Ultimates, the ‘R’ ability of a champion, come in many different shapes and sizes and can vary from short range bursts of damage, like Aatrox, to cross map ults that can turn the tide of a fight in an instant, looking at you Shen. The strength of these ults in comparison to each other aren’t vastly well known across the league community so i’m hoping I can bring the information forward in an easy to understand way.
At level 6 most ultimates are used in lane in order to try and pick up a kill and snowball the lane further in your favour. As a jungler, it can be a good idea to keep an eye on mid lane for when your laner is going to hit 6 as most champions suddenly aquire a large power spike coupled with kill potential.
As the mid lane champion do you understand where the true power lies with various ultimates? Does Annie’s Tibbers do more damage than Orianna’s shockwave? How many of Swain’s ravens have to hit you for him to equal your ultimate on damage? Hopefully I can answer a few of these.
Let us start with some analysis of level 6 ultimates to see who’s got the highest killing potential:
This is a table showing the damage of some of the mid laners who’s ultimate is a single addition of damage. The table doesn’t show the absolute damage, so there is some variation from the numbers seen but you can extrapolate from the numbers shown.
The big winner here is Lux. Her ult does such a huge amount of damage and i’ve not even added the passive proc, which will do more damage as you increase in level. So if you’re playing against a Lux, or Veigar/Karthus for that matter, you need to be careful not to get hit by their ult if you’re on mid-low health.
Although Ziggs‘ ult does as much damage as Karthus’ does its much harder to hit for the full value so he isn’t quite as dangerous. As we move down the list, the CC provided by the ult increases with Cass and Galio‘s ult providing a lot of damage relative to the amount of CC they also apply.
Some interesting notes from AP scaling is that Veigar scales really well with his own AP, which he can also build up by killing units with his Q, relatively to the amount of base damage and also scales from the enemies AP. Probably one of the hardest hitting skills even if Veigar isn’t fed.
This table will actually take some explaining but if you’re familiar enough with the champions you will see that the level 6 column is not a true representation of their damage but will be adjusted depending on a few conditions.
Syndra‘s listed damage is for 3 sphere’s, the minimum she’ll have out at any point, and it’ll increase by 90 for every additional sphere she has in play. At level 6 i’d assume you’d be able to get 2 additional sphere’s out making Syndra’s damage 450 + 100% AP, which is easily one of, if not the highest, damage at level 6. Look for a kill around this time.
Annie’s damage is just the base damage of Tibbers but this can easily be increased if you can use his auto attacks and keep people near him for the aura damage. Brand‘s damage really depends on the bounces. We’ve all seen the games where 2 people attack brand and he lands a full combo of 4 spells easily destroying 2 targets. Viktor is more or less the same as Annie except you can move the silencing cloud as soon as you use the ult, while there is a slight delay on Tibbers being controllable.
Talon will typically get 2 applications of his ult unless they’re able to use an escape, which puts it on a respectable amount of damage and gives it ‘good’ AD scaling of 150% of bonus AD. Akali‘s ult damage at level 6 isn’t the highest because she needs time to generate charges but once she gets 3 she can normally get enough to kills to sustain the charges even through extended engages. Malzahar‘s ult damage depends on how long he’s able to channel for. Usually during kills in the laning phase he can get off a complete channel but later on, in teamfights especially, its usually interrupted before the full channel completes, lowering the damage done.
Diana‘s i’ve listed as variable damage just because she can get 2 charges by landing her Q first, even though she’s more than likely to use them both in quick succession on a single target. Additionally LeBlanc‘s is much more complicated than listed here. Although it does 100 damage, assuming you’re mimicking Q, it will also trigger the mark on the previous Q you used and then you can use another spell to trigger the mimic’d spells mark for another 100 damage.
Ahri‘s ult damage isn’t very high if you’re only able to land a single, or potentially two, charges. But it excels once you push it to three charges. Keep this in mind while playing Ahri. Anivia is an interesting one because her ultimate isn’t always used for the damage butdoes allow for a double damage E and potentially Q. However if you are using it for the damage on champions then you need to have it tick 3-4 times in order to match the damage you’d expect from an Annie or Karthus, so ensure your ult placement is up to scratch!
If you’re playing Swain or Kassadin you’ve got your work cut out for you as you need to have your ultimate hit 3-4 times to equal or beat the better damage champions. Much harder on Kass than Swain but you’re usually using it for the gap closer/surprise factor on a different lane anyway.
Katarina‘s ult is amazing in terms of damage and is pretty much unmatched if you can get a full channel off, but that is the problem within itself. However with 400 damage + 250% AP at level 6 you need to be very careful if you’re playing against her in lane and even more so in teamfights. Make sure you land some CC!
