt one enemy, and your choice of which enemy to disrupt can be the margin between victory and defeat.
Tips and Tricks
Many of these thoughts are anecdotal from playing Leona a ton over the last week, but they should be mentioned:
- Never be afraid to blow Solar Flare defensively. It has a short cooldown, especially with Randuin's / Shurelia's. Even though it requires Leona to stop briefly to cast, landing the stun will give significant ground.
- Shield of Daybreak is an "on next hit" ability, and thus works on towers.
- Shield of Daybreak is cheap enough to use it for farming on occasion, if the enemy champions in-lane are dead and it is definitely safe to use.
- Zenith Blade always leaps to the furthest possible target. Be sure it isn't overcommitting you if it hits an enemy deeper behind their lines.
- Zenith Blade briefly stops the movement of the target Leona is teleporting to.
- If building with Exhaust, don't be afraid to use it defensively on their carry in a team fight. The chance to miss might save a life.
- Practice leading enemies with Solar Flare and landing the center where you want it. It is much easier than it seems!