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Bard Build Guide by SirZeros

Middle Bard is the Word - Best Carry Bard Guide! [+Video] AD/AP/Mid-Lane [Season 13]

Middle Bard is the Word - Best Carry Bard Guide! [+Video] AD/AP/Mid-Lane [Season 13]

Updated on October 23, 2023
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League of Legends Build Guide Author SirZeros Build Guide By SirZeros 62 8 1,297,666 Views 22 Comments
62 8 1,297,666 Views 22 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author SirZeros Bard Build Guide By SirZeros Updated on October 23, 2023
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Choose Champion Build:

  • LoL Champion: Bard
    Crit the Shit away!
  • LoL Champion: Bard
    Magic Damage, fresh out of his trumpet!
  • LoL Champion: Bard
    The jungle keeps it's music...


1 2
Hail of Blades
Cheap Shot
Ghost Poro
Relentless Hunter

Legend: Alacrity

+10% Attack Speed
+9 Adaptive (5.4 AD or 9 AP)
+65 Base Health


1 2
LoL Summoner Spell: Flash


LoL Summoner Spell: Ignite


Threats & Synergies

Threats Synergies
Extreme Major Even Minor Tiny
Show All
None Low Ok Strong Ideal
Extreme Threats
Ideal Synergies
Ideal Strong Ok Low None

Champion Build Guide

Bard is the Word - Best Carry Bard Guide! [+Video] AD/AP/Mid-Lane [Season 13]

By SirZeros
Warning: The champion threats are mainly for the early game since in the late game you can burst down almost anyone, if played correctly.

Hello curious summoners!
First of all I want to introduce myself and this build.
My name is SirZeros
I started playing league of legends in spring 2014 and I like the game a lot!
In Ranked I went up and down a lot and sometime I just stopped playing ranked because I wasn't having fun anymore.
After some time I started playing ranked again but while I was playing almost only normal games I started trying out everything ^^

Well I played so many games of League now and I really like to break the meta sometimes.
Most of the times it wasn't viable or it wasn't really fun to play after 1 or 2 games. Until I discovered this champion with this build.
I started to play AD Bard constantly and tried out many builds and many strategies.
I had so much fun with this little champion and I really never wanted to share this build, since I wanted to have a unique kind of champion playstile for me.

After many more games, I now decided to finally share this detailed Guide with all of you.
I hope you like it, and one more thing: Don't give up that fast, it is really hard to play him in this way ;)

However it is really fun and deals tons of damage ^^

(In my experience it is best played on mid lane, but it definetly can be played as a top laner or as an adc on botlane, too. But as we all know, Bard definetly doesn't work as a support, that is obviously just a troll pick ;D )
Pros / Cons
Here are the Pros and Cons
- It's just Bard ;)
- No one will ever expect this.
- So much utility! SO MUCH!
- Good teamfighting potential if played correctly.
- Mixed damage (AP and AD).
- Enormeous Burst and good consistant damage.
- Can prepare ganks on his lane really good with his Q/R.
- Can get to another lane pretty fast with E and chimes.
- Can gank pretty good with Q/R/E.
- Has good sustain on lane due to his chimes and his heals.
- Has an OP Late-Game! Can oneshot a squishy enemy.

- It's Bard... Your hitbox is fat D:
- You could get flamed in champion select ^^
- Is really hard to play!
- It's hard to get the last hit on kills.
- Does have to leave lane for chimes, which can be really dangerous.
- Is really squishy.
- Has a bad early game.
- Needs to farm CS and Chimes and has less time for objectives in the early game.
- Is mainly based on AD, which means that you need some more AP in your team.

Now you know, what is coming towards you.
Video Example
Here's a good example of me playing AD Bard Mid with the exact same steps as I explain here.
Note that it is spoken in german and the actual video is mainly made for untertaining purposes. But if you only want to see how much damage it does and how it's played you still can just click through a little bit ^^
However I took some time and created English subtitles for you :3
Make sure you turn them on, if you need them ^^

(Have fun ^^)
The start of the game
What do you have to do at the beginning of the game?
Follow these steps:
- Be prepared in the loading screen, you need to be ready when the game starts!
- As soon as you get out of loading screen, buy Doran's Blade, a Health Potion and a Ward.
- Get on your lane immediately!
- Put a point on your W.
- Place two heal behind your tower.
- Press B to go back.
- Go back to lane and place the 3rd heal behind your tower.
- Collect all the chimes you can before the minions hit your lane. Then walk/fly back to lane and start farming.
If your chimes are too spread out, just leave the remaining chimes be where they are is and get them later.

