Aatrox Build Guide by TheBigRig34
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.
Threats to Aatrox with this build
|Ekko||Very easy lane if played correctly. Grab Doran's Blade and a health pot. You can cheese him in your first few levels with Blood Price and Blades of Torment if you play your cards right. As long as you make sure he doesn't hit the stun on Parallel Convergence or proc Z-Drive Resonance a lot, killing him will be like taking candy from a baby. Be sure to also buy wards, Ekko probably won't push back if you do.|
Hey everyone. I am TheBigRig34. This is my first guide, so it may not be the best guide ever, but I felt like I wanted to try this. My account name is mexican juice, and currently, I am Plat 5 on the NA server. Keep in mind that this guide is still in progress. I don't have much else to say, so let's get straight down to the guide. I hope you enjoy!
Pros and Cons
- TONS of lifesteal
- Unstoppable if ahead
- Hard CC
- Good wave clear
- One of the best duelists in the game
- Tons of sustain
- Countered by anything that reduces healing effects
- Easily countered
- Falls off late game
- Based entirely on auto attacks
- Not useful if behind
Like most other top laners, there's not a whole lot of viable variety for Aatrox, but I'll explain the ones I recommend.
Flash: Best choice for most all situations. Another gap closer can secure kills or get you out of a sticky situation.
Teleport: A current must-have for top laners, especially if the enemy team has a big split pusher like Nasus, Jax or Tryndamere. Wether you're protecting a tower in your lane or teleporting into a teamfight to even out the numbers game, Teleport is a fantastic spell.
Ignite: If you're up against another lifesteal god such as Fiora or another Aatrox, grab Ignite to increase your chance of winning the fight and deny a lot of the healing they could get. Wether you want to replace Flash or Teleport is up to you. If you lose Flash, you lose an extra escape; if you lose Teleport, you lose a lot of global pressure later on, and increase your chances of losing an early tower.
Exhaust: I'm honestly not sure why someone would grab this over Flash or Teleport, but if you want some stickiness/damage reduction, Exhaust is for you. I don't personally prefer it, but again, it's an option.
Ghost: This grants some huge movement speed for a little bit, and really helps with chasing and (kind of) escaping. I haven't used Ghost with Aatrox yet up top, but I can see some potential in it. Grab Ghost over Flash if you want the extra stickiness.
Usually, the people who write guides copy down the abilities word for word. I'm just going to write down a summary of the ability, and how to use it. If you want to read up on the ability itself, click on the name of it.
Passive: Blood Well
Every time Aatrox uses an ability that uses health ( Dark Flight, Blood Price, or Blades of Torment), he stores some of that health into his Blood Well. The higher level Aatrox is, the more health he can store. The mana bar is replaced with the amount of health he has in his Blood Well. Aatrox also gains AS depending on how much health he has in his Blood Well; the more health, the more AS. Try to keep your Blood Well full in fights, that way you can attack more and get Blood Price or Blood Thirst off more. When not in combat, the health in your Blood Well slowly decreases. Also, when Aatrox drops to 0 health, he rebirths himself, getting health back based on how much health he has in his Blood Well. This ability has a cooldown that gets lower as Aatrox levels up; the Blood Well bar (I just made that up, it's the bar that replaces the mana bar on Aatrox) turns white while the revive is on cooldown. Again, try to keep your Blood Well full of maximum health to get full AS and gain maximum health back when you revive.
Q: Dark Flight
Aatrox targets an area on the ground, and after a short cast time, he flies there. If he lands directly on an enemy, they are knocked up. In a slightly bigger radius, enemies take physical damage. There is a small amount of scaling from your bonus AD, but Dark Flight is mainly used for the utility of it. You can use it to jump into the backlines, or hop out of a fight. And yes, Dark Flight can take you over walls. With a 16 second cooldown at level 1 (it goes down a second every level), be sure to use it sparingly. Dark Flight also has a high health cost of 10% of your current health.
Aatrox's W is a toggle that switches between Blood Thirst and Blood Price. Both abilites take effect every third AA. A status effect shows up above your abilities when your next AA will trigger the effect of Blood Thirst or Blood Price. I'll explain both parts of his W, and when to use each one.
Blood Thirst: Every third AA, Aatrox steals a flat amount of health plus 25% of your bonus AD. The amount of health gained is tripled when you are below 50% health (keep in mind this is also increased with Spirit Visage).
