Build Guide by Tunguska
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1. Sion, the Undead Champion -- and YOU
There is a certain collective wisdom among players, even (and especially) those who play the best Sions, that Sion is a rather mediocre character. He's got the best attack of any tank, the best health of any DPS, and one of the best casts of either, but in both roles he finds himself massively outclassed. His score will rarely reflect the amount of work he ever does, if he does any work at all. He's even mediocre at being mediocre, he's not the X-wing of LoL - he can barely do combat at range, he's slow, and his abilities aren't perfectly well suited to just about anything.
One of my friends once said the best builds put all of their runes in one direction. And while this strategy of just pumping 'roids into one characteristic or another may produce results in characters more naturally suited to traditional roles, it ain't gonna work for Sion. Sion's strength lies in his mediocrity, in fact. The Austro-Noxian champion has automatic damage reduction, a detonating shield, and crazy lifesteal for defense, and a stun, AoE 'splosion, and crazy attack speed for offense. A good Sion can shut down ganks and dive at towers, while still stunning and blasting enough damage to join in on ganks or push a lane right up the behinds of your enemies. While Sion is never going to be able to stack Mejai's or run directly into Kennan's or Fiddlestick's ultimate, he will be the guy bailing out his teammates and blasting escaping enemies into oblivion. In undeath, there is strength.
I hope to give here a short functional overview of Sion's abilities, along with their best uses.
Feel No Pain -- Innate -- As a card-carrying member of the zombie race, Sion's sensory nerves are largely kaput. As such, he has a chance, a fair chance, to simply ignore a portion (increasing with level) of incoming damage. This skill is part of why Sion is considered a tank - SION IS NOT A TANK. While the teeny tiny amounts of reduction occurring fairly infrequently won't stop an enemy, it will vastly increase the amount of laning time you can spend and the number of minions you can run right over.
Cryptic Gaze -- Active (Q) -- This is Sion's singular massively awesome stunning casting ability. Gaze shows very clearly Sion's massive versatility. Its damage can be boosted fairly high with AP, making it a darn good opener or closer, while its decently timed stun will give time for your teammates to surround and beat the **** out of your enemy. In addition, a chasing enemy will find themselves falling behind rapidly as you duck back behind your turret after you hit them with your Graze Cryptic Gaze is by far my favorite ability. While Gaze is sweet, it is also incredi-mana hungry at early levels - be careful and judicious when using it, and save it for emergencies or ganks.
Death's Caress -- Active (W) -- Sion's energy shield is a late game favorite, and also increases Sion's survivability. The first activation of Death's Caress activates the shield, and after a short delay, the second activation detonates it, doing a good amount of damage over a good area. I usually don't pick up this ability until after my ultimate, as in early game you want to maximize experience gain and your ult will increase your survivability quite a bit, while in late game you can farm large groups of minions with the detonation. There is a school of thought that says you should have all of your abilities at level 6, and Caress can save your life now and again.
Enrage -- Passive (E) -- This is another ability that feeds the myth that Sion is a tank. Sion is not a tank. Go back and read that sentence again. One more time. Good. Enrage gives you extra physical damage, and every single physical damage kill increases your maximum health, ad infinitum. This serves a double purpose - the damage bonus means building AD is less essential, while making pushing not just necessary, not just easy, but highly lucrative. Remember, that a great advantage of Enrage's bonus is that it isn't magic, it's straight-up physical damage.
Cannibalism -- Ultimate (R) -- Sion's ultimate is underrated. It isn't showy, it isn't a nuke, it won't save your life in a teamfight. However, it does add powerfully to your survivability, and can bring your strongly into a battle. For twenty seconds, your attack speed is increased by half and you gain a great deal of lifesteal. In addition, your nearby allies are healed for a percentage of your lifesteal (which people tend to forget rather easily). This ability should be used, first, for clearing out minions, pushing, and healing you to full health. In a tight situation, Gaze is a better defensive mechanism. Cannibalism has, however a secret super-nuke. With a decent screen of minions, Sion can dive at towers and chop them to bits in no time flat. Cannibalism, like Enrage, is all about physical damage, so magic resist won't stop you.
On building your abilities; I always like to start out with Enrage. That is, I *like* to, but I don't. I almost always start out with Gaze. In TT game, Gaze is better than perhaps any starting ability on any character. Remember that in early game, you are quite mana hungry, so be aware that Gaze should be used ONLY for two reasons; one, when you are guaranteed a kill/assist from a gank, two, when you are saving the life of yourself or a teammate. Rushing from behind a line of minions to cut off a ganker will make you invaluable to your team AND will either intimidate the attacker or kill them.
Gaze and Enrage are best to alternate until your ultimate, although at five it may be advisable to get Caress. The rest of the game is pretty straightforward, and you can play it exactly as you feel. Your ultimate, as with every other character, needs to be increased as often as possible. After that, Enrage generally has priority, as the maximum health increase and damage increase serve better than any item you'll get from building other abilities. Gaze is generally second, as it gives great casting ability and the stun is intimidating as heck. I use Caress a great deal in late game, and generally have no need of it until then, although you can build it as early as possible. Remember, this is VERY IMPORTANT, that Sion is mana hungry as heck in the early game. We'll talk that a little more later on.
3. Metagame -- Overview
In reality, the cute pictures above are all you need to know about metagame. Attack speed is essential to getting as much lifesteal in as possible. Magic resist further increases your survivability. And cooldown reduction simply speeds up your Gaze casting and Cannibalism restores.
As for spells, I like Cleanse and Ignite. Cleanse is better than Heal, since Heal means nothing against Twitch or Morgana. Ignite can be switched out for Exhaust, if you rather, but Ignite is one of the few things that will finish Tryndamere - or anybody else, if you like.