(I suggest you try this out one or two times in a custom game to get the hang out of it)

If you follow these steps, you're gonna have:
1. 3 Healing stations
2. Full Mana
3. You're gonna hit Lvl 2 a bit earlier than your opponent because of the xp of the collected chimes.

What are the Pros/Contras of this strategy?
- Way better sustain, so you can farm on your lane a bit longer.
- Slightly better early game power.
- You can help your jungler with 1 or 2 heals. DON'T FORGET TO PLACE THEM AGAIN, AFTER THEY TAKE THEM!
- If you get low in a fight and get ignited (or DoT'ed), you can often prevent yourself from dying with your heals.
- When your lane opponent pokes you, heal yourself with the heals at your tower and place new ones, this is the most efficient way to get health for mana :)
- The enemy laner is most likely gonna try to destroy the heals when they can. If possible you can try punishing them for it.
- You have no Q on Lvl 1, which shouldn't be a problem, since most of the time you wouldn't get much out of hitting it anyway at the start of the game.
- You can't really help that much if your team wants to invade or gets invaded.

When you hit lvl 3 you might don't want to put a point into your E (Tunnel) yet, but instead put the 2nd one in your Q. This just makes you slightly stronger in lvl 3 trades. Be careful about this decision: Only do this if the enemy is pushing the lane more than you do and if you feel safe. Keep in mind that you're sacrificing your escape tool :P
Game Stages
Early Game:
- Focus on dodging enemy skillshots and farming. Your main goal is not to get kills, but to get as much farm as you can! Only go aggressive when your jungler is ganking your lane!
- Don't focus on hitting your enemy with your Q! It's better to use it to kill minions.
- Only if your enemy laner is positioning himself in a really bad spot, you're gonna use your Q to stun him. So don't try to force the stun, just wait for the right moment!
- If you get ignited use your heals to negate your death.
- If you push: Don't forget to ward at least one bush! Stay at the side of the warded bush. It is the best to stay near a wall, so if someone should gank you, you can escape through the tunnel.
- Wait for the right moment to collect chimes. (To see more about when to go for chimes, scroll down)
- It is best to always have your minions slightly out of range of your tower, so you can stay in front of it and stay pretty safe for any ganks.
- If you get low and have no more heals placed or your have to go back, be sure to place all 3 heals again, then go back, buy items and teleport/walk back to your lane.
- You should not have to go back, if you don't have tp up (unless you roamed a bit ^^)!
If you this is the case, you probably made something wrong.

Mid Game:
- At this stage you should have your Infinity Edge and Boots.
- You are now ready to take advantage of your roaming power.
- Help your teammates and make them know, that you probably have to get the kills, since your Items aren't cheap at all!
- You should not only gank when they need help! You still can get some money, if you get an assist or a kill!
- When should you go on another lane:
- Not only when they need help! You can get some money, if you get an assist or a kill!
1. Watch if the enemies are pushing enough for you to gank!
2. Look for chimes to collect on your way.
3. Make sure your lane is pushed a little bit, before you go.
The more of these "requirements" are the case, the more worth is the roam!
- Plan your route to the goal first!
- Try to get as near to the lane as you can and then ult the champion(s) you want to kill (if you aren't completely sure, that you will get them anyway).
- If you went near enough, you should be able to walk up to them in a way that you can get your stun on them.
- If you didn't use your ulti and they went under tower, you still can ult the tower for a pretty nice tower dive. This requires some practice however.

- On lane you can now play a bit aggressive. Still not too much! But now look for good moments to stun your enemy and if you get it on him try to make as much damage as you can without risking to lose much health yourself. Do this everytime you get the stun on your opponent, until he's low enough to get killed.
- AGAIN!!! Don't forget to still farm many creeps and chimes!

