The Leona Debate – Tank, AP, or AD?

Posted: July 19, 2011 by xenocidebrm in Champions, Guides

In this article, I will be weighing in on the newest champion in League of Legends, Leona. Labelled as a tank by Riot, there is a surprising amount of debate surrounding her actual role. Some believe that she can be built as a tank as intended, while others want to stack AP and Magic Penetration to make the most of her abilities.

Myself? I prefer AD Leona. (Warning: Long Article, read only bolded text if you’d like the short version.)

Yes, I get crap for it every game. “omg noob that not how you build leona” “leona is tank not dps” “wow cat you are dumb” But you know what? At the end of the day, having a score equivalent to any other AD assassin feels so good, and it always helps the team.

What makes AD Leona viable? Well, to answer that, we have to look at her two other possible roles first: tank and AP.

Looking just at her health and resistances, we see that she is one of the toughest characters in the League. On top of this, her W, Eclipse, grants her a ton more resistance, allowing her to take absurd amounts of damage and gain an edge over tanks in resistance. In fact, you can build straight HP on tank Leona and be absolutely fine if you’re good with your shield.

But tanks need more than the ability to take damage, they need to have a reason to be focused so their defenses are actually used for something. Here, Leona falls very, very short. With two initiates, her R (Solar Flare) and E (Zenith Blade), she can easily get into combat and stun for a brief moment, followed by another stun every 4 seconds with max cooldown. Once she pops all of her abilities though, what reason do you have to focus her? Her shield is up, so there’s no point attacking the tank. She can’t do damage without her abilities, and they do subpar damage anyway. A character like Amumu, who can deal percentile damage or Singed who can do a ton of damage with an AP build have reasons to be focused down. Leona, on the other hand, does not. To put it simply, Leona is a tank who can’t hold aggro. If you’ve ever played WoW or another MMO, you know that tanks who can’t hold aggro are the worst, so it follows that Leona ought not to be a tank.

As an AP champion, Leona looks decent. With ratios comparable to Alistar, it’s not hard to see why people might consider building AP Leona. If Alistar can do it, why can’t Leona? The answer to this is twofold; first, Leona’s defensive ability, Eclipse, pales in comparison to Alistar’s ultimate. She simply can’t compete with someone who has slightly better ratios and can take more damage. The second reason is probably more prevalent, which is that Alistar’s abilties bully people around by literally pushing them. Leona only has two real gap closers, her slightly unreliable skillshot and her unreliable ultimate, neither of which push people around into better positions. This means she is entirely reliant on the enemy’s positioning in order to do damage, which doesn’t exactly mesh with my idea of a good AP character, who should at the very least be able to engage at range and at the very worst be able to control enemy positioning (Anivia, Trundle, LeBlanc, Urgot, Singed, and so forth). AP Leona has to get into melee to be at all useful, and if you’re building her pure AP this is simply a bad idea.

The final possibility is that Leona is really an AD character. Similar to how Kassadin’s abilities all scale with AP, he can still be viably built with AD. Because Leona’s ratios are lower than Kassadin’s, it makes the case for AD Leona a bit stronger than an AP build. Furthermore, her Q, Shield of Daybreak, gives you a free autoattack, similar to Nasus’ Siphoning Strike and Vayne’s Tumble. Without building any AS, she can autoattack surprisingly fast and do decent damage, even at low levels. But the final nail in the coffin for the AP build is its point-for-point comparison to AD. Every point of AD gives you at least one point of damage per second, while every point of AP gives you at most 0.4 damage per second. This means it is simply more efficient to build AD Leona and because she needs to be in melee anyway to do damage in either build, the AD version is undeniably better.

What of Tank Leona? Well, we already know she is sub-par compared to other tanks, unable to hold aggro and therefore completely useless. But the more striking comparison is that no matter how you build Leona, she still has lots of stuns, and a stun with lots of damage is always more useful than a stun with just a little damage. Leona has a shield that provides excellent resistances even without any tank items, so you can build her without any health or resistance and still get in and out of combat safely.

AD Leona

Starting Items: Regeneration Pendant, Red Potion

Sustain is Leona’s biggest problem, these two items solve that problem even in a 2v1 lane.

4 Slot Loadout: Boots of Lucidity, Youmuu’s Ghostblade, Trinity Force, Black Cleaver

This gets you the most DPS with max CDR. The Sheen + Phage combo in the Trinity force lets you burst for over 1000 on a critical hit while having a decent chance of slowing the target.

