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Akali Build Guide by TrueSol

Assassin Dancing in the Shadows - S3 Akali In-Depth (with Video)

Assassin Dancing in the Shadows - S3 Akali In-Depth (with Video)

Updated on July 27, 2013
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League of Legends Build Guide Author TrueSol Build Guide By TrueSol 20 2 121,147 Views 37 Comments
20 2 121,147 Views 37 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author TrueSol Akali Build Guide By TrueSol Updated on July 27, 2013
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Overview and Video-Guide

Note: This guide does not include the recent changes to a) the removal of the 7-potion start or b) the nerf to Akali's ultimate and the addition of vision to Akali's W! Stay tuned for an update in the near future, but for now the play-style hasn't changed much.

Welcome to my mid-lane Akali guide! Below you'll find a detailed explanation of what is covered in the video, including when and how to build Akali in different situations. I've been playing Akali almost exclusively since she was released about 3 years ago and know her inside and out. This season I used Akali to carry myself up 5 divisions from Silver III to Gold III, and will hopefully hit Platinum by the end of S3. Enjoy the video, and most importantly enjoy playing the hot nurse!
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Fleet Footwork
Phase Rush

As I mentioned in the video, Akali does very, very well in the early and mid-game with the Hybrid Penetration runes. The reason is that in order to trigger the second portion of her Q it is necessary to auto-attack or use E. Thus, every time you trigger the full damage of your Q you'll necessarily be hitting them with physical damage too. As most mid-lane champions will not spec very much into Armor, the extra penetration will allow you to put down even more damage and harassment early and mid game in lane.

As for Seals and Glyphs, flat resistances scale really well with potions, as the flat health provided from the potion will turn into more effective health with the extra resists you have. This is especially true as Akali has a very weak early game, so you'll likely be chugging through quite a few potions before you hit that precious level 6.

Quints are fairly straightforward: you don't need extra movespeed as your ult should provide you with more than enough mobility, thus the extra AP is the next obvious choice. Additionally, flat AP is always good on a champion like Akali who scales well in the early and mid-game.
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This is fairly straightforward. As a mid-lane assassin your job is to win your lane, and deal huge burst damage while roaming. As such, you'll want to go with an extremely aggressive mastery setup. I opt for the +3 damage from Brute Force and extra minion damage from Butcher . The reason for this is that last hitting is consistently overlooked by many, many players at all Elo ranges. Even if these points only net you an extra 5-10 creeps in the early game, they're already worth it.

If you feel you don't want extra help last-hitting then good alternatives for these points are Destruction or Archmage . Havoc is an acceptable option as well, but there are generally better alternatives.
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Start of Game

1x 4x 2xsight ward

As per the build order, you're going to want to head to lane with a Rejuvenation Bead 4x Health Potion and 2x Sight Ward. Unfortunately the 3.6 patch nerfed Akali's prefered 9 potion 2 ward start, but the sustain from Rejuvenation Bead is your next best option, especially as you can later turn it into a Warmog's Armor. The reason is that your main job at this point in the game is to survive until you get to level 6. Additionally, since Boots and 3x Health Potion is no longer an optimal start, it makes sense to tap into the ridiculous amount of sustain 9x Health Potion can provide you. Also, it will make trading really easy, as you'll likely be able to trade evenly on damage but still come out ahead because of your sustain.

As I mentioned earlier, the 1,350 HP provided by these 9 potions will turn into even more effective HP because of your flat Armor and MR runes.

Finally, as most people will recognize Akali's early game as her greatest weakness, it will become fairly commonplace for the enemy jungler to camp your lane. However, starting the game with 2 wards will substantially nullify any early game jungle pressure they might try to apply.

First Back

2x 2xsight ward

You're going to want to rush the Hextech Revolver as your first item. The reason is that the AP and spell vamp provided by this 1200 gold item are unmatched, and on a champion like Akali where you desperately need that AP and spellvamp to survive through your all-in burst rotations, the revolver is a fantastic choice. Don't forget to keep buying wards, as warding often will allow you to continue to play aggressively without fear of getting baited into a jungle gank.

Second to Third Back

2x 2xsight ward

By the end of early game you should at least have these items picked up. The cutlass will provide you with a crucially important active slow and damage ability, in addition to amazing sustain through the provided lifesteal and spellvamp added from your passive. Additionally, as cutlass was recently made much cheaper to pick up initially, it can be gotten quite a bit earlier than the full gunblade, allowing you to roam and all-in even earlier.

Mid Game Core

These are your core items on Akali. As I mention in the video, Mercury's Treads are a fine alternative if the enemy team has a prohibitive amount of crowd-control.

