How to Not Lose to the Shopkeeper - A Guide to Proper Itemization



Mon 7th Sep 2020 - 8:30pm

League of Legends is a game that not only focuses on the many different champions that each individual player can pickup, learn how to play and then eventually master. It also focuses on the many different items that one can use to help propel their team to victory. But just because you can build the item, it does not mean that you should build the item. This guide will take a look at when and in what situations you should build specific items, more specifically looking at building resistances, ability power items as well as knowing when enough damage is enough.

Building Resistances

Resistances is an umbrella term that refers to armor and magic resistance, as well as bonus health. There is not a clear cut formula on what resistance items should be built because it is mostly a situational, game-by-game process of seeing what the enemy team’s damage output is then responding to it with the proper resistance items. 


For team compositions that rely heavy on auto attacks, Bramble Vest and Ninja Tabi are the standard core for counteracting auto attacks. Bramble vest will deal 3+10% bonus armor to enemies every time they auto attack you as well as inflicting Grievous Wounds for three seconds, reducing the enemy’s healing.

Ninja Tabi grant +20 armor as well as reduce oncoming auto attack damage by 12% as well as granting +45 movement speed.

However, these items are not always the most viable against every team composition. If the enemy has mostly lethality champions and assassins, optimizing the most health and armor you can is important since it makes it harder for assassins to chunk you out/kill you in team fights.

Randuin’s Omen provides 70 armor and 400 health as well as passively reducing enemy attack speed whenever they auto attack you. Activating Randuin’s Omen will release an AOE (area of effect) slow that reduces enemy movement speed by 55% for two seconds, so it provides a great amount of peel for your team as well.


Dead Man’s Plate gives 60 armor and 425 health. It also increases movement speed ramping up to 60 bonus movement, once Dead Man’s Plate hits 100 stacks by moving around, the next auto attack will deal 100 bonus damage as well as slow for 50% for one second. Both of these items work well for tanks, but items that work well against assassins and lethality users for more squishier targets such as AD carries and mages are Phantom Dancer, Death's Dance and Guardian Angel for AD carries. For mages, Zhonya’s Hourglass works extremely well as shutting down assassins as well as most other physical damage dealers in the game.

The question then becomes, when is the most optimal time to build what? The main line of thinking is to see what kind of physical damage that the enemy team is focused on, whether it be ability based physical damage like most assassins and bruisers or mostly auto attack based physical damage like most AD carries. So, if the enemy team composition has a Master Yi jungle, Jax top and Ashe AD carry, buying items that punish and reduce auto attack damage is optimal. 

It is also important to blend health and resistances, this is so you can optimize survivability in teamfights. But, if the enemy team has champions or items that passively deal maximum health damage such as Blade of the Ruined King or champions like Kai’Sa and Vayne, it would be unwise to buy a plethora of health items because enemies will be able to increase their damage against you. So finding a proper balance between health and armor is vital to improving your itemization.

In terms of magic resistance, there are a couple of items that tankier champions can build to maximise their damage, as well as some anti-burst items for squishier champions. 

For the tankier champions, Spirit Visage is a very good item for champions that have built in healing due to the fact that Spirit Visage increases self healing and incoming healing by 30% as well as providing 55 magic resistance and 450 health. It also gives you +100% base health regen as well as +10% cooldown reduction, so Spirit Visage is a great all around tank item for magic resistance. 

If the enemy team composition has a source of magic damage in a more DPS style such as Malzahar, Cassiopeia as well as Azir, then Adaptive Helm works better than Visage because as more magic damage is dealt, the oncoming damage starts being reduced by 20% for four seconds. It also provides the same stats as Spirit Visage outside of bonus health, where Adaptive Helm only provides 350 bonus health. 

The last main magic resistance item is Abyssal Mask. This item should only be bought where your team has multiple magic damage focused champions to maximise their damage output when you are standing right next to the enemy champions. This is because Abyssal Mask increases the magic damage that enemy champions take by 15% when standing within the range (325 units) of your champion. 

Squishier champions do not have a plethora of magic resistance items to choose from, but Maw of Malmortius is good for physical damage dealers against heavy magic damage team compositions because it mitigates a lot of the burst damage that magic damage champions can output. For mages and other magic damage champions, Banshee’s Veil is the only real option, because it gives you magic resistance plus a spell shield that refreshes every 90 seconds, giving you extra safety against key lockdown abilities so you can deal more damage in teamfights.

Magic resistance has some similarities to its armor counterpart, in that some items are more situationally beneficial than others, and that there is no one magic resistance item that outright counters all magic damage dealers. The key difference however is that most magic resistance items enable you or your allies in some ways by optimizing damage output by blocking or resisting large amounts of the enemy's magic damage or by enabling your team to deal more magic damage. The problem is that stacking these items is very specific to the enemy composition, as buying multiple magic resistance items when the enemy team has only one main source of magic damage is sub-optimal.

Ability Power Itemization.

Speaking of magic damage, ability power items are some of the most diverse items in all of League of Legends. From items that focus on defense to items that are all in damage items, ability power items cover the whole nine yards when it comes to item variance, so knowing what to build when is very important.

In general, most items that ability power champions buy is their mana item because most of their damage and wave clear comes from abilities. Being able to use these abilities and not have to worry about the mana cost is crucial to any ability power champion’s gameplay. The main three items are Luden’s Echo, Archangel’s Staff and Hextech GLP-800. Which item you buy should be determined on the current state of the game as well as what kind of champion you are playing. 


