Build Guide by Kethali
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I'll be honest, there are many more efficient junglers out there than Akali, but in my opinion there are also many more efficient laners (at least in the early game). While a mark of the assassin proc does considerable damage and can be the deciding factor in drawing first blood, Akali really doesn't shine until level 6.
There have been a few updates since I first posted this, and I've altered my build slightly after trying a number of item combination and running the numbers. I'll try to keep it up to date as time goes on.
Why use Akali?
Cons: She's fragile and vulnerable to CC. One good stun or silence can shut her down, but with quick reflexes one can potentially keep Akali alive in even the most deadly situations.
Also, magic resistance will kill her damage output. An abyssal scepter or void staff can help counter this, but your best bet is to just avoid these people, at least until you finish your sheen/lich bane.
- Mark of the Assassin: Your only ranged spell, but the only one you'll need. You can use it to pick up last hits in a lane without putting yourself at risk, but since a followup melee attack on your marked targets restores some of the energy (and deals considerable damage) it's more efficient to use this ability while you're about to punch your target in the face. For most of the early game this will be your best friend in the jungle, as it's magic damage will spell vamp just enough health for you to stay alive. You'll want to max this ability first.
- Twilight Shroud: Your bubble, and your friend. Inside this you (and only you) are stealthed with increased armor and magic resistance. If an enemy tries to walk through it? They're ever so slightly slowed. Nice. This is the only ability you can possibly use to support your team (by helping slow down pursuers) that doesn't involve killing. The stealth is broken whenever you do something, such as make an attack, use an ability or use summoner spells that break stealth (sadly flash is one of these, but that would just make it too easy). That's the bad news. The good news is that after performing an action, you fade back into stealth so fast that it's incredibly difficult to target Akali, and even if they do, you're still taking reduced damage. This bubble can be a life saver. Even if your enemy knows you're somewhere in there, the stealth's fade time on leaving the bubble is just long enough to perhaps make a break for a bush or into the fog of war. You see A stun flying at you from Sion or Taric? Or Ashe's arrow? Throw your bubble down and the stun will wear off long before the stealth does. Beware of Garen and Corki.
Twilight Shroud is a great farming tool because you can stay inside it and take little (or no) damage from a creep wave, but in the jungle it can be a liability, since if your attack speed is too slow and your stealth kicks in before you can keep up your attacks, the creeps will turn around and start regenerating their health as if you're not even there. Later in the game this doesn't become an issue, but you won't have to use it to survive in the late game anyway. This is why I recommend putting your first rank on it at level 4 (while a laning Akali should probably put a rank on this at level 2).
- Crescent Slash: Your only move that scales with attack damage, but it's also mostly for farming creeps (or procing your sheen/lich bane for free). Sufficient spamming of this while waiting for your Mark of the Assassin to come off cooldown should whittle down everybody crazy enough to be near you.
- Shadow Dance: A closing maneuver that you store up charges for and can chain to jump to your target. It can store a maximum of three charges, and you regain a charge every 20 seconds, plus whenever you score a kill or assist. It deals fair damage on its own, but used to close the cap to an unsuspecting target you've hit with Mark of the Assassin, or using it to close to marking distance, will spell doom for your enemies. It's range is considerable, and one can easily use it to attack through a wall if circumstances allow. It also provides an excellent escape maneuver, assuming there is an enemy target within range that won't kill you while making a break for it. Using two shadow dance charges during a fight (one to close to marking range, mark your target, melee them, then another to close any distance again and repeat the process) and saving one in case things get sour is what I've found to be the best option. If not, that's why you have flash.
Shadow Dance's jungling uses are limited (unless you've warded the **** out of the jungle so you can jump though walls to the minions), and once you're level 6 you won't really need it's extra damage to take things down anyway. I've also found that occasionally shadow dancing to a neutral minion (namely golem buff) will occasionally propel you straight on through the wall. Mildly entertaining.
Just to note: Akali is not a carry. She is an assassin. You're there to support your team by dealing massive damage and picking up kills on enemies fleeing in terror from your mighty carries and tanks. Never initiate (unless your target is alone and afraid), and for the love of Janna stay on the sidelines during team fights or else you WILL be CC'd to death. Only jump in when you think you're going to pick up a kill, and try to always have an escape plan.
