The strength of Boots and 3 potions
Fri 14th Dec 2012 - 9:08pm: League of Legends
Note: this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of Team Dignitas.
Generally, most ranked players either start level 1 boots with 3 health potions, cloth armor with 5 health potions, machete and 5 potions, or fairie charm with 2 potions and 3 wards. So, the other build paths have their own rhyme and reason, but generally, we see AD carries, AP carries, and top lane start boots and three health potions. Every game, exceptions are very rare. So, lets figure out why going boots and three health potions is the norm.
Every champion, every game, will eventually buy boots, especially with the upcoming movement speed nerf on Zeal and Phantom Dancer, in addition to the ones that already occurred. So, because of this dependence on boots, you'll probably end up buying boots level 1, which cost 350 g., which is conveniently less than your starting 475 gold. Now, if you're an anarchist, you're probably asking, well why do I have to buy boots? There are a lot of reasons.
First, it gives you chasing power. If you're trying to chase your low health enemy fleeing from your might, then boots will give you the power to chase up and end him. Also, if you're trying to dodge skillshots, then boots incredibly useful for that. If the enemy team has a fed AP Nidalee, buy some boots. If the enemy Morgana is tossing Bindings like it's Christmas, buy some boots. You get the picture.
Boots provide defense against junglers as well, whether dodging the feared Lee Sin Q during the Level 2 Gank, or just by being able to barely get away, which movement speed helps with. With ganks coming earlier and earlier, boots as a starting item are more and more needed. In addition, Riot has changed the jungle so that most champions will now start Hunter's Machete, rather than boots and 3 potions.
This means that ganks at early levels won't be as devastating, as Junglers will be moving around the jungle slower, letting you who, hopefully started boots, get away from the enemy jungler easily as they won't have boots and you will with that extra 25 movement speed.
Health, if you don't have this, you will die. So, it's kind of important. The truth is, the three health potions that come out of the Boots/3 item choice are more important than the boots. With so many champions being able to poke you in lane, like when you're trying to last hit a minion, your health easily runs out. But if the enemy keeps doing this, eventually you'll get low enough to the point where a good combo can kill you. So, to counteract this poke, health potions heal you back up 150 health for a mere 35 gold.
Effectively, when you buy three health potions, you're buying 450 health points for lane. And if you're going against an enemy who started a Doran's Ring or Blade, which provides a decent 80 health, you're still effectively getting 370 health more than them. This gives you a clear advantage over someone starting a Doran's items over boots/3.
Health potions also give you a hand up on Junglers. When jungling, you're going to gank lanes that are first overextended, and second, low health. However, if you're popping some Health Potions to keep healthy, you can go ahead and stay away from that third category. If you have boots, you'll be able to avoid the gank (hopefully) so it’s a win/win. Even if you aren't starting with boots necesarily, every starting game build will have a couple of health potions, and since most you're buying boots eventually, you get the idea.
Out of all other possible build paths that you can start out with, Doran's items are the clear choice to go with in lane, especially at lower summoner levels when the stats from these items can make up for a lack of runes and masteries. However, from what I've observed from my own experiences leveling up the first time, most summoners are more focused on trying to kill each other than doing the important things, like farming or poking, favoring straight up man-mode.
This makes boots and three health potions favorable, because of the extra health which health potions grant, if you survive that long. Doran items don't offer anything radical if you only have one, in the terms of AD or AP, so once again, just buy the incredibly cheap health potions.
There are other reasons to not start Doran's items. Not every champion will want to buy Doran's items, like Ezreal or Jax skipping over Doran's blades for a Phage, Karthus or Kassadin choosing Catalyst over Doran's ring (They both get mana back through spells anyway), or whatever the situation may be. It seems useless to waste your starting money on an item you won't be getting much use out of, especially when you need to spend 350 gold on boots at one point anyway. It's unlikely you'll be getting a kill before your first back, so to start with a Doran can just put you behind when your enemy is buying health potions as his first items.
However, concerning health, my friend brought up a good point when we were discussing this. First off, Doran's Blade provides life steal. Isn't this enough to make up for the lack of health? For this comparison, we'll be looking at the Doran's blade in the patch coming out soon. It will provide 5 health for every autoattack. However, between your first item, and your first hit back, you'll probably end up with maybe forty CS, which provides 200 health. Also, maybe you'll get 10 autoattacks off through poking or trading, so another 50 health. That's 250 health, but that's still not as much as boots and three health potions will give you, plus you're now losing out on movement speed from the lack of boots.
So, its possible that we'll see a shift away from boots/3 on ranged AD carries, if they're paired with a support like Lulu or Sona that can speed them up, and give sustain. However, I'm guessing a change is unlikely.
With the new patch changes, there's a new trend of using your starting gold for all consumables, popularized by Team Dignitas' very own Scarra, and some other players have followed suit. However, as great as this item is, there is a drawback - the price. Crystaline flask is 225 gold, effectively crippling you from being able to buy almost all basic items. So while there is potential in this build for level 1 invades and incredible sustain in lane, you are sacrificing one item.
BUT THE PATCH CHANGES
Well yes, there is that pesky thing known as season 3 that is attempting to rework the game. The biggest thing coming out of the preseason that affects this strategy besides the jungle changes, which we discussed earlier, is the boots nerf. All boots now provide 25 less movement speed, and every champion has gained 25 movement speed. To put this in perspective, each champion currently has around 300 movement speed. Boots 1 did provide 50 movement speed.
So while there won't be any difference for champions that buy boots 1, the discrepancy between champions that do and don't have boots is smaller. Well, yes this is unfortunate for our strategy, and makes boots less effective for avoiding Jungle ganks, and for chasing or disengaging. However, as we discussed earlier, the reason boots/3 are so strong is because of the health potions, and since you'll have to spend that 350 gold eventually. In addition, for those champions that normally go boots/3, with the exception of jungler's now preferring Hunter's Machete, there is still no clear alternative for boots and 3 potions that has proved convincing.
Due to the lack of good alternatives, and the mobility and flexibility that starting boots and 3 health potions provides, you're usually best off starting with boots 1 and 3 health potions. Good luck on the Fields of Justice Summoner!