Champion Analysis – Reading The Manual

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Big ups to CrazyTieGuy for helping me to develop the process!

One of the most common questions I get asked by players is how to learn new champions, which they have never played before. Formal champion analysis answers four major questions that you could ask about literally any champion in the game, simply by examining the ability text of the champion in question. It tells you:

  • Their Role in a team composition and general macro game-plan (early, mid, late)
    • What do their abilities do, what strategic strengths does that give them?
  • Their Skill Order
    • What gives the best stats per point, what do we use most frequently?
  • Their Itemization / Build Path
    • What stats do our abilities scale with? Which items give those stats?
  • Their Rune Page
    • What synergizes with our game plan early, mid, and late game? What stats do we want that we can’t easily get from items?

Answering these four questions before you begin to play will help you pick up the champion much faster than if you just brute forced your way into learning them by massing games. Many players rely exclusively on what they see high elo players doing, but not every high elo strategy or build works in low elo, when piloted less than perfectly. This method also allows you to pick up champions that don’t see much play higher up, for which the data on stats sites are inconclusive.

The Wiki Is Your Friend

To begin to properly analyze a champion, open up their wiki page, and carefully read through each ability. You may find that abilities have extra effects that you didn’t know about, or that they had much different scalings / damage types than you assumed. Make sure to click on “Show ability details” for each ability as well, to learn about interactions and testing people have already done. 

Next, open up a google sheet (or you can just make a copy of this one) and make a chart. For each ability (handling passives, actives, and abilities with multiple forms separately), write down some basic information. Try to view each ability as existing totally in a vacuum at this point – pretend that you’re analyzing a champion that only has just that one ability to work with, and you’re trying to get the most out of it that you can.

Champion Name Value Stats Utility Stats Tactical Scalings Testing Ideas
P – Ability Name
Q – Ability Name
W – Ability Name
E – Ability Name
R – Ability Name

Under “Value Stats”, put any stats you can buy on shop items which make a single cast of that ability or effect more powerful in some way. If it does damage, perhaps it makes it do more damage; If it heals, perhaps you get more value out of the health by building resistances, so on and so forth. Common stats are AD, AP, Armor / Magic pen, Max health, resistances, and on-hit effects. Usually, these can be read directly off the ability as it’s scalings.

Under “Utility Stats”, put any stats you can buy which make casting / landing that ability easier, or allow you to use it more frequently. Common stats are Movement speed, CDR, Mana / Mana regen, Defensive stats, Tenacity, and occasionally attack speed.

Under “Tactical Scalings”, note when you think it would be most appropriate to use this ability, and any conditions that make it more valuable or effective. For instance, a braum having teammates nearby is a tactical scaling for his passive, because allied auto attacks stack it. There are no wrong answers here – the point is to start thinking about ability sequencing during engagements, the champion’s role within a composition, synergies with other champs / items, and so forth.

Finally, under “Testing Ideas”, note any interactions with summoner spells, items, or other abilities (yours or other champions’) that you are unfamiliar with. Generally, it is a good idea to test flash-casting, and other animation cancels that make sense. You may also want to test any combos with your other abilities that seem reasonable to learn off the bat. Champion interactions can easily be tested with a friend in custom games, most of the time.

Using Your Head

Once you’ve finished filling out the top half of the chart, it’s time to make some educated guesses using that new information. Most champions in the game can be played multiple ways – but there’s usually one or two that are the most effective. Keep in mind, that some builds may favor taking advantage of different strengths of the champion – if there are several distinct styles, think about each one separately. 

 Current Patch Style 1 – Archetype Style 2 – Archetype
Skill Order Start -> xxx Max -> xxx Start -> xxx Max -> xxx
Stat Priority
Itemization
Runepages
Gameplan


To start, take a stab at identifying possible 
skill orders – both for the first three levels, and then max order. From there, begin to explore what macros you believe your champion will be able to contribute to in the three major phases of the game. Figure out what their major goals are at each stage, and how they’ll use their abilities to achieve those goals. Use the win condition analysis section of this article to help you with mid-game.

Then, examine the value and utility stats you wrote down, and come up with a generalized stat priority for the entire kit, taking into account the degree and frequency of each scaling. Examine the currently available itemization, and identify which items seem to have good synergy with your kit. Create an item set for your champion, and make two categories at first – Items you think are genuinely useful, and items which SEEM useful from their stats, but are probably trolling. From there, sort the items into whatever groups make sense to you. Don’t forget to set up active items by assigning them a default item slot!

Finally, construct some rune setups. take a look at each keystone and minor rune, and ask yourself whether it helps you to achieve your early, mid, and late-game macro. Keep your kit in mind, and pay attention to any stats in your priority that are important but that you can’t easily build on the items you think are strong. Some champions take runepages that amplify their strengths, others take runepages that shore up their weaknesses. If a setup looks even somewhat reasonable, it’s probably at least worth testing in practice tool. 

Here’s an example analysis I did for Xin Zhao (on The current patch, 8.5). The runepage format is a little dense – ? means anything from that row is fine, 1/2 means option 1 or 2 are good situationally, x means this is the row we don’t take anything from. Bolded macro is where I believe the champion is strongest given that playstyle. Brackets around stats mean that it’s a technical scaling only, or that I’m not sure how valuable it is.

In Closing

By the end of this process, you ought to have a decent idea of how you might begin to play your selected champion. From here, take a look at what experienced players are doing. OP.gg, Probuilds, Champion.gg, and many others are invaluable tools for seeing what items, runes, and skill order people are using. Youtube also has a wealth of high elo replays to watch, to confirm or deny your suspicions about the champion’s macro play.

See if you can justify what you see the pro’s doing with what you learned – if you can’t, revisit your work and try to figure out if there was something you missed. If you can’t figure it out, test both setups. Compare how your selections feel compared to what good players are doing. If you can make an argument as to why yours is better, and you win with it more, it may be that the pro setup is specialized to work in a coordinated environment, and that your setup is more appropriate for the environment you’re playing in. However, be sure to give both setups appropriate attention. A good rule of thumb is 20 games with a setup before calling it quits for good.

If you are thorough with the process, it will take a while the first few times you do it. As you get more practice, you’ll be able to do more and more of it in your head, and through intuition. Exploring new champions is one of the funnest parts of the game, so take your time and enjoy it!

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Atherton Wing
Atherton Wing is a long time League of Legends player and coach. When not initiating teamfights, he enjoys cooking, writing bulleted lists and composing video game soundtracks.

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