Late Game:
- As soon as you get one or two more Items, you should be able to 1v1 someone who is about as fed as you are (or less ^^)
- Only engage alone if you are 100% sure you can kill him!
- Try to stay with at least one team member that can probably protect you with cc or tankyness.
- If you want to engage in a teamfight, it hurts a lot, if you just ult half of their team, just before your frontline goes in! It's easier to kill less champs right?
- If you have a teammate that can hard cc a whole team (like a Sejuani or a Malphite) you can help them doing their job by throwing your ult on the biggest part of the enemy team.
- Always be kind of in the middle of your team! You still are squishy, keep that in mind!
- Always try to get a stun on someone, if you miss it, it's probably better to retreat unless you are ahead.
- You are kind of an assassin, so don't go in a 1v(more than 1) unless your are really ahead or you are 100% sure that you can beat them. Your passive cooldown is your now pretty much your only weakness!
- If you get really ahead and you have 5 dmg Items and 80> chimes, you should be able to litterally one-twoshot a squishy target.
Your Job in a Fight
What are you good for?
As an AD Bard, you generally have to punish anyone, that is out of position!
This is, what Bard can do better than anyone else.
In a teamfight, you should be able to land your stun really easy, if they are clumping.
If the frontline is stunned, you're free to walk one step forward to hit a basic attack on a squishy. Make sure to get back after it.
You are basicly an adc/assassin with hard cc.
You are a squishy target, so don't get caught yourself.
Stay back a little bit.
If the enemy team plays a bit stupidly, you could be able to use your ult on all of them, making you go through them to the backliners and get your stun on them. If you can do this, the fight will be pretty easy for your team, but don't force it, just wait for the right moment.

In every fight, think of yourself as a water gun, you need to get in and out of a fight. Your big damage needs to recharge for a few seconds. You can try and make use of your E (Tunnel), to make some time and travel a distance so your Meeps and your engergized attacks are back on track.

Focus on: CCing the enemy team, healing your foes if they get low, staying in a safe spot, killing the squishy targets, punishing everyone that is out of position and going in and out of fights.
When to go for Chimes?
When is a good time to go on a magical journey?
Well it's pretty much up to you! Just wait a bit for the right moment!
Here are some tips, when you SHOULD go to get chimes:
- When there are some on the same part of the map.
- When you get low on mana.
- When the enemy jungler is dead or busy.
- When your lane opponent is not on your lane and your minions are going for the tower.
- When the places you want to go are safe and warded.
- When you roam to another lane.

What is your goal on the amount of chimes you collected?
Basicly every minute 2 chimes are spawned randomly on the map (normally somewhere nearby).
My goal is to get at least 2*(Minutes InGame)-5.
You are 23:11 Minutes InGame. 2*23-5 = 46-5 = 41 Chimes.
If you don't have this amount of Chimes collected you probably should go on a magical journey in the next few minutes ^^
Power Spikes
Your power spikes are based on Lvls, Items and Chimes.
Lvl Powerspike:
- Basicly the more points you get on your Q, the safer and stronger you are, since every point on your Q makes the stun last longer.
- Lvl 6 really isn't a big powerspike, because it doesn't help you get more damage out of your kit. However it's great at setting up ganks and kills.

Item Powerspike:
- The biggest powerspike you get is as soon as you finish Statikk Shiv (and Infinity Edge), since you can now deal so much damage with your first basic attack on an enemy champion due to Statikk's passive and your Meeps. All these and the AD + Crits from Infinity Edge make you deal enormeous damage! And it gets even better the more chimes you collect.

Chimes Powerspikes:
- Basicly every 5 Chimes you get a little powerspike due to increasing damage.
- When you have 5 Chimes collected you get a slow on attacking with your meeps.
- When you have 15 Chimes collected you get AOE dmg when attacking with your meeps. This will be enlargened as soon as you get 35 chimes.
- Every time you get less meep respawn cooldown and especially when you get an extra meep-"slot", you get a lot stronger.
Summoner Spells
Okay, here I will explain a bit, why and when you should take what ^^
My recommended Summoner Spells if you are starting to play AD-Bard are Flash and Teleport.

Flash is essencial, with it you can reposition yourself pretty immediately to f.e. get away when getting ganked or get a better position to hit your stun.

Teleport helps you out a lot! You can go back to buy Items without losing too much cs. That's nice since you don't have much time to walk around because you'll probably miss some farm for chimes anyway. It also gives you more pressure on the map.