If you are playing a mage that focuses on bursting your opponent down and dominating the laning phase to snowball your lead such as Zoe or Ahri, then Luden’s Echo is the more optimal item. If you are playing a mage that wants to sit back and farm until two or three items before they really come online when it comes to damage like Orianna or Vel’Koz, the Archangel's Staff is more optimal because it naturally scales better than Luden’s Echo, the latter being more of an early to mid game focused item. If your champion is focused on utility or can take glacial augment as a keystone like Neeko or Morgana, then Hextech GLP is going to be optimal so that you can focus more on being a utility based champion for your team rather than hard carrying.

The other possible mana item is Rod of Ages, but this item should be used specifically for mages that either act as a pseudo tank for their team like Swain, or want to dive into the enemy team and have some survivability like Diana. 


After your mana item, the usual build is to itemize some form of magic penetration or survivability, depending on how ahead or behind you are from the laning phase. Starting with the latter, defensive items. Zhonya’s Hourglass is the main defensive tool for most mages because it is the only item in the game that gives invulnerability. This should always be purchased at some point during the game because of the absolute defense that it provides. As mentioned above, Banshee’s Veil is another good defensive item because of the magic resistance it provides as well as the passive spellshield every 90 seconds. This should be bought when the enemy team composition has a very clear and obvious engagement tool, such as Blitzcrank hook, Sejuani ultimate or even Zoe’s Sleepy Trouble Bubble, so that the Banshee’s Veil can block that engagement tool. 

When it comes to penetration items, there are three different ways to burn through the enemy's resistances, that being health or magic resistance. The first kind of penetration is flat magic penetration. This, simply put, will ignore a flat amount of the enemy's magic resistance. Items that can do this are Sorcerer’s Shoes, Oblivion Orb and Morellonomicon. The second kind of penetration is percent penetration. This will ignore a percent of bonus magic resistance and not take into account the base magic resistance a champion has. The item that focuses on this is Void Staff. The last form of magic penetration is maximum health damage in the form of a burn. This will deal a slight burn of magic damage to enemies based on their maximum health, which is done through Liandry’s Torment. 


It is important to recognize the situation in which it is viable to build these items. In most cases, building Sorcerer's Shoes and Oblivion Orb is a good building path after your mana item because it will give upwards of +30 flat magic penetration, which in most cases will ignore about half of your opponent’s magic resistance at that point in the game. However, you should only finish Morellonomicon when the enemy team has multiple sources of healing whether it be in the champions kit or if the enemy team has a support that can dish out big heals in very quick secession. But most of the time, it is better to just sit on the Oblivion Orb and start building into other items. 

Liandry’s Torment is usually a very good supplement for the finished Morellonomicon because of the percent max health damage that it does to enemies once you land an ability on them. This lets you work down tanks easier if your champion does not have percent health damage pre-built in your kit. It can also make mages surprisingly durable due to the bonus health it can provide.

Void Staff should be purchased when the enemy team is stacking magic resistance items on multiple champions because Void Staff does not do a percent of current magic resistance, only bonus magic resistance. So building it against a team of squishier champions that do not build magic resistance items is not an optimal build path. 

Most items that mages can build either help with that mage's survivability or increase their overall damage. Being able to cut through the enemies resistances is key to maximizing your damage, so being able to sort through what magic penetration items are optimal in a given scenario is vital.

When Enough Damage Is Enough

As many League of Legends content creators have put it, there is no greater crowd control in the game than death. Being able to have enough damage output to kill your enemies, but also have enough survivability to be able to output your damage is the goldilocks zone of optimal building. But how do you know when enough damage is enough? 

Usually, champions will hit a power spike around two to three items, which is essentially when their core items have been completed. Once these items have been completed, that is usually when defensive items should start being built. If per say you were to stomp your lane opponent, building more damage seems smart, but this is a trap. If you manage to put yourself ahead in the laning phase, it is important that you do not die in team fights because the enemy team is going to try and shut you down. Grabbing some defensive items in this case will help optimize your damage.

If you fall behind in the laning phase, then getting some cheap, utility items or some tankier items helps you contribute in teamfights by being a nuisance to the backline damage dealers or dishing out crowd control to help peel for your team. If you just try and go your standard build once you fall behind, you are never going to out damage your opposing laner because they will always have more items than you will, thus dealing more damage than you will. You have to try and find ways to be productive in team fights without being your team's main source of damage. 

From here, I want to give a few examples of good builds and bad builds, based on the information in this article to provide practical context to the information given.

Here, the enemy team has multiple sources of magic damage (Kai’Sa, Swain and Yone) and have champions that rely heavily on basic attacks (Olaf and Yone) to output their damage. In this instance, Volibear’s build as a tank does not mitigate the magic damage output of the enemy team nor does it punish the heavy auto attack focus for the enemy team. A more optimal build path would have been Titanic into a Bramble Vest and Ninja Tabi followed up by an Adaptive Helm, because most of the enemy team's magic damage output is done in a DPS form. Spirit Visage is a fine item here and there is no problem with that itemization.

Although Morellonomicon should be built situationally, here is a good situation to build it in. Because of the healing output from Hecarim’s Death’s Dance and Spirit Visage, Sylas’s healing from his Kingslayer, Yone’s healing from Death’s Dance as well as Garen’s and Pyke’s natural healing, Morellonomicon provides so much value in terms of healing reduction because it can affect all five of the enemy's sources of healing in teamfights.

Here an example of building defensively when ahead. Swain could have easily itemized a Deathcap or more flat penetration to increase his overall damage, but he prioritized survivability and health because he would always have more damage than the Caitlyn he laned against, so he needed to prioritize his own survivability rather than raw damage.

Closing Thoughts

The things that give a champion the tools to carry for their team through tankiness of damage is not done merely through the kit of the champion, but rather, the items that they choose. These items can make a massive difference in the outcome of a game, so hopefully, this guide provided some insight into some optimal strategies so you do not lose to shopkeeper.