Hello, I’m Sudunem and today I’m going to talk about a pair of AP items that seemingly fill similar roles: Seraph’s Embrace and Rod of Ages. They both give AP, mana, some form of health (either via flat HP or a shield) and take time to stack. Because they’re so similar, it can be confusing as to which one is better. Hopefully this piece will help clarify the considerations behind each choice.
Cost: 2800 gold
Base stats: 450 health, 450 mana, 60 AP
Stacked stats: 650 health, 650 mana, 80 AP
Stacking time: 10 minutes (20 health, 20 mana, 2 AP gained every minute)
Build path: Catalyst the Protector, Blasting Wand
Unique Passive: Every time you level up, you gain 150 health and 200 mana over 8 seconds. This is essentially a HP potion and 2 mana potions.
Cost: 2700 gold
Base stats: 250 mana, 60 AP, 10 mana regen/5 seconds
Stacked stats: 1000 mana, 60 AP, 10 mana regen/5 seconds
Stacking time: Variable, but cannot be lower than 12.5 minutes from the minute you get the Tear. A more likely case is around 15-20 minutes to fully stack this.
Build path: Tear of the Goddess, Blasting Wand (transforms from Archangel’s Staff when Mana Charge is fully stacked)
Passives: Gain ability power equal to 3% of your maximum mana; Mana Shield: Convert 20% of your current mana + 150 to shield yourself for 3 seconds. (120 second cooldown)
Since both items cost about the same, we’ll consider that a wash. They both also require a Blasting Wand, so again, we’ll neglect that from our consideration of the build path.
When it comes to comparing Tear of the Goddess versus Catalyst, there’s definitely a tradeoff. Tear of the Goddess is way cheaper, at only 700, and it builds out of a popular starting item (Faerie Charm). This means you can get it much earlier and start the stacking process several minutes before you can even buy Catalyst. Catalyst, the Protector costs more (1200), but gives better base stats and has one of the best item passives in the game. Think of Catalyst this way: every time you level up, you get a free HP potion and two free mana potions. If you obtain Catalyst at level 8, that means you basically acquire up to 1050 extra gold worth of “free potions” (depending on your health and mana when you level up) along with the item’s stats. Even with a less than optimal case for Catalyst, you’re still probably getting 500-600 gold worth of potions out of Catalyst. That’s insanely cost-efficient.
Health versus ‘Dat Shield’
Now for the fun part: the raw statistics. Rod of Ages gives 450-650 health, depending on how charged it is. This means that for the midgame when you first buy the item, Rod of Ages gives survivability, whereas Archangel’s Staff gives no survivability until you fully stack the Mana Charge passive. Seraph’s Embrace technically provides no health, but does convert 20% of your current mana + 150 for a 3 second shield (120 second cooldown). How good is that? Let’s see. Champion mana levels fluctuate heavily, but most mages have around 250 base mana and gain about 50 mana per level. Your mileage may vary on this one, but virtually every non-support except Kassadin on whom Rod of Ages/Archangel’s would be a good buy on is within 5% of this range.
Operating on this premise, let’s consider a couple cases: If we transform our Archangel’s Staff to Seraph’s Embrace very quickly, we could have it done just before the 20 minute mark, which, based on some SWAGs, corresponds to about level 12-13. At level 12, with full mana, that gives us 520 HP from the shield. At level 18, the Seraph’s Embrace Shield gives a shield value of approximately 580, assuming the champion did not build any other significant mana items. Given that it’s pretty unlikely to do more than finish Rod of Ages at level 12, and that’s with rushing it, the Seraph’s Embrace shield seemingly has a slight edge over Rod of Ages when you first acquire it, simply because you’ll likely have it sooner than a stacked Rod of Ages. Of course, a finished Rod of Ages has more health than a Seraph’s Embrace shield (unless you buy more mana, getting to that later). Keep in mind that this is the best case scenario for Seraph’s Embrace because it uses your maximum mana. You will almost never get that best case.
The other complication is that Seraph’s Embrace is a shield, which means you have to 1) remember to use it, and 2) it can’t be used if you’re CC’d. If the enemy Malzahar leads on you with FACELAZ0R as his buddy Nocturne jumps in and starts channeling a fear tether, you get effectively no health out of the Seraph’s Embrace shield. Also, 3) it has a 120 second cooldown and only lasts 3 seconds.
All that to say, Rod of Ages gives more upfront survivability than Seraph’s Embrace with one notable exception. Singed gains health equal to 25% of his maximum mana, so a fully-stacked Rod of Ages gives him 163 health, while a Seraph’s Embrace gives him 250 health. Given that an ulting Singed rarely dips far below maximum mana, and he can get that best-case scenario when he charges in, a well-played Singed gets about equal survivability from Seraph’s Embrace as Rod of Ages.
