Hello everyone, I’m Eph289, and today I’d like to talk to you about Kayle. Kayle has always been one of my favorite champions—she was one of the first champions I learned how to play, and her playstyle has evolved a lot throughout the years. Over the years, she’s been built AP, hybrid, on-hit, AD, and just about everything in between. More recently, she’s been played competitively by Alex Ich and Vileroze in recent months. Today, however, I’m going to talk about the optimal ways to build solo lane Kayle in season 3. She’s still a strong laner and has some clutch abilities for teamfights, as well as impressive damage. This will be a pretty long read, but don’t worry, there’s a concise summary at the bottom.
Table of contents
- Marks and quintessences
- AD versus AP
- Nashor’s Tooth
- Is hybrid Kayle good?
- What boots should I take?
- Liandry’s Torment, Deathcap, and Lich Bane.
Here’s a quick re-cap of Kayle’s abilities.
Holy Fervor (Passive)
Kayle’s autoattacks against enemy champions reduce their armor and magic resistance by 3% for 5 seconds. This debuff stacks up to 5 times.
Kayle blasts a target enemy, dealing magic damage, slowing its movement speed for 3 seconds and applying one stack of Holy Fervor. This spell scales off ability power (1.0) and bonus attack damage (1.0).
Blesses a target allied champion, healing them and increasing their movement speed for 3 seconds. This spell scales off ability power (0.35)
Kayle ignites her sword and becomes ranged for 10 seconds, granting her bonus magic damage on her attacks and increasing her attack range by 400 (525 total range). Additionally, attacks on non-tower units damage other enemies within 150 range of the target. The magic damage scales off ability power (0.4) and the splash scales off ability power (0.4) and attack damage (0.2/0.25/0.3/0.35/0.4).
Kayle bathes a target ally champion or herself in holy light, rendering the champion immune to all damage for a few seconds.
Marks and quintessences
Most people run fairly standard armor seals (yellow runes) and some variant of magic resist glyphs (blue runes). If you opt for something different, that’s fine too. However, the key runes for Kayle are the marks (red runes) and quintessences. Seals and glyphs are largely playstyle-dependent. Marks and quintessences, unless you’re taking movement speed or a defensive quintessence, can (and should) be optimized, which is what we’re going to do.
As a reminder, the context of this discussion is solo lane Kayle. Jungle, ADC, or support Kayle probably want different setups.
Let’s consider four different possible rune/mastery setups:
- Hybrid penetration marks and ability power quintessences (both penetration masteries)
- Attack speed marks and ability power quintessences (both penetration masteries)
- Attack damage marks and attack damage quintessences (armor penetration and AD masteries)
- Magic penetration marks and ability power quintessences (magic penetration and AP masteries)
I’m going to look at damage per second (DPS) when evaluating these rune setups. For each of these combinations, I am assuming that Kayle leads with Reckoning and is using Righteous Fury. While you could consider total damage per set of spells and attacks, I’m using DPS because I wish to know which will give me more damage over the same period of time.
Note: I am assuming a fairly standard enemy who is ranged (no MR/level) and is running armor yellows and MR blues. A melee or tankier opponent would tilt the values in favor of attack damage, but only slightly.
We’ll look at two points in the game. The first is level two, when Kayle unlocks both Reckoning and Righteous Fury, and level six, when she first gains access to her ultimate (remembering that runes are primarily an early-game choice). Note that we’re maxing Reckoning first.
Attack speed marks and ability power quintessences give the most DPS out of our choices when paired with both penetration masteries.
I considered a number of different mastery setups. First, I knew I wanted Kayle to have at least 21 in offense. If you pick Kayle for a solo lane, her main role on the team is damage and that means 21 in offense. I did some math and also found out that she does appreciably more damage with both penetration masteries. That determined where I spent ten of my twenty-one points. I also knew I wanted the Spellsword mastery (this is a bit of a giveaway as to whether AP or AD Kayle is better), Summoner’s Wrath, and Executioner. That left me with eight points.
Fury versus Sorcery
Assuming you only want to spend 21 points in offense, you have two options at level one in the offense tree. You can put three points in Fury for 3% attack speed, or you can put three points in Sorcery for 3% cooldown reduction.
If you choose Sorcery, you get the following benefits:
- Q cooldown reduced by 0.25 seconds
- W cooldown reduced by 0.45 seconds
- E cooldown reduced by 0.48 seconds
- R cooldown reduced by 2.7/2.25/1.8 seconds
If you choose Fury, your DPS essentially goes up by one at level two. At level six, the attack speed marks increase your DPS by around two.
Personally, I believe the Fury is a better option. 3% cooldown reduction is an awkward number, whereas DPS is always nice. That said, this one is dependent on your playstyle.