At this point in the game, around the 13-15 minute mark, you should be the strongest champion in the game. It is up to you to assert your dominance by roaming bottom and picking up kills now that you've got your gunblade. Additionally, pressuring objectives like Dragon or outer towers is a great idea, as the moment you pick up your completed Hextech Gunblade you transform into a killing machine.

Late Game Options

Akali's late game is all about adapting to the enemy team and your own team. The video explains a lot of this, but essentially you'll want to pick up something like Haunting Guise if you want a quick power spike, a Giant's Belt if you find yourself lacking a little bit of HP in the mid game (to be later turned into a Warmog's Armor ), or a Seeker's Armguard if you think you might want a Zhonya's Hourglass later.

Towards the late game, items to consider are Rabadon's Deathcap if you want the most pure AP damage, Lich Bane if you're looking for single target burst to get down that one important carry, Abyssal Mask if you're against a double AP team or a fed AP carry, and Zhonya's Hourglass if your own team is lacking initiation and you're getting focused too quickly.

Lastly, and obviously, a Void Staff is required against teams with more than 2-3 champions with greater than 80-100 MR.

Ideal End Game Build

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Skill Sequence

As I mention in the video, you're going to want to get Q at level 1 and make sure to have a point in each skill at level 3. While you're going to definitely want to max Q first, it still makes sense to start QWEQ rather than QWQE. The reason is that at level 3 adding the incremental 25-50 damage on Q is not nearly as great as adding an incremental 60+ aoe damage from your E. Additionally, having a point in E will allow you to trigger the second portion of damage on your Q from farther away, as the area of effect from E is more than double Akali's auto attack range.

After these first three levels, you'll want to prioritize R > Q > E > W:
Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
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Always go Flash-Ignite. There are no other options here. The reason is that you need to snowball, and snowball early. Ignite in particular is helpful here. Plus, flash lets you win all-in exchanges early game by flashing to trigger additional Q damage.

Late game these are still the best summoner spells. Your job is to jump onto the enemy carry and kill them. Sometimes they'll play super passively and stay very far back behind their frontline. The only way to get to the carry in these kinds of situations is flash-ulting all the way onto their backline. Additionally, ignite will drastically reduce the amount of healing the AD carry will get late game from Bloodthirster or Blade of the Ruined King.
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Early Game Details

As I mention in the video, you're always going to want to start 9 Health Potions and 2 sight wards. As weird as it sounds, this is actually one of the reasons that Akali is seeing a lot more play now than it did in season 2. Because Boots + 3 Health Potions is no longer the optimal starting build on most champions it frees Akali up to start with this hyper defensive opening, effectively nullifying any early game harass and jungle pressure you may have had to deal with. Just remember to pay attention to which side of mid lane your enemy leashed from and ward accordingly. For example, if you see they leashed red buff, it is a good idea to put down an early ward on that said, as often times junglers will try to pull off a quick level 2 gank with red buff to put their mid-lane miles ahead.

Once you're in lane, take a look at who you're laning against. If it's a melee champion, it's okay to play somewhat aggressively starting right at level 1. Use your Q to harass, then as a zoning tool once they are tagged with a mark.

Against ranged opponents, especially those with substantial early game harass, it is more advisable to play passively the first few levels and use your Q primarily to help you last hit. Your goal is to last hit, harassing the enemy is just an added bonus if you can sneak it in.


Once you hit level 4-5, start using your Q primarily as a harassment tool. Once your opponent is tagged with a Q throw down your shroud in the middle of their creep-line. This should zone them from cs for ~6 seconds, or if they get greedy be sure to trigger the mark. If you have time to throw a new mark on them and trigger it with E, all the better.

Finally, don't forget that you have 9 Health Potions! If your opponent starts with less sustain than you, it is okay to engage them for even-damage trades, as you'll eventually come out ahead if you can force them to run out of potions before you.

Skill Order Theory

As this is sometimes a common question I encounter, the reason you want to get all three skills at level 3 (you want to skill QWEQ, not QWQE) is simply that it does the most damage in small trades and allows you to farm somewhat more easily. While simply throwing a Q onto an opponent will obviously do more damage with a level 2 Q than a level 1 Q, if you are able to get within melee range for an E to trigger that Q you'll already be doing more damage.

