Powerspikes are a quite obscure concept that's mostly grasped subconsciously after you get some experience with a champion, but they are one of the basics of actually mastering a champion, so it's always good to know more about them.

tl;dr: Powerspikes are moments within the game when your champion suddenly gets more power than average from an item/levelup.

*Item powerspikes means that plain gold does NOT give you a powerspike. Getting a kill won't help you hit an item powerspike until you go back to base and buy something.

More power than average is important because you'll always get more power whenever you finish an item or level up your champion. But some items and some levels will give you more power than others and it's important to know them to get better at any champion you play. It's also important to note this average has in account the enemy power curve, since you should be aiming at overpowering your enemies as soon as possible and for as long as possible in order to get an advantage that facilitates winning the game.


Basic powerspikes

There are a bunch of common powerspikes that apply to a lot of champions:
- Level 1: Your first ability and probably the main one ( Lucian will out-trade other adcs here, Riven will be able to play aggresive if she avoids minion damage, Blitzcrank will have unparalelled CC at level 1)
- Level 2: Your first combination of 2 abilities
- Level 3/4: Full kit unlocked
- Level 5: Last level before the enemy gets his ultimate (happens if your enemy's ult is better than yours for laning phase, like Darius vs Ryze)
- Level 6: First level of your ultimate skill
- First/second full item ( Sunfire Aegis for top lane tanks, Infinity Edge + a crit/attsp item on most ADCs)
- Level 9/10: Main skill maxed out (you will start maxing secondary skills that may not scale as well as your "main" one)
- Levels 11 and 16: Ult levelups (also some passives like Garen's Perseverance get boosts at these levels)
- 5th/6th item powerspikes: For late game champions (especially ap champions with Rabadon's Deathcap that suddenly get a ton of AP from it)

Notice how powerspikes are more abundant during the first few levels and get more spaced out in the late game. That's both because laning phase is over so power levels are very hard to compare and because you should maximize your power gains early on so you have more uptime on your most useful spells/items. Putting one point in each ability randomly doesn't work because there's always one or two skills that are better than the rest, same with finishing a full item with a niche use. You want to abuse their power as soon as possible.

Powerspikes by type

- First level of a skill:

The first level of any skill is the biggest increase in utility/damage/CC you have during the entire game. You start being able to do stuff in between your autoattacks and no increase in power after the first ability level gives more power than it. The champion level 2 powerspike is so powerful it's a must to trade in the bot lane if you got to level 2 before your enemy.

Champions with transformation abilities like Nidalee, Elise and Jayce get even stronger here because they get TWO new spells instead of one. They not only gain a new skill, the gain more versatility by having options from the get-go. Karma has somewhat of the same advantage to her first level of each spell, but it is in part also due to some of her ultimate power budget being assigned to her enhanced abilities. These champions also have noticeably weaker ultimate powerspikes.

Your first spell (the level 1 one) sometimes isn't a very great powerspike, since you won't get it before your enemy. But enemy powerspikes are a thing (check below).

- Main spell:

You should know which spell is most useful for your champion with the position/build you want to master so you can max that first. Lucian would want to maximize his Piercing Light as soon as possible since it's his main damage ability and the utility from his W and E isn't very useful during the early game.

Some champions don't have a clear "most useful spell" because their spells have completely different uses depending on playstyle. The most common example are supports: Some games you'll be better maxing your sustain while in others you may want to max out your damage/cc spells first. These cases STILL have powerspikes for each of their playstyles, and it's often better to commit to one playstyle and do that decently than go midway and suck at all of them.

- Late game powerspikes:

Some spells scale differently off different stats, which often means they will scale differently at different stages of the game. This means a skill powerspike can grow after you, your allies or your enemies get certain items/spells. Tristana's Rapid Fire is good as a level 3 spell because it lets you farm, but it's greater once you get both max Explosive Charge and any AD from items. %hp damage spells keep scaling even after being maxed because the enemy hp pool keeps getting bigger with game time.

- Ultimate powerspikes:

Most of the power budget of most champions is assigned into their ultimate. It's only natural the first level of your ult is the most widely understood powerspike (you got to level 6 with Darius? GO IN, your enemy is a Shen). The rest of the levels from your ult always have interesting increases and are pretty strong powerspikes even if their impact is not as obvious.

Champions with weird ultimate patterns will have weird basic ability powerspikes too, since the power their ult doesn't have will need to be present somewhere else in their kits. Champions with 6 basic abilities need to have weak ultimates in order to compensate the versatility from so many spells. Champions with strong ultimates, in contrast, will have less and less power in their basic kits ( Malphite can't do much while he doesn't have his ult), but bigger level 6/11/16 powerspikes.

- Passive powerspikes:

Some champions have pretty steep scaling on their passives. The best example of this is Garen's Perseverance, which gets a MASSIVE boost at level 16. But even if you're Tristana only getting a bit more range from Draw a Bead every level, you'll have a pretty strong level 18 due to it. It's good to know when and how strong your passive gets with levels, so you can use and abuse it properly.

- Enemy powerspikes:

A powerspike is only useful because you can use it to take advantage of your power curve to gain the upper hand against your enemy. If your enemy hit a bigger powerspike at the same time as one of your small powerspike, he's the one who's getting an advantage, even if you just maxed your main skill.

Unfortunately, enemy powerspikes are the hardest to learn, since it means you should know every possible matchup and have an idea of what spells you and them would use the most. But you should have a general idea of powerspikes against certain archetypes. Malphite's Ground Slam level increases are a pretty strong powerspike against any autoattack-based melee champion (for example, Jax).

- Item powerspikes:

Champion spells aren't the only thing that increases your champion's power. You also need to get items for their stats and actives/passives. Most items get a huge improvement in power when finished because most of their power budget is allocated into their final passive/active as opposed to their stats. Luden's Tempest's combination costs 1100 gold and the only stats it gives are 10 ability power and +5% movement speed (compare it with an Aether Wisp), but it's still a great buy because of its unique passive, which deals a bunch of damage that further scales off your AP.

Your major item powerspike will come whenever you get your most useful finished item passive or the most useful combination of useful passives. Standard adcs will have a major powerspike after Infinity Edge/ Essence Reaver plus a full Zeal upgrade. Irelia will make a huge powerspike out of a Phage and a Sheen. Some mages will get their major increase in power after getting a 3rd/4th item Rabadon's Deathcap.

- Objective powerspikes:

These are the less important powerspikes since they are too small to even matter in most games. Nontheless it's good to know they exist. Especially if you're playing Rengar (he gets a major boost in AD after getting the 5 charges of his passive). Other common objective powerspike is getting a third fire drake, which will give a major boost to any adc/mage with lots of ad/ap.

I guess getting baron/elder dragon counts as a "temporary" powerspike, but it's a kinda obvious moment to abuse an advantage, so I won't cover that here.