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Capitalizing on Items for Captains

Inspired by “A Guide to Situational Items for Roam Players” by MrTouchnGo, this article is tailored for the recent Update 2.0 — including the new items that have entered the fold. Build paths are key to success in a game, yet are fluid depending on the situation of the game. So what items should a Captain get and when?

 

This article goes through the various items in a Captain build: Core Items, Common Situational Items, Rare Situational Items and Temporary Items. We will assume that you are already familiar with the items in Vainglory. But if that’s not the case, feel free to refer to VaingloryFire’s Item WikiBase.

 

Note that this is a general guide and does not have to be followed strictly. There are cases in the competitive scene where Captains prioritize some items over others, and for good reason.

 

Core Items

Core items take their place in almost every Captain build, sometimes completed as early as 3 minutes into the game, sometimes left until the last item.

 

Fountain of Renewal

This is frequently the first item that Captains build, and should be prioritized in most games. This is because of the sheer amount of healing that the Fountain gives, on top of its passive which allows you to tank some extra poke damage in between fights.

 

The Fountain of Renewal is most effective when activated while your carries are of considerably low health (the lower the better). However, note that sometimes during teamfights, your carries receive more damage than the Fountain can heal, so time the activation correctly!

 

Activate Fountain when:

  • Your ally carries are at ½ health AND
    • Are up against bursty enemies (e.g. Koshka, crystal Kestrel)
    • Your allies are squishy heroes (e.g. Petal, Celeste)
  • Your ally carries are at ¼ health AND
    • Are up against damage over time enemies
    • Your allies are tanky heroes
  • You’re about to die
    • No point letting that Fountain and other items go wasted! (Unless you want to save it for when you next respawn in the mid-game)

 

Build path:

  • Build a Lifespring first if you expect to tank some poke damage in the lane or minion damage in the jungle.
  • Build a Kinetic Shield first if your enemies are bursty crystal heroes in the early game (e.g. Koshka, crystal Kestrel).

More effective when:

  • Against enemy heroes who deal damage over time
    • E.g. Krul, Glaive, Petal
  • Paired with in-your-face, tanky ally heroes
    • E.g. Glaive, Joule, Reim

Not as effective when:

  • Against enemy heroes who deal heavy burst damage
    • E.g. crystal Joule, crystal Kestrel, Koshka
  • Paired with squishy ally heroes (receiving damage faster than the Fountain can heal )
    • E.g. carry Lyra, Petal, Celeste

War Treads

This item is the most natural progression for Captains to build into from Travel Boots, as they give the Captain more utility than the other two options (Journey Boots and Halcyon Chargers). It also provides some extra tankiness (500 health) so you can soak in more damage during a fight.

 

War Tread’s activation gives your entire team a speed boost, aiding them in engaging (starting) fights or pursuing kiting enemies (aka. enemies who keep your carries at a distance while dealing damage). Conversely, its activation can help with disengaging (leaving teamfights) or helping your carries kite away from sticky enemies.

 

Build path:

  • Build Travel Boots first for the passive speed by mid-game

More effective when:

  • Against enemy heroes who have peel (to help your team with engaging)
    • E.g. Skye, Gwen, Idris
  • Against enemy heroes who tend to be sticky (to help your team with disengaging)
    • E.g. Krul, Reim, Blackfeather
  • Paired with ally carries who lack decent peel:
    • E.g. Skaarf, Ringo
  • Playing dive compositions (Skye, Blackfeather, etc.)

Not as effective when:

  • Playing Fortress
    • His A skill, Truth of the Tooth, already helps his team with engaging

 

Common Situational Items

These items are often seen in Captains’ builds, but are built according to the draft as well as the situation.

Crucible

Originally a core item for Captain builds, the Crucible has been sidelined to being a situational item due to the advent of newer items with equally good utility. With the extra health, the Crucible boosts abilities which have a bonus health ratio (Lyra’s Imperial Sigil, Adagio’s Gift of Fire, Ardan’s Vanguard). Its team-wide Reflex Block active is most effective against enemies with good Crowd Control (skills which can stun, slow, etc. such as Phinn’s Forced Accord, Catherine’s Blast Tremour and Adagio’s Verse of Judgement).

 

Build path:

  • If you are playing Lyra, Adagio or Ardan as Captain, build Oakheart first.
  • If the enemy has good early game CC, build a Reflex Block first.

