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.
I made this guide for some friends who have asked me how I build Vladimir. I play solo queue most of the time and feel that this build is solid when you can't rely on teammates to perform at a certain level. For a full arranged team I would likely make some changes, specifically with items, but this is the build I have found to be the best for me in solo queue.
The first (left) Vladimir is my solo mid build. The second (right) is my Vlad build for when I am in a side lane, either with a partner or solo because of a jungler.
Please feel free to ask any questions in comments and let me know if you have any suggestions. I am always looking to try new things and improve my play.
The first game listed above was a side lane. I was focused hard and the loss was the result of our middle carry leaving halfway through. Even with being focused and being in the side lane, the build kept me with a positive score.
The second was a side lane win with a 25 minute surrender. I was actually a bit worried going into the game because of their team composition (3 champs that can prove troublesome for Vlad) but the only real problems that match ended up being Rammus taunt and my lack of map awareness.
The third was middle. The match went fairly normal for me, ending with a 25 min surrender. They didn't have a solid composition to counter Vlad and I was able to just roll over them. They had a Kog'Maw that was middle but didn't make a move on me until we were 6. He stayed back, afraid of my low level Q, instead of taking advantage of my high cooldowns in the first few levels. Waiting until 6 was just bad on his part, chasing me into brush where I unloaded on him with R, Ignite, E, Q, W, and Q again to finish.
The fourth game was middle against a Sion. It went quite well and I was 8 by the time Sion hit 6 because I took advantage of the range I had on him, keeping him off xp with Q and E. If you encounter a Sion as Vlad, you can watch for his stun animation. You can see him make a specific movement at the start of the stun, pool at that time, and move out of range of the stun. Pay attention to who you are against and take advantage of champs that have ults which don't give them a big boost when fighting you. Many players will get aggressive when they hit 6 if you bait them. In this case, Sion needs to actually hit with auto-attacks to get value from the ult. Getting his ult didn't give him an advantage because I used Vlad's range and pool to ensure minimum auto-attack opportunity for him. It landed me a first blood when he made the mistake of not thinking about his 1v1 capability before moving in on me.
There are some players who won't let you bait them, but there are plenty that will. It can pay off in the form of a few kills if you act a bit scared against someone and hold back on damaging them. A little while back I played a Vlad as Akali. He kept trying to push hard, showing me his E+Q damage. It gave me the chance to gauge his damage potential on me. I was very patient in the lane with him and let him keep up his harassment, that was getting him nowhere in terms of an actual kill on me. Because of Akali's smoke, I wasn't being kept off the exp bubble and I was playing safe with brush and staying close enough to my tower to escape if he dived. The only thing he could have gotten out of the situation was me making an uncalculated dive at him.
Knowing what other champs can do and understanding when you have an advantage, no matter what champ you are playing, will greatly improve your kill-to-death ratio. The Vlad even /danced just after level 6, obviously full of himself and not realizing how crucial it can be to know what an enemy can do to you. I gave a quick Q from brush to gauge my damage on him and saw what I wanted to see. He quickly moved towards the brush and I jumped on him, dropping him and easily surviving his ult while in Akali's smoke. I just as well could have done little enough damage to him with my Q to decide I didn't have a solid chance, but the point is I was patient, was familiar with the opponent's skills, and he had been showing me his damage potential for the past 4-5 minutes. I was watching his damage closely and was familiar with my own based on seeing a single skill land. Knowing what I did with my Q, in addition to knowing his armor, magic resist, and summoner spells, allowed for me having a solid estimation of my chances in a fight. I could make an informed decision about whether I should back off or go in for a kill.
I am honestly not sure what the math would say about my rune choices but I have found this setup to work well for my play style.
Reds - Flat spell penetration. I don't have per level spell pen reds so I cannot comment on them, but the flat spell penetration has worked well for me.
Yellows - I settled with flat armor but I have also used flat dodge for yellows in the past and noticed very little difference. I play a fairly careful game in terms of fight engagements, relying on my yellows primarily for damage mitigation from minions in the early game when I do go in for a kill. I feel the armor provides a more steady and reliable mitigation so I can properly judge when I need to get out.
Blues - Flat cooldown runes have suited me the best here. I have tried flat ability power, ability power per level, and flat magic resist, but find that the flat cooldown runes have the most consistent usefulness. As I do not pick up cooldown reduction from items, I rely on blues, masteries, and getting the golem buff when appropriate for my cooldown reduction.
Quints - Flat ability power has worked the best for me here. I used to use flat hp quints with Vlad but have found that the added ability power from level 1 suits my play style better. The hp is nice for early engagements but I have found that smart choices for early game combat can reduce reliance on extra early game hp, with the 15 extra ap offering me easier farming and improved harassment potential.
My mastery selection should be fairly easy to see. I don't find defense talents to be necessary for the way I play Vlad and feel I get a lot more from putting my points into offense and utility masteries.
I put 10 into offense to get the spell pen and the benefit of burning embers. I tend to play fairly aggressive with harassment and getting an extra 10 ap in the early game is something I have found to be extremely useful.
I put only 20 into utility, rather than 21, because I feel that Vlad doesn't have a heavy reliance on summoner spells. Without cooldown from items, Intelligence and Utility Mastery become key choices for this build. Quickness is nice for chases and fleeing but my utility tree choices are really focused on just getting the cooldown from Intelligence and the longer buff duration from Utility Mastery.