Blood Price: Every third AA, Aatrox deals a flat amount of bonus physical damage that scales with 100% of your bonus AD at the cost of a flat amount of health that is increased by 25% of your bonus AD. If you're confused, re-read it. You lose a little bit of health in order to deal a bunch of extra physical damage. You also LS a bit more if you have a LS item (ex. Blade of the Ruined King, Ravenous Hydra, The Bloodthirster) since Blood Price just adds the extra damage to your next AA. Quick tip: If you see that you have the bonus damage up on your next AA, you can do a suprisingly high amount of mixed damage in a quick burst (most call it "burst damage", but I don't this combo deals damage quick enough to consider it "burst") in a quick skill sequence of Dark Flight (you must hit the knock up for this to work), bonus damage from Blood Price, Massacre, Blades of Torment. I use this combo in lane against a lot of champions, especially squishies like Kennen or Teemo.
In lane, I usually keep Blood Thirst toggled when I'm not fighting because I use health to poke with Blades of Torment. During a duel, I keep Blood Price toggled until my health gets lower than 50%. Under 50% health, I toggle Blood Thirst for the huge heals. Basically, follow this rule (during duels only): if over 50% health, use Blood Price; if under 50%, use Blood Thirst. If you're fighting against multiple enemy champions (ex. a 2v1, a contest at dragon or baron, any skirmish or teamfight), keep Blood Thirst enabled, because there's a chance that your enemies can quickly switch focus to you, and if you're losing health from Blood Price instead of gaining health from Blood Thirst, you'll die quicker (you really don't lose THAT much health from Blood Price, but you're still losing a little bit of health, and the health gain from Blood Thirst is crazy).
Aatrox unleashes two energy waves from his blade that deal magic damage. This ability scales from 60% of AD AND 60% of AP. Never should you get AP on Aatrox (unless that AP is from Trinity Force, which you shouldn't be buying that often anyway), but the AD scaling is actually pretty good. The base damage is also pretty high. Although Blades of Torment has a slightly long cooldown (12 seconds at level 1, goes down by 1 second every level), the health cost is only 5% of your current health, which is earned back quickly from Blood Thirst.
On activation, Aatrox deals magic damage to any enemy champions close to him (the activation range is 550, to be exact), much like Thunder Claws. His Blood Well is also filled up by 20% for each enemy champion hit by the initial cast. This magic damage is increased by 100% of his AP. Aatrox also gains a ton of attack speed and 325 attack range for 12 seconds. The cooldown on Massacre is pretty low compared to other self-buff ults like Ragnarok, Thunder Claws, or Highlander.
Greater Mark of Attack Speed: Both AS marks and AD marks are the standard marks used for bruisers, but I prefer to use AS marks, as AS is more beneficial to Aatrox over AD. If you're sticking to the runes I put, you'll be using AD quints, and they'll supply enough damage for you.
Greater Mark of Attack Damage: DO NOT USE THESE UNLESS YOU'RE RUNNING ATTACK SPEED QUINTS. Along with AS quints, it's kind of a matter of choice. With this runeset over the one I use, you lose 1% AS for 1.7 AD. There's not really a big difference. With the extra 1% AS, you can proc Blood Thirst and Blood Price more, but with the 1.7 AD, you get a slightly larger amount of damage on Blades of Torment.
If you chose to run both Greater Mark of Attack Damage and Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage, you gain a fairly great amount of damage on Blades of Torment, but you lose a lot of dueling potential early. If you prefer poking over dueling or fighting (which isn't the best playstyle to use with Aatrox), then the large amount of AD is beneficial, I guess.
Greater Seal of Armor Standard seals for most rune pages. Some people prefer to get health seals over armor seals, but I find that the armor is more beneficial.
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist: Aatrox has a tendency to be bursted down easily, and scaling MR glyphs help against those pesky assasins like Fizz, Nidalee, and LeBlanc, or those annoying burst-mages like Annie, Veigar, and Xerath.
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist: Not often will you be placed in a situation where your laning opponent does so much magic damage that you won't be able to sustain it. Champions like Teemo, Rumble, and Heimerdinger are very hard to lane against if you take scaling MR glyphs instead of flat ones. If you're up against those kinds of champions, you're probably going to lose lane, regardless of scaling or flat glyphs, but if you want to try and beat them with flat glyphs, go for it. Most other champs won't require flat MR glyphs to survive, but if you want to go for that early game resistance to increase your fighting potential, again, go for it.