Runes: Red Armor Pen, Yellow MR, Blue CDR, 1 CDR Quint, 2 Armor Pen Quints

Armor Pen Quints and Reds give you more DPS than AD runes, while Yellow MRs give you just the little bit extra MR you’ll need to stay in lane against another AP character. The CDR Quint and Blues let you barely max out CDR.

Masteries: 21/0/9

The more AD and Armor Pen you can stack, the more damage you can do, so 21 in Offense is a no brainer. Getting leveled up quick always helps too, so 9 in Utility.

Skill Priority: R>W>Q>E

Your ult is awesome, your W lets you farm and mini-tank, and your Q gives you a free autoattack. The E is only really useful for jumping to enemies, but if you’re laning against characters who are easy to harass, take E instead of Q, the damage difference is huge early game even if it does make mana management more difficult.

Playstyle: AD Leona is burst, burst, and more burst. With a shield to provide free defense, you can safely ignore building defense and instead focus on AD for Sheen burst. Her most prominent feature is her Zenith Blade, allowing her to jump directly to a carry and stun/burst them down with Shield of Daybreak. Your ultimate can initiate or finish off a fight with a short cooldown of just over a minute. You can push lanes and topple towers with your high AD, if you can get past her slow early game. High cooldown reduction in this build means more stuns and shields, increasing her utility alongside her burst. Increase your farm by buying an early Philosopher’s Stone and an Avarice Blade, possibly a Heart of Gold too if your farm is awesome. Pair up with a ranged AD carry in lane and ramp up the damage with your passive, Sunlight. For defensive items, grab something with MR, you’ll need it badly late game.

What about Tanky-DPS Leona?

To be honest, I haven’t tried it out yet. Straight AD Leona has had plenty of survivability in my experience, and sacrificing 2000+ damage critical burst with a final build doesn’t seem great in my opinion. However, if there was a build that was as viable or more viable than pure AD, Tanky-DPS Leona would be it. If anyone’s tried this kind of Leona, or any other type, tell us about your experience by posting a comment!

Comments
  1. How do you order your item build… I’ve just been rushing Yomu’s after Philo stone and boots one/two, depending on how I’m doing.

  2. damndirtycat says:

    My build order always starts with the Regen Pendant and Health pot. Build a Philo Stone ASAP, then I go for Avarice Blade. I tend to buy boots late, going for Boots of Lucidity. Sometimes I go for a Brutalizer if it’s early enough, other times I’ll skip it. Either way, get a Sheen/Phage and go to Trinity Force. At this point you should be doing around 500 burst, just build a Black Cleaver or Infinity Edge and you’ll have a burst of 1000+. I only build the full Youmuu Blade when I run out of inventory slots, and never before the Triforce.

  3. Truth says:

    Might want to re-write the part about stacking Ad to help Sheen burst… it uses your base damage.

  4. damndirtycat says:

    Yep, my mistake, it’s actually the extra critical damage from masteries stacking on top of Infinity Edge that gives you the ability to burst that high.

  5. malfnxn says:

    Wicked post! I wish more players wrote like you with logical, intelligent sentences. Loving Leona, and looking forward to trying this build. Makes a ton of sense! Thoughts on Frozen Mallet?

    • damndirtycat says:

      As an item, I love Frozen Mallet. On AD Leona? I wouldn’t touch it. Trinity Force is that much better for an AD build, especially since Leona can also benefit from the mana and AP from Sheen. Perhaps a Tanky DPS build would be able to incorporate a Frozen Mallet, but as it stands the Mallet is too expensive for too little damage and slowing targets, something that your abilities already permit you to reliably do.

  6. [...] to characters, but I did build Hexdrinker on Shaco before it was cool and still carry games with AD Leona. So I’m going to take a look at the recommended build, a popular Nidalee build, and [...]

  7. I tried a variant of this build myself, except instead of Yomuus and Philo, i used Frozen and Atma’s impaler. I was almost nil on CDR that way, but i was durable as well as painful, and with Merc Treads, hard to keep out of a fight.i had a good score, something akin to 10/2/8, but i definitely wasnt as dangerous as this build makes you. I’ll have to give this one a run

  8. Xocolatl says:

    Pretty horrific tanky DPS build. (ok for burst DPS. You don’t want to use BC with bursters though)

    Unless you plan on being burst assassin type (hop in-hop out, which is the antithesis of tanky DPS) then you will need some kind of life steal. If the enemy’s life-steal is greater than your output (with that much gold, it will be), then you can’t win.

  9. [...] her fairly recent changes.  Next most popular seems to be Leona, another champ we’ve done a brief review of.  Third in popularity is Fizz, someone atenthirtyone weighed in on.  Nasus, Xerath, and [...]

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