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Vladimir Build Guide by betazoid
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To begin with, Vladimir should be played as an AP carry due to his passive Crimson Pact (discussed in-depth further down) and natural affinity for remaining in team fights for long periods due to his spell vamp! Your focus should be on dealing continuous aeo damage to as many opponents.
Such a result is best achieved by:
1. Do not initiate! You may do a lot of damage and have a great get-out-of-jail-free card in Sanguine Pool (your W), BUT if the other team has any idea what they are doing they will simply chase and wait for your pool to end then your dead. Its much better to simply stay at the edge of your team stacking your Tides of Blood (your E) on minions until your tank initiates. This will allow you to immediately contribute your max damage potential without attracting too much attention at the same time.
2. If you read Vladimir's description, you should find that he is a "fighter". Now despite this category ususally being reserved for melee ad's, Vladimir is truly as much a fighter as any Garen or Nasus due to his significant health boost from his passive, along with his spell vamp (from Will of the Ancients) and great escape move ( Sanguine Pool - W). As such, to maximise the natural synergy of Vladimir's abilities you should endeavour to position yourself so that Tides of Blood is reaching every possible enemy champion.
3. NEVER INITIATE WITH Sanguine Pool (your W). This includes: casually farming minions with your pool then *BOOM* Sion flashes out of the bush next to you; stuns you; then the resident Tryndamere spins on out and 3 hits you whilst your furiously smushing your 'W' key screaming "I WAS JUST FARMING YOU BASTARDS". Also, when chasing; as good as it may seem to just pop your pool to slow (40% movement slow for 1 second only regardless...) that guy your chasing, chances are it wont do enough for you to pick up the kill and you'll be left vulnerable to counter ganks for the next 15 seconds while sweating on your pool to come back. Just always remember: Sanguine Pool is not designed as an offensive ability!
4. Always look for the best opportunity to help your team late game by TIMING YOUR ULTIMATE Hemoplague. By this I mean make sure you hit every member of the opposition, without making it blatantly obvious (ie: hiding in that bush next to the whole enemy team which just so happens to be WARDED).
Contrastingly by maxing the defensive tree of masteries not only do you get a further health bonus to complement your passive, but all crowd control effects dealt to your champion will be reduced by 10%. This basically means that your lane opponent will be hitting you with spells which would usually stun/root/supress etc you for lengthy periods of time, but they will find that they aren't as effective as usual. Combine this with mercury treads and you will start noticing a major difference. All in all the masteries further enhance your early survivability and pretty much allow you to harass your opponent all day with reduced damage taken.
Maxing the offensive mastery tree may seem a nice idea for Vladimir, especially when it comes to the synergy between Hemoplague and Executioner . However the true strength of Vlad's ultimate isn't the damage it deals on its own, rather the 12% increased damage buff that you and your teammates can deal to afflicted enemies. A 21 point defensive mastery setup is ideal for helping you excel during the very early levels where Vlad is at his weakest.
Sanguine Pool should be taken at lvl 2 and left there till last as you want your invincibil.... oh erm uhh i mean getaway ability ready ASAP in case you get in trouble or some bastard juungling Rammus flashes out of a bush and tries to death-taunt you O.o You won't be using your pool for damage either so anymore than 1 point at lvl 2 is pretty dumb and its cd is long enough (even at 40% CD) to prevent you from spamming it ;)
Tides of Blood should be maxed second, however I wouldn't start spamming and stacking it till around lvl 7 (or when u grab some spell-vamp) as any use prior to this will most likely result in you killing yourself!
Your ultimate should be taken at levels 6, 11 and 16 as per any other champion.
Alternatives include: Ignite is often a great way to get that little bit of extra damage needed on a fleeing opponent to pick up first blood. Exhaust (useful for late game on enemy carries) and Teleport (some mid players swear by it but if you kill your opponent then you'll have time to buy anyway :) Ghost is also viable on vlad for a more sustained escape then Flash.
I'll start with Spirit Visage: all I hear is "blah blah blah its made for vlad". I'm sorry, but it just is not. The AP it provides is a joke compared to any of the items I recommend above, and you will REALLY notice this if the other team has a Vlad with a Void Staff for his 6th item while your trying to beat him with 0.5 seconds taken off of Transfusion's cooldown (due to spirit visage's cooldown reduction feature). Furthermore, the "increased spell vamp" is laughable in comparison to the PURE AP DAMAGE REQUIRED FOR SPELL VAMP TO OCCUR IN THE FIRST PLACE :) If i am versing a Vlad and I see him rush Spirit Visage I will troll for the rest of the game. In conclusion, you want damage not this worthless item.
