Graves Build Guide by Ephemeral Wolf
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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.
Hello! This is my first attempt at a guide. I have only been playing the game for a few months (I think I started playing a little before Yorick was released or so). It will be on a notably new character, as I feel my experience will be on par with most people when it comes to the subject matter. Being an AD carry, I also feel he will be a pretty basic start for a first time guide. So, here goes!
I personally run with exhaust and ghost. I like taking ghost over flash with Graves because he has limited wall jumping and a short dash with Quickdraw already (as well the cooldown is reduced by auto attacks) and in my personal experiences (non-ranked, mind you) I find that ghost allows for adequate aid for positioning his skills, chasing to secure kills, and escaping when paired with Quickdraw for a longer distance benefit than flash provides (Aside from crossing the thicker walls in the game). As a ranged character, especially one with skill shots, I feel you should always be aware of your positioning and have the luxury to ensure you are never in a terribly compromising position (over extending), so a character with the ability to wall hop (and his shroud from smoke screen) built into their kit should be less reliant on flash.
Basic ranged AD carry masteries. You want to put out the most damage possible in the least amount of time possible. I feel there are a few possible swing points in his mastery build depending on who you are facing, however. There are a total of 9 points not required to maximize damage output while obtaining the 21st point in the offense tree.
This build fills in the last point of Sorcery in the offense tree, then fill out the support tree with Perseverance, Haste, and Awareness. Alternatively, if you are a player who cannot live without flash (Haste would then be useless, as I would not expect someone to pick ghost/flash) or time dead from Good Hands, you can obviously change this up. I have also toyed with the idea of placing the points from Awareness into Hardiness and Resistance to give Graves even more tankyness, but seeing as his passive should cover that already, as a carry I feel the advantage and possible gain from the extra experience into a faster level/skill ups to be greater.
Very simple for an AD carry. Armor penetration reds and quints, and to emphasize his close range advantages, armor yellows and magic resist per level blues. This plays mostly into the late-game scenario. If you want to attempt to burst things down early game (depending on team compositions), obviously switch up runes accordingly.
Skill Sequence, Abilities, and Passive
For a quick skill priority, it goes R->Q->E->W, with taking W at level two depending on your lane situation.
Graves has a kit with very strong to perhaps extremely strong synergies for dealing damage.
Between Graves' auto attack strength buffed by his E and damage from his Q and R, he can deal a large amount of damage to many targets while ensuring at least one of them drops. Positioning is extremely important for setting up his skillshots for maximum damage, however, and his Q will often place him in danger to be utilized to its fullest. Incidentally, Collateral Damage still looks cool even if you miss.
Level Buckshot as 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. It is your primary damage dealing ability other than auto attacks.
Buckshot is a cone of three shots which fire out in the direction you aim them. The closer you are to the enemy, the more chance you have of multiple shots hitting the same target (for slightly reduced damage per shot that connects) for a maximum of three shots. This encourages the risk point blank shots for higher damage, but can be risky. It can also be used to farm minion waves very effectively. Needless to say, it deals physical damage.
Level Smoke Screen at level 2, then last at 14, 15, 17, and 18 if you are laning against a character with notable ranged abilities or want to facilitate a lower level gank.
Smoke Screen has a very long range and has the unique effect of applying a vision limiting effect to all enemy champions within it. Their vision is limited to within the effect until they are hit or move from within the radius of the effect. Smoke Screen, if positioned correctly, can be the difference between your team opening on the enemy or the enemy opening on you. It also applies a slow, which when paired with the vision limit, can be highly effective for setting up ganks or aiding yourself or an ally in escaping danger. It is the only ability Graves has which scales from AP and deals magic damage.
Level Quickdraw at level 4, 8, 10, 12, and 14 if there is no notable ranged harass or danger from your opponent(s), and no early gank likely from your jungler or another lane.
Quickdraw is a short dash followed up by an attack speed steroid, which has a cooldown lowered every time you auto attack. It's great for setting up close range Buckshots/Collateral Damage (to catch an enemy with more than just one bullet or better angle your ult), harass with auto attacks, wall crossing (only makes it through the thinner walls in the game, however), aiding in your escape from enemy gap closers, sidestepping skill shots and retaliating, and for taking down turrets/inhibitors.
Collateral Damage is taken at levels 6, 11, and 16. This is used generally to soften an enemy team during a fight, take down a runner, or simply blow up someone you really don't like.
Collateral Damage is a high damage, high range, relatively middle-to-low cooldown time ability (basically will be up every team fight just about). It is a skillshot. Graves will fire a large bullet in a line where you aim it. Upon contact with an enemy champion or when it reaches the end of its range, it will explode (dealing more damage to the target it makes contact with should it hit an enemy) and create a cone outward even further dealing damage to all caught in the after effect (I do not believe it is possible to be hit by both the bullet and the cone, but I have yet to see anyone teleport backwards into the blast after being hit). Positioning is very important when firing this ability, as the cone extends from the direction the bullet was traveling, obviously. Both the initial impact and after effect cone deal physical damage.
Graves' Passive, Gunslinger, is an armor and magic resist buff that stacks up the longer Graves remains within combat.
Combat is defined as having dealt or received damage within the past four seconds in this case. It is extremely important to keep his passive stacked up at all times (except when you simply cannot risk pushing lane, as it requires more damage on minions usually than you would normally put out) if you intend to be trading blows with the enemy: It can mean the difference between removing your enemy from lane or finding yourself scurrying for the safety of your towers and base, or worse, dead when you could otherwise avoid it. Try to stack it up from minions or neutral monsters before a team fight when you can every time. A nice little sidenote about this ability, it will stack and remain stacked while attacking a tower or inhibitor as well.
Itemization can, as always, go very different depending on the game type, ally and enemy team composition, and general strategy.
Usually I start off with a doran's blade, but if taking mid I would purchase starter boots and a few health potions instead.
I find it allows for a bit more survivability to grab your bloodthirster first, as when paired with Graves' passive, it can make for very hard to kill setup.
If you find yourself needing more mobility, obviously grab a zeal early, however I feel rushing a phantom dancer isn't as useful as starting on some solid damage, even if you are doing some roaming between lanes.
If the enemy is highly mobile and your team lacks solid CC, snares, or slows, or you simply feel you need to be a bit tankier, going for a frozen mallet (or just snagging a phage for the time being) after you have at least purchased the components for your bloodthirster may help a bit.
Infinity edge speaks for itself: More damage, more crits, more lifesteal for more survival (from the bloodthirster).
At some point during this build, I would highly suggest snagging something defensive (lifesteal or health work exceptionally well with his passive as opposed to simply stacking more armor or magic resist), such as working on the frozen mallet a bit early if you are finding yourself being punished more than you can handle. Most of the time, however, when you bring your first b. f. sword into lane you will most likely dominate if you were only pulling even at the start.
In summation, I find Graves to be a very strong pick for your ranged AD carry. He does not really bring any team utility to the table other than Smoke Screen and sizable AoE damage, but he does his job well. Early game, it is very hard to remove him from lane without being punished for it as well. Mid game, he can dominate very effectively. Late game, he continues to put out acceptable damage with AoE and single targets. It will take a few games to get used to his Q and collateral damage range, but he isn't a terribly difficult champion to grasp.