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Sun Tzu's: The Art of Annie
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-Sun Tzu, the Art of War
Hello, I am Captain Killsteal and I have created this Annie guide for both players of skill and those who are new to the character: offering an in-depth, yet understandable guide to the pyromaniac, Annie. I am also showing you why Annie should be your AP carry of choice for Summoner's Rift.
[*] First, this guide is not meant to be quickly scanned and employed. That being said, the guide is also designed for players mid-loading screen to quickly pick up a basic build/skill order. ;P
[*] Second, Annie is a character of opportunities. Skill on Annie is often misconstrued as faceroll, but there's a lot more to Annie than Q-R mashing.
[*] Third, playing Annie is about having fun. Sun Tzu explicitly states that to know yourself and your enemy are necessary for victory, and I feel that understanding Annie and the class of opponent you're up against is a major part of obtaining victory.
+ Powerhouse of Damage
+ Reliable Spell Cooldowns
+ Source of Team Morale and Admiration
+ All-Around Joy to Play
+ Easy High Damage During Mana Management
+ Easy to Grasp Onto
+ Viable CC
- Difficult to Use in Laning Against Counters
- Situationally Vulnerable
- Glass Cannon (Low Defenses)
- Difficulty Initiating
- Gold Dependency
Examples of two Annie games ending in 20 minute victories in the late month of January 2013:
The goal of pre-game building Annie, then, is to increase the total damage of her strikes to achieve maximum situational effectiveness: raw ability power.
Above is a list of prefered masteries on Annie, but any traditional 21/X/X build also serves her well. Through personal experimentation with both 9 points in support and defensive, however, I have found that the best setup for her is the use of 9 support talents to:
1. Reduce Ignite's Cooldown
2. Increase Out of Combat Movement Speed
3. Increase Mana Regen
4. Reduce Flash CD
This way, you don't need to start with a doran's ring to be successful on Annie, which allows you to gain either sustain, speed or extra AP, and the mana regen conjunctively used with last hitting creeps with Q can create advantageous laning results.
With masteries explained, the next step is choosing appropriate Summoner Spells for Annie. Traditional and conventional in my spell selection, I prefer Flash and Ignite on Annie, with Cleanse as a third possibility. Cleanse is an excellent choice when choosing 9 points in defensive, since it becomes upgraded significantly by the mastery Summoner's Resolve. Thus, Cleanse acts as a nifty tool for team fights, allowing Annie to participate to a higher degree in otherwise impossible situations. Flash and Ignite are clear preferences, with Ignite coupling well with Annie's burst, and Flash as a gap closer/escape tool. More will be explained on the creative uses of Summoner Spells later, in the Combat section.
Runes are a creative opportunity for playing Annie. For one, Annie is a champion of AP-burst, therefore requiring high ability power to remain effective. Typically, ability power-burst champions utilize starting or scaling blue runes and magic penetration reds. For Annie, however, there are a few options. Above, in the runes section, you will notice that there are 3 choices in yellows and 2 for quints. A player may choose to extend Annie's early game burst capability by sacrificing potential armor or mana regen runes for ability power, gaining ~5 ability power from yellow runes, or choose 6 extra magic penetration over starting AP. Both are viable options, but mathematically, the traditional 9 blue AP, 9 mana regen yellows, 9 magi-pen reds, and 3 AP quints reign supreme. Why? Well, read on, Dr. Watson.
Unbeknownst to many, % magic penetration outperforms raw magic penetration at lower levels of AP.
[*] For instance, before 375 AP, Deathcap and Void Staff amount to higher damage than Deathcap and Abyssal Scepter. However, once hitting the 376 mark, a player will experience significant increases in damage stacking raw, additive magic penetration and ignoring % magi pen.
What now? Recall the dilemma with runes, choosing a whopping 6 Magic Pen from Quints against 15 Ability Power Quints. If you concluded that 15 starting AP from quints is superior to 6 Magic Pen just now, you are partially right. It's at the higher levels of ability power that this specific condition of % vs flat magic pen enters into play, encouraging %mpen at lower levels over flat mpen. Typically, Annie is runed for a strong starting game, hence the beginning AP. Still, Magic Pen quints remain a viable option for those interested in encouraging their mid/late game capabilities.
Annie Itemization Specifics
[*] Liandry's and Deathcap are both must-haves. A player cannot simply outperform another Annie without these. For one, Deathcap scales far too well with Annie's high AP coefficients. Second, with damage done as a dot from each spell, Liandry's extends Annie's burst beyond natural means. Third, the winning factor, Liandry's procs continually off of Tibber's aura. That's right. This alone makes Annie a mid-game glass cannon. If you are facing off against an opponent you are CLEARLY ahead of, and only CLEARLY ahead, you may build Liandry's over Deathcap for an early ganking advantage. Then, it is advantageous to quickly build Deathcap (otherwise your damage will fall behind your mid-lane opponent.)