Greater Quintessence of Attack Damage: AD is necessary with Aatrox; he needs to deal damage if he wants to be useful. The damage is most effective in the early game, as it helps with early duels and gives more damage to your main source of poke, Blades of Torment.
Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed: If you're a rookie Aatrox player, take these. Most beginners miss Dark Flight and Blades of Torment often, and movement speed quints help make up for the lack of stickiness. If you prefer to take these over AD quints, go ahead; sometimes, it's better to have the extra movement speed to secure kills over the extra damage.
Greater Quintessence of Armor: This may seem a little "out of line", but armor quints help a lot more than you think, especially if you're up against a full (or majorly) AD comp. This much armor also helps out with annoying AD assasins, such as Zed or Talon, or champions like Tryndamere, Gangplank or Jayce.
Greater Quintessence of Life Steal: While first making this guide, I evaluated these and decided that they shouldn't really be an option. After more experimenting, I conclude that these are, in fact, a good option. The amount of LS provided early is very beneficial, especially if put up against a champion with heavy hurr*** such as Teemo or Renekton. Paired with Doran's Blade, Aatrox becomes a sustain machine. This amount of LS is also noticed in the mid and late game, as its LS is enhanced by Spirit Visage. Again, my standard recommended quints are AD, but these are a close second.
The standard masteries to use for Aatrox are 21/9/0. I use these because I look at Aatrox as more of a damage-dealer than a damage-soaker; therefore, most points are thrown under the offensive tree. I'll explain the benefits of each mastery taken.
Double-Edged Sword : The pros to this mastery outweigh the cons, but only if you fight a lot. If you're up against a pokey champion like Teemo or Jayce, I'd recommend a quick switch to Butcher instead of Double-Edged Sword .
Fury : Usually, you'll have to make a choice between Sorcery and Fury when setting up masteries, and this mastery, Fury , is undoubtedly better for Aatrox. Although CDR helps with Dark Flight and Blades of Torment, it's not as beneficial as the extra AS.
Brute Force : Easy pick. The AD helps for when Aatrox falls off late game.
Martial Mastery : Gives a tiny bit of early damage that's more beneficial than you think.
Executioner : Giving that he's a massive duelist, Aatrox benefits majorly from this mastery.
Spell Weaving : Personally, I prefer this for an extra bit of damage, but if you prefer Butcher instead, go ahead and take it.
Dangerous Game : Although the mana portion of this mastery doesn't mean anything for Aatrox, the health portion helps a lot, especially if you get a Spirit Visage.
Warlord : Same situation as Brute Force .
Devastating Strikes : Again, same situation as Brute Force and Warlord ; late game gets better damage-wise.
Havoc : Another late game mastery. Pretty self-explanatory.
Swiftness : This mastery gives Aatrox tenacity (reistance against CC) against slows and helps with his stickiness. Although he has a knock-up from Dark Flight, a slow from Blades of Torment, and extra attack range from Massacre, a little bit of help with his stickiness never hurts. If you're up against a tough laning opponent, then it's perfectly fine to grab Recovery over Swiftness .
Block : A majority of the time, you're going to be up against multiple champions that base their damage off of auto attacks, such as ADCs ( Ashe, Caitlyn, Sivir), devourer junglers ( Xin Zhao, Shyvana, Master Yi), and some top laners ( Jax, Irelia, Trundle). This mastery resists a lot of damage over the course of the game, especially if you're up against two or three AA-based champions.
Unyielding : Kind of like Block , but reduces ALL damage instead of just AA damage. Just like Block , the damage resisted adds up. Always get Unyielding and Block .
Veteran's Scars : 36 health may not seem like a lot (it really isn't), but there isn't anything else to get, really. And yes, 36 health is actually more beneficial than Recovery 's additional health regen, especially since Aatrox has low base health.
Juggernaut : Doing all of the math to find out how beneficial this mastery is to Aatrox is too much work for me to do. I might do it another time, but just take it, because a bonus of 3% maximum health is great, especially late game and/or if you get a lot of items that give health.
Aatrox has a suprisingly high amount of room for item variety, which lets him build situationally. As Aatrox, you'll usually have the same core items every game, but build different situational items. Prepare to read a lot; I have a lot to say about items, as they are one of the most important factors in the game. Your chance of winning increases by a lot if you build perfectly. I'm going to divide this chapter into sections; Starting Items, Boots Options, Essential Items, Offensive Items, and Defensive Items. If you're curious about why a certain item isn't included, ask a question in the "discussion" part of the guide.