If you look at your Q, putting a second point into it gives you +25 damage on initial hit, and another +25 damage if the mark is triggered (+50 damage total). If you instead keep it at level 1 and put a point into E instead you'll be getting an automatic +30 damage +0.6 times AD (should be roughly +40 dmg), and +0.3 times your AP (+5 damage or so) for a grand total of:

25 + 25(if triggered) = 50 Damage
30 + 40 + 5 = 75 Damage

Additionally, this will deal physical damage, something few mid champions spec against in the early stages of the game. Lastly, because the range is more than double that of your auto-attack, it will make triggering marks that much easier, allowing you to use the Q-E harassment rotation starting even earlier.
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Key Matchups

Often enemies will attempt to counter-pick Akali to shut her down in lane and prevent her from snowballing. While this can be very annoying, especially if you pick Akali early in the order, here are a few important tricks for laning against some of the more difficult opponents.

_____________ Lee Sin _____________
While Lee Sin isn't terribly common mid-lane, often he'll be picked up as a jungler against a team with Akali. If the enemy team picks up Lee Sin be extra mindful of what side the enemy leashes from and make sure you put down an appropriately-timed ward on red side in response. This means if the enemy Lee Sin starts red, ward as soon as you get to lane in the immediate river brush. If Lee Sin starts blue, you can wait until 2:30 to put down your red-side ward, and 3:00 for your blue-side ward. The reason is that these are the more common timings for early game ganks, and much of these timings depend on the start position and jungle path of the enemy.

In lane, Lee Sin is actually not as strong against Akali as many people think. While his E will obviously nullify much of the utility of your shroud, there are still a couple important things to realize:

1) If you can pre-tag Lee Sin with a Q so that when he ends up brawling you are able to auto-attack, Q-E for a double-proc, you'll end up out-trading him.
2) Depending on his starting items, much of his sustain will come from auto-attacking enemies with his Iron Will. If you tag Lee with a Q you can try to bait out the shield before triggering the second part, or simply put damage on him while he's busy attempting to heal off creeps.
3) Use your creeps effectively to avoid is Q. Lee Sin is a melee champion, obviously, and as such you should be able to harass him from distance with your Q while standing in the middle of your creep wave. Just be careful as he will likely try to W to one of his own creeps before trying to tag you with his Q.

_____________ Swain _____________
Swain is, in my opinion, the hardest champion to deal with as Akali, especially if he is given a blue buff at 7 minutes. Early game he has decent harass with his spells and auto attacks, and once he gets his ult and either Blue Buff or a mana item he can outsustain much of the damage you provide. Furthermore, his kit is very good at dealing with melee champions trying to all-in him.

In order to deal with this, don't try to all-in him if he has mana and his cool-downs. Try to bait out his Nevermove or Torment before ulting in for a quick R-Q-E burst. If you get rooted in place while trying to harass him, you're going to have a bad time. As such, always move, and simply attempt to outplay him by baiting his cool-downs.

Additionally, if you get behind in lane, consider roaming and trying to pick up some kills in your bottom lane. Swain is very weak vs a fed AD, so if you can sacrifice some of your own farm to help your AD out you'll have a much better time in late game. Additionally, it's hard for Swain to push lane effectively to punish you for roaming unless he uses a large amount of Mana.

Other mid-lane champions to be weary of are Malphite, Galio and Cho'Gath. What do these all have in common? They're very beefy tanks with decent burst damage at level 6. Simply try to wear them down with Q-harass as they all need to get into melee range to last hit unless they plan on spending a huge amount of mana. Play these matchups safe, and slowly whittle down their health bars. They're all far-too tanky for you to burst in an all-in exchange.
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Mid Game Details

Once you're level 6 you want to immediately start playing super aggressively. The key here is not to let up on your aggression for the next 5-10 minutes in lane. Don't let your opponent last hit without making them pay for it with at least an R-Q-E combo whenever you have multiple ultimate stacks to use.

Ideally, you'll apply a good amount of pressure right at level 6, forcing your opponent to heal. If not, farm up to 1300-1400 gold and back yourself. You'll want to be hitting this gold target around level 7, so if you're consistently behind this consider practicing last hitting.

On your first back, pick up your Hextech Revolver, sight wardwards and potions. If you can, consider walking straight to your bottom lane for a level 6-7 lane gank. The bottom lane will likely not be level 6 at this point, and you will have all 3 ultimate charges by the time you get there, setting you up for some heavy pressure on the enemy AD. Ideally you can get a kill, but any pressure is good pressure.

Continue playing aggressively in mid lane, taking as many opportunities to roam as possible. If you begin to fall behind, make sure that you simply focus on last hitting at your tower. Additionally, ask your jungler if it's okay to take his wraiths or wolves as the sustain Revolver gives you should allow you to do either safely. Remember, Akali has very good base damage, and simply getting your Hextech Gunblade at the 15 minute mark will mean that you can never be ignored.

