Build Guide by Shreder
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Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
The Quintessential Vlad
Intro: I love playing Vlad. With the game the way it is currently, he is by far my favorite tanky-dps champion. So, I thought I would show you how to play him and succeed like me.
1. Runes, Masteries, and Summoner Skills
Basic AP DPS rune set. I prefer Dodge in the yellow slots as AD carries are going to tear you a new one. You have a lot of health, but you have almost no armor, which equals lots of big numbers for enemy carries that are built properly. You could trade them for health or AP, but I don't see the point. Dodging one attack is going to be greater in terms of EHP than the 48.15 health you will get from 9 straight health yellows, and the 2 AP you gain from his passive is just a waste, in my opinion (which is the only one that matters in this guide, write your own guide if you want to be wrong) . The Reds and Blues are a must, do not change them. Quints can be changed if you like. I enjoy starting with +100 health. It makes the early game for Vlad a lot easier (considering he is far-and-away the worst champion early game).
The masteries here focus on increasing your damage and lowering your cooldowns. Getting Vlad as much cooldown reduction without needing to buy CDR items is key. The more Vlad can spam his abilities, the more damage he is doing, and the longer he is living. Utility is just the best tree to have when playing Vlad. We go 21 points down utility because when Vlad has both Ghost and Ignite available it should be a guaranteed kill (I would have said 'is a guaranteed kill', but I didn't want to make you feel bad when you mess it up; cause I know you, and you will).
Ignite and Ghost are the only two summoner spells you should have. The rest of them do too little, or don't give Vlad as much functionality. The only arguably useful summoner skill is Flash. However, when playing Vlad, Ghost is much better than Flash (so stop arguing with me and sit down). Vlad requires the ability to stay with enemies over sustained periods of time, and he also requires a way to get in and out of tower range as fast as possible. Vlad does not need another escape ability. Pool should be more than sufficient, and most of the time you shouldn't be attempting to get away from the fight anyway. Vlad spends most of his time in the middle of the fight, soaking up all the glory (if glory is blood, and soaking up is... soaking up, that got away from me there).
The item order is highly dependant on how badly you've messed things up. Vlad should always start with Warmog's, Sorcerer's Shoes, and Spirit Visage (math below, I don't think I like you questioning me all the time). These items are essential to keep you alive while you dish out your damage. Warmog's gives you survivability and massive health regen, and obtaining the required 125 creep kills to max it is a breeze (assuming you can press two buttons, when we are talking about you I prefer to not get my hopes up). Sorcerer's Shoes are obvious. Spirit Visage is the second best item for Vlad under Z-Ring, everything on it is useful to him and it is the best 1325 gold you could possible spend (I am not doing the math, you do the math if you want to be proven wrong so badly). After those items are complete, ~17 minutes, you should start building into one of three builds. Below, I've laid out the three styles of Vlad item builds (I call them styles because calling them the "three 'how-****py-are-you' builds" put me over my quota for hyphens in a single sentence).
Doing Extremely Well - A kill before you hit level 9 and no deaths.:
If you use this build and finish your Z-ring with >5 charges on Mejai's - you win. At that point you should be snowballing so hard that the enemy team will be calling you OP for the rest of the game. Once you pull this off you completely understand how Vlad should be played, and I can only hope this guide helped you get there (otherwise why would you be reading it?).
The downside to this build is you MUST have mastered how to use all of Vlad's abilities, and have the timing down perfectly. This build requires that you know how to time a Pool-Ring-Pool combo as you will be missing ~800 health from not having Rylai's early, and you will be below level 18 with a Z-Ring means a longer pool cooldown (or pool-down! What? That was funny. No, screw you!).
Doing well - No kills before 9, but a few after. Low deaths (0-2).:ororor
This build skips Mejai's completely. Chances are you will get a few kills, but after you get them you are more than likely going to die. It's not your fault (unless it is, you should really get better, it's embarrassing). If you lane against someone that knows how to counter early Vlad (more on that later, regrettably) then there isn't much you can do to avoid this scenario (except for the deaths I suppose, really embarrassing).