A further ambiguity in the item selection gives rise to the issue of boot enchantments. Typically, alacrity is the better choice, and it remains thus. Unless, of course, a player chooses rylai's over abyssal scepter (theorycrafting aside, sometimes you need to kite and slow as apc). At this point, furor reigns, creating a decent kiting tool when used with the rylai's slow.
Enchantment: Furor v. Enchantment: Alacrity
Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Last, the concept of snowballing. If your Annie hasn't gotten first blood, 4-5 kills with 1-0 deaths, or 100 CS by 12-15 mins, then don't build as if you are snowballing. Similar to the concept of rushing an early Liandry's, a player does not want to veer from a steady build if such a method cannot be afforded. Hence, Zhonyas: an item that seems superior to others in regards to its ability damage increases, but magic penetration and mobility reign superior if not ahead of your opponents late-game. (Tip: a player can also control Tibbers during Zhonya's.)
The starting choices in this guide are liberal. For tradtional Annie, I have chosen a non-traditional starting build, as visible above. (How unorthodox!)
A tome and a potion pack one heckofa punch with a starting AP of 55 or 60+ if you rune according to the guide. These items are best used against other burst characters, such as Katarina, other Annies, and Fizz.
For playing against tank characters, I prefer to start with boots and potions. This is an acceptance of the fact that bursting these opponents down will require more than 1-2 full combos, sometimes it may require 5-6. These champions include Galio or Malphite.
However, there is a small class of champions that fit into neither of these categories. This category includes sustain champions or direct counters of Annie. For facing this mixed category, champions like Heimerdinger, Vladimir, and Swain, a starting build includes a crystal flask and two pots. It seems unconventional and contraditory to Annie's style but often these champions can be bested by a little durability and moderate damage combined, at the cost of some burst damage. Thus, Rod of Ages makes for a great mid game alternative to rushing Deathcap or Liandry's, items that can be acquired later in the game. It is also possible to face these opponents with boots and potions, while playing defensively. However, laning tactics will be explained in greater detail below.
Rod of Ages
[*] If you haven't outplayed your lane, stick with a safe, controlled method of building Annie (traditional build).
[*] After achieving 376+ AP, Liandry's and Abyssal Scepter become must-haves for achieving maximum damage per burst.
[*] Select starting items based on who you are facing instead of how you wish to play.
Indeed, and are you prepared?
If you are not, then you seek to be; that is why you are reading a guide. Terrible highbrow humor aside, a player seeking to embody the ideals of Sun Tzu's: The Art of Annie must win his or her lane by maintaining these three objectives. Note: These objectives seem trivial, but many players ignore them or forget how essential they are. Often times, players mistakenly shoot for kills instead of farming, leaving loss by aggressive recklessness. Annie is one of my favorite champions because of her ability to overcome odds when adhering to these rules:
1. Protect your turret and your allies.
Sadly, many players forget just how important turrets are. These kinds are the dragon-humping no-gooders, and they are no fun to play with. Ensure your allies survive and your bases remain intact- communicate with your team and let them know what you are doing.
2. Gather CS in lieu of an opening.
This will be a shocker to many, but players forget to gather CS in favor of kills. Again, Annie
serves an excellent role in last hitting with her Q for building her stun or gathering CS. Do NOT sit in lane with her stun unless you are low on mana or hp and plan to simply save it as a defensive measure (eg. you face an aggressive opponent). It is wasteful and leads to lower CS. Just a few creep kills are equivalent to a champion kill, so undermining your opponents efforts to the degree of denying yourself is not necessary for personal success, leading to the next objective (eg. don't force an opening when there is none, tell the pesky jungler to come back later).
3. Secure kills, but do not overextend nor endanger yourself or your teammates.
This is very important- do not put your teammates in a situation where they will die, like the above rules state. Kills are important but its a terrible scenario when both you or your ally dies with an opponent. This negates your efforts, likely wastes your cooldowns used in securing the opening for the kill and strengthens the enemy equally. The phrase "worth it" could not often be farther from the truth in this situation.
With the basic rules to laning as Annie spelled out above (and most characters, actually), the situational uses of Annie in lane follow.
Annie's Q: Disintegrate
Annie's Q is perfect for last hitting, since it restores mana completely on kill and deals high damage, allowing players to gain last hits on higher hp creeps with limited drawbacks. Thus, the higher AP you possess at the start, the greater your CS advantage will be over your opponent, increasing your likelyhood further of a snowball scenario. Be careful when using this spell to last hit that you will not take damage from your opponent as a consequence, nor that you will be forced into a situation where you can do nothing but take damage from your opponent. This ability scales well with AP.
Annie's shield and cone are great CSers later on in the game, or when multiple creeps are in the appropriate hp range.