Secondly, Warmog's Armor: ok i've seen plenty of vlad's get this item and in most of these cases their reasoning is something like "it gives me health". I say to these individuals, "yes mate it does give you health, but you should be carrying as Vladimir". To which I usually receieve the reply "your an idiot, read his passive then get back to me you vlad noob". NOW, while health = AP for vlad via his passive, the reverse also occurs (that is, AP = health). Now I finish by asking you, "which of the two scales better?"
Now that i've gotten rid of those 2 embarrassments, onto the good items! By starting with the Boots of Speed and 3 Health Potion you receive not only the highest amount of movespeed at lvl 1, but more also a way of sustaining yourself early in the lane (boots will help with that as well).
Next you'll want to rush a Hextech Revolver. I usually won't B until i have enough for at least the revolver and maybe kage's lucky pick. By this time you should have enough health to begin using (and stacking) Tides of Blood (your E) to begin some SERIOUS farming and introducing some serious damage to your opponent's own health bar at the same time. The revolver is essential in this sense as it somewhat nullfiies the health cost of tides of blood due to its spell vamp, and thus allows you to stack it to 4 WITHOUT killing yourself in the process!
The reason for not completing the revolver and turning it into Will of the Ancients'straight away is that you only need some spell vamp to counter the health loss of your E, W and R. The only time to consider rushing WOTA is if your team is AP heavy (ie- Kennen, Fiddlesticks, Morgana, Brand, Cassiopeia, etc) as the unique aura will help all of you survive and dominate in general. Turn kage's lucky pick into Deathfire Grasp for some cooldowns (you will lose the gold per 5 however, not that you need it as vlad), but more importantly the active ability it provides! This item requires familiatiry to maximise its potential in that it requires conscious (rather than passive) activation. Experienced Vladimir players will get the most use out of this item, however new players should skip both kage's lucky pick and Deathfire Grasp all together.
Now, depending on how fed you are (how much money you have) after these items you can go for either a Blasting Wand or a Needlessly Large Rod. Rabadon's Deathcap and Ryali's Crystal Scepter both require either of these massively AP boosting items, and again the order of which to get first won't matter too much. Basically you'll want ryali's for its slow, health boost and AP (all-in-all a great item for Vlad) and Rabadon's for its pure AP boost (just an item that provides all-round domination ^_^ = you and QQ = enemy at this point in time).
The only point to note here is that if you have the money for either the Giant's Belt or Blasting Wand segment of ryali's, it is always better to go for the wand! All the while, these items are not only providing you with significant damage but simultaneously giving you around 3k worth of health, making you harder to focus whilst remaining deceptively powerful in terms of damage. That is what Vladimir is all about!
In conclusion, Void Staff is the logical next choice due to its fantastic magic penetration (40% !!!) and even more AP and thus health; but we already have that now dont we ;) Also due to the lack of magic penetration runes, you will really notice the damage difference. Finish off the revolver by turning it into Will of the Ancients (WOTA) and if the game is still going at this point in time finish your build with Lich Bane by selling Deathfire Grasp. For those of you unfamiliar with it; after you use an ability your next auto attack (basic attack) will deal damage equal to your ability power which at this point in the game is just wow. This item does the same thing as Trinity Force does for AD carries just on the back of AP instead. This item will basically give you another ability to deal damage with, and that damage will be very high due to your AP build!
Either Guardian Angel or Zhonya's Hourglass are also viable. Personally I find GA to be most useful as you can pretty much just flash into the middle of the enemy team, pop your ultimate on them all and then chill in your Sanguine Pool while your teammates enjoy the 12% extra damage they will be dealing :)
For example, if you get fed early in mid and your mid enemy starts telling his/her teammates to focus you in later team fights and that enemy team just so happens to have multiple stuns, slows, silences or even suppressants an item which provides a great escape and is relatively cheap is Quicksilver Sash. However, the aspect of this item you want is an active ability so be aware of this!!! Not activating it in time, or even just forgetting you have it D:, are common mistakes so practise/get used to using active abilities in key moments!
If the enemy team is majorly AP and you have your 5 core items it may be worthwhile to pick up a Force of Nature. It provides not only magic resistance but also movement speed and health regen (perfect for stacked Tides of Blood). Personally i'd go for more damage with my 6th item but in some situations this can be a life-saver.