Rod of Ages gives 60-80 AP. That’s easy. Archangel’s Staff is a bit more complicated. Assuming you rushed the Archangel’s Staff and got it by level 12, then guessing that mana charge is stacked up to around a total of 650 bonus mana from Tear, Archangel’s is giving 60 AP + 45 AP from the Insight passive (3% of 650 + 250 base + 600 from leveling). That’s 105 AP, and simple math tells us that’s a lot more AP than Rod of Ages. At level 18, Seraph’s Embrace/Archangel’s Staff will give 125 AP just from itself and the champion’s base mana. Again, this is more AP than Rod of Ages. As a minor note, Archangel’s Staff also gives 10 mana regeneration every 5 seconds, which is small, but certainly relevant especially during laning phase.
Rod of Ages cannot be fully charged before the 25 minute mark without being ludicrously fed. The earliest that it can realistically be acquired for most players is somewhere in the 15-20 mark depending on how fed you are, so don’t expect that item to be fully charged until 25-30 minutes. While professional players can pick it up by 13 minutes, that’s fairly unlikely without near perfect CSing. If you’re an early-game AP champion (hi, LeBlanc!), this means you basically don’t want Rod of Ages, because by 30 minutes, you’re too busy crying in a corner. Rod of Ages also highly encourages you to rush it, so once you start down the Rod of Ages path, finish it as quickly as possible to get the most out of it. In that sense, Rod of Ages constrains your build order.
Tear of the Goddess is more flexible, since you can acquire a very cheap Tear of the Goddess around the 6 to 7 minute mark, and then stack it up until you’re ready to buy Archangel’s Staff while buying other things like Sorcerer’s Shoes, Needlessly Large Rod, etc. That said, I would not expect to have Archangel’s Staff transformed to Seraph’s Embrace until the 20 minute mark at the very earliest, with 25 minutes much more likely. So they finish at about the same time, but you can start stacking the Tear of the Goddess earlier and have more room in your build if you need to deviate (like wow, Diana hurts, I need a Negatron Cloak). Note that if your champion sucks at charging up Tear of the Goddess, you can forget about 25 minutes. Instead, it’ll be more along the lines of 30+ minutes.
What about both?
Some champions can afford to get away with building both items, but that’s a considerable investment. You’re delaying the two big AP boomstick items (Rabadon’s Deathcap and Void Staff). You’re delaying any kind of utility item (Zhonya’s Hourglass, CDR, Rylai’s Crystal Scepter). Your champion needs to either have extreme mana issues along with ludicrous damage (Anivia, Karthus), or else they need to scale directly off of mana (Ryze, Singed), because otherwise, you’re investing far too much into mana and health.
- Rod of Ages gives more survivability by a fair amount and its health bonus is passive, whereas Seraph’s Embrace is an active.
- Archangel’s Staff gives more ability power, and a splash of mp5 to boot.
- Rod of Ages has a very rigid build order and a pricier starting item, but Catalyst the Protector is ludicrously cost-efficient in terms of free potions.
- Archangel’s Staff has a flexible build and a cheaper starting item, but Tear of the Goddess gives no survivability.
- Both items take around the same time to charge fully on champions that are good at stacking Mana Charge.
- If you want both items, you either need to have ludicrous damage and extreme mana costs, or else directly scale off of mana.
Now that we know the strengths and weaknesses of each item, let’s consider champions. First, both of these items give a lot of mana, health, and AP and cost a lot, so that eliminates every AD-scaling character, tanks not named Singed, Malphite, or Galio, all manaless champions, and all the supports.
Out of those, we’re only interested in AP champions with real mana issues. Ahri, Diana, Elise, Fizz, Gragas, LeBlanc, Kayle, Malzahar, Twisted Fate, and Xerath, you may all sit down now. You don’t need to itemize that much mana on them. I know some people do, but let’s face it, you don’t have to.
Let’s also exclude everyone who really needs an early Zhonya’s Hourglass. Morgana , Fiddlesticks, and Lissandra, you are excused.
Now, out of the remaining champions, let’s ask three questions for each champion: Can you quickly stack Tear of the Goddess? Do you need to be within 600-700 range to do most of my damage? Do I really need early CDR? Note that these recommendations are solely the opinion of the author. If doing something other than the recommendation is working well for you, keep doing it, and don’t make nasty comments about how the author is wrong.
Anivia: Either choice or both are acceptable. Optionally could pair one choice with a CDR item like Athene’s or Morellonomicon. Anivia can basically be built with anything that involves AP, survivability, mana, and/or CDR and do well. Just ask Froggen.
Annie: Annie is reasonably effective at charging Tear of the Goddess, but is also close-ranged and her mana issues aren’t that extreme. She does benefit from CDR, so I would be tempted to go Athene’s with Rylai’s Crystal Scepter, or Rod of Ages into Morellonomicon
Kassadin: Kassadin often buys both, but if you had to pick one, get Rod of Ages. Personally, I disagree with Tear of the Goddess on him since he doesn’t charge it that fast, but I’m not a Kassadin expert.