You still get a Z-ring first in this scenario as it is the most key item for Vlad to have after his initial build up. The Pool-Ring-Pool combo is too strong to pass up, and you are doing well enough that you can build into it and start your Rylai's relatively early in the game. If you find after you've finished the Rylai's that you are completely unstoppable, you can choose to get Mejai's then. It is still the most powerful item if you can keep it above 10 charges (I won't do the math on this for you, you made me work really hard convincing you Warmog's is amazing on Vlad, do it yourself).
The cons of this build come in the reduced damage from the loss of Mejai's mid-game (which is only partially true, it's a loss of damage mostly because of you, if you want the damage so bad why don't you get better?). Unfortunately we can't completely wreck every game (especially you, yeah you, you know who you are). You should still be a massive threat to the enemy team with this build, and you should still have the power to change the game in your favor given your team provides fodder (I may have set my expectations a little high there, I apologize if I made you feel inadequate).
Doing awful - No kills before level 11, and you've died so much your team is calling it a 4v6.:oror
If you are taking this build route then you have completely failed in your laning phase, and have fed the enemy champions so much so that you feel you should uninstall the game, but don't give up just yet (or do, I don't care)! You still have hope of being useful to your team and not making them wish they were never born (like that would ever happen)!
Fortunately for you, and unfortunately for the enemy team, Vlad can only get stronger (even when doing extremely poorly, which is likely when you are playing him). He is never a detriment to a team (the champion, generally YOU can be, I don't vouch for you). First we need to fix that pesky dying problem and start actually helping the team (instead of doing whatever it is you've been doing, you worthless sack of ****).
Rylai's will make all of your problems go away (Rylai's will not actually make all of your problems go away). It will provide the extra health boost you need to stay alive longer, and it will provide utility in the form of slowing down the enemy. We then build the Z-Ring, as I have stated earlier (God, you are slow) it is the most powerful item for Vlad to have after his initial build up. We get the Z-ring second here because if you are doing this poorly, chance are you aren't going to live long enough to Pool-Ring-Pool before you hit level 18.
Once your ring is done you should have turned the game around, or lost and your team completely blames you (you probably deserve it). If by some miracle you stop sucking (unlikely, knowing you), you then need to choose which item you are going to get last. We can't get a Mejai's, you will never be a ROFL-stomper in this game, and you are going to be dying quite often. You're last item choice is going to be whichever will help your team the best.
Void Staff - You are the only caster DPS and the enemy team is stacking magic resistance heavily.
Abyssal Scepter - There are multiple AP DPSers on your team.
Hextech Gunblade - Neither of the above are true.
Like I said, you should still be able to turn the game around at this point as Vlad's ultimate is one of the best team-fight abilities in the game. It is really going to depend on which champions you fed, and how well your other lanes are doing. If it seems like you still have a chance, farm as much as possible and only get into fights after you hit level 11.
3. Opening Strategy and Laning Phase (Levels 1-5) Part 1:
First things first, determine before the game if you will get the solo lane; whichever, it doesn't matter. Vlad MUST have a solo lane. He is extremely selfish. If you try to lane with someone, that person is going to be extremely starved for gold. On top of that you are staying in your <9 stage of the game far too long to be useful. If you haven't realized by now, Vlad is absolutely God-awful from levels 1-5, and lesser so from 6-8 (but still fairly awful). You need to get to level 9 as fast as possible, but why you ask (put your hand down, I can't see you, what are you doing)? At level 9 you get the 5th rank of Transfusion. This is important because we now have a spell on a ~2 second timer that not only does a good amount of damage, but also heals you for around 80-100 every time.
So, let's get to it. Once you have finagled a solo lane, buy your regrowth pendant and go there (duh). If you have failed to secure a solo lane, play something else; you don't deserve to play Vlad (also prepare for a loss, your team is kind of dumb).
Your first job in your lane is to determine how well your enemy knows you (the champion, not you you; no one cares what your favorite color is). You can do this by gauging their reaction to seeing you in the lane (Read 'Countering Vlad' below). On the first wave, run up to the enemy and Q them. If they back up as you are coming in to attack, or retreat after you have hit them, welcome to Easy-Town, Population: You (what I am saying here is you are laning against a moron). If, instead, they proceed to attack you and hit you with whatever ability they took first, prepare for an extremely difficult lane. If after they hit you they continue to chase you down, prepare to hate that person for the next ten minutes as they will be the bane of your existence and you will swear revenge on their firstborn (they know how to counter you, is what I am getting at here).