So why are we Jungling?
- Map control. It's been my experience that the best teams are the ones that control the jungles as well as the lanes. Keep the other team from stealing your buffs. Steal the other team's buffs whenever there's an opportunity. Feed on the flesh of dragons.
- Experience. Having a jungler allows two of your teammates to solo lane. The jungle is like a vast, dangerous, buff-ridden maze of a lane. An exclusive jungler can likely keep up with (if not surpass) experience gained from a 2v2 lane while still making several recalls for supplies.
- Surprise! Akali's shadow dance can close the distance from a bush to the middle of a lane so fast that your targets won't know what hit them. Coordinating with your teammates to flank and cut unwary opponents off from the safety of their tower usually spells success for a gank.
Proper runes and masteries are not optional on this build, as your jungling rides heavily on the fact that you're activating both of Akali's passives at level 1. The AP runes by themselves proc half her passive (extra damage) and the two AD runes + 3 ranks in Brute Force + Doran's Blade will proc the rest of her passive (spell vamp). Trust me, and please don't die to the wolves.
*10/19 update buffs attack damage marks to +.95 each, so now we only need two! Getting more attack damage marks will let you shift your masteries around a bit too, since you won't necessarily need the 3 points in Brute Force.
**Edit** After getting some feedback from viewers and teammates, I decided to switch my masteries up a bit. Keeping the 3 points in defense for improved armor helps the most in the jungle, and cutting offense down to 17 saves 10 points for utility to grab improved experience and buff duration.
For summoner spells I go with smite and flash. Flash has obvious benefits. If someone is just out of range of your Shadow Dance, flashing into range could be an option, though I prefer to use it defensively. Most of the walls surrounding minion camps in the jungle are narrow enough to flash over. Coupled with your Twilight Shroud, you should be exceedingly difficult to chase or even track down through the jungle. This is something Akali excels at, and jungling Akali even more so.
**The obvious benefits of smite to a jungler is that it allows them to get their job done. What might not be so apparent, though, is that smite deals magic damage that feeds Akali's inherent spell vamp, making it heal her for a considerable amount of health every time it's used (like Nunu's Consume, with a 65 second cooldown). This can mean life or death in the jungle, a late game gank or team fight, so long as creeps are around and you remember it's there.
Buy a Doran's Blade and a health potion. This is obviously not what most junglers do, but if you've studied many other Akali guides (or read the above) then you'll understand why this is a first buy. From this and your runes/masteries, at first level you'll have an additional 10 attack damage (equivalent of a long sword), 24 ability power (more than an amplifying tome), 120 health, 4% lifesteal, your attacks will hit for an additional 10.5% magic damage and you'll have 10% spell vamp. Not bad for three seconds into the game.
That health and spell vamp is what you'll be riding on through the jungle.
Since Doran's Blade was retooled, it's no longer necessary to put attack damage runes on Akali to proc her passive spell vamp, the 8 attack damage + 2 from Brute Force is enough.
First off, head to your golem spawn camp (lower left side on blue and upper right side on purple) and put a point on Mark of the Assassin. Mark plus smite should mow them down faster than the creeps can reach the middle of the lane. If you have masteries in increased experience gain, and at this point you should be level 2. Put a point on your Crescent Slash.
Move on to the ghoul camp (popping your health potion along the way) and start working on the smaller guys first. Spell vamping from your mark and slash spam is what is going to keep you alive in this jungle, so use them whenever they're off cooldown. Mark of the Assassin is nice enough to replenish some of the energy you used to cast it so energy shouldn't be too much of an issue (so long as you try and last hit minions with your followup auto attack rather than the mark itself).
After the ghouls, make your way across the lane to the wolf spawn and bring them down as fast as you can (again, start with the smaller ones). Your smite should come off cooldown just as you're finishing them, so you might want to use it on one of the little guys at golem buff (it will be off cooldown by the next time you need it). Either way, at this point you should be level 3. It's time to recall.
