What is Lethality in League of Legends?
League of Legends

League of Legends

What is Lethality in League of Legends?

Lethality is a key stat in League of Legends, introduced in 2017 to replace the older flat armor penetration system. Unlike its predecessor that provided a percentage-based reduction, Lethality offers a fixed amount of armor penetration, which is simpler but can still be somewhat complex to understand. This stat is featured on several items such as Duskblade of Draktharr, Eclipse, and Prowler’s Claw, among others.

Additionally, Lethality isn’t limited to items—it also plays a significant role in the abilities of certain champions. For example, Senna’s Piercing Darkness, Aphelios’ Passive (The Hitman and the Seer), and all of