Annie's E: Molten Shield
Her shield is great for building stacks to her stun, and excellent when used as a buckler or sorts during harass exchanges with the enemy to absorb some of the enemies hits and return some damage herself. It increases her armor, returns high damage with high AP, and increases her magic resist for a short duration on a short cooldown. It also can potentially proc Liandry's.
Annie's W: Incinerate
Annie's cone attack deals area of effect damage in front of her, but in my experience on Annie, being in range to use her W cone is rare without a stun opportunity. It deals higher base damage but possesses an inferior spell coefficient. (It does not scale as well with AP than her Q).
Annie's R: Summon: Tibbers
Tibbers is, hands down, Annie's best spell. Using Tibbers deals extremely high damage in an area of effect, and summoning her pet bear which is controllable while under the effect of Zhonya's, GA, and from a great distance. Its aura can also proc Liandry's, scales with AP, and deals high damage. Personally, I've secured kills with Tibbers' aura alone. This spell scales very well with AP.
Annie's Passive: Pyromania
Using 4 spells triggers a stun effect on Annie's next offensive spell used. Using her shield will not consume the effect nor alter her stacks. This stun is very powerful, since, mentioned above, it allows use of her W, and disables her opponent.
Which, brings me to my point- how to best manage her stacks, what attacks to stun with, and developing strong burst rotation. If 4 attacks create a stun on next spell, then one would think to save the spell situationally. Forget about needing to use Q to farm- players in a 1 on 1 situation in a creepless lane with an opponent should not save a stun for an opponent! As contradictory as it seems, stopping spell casts at 3 instead of 4 remains advantageous. For one, the opponent can see the Pyromania spell effect on Annie. This, in conjunction with her dps rotation, will create a false sense of opening for your opponent to attempt to exploit.
That her opponent dances out of range of her Q (except for Tibbers' reach of course) and is within burstable hp range,
That her stacks are already at 4 and she has no choice but to engage or wishes to shake things up against an adaptive opponent,
That she is engaged in a teamfight and quickly needs to stun as many opponents as possible.
1. Pop Molten Shield pre-combat if able.
2. Summon: Tibbers on every CD except when engaging outside of a teamfight or in the above circumstances.
3. Use Disintegrate on cooldown.
4. Use Incinerate cones when able/in-range (likely when the opponent is stunned).
5. Use Molten Shield to fill.
A player's ability to adhere to these priorities and situationally adapt the uses of Annie's spells often claims laning victory as Annie. Thus, perfecting and sharpening one's use of her abilities becomes essential.
As human beings, we tend to intellectually categorize things into categories. For Westerners, we see players as good or bad, generally speaking. Although this is because of dichotomous, black-and-white roots around which bipartisan polities and thoughts arise, not all people in the world look at things this way. Easterners, for example, (prior to globalization) saw the world in terms of what is- they examined everything and explained the reasoning for why it was the way it was, following an extreme concept of how things should be (Sun Tzu's thoughts on how things must be, the Samurai honor system). Although this is a sweeping generalization, it's a succinct summary. Viewing League of Legends players as types of player in this Eastern manner gives way to a humorous look at things, as well as a greater understanding on how to deal with them (I won't begin to categorize my allies here):
Reckless and hell-bent on First Blood, this opponent will seek to undo you to a fault. Allow this player to make his or her undoing and then unleash your fury. An easy win for Annie.
Lacking both confidence and capability, this player type will avoid direct engagement. Be careful not to embody the aggressor once taking on this player, as overextending may lead to your untimely end. Like most situations involving confusing personality types, play with patience and await an opening while grabbing farm and denying your opponent.
This player understands your strategy well, or understands the importance of farming against a burst-type (or in general.) Attempt to draw a rouse from this opponent into a state of aggression but no more, less you seek to suffer death from creep damage, fall into a farming disadvantage, or overextend.
Experienced or clever players will vary their strategies when it is fitting, be wary of this one. Attempt to read his or her movements (not too deep) and understand what it is they are trying to achieve. Remember, a trickster typically pokes when he or she is incapable of besting you in an all out conflict and defends when awaiting an opening. Be wary of this opponent securing his allies' gank as well.
My personal favorite, this opponent cannot read you. He or she commonly errs and is flustered easily. He or she is unsure about his or her general role in the game, and therefore circumstantially relies on emotion to combat you. An easy victory.
Difficult for you and your allies, the roaming opponent is one that thrives on ambiguity and chaos. This opponent suffers from a good jungler and a few wards, so buy some of your own to combat him or her. Communication and intell is key.
-Additionally, I credit the ambiguous author(s) "Sun Tzu" for his (or their) alleged work on military theory, responsible for the theme and details of this guide.
-Credit also goes to various voters and commentators on this guide: I give you a special thanks for taking the time to respond to this guide and provide improvement feedback, it is appreciated.