Sunder versus Mental Force
Higher up in the offense tree, we have a choice between taking Sunder (+2 armor penetration/rank) or Mental Force (+2 ability power/rank). Due to armor values being lowest at early levels, Sunder is best compared against Mental Force at level two, which is to say, if Sunder was ever going to be better, it’d be better level 2.
It’s not much, but it’s pretty clear that Mental Force is equal or better than Sunder. And since armor values increase with level for all champions, relatively speaking, that armor penetration is going to be less useful later in the game unless we’re building more of it. Mental Force wins.
Sunder versus Havoc
We have two points left in our offense tree if we’re going 21 points. We can either place them in Sunder (armor penetration) or Havoc (1% damage increase per level). Again, we’ll look at level two, because if Sunder is not better there, it won’t be better at any point.
Again, these are small differences, but unfortunately for Sunder, it goes pretty even with Havoc in its best case. Later in the game, Havoc is far better unless we have in a heavy armor penetration build. This is playstyle dependent. What does that leave us with?
Here’s the following two mastery trees I came up with for Kayle that use 21 points in offense. (Note: I didn’t put too much thought into the non-offense masteries, so don’t hate).
Optionally, you could also go more than 21 points in offense. Sunder and the last point in Havoc, along with minion damage, would be your best choices.
AP versus AD caster Kayle
A long time ago, Kayle used to be built AD. Is that build still valid? Does it hold up in today’s League of Legends? If you read the rune and masteries sections or follow competitive Kayle builds, you probably know the answer to this question, so I’ll be somewhat concise here.
There’s two possible subsets of AD builds. The first is an “AD caster” build that usually starts with a Bloodthirster and grabs Trinity Force and Last Whisper, similar to how Corki or Lucian might build. The second is a heavy-crit DPS build. First, let’s talk about AD caster Kayle.
AD caster Kayle buys a Bloodthirster first. AP Kayle picks up a Nashor’s Tooth first. Let’s again consider our DPS values at level 9—we should definitely have our first item by then, if not heavily working on a second one. Both max Reckoning first and are using the attack speed marks and Fury mastery.
As you can see, AP Kayle has better DPS. I didn’t show the math, but AP Kayle also has higher splash damage, meaning better farm. In terms of gold cost, for the amount spent on each item towards DPS (i.e. not CDR or lifesteal), they spend about the same amount of gold. AD caster Kayle gains 20% lifesteal and spends a bit more to get it. AP caster Kayle gains 20% CDR. All things being equal, I feel CDR is a more valuable stat to itemize on Kayle. Also, AP Kayle can pick up boat-loads more ability power than AD Kayle can get attack damage lategame. Lastly, bear in mind that most champions have higher armor than MR (these values are pre-mitigation), meaning that AD Kayle is even farther than behind.
The other AD-focused Kayle build is a crit-focused DPS build that is very similar to AD carry builds. The argument for these builds is that they put out so much more damage lategame, so it’s not fair to compare them in the early or the midgame. Well, let’s put that theory to the test and look at level 18 Kayle.
Late-game Crit Kayle picks up a Bloodthirster, an Infinity Edge, a Last Whisper, and a Phantom Dancer. Her build costs 12100 for non-boot items. She has one item slot left for a defensive item such as a Guardian Angel or Mercurial Scimitar.
Late-game AP Kayle has a Nashor’s Tooth, a Deathcap, a Void Staff, Lich Bane, which costs 11075 for non-boot items. She has one item slot left for a defensive item such as a Zhonya’s Hourglass or Guardian Angel.
Let’s look at four values. Let’s consider the DPS from the auto-attacks of each Kayle build, the amount of damage their Q does, and then we’ll add the two Lich Bane procs. Some quick multiplication will give us Kayle’s damage over about 4.5 seconds—a pretty long engagement, which should favor Crit Kayle. Voila, math!
Note that this is again before resists, so AD Kayle probably has to knock through more armor than AP Kayle has to knock through MR. By the time all is said and done, AP Kayle does about as much damage as Crit Kayle to a single target over 4.5 seconds (If you’ve read my previous work, you know that Lich Bane is really really good). She also does more splash damage and has 20% CDR. If Crit Kayle wants CDR (and Kayle definitely does), her best options are Zeke’s Herald and Spirit Visage, meaning no Guardian Angel or Mercurial Scimitar. The other choice is to only be ranged 60% of the time. Let’s not forget that AP Kayle also happens to spend 1000 gold less.
You’re thinking this is impossible. How does anything outscale an AD carry’s hyper-scaling crit build? How does that even work? Well, keep reading.