As for fillers; DO NOT BOTHER WITH THEM. By fillers im talking about Spirit Visage *shudders* and Haunting Guise. I've tried both (due to verbal harassment from other players) and had my suspicions confirmed. Subsequently I have never again used these joke items :)
Another item which can be quite useful for CC heavy teams is Banshee's Veil as it provides a passive aura which blocks 1 enemy ability. Warmog's Armor can be useful in some situations, however I personally despise it and wouldn't consider it UNTIL I HAD MY CORE ITEMS AND LOTS OF DAMAGE :)
Caitlyn: If this ***** knows what she's doing then your basically screwed. Your CD on transfusion won't be short enough for you to be able to go toe-to-toe with her early on and unlike AP mid's she can push your tower! She can restrict your movements with her 3 traps (damn you triangle formation!), annoy you with her Q and harass and farm better with her BS basic attack range! I would advise you to avoid head on confrontations and focus on hitting her with Transfusion while she is distracted or her Q is on cooldown in order to scare her off a bit. Also, you may have to take some risks with using Tides of Blood earlier than you usually would in order to take out minion waves so she can't push your tower (allowing her to gradually whittle down your tower is the worst thing that could happen to you as Vladimir in mid as you need that tower to retreat back to when farming mid-game; Sanguine Pool won't last long enough for you to escape ganking opponents all the way back to your second mid tower). The only real edges you have over her are your ultimate + ignite + pool and flash away combo if she is low enough and the fact that you can dodge her ultimate (homing missile thingy) using Sanguine Pool (very easy to time in this case).
Kassadin: The bane of many mids, this dude (if they know what they're doing) will just silence you every chance he gets with his ranged Q ability and this is enhanced once he gets his ultimate. Prior to level 6 he is most vulnerable and due to your spell vamp from Transfusion Vlad's have somewhat less of a problem with Kassadin's than other mid champions. Still, avoid letting him harass you with his Q by staying out of range (fairly obvious to tell when he's looking to use it) and try to out-farm him as he is a poor farmer and relies almost exclusively on assassinations for gold and thus items. Also, you should exploit his early mana problems by harassing if he is squishier than you at lvl 1.
Graves: Ok this guy doesn't have as much range on you as Caitlyn however his Buckshot is incredibly annoying and hurts a lot during the early levels. Try and coerce him into using Buckshot early, then harass with Transfusion while it is on CD.
Morgana: I find her quite easy, however if you cannot consistently dodge her stun, she will proceed to out-farm you and will quickly become a problem if allowed to roam and annoy your teammates. Again, bait her into using her bind then focus on harrassing while it is on CD.
Kennen: This dude be hardcore. There are two types of kennen's out there that you will encounter; passive kennen and too-keen kennen. If your up against a passive kennen they will hang back. This will be because they are either; A. really bad or B. waiting for you to over-extend and then *BOOM* your stunned, ignited and dead for seemingly no-reason. Too-keen Kennen on the other hand will be constantly trying to keep at least one Mark of the Storm (his passive) on you via his Thundering Shuriken and then proceeding to Lightning Rush quickly over to you and finish you off with Electrical Surge. In both cases avoid pushing as your neither going to kill him (unless he's bad) nor be able to push his tower (as you have no AD). Your best bet is too be wary of picking up too many marks of the storm and waiting for him to use lightning rush by standing well back (you can coerce him into using lightning rush and electrical surge by out-farming him as like you Kennen has poor attack damage and thus relies on his aeo abilites to farm). Once these 2 AEO moves are on cooldown, then proceed to super-harass this annoying chipmunk with Transfusion.
Fiddlesticks: No matter who you are, this guy is still going to employ the same annoying, no-skill-required combination of abilites (yes I do the same thing with him) on you to get what he wants (which is your face). Terrify + Drain > Transfusion. That is, he gets more spell vamp from drain than you can ever get from 1 hit of Transfusion. Throw in his silence and you really shouldn't be trying to mess with this guy. Avoid being whittled down by his birds (or balloons xD) by staying out of range and away from your own minions (bouncey bounce). If you do find yourself getting low, be extremely weary of his Flash (if he doesn't have flash as fiddle then you can safely assume he is bad), Terrify, Ignite, Drain combo which will result in your death. Again, if he is silly enough to use drain on minions then harass with your Q whilst attempting to out-farm him. Finally, if he disappears for a while do yourself a favour and don't push his tower as he's almost certainly hiding in river salivating over Crowstorm.