The past few weeks of competitive play, we’ve seen a bit of Lucian. Instead of appearing in his classic and obvious role, he’s seen play in solo lanes. Whenever a champion historically played in one role appears in a different one, it raises questions. There’s a lot of subtle nuances that have caused this transition, and they bleed into one another. That makes it difficult to find a place to begin.
Lucian’s Weaknesses as an ADC
There are certainly areas where Lucian falls short as a botlaner. His classic weakness is of course, his range. With a mere 500 unit AA-range, Lucian sits 50 below the standard value. He is tied with Sivir for lowest marksman AA-range for champions actually considered viable ADCs. Having even the slightest possible edge in AA-range is a huge deal for ADCs because it means in a trade, you can hit them before they have a chance to walk up and start hitting you. Then you can move out of range, minimizing the chance for retaliation. Towards the end of his long tenure with CLG, Doublelift infamously dubbed this phenomenon “autospacing”. 50 below the standard is not massive. However, while there are champions who go below the standard, there are also those who go above it. Varus has 575, Ashe has 600, and of course, there’s Caitlyn with that staple 650. AA range also means added safety in teamfights. You get stand further away from the enemy team and still do your job.
Historically, Lucian has been able to make up for the trademark weakness with his kit. That Lightslinger passive is very good in those short trades. Piercing Light (Q), is a low-cooldown ability with good damage and a fast case. Relentless Pursuit is a low mana cost, very quick dash that resets his autoattack. His kit is just very good for laning. It grants a lot of potential to be aggressive or outplay his opponents. In situations where Lucian is unable to autoattack his targets, The Culling is able to provide very good ranged DPS.
The default build for ADC’s is some kind of crit build: Essence, a zeal item, and Infinity Edge or IE and two zeal items. In Lucian’s case, the Essence is clearly the superior option between the two. However, prioritizing early crit on Lucian has its weaknesses. Crit, by its very nature, is less snowbally. In the days prior to Season 6, Lucian’s ult actually scaled with attack speed in terms of number of bullets. Now, it only scales with the spell’s rank. Itemizing towards crit generally means getting a zeal item 2nd (or getting a BF sword and then rushing it in some cases). The problem is, a zeal item literally does nothing for Lucian’s ultimate. For Lucian to really get away with that super low autoattack range, he needs his ultimate to have a threat. You also just kind of want your ultimate to have some kind of a threat. It’s an ultimate. What point is there if it doesn’t do anything?
Of course, Lucian does not necessarily need to follow the trend of prioritizing early crit. In Season 6, we often saw Youmuu’s into Cleaver on Lucian. Not only was Youmuu’s cheaper than IE or ER, but it was stronger than both of those items at least by itself. Black Cleaver has such massive synergy with Lucian’s passive and ultimate as well. Competitive play and soloqueue alike got to see the terror this build turned Lucian into. That is no understatement. I personally believe that this will go down in history as one of the single most broken states that an ADC has ever existed in. When armor pen was changed into Lethality at the dawn of Season 7, it felt less impactful on Lucian. The main issue was the loss of attack speed on the active. Lucian was forced to dust off his trusty old Essence Reaver and in turn became one of the weakest ADC’s period.
With the changes to Blade of the Ruined King, Lucian was able to see a resurgence. BorK has some great synergy with Lucian’s passive, as on-hit effects get their full value on both hits. The Black Cleaver still has some strong synergy with Lucian’s kit as well. It surprised no one that this returned as his second item in this new build. Until Patch 7.12, BorK’s on-hit damage even gave an extra tick of Black Cleaver’s shred. The price discrepancy was not as large between this build to crit builds as was with the Youmuu’s + Cleaver build. It still gives the Lucian the snowball potential and ult damage that he’s really looking for.
Problem was, Lucian wasn’t the only ADC to hype on the BorK hype train. The key difference was most other ADCS would go for a zeal item 2nd after the BorK. BorK’s powerspike on Lucian definitely seemed to pack more impact than on many other ADCs, but when the other ADC gets to go for a cheaper item 2nd that will ultimately result in better scaling, it puts some added pressure on Lucian to be far ahead. As I already mentioned, in 7.12, the synergy of BorK and Cleaver was removed. General consensus afterwards was that this is still the best possible build for Lucian. It’s true that the synergy is gone, but it doesn’t change the what both of these items in their own rights bring to Lucian.
