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Akali: The comprehensive guide
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For this guide, I intend to cover various strategies involving Akali, provide tips for newcomers and provide various options given team buildup.
-Capable of solo or mid(there are better options though)
-Good at harass
-Can jungle (after level 4 preferably)
-AP burst with some AD
-Shroud somewhat useless against AoE moves (especially Ashe's Volley)
-gets focused in teamfights
-Can be countered by oracle's elixir or Lee Sin's Tempest
My guide is slightly different than others in that I invest much more in defensive prowess to allow for a more aggressive play style.
And here's proof that this build works: (Keep in mind that Akali takes a rather decent amount of skill to play, the pacing behind her abilities and knowing when to dive or not to dive are essential).Oddly enough, this build works with kennen too. Just substitute the revolver for mejais, the rageblade for a FoN and the ninja tabi for sorc boots.
NOTE: This guide is meant to describe various play styles with Akali. The build described above is the one I personally use, but Akali is a very play by feel character, there is no strict formula to winning with her. My hope is that this guide will help you come to an understanding of that "feel" sooner.
I've added another build, meant to match a much more AP nuke play style. What you lack in durability, you make up for in damage and the masteries will let you get to level 6 faster, which is very important. The idea here is getting AP quickly, but I keep rylai's in the middle simply because its utility is too much too pass on for Akali. The rune set allows you to activate both passives without items (the 6 runes plus the mastery points points give you 9.6 damage, which automatically rounds to 10 and activates the passive). This allows you to buy boots at the start which means you can harass much more effectively. Having boots allows you to run up to opponents and pop your mark, thereby doubling your damage output. However, this build takes much more caution to play. If you overextend, you will die. It's that simple, you won't have any extra health or durability until you buy your giant's belt and even that isn't much. The key to this build is to be cautious until you know you can get the kill. If you die attempting to kill someone, you're pretty much screwed for the rest of the laning phase.
doing something wrong.
Early game, you need to make a choice between harassing and farming. Determining which action is best given your lane opponent and stick to it. If you're against a Mordekaiser or Vladimir, don't bother harassing them, they'll likely gain the health back. Focus on farming creeps so you get your core as quickly as possible. Your Q makes last hitting relatively easy since the extra damage from popping a mark gives you a larger health range to kill a minion. If you're against a squishy like Veigar or Annie, harass them when you know they can't stun you, but definitely harass them. In all likelihood you will get the first kill because they can do little to stop you once you engage. The fundamental here is to commit to an action all the way. Going halfway on both options will leave you extremely underwhelming in the latter parts of the game.
Once you get your ult, your harassing becomes much more deadly. If you're doing well you'll likely be pulling off a lot of tower dives. Because you can dash to the opponent, you suddenly have to worry about half as much turret damage because you never take time to actually walk towards the turret. The basic fundamental here is harass and then commit. If you do not learn how to commit to the kill then you will probably never get one. It's important to understand how much damage you can actually take. This is true of any character and something really only learned from experience (unless you're playing Tryndamere, then it doesn't matter how much damage you can take)
Lastly, be aware of your cooldowns, all of them (including shadow charge). Put yourself in a situation only if you know how to get out of it. Don't go for red with the whole enemy team mia if your flash and smoke bomb are on CD. Have a plan to get out of any situation. Akali's role is to pick off the enemy carry and then get out. Approach the fight from a different angle or lay in wait for a weakened foe. The element of surprise is your best friend.
Magic pen on Akali is pretty much a given. It ensures that the damage from popping her mark does what it needs to. It's pretty much the only option if playing Akali in the standard AP way. However, since Akali is a potential jungler, flat attack runes will give her the spell vamp and damage she needs to stay alive in the jungle in early game.
The three flat damage runes are purely there to allow Akali to start with a Doran's Blade and activate the spell vamp on her ((Twin Disciplines)) at the same time. The extra attack damage is nice, but does not contribute much it comparison to her AP.
EDIT: I used to have three of these, but the recent patch gives akali a lower threshold for her passive and increases the damage of a doran's blade to 10.
This is the first component of Akali's defensive side. The dodge in runes alone stacks up to about 7%. Add in the 2% from masteries and the 12% from ninja tabi and we have an Akali that dodges about 1 in 5 hits. Something you see more often in tanks, but I find this combination works well with her and the occasional speed boost from a dodge can be really helpful in a chase or escape.
