Runes and the Ashe Rework

Day one of EULCS is behind us, and, as is the tradition in such things, it is time for the massive overreaction to small samples. Elements is back! Origen is going to worlds! SK is done! Roccat…uh…still sucks! But if we fire up the way-back machine, we can see that just one split ago, Giants kicked off their season with a 2-0 start — immediately before a six-game losing streak and 6-13 final record. The generally hapless Copenhagen Wolves beat eventual third place H2K, and on day 2, the totally hapless Elements beat spring darlings Unicorns of Love. The moral of this story is that early season results, while meaningful in the standings, are often meaningless for actual team analysis, especially in the lawlessly kooky EULCS. But that does not mean that we cannot glean any information from day one results; rather it means that we have to get more granular. Can we guess what picks and styles will emerge in this split, going into playoffs and eventually worlds? Tower pressure from Blue Side Azir was terrifying. Jungle Evelynn made a resurgence in games in which the big two of Gragas and Rek’Sai were banned. And, of course, newly reworked Ashe made a two-game cameo, winning in the capable hands of Fnatic’s new old AD Carry Rekkles and losing in the less capable hands of Giants’ Adryh.

As of Patch 5.9, Ashe got sizable changes to all of her skills besides her Ultimate. According to the patch notes:

We really wanted to solidify Ashe as the utility markswoman of League of Legends

From just a two game sample, it is difficult to evaluate something as nebulous as Ashe’s “utility,” but it is fairly clear that the teams playing Ashe value her damage highly — in both games she was played, Ashe was the only significant source of sustained damage for teams full of mobility and disruption. Part of this is Ashe’s new Ranger’s Focus, giving her a powerful and reliable damage steroid. Another part is Ashe’s new passive, which can lead to some interesting interactions with items, masteries, and, of course, runes.

From the League of Legends Wikia:

Frost Shots
INNATE: Ashe’s basic attacks and abilities apply Frost to enemies damaged, slowing them by 5 / 11 / 17 / 23 / 29 / 35% for 2 seconds.

Ashe’s basic attacks against frosted enemies always critically strike for modified critical damage, but Ashe otherwise cannot perform critical strikes.

TOTAL DAMAGE: 110 + (%Critical Strike Chance × (1 + Bonus Critical Strike Damage)) %AD

Crucially, Ashe’s basic attacks critically strike on all targets, as long as they have been previously Frosted — by basic attacks, Volley, or Enchanted Crystal Arrow. This leads to some interesting results. For example, the magic damage portion of Statikk Shiv will always critically strike for Ashe’s modified critical damage on any Frosted target, adding consistent burst damage. In the offensive Mastery tree, Frenzy is instantly stackable, regardless of Ashe’s critical strike chance, and the now-crucial Reinforced Armor Mastery allows Ashe’s enemies to essentially reduce her damage by 10%. And, of course, there are new runes to investigate. From lolesports, here are the rune pages of the two Ashe users:


3 X +4.5% attack speed Quintessences

9 X +0.95 attack damage Marks

9 X +1 armor Seals

9 X +1.34 magic resist Glyphs

Standard enough. Apparently AD Carries are running two or three Attack Speed quints for tank busting nowadays.


2 X +4.5% attack speed Quintessences

1 X +4.26 armor Quintessence

9 X +0.95 attack damage Marks

4 X +8 health Seals

5 X +1 armor Seals

4 X +0.64% attack speed Glyphs

5 X+1.34 magic resist Glyphs

Goofy! Looking back at the Spring Split, it seems that Adryh likes to be a little bit off the wall with his rune choices; for example, he runs Mana Regeneration runes on a lot of his champions. However, there is important commonality with Rekkles — namely the attack speed quintessences and the attack damage marks.

Now let me introduce you to this guy:

GMarks_(2)+ 0.93% critical strike chance

Notorious for its gamechanging inclusion in physical damage rune pages, Critical Strike runes have, for most champions, an interesting tradeoff. They scale multiplicatively, compared to the linear scaling of physical damage or armor penetration, and they do not significantly decrease theoretical damage per second compared to the other runes in the early game. However, for most champions, these runes exchange early game reliability for overall damage, a trade which does not fit the precision required at the highest level of League of Legends. Ashe, on the other hand, can make immediate use of these runes.