More effective when:

  • Against enemy heroes who have good AoE (Area of Effect) CC
    • E.g. Joule, Phinn, Catherine, Lance
  • Playing Captains with bonus health based abilities (Lyra, Adagio, Phinn, Ardan)
  • Paired with squishy heroes (they need the extra barrier to prevent them from being burst down)
    • E.g. Celeste, Skaarf, Petal

Not as effective:

  • Paired with Gwen, who already has a Skedaddle (pseudo-Reflex Block)

Atlas Pauldron

Most players are unfamiliar with how this item actually works, so let’s go through the description. The Atlas Pauldron lowers the attack speed of affected targets to 35% of its original speed. This means that the items that provide a bonus attack speed will also get affected by Atlas (for more information, see the “Atlas Pauldron and You” section from this article). So the higher a target’s attack speed is, the more effective Atlas Pauldron is.

Note that Atlas Pauldron also affects abilities which cooldowns are based on attack speed such as Gwen’s Boomstick and Joule’s Thunder Strike.

 

More effective when:

  • Against enemy heroes reliant on auto-attacks and high attack speed
    • E.g. Saw, Krul, weapon Blackfeather, Glaive, Gwen, weapon Joule
  • Against enemy heroes with high attack speed
    • E.g. Rona, Vox

Not as effective when:

  • Against mages (who rely on skills more than basic attacks)
    • E.g. Skaarf, Celeste, Samuel
  • Against enemy heroes with slow attack speed
    • E.g. Lance, Baron

Contraption

Free-flow mines and flares! Who wouldn’t want that! The contraption is used to gain an upper hand in the Captain’s vision war. Having a constant source of flares without needing to shop is a boon, especially in the late game, where predicting the enemy’s position becomes more difficult. The extra cooldown also helps your Captain use their skills more often for utility! Build a contraption when you feel like you’re struggling to maintain control of vision over the map.

 

Build path:

  • Build a Flare Gun first because, hey, who doesn’t want free flares?

More effective when:

  • Enemy heroes have invisible abilities
    • Taka, Flicker and Kestrel
  • Enemy players are known for unpredictable rotations (competitive-wise)
  • Allies have invisibility abilities (To maintain vision control)
    • Taka, Flicker and Kestrel

Less effective when:

  • Enemies’ positions are easily predicted/known
  • Allies have abilities that provide vision
    • E.g. Gwen (Buckshot Bonanza), Celeste (Julia’s Light)

Stormcrown

A nice item that was introduced as a replacement upgrade from Stormguard Banner, as well as an alternative to Clockwork, Stormcrown allows Captains to dish out some nice damage against objectives and give a nice bit of additional cooldown. Stormcrown is not to be built against a specific enemy type, but more so to help the Captain secure objectives and have poke against enemy carries.

 

Build path:

  • Build a Stormguard Banner first, because it’s basically a miniature version of Stormcrown

More effective when:

  • Prioritizing objectives (turrets, miners, kraken)
  • Playing as Catherine, Ardan or Flicker
  • Intending to play an aggressive early game

Less effective when:

  • Playing Phinn (Generally unable to get close enough to a target for basic attacks)
  • Your ally carry obtains a Stormcrown or Stormguard Banner as well (the damage output from Stormcrown onto a target is limited to one item)

Echo

Echo’s main gimmick is being able to use two skills in succession, but we need to remember that it takes up an item slot. Also, its recipe to reach tier 3 costs 1800 gold — the most expensive upgrade on the Halcyon fold, even more than the upgrades to Shatterglass and Sorrowblade (1300 gold).

 

Echo’s active works best on Captain’s whose abilities have long cooldowns and bring utility to the team.

 

More effective when:

  • Playing captains with abilities that bring utility and/or have long cooldowns
    • Catherine (Blast Tremor). Especially effective in combination with Nullwave Gauntlet
    • Phinn (Forced Accord)
    • Ardan (Gauntlet)

Less effective when:

  • Playing Lance (Lacks the need for energy) or Flicker (Generally little utility from Echoing Mooncloak)

Nullwave Gauntlet

Item silencing for 5 seconds??? That’s a longer silence duration than Catherine’s Blast Tremour (3.5 seconds) and Vox’s Wait for It (0.7 seconds).

 

Having problems with an Echoed Solar Storm? Just fire the Nullwave when the enemy Celeste is using her first ultimate. This prevents Celeste from copying her ultimate until the silence is over. This would force the mage to make a choice between using her other two abilities during this period and waiting until she can copy her ultimate.