My choice of taking Amplifying Tome over a health regen item for my mid build is because I feel the extra AP, when combined with the AP I get when ignite is down and Quints, provides a much stronger harassment potential. I try to keep the opposing mid out of the exp bubble and having a Q that hits hard from level 1 is a big part of that.
My choice of taking Doran's Shield when not middle is a combination of the armor, health and regen. Surviving in a lane is something I find quite a bit harder as you are worrying about 2 opponents hitting you instead of 1. The extra health is something I feel the need for when against two opponents. Really, I believe that its greatest benefit is the appearance it gives to your opponents. You don't look super-squishy with some extra hp. The mentality of players in solo mid against an opponent with a smaller hp pool is different when there are two in a side lane. Beyond the flat hp, I feel that hp regen is important because it helps you recover faster from harassment. The armor is beneficial for your own harassment, reducing what would otherwise be a much greater need for caution around minion waves.
Sorcerer's Shoes are a big item for my Vlad. I have seen arguments for other boots to be used by him, but for me the spell pen boost is big. Mercury's Treads or Ninja Tabi don't have a solid benefit for my hit-and-run (or hit-and-chase) play style. I haven't felt a big need for more speed from Swiftness or Mobility boots with this build. About the only boots I would consider as a solid alternative for Vlad, with my build and play style, would be a late game switch to Boots of Lucidity when you knew you were picking up a Void Staff.
Hextech Revolver (and later a Will of the Ancients) is something I recently started using. I noticed a huge difference in performance. I used to take a Spirit Visage but the healing I get from the spell vamp greatly out performs the bonus from Q with Spirit Visage. If you don't believe me, give it a try. I wasn't expecting much, but on a high AP Vlad, the spell vamp makes a big impact. When you are over 500 AP, just watch the green healing numbers pop up from the spell vamp.
Rylai's Scepter is something that just works all too well on Vlad. It provides AP, HP, and gives the wonderful benefit of slow. Unlike many characters in LoL, Vlad actually has all 4 of his abilities apply the effect. This item is a no-brainer in my opinion.
Rabbadon's Death Cap is something that helps out this build a lot. It gives some much needed AP to a build that would otherwise be somewhat light on it.
Warmog's Armor gives Vlad a lot more HP. I find this to be a great item for the build as it helps him get to over 4k hp. Its place in each build has a reason. For the middle build, proper use of your level advantage from late early game into the mid game should get you somewhat fed. Even if you messed up, or got shut down hard in middle, the early AP heavy focus should give you the ability to jungle quite well when minion waves aren't available and clear waves fast, when they are available, for big gold gains. I move Warmog's up in the build for the second (right) laning build because I find Vlad can have some trouble with hard hitting champs if he isn't packing some hp by about 20 minutes in.
Zhonya's Hourglass (or Void Staff) takes up my last item slot. I make a choice about which one I take based on the current situation.
If the opposing team is stronger and I am being focused, the game lasting so long means that they are geared up quite well and my big hp pool isn't as useful anymore. I am almost always a focus because even with them geared, I still will be hitting them hard. The Hourglass is my choice in this situation as it can be surprising at how effective popping immunity can be when you are focused in a team fight. The confusion over it, and your team taking advantage of that confusion, can be very big and turn the tides of a war you were losing.
If my team has been getting plenty of kills and aces but has been held back by a tank that is afraid of towers, or the lack of someone playing a tank, the armor from the Hourglass, combined with your high hp, to tank a tower for your team. If you are consistently getting 4 of 5 opponents down but that last one is causing problems at the tower, the armor gives you the option to engage in a tower so your team can get the ace and then drop the tower.
Finally, if the issue isn't over pushing or getting focused by a geared team, but rather just the simple matter of their team being tough characters that stack magic resist, I take a Void Staff. This is rarely something I need to do, but occasionally it is necessary to start making a dent in a tough team that figured out early how dangerous you were.
My skill sequence prioritizes Q (Transfusion) for solo middle, taking advantage of being at a level and gold advantage early on.
When in a side lane, I give more priority to E (Tides of Blood) and W (Sanguine Pool) for increased farming potential. Many times I have to play a little catch up to get myself the items I would have had already if I had been middle and done some early ganking.
You can judge your skills choices for the side lane and adjust based on how your game is going, but Q usually takes a back seat to E and W for me in the early game while in a side lane. That is one of the reasons I take Doran's Shield when in a side lane, to get the hp regen that helps make up for a weak Q. If you notice I do get my Q up fast in the mid-game, as it is still a big skill for Vlad and I want it fast.
Ghost and Ignite. I don't use any others. These are up to personal preference.
Ghost gives me speed to get away and get in fast for a gank. It also serves well for catching a straggler that is hanging around too long after the team leaves. Getting close enough to slow so your team can catch up and jump on someone can make a big impact on both the game outcome and mental conditions on both sides. All you can really do is guess, but I imagine that a surprising number of games have been won based on a demoralized opponent.
Ignite is for the AP boost from Burning Embers, the healing debuff it gives, and to help finish someone that might otherwise survive.
Choose the summoner spells that work for you, but I personally find Ghost and Ignite to be excellent for my play style.
I appreciate you giving this build a try. I hope it works for some of you. If you have any questions, just leave a comment. I also appreciate any advice on the build you can give me so I can work on improving my play.
If you are going to vote, I appreciate a comment on your reason(s). I am electing to not require a comment to vote, in the settings for the guide, but I do appreciate knowing what those who vote are thinking. You don't have to write a book, just a quick comment on why you voted the way you did.
Thanks for giving this guide a read, and have fun in LoL!