So now that we know what we are dealing with we have to formulate strategies to deal with our opponent. If you find yourself in Easy-Town with a blood margarita in one hand and the skull of your enemy in the other, proceed to harass the **** out of them for the rest of the laning phase. Spam Q and E on them whenever available and generally act like a giant ******. Back up if they get you below 40% and last hit creeps with Q and E to refill your health. Then go back to harassing them.
However, if you find yourself with someone that seems to know that you aren't a threat early and starts to harass you when you go in to Q, just play it cool near your creeps. You are going to focus on using your Q to last hit as much as possible and only use E to last hit when Q is on cooldown. You can go back and forth with the enemy, but generall you want to completely focus on farming and forget damaging them.
If you find yourself in the worst possible situation, the enemy is standing between you and your creeps and will not let up on harassing you for one second, you might as well whip-out the gimp mask as that will be your role for the next 10 minutes. This situation is only mitigated through smart last hitting and damage mitigation. The enemy knows your weakness, they know how to exploit it, and they are going to be ****ed if you turn into a blood-sucking wrecking ball. Basically, you desperately need your lane pushed up to your tower as that will be your only safe place. Again, focus exclusively on last hitting. Try your best to keep the enemy creeps out of your tower range, and call in a gank if your teammates are doing well. As soon as you get some breathing room you will be in much better shape for the rest of the game.
4. Laning Phase (Levels 6-8) Part 2
You have now hit 6 and have a few new options open to you. If you are laning against a complete moron, it is time to get your first kill. No doubt you have heard of Vlad's extraordinary tower diving ability, well now you get to add to that legend (unless you mess it up, try not to do that, it makes the rest of us look bad).
Once you have hit 6, and are dominating your lane, the enemy champion(s) should have either gone back to base, or they will be hiding near or behind the tower trying desperately to get away from your shear awesomeness. We can't have that, and no stupid tower is going to deny you what is rightfully yours. Once you find you have an opening, the enemy champion either makes a mistake or just over-extends a tiny bit, it is time to pounce. Hit Ghost, as soon as you are in range drop your ult on them, then hit them with a Q and ignite. By now they should be running in horror, a blood-drained, flaming, panicking, bag of sweet, sweet gold. Unfortunately, they are probably in tower range now. Fortunately you are Vlad! You don't give two ****s (possibly even three) about some stupid tower. If the enemy still needs some coaxing to hand over their milk money, hit W and head behind their tower. This solves two problems. First, it stop the tower from hitting you (duh). Second, it gives your Q time to reset. A bit of warning here, your W is going to do almost no damage to the enemy, don't expect it to lower their health more than 50. Once you come out of pool, hit the enemy with another Q and you should have gained your much deserved reward. The next step is to get out of tower range and back to the lane for more farming.
However, if you have just hit 6 and the enemy champion is making you earn every bit of gold. There isn't much you can do unless they mess up. If you see an opening, take it, but generally you are going to focus on farming as much as possible until you hit 9.
5. Mid-game (levels 9-17)
Congratulations! You are now into Vlad's golden phase (or crimson if you are really into the blood puns)! Nothing but smooth sailing for you from now on (unless you really sucked getting here, prepare for verbal harassment instead). Once Vlad hits 9 you should have your Warmog's. If you don't you didn't farm anywhere near enough and you need to try harder. The other thing that should happen when you hit 9 is your first kill, if you haven't gotten it already. You should be able to follow the directions above and net yourself a nice champion kill in your own lane. If that doesn't work, go abuse a different lane! You are Vlad, you do what you want, you own the map, literally (you don't actually literally own the map, Riot does, you just wish you did).
The most important thing to do as Vlad once you hit 9 (other than making the enemy team hate your existence), is be sure to continue to farm. You should be easily able to clear a lane with Q & E. Vlad's items are expensive and he needs them ASAP, so keep with the money making. Also, at this point in the game. Work with your teammates to setup ganks. You should be leaps and bounds ahead of the side lanes, and you should be able to roll in like you own the place (even though you really don't, stop pretending like you do).