Ignite is an aggressive Summoner Spell, with which you actually get some more lane pressure. If you are more experienced with this build I recommend you to try picking ignite over teleport, because you'll have learned how to lane against many champions and that little ignite damage can often be deciding on whether you get the kill or not. But for beginners I still recommend you to consider taking teleport because it fits really good with AD-Bard's Playstyle and it's a safer way to get to late game.

Exhaust and Barrier can really be useful if you play against an assassin. But again, in the early game you'll probably not fight at all, but only farm cs and Teleport just makes you get more cs in general.

I don't really know why you should take one of the other summoner spells, since they really aren't worth taking on Bard.

Last of all it's up to you, what Summoner Spell you take, but I definetly had the best experience with Flash and Teleport and do recommend you to take them at all costs.
Okay now I'm gonna explain you, why I like to take the items listed above and why I don't recommend some other Items so let's get started with:

1. Starting Items
Basicly these Items just help you to get through your early game safely and more easly.
Doran's Blade makes last hitting easier and gives you a little boost to your sustain.

2. Berserker's Greaves
Makes it easier for you to dodge skillshots and move around. Does give you a small amount of attack speed, which is pretty good.

3. Noonquiver
Gives you your first small damage boost and makes it way easier to farm.
You can decide on buying this before Berserker's Greaves if you have enough gold and don't need the extra movement speed yet.

4. Statikk Shiv
Gives you a good amount of Attack Speed and Crit Chance along with a passive that synergises perfectly with your passive. This gives you a big boost to your bursting potential and an awesome wave clear to get even more minions in a short time.

5. Infinity Edge
Gives you a big boost to your damage output which will make it easier for you to hit harder. Infinity Edge was nerfed pretty hard a few years ago, which hurt this build a lot, but it returned to an acceptable state.

As soon as you get these Items, you should be strong enough to fight anyone that isn't too fed. Now you can decide wether you buy a last offensive or defensive item.

But I recommend you to only take a defensive item if you are getting blown up by assassins. My most recommended Offensive Items however are Youmuu's Blade, Duskblade or a Last Whisper Item.

Offensive Items:

1. Stormrazor
Is really nice! 20% Crit Chance, high AD, some Attack Speed and a great mobility and burst damage output. Paired with Statikk, this deals some really impressive damage!

2. Rapid Firecannon
You definetely need this item if you have difficulty with approaching your targets.
I think Rapid Firecannon is great just because of how safe you can stay and still be able to half(or more)-shot someone with your longrange basic attack.
Another good thing about rapidfire is that you are more likely to actually hit your prefered targets in teamfights (generally the squishies) even when they are behind their frontline. Also with Rapid Firecannon you get your charged basic attack more often, which is also a big plus.
Statikk's, Stormrazor's and RFC's damage are going to stack up.

3. Last Whisper Items
Gives you a little AD-Boost but is pretty strong against tanks because of the 35% Bonus Armor Penetration.
I generally recommend you to take this if you play against multiple tanks or self-healing champions like Vladimir or Swain.

4. The Collector
This is a great item if fighting against a squishy team.

5. Immortal Shieldbow/Bloodthirster
Both are good lifesteal items. However I don't really recommend building too much lifesteal, since you're not really supposed to constantly fight for a long time. Your goal is more of a get it, deal your damage, run away/around and deal more damage because of how your meeps and energized attacks work.

Defensvie Items:

1. Mercurial Scimitar
I recommend you taking this item against a heavy cc team.
If you face someone like Annie I'd even recommend you to take Quicksilver Sash pretty early because this item pretty much is the only thing that "counters" her.

2. Force of Nature
Definetly good, if you need Magic Resist and some extra mobility in fight.

3. Dead Man's Plate
This is one of my favourite defensive items, since it gives you "out of combat" movement speed, which - especially when collecting chimes - is never wrong when playing Bard, good defensive stats and a really cool passive that synergises good with Bard's bursty playstyle, giving him extra 100 Physical damage on his first autoattack after collecting 100 Stacks. Definetly recommend this item the most if you lack armor or general survivability!

4. Guardian Angel:
Well this item is pretty hard to explain. I kinda like it, but I don't think that the passive is too strong on Bard since he relies on hitting his Q and his Meeps.
In the time that you get revived, your enemies will have enough time position themselves to not get stunned by you. It can get you some time for your meep(s) to respawn however.
Well it's still up to you to decide wether you take it or not ^^
It's definetly good if need both: Attack Damage and Armor.