Doran's Blade: This is the most optimal starting item for Aatrox. 70 health, 7 AD, and 3% lifesteal all give a good amount of fighting power early. Considering that Aatrox is a snowball champion, getting this and grabbing an early kill or two helps a LOT. Be sure to only grab this if you think you can win the lane.
Doran's Shield: A more defensive start, but still a great item. I recommend this against champions like Darius and Irelia, who deal mixed damage and are hard to fight with Aatrox. The 80 health and defensive passives help Aatrox survive, and although these stats don't help Aatrox's fighting potential as much as Doran's Blade, they still give Aatrox a nice edge against his opponent.
Cloth Armor: The best item to grab against AD-heavy lane bullies such as Renekton, Pantheon, Jayce, and Gnar. Although Cloth Armor only grants 15 armor, it only costs 300 gold, allowing you to grab 5 health pots. If you know you're going to lose and feel you need as much sustain as possible, use this starting option.
Ruby Crystal: Although it doesn't grant any MR, this is a good start against AP-heavy lane bullies, such as Rumble, Kayle, Teemo, and Kennen. Grabbing Ruby Crystal allows you to grab only 2 health pots, but goes into your core MR item, Spirit Visage.
Boots of Speed: Probably the least beneficial start you can get on Aatrox. It doesn't grant any offensive or defensive stats, but the additional MS can help you chase after your lane opponent if he runs away because you out-sustained him in a duel or if your jungler ganks. Because of Aatrox's current state, he needs the early stats to really do anything, but at least the Boots of Speed start lets you grab 4 health pots. Again, the overall least beneficial start.
Mercury's Treads: The most beneficial boots for Aatrox. They provide a little bit of MR (and most teams have some sort of big AP damage-dealer) and tenacity (resistance against CC), which is the best part about Mercury's Treads. As someone who needs to constantly be auto-attacking, Aatrox can't afford to be stunned, feared, or be hit by sort of hard CC; tenacity lets him attack more and (more than likely) survive longer.
Boots of Swiftness: If you're ahead and the enemy team doesn't have much hard CC, these boots are definitely a good option. In comparison to Mercury's Treads, they don't grant any defensive stats and only provide tenacity to slows, but cost 200 less gold and grant more movement speed. Take your pick depending on the situation of the game.
Ninja Tabi: This is a great pick against AD-heavy teams. 25 armor and a damage-reduction against auto attacks are awesome. Keep in mind that armor-reduction such as Last Whisper, The Black Cleaver, Headshot and Powder Keg does not affect Ninja Tabi's passive.
Berserker's Greaves: One effective build to use with Aatrox is to grab Berserker's Greaves and Ravenous Hydra. Getting these items allow him to do tons of damage and get tons of health back from lifesteal, but you can easily die if you get hit by hard cc and/or get bursted by an assasin or burst mage. This is also an offensive option to Boots of Swiftness.
Blade of the Ruined King: The stats to this item help in every offensive way possible. 25 AD for a bit of extra damage, 40% AS for (obviously) more AS and chances to proc Blood Thirst and Blood Price, 10% LS to survive longer in fights, and a passive to deal percent-health damage. Not only does this item provide extra damage and survivability, but the active deals more percent-health damage, heals for the same amount, and STEALS 25% movement speed. Damage, survivability, and stickiness; all essential to Aatrox.
Some people like to swap Blade of the Ruined King for Ravenous Hydra, and I'll explain the pros and cons to this. If you haven't yet, look above for the benefits of Blade of the Ruined King. It deals mixed damage and provides stickiness, and Ravenous Hydra doesn't do either of things, although Ravenous Hydra helps out in different ways. It provides 70 AD instead of 25 AD, and gives 100% base health regen. There's also 2% more LS with this item, and it gives a bit more burst with the active. Some more downsides are that it doesn't give any AS, and it costs a little bit more gold. Overall, I think that Ravenous Hydra could be more beneficial over Blade of the Ruined King if ahead and used right, but it's more or less down to personal preference. Getting both is extremely strong, and personally, I recommend it for pretty much every match, especially if you farm really well and/or get some early kills. Be sure to grab the other two defensive essential items before you get the other offensive item.