There is some variation in early game damage, especially if you’re playing Syndra against Lissandra or Orianna. You need to use this advantages in order to push yourself ahead in the laning phase. If you’re playing against someone from the above champions who does more burst damage than the champion you’re playing you might want to call for jungler pressure around level 6 in order to supplement the damage you’ve got. But be careful that you don’t engage and get bursted before you can help out!
Not every champion picks up damage from their ult and they are able to make different kinds of plays with their ults. I’ll discuss these here.
Ryze gains AOE damage and spell vamp from his ultimate. This ultimately won’t do any additional damage to a single target at level 6 but will allow him to sustain himself a little bit in an attempt to negate the damage that other people do with their ult. This makes him a surprisingly good duelist at level 6 if he can cast his spells so look to avoid CC as best you can.
Nidalee gains access to her cougar form abilities, which in a way could be called a damage ultimate. However from this point onwards Cougar form is used quite frequently as a wave clear tool, for increasing mobility around the map and also to perform executes after landing a spear or two. In my book, i’m calling that utility.
Kha’Zix‘s ult is a utility ult because it allows the customisation of his playstyle around the other abilities he possesses. You can obviously use the move speed granted by the ult to pick up kills but i’m adding it to the utility column.
Twisted Fate gains near global map presence with his ult. You should be attempting to influence the rest of the lanes from this point forward rather than your own because you probably lack the damage relative to the laner you’re facing.
Zilean gains the ability to prevent the death of a nearby ally, reviving them after a few seconds. Utility all the way.
If you’re playing against one of the above champions, maybe with the exception of Nidalee, you’re gaining a nice burst in damage of 6 that they potentially cannot mirror. As such you want to use this new found power to get a kill, or at the very least apply pressure, and start the snowball rolling. If you can call your jungler, or if you’re playing the jungler, to come mid as you get 6 then this could guarantee a kill for your team while they can’t respond in kind.
Scaling at Levels 11 and 16
Obviously its worthless to just talk about level 6 ultimates because you pick up two additional ranks as you move up through the game. However ultimate base damage doesn’t scale as well as champion health pools, even more so for those lucky champions who gain magic resist per level. As such you need to make up this deficit by either poking harder, and engaging when the target is on lower health, or supplementing your damage with the AP scaling.
The amount of additional damage it requires to kill a mid lane champion at level 11 compared to level 6 is around 480 damage assuming they don’t buy any additional defensive stats, slightly lower for champions such as Annie or Lux and slightly higher for Lissandra and Zed. It is more or less impossible to make this damage up with your ult alone, with most champions requiring well over 300 AP in order to pull this off. A few can get close, Kat only needs 185 if she’s able to get a full channel off while Veigar needs 296 from his 120% AP scaling and 80% of his opponents AP. Again they’re not unrealistic targets but if you’re able to pull numbers like these you’re probably really ahead in lane anyway so you’re really just adding icing on the cake at this point.
However you will also have additional damage from spell ranks, having one maxxed skill and one with an additional point in it at level 11 and then another maxxed out one at 16. However I would advise a little poking rather than going all-in at level 11 against a full health opponent if you’re looking exclusively for kills, though you’ll probably end up sending your lane opponent back one way or another.
Back to the champions and we can see the scaling isn’t consistent across the board and Karthus and Ziggs actually end up with the hardest hitting base damage despite starting lower than Veigar and Lux. Both Lux and Veigar pick up additional scaling away from their ult, either from their passive or Veigar’s Q stacking his AP and picking up additional damage from opponents AP, so they don’t need as strong scaling to remain relevant.
It also shows that the lower damaging ults actually don’t ‘catch up’ at all at later levels and the difference between Orianna’s and Lux’s damage is huge. But I guess this about the difference in the champions and the differing jobs they might have in a game/teamfight, either as a burst mage/pick rather than trying to land CC and be a disruptive threat.
The less simple champions seem to follow a relatively similar pattern with the larger damage being done by the single application targets and characters like Swain or Kassadin requiring even more applications of the ult in order to match the damage of the top damaging ults. Katarina still has the luxury of having the ult with the highest raw damage at levels 11 and 16, assuming she can get the full channel off.
Most of the other ults have relatively good scaling with Diana and Talon actually having one of the lowest because they only get 2 applications of their ult, unless Diana decides to hold on to her ult for a little while to get additional charges in a short space of time.
Zed’s ultimate marks the target and deals damage 3 seconds after its applied, dealing a percentage of the damage done to the target while it was marked as additional damage. Currently it does 100% of Zed’s AD, which is basically an auto attack, plus 20 / 35 / 50% of total damage dealt during the 3 seconds that the mark is on the target. This damage can be basically anything Zed can apply to the target except for ignite. So magic damage from items, auto attacks, ability damage and things like the active on Blade of the Ruined King.