Nashor’s Tooth and Lich Bane
Nashor’s Tooth is the reason AP Kayle works. AD carries scale off three things: attack damage, attack speed, and critical chance. AP Kayle scales off ability power, attack speed, and the Nashor’s Tooth passive. It also gives her CDR, which is pretty important. I could do a bunch of math to prove that Nashor’s Tooth is the single best Kayle item in the game, but I’ll just keep it simple since we’re pretty long already.
Nashor’s Tooth increases Kayle’s Righteous Fury ratio. It scales it up from 0.4 AP to 0.55 and also adds 15 bonus damage, and since you’re taking Spellsword, that’s actually 0.6—effectively a 50% increase. AP Kayle lategame can get around 430 AP—that’s 333 magic damage and 108 physical damage per auto-attack. AD Kayle scales each auto-attack at a 1.0 AD ratio. That’s 60 magic damage and 314 physical damage. AP Kayle is hitting more per auto-attack than Crit Kayle is.
But what about crit? Isn’t crit awesome-sauce? Yes it is. Fortunately for AP Kayle, there’s also Lich Bane. Each crit for Crit Kayle does 408 bonus physical damage. Each Lich Bane proc gives AP Kayle bonus 373 damage. While not quite the same, in the short run, it means that AP Kayle with two Lich Bane procs isn’t falling that far behind Crit Kayle, who with a 50% crit chance probably needs four auto-attacks.
Over longer periods of time, Crit Kayle will of course do more damage and has lifesteal to boot. However, if you need to do more than 4000 gross damage on a target with your 15% shred on top of masteries and Last Whisper/Void Staff, I have to question what on earth are you hitting and why are you soloing it?
Is hybrid Kayle good?
Oh but wait, Eph, you forgot about hybrid! What about hybrid? I wince at the very thought of building anyone hybrid these days, but since you asked, I’ll show you some math. A common hybridization is something like Gunblade/Rageblade. (Thank you, Mobafire).
In one corner, we have Nashor’s Tooth/Lich Bane Kayle. In the other, we have Gunblade/Rageblade Kayle. For those curious about the details, Hybrid Kayle gets to use the Gunblade active, while Nashor’s Tooth Kayle gets one Lich Bane proc for the first two rows, and two Lich Bane procs for the second two rows. This is fairly realistic. Let’s crunch some math, using level 13 as our base value, where we have both of our damage-dealing spells maxed. Levels 14-18 are not that different aside from the small increases in AP/AD/AS per level.
Now come on, Mobafire. How am I supposed to take Hybrid Kayle seriously when it loses by 20-60 DPS when you’re above 50% health? How am I supposed to be impressed when it still loses even with the low-health attack speed passive on Guinsoo’s Rageblade? The only time hybrid wins is if you only hit them once. If you’re only hitting someone with one auto-attack on Kayle (and they’re still alive), they’re either not your focus, or you’re doing it wrong. Not to mention, the longer the fight goes on, AP Kayle can get more Lich Bane procs. Hybrid Kayle has a long Gunblade cooldown to wait on.
Somebody is probably thinking, but what about spellvamp and lifesteal? There’s 30% spellvamp and 22% lifesteal on Kayle, that has to be worth something? The answer is that neither stat is good. If you’re leading with your Reckoning and Gunblade, you won’t get much spellvamp out of them. On a squishy target, you’d get about 150 HP back from using both. Kayle’s Righteous Fury on a squishy target would give you about 17 HP from lifesteal and less than 10 from spellvamp against champions who are squishy per hit. Sure, that healing goes up to about 60 total against a minion, but you’re spending 1700 gold to get 60 health back every time you attack a minion, and under half that when you attack a squishy champion. In return, you are giving up lots of DPS, some mana, sustained damage, and most importantly, 20% CDR. I don’t like to force a lot of playstyle-dependent choices on people, but itemizing any kind of “health gain” on anything but full AD carry Kayle is not just worth the gold you spend to get it.
Bottom line: Hybrid Kayle is in the wrong league.
What boots should I take?
This is an interesting question, since Kayle is actually good with up to six boot upgrades. Mercury Treads and Ninja Tabi are the two defensive boot options that could situationally help in a bad lane. Everyone knows and loves Boots of Mobility for roaming. The factors that would make you pick those three options aren’t really numbers-related, though. They would be based on in-game conditions.
So let’s talk about the three I can quantify: Lucidity boots, Sorcerer’s Shoes, and Berserker Greaves. First up, Sorcerer’s Shoes and Berserker’s Greaves. Both Kayles have Nashor’s Tooth because, per above, it is amazing. Let’s consider two targets: a squishy target with 43 MR and a tanky target with 100 MR. Let’s say Kayle is around level 9.