If one were to imagine Lucian in a solo-lane, it would most likely be top. Ranged champions in the toplane have a distinct advantage from the simple observable fact that most toplaners are melee. There are definitely certain ranged champions specifically balanced around the idea of play in the toplane, Gnar, Quinn, Jayce, Kennen, and yes, even Teemo. Some players, usually in lower levels of soloqueue take that strat one step further and decide to bring a full fledged ADC into the lane. This widely and correctly considered a cheese strategy. There’s a distinct trading advantage, but there’s certainly room for you to outplayed and killed by champions like Jax, Camille, or Fiora. Going back to crit being more about scaling, even if you’re ahead, you basically have to finish two items before the aforementioned champions can finish one, or you’d actually probably find yourself on the losing end of a 1v1. In the lategame, those champs should beat most ADCs in a 1v1 anyway. Then you get down to the simple fact that most ADCs are just not as useful to the team in terms of utility and/or tankiness as most toplaners are. What separates a ranged champion from being a cheese strat to a viable toplaner? Ultimately, it comes down to solo experience.
Both the top lane and bottom lane are long lanes generally benefitting sustained damage champions, but the key difference is that toplaner lanes alone. If you can make that solo experience really worth something, that’s the beginning of what might solidify your identity as solo-laner. Most marksman champions as a whole do not benefit that handily from solo experience. Their abilities don’t get much strong with each indivual rank, and their base stats are generally lower. They are more dependent on the high efficiency of their items to provide their scaling. Contrary to this, solo-experience is actually quite valuable on Lucian. His base stats are still not amazing across the board, but they are better than most marksmen. The real grand prize is in the benefit to his abilities. Each point in Piercing Light lowers the cooldown and not only increases the base damage but also the Bonus AD ratio. The Culling, as mentioned earlier, has its number of bullets scale exclusively with rank. We know that during the days of that Youmuu’s Cleaver build, Heo “Huni” Seong-hoon, during his time in NA with Immortals brought this out in the semifinals VS TSM. He reaped some… memeworthy results, to say the least. This build on the other hand, gives Lucian a lot of potential to duel in sidelanes while also getting to be a threat in teamfights. Look no further than Dignitas’s Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho who displays in this game shows how terrifyingly useful that solo experience can be on Lucian. As you watch these highlights, take special note of how unafraid Ssumday is of being so far forward. Positioning like this for an ADC Lucian who would certainly have less levels, even with a lead of the same magnitude would be unheard of.
Lucian still doesn’t win -every- 1v1 in the sidelane lategame though. He is likely to lose to Fiora and Camille. Unfortunately for him, those are the probably the meta’s strongest splitpushing options.
When we do get to see the solo-lane Lucian, it’s actually more often in the middle lane. Of all the places to put a marskman, this is typically the one that has the most controversy to it. There was a lot of resistance to Season 5’s Varus Mid. Even Corki mid met some resistance at first. Now, of course, many understand that Corki is much more useful from the midlane than he is as ADC. The way many people see is if that if League of Legends was a National Geographic TV documentary, the ADC is the frightened mouse, and the mid laner is the hawk.
Unlike the sidelanes, the midlane’s short-lane geography is much more beneficial to burstier champions. This is why it’s the ideal place for most mages and many assassins. Lucian actually has a fair deal of burst damage in his own right. A big source of potential advantage of Lucian in the midlane comes from runes. Almost all midlaners have, for the past several years, used scaling health yellows. Even in matchups against AD champions, the scaling health is better because it adds more value to the armor that you’ll probably have to buy anyway, but this can give those AD champions an edge in terms of what transpires before that. Not only will Lucian opt for the same scaling health seals, but he’s not as dependent on CDR and can take a full set of flat mr glyphs instead of running scaling CDR as is standard. On top of that, Doran’s Blade and Shield give more health than Doran’s Ring. This isn’t really a something that I thought I’d ever type as an analyst, but it gives a Lucian a pretty noticeable tankiness advantage in the early levels. That advantage becomes more significant through the fact that Lucian that Lucian has access to something that most other midlaners cannot reasonably attain: lifesteal.