In order for us to quantify Zed’s damage we need to look at where we can get damage from. Zed is likely to get 2-3 auto attacks off during this time. We’ll be kind and say he gets 3 off, which accounts for 300% AD damage. We can also assume he’ll land at least 1 Q and 1 E.
If you max Q that’ll be 155 + 100% bonus AD damage at level 6, while maxxing E will be 120 + 80% bonus AD damage. If Zed can also land a secondary Q from the shadow he spawns that’ll be an extra 37.5/77.5 damage depending on what rank the skill is on.
So this lands us with 2 situations. If Zed levels Q first he’ll do 300% AD + (155+60+180%bonus AD) +100% AD damage assuming he only hits 1 shuriken. If he levels E first he’ll do 300% AD + (75+120+180%bonus AD) + 100% AD damage, again only a single shuriken. The damage difference here is 20 damage but will be increased up to around 60 if you can land a second shuriken.
This means at level 6 the mark will do 20% of the damage we deal
- So for Q this will be approxiamately 60% AD + 43 + 36% bonus AD + 100% AD.
- While E will be 60% AD + 39 + 36% bonus AD + 100% AD.
So you can see that a level 6 Zed’s ult doesn’t actually does a vast amount of damage from the scaling part of the ult. If Zed has 100 AD, of which 40 of that is bonus, he’s only gaining 75 damage from his AD, so the ult will do about 200 damage overall. This is a comparable amount of damage to other mid lane champions.
If Zed is also able to proc his passive during the ult mark this will also scale and will provide between 10 and 15 damage depending on the health pools of the target. Don’t forget the above numbers are just for the ult damage.
However its the scaling of Zed’s ult that really allows him to shine. If we assume he’s level 18:
- Damage from 3 auto attacks: 300% AD
- Damage from Q: 235 + 100% Bonus AD
- Damage from E: 180 + 80% Bonus AD
- Damage from Passive: 10% target’s max health, assuming they have 1900 health that’s 190 damage.
- Flat damage from ult: 100% AD
This allows the total scaling damage, which is 50% (!) at this point, to be:
150% AD + 117.5 + 90 + 90% Bonus AD + 5% of targets max health
If we assume Zed has 300 AD, of which 200 is bonus, then the mark will do:
150 from AD + 207.5 + 180 from bonus AD + 5% max health (~95 damage) =
782.5 damage before mitigation, which probably won’t be a vast amount because Zed buys Last Whisper and Black Cleaver. Oh and you also get 100% AD as a flat bonus to the ult damage, so in total the ult will do 1082.5 damage if you have 300 AD. I think this alone is a reason why QSS or Zhonya’s becomes an almost essential buy against Zed if you want any sort of hope of living.
This is quite a favourable situation for Zed but if he’s buying this quantity of AD he’s a serious threat to most non tank characters.
For the sake of ease i’ve not even bothered adding BotRK in there, but it helps Zed’s damage. It gives the active an extra scaling, or 20/35/50% depending on the rank, but also scales with the passive effect.
Few champions have outrageous damage from ults even scaling into the late game. The only ones I would consider overly high is Kat and Zed but they run a high risk-high reward playstyle as that can easily be countered by a single ability and then a huge chunk of their damage is gone.
Picking the right time to fight is key on Zed and Kat and will really separate the good players from those who are less able. Syndra could easily find a home within a pick comp as she has one of the highest base damage ults in the game even in the worst case scenario of having just 3 balls available for ult.
Champions who provide strong CC, like Orianna or Galio, unsurprisingly don’t have as strong damage scaling or they’d end up being picked in just about every game.
There is a good case for support Annie looking at the above numbers because she has absurd base damage on top of providing a stun. One of the interesting things to come out of this research is Viktor as a support. The base damage on his ult is slightly lower than Annie’s but can easily compete in the short term because it does good damage over time. His Hex Core Augment: Gravity provides him with a long range stun, 10% CDR and a small amount of AP, though it does cost 1000g and that’s a lot of gold for a support, but I could see it working in certain comps.
The observant amongst you will have noticed that i’ve not included everyone on the list above including Xerath, Heimerdinger and Morderkaiser. Due the upcoming reworks for the former two champions, and the changing nature of Xerath’s ult, i’ve not run the maths for these champions. I’m sure i’ll get round to updating the list at some point in the future and i’ll include them.
Morde on the other hand is just a little too complicated to stick an exact value on. It’s likely to do around 24% of your maximum health which could be anything from 100-300 damage depending on the champion MR/Spell Pen/AP values. Plus you’ve then got to add the damage of the ghost. Interestingly the ghost scales from the champion, AD brought from items and Morde’s AD. If you could pick up the kill while playing AD Morde (if you’d ever do that) then you’d be a turret pushing machine.