 

Nullwave Gauntlet was originally SEMC’s designated counter to Echo, but is also heavily counters Crucible/Reflex Blocks. It can be cunningly used to bait out/nullify a player’s Reflex Block, followed up by a debuff, stun, slow or some other form of crowd control. For example, use Nullwave on an enemy carry, followed by an ally’s Hellfire Brew. Or use Nullwave on the Captain before using Forced Accord. When used on the enemy Captain, they would either be forced to activate their Crucible, or be unable to activate any items — including War Treads and Fountain — for a significant period of time.

 

Nullwave Gauntlet can also be used to deny enemy carries their boots activation and thus cut off their escape. This can be useful on captains who lack crowd control, or if their abilities happen to be on cooldown during a chase.

 

Build path:

  • If your Captain needs more tankiness, build the Oakheart first
  • If your Captain needs more cooldown for ability utility, build the Chronograph first

More Effective when:

  • Enemy Captain has multiple activatable items
    • E.g. Crucible, Fountain, War Treads, Echo
  • Enemy carries have Echo and bursty ultimates
    • E.g. Crystal Joule, Celeste

Less Effective when:

  • Against enemies with no activatable items
    • Unless you’re securing a kill with the Nullwave damage, Nullwave is useless against heroes who lack activatable items!

 

Rare Situational Items

These items are more rarely seen in Captain builds and are generally overshadowed by utility items. Consider twice before putting them in your build!

 

Clockwork

Originally giving 50% cooldown speed, Clockwork had been nerfed in the recent updates with respect to Captains. This is due to the fact that its passive (30% amplification on crystal power) is generally useless on Captains — since they generally don’t buy crystal items — and is a more favourable option for mages.

 

The exception to this would be Adagio’s whose ability utility scales with crystal power (Gift of Fire and Agent of Wrath) and would typically build Shatterglass. However, this item has long been outclassed by Stormcrown in terms of utility.

 

Build Path:

  • Start with Chronograph for the cooldown.

When to Build:

  • Captain Adagio
    • His abilities (Gift of Fire, Agent of Wrath) have utility that scale with crystal power. Build Clockwork after crystal items such as Shatterglass.
  • Captain Glaive
    • Captain Glaive’s main gimmick is his Afterburn, capable of isolating enemy carries or punting them away from your ally carries. Clockwork not only reduces cooldown, but also gives him the extra energy that Afterburn needs.

Aftershock

With its stats and passive, Aftershock provides Captains with that little more “kick” whenever they initiate a fight. The 50% lifesteal from its passive also gives you some tankiness. Great for Captains whose abilities proc Aftershock (their abilities include basic attack effects).

 

Build Path:

  • Start with Chronograph for the cooldown.

When to Build:

  • “Cooldown” Catherine, with cooldown items such as Nullwave Gauntlet and Stormcrown
    • Extra crystal power can make her Stormguard bubble hurt a bit more, and the Aftershock proc from Merciless Pursuit does a significant amount of damage, especially when you expect to activate it more than once every teamfight
  • Captain Glaive
    • Similar to Clockwork, Aftershock lets Glaive use his Afterburn more. With Aftershock, he deals more damage instead of getting the extra energy.
  • Fortress
    • Two out of three of his abilities (Law of the Claw, Truth of the Tooth) allows him to quickly follow up with an Aftershock proc

Poisoned Shiv

Giving heroes the ability to apply mortal wounds every third basic attack, this item is the way to counter teams running Adagio and Lyra, or relying heavily on Fountain. That -33% healing debuff on enemy carries is going to hurt a lot, as it denies them the support they should receive.

 

Mortal wounds also reduce barrier and fortified health. That means Poisoned Shiv directly counters sustain heroes such as Krul and Reim, who rely on heals and psuedo-heals.

However, your weapon carry will most likely be building this. So it is likely that Captains will prioritize other utility items.

 

Build Path:

  • If playing Ardan, build Blazing Salvo first for the attack speed (Indirectly reduces Blood for Blood cooldown)
  • Otherwise, build Barbed Needle first for the extra sustain

When to Build:

  • All of the below:
    • Playing against enemy heroes with an irritating amount of sustain (Krul, Reim) OR enemy heroes who have heal abilities (Adagio, Lyra)
    • Ally carries aren’t building Poisoned Shiv
    • Ally team does not have Taka or Fortress (who have abilities that activate mortal wound)

Bonesaw

Despite its intimidating name, this poor lil’ item has been pushed far out of the meta these past few updates, even among the carries’ builds. Nevertheless, the armour shred from this item could potentially be game changing, especially when your weapon carry is dealing loads of damage.

