Building Top Jarvan IV



Wed 29th Mar 2017 - 9:47am

Jarvan IV was once, without a doubt, the 'Prince of the Jungle'.

Throughout Season 3 and Season 4, he dominated the jungle in both professional and casual play. He was a highly-contested pick in the LCS, yet also a frequently recommended jungler for beginners. Jarvan IV's dominance was largely attributed to the AD jungle item, Spirit of the Elder Lizard, which complemented his strong ganking kit. His (E) Demacian Standard and (Q) Dragon Strike combo is both a gap closer and a hard-CC knock-up. If Jarvan fails to land the combo, he can still use the slow from his (W) Golden Aegis to chase down enemies. And of course, Jarvan's signature ability is his (R) Cataclysm, which can lock down entire teams and force enemies to use Flash. With all these tools, Jarvan's utility is comparable to the most popular ganking junglers, such as Elise and Lee Sin.

However, Jarvan IV's utility is not limited to crowd control. His Dragon Strike shreds enemy armor and his Demacian Standard buffs his allies' attack speed, dramatically amplifying the damage from his AD carries. This abundance of utility made Jarvan IV a favorable tank - on top of the shield from Golden Aegis, Jarvan could withstand enemy focus while fighting back with constant DPS from sources such as Martial Cadence, Spirit of the Elder Lizard, Red Buff, and Sunfire Cape.

Jarvan IV remained afloat in competitive play in Season 5 due to Ranger's Trailblazer, which provided a quick and healthy clear for many champions who could not otherwise survive in the jungle. But after the removal of Ranger's Trailblazer, he almost completely vanished from pro play. His solo queue winrate tanked below 45%. When pros decided to play Jarvan IV, they took him top more often than to the jungle. Luckily, after three seasons of continuous small buffs, he now teeters at a 50% winrate, dipping and rising with each new patch. Though traditionally meant as a bruiser jungler, Jarvan IV sees the most play as a full AD assassin, taking advantage of flat armor penetration (now named Lethality) items.

Strongest Starting Item

In the NA LCS, Apex's top laner Ray (Season 6) made a name for himself by playing assassin Jarvan IV on stage. He stacked armor penetration and Lethality items such as Youmuu's Ghostblade, Duskblade of Draktharr, and Black Cleaver. Once he hit mid-game, he showed a side of Jarvan many spectators had never seen. With a single combo, he deleted EnVyUs' ADC LOD again and again.

However, after the Lethality nerfs, is rushing Ghostblade (or Edge of Night/Duskblade) still the best option? Most AD bruisers start with items such as Black Cleaver or Titanic Hydra, while melee AD carries/assassins rush a Ravenous Hydra or Youmuu's Ghostblade. We will explore all 4 options on Jarvan IV. In an average game, a decently farming player should be able to obtain their first completed item at around level 7 or 8. Jarvan's burst combo is E->Q->R, an autoattack from Martial Cadence, and the active from Titanic or Ravenous Hydra, if he owns one. We will calculate Jarvan's damage versus a tank with a completed armor item as well as a squishy carry.

*Since Titanic and Ravenous cost 3500g, while Ghostblade and Cleaver cost 2900g and 3000g respectively, an extra 10 AD (one Long Sword) have been added to the Ghostblade and Cleaver calculations to even out the gold difference.

Jarvan IV's expected single-target burst with one item. T = Tank, C = Carry.

Titanic and Ravenous Hydra come out on top because of their Crescent active, which allows for at least another 100% AD worth of damage in a combo. Additionally, even versus a tank with ~50 bonus armor, Youmuu's Ghostblade is more effective than Black Cleaver, due to Ghostblade's higher AD and the shred from Jarvan IV's Dragon Strike.

Why does Titanic Hydra, a slightly defensive item, deal the same damage as Ravenous Hydra? The answer lies in Titanic Hydra's Crescent active, which is an autoattack reset with bonus damage. Titanic Hydra's active deals 40+[10% Max HP] bonus damage, added on top of a regular ~130 AD autoattack. Because of Titanic Hydra's early-game power, its active deals almost twice as much damage as Ravenous Hydra's active, enough to offset all the ability scaling from Ravenous Hydra's extra 40 AD.

Jarvan IV's average DPS with one item. T = Tank, C = Carry.

In our DPS calculation, we factor in our autoattack and Dragon Strike damage, taking cooldown reduction into account. We are also assuming Jarvan IV has landed Dragon Strike and shredded the enemy's armor. Previously, Titanic Hydra had the highest burst, but now loses in DPS, despite having a small %HP on-hit bonus. This because it not only has the lowest AD out of all the four items, but also has no CDR or penetration. On the other hand, Youmuu's Ghostblade has the strongest DPS, due to its high AD and Lethality.

Strongest Two-Item Build

For comparing two-item builds, we will add another item to each of our starters. The four builds are:

Titanic Hydra + Sunfire Cape: Built to engage and trap enemies in Cataclysm (guaranteeing Sunfire burn) and deal high burst with Titanic Hydra's active.

Ravenous Hydra + Youmuu's Ghostblade: High-risk assassin with high burst and splitpushing/AoE damage from Ravenous Hydra.

Youmuu's Ghostblade + Edge of Night: Safer assassin that can dominate 1v1s and pick off carries.

*Since Ghostblade + Edge is a slightly cheaper build than the others, an extra 10 AD (a Long Sword) has been added to its calculations.

Black Cleaver + Titanic Hydra: AoE Bruiser to shred multiple enemies with Titanic Hydra AoE + Black Cleaver passive.

Burst of a two-item build. Note that build #4 (Black Cleaver) now has a Titanic Hydra active.

Titanic Hydra + Sunfire Cape: While this build's burst begins to lag behind that of the other builds, it is still enough to chunk enemy squishies and tanks alike. Titanic Hydra scales off of HP, so it will continue to grow stronger if the player wishes to transition into a full tank build.

Black Cleaver + Titanic Hydra: Though Black Cleaver alone has mediocre burst, combining it with Titanic Hydra creates a dangerous combo. With the two items combining for 850 bonus HP, the active on Titanic Hydra puts this build's burst on par with the full AD builds. On top of this, it gives Jarvan a lot of teamfight utility for his AD carry, as he can potentially shred all 5 enemies.

DPS of a two-item build. Sunfire Cape's burn is accounted for.

As expected, the full AD builds come out with the highest DPS. While the tankier builds deal less DPS, they will keep Jarvan IV alive longer, allowing him to deal more total damage and hit more knock-ups. Since Titanic Hydra is a poor DPS item, Sunfire Cape/Black Cleaver supplement Jarvan's DPS and keep him relevant after he engages.


Why does Lethality, apparently the most important stat for AD assassins, seem to be outclassed in burst damage? Actually, in Lethality builds, Jarvan's abilities (Dragon Strike and Cataclysm) deal far more damage than in other builds. However, the Titanic/Ravenous Hydra actives make up for the loss in AD scaling/penetration through extra raw damage. The best combination of the two is with a Ravenous Hydra+Lethality combo, which comes in 1st/2nd in both burst and DPS. However, each of the builds have their strengths, as listed above.

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