Graves Build Guide by Khrome
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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.
Graves to me has been a lot of fun. I have been playing him exclusively on Dominion since he came out, and it took me a while to adjust my play style to utilize him properly. I think these are some assumptions people make about Graves, both with items and role that really change how effective he is, based on what they have learned in the past for other AD carries. I think his movement speed, range and abilities cater to a slightly different play style than what other guides and forums I have read suggest. If you try this guide, I am sure you will agree.
NOTE- this guide is for Solo Que Dominion, so in a lot of areas it takes the safest route for success. It also takes different paths from what I would do in TT or SR because of the Dominion game mode. It you are looking to use this guide for TT or SR I fear you will not fare that well. This guide takes advantage of the inherit differences of Dominion, like increases mana regen to allow abilities to be used more often. Strategies outlined in this guide will not carry over to TT or SR.
I would suggest taking
Exhaust. Both can be used defensively and aggressively.
Normally on Dominion I would take Ghost over Flash, but with Graves, Flash works better. You can flash in if Quick Draw is on CD, to give that final Buckshot, or Flash away for escape.
These are the only two I ever take.
The runes I choose are to better cater to the Dominion game type and the typical item build order. I choose Greater Mark of Desolation Armor Pen marks to help with the dominance of armor in Dominion as well as tanky characters. I have more often than not been part all AD teams and seen the opposing team stack armor.
For both Seals and Glyphs I choose the per level version of Greater Seal of Defense Armor and Magic Resist. The quick leveling of Dominion, even with the recent patch to lower passive XP gain by 10%, means you play more of the game typically at a higher Armor and Magic Resist over the flat options. I don't find the need for these to be as high early on, as most players don't have the items they need to make it matter.
For Quints, I choose flat Attack Damage. While there is a per level version, I choose flat Attack Damage to have a better advantage at the very start of the game, earning me the much needed race for Windmill, or the few extra kills to get a item or two earlier. Late game it does not matter as much, as most of your Attack Damage will come from your items.
I choose fairly standard masteries, going 21 points into attack, but only 6 in defense. I put the last 4 points in Perseverance to gain some health and mana regen. I prefer this over Strength of Spirit as Graves has a low base mana pool, and I am not taking any mana items.
Gunslinger (aka True Grit) - This is a amazing passive that increase the magic resist and armor of Graves the longer he is shooting at things. Because if this skill, I think there is a lot of assumption that Graves makes a good initiator or can solo other champs easily. I think this is the case outside of Dominion. Inside Dominion however, you loose the passive bonus easily when cutting through middle, capping a tower, or anything else that does not involve you shooting. Which means you almost never have it up to start a firefight, so you don't want to initiate. Yes there are minion waves you can shoot before tower diving, but one pull of buckshot can typically end those waves as well as other champions, meaning your stacks of True Grit are lower than you might realize. So don't count on it, or make assumptions it will be there when you need it.
Buckshot - This is the bread and butter skill. You want to make this first because of the damage it does. It is good at harassing, and if you keep your AD stacked high enough, it can single shot most minion waves making Graves a amazing pusher when needed. The trick to this skill is to use it at close range, as more pellets will hit the target dealing an additional 35% of the pellet damage after the first. Max this early for good burst damage. The range on this skill is just enough to reach over most walls, so it is good for checking hiding places as well, but can't completely fill the lane over the wall. I typically use it to shoot brush from the other side of the wall.
Additional Suggested Uses - The range on this skill is just enough to reach over most walls, so it is good for checking hiding places as well, but can't completely fill the lane over the wall. I typically use it to shoot brush from the other side of the wall.
Smoke Screen - This is a good skill with many uses. It has a AOE slow, lowers the vision of enemy champions caught in it, and even removes there radar. The damage it does is pathetic and you will never be using it as a damage ability. Champions like Xerath are shut down with this skill easily. Take 1 point in this and max it at the end. The cooldown reduction is not enough to put more points in this before the end of the game.