Once you pick up your Gunblade, force some small-sided fights at Dragon or outer towers. Akali is exceptionally good at picking off a stray or careless opponent. Your team should easily be able to capitalize on any picks you can provide by securing these mid-game map objectives.
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Late Game

You have two jobs when late game roles around:

1) Try to pick-off a stray opponent. You are still an assassin and should always play like one. If you see a careless enemy farming lane or jungle creeps (and most importantly you know they're alone) make sure you go absolutely HAM to get that kill. Forcing 5v4 fights around major objectives like Baron and Inner Turrets is one thing that Akali excels at.
2) If the enemy team is doing a good job staying safe and roaming together, make sure you are NOT the one to initiate a fight. Wait in the back line with your AD Carry until your tanks or initiators throw down your CC. Once you see key crowd control skills be used by both teams, you want to dive in and kill the highest threat target. Be weary of

If you know you will be going super deep each fight, consider picking up a Zhonya's Hourglass to give yourself some time for your cool-downs and for your team to push up to you after picking off a key target. After your first kill, continue focusing high-threat targets. If a bruiser is diving your AD, you may jump back and protect him, but only if doing so won't give the enemy burst or DPS free reign to pump out damage. Your first job is always to kill high-damage and high-threat targets.

Remember, in late game there are generally two types of damage sources: burst and sustained DPS. As a burst assassin, your job is to take out the enemy's sustained DPS while your own AD carry is safely whittling down the enemy front-line. This is especially true in the current Blade of the Ruined King era, where long-range auto-attack champions have become even safer against the typical frontline bruiser. However, as you are Akali you don't particularly need to worry about getting kited by long range AD carries as you should always have three ultimate stacks and hopefully Flash and your active to help you close-out your assassinations. Just make sure that if you dive onto their AD carry that the enemy team doesn't just turn and collapse on you! This can happen if you dive in too early, before the rest of their team has fully engaged.
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Team Fights

.. Team-fights follow a similar pattern to late game roaming. You want to stay with your team, or roam through the jungle looking to pick off stray enemies. It is crucially important only to roam like this if you are sure that a) you can kill any enemy you encounter, and b) you have enough wards to know for certainty that there will be AT MOST one enemy in the jungle. You cannot be roaming by yourself when the dude-potential is 3-5.
In team-fights, remember that your ultimate has 0.5 AP scaling each time you use it, so if you know you're going to get a kill or assist on a target use the ultimate simply for damage, as the resets you get will substantially increase your overall AP scaling in a team-fight.

.. Finally, don't underestimate your own spell-vamp and life-steal. While getting exhausted when you dive the AD sucks, often times it is worth it stick on him and wait for the exhaust to wear off before Q-R-E'ing the AD. Akali is very much an all-in champion, so retreating once exhaust or a CC is thrown on you is generally not the best idea, especially if they have oracles or pink wards. Simply attempt to survive until your cool-downs come back - your damage rotation will almost always provide you with enough sustain to survive a deep dive onto a lone AD carry.

Team-fight mechanics:

If your team has unreliable initiation, the onus to make some big plays and team-fights may fall on you. If this becomes the case, it is imperative that you pick up a Zhonya's Hourglass. The utility provided by the active on this item is unparalleled, especially when you're trying to bait out the enemies big CC skills so your team can effectively counter-engage.

If you get to this point and need to force the engage yourself, try to use your ultimate to get onto someone in their mid or backline. As soon as you do this, especially if both teams had been posturing around an inhibitor or Baron, the enemy team will likely throw as much CC as they can at you in an attempt to shut you down before you can get to their carry. As soon as you ult in, you're going to want to mash your Zhonya's button. Make sure that you have this item in a slot that is easy for you to press, as you will have little room for error. Ideally, you'll enter stasis right as the enemy unloads their damage and crowd-control onto you. This will give your team a large, 2.5-second window to counter-engage with their own CC and damage. After you return from Stasis, either immediately throw down a shroud (if you are certain there are no sight ward or "oracle's), run back out of the fight, or immediately jump onto the carry if it looks like your team's engage went well.

While this play is risky, it can be one of the best ways to force a winning engage, especially if the enemy team has a defacto advantage when it comes to team-fight ultimates and crowd-control. However, be VERY careful when executing this kind of bait, and ALWAYS make sure you explain to your own team exactly what you're going to do beforehand.
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Closing Remarks

Thanks for checking out this guide. Hopefully Akali will help you as much as she did me. If you see any typos, broken links or incorrect information as the patches roll in please leave a comment so I can fix them.

I'd like to thank jhoijhoi for her dividers.
League of Legends Build Guide Author TrueSol
TrueSol Akali Guide
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Dancing in the Shadows - S3 Akali In-Depth (with Video)

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