Even if Lucian loses trades on the front end, he is more than capable of winning it on the back end. He doesn’t even have to auto the enemy laner necessarily to do so. The minions will do just fine. Since Lucian has such potent advantages in these early stages, it is standard for him to play very aggressively. Ignite is the most popular summoner spell choice, which actually has been much less popular for much of the midlane champion pool.
Of course, like any solo-laner, there are a lot of matchups that you really would like to avoid if possible, so I would like to highlight the ones most prevalent in the current meta.
Not only is LeBlanc practically the poster child for blowing ADCs to the next world with an “interactive experience” worth of burst damage, but with LeBlanc rushing that Hextech Gunblade now, Lucian loses out on his sustain advantage. There is one window Lucian can use which is his mobility making it difficult to land that chain.
Cassiopeia is one of the few champions that can go toe-to-toe with Lucian in extended trades thanks to the power of her Twin Fang. She also can nullify Lucian’s E with her Miasma.
While Ahri’s at a general disadvantage in the early levels, once Ahri hits 6 she has so much mobility to outplay the Lucian with. The threat of the Charm may force Lucian to abandon that preferred Ignite for a Cleanse. Ahri also has the healing from her passive to compete with Lucian’s early lifesteal.
Syndra’s stun also has a slight knockback to it, or just a full knockback if she doesn’t use it to try to fling a Dark Sphere into you. That diplacement CC can actually cancel Lucian’s dash, which is the heartbeat of his outplay potential. Lucian cannot reliably trade into Syndra without putting himself at risk of my friend who made of fun of me when I mained Syndra called “The Outplay Button”.
While Viktor is not seen as hugely lane dominant, he is definitely a lot stronger in early levels than he is given credit for and can withstand Lucian’s trademark level 2 powerspike. Still, on account of Viktor’s slow build, he is likely to not be at a disadvantage in the early game. On the other hand, we all know what happens as Viktor starts to get his items.
As one person in Twitch chat put it, “who knew one mistake from Doublelift would define a meta”. Since Viktor is less likely to win the laning phase, it’s more appropriate to call him a “Lucian mid answer” as opposed to “Lucian mid counter”.
When one picks Lucian mid, it should generally be into a favorable matchup, and here are a few examples.
This one’s pretty obvious and doesn’t require much explanation at all. Kassadin really doesnt stand a chance in the early parts of the lane. He has to hope Lucian severely misplays, he severely outplays Lucian, or gets some jungle assistance.
Taliyah’s EW combo is very difficult to land on extremely mobile targets like Lucian. While Lucian will be in trouble if he dashes onto Taliyah’s E, it’s very easy to simply not do that. Also, Taliyah has extremely low base armor.
This is more of an even matchup, I think, but it’s a very common scenario for Lucian to be picked. Orianna can win a lot of early trades thanks to the power of her passive in early trades. Most mids can’t compete with her when it comes to trading autos. That all changes when you introduce her to a champion that’s AD. Lucian has to look out for the Shockwave, but his dash gives him a way to outplay it. Like Taliyah, Orianna also has extremely low base armor. The ball does give her armor when it’s attached to her, though. That somewhat supplements this weakness.
Midlane Galio is more about playing defensively and doesn’t necessarily -win- a lot of midlane matchups anyway. It is very punishable by Lucian mid though.
A classic botlane matchup brought up the midlane! This is definitely more of a skill matchup than anything, but the itemization really favors Lucian. Corki doesn’t have a lot of armor options. Unlike Hexdrinker, Guardian Angel must be completed to truly provide effective defense, which would delay the Trinity Force. It’s not really a viable option. In theory, Corki could go for Ninja Tabi, but those Sorcerer’s Shoes are quite valuable on him.
As time moves on, I think we will see less midlane Lucian. The way I see it, the competitive meta needs at least one AD midlaner. It enables you to run whatever AP junglers or toplaners may be viable. With the nerfs to lethality, it’s understanble how something midlane Lucian could rise to prominence. Lethality was recently buffed though. When there is a need for AD midlaners, we are more likely to see more standard examples like Zed, Talon, or Jayce. That being said, it’s also possible that Lucian could use Lethality himself. He probably won’t stack lethality, but Duskblade + Cleaver provides a lot of burst damage at relatively low cost. That being said, I think if that combo is actually good, it’s probably safe to use it in the botlane.