These two give Akali enough AP to activate the magic damage part of her Twin Disciplines from the start of the game. This extra damage is amazing for harassing and can easily help you net some early kills, especially once you hit level six and can harass harder with Shadow Dance.
The last build however shifts Akali into an AP caster, the difference being that she has to dive her opponents to deal damage and can't cast from a safe range. 21/0/9 vamps up Akali's damage and allows her to get to level 6 quicker. However, you will be much much easier to focus down, especially at the beginning of the game, so be cautious. When engaging someone using this mastery set, make sure you throw down smoke bomb as quickly as possible after engagin, or else you will end up taking more damage than you're dishing out. Smoke bomb will allow you to think and refresh cooldowns before continuing the encounter, and it also slightly reduces damage.
There are several advantages to using ignite over exhaust. The ignite mastery will give you extra AP and the damage from ignite can be the thing to secure a kill that's about to get away, something that will happen fairly often in early/mid game when most of the towers are still up. If you do choose to use ignite, there needs to be a rebalance of the masteries however and you'll have to go for 14-16-0 or 10-20-0.
This spell is mandatory on Akali. It combines magnificently with all of her abilities. In a chase, you can use it to get close enough to use Shadow Dance or Mark of the Assassin. Once someone is in range of your Shadow Dance and they're running away, it should be guaranteed death (unless they have some sort of flash move themselves). I'll explain the tactics behind Shadow Dance later. But more importantly flash really makes Akali more of a ninja. If you see someone coming in for a gank, throw down Twilight Shroud and from here you have multiple options. If you're low health and the enemy has several AoE moves, I suggest getting out as quickly as possible. Flash towards the nearest bush so that they still think you're in the shroud and your escape is guaranteed. If no bush is around, wait in the shroud until the opponent begins walking in a certain direction anticipating your escape, then walk to the edge of the shroud opposite the opponent and flash AWAY from them and make your escape. Flash+portable bush=best juking potential.
I don't use ignite, but it definitely has its advantages. If you plan on using ignite, you need to get its mastery, as I described above. The AP boost can really be helpful early game and might even help you get first blood.
These are really the only spells you should use on her. I would consider if you really want to jungle with Akali early game but then you're sacrificing the utility of exhaust or ignite.
It takes some time to get a feel for the last hits but if you don't kill a minion by just throwing your kama, wait a little until it's health is low enough for you to pop the mark and kill it. Harass enemy champions who are overzealous or squishy by using this ability whenever it's up on them. You don't necessarily have to worry about popping the mark, just harass by throwing it. Akali's metagame becomes very different once she gets shadow dance. This skill also has great synergy with spell vamp because both hits apply the effect.
This skill is great, but you only need one point in it for most of the game. I've already explained techniques with this skill and flash but there's more you can do with it. Early game, the shroud can be used to zone enemies or keep them away from your tower if you're going solo. Most people with a bit of sense won't walk into an area that slows them with an invisible assassin waiting inside, so they'll generally avoid it like the plague. The skill is great for escapes and can work as a get out of gank free card if you know how to use it right.
It also gives you great advantage in 1v1 fights. If you see a lone champion coming at you, throw your mark at them and drop your smoke bomb. In all likelihood they'll come closer to see if they can take you out. Wait until the cooldown on your mark is down (the shroud should protect you), pop the mark you already placed on them, then throw another one and pop it too. By this time you'll suddenly have the advantage and they'll be running away. At this point you begin chasing with shadow dance. I'll explain strategies behind that in a bit.
This is also your only skill which can save teammates. If you see a teammate being chase drop the bomb ontop/slightly behind them and hope that the slow is enough to save them, just make sure you don't over extend in throwing the bomb and get yourself killed in the process.
This is Akali's farming skill. The range on it is slightly farther than what she can reach with an auto attack and it's something you'll have to get a feel for since there's no clear indication of range. In a chase you can use this for it's extra damage, but remember that it does not pop your mark. Generally you'll want to pop your mark before using this skill. There are many times where the slight bit of extra range has secured a kill for me that I would've otherwise lost.
Akali's ult is her ult because it's the main reason why she doesn't need movement speed. Akali gets a charge every 25/20/15 seconds, every time she gets a kill or assist, or she gets 3 charges when she respawns. Managing your charges is key to securing kills. As a rule of thumb you want to go into fights with 3 charges, but you don't want to just let the charges sit idle while your farming. Use it every now and then to get to minion waves quicker.