Once you have your Z-ring the game changes for you completely, again. The biggest problem with having your ring this early will be that you do not have Pool maxed, and you will rarely be able to Pool-Ring-Pool successfully without either dying or having the entire enemy team dead after your ring wears off (not generally a bad thing, but not as cool either, and Vlad is all about looking cool).
Your biggest and number 1 role in team fights is to drop your ult as early, and on as many enemy champions, as possible. Your second role is to suck up damage so the real carries can do some damage while your ult is up. Your third role is to not die before getting off a pool. If you successfully completely all 3 things, you did your job (pat yourself on the back). If you completed 1 and 2, you still completed your most vital functions (you can pat yourself on the back too, but not as much). If you completed 1, well you made a valiant effort, you should really try to be at the center of the fight more; after all what's the point of all that health if you aren't going to use it? If you failed at all 3, what the hell were you doing? (No pat for you, get in the corner and think about what you've done.)
6. Late Game (18 - ???)
You should now be an unstoppable killing force (or at least somewhat unstoppable, we can't all be amazing all the time, at least that is what you need tell yourself to get through the day). Know your role in team fights and try to hit all 3. With your pool now being on an 8 second cooldown you should be able to live through most fights even with a sliver of health. A small amount of health left isn't necessary a bad thing for Vlad. Firstly, you will lose less and gain more from Pool. Second, Vlad does an amazing job of regenerating his health at all game stages.
Using Vlad's Pool is a bit of an art-form. Use it too early and you die when you come out, use it too late and you can't you are already dead (why did you wait so long?). Honestly, it really takes familiarity with situations and the hero to know when is the right time. The only advice I can give is DO NOT POOL EARLY. If you are above 50% health the only reason you should be hitting Pool is the enemy has a stunner/silencer and you need to get the hell out ASAP. If you are in a team fight you need to soak up as much damage as possible before you ditch your teammates. Remember, the longer you keep the enemy off your teammates the longer your teammates are killing the enemy (if you needed me to tell you that, you are worse off than I thought).
8. Countering Vlad
I hesitate to put this section in as I love being called overpowered. However, playing as Vlad you need to know when you are out-classed by your enemy, and know what they know so you know how to counter them knowing (still-with-me-five!).
The only way to successfully counter Vlad is to completely shut him down early-game. This is the one and only way to ensure that he will be a complete push-over for the rest of the game. You should generally compete with Vlad in the solo mid lane. You will probably be playing a ranged hero (or at least you should). If you are playing a melee hero you need to switch. Morde, Trynd, Shaco, they won't work. You do not have the harassing power to keep a Vlad down.
Now that you have a proper ranged hero in the solo lane, focus as much as possible as keep Vlad away from your creeps. Every time Vlad gets in range you should have a projectile headed his way. You will more than likely eat a lot of Q's while you do this, but you shouldn't care. Vlad's Q does piddly damage before he hits 7 and there is no way he can spam it enough to keep up with your damage output. Your main goal is to reduce his farming as much as possible. The best strategy is to place yourself between him and the creeps. Ensure that he has to go through you every time he wants to get at the creeps. Do not auto-attack the creeps, only last hit and keep the lane in the middle and close to your tower as much as possible.
If you have done your job Vlad should hit 9 and barely have his starting items. Unfortunately for you, unless you have killed him a few times, he starts being a threat now. Any fight with Vlad at this point is going to be life or death. DO NOT let him Q spam you and run away. Every time he comes at you to Q run him back to the tower. Vlad kills slowly, and if you let him he will slowly suck you down to nothing.
When we get to mid and late game Vlad gets easier to manage because you will have your team with you. Vlad should be priority 1 in any team fight unless you have 0 ways of stopping him from pooling, then, instead, you should worry about the enemy carry first. The main goal is to have everyone beating on Vlad and to get him down before he ever has the chance to hit W. Silence is Vlad's absolute worst enemy, and if you can get it on him you practically guarantee yourself a kill. If he does get a W off, you must focus him when he comes out. You cannot let him stick around. Vlad can and will do massive damage over sustained periods of time and the only way to deal with him is to take him out as soon as possible.
When all is said and done, if the person playing against Vlad in the solo lane has done their job, and your team is competent about handling him in team fights, even the most well-played Vlad is nothing but a minor annoyance at best.