Other strong choices of spell are Exhaust, Clarity, and Fortify. Clarity is the spell I most often use in my first slot, and although it loses some usefulness in late game, it is a brilliant spell to get out more early Gazes - if you use it, remember to get the mastery that restores mana to teammates, too. Exhaust will serve approximately as efficiently as Ignite, in all reality, and I prefer Ignite for its damage. Fortify is for a game you're worried about, and although not a bad spell, isn't a great one.
4. Item Building -- Overview
As you will notice, I put my six item finishing build, in order of priority, in the items slot, because I wanted you to read this! Sion is very adaptable. I've said it before, and it is the thing you need to know. In the most general terms, Sion needs to build lots of survivability. Some people go the route of sheer power to outfight your enemies, some people like to pretend Sion is a tank and build health (you know how I feel about that). This item build, which I personally use and personally developed from scratch, is mostly a lifesteal/AP hybrid. I know how stupid that sounds, and I know how unorthodox that sounds too, but it works amazingly well. This overview is for quick reference, and the full explanation occurs in the next section.
-Boots of Speed
-Boots of Swiftness
-Sheen OR Catalyst OR Tear
-Lich Bane OR Banshee's Veil OR Rod of Ages OR Archangel's Staff
5. Gameplay and Item Building -- In Depth
Straight out of the gate, pick up your Vampiric Scepter and go quickly to get in position. In TT, you absolutely want to solo after the initial gank, but be careful that you aren't surrounded. In SR, however, you want to lane with the support of a ranged character, preferable a supportive one. Ashe is the best. Kill minions, be VERY careful not to get killed, and don't even attempt their turret previous to getting your ultimate. Don't harass too much either, because you're so low on mana. You are not allowed to recall, under any circumstances, before you can get Boots of Speed.
Your initial target is Hextech Gunblade. Ideally, you will go straight for the Gunblade without any need for supportive items. I know no one else who uses the Gunblade on Sion, it is, however, the perfect balance of offense and defense. More damage means, first of all, more lifesteal, and also more Enrage minion kills. Lifesteal is what you need to survive, and spell vamp will augment this even further. And the extra ranged attack gives you an extra finisher. I showed earlier the ideal build sequence for the Gunblade - Scepter, Pickaxe, both Tomes, Revolver, Cutlass, Gunblade. These steps can be combined as they build as you like and as gold is forthcoming.
However, it never comes out that you can straight build your Gunblade. You will need speed, for both attacks and escapes. This is where Sion's versatility and flexibility comes massively into play. If you are having a hard time escaping, you can build boots as early as you need with little penalty - the item you really needed was the scepter anyway! If you find yourself too low on mana to fire off your Gaze as frequently as needed, build your mana crystal when you need. However, do not lose sight of your Gunblade!
In a perfect world, you'll enter what I call the mid-game with three items - Swiftness, Gunblade, and Sapphire. Swiftness has priority over Sapphire. If you're continuing to play without greed, without pride, you can just keep pushing forward and back, keeping your turret perfectly safe and getting stronger all the time. Now you can begin going to the AP portion of this build. My favorite item, the most ideal and preferable, is the Lich Bane: Tome -> Sheen -> Mantle -> Rod. Mana, AP, and speed to get a little more damage in is always nice.
However, if you need an item out a little faster, go for Archangel's Staff. Its passive will continuously increase your mana in a way similar to Enrage. For games you anticipate to be terribly long, Rod of Ages will get even more HP and mana into you, and then you can build extra AP as you like. In a game against Karthus, Fiddlesticks, or Kennen, you may be interested in Banshee's Veil. A little defense never hurt, however it doesn't help as much. Some people also advise Rylai's, but I don't think the extra HP is necessary, since you aren't a tank. But really. Go for Lich Bane.
These three items are all you *need*, repeat need. Gunblade gives you all the offense you need, Lich Bane will throw you enough AP to cast effectively, and Swiftness will get you where you need to go. Afterward, what I call late-game, you can build, well... anything. My three current favorites are above. Nashor's gives you great cooldown reduction and both AP and physical damage. Wriggle's gives you even MORE lifesteal, a great anti-minion blast, and a little more damage. Zhonya's of course bursts your AP all to hell.
If you want EVEN MOAR options, I like Randiun's, Phantom, and Youmuu's. Randiun has excellent defense and an active from hell. Phantom gives you more speed and more power, straight up, no fancy tricks. I always love, in any game, Youmuu's. Its unique passive is absolutely perfect for your AP side, it gives some offensive bonus, and its active is the best chasing tool in the game.
Now, I wish I could give you a bit more gameplay advice on how to actually play Sion, but it's also rather wonderful that I can't. Now that you understand his abilities, Sion can really do anything. The one thing you need to know is that Sion needs support. He cannot work by himself well, due to his general difficulty with finishing. He's a brilliant pusher though, and that seems the best with him. The move you need to know is the turret dive. When you have a large enough screen of minions hitting the turret, you want to stand outside of its range and activate your shield, and then your ultimate. You then simply charge the turret and proceed to BEAT THE **** OUT OF IT. You can detonate the shield to kill off incoming enemy minions, or keep it up to hold off enemy heroes - should you need to escape, Gaze is perfect.
6. "The Fist Bone's connected to the Axe Bone's connected to YOUR FACE Bone!"
Try out the build, give criticism, help the community improve. I'll say it again, what I enjoy the most about Sion is how dang flexible he is! I don't think I need to beat it any deeper into your heads about how important this is. Sion takes some time to learn, but is a brilliant team player and can get a much better record than people usually see with inferior Sion build. Good luck, have fun!