Items I do not recommend:

1. Trinity Force
It just doesn't help you as much as you might think it would do. There are too many better options, that fit better to AD-Bard's kit.

2. Guinsoo's Rageblade
I mean I really like the item and it WOULD give Bard good stats, but practicly it just doesn't work well with Bard. Until you've stacked up Guinsoo's Rageblade to get the Attack Speed and the extra passive you should have already killed your opponent.
After you've used your Meeps, you're not going to do a whole lot of damage anyway. Also Meeps are not considered On-Hit effects anyway, so the passive is pretty bad.
So it would make more sense to buy this against tanks, but really: If you want to deal more damage against tanks you should buy a Last Whisper Item, since it helps you out far more! ;)

3. Manamune/Muramana
Pls don't tell me, that you have to spam anything with Bard or that your mana costs are so high, that you're always out of mana. I won't believe you :|
If you have Blue Buff you can spam your Q and your W as many times as you want ;)
And since your chimes give you some mana too it shouldn't be much of a problem anyway.
Don't get me wrong, it would be a nice help for the laning phase, but it's just **** late.

4. Black Cleaver
First I also thought about it... High Ability Haste... Damage... Armor Penetration... MOVEMENT SPEED! Well the problem is, that you deal most of your damage with the first couple of Auto Attacks. So this Armor Penetration isn't this usefull as it really seems.
Here are some Quick Tips about how to use your Abilities.
There really aren't many Combos, since AD-Bard is practicly an ADC. None of the ADCs has many combos ^^

Let's Get Started!

Q-Stun -> Basic Attacks
Nothing Special :)

Basic Attack (Meep Slow) -> Q -> Basic Attacks
Helps you getting a cleaner stun, because of the slow.

R on enemy near Wall or Minions -> Position yourself in the right spot -> Q
Gives you an almost garantueed stun.

E -> Go through -> Wait for your enemy to come through it -> Q
Basicly relies on baiting your enemy to go through your tunnel, which will give you an almost garantueed stun.

E -> Not go through but walk ahead
This works good, if they don't have perfect vision of you (works really good at some spots in the jungle). Relies on the enemy thinking, that you went through the tunnel, which of course you didn't ;)

These are some little "combos", that could help you, especially if you are a beginner Bard player.
Final Words
And that's (already) it! It was a pleasure introducing you into the magical world of AD-Bard!
I hope you liked my little guide and would be really happy if you vote it.
I'm really interested in how well you did, if you tried it ^^
If you want to tell me anything, you're totally free to do it! :3
And if you should have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
I hope you all have a wonderful day and wish you all good luck for your next games of League of Legends.

The following Chapters are not up-to-date due to time constraints. Thanks for understanding.
AD Bard:

Primary Tree: Domination

Keystone: Hail of Blades
Hail of Blades just gets you really good stats. The extra basic attacks from the extra attack speed often makes you deal more damage than Electrocute in total, especially later in the game.
Electrocute is also pretty good, since it just adds up to your damage. In lane it can be hard to proc if you don't get a stun on your enemy, but generally: Hitting a Q and a Meep-Empowered Auto attack will do the trick.
Since Dark Harvest got "reworked" quite some time ago it really doesn't make a lot of sense picking it up anymore. You aren't going to get your enemies under 50% HP very often in lane.

Cheap Shot:
This one is pretty simple: You just deal more damage to the champions you've slowed with your meeps or stunned with your Q which is pretty much always after the first basic attack.

Ghost Poro:
So the big question here is why I prefer to pick Ghost Poro: Simply because you get a much safer early game without you having to walk into bushes risking to get killed by a camping jungler. Also it can give you a higher total of AD than the Eyeball Collection Rune while having a lot more utility.

Relentless Hunter:
This one is pretty self explanatory: Ravenous Hunter only heals you for ability damage, which you don't deal all that much. Ingenious Hunter gives you CDR on your Active Items, of which you likely won't have any anyway. And Ultimate Hunter gives you some CDR on your ult, which isn't essential. Also, bonus out of combat movement speed gives you a big boost in roaming and you will also collect chimes much quicker.