Vlad takes some practice, but can be extremely rewarding. He is also the only hero I have played in this game that can single handedly control whether you win or lose (not all the time, but he does tend to play a big part in the overall way the game is going when things are close). So good luck, and have fun!
Warmog's seems to be the most controversial item in the game at the moment (and by controversial I mean most people think it is bad just because they can't think for themselves). I will break the item down by cost and then show you what you get.
Warmog's - 770 health, 30 health/5, charges - 3135 gold
Giant's Belt - 430 health - 1110 gold
Ruby Crystal - 180 health - 475 gold
Regrowth Pendant - 15 health/5 - 450 gold
If we use Ruby Crystal as the standard for gold->health (as it is the cheapest +health only item) it comes out to 1 health / 2.64 gold. We do the math again for Rejuvenation Bead (same principle, lowest cost item for the single stat) it comes out to 1 health regen / 31.34 gold. Now let's apply this math to Warmog's at it's lowest form: 770 health and 30 health/5.
770 health x 2.64 gold = 2032.8 gold
30 health/5 x 31.34 gold = 940.2 gold
2032.8 gold + 940.2 gold = 2973 gold
3135 gold - 2973 gold = a loss of 162 gold.
Oh noes, we have lost money! But wait, Warmog's gains charges! Lets apply the math to the bonus health and regen you gain by killing creeps and champions.
450 health x 2.64 gold = 1188 gold
62.5 health/5 x 31.34 gold = 1958.75 gold
1188 gold + 1958.75 gold = 3146.75 gold
3146.75 gold - 162 gold = 2984.75 gold gained
Wow, when you have a maxed out Warmog's it is like gaining an extra 3000 gold over the original item! But you say, who cares about health regen, it is terrible! Bah I say to you, Vlad cares a lot. Considering at level 18 Vlad can pool for 2.5 seconds, ring for 2 seconds, and then pool again for another 2.5 seconds. That entire exchange you just gained nearly 200 health, from doing absolutely nothing. Not only is the regen useful, but a free giant's belt is extremely useful for Vlad.
1 Giants Belt = ~450 health and 18 AP for Vlad (after all is said and rounded out).
Warmog's charges = ~475 health and 19 AP for the cost of a Giant's Belt.
On top of that, lets take a look at Vlad's Sanguine Pool.
Vladimir sinks into a pool of blood for 2.5 seconds, becoming untargetable and slowing enemies above him by 50%.
Damage: 80 / 135 / 190 / 245 / 300 (+15% of bonus Health) Heal Vlad for 12.5% of the damage done.
15% of bonus health from a max Warmog's alone = 183 more damage every time you pool to everything above you. On top of that 183 more damage to a single target means Vlad heals for an additional 22.875 health per target; just from the Warmog's alone. Now lets imagine 5 targets above you, fairly easy to come by late game. That is an extra 114.375 health that Vlad would have never gotten from his pool . 5 is an extremely low example number. End game, not having 10 or more total units above you is rare. This not only mitigates the health lost from pooling in the first place, depending on how low you were when you pooled, it can give you an extremely large boost of health in the middle of a fight. Throw in a Pool-Ring-Pool combo and you just got yourself a large amount of health twice, as well as doing over 800 damage to everything above you with just Warmog's before resistances. Also don't forget the health we are regenerating at all times. Warmog's alone will give you an extra 200 (absolute bare minimum) health every time you Pool-Ring-Pool combo. No other item in the game is going to do that for you. And no other item in the game is going to help keep you alive as long as Warmog's. (except maybe Z-ring, but it's not the best item for him for nothing)
A last thought, if I still haven't sold you. Vlad relies on prolonged fights. His burst is not amazing. The truth of the matter is, the longer you live in the fight, the better chances you have of winning. Vlad should never die instantly. He will never be completely obliterated before he can cast a spell. If you can't live in a team fight for more than 10 seconds as Vlad you are really doing something wrong. He is king of prolonging the encounter. Warmog's is stronger the longer Vlad is alive, and the longer he is below 100% health (which is generally all the time). You aren't going to find a better item at keeping you in the fight for as long as possible in 1 item slot. If you still disagree with me, I challenge you to make your case. I have laid out mine, so you already have an advantage. Get to it!