Sunfire Cape: The defensive stats are very nice for Aatrox; he can't be a huge fighter if he's blown up easily. And although extra health and armor is great, that's not the best part about this item is the passive; AOE damage based on your level. This means that if you get ahead, you do more and more damage in a circle around yourself. A damage passive and defensive stats for 2600 gold is too good of a item to not take advantage of.
If you get behind, you can still get Sunfire Cape, but I would recommend getting an item with bigger defensive stats first.
Spirit Visage: This is the core defensive item for Aatrox. Its 400 health, 60 MR, and 150% base health regen gives him a good amount of defense, and the 10% CDR helps his stickiness with Blades of Torment and his engage/disengage with Dark Flight. The CDR also helps keep Massacre up, which increases Aatrox's chance of winning a fight by a lot. But it's not just the defensive stats and CDR help...it's the passive: all healing is increased by 20%. This is INSANE for someone like Aatrox. The healing is increased on his base health regen, LS from Blade of the Ruined King, Ravenous Hydra, or any other LS item, LS from Blood Thirst, and any other sort of healing by 20%. Of course, I haven't done all of the math to figure out how much more health you're gaining, but by estimate and the effects I've seen in game, it's a massive amount. Spirit Visage's passive also compensates for the reduced healing on Morellonomicon, Ignite, Death Lotus, and Hail of Arrows. Overall, the defensive stats, CDR, and increased healing makes this a must-have for Aatrox, wether you're ahead or behind in the game.
Ravenous Hydra: I explained a lot about this item under Blade of the Ruined King, and there's not a whole lot more to say about this item. I recommend grabbing it most games, especially if you're ahead and/or need the extra AD. Its LS and base health regen sync very well with Spirit Visage, and the passive and active give unexpected damage in teamfights. The passive and active also helps with split pushing if split pushing is needed in that game situation. Again, this is an almost essential item for Aatrox, but there's some other options to Ravenous Hydra, which I will explain below.
The Bloodthirster: Compared to Ravenous Hydra, there's more AD, more LS, and a passive that grants a shield if earned through LS. Overall, this item lowers your split pushing potential and your overall damage in fights because of the lack of the AOE passive and active, but The Bloodthirster gives you more survivability. Another downside is that it costs 3500 gold, or 200 more than Ravenous Hydra. If you want to grab both Ravenous Hydra and The Bloodthirster, you better be really farmed and/or snowballing, because that's a lot of gold to earn.
The Black Cleaver: Applies to Aatrox as it does to most bruiser like him. If they have 2 or 3 (sometimes 4) unkillable tanks, such as Tahm Kench, Nautilus, Dr. Mundo, or Rammus, this is a good item to get. A bit of extra AD and a large amount of health and CDR benefits him in ways that I've talked about early. Although The Black Cleaver doesn't provide AS or LS, a **** load of armor pen helps devour tanks, and the rage passive provides extra stickiness (which Aatrox can't get enough of). Very situational, but very effective.
Zephyr: A very wierd item for most champions, and Aatrox is no exception to this. A large amount of AS, CDR, small amount of AD, movement speed, and tenacity. On paper, Zephyr looks like a fantastic item for Aatrox aside from the lack of LS, but I don't think that it's as effective as it looks. If you buy Mercury's Treads, you'll already have tenacity, so a lot of the gold put towards this item is wasted. You'd do much better just sticking with Blade of the Ruined King. With Ninja Tabi, it's possible to swap Blade of the Ruined King for this item, as long as you pick up Ravenous Hydra. Personally, I hate this item, and try to refrain from using it, but it's kind of a personal preference.
Sterak's Gage: One bad thing I noted to Aatrox is that he is bursted very easily, especially if put under heavy CC. This item won't fix the CC, but Sterak's Gage lets Aatrox sustain the heavy burst of champions such as Annie, Fizz, Ekko, or any other burst mage and assasin. Sterak's Gage grants 25% more base AD, but doing the math, this isn't a whole lot for Aatrox. Although I put this under the "offensive items" section, I want Sterak's Gage thought of as a defensive item. 500 health, and a shield granted if Aatrox is dealt enough damage...that's great. The reason why I think of this item as more of offensive than defensive is that the best situation to grab Sterak's Gage is when you do well, but another lane (mainly mid or bot lane with a bursty support like Lux) doesn't; the stats let you deal a bit more damage and sustain a lot of that damage. Again, use Sterak's Gage to replace another offensive item, not a defensive one; there's much better options if you need hard defensive stats.