The dash has great range and does decent damage. You can use it to last hit champions or minions, use it to harass, use it to chase, and use it to escape. Personally, if it's still early game and I have a lane advantage I like to harass champions by throwing my kama when they get too close and dashing to them once it connects. I back off afterward and repeat the process until they're low enough for me to tower dive them. It also has great synergy with Rylai's because it adds a bit of CC to her metagame.
When using it to chase make sure you are able to get a mark on the opponent almost every time you dash to them. If an enemy begins to get too far away dash towards them again and continue until they're dead. The great thing about this skill is that once Akali gains a killstreak momentum, it really keeps the momentum going because there's little people can do to get away from her. Even if you can't directly dash to the opponent you can dash to a nearby enemy minion as a sort of long range flash and continue the chase from there. Dashing to minions is also a way to escape (hell I've even dashed to an enemy champion to get away from one that was doing more damage to me). Mastering this skill is key to mastering Akali
Akali's core item build never really changes. Start off with a Doran's Blade. The extra 100 health will keep you alive and the 10 attack damage is enough to activate your passive spell vamp. That combined with the AP runes means you will have both passives active from the start. After that you want to stay in lane as long as possible, last hitting creeps or getting champ kills if you can. It is important that on your first recall that you are able to build a Hextech Revolver (which costs 1200 mind you). If you don't have that option then buy your Boots and an ability tome.
If you're thinking of focusing AD instead of AP/AP hybrid (which I don't recommend) then start off with a Long Sword and begin building your phage. Get a Vampiric Scepter when you get a chance. Akali needs some form of life steal otherwise she can't survive very long. Once again though, this guide does not work for AD Akali because you will need movement speed to make that a reasonable choice.
Choosing which of these to build really depends on the game. The dodge from ninja tabi stacks really well with this rune and mastery set, so it's usually my default choice. However, if the team is AP or CC heavy, I build merc treads. Akali can't do much if she's CC'ed to death. Sorc boots will seriously ramp up your damage output, but you're sacrificing defense for offense.
Building this core will keep you useful for the rest of the game. After you've established your item core you have a lot of options from there. It really depends on your team and the opposing team what you should build. If your team is AP heavy, then build hybrid (second build page). Throw in a Force of Nature or Banshee's Veil if you feel like you're getting steamrolled by AP characters. Throw in a Thornmail if you feel like you're getting steamrolled by AD characters. One of the key components to being a good player is build flexibility. Understanding what you need to build to defeat the enemy and support your teammates is essential to winning. If you build the same thing EVERY game then you are much more likely to lose because you will come across some team composition that completely ruins your build.
This item is amazing on an AP Akali and is yet another reason why Akali doesn't need movement speed. Hitting someone with either your mark or dash will slow them. All you need to do is hit them once, your low cooldowns will ensure that the slow never leaves until they are dead. Because I focus on a tankier build, I generally build the Giant's Belt first. However, if I return to base and I have enough money for another component, i'll buy it. Point is, you want to get this item as quickly as possible, because once you do, it will be EXTREMELY difficult for enemies to get away from you.
EDIT:I've removed the rageblade from the first build. Getting Lich Bane for AP Akali is much more useful than the rageblade.
Rageblade on Akali is useful but not necessary. Having Rylai's is pretty much all the utility you need. If you get to this point in the build, anything you buy is to keep your damage output consistent.
Lich Bane is a pretty amazing thing to build on Akali late game. It makes Mark of the Assassin extremely deadly as now popping the mark not only applies the effect of the ability and your passive, but also the huge damage from the lich bane. The burst can be pretty crazy.
You'll rarely build this if you're running the first build. However, I rush this item when going hybrid. This item is really amazing, as long as you make sure to use it's active. The active makes up for the lack of rylai's and since it does damage it sometimes is enough to pick up the kill. The spell vamp and lifesteal also make Akali pretty much unkillable in 1v1 and give her great survivability overall. I can't stress this enough though, you have to use the active. I can't count how many times I've kicked myself in the foot for missing a kill I could've easily picked up with the gunblade.
If you manage to make it past the gunblade, you can really build whatever you want. In all likelihood if the game is lasting this long you really should be building something specifically to counter the enemy team like a Deathfire Grasp against tanks or Abyssal Mask against MR heavy teams.