Secondary Tree: Sorcery (/Precision)

Because of the items you are going to pick up, you are most likely end up withless than 40% CDR. However 40% CDR is indeed pretty important, since you want to get your utility back as soon as possible. This rune gives you 10% CDR pretty early, which is a nice boost.

Gathering Storm:
Now this rune is special. I have to say: Early game, it sucks hard, but getting bonus AD, which scales up like a beast, the longer the game goes on, is just an almost guaranteed win, if the game goes on for more and more minutes. This rune is a huge boost to your ultra late game.

As an alternative you can choose to pick precision as your secondary tree, giving you less late game OPness, but pushing your snowball, if you can manage to get ahead.

If you ask me, this rune is great, the amount of extra gold you can get out of this run is really nice, as it gives you gold for takedowns, which means kills and assists. If you get ahead with this rune, it will make your snowball even stronger. Also, the heal is really good, as you can get away from ignite deaths pretty often and the healing in teamfights is not bad at all.

Legend: Alacrity:
I prefer this one simply because it makes your burst stronger where as others might help you from getting killed.

AP Bard:

Primary Tree: Sorcery

Keystone: Summon Aery
I like this keystone for two reasons:
1. It might doesn't deal as much damage in one time as other spells, however when making longer trades (which you definetly do from time to time with AP Bard), it sums up to a bigger total damage dealt, since it doesn't have a long cooldown at all. Your lane dominance too is very good, since you can pretty much always just attack your enemy and the cat (or whatever this thing is) jumps at him to deal some extra damage. Additionally you can save some teammates from bad situations, as it will additionally shield a healed ally.

Nullifying Orb:
This just makes you harder to kill by those stupid little long ranged burst mages. It just gives you more protection against Magic Damage.
The Ultimate Hat might also be a good choice here, however you don't really want to use your ult all that often, but you should just use it in the very right situations.

It is just awesome to get some more CDR, since with this Magic Penetration Build you don't get many options to get it.

Gathering Storm:
As I already said in the AD Bard Runes: Early game, Gathering Storm is pretty useless, but getting bonus AP, which scales up like a monster, the longer the game goes on, is just amazing. This rune is a huge boost to your late game. Additionally the other options don't really help you as much as this one.

Secondary Tree: Precision

(Same as I said before)

If you ask me, this rune is just OP at the moment, the amount of extra gold you can get out of this run is really obnoxious, as it gives you gold for takedowns, which means kills and assists. If you get ahead with this rune, it will make your snowball even stronger. Also, the heal is really good, as you can get away from ignite deaths pretty often and the healing in teamfights is not bad at all.

Legend: Alacrity:
I prefer this one simply because it makes your burst stronger where as others might help you from getting killed.
AP Bard
So here are some things about AP Bard!
First of all: Why and how does it even work and what's better compared to AD Bard?

Well the thing is: Bard has very high Base damages on his Q and his Meeps compared to his AP ratios! And that's why we don't want to build high AP Items like Rabadon's Deathcap, but focus fully on Magic Penetration: Thus the word AP-Bard isn't all that true, we'd have to say Magic Penetration Bard, to be close to 100% correctly.
A big advantage of AP Bard over AD Bard is it's sustain. Your heals are just so much better! Also, your early game overall is slightly stronger, but you fall off quite a bit late game. Additionally we're building much more "tankyish", with this build, making you harder to kill.
When looking at the damage, AD Bard surely has way more damage overall, with having more burst and still having damage without his Meeps.
AP Bard has more AOE damage, but he lacks good consistant damage, especially when no Meeps are up (which is a bigger problem early than late game) and your Q is on cooldown, but as soon as you have Wit's End, it shouldn't be that painful with the bonus 40 on hit damage.
You are dependand on hitting your Q, otherwhise you aren't doing much in a fight!
But buying Hextech Protobelt helps a lot with that and it adds up quite some bonus damage.

Also, AP Bard is much tankier with all the health and magic resist you're building.
The thing is, AD Bard is an Assassin-ADC, something like Quinn, you just try to kill the priority targets from a certain range and you still deal some damage even if your abilities are on cooldown.
AP Bard is like a Mage like Karma, you hit everything you can, if your enemy did die, good for you, if not, you have to "run" and wait for your abilities to come back up to start all over again. Bard is pretty good at doing that last part since he has his tunnel, his ultimate his heal and a big chunk of cc, to help him with all that.