 

Build Path:

  • If playing Ardan, build Blazing Salvo first for the attack speed (Indirectly reduces Blood for Blood cooldown)

When to Build:

  • Both ally carries deal weapon damage and neither have a Bonesaw
  • Enemy carries buy Metal Jackets

Shiversteel

Shiversteel is built typically to prevent a sticky enemy from reaching a squishy ally, or to let your carries reach a kiting enemy.

 

However, with abilities that provide slows outstripping Shiversteel’s utility (Gift of Fire, Fairy Dust, Buckshot Bonanza), this item has taken a backseat from the build lineup.

 

When to Build:

  • Enemies play sticky carries (Krul, Reim, Blackfeather, weapon Taka), and your ally carries are squishy (Celeste, Skaarf, Petal)
  • Enemies play slippery, kiting heroes (e.g. Skye, Kestrel, Gwen, Vox, Petal) who are difficult for your carries to reach

 

 

Shatterglass

With the raw crystal power, this situational item is generally limited to Adagio and Lance among the Captains. This is because their abilities have utility that scale with crystal ratio.

 

When to Build:

  • Playing Captain Adagio (provides extra heal, as well as extra damage for Agent of Wrath)
  • Playing as Captain Lance and you prioritize utility (longer crowd control duration from Impale and Gythian Wall)

 

Temporary Items

These items are generally bought in the early game, then sold later on in the mid to late game when its usefulness diminishes.

 

Ironguard Contract

Ironguard is typically one of the first two items that Captains buy at the start of the game. Able to provide extra health, as well as energy that your jungler needs to clear the farm. And the amount of heal is nothing to sneeze at, one entire rotation of the jungle heals you and your jungler for 450 health each. In total, that’s 900 heal, equivalent to 4 Gift of Fires or 2.5 Imperial Sigils.

 

Buy Ironguard Contract when:

  • You and your jungler intend to clear farm together in the jungle
  • You do not intend to rush a Tier 3 item as priority
  • Basically, almost always.

Protector Contract

Giving an extra barrier to your allies, this contract is useful when you expect to engage in fights in the early game, and your ally heroes are squishy in the early game.

 

Buy Protector Contract when:

  • You expect frequent ganks in the lane
  • Your jungler is squishy early game and you expect frequent invades

Dragonblood Contract

In the early game, that extra 100 crystal damage can swing the fight in your favour. The Dragonblood Contract is especially useful when you expect to activate it around multiple enemies — during jungle invades or counter-ganks in the lane.

Buy Dragonblood Contract when:

  • You intend to go aggressive in the early game

Minion Candy

Originally used frequently in the jungle to maintain control of the gold miner, the Minion Candy has recently been used to push the lane and maintain lane pressure. While the finer strategies behind using minion candy are rather complex, minion candies can be used to pressure the lane and secure turrets, or to freeze the lane while the laner rotates down to the jungle.

 

Buy Minion Candy when:

  • Intending to put pressure on the lane, or expecting fights near the ally Crystal Miner

Scout Traps

Vision, vision, vision! As all-powerful as the Marvel hero himself, vision is key to game tactics and can mean the difference between a victory and a loss! Place scout traps in out-of-the-way paths to gain vision without your opponents popping them.

 

Buy Scout Traps when:

  • Buy them! You need vision throughout, especially in the early game!
  • Especially effective against Flicker, Taka and Kestrel to foil their invisibilities

Flares

Flares are the cheaper, one-time use version of scout traps. Taking immediate effect when deployed, Flares are great against enemy heroes who have invisible abilities, as is useful for flushing out an enemy ambush.

 

Buy Flares when:

  • Buy them! You need vision throughout, especially in the late game!
  • Especially effective against Flicker, Taka and Kestrel to foil their invisibilities

Stormguard Banner

With the bonus true damage, the Stormguard Banner is a good way for Captains to get some good early game damage and objective clear.

 

Buy Stormguard Banner when:

  • Your jungler lacks good farm clear
  • You intend to prioritize objectives (e.g. gold miner, turrets)

So now that you have a good idea of what kind of items to add to your build, implement your newfound knowledge in your game! Happy Captain-ing!

 

Here’s to hoping I get better random Captains in ranked :3

 

Thanks for reading!

physiX (@physiX_VG)

Valkyrie Valhalla Guild

 

Special thanks to Tranurz and PwntByUkrainian for editing and Waggey for giving advice.