Maw of Malmortius: A good item, but highly situational. If you do well early against an AP-heavy team (which is pretty rare in my opinion), this is a great item. Quite a bit of AD, some useful MR, and a shield that protects against magic damage. Kind of like Sterak's Gage.
Trinity Force: Personally, I am a big fan of Trinity Force, and I think it works decently well with Aatrox. AD, AP, AS, MS, crit chance, Trinity Force has it all. However, it comes at a very high price of 3703 gold (not sure why there's three extra gold needed). And while it may not have LS, Aatrox can take advantage of all of its stats (aside from the 200 mana), especially in teamfights. If ahead and you already have Blade of the Ruined King and/or Ravenous Hydra, this is a good grab.
Randuin's Omen: Ever since they reworked this item, it's become less effective, but it's still a great pick for Aatrox. I only recommend grabbing this if they have big damage dealers that crit a lot, like most ADCs and champions like Tryndamere or Master Yi.
Aside from the crit damage reduction, Randuin's Omen gives 400 health, 60 armor, and an AOE slow. Compared to the previous 500 health and 70 armor, this may not seem like much, but that's still quite a bit of defense given. A great item for Aatrox if they have heavy crit damage.
Frozen Mallet: Very expensive, yet very effective item. 700 health is a TON of health, only 100 under Warmog's Armor (why is it called Warmog's ARMOR if it doesn't give any armor?). 30 extra AD gives a bit of extra damage, and a passive that slows for 30% every AA provides insane stickiness. Overall, great item. Grab it when you need stickiness and/or when they have plenty of true damage (ex. Olaf, Darius, Garen), or just need health overall.
Dead Man's Plate: I feel that this item is mainly for champions that lack mobility, like Darius, Garen, or Tahm Kench. Aatrox doesn't really fit into that section. He has a decently high MS and doesn't require the extra MS; however, 600 health and 50 AR is quite a bit of defense, and any bruiser or tank can benefit from that. More of a preference item. Personally, I love Dead Man's Plate, but I don't grab it often on Aatrox.
Banshee's Veil: Sometimes, teams will deal so much magic damage that you'll need a second MR item. If you're ahead, pick up Maw of Malmortius. If you're behind and/or they have targeted CC (or CC in general), Banshee's Veil is the item to get. It'll also be harder to catch you out because of the spell shield passive. Decent item overall.
Thornmail: Against AD-heavy champions or just massive AA-based champions like Tryndamere, Master Yi, or Olaf, Thornmail is great. 100 armor and a passive that reflects enemy AA damage for only 2300 gold is too good of a deal to not take advantage of if the situation calls for it.
Guardian Angel: If you find yourself getting focused hard, this is a good item to grab. Personally, I'd recommend Sterak's Gage over this, but some people prefer the 2nd revival along with Blood Well for "le epic troll". Grab it if you want; your choice between 500 health, a bit of damage, and a triggered shield or some armor and MR.
Warmog's Armor: A situational item if you need health. Usually, I'd grab Frozen Mallet instead, but Warmog's Armor grants more health, and a passive that will let you regen all of your health in a matter of seconds, but this is only if you hit 3000 health. Usually, I don't find myself hitting 3000 health, and the passive is a big part of the gold spent; only grab Warmog's Armor if you end up grabbing a lot of health items, and happen to hit 3000 health (the health given from Warmog's Armor counts towards that 3000 health).
As confusing as this may seem, farming with Aatrox is kind of hard. Your goal is to only AA the minion for the last hit, but another goal is to AA as much as possible so you can proc Blood Thirst a lot and sustain in lane. Finding a medium between those two goals is pretty hard, since you don't want to push the lane, but you want to sustain as much as possible. Obviously, last hitting is pretty easy with Aatrox (especially if you start an item that gives you AD like Long Sword or Doran's Blade), but trying to sustain and freeze the lane at the same time is kind of hard. Of course, if you're up against someone who has no kill potential or no strong poke early game, you shouldn't have to AA constantly, or at all, unless you're last hitting. However, if you're countered or against someone who has insane poke, sustaining and last hitting becomes harder than you think.
Laning phase is played in two different ways according to your enemy laner: passively or aggressively.