AD Bard is more risky in my opinion, if you get caught, you die pretty quickly, but you deal some more damage overall. Also, if you get behind, you struggle at coming back in game, but you can still splitpush pretty good.
AP Bard however is more safe, having some good resistances while still beeing able to dish out some pretty good damage. If you get behind, you're still pretty useful and it can't be punished that hard, since your items are really cheap, so you don't necessarely need to be doing great, to get some items.

To sum up: AD Bard has more burst but is squishier. So you probably will kill more, but also die more. AP Bard is quite resistant, but doesn't deal as much damage as the AD one. So you will probably die less but also get less kills.
AP Bard is slightly stronger and safer early game.
And while late game an AD Bard can pretty much 1v1 everyone except some tanky high damage dealers like Xin Zhao or Shyvana or some late game carries like Yasuo or Master Yi, AP Bard struggles at doing that but feels very nice when fighting in a group of 2 or 3.

Overall I find both variants very fun and strong if played correctly, so find out for yourself, which one is more appealing for you.
AP Bard's Playstyle
When playing AP Bard, the most important thing is knowing where you are, where your enemies are, who you can fight and who will kill you anyway. In a 1v1 situation you most likely want to fight squishier targets who can not burst or outsustain you.

Overall, what you wanna do is try to hit everything on your target and estimate your damage output, trying to calculate if you can kill him or you need to retreat/recover. If so you wanna search for a wall you can tunnel through or use your ultimate on your opponent. When running away, look for nearby chimes to get a little speed up. Just buy some time until you get your Meeps and your Q back to continue fighting.
That's pretty much what you'd do with Bard anyway (even with AD Bard), but with AP Bard it is much more important since you really lack damage without Meeps or Qs.

When fighting someone knowing that you can kill your opponent, you wanna start throwing out your Q, if you can hit him. If you know you can't hit him at that moment or you know you could stun him afterwards, if you don't "waste" your Q, you can also just save it for some seconds. The important thing is to at least hit it on your target, since you depend on its damage, being the biggest part of your burst. You want to always attack your opponent with basic attacks, when you can in order to max out your damage and steal Magic Resist from him. Also to finish your enemy or to get closer to him in order to hit him with your other spells, you can use your Protobelt active, however it is more effective to actually hit your opponent with it instead of only gapclosing to him.

AP Bard is much more of a strategic play preparation, so you always want to check your surroundings and plan your actions.
Early Jungling
Starting and clearing the jungle:

So here's what you should do when jungling. First of all, start like on a lane, with your heals. Place them along the way of your jungling path, NOT all on the same spot!
The only thing that's different is that you don't need to collect the chimes yet, they can help you with getting some mana back. Just collect the ones, that are off the road you were planning to go.
Kite all the way around the jungle monsters to kill them.
The most effective way to jungle is to take a good spot for your Q to connect, so you get the stun off the big monster. Then you first basic attack the creature and them immediately Q them, so you still stun him, while you won't have to wait as long for your next basic attack, since your Q has a breef casting time anyway.
Then you just kite and try to land the Q-Stuns all the time.
As soon as you take a heal and you have your W back up, place a new one and if possible wait for it to charge.

Plan your path! Try to take all your chimes on the way to the next camp.
You just want to farm down all your jungle first.

If you want, you can lvl up your Q a second time, before lvling up your E, so you will have some better jungle clearing. Just be careful, if you get counterjungled, you won't have ANY escape and you will most likely just die.
Be aware of that risk!

On top or bot lane, you can use your tunnel (E) to make a very effective gank, since you can just go behind your enemies. Be careful (especially on bot) though, since you will place yourself in a very dangerous spot and if your teammates won't follow up you're pretty much screwed!
Also be careful about knockbacks (like Alistar's Headbutt)! They can just knock you into their tower, if you go behind them.

On mid lane, you better not "waste" your E, since you won't benefit as much from going through it anyway if your enemy is not in a risky spot. And if he is, he can still escape through other ways, so it's better to save it in case he manages to get away or if you have to disengage (for example in case of a countergank).
Also, your enemy can see (and even hear) your tunnel, as soon as you place it and can react really fast and just go back so that he will already be almost safe, when you arrive on the lane.
You could just run in behind him from the river or from the enemy jungle. But if you think you have to gank by tunneling, just do it! :)
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