Additional Suggested Uses - This is great to flush enemies out of brush. When several enemies are in the brush, shooting this will force them to panic. Some enemies will over-commit and rush you, while others will flea. Often times this will split up groups making it easier to take them down.
Another good use is when fleeing. Make sure to shoot the smoke several feet infront of the enemy to get the most effect. Once gain the damage is not worth it, so shooting it before them, causes them to walk through more of it at a reduced speed, creating a larger gap between you and them.
This skill is also good in team fights. If you let another melee champion initiate, and then shoot this at there location, you can join in and range the opponent without them seeing you, making it easier not to be focused.
Quickdraw - This is a amazing ability. It has one of the highest attack speed bonus of any skill in the game. It is also a dash that can be very useful. I suggest maxing this second, as the dash is invaluable, and the attack speed bonus helps a lot, as you won't be getting a lot off of items. Several things to note: You CAN go over walls, but only very very thin walls. You can even go over Jarvan IV arena wall escaping him. One thing to note, the cooldown on this ability is lowered every time you fire a shot.
Collateral Damage - This is a amazing ultimate that deals a lot of damage. It has several benefits that may not be obvious at first. The skill works by shooting a giant explosive round in a direction, that explodes when hitting a enemy champion, and then deals splash damage to enemies behind that champion in a cone. There are several things to note about this ability -
1. The round and splash damage cannot hit the same target. I know there are random claims that it does, but I have never seen it.
2. The range on the ultimate is much longer than the targeting marks on the ground. The targeting mark on the ground shows the path of the projectile, and the projectiles max range. But when it reaches this distance, it explodes dealing splash damage farther. This makes this the longest range skill Graves has, and is great when trying to shoot over a wall to finish someone off running towards middle for health.
3. Attack Damage scales very well with this skill easily making it worthwhile to stack Attack Damage early. Because of the AOE nature of the splash damage, this can turn the tide of a team battle with high enough AD.
4. When firing this skill, any minions caught in the path of the projectile will be destroyed without destroying the projectile or making it explode early. While not a large benefit, it is important to note as it's helpful to clear a minion wave WHILE shooting at a enemy champion.
I know I am going to get the biggest amount of grief because of the build order of my items, and the items chosen. But let me make you a believer of the reason to do this.
Core Items - The base of the build
Throw Away Items - You will sell this eventually
Final Items - If the game goes on long-enough
Why Each Item?
Boots of Swiftness - This is perhaps the most controversial item in the list, as most builds use Berserker's Greaves for the added Attack Speed. Attack Speed is not as important on Graves as other character because of this Quickdraw skill, and the play style outlined in this guide. Instead these boots offer much needed movement for the slow carry, and work better in Dominion as you will be rushing from point to point at times.
Prospector's Blade - This item is amazing at the start of the game. You get 20 additional AD, as well as 200 health and some lifesteal. This is however not a good endgame item and should be sold when needed. I buy this at the start of the game though to give a early advantage over players who bought full boots.
Infinity Edge - The added damage and crit change, as well as the bonus to crit damage is huge. This greatly helps your damage output. I would suggest building this first out of the three B.F. Swords you collected unless you need the lifesteal or armor pen.
The Black Cleaver - In addition to adding more damage, this adds increased attack speed and reduces the enemies armor by a significant amount. Build this before Infinity Edge or Sanguine Blade if your against heavy armored teams.
Sanguine Blade - This adds a decent amount more AD, as well as Lifesteal that helps keep you in a lane longer. This is good to build if your pushing bottom, as you can keep the stacks on it easily, or if you need the extra lifesteal. I typically build this first or second depending on how often I am dying and how often I am killing minion waves.
As you can see I only have 5 items, 1 of which (Prospector's Blade) I suggest to sell when needed to get one of the big 3 (Infinity Edge, The Black Cleaver or Sanguine Blade). The reason for this is that the typical Dominion game only generates on average 9k gold, while some games going as high as 15k or as low as 6k, it can't be counted on to have the money. So it is important that the first money you spend gives you the largest bang for your buck.