Usually, you'll want to play passively against lane bullies like Renekton, Darius, or Heimerdinger, or champions that counter Aatrox like Teemo, Olaf, or Cho'Gath. Your main starting item should be something that provides defense, like Cloth Armor, Ruby Crystal, or Doran's Shield (look at the lane matchups at the top of the page if you're not sure what item to start against a certain champion), and as many health pots as possible. You can either max Blades of Torment for more wave clear and poke potential, or Blood Thirst/ Blood Price for more sustain with the heal from Blood Thirst. Refrain from fighting unless your enemy laner takes accidental tower hits or if your jungler ganks.
The other option is to play aggresively, which is optimal if you're up against a champion that is awful in the early game like Swain, Poppy, or Singed, or a champion that Aatrox does naturally against, like Ekko or Kennen. This usually means that you'll start an offensive item, like Doran's Blade, Long Sword, or even Boots of Speed. Of course, you'll also want to grab the maximum amount of health pots allowed with those items. Always max Blades of Torment so you can poke down your opponent, then jump in on them with Dark Flight and grab a kill and/or get them to waste Flash or whatever summoner spells they have. Ganks usually shouldn't be necessary, but if your jungler really wants to gank to get you even more ahead or get himself a kill, then go ahead; take advantage of the power you have against your opponent.
In the top lane, there is a large variety of champions you can face, and I will do my best to prepare you for each one. Keep in mind that I have not played through every matchup, as some of these are hard to come by, but I will do my best to give you proper information about them. Be sure to grab as many health pots as possible with the starting item recommended; I'm not going to put them in each matchup in order to save a bit of reading and space.
Starting item: Doran's Blade or Doran's Shield
Rush as first item: Blade of the Ruined King or Sunfire Cape
Max first: Blood Price/ Blood Thirst
You can play this matchup two types of ways; offensively or defensively. If you are new to Aatrox and don't think you are confident enough to cheese the enemy Aatrox early, go defensive and grab a Doran's Shield and rush Sunfire Cape. On the other hand, if you are confident in your Aatrox capabilities and think you have a chance of grabbing an early kill, go offensively by starting Doran's Blade and rushing Blade of the Ruined King. Regardless of wether you decide to go offensive or defensive, max Blood Price/ Blood Thirst; it wouldn't be nearly as effective to max Blades of Torment since the opposing Aatrox can just heal back the damage dealt to him. This also works to your advantage, though; you can heal back poke dealt to you if he decides to max Blades of Torment. The early duels come to your advantage if you max Blood Thirst/ Blood Price.
Starting item: Doran's Blade
Rush as first item: Blade of the Ruined King
Max first: Blades of Torment
Pre-6, the lane is yours. Akali can do some early burst damage, but it's easy to heal it back up with Blood Thirst. If Akali gets her core items early, the lane won't be nearly as easy, but you have a chance of winning duels. Instead of relying on winning duels, try to keep her from getting those items by denying her the two ways she can get gold for the items; deny her farm and try to keep her from roaming. If she can't farm well (that's where Blades of Torment comes in), then she can't get those early items, letting the lane sit in the palm of your hand. If she attempts to roam, apply heavy pressure to the lane and ping MIA like there's no tomorrow.
Starting item: Ruby Crystal
Rush as first item: Spirit Visage
Max first: Blood Thirst/ Blood Price
Man, I hate this lane. His poke with Feral Scream is too heavy to heal back, and his sustain with Carnivore is too crazy to attempt poking him with Blades of Torment. Do your best to sustain with Blood Thirst. Once Cho'Gath gets his ult (known as the almighty Feast), try to not get bursted by his huge combo. Even if he builds tank, Cho'Gath can outdamage you. Avoid fighting and farm up as much as you can.
Starting item: Doran's Shield
Rush for first item: Sunfire Cape
Max first: Blades of Torment
I haven't played this matchup enough to decide how it should be played. I think Doran's Shield would be best overall, but Cloth Armor or Ruby Crystal could be effective also with the larger amount of health pots. I'm also not sure how well Darius's new laning phase is, considering he's banned pretty much every game. I will update this once I have enough information.
Starting item: Doran's Blade
Rush for first item: Spirit Visage
Max first: Blades of Torment
In the first few levels, you have the advantage. Diana is weaker and has a harder time bursting until she gets her ult, Lunar Rush. She can deal decent damage, but I think it won't be enough to mess
This is when Aatrox is usually strongest, especially if snowballing. By now, you should be either traveling with the team to get objectives or split pushing top lane or bot lane to apply pressure. I'll explain both strategies (grouping with your team shouldn't really be considered a "strategy", but oh well).