From nine Physical Damage marks, Ashe gains 8.55 attack damage, bringing her base total without Masteries to 59.55. Adding a Doran’s Blade to start gives her 66.55 AD, and with her passive, Ashe will deal 73.21 damage to Frosted targets. From nine Critical Strike Chance marks, Ashe gains 8.37% critical strike chance, and, using the fancy math from Ashe’s Frost Shot, every autoattack against a Frosted target will deal 118.37% of Ashe’s AD to an enemy, meaning she deals 68.65 damage to Frosted targets with a Doran’s Blade. In complicated chart form: 

Damage Crit Chance Crit Damage Modifier Unfrosted Autoattack Frosted Autoattack W + Auto Combo
AD Marks Crit Marks AD Marks Crit Marks AD Marks Crit Marks AD Marks Crit Marks AD Marks Crit Marks AD Marks Crit Marks
Base 59.55 51 0 8.37 1 1 59.55 51 65.50 60.37 165.05 151.37
Dorans 66.55 58 0 8.37 1 1 66.55 58 73.20 68.65 179.75 166.65
Infinity Edge 146.55 138 20 28.37 1.5 1.5 146.55 138 205.17 210.52 391.72 388.52
Infinity + Statikk 146.55 138 45 53.37 1.5 1.5 246.55 238 260.12 262.27 624.17 630.33

How to read: Every row represents a different item threshold, and every column is a statistical value based on those items and either AD or Critical Chance runes. The final pair of columns evaluates the damage of a level 1 Volley to apply Frost Shots and then a single autoattack, which is Ashe’s thematic combo. Don’t worry too much about the table; it is just here for the analysis that follows.

First of all, in the early game, physical damage marks are better against both Frosted and unFrosted targets. Ashe will struggle to trade until she finishes her Infinity Edge. Secondly, it is equally clear that once Ashe finishes her Infinity Edge, all autoattack trades will favor the Ashe with critical chance runes. As soon as Ashe gets her Statikk Shiv, Ashe’s Volley + Autoattack Combo is significantly better with critical chance runes. Building more physical damage will widen this gulf, but paradoxically, additional critical chance actually hits a point of diminishing returns, as we notice from the decreased Frost Shots damage between Infinity Edge and Infinity + Statikk. If Ashe is running critical strike runes, she needs to build more physical damage before more critical chance after Statikk Shiv to maximize her total damage.

On the whole, it is unclear that critical strike chance marks are better than physical damage marks, even though they are in this case just as reliable. On the one hand, Ashe’s lategame is significantly improved with critical chance runes, provided she never allows herself to surpass 100% critical strike chance, but on the other hand, it takes a significant item threshold before the critical strike runes equalize with physical damage. Her Volley will always be worse, and she will have a slightly more difficult time last hitting, which can both lose gold and make her laning phase more precarious. Also, physical damage runes play nicer with certain Masteries, especially Warlord. Overall, physical damage marks are probably still preferable, but I know for a fact I will be running a critical chance rune page on Ashe in Solo Queue very soon. If I like it, maybe I will even try some glyphs or quintessences, efficiency be damned!

As a final note, I want to mention critical strike chance’s black-sheep cousin, the critical strike damage mark. In my perfect world, some bizarre mix of critical chance and critical damage is optimal, giving Ashe some early strength combined with late game dominance. Unfortunately, each critical damage rune weakens Ashe’s early game even further, and they do not become relevant until well over 50% critical strike chance. The tradeoff is almost certainly not worth it, especially because we already handicap Ashe’s early game with the critical chance runes. If critical strike chance marks are for Solo Queue, maybe critical damage are for Normal Games. Or maybe just use Quintessences…

Anyway, enjoy LCS today, and maybe something else will catch my fancy from today and I’ll have another update tomorrow! But let’s not dream too much.