Now buy four more health potions and head back down to the golems you started at, and peg away at them while you wait for smite to be ready again. When you're done, pop another health potion and take on the lizard. After a few marks and a smite he should go down quickly enough. Tackle the ghoul and wolf camp again, and your smite should be ready to help you take the golem buff (with only one minion if you smited his friend a couple minutes ago). By now you should be level 5 with a slow, a DOT and the knowledge that you'll have to try very hard to spam your spell enough to actually run out of energy.
Recall and you should have just over 800 gold. It's enough money to buy boots an amplifying tome. If you don't think the extra AP is necessary right now, instead of the amplifying tome you could pick up wards and another health potion or two. It's best not to try and take dragon until level 8 or 9, but putting a ward here now will make your team love you. Another rotation in the jungle should bring you to 6, which is where the real fun begins. If you're short, hiding in a bush to the side of a lane you're waiting to gank should be enough to push you over the edge and give you the gift of Shadow Dance. I strongly suggest you offer help to your solo laners here, since you're jungling at their expense. If they're fine then go find someone else to gank, or at least help push a lane.
When you've earned some extra gold, recall to finish off some Boots of Swiftness and start off your Rylai's with an amplifying tome (if you haven't already). Congratulations, you are now faster than everybody. If you're not, you will be after you hit them with your first Shadow Dance. If you're really lucky, the game will end in that space of time between finishing your Rylai's and before ever getting to start your Guinsoo's Rageblade.
Try not to hog all the buffs to yourself. If a buff will help your team more on somebody else then let them have it. Both buffs enhance Akali's abilities, but they aren't necessary for survival (though try to have at least the golem buff on when you start fighting dragon, as energy does become a concern when you're standing still trying to burst him down). A guinsoo's rageblade is a great item to start working on, since aside from the obvious benefits, the additional ability power and attack damage will bring you up to 17% spell vamp and give 8% extra magic damage per attack. That little extra attack speed gained from using abilities works wonders when Shadow Dancing in to proc your Mark of the Assassin, well as your farming, pushing and tower killing potential.
Next, work on a Sheen turn it into a Lich Bane to take advantage of your considerable ability power. In spite of the fact that you have to spend money on useless mana items to get it, lich bane is perhaps the best possible item Akali can wield. As it adds your ability power to physical attacks after you use an ability, this means the damage dealt by a Mark of the Assassin proc is practically doubled, as is any melee attack after closing the distance with Shadow Dance. Creep farming or tower killing? Crescent slash is an AOE and doesn't need anybody to target, so just hit that every few seconds and your opponents will be sorry they didn't come back to deal with you sooner. Oh yeah, and you still run faster than everybody.
*By the way, start your sheen off with an amplifying tome, and try to finish it off without buying a lone sapphire crystal. It's a waste of an inventory slot.
Picking up the newRabadon's Deathcap will double your ability power, and a (with help from your Lich Bane) simple mark of the assassin proc should deal roughly a thousand damage, which you can spam every few seconds now, dealing massive physical and magic damage. Only a team of decked out tanks can stop you. Gg. Be polite about it.
Now if for some reason you're still in the game, selling your Doran's Blade for a Hextech Revolver and building it into a HextechGunblade should finish things quick. Extra damage gives you extra spell vamp, and extra spell vamp gives you even more spell vamp (a guinsoo's + gunblade should put Akali at about 42% spell vamp alone). It actually works very well, especially if your team needs more physical damage, and it's a definitely a good substitute for Rabadon's if you like the sound of this. The lifesteal and active is nice, too.
- Boots: Honestly any boots (except Mobility) would help Akali. Ninja Tabi for more jungle defense (and synergy with your dodge runes/masteries, Mercury Treads for magic defenses or Sorcerer's Shoes for much helpful spell penetration. I prefer Boots of Swiftness, but it's really a call to be made in the game.
- Abyssal Scepter: Need more magic penetration? Get this instead of a Rabadon's (or maybe before your lich bane). Void Staff works too, but I usually find I also need some magic resistance somewhere along the line as well and the aura helps your team, so I usually find this the better choice.