Traveling with your team lets you take advantage of your mid-game potential, especially if you're snowballing. Aatrox does pretty well in teamfights (considering he's not bursted down before one or in the beginning of one), as he has good survivability, a hard-to-ignore presence, decent damage, and multiple forms of CC. But even with all of this fighting power, you still have to be careful about a few things. One common mistake I see amongst Aatrox players is starting fights. Sure, you can hop onto a squishy that's out of position with Dark Flight, but Aatrox doesn't have enough CC and isn't tanky enough to leap into a group of multiple enemies. NEVER initiate; let your allies do the initiating. Champions that possess the power to initiate fights are champions like Malphite, Amumu, Sejuani, Sion, Galio, and Gnar. If you don't have one of the champions (or one like any of the champions) listed recently, then you probably shouldn't have picked Aatrox. Once one of your allies has initiated and properly started the fight, then it is safe to use Dark Flight to leap into the back lines and tear up the enemy carries. Another mistake is trying to fight battles they can't win. This happens with any champion, not just Aatrox. Know your power and your potential to win fights. Keep useful information available, like if Riven's ult is on cooldown, or if Caitlyn's Flash is off of cooldown, or if Ahri built Morellonomicon. Things like that can heavily affect a fight, and should impact your decision on wether to fight or not. One final issue is players not taking Teleport. There are a lot of champions that can quickly take towers, such as Nasus, Jax, and Tryndamere. If you always stay with the team, they are easily given the oppertunity to push down other lanes and easily get into your base. Keep a close eye on the enemy, and be careful that no one is getting one of your inhibs while you're with the team just fighting.
Split-pushing is a risky strategy; high risk, high reward. Split-pushing can be used to grab outlying towers in other lanes, or to distract the enemy team while your team grabs another objective like a tower in a different lane, dragon, or baron. You usually shouldn't split push if your team is behind; fights will only be harder for them if they're down an ally. If the team is behind, stick with them, help them win fights and get your carries to a position where they can actually carry. You should also be aware if the enemy team has one of their allies split pushing. Certain champions such as Nasus, Tryndamere, and Jax are excellent split pushers, and you shouldn't try and push the lane that they're trying to push ( Nasus, Tryndamere, and Jax will all beat you in duels 99% of the time). If they're pushing bot lane, you should push top lane; vice versa. If you're not up against either of these issues, split pushing is a good strategy to take advantage of. Also, if you KNOW you're going to be split pushing, grab Ravenous Hydra instead of Blade of the Ruined King first; the AOE damage from the passive and active help clear waves very quickly, and the high amount of damage helps clear towers.
This is arguably the worst part of the game for Aatrox. His immense case of Fighter's Syndrome kicks in (either too squishy or not enough damage; hard to find a medium), and his presence is, well...he really doesn't have any presence. By around 40 minutes, whatever individual advantage you had should be pretty much gone, and whatever disadvantages you had will be somewhat worse. You're pretty much useless in fights unless you're using Massacre. There's not a lot I can say to help, just be careful, be aware of your position, and stay with your team. You'll probably want to avoid split pushing, since the late game is when fights are most important and can decide games easily.
Overall, Aatrox is a great champion. While he's not the most effective champion to use, and maybe not the funnest champion, he's still a great champion, and I recommend him to all players looking for a new bruiser to add to their champion pool. I hope you enjoyed reading and learning about Aatrox! If you have any questions, ask in the discussion section for this guide.
As I am asked questions through messages or the discussion section, I will add both the question and answer to this section. Currently, I haven't been asked any questions, so there's nothing here yet.
10/4/15: Officially published full guide
10/5/15: Added "core items" (the items that are shown before you click on the guide)
10/9/15: Reorganized "Abilities" and "Runes" section for easier reading; changed "Runes" section to show proper runes, added more information to the Greater Mark of Attack Damage, added Greater Quintessence of Life Steal
10/14/15: Added Trinity Force to items; patch 5.20 released today, will work on matchups soon
10/21/15: Added "Laning Matchups" section, only few champions on there as of right now, will be updated as time goes on; changed description for Dead Man's Plate under the "items" section
10/25/15: Began creating a "Jungle" section for the guide; I'm pretty much going to make a second guide insde of this one. More lane matchups; more pros and cons
10/26/15: More into the "jungle" section
10/31/15: Decided to do off with the "jungle" section. I might work on it another time, but for now, just top lane. More into lane matchups.