The answer to the question is clear-cut in this case. Sorcerer’s Shoes give anywhere from 5 to 40 DPS more than Berserker’s Greaves. If you add on either a Lich Bane or Liandry’s Torment, the math favors Sorcerer’s Shoes even more. Spend the 200 extra gold, get the Sorcerer’s Shoes if you want damage against champions. Of course, Berserker’s Greaves are cheaper and help you push, so if you value that more, they are an option.
What about Lucidity Boots? They’re strong. How strong?
The most important thing to note is that if you have Lucidity Boots and Nashor’s Tooth, you will have nearly 100% uptime on your Righteous Fury. You could of course substitute a Blue Elixir or ideally a Blue Buff to get that. If you’re playing top AP Kayle and/or don’t have access to blue buff, Lucidity looks more attractive. If you’re getting blue buff fairly consistently, then the value of Lucidity boots is much less. The decision between Lucidity Boots and Sorcerer’s Shoes will depend on ingame circumstances and your playstyle. It will cost you about 30 DPS (on a non-tanky target), but you’ll get up to 35% cooldown reduction.
Liandry’s Torment, Deathcap, and Lich Bane
Somebody out there is dying to ask the question: what about Liandry’s Torment? You’ve talked an awful lot about Lich Bane and Nashor’s Tooth, but what about Liandry’s Torment? What about Rabadon’s Deathcap?
First off, Liandry’s Torment is an absolute nightmare to math out. Look at that formula. That’s disgusting.
Second, I still did it anyway because the world must know. I compared Liandry’s Torment, Rabadon’s Deathcap, and Lich Bane over a series of enemy MR and HP values, with Kayle again around level 13 (knowing that 14-18 aren’t THAT different). I did not factor in or compare Void Staff—it’s not really optional anymore unless the entire enemy team has under 60 MR. You should almost always be buying Void Staff lategame unless you’re in a stomp or they’re completely incompetent. Note that this is as a second item: you should buy Nashor’s Tooth first.
The first case assumes that Kayle uses Reckoning and two auto-attacks. The Lich Bane is used once—this is basically a two-second burst combo. I have color-coded the cells with the highest damage.
Note that I have assumed the targets do not have Tenacity. If they have Tenacity, Liandry’s Torment loses 50-100 damage.
The second case is the one I feel is more likely. Kayle uses Reckoning and four auto-attacks. The Lich Bane is used twice (use Divine Blessing to get the second proc). This is a four-second longer combination. Again, the color-coding. In this case, the particular color is unimportant–just know that the colored cell has the highest value.
For any of you who have read my past work on AP items, this isn’t a surprise. If Lich Bane procs twice, it does the most damage except against the tankiest of opponents. Now, Liandry’s isn’t bad, but it does generally give around 100 less damage than Lich Bane in the four-second case on non-tanks. I would personally almost always buy Lich Bane first unless the enemy team was heavily stacking health, then choose between Deathcap or Liandry’s after a Void Staff based on enemy team composition and how the game was playing out. Oddly enough, Liandry’s does the best in burst scenarios, because re-applying the burn repeatedly isn’t that helpful, particularly once the slow runs out. Liandry’s Torment seems to be a much better poke mage item—applying it on every auto-attack is inferior to the extra damage from Rabadon’s on non-tanks, and once you factor in the Tenacity that tanks will likely have, it’s not nearly as good.
I would guess that many of you skipped down to here. That’s okay. That’s what it’s here for. This is what the math yields:
- Runes: AP Quints and Attack Speed reds
- At least 21 in offense
- Take both penetration masteries,
- Take 2 points in Havoc and 3 points in Mental Force. (Reverse for lategame)
- Take Spellsword, Executioner, and Summoner’s Wrath as well.
- Fury versus Sorcery is playstyle dependent.
- AP Kayle is superior to AD caster Kayle and evens out with Crit DPS Kayle in short fights with a cheaper build.
- Hybrid Kayle is trash. Even Doublelift agrees.
- Boots: Sorcerer’s Shoes for damage unless you need Treads or Tabi to survive lane. Berserker’s Greaves for pushing. If you really value CDR or can’t get blue buff, Lucidity Boots are good too.
- Nashor’s Tooth is the single best AP Kayle item
- For a second damage item, Lich Bane is the best option if you can get two procs of it.
- Your third damage item should usually be Void Staff.
- For a fourth damage item, Deathcap is generally better than Liandry’s Torment as long as you can attack more than once. Liandry’s Torment is superior in short bursts of damage, but Deathcap does more damage per auto-attack.
And here’s a bonus video:
Special thanks to Shakarez, SS, and Chickenmoo.