Most games I finish with only 1 or 2 of the big three finished, as the game did not last long enough. Bee-lining for the B.F. Swords makes sure you have a early advantage and that you always have the AD you need to be effective.
This is also the reason why there are three B.F. Swords before building anything higher, as the early stacked AD benefit it too good to ignore. Graves shines by having a early advantage and being able to decimate enemies with the large AD ratio on Buckshot and Collateral Damage.
After you get Prospector's Blade, Boots of Swiftness and three B.F. Swords, build what is needed first. If you need more defense, build a situation item. If you need to get through armor, build The Black Cleaver. The build order can greatly effect how well you dominate in each stage of the game. Don't be afraid to adjust it after the core build.
These items should be built at any time depending on the situation. Most games I find that I don't need to build any, or will build just a single one. You can use up-to two of these, as you get a extra slot from selling Prospector's Blade.
Thornmail - This item has saved me more than once, and with the whole team building it, has turned a match around verse carry heavy teams. Dominion is flooded with Hyper-Carries and more often than not this is the answer.
Frozen Mallet - While not really a defensive item, the large health bonus is too good to ignore. If I had the money after building the big three, this would be the item to build, unless something more specific is needed.
Odyn's Veil - This is a great item when going against heavy AP teams or when a AP carry is dominating your team. Build as needed.
Frozen Heart - This is a good item with loots of armor. It will make you tougher as well as slow the attack speed of carries down by 25 percent. I typically take Thornmail over this because of the cost, but this has it's place.
Why No Attack Speed?
Simple, it isn't that great on Graves. While he has a slow base attack speed, his Quickdraw skill makes up for that. Unlike TT or SR, damage is higher in Dominion, without building more defensive items, you can't maintain a auto attack effectively in most situations. Build straight AD is more effective.
No Trinity? No Bloodrazer? No Atma's Impaler
The cost of these items is high, and AD is your best stat. While these items are good when you stack health or attack speed, they fall short with the goal of this build. The money is better spent elsewhere.
Trinity specifically is not that great. It spreads the cost of the item across a large number of stats, like Mana and Attack Speed and AP that are all but wasted on Graves. What more the passive to do a extra percent of AD damage is not that great as you don't use your abilities that often in a sustained fight. It is better to buy several B.F. Swords than this item.
At Start - Capture Mid than join the fight for Windmill.
Mid Game - Team Up and take up the role of roaming defender and capture.
Graves is squishy in Dominion and when Focused will fall over. Yes he has his passive, but like said above, it typically won't be up. So here are some rules for how I play Graves.
1. Don't Initiate - Let someone else go in first if possible. A meat shield that can take the punishment better than you, gives you time to dish out massive damage undercover of smokescreen.
2. Save your Quickdraw - Quickdraw is great aggressively, and I use it a lot in this fashion. If it comes up a second time in a fight, and I don't have a clear advantage, save it. You might need it to chase someone down, or to get away when support comes. Don't be so eager to use it. That being said I almost always open with it to get in the perfect range for buckshot.
3. Group Up - Graves is not a solo act like Yi, Akali or Tryndamere can be. Don't take a point by urself unless you really need to backdoor. Group up and move in. See rule 1.
4. Burst not Sustained - Your more about Burst damage not sustained damage. Remember that. Often times when you get a lot of enemy champions heading your way, it is not worth hold a point by yourself. Leave and regroup, See rule 1 and 3.
Overall this guide focuses on giving Graves a early advantage by purchasing items smartly, and exploiting his raw power and great AD ratio on this abilities. You are not tanky Graves, even with your passive. The success of this build heavily relies on the playstyle of the individual to best use it. Remember - Your abilities will do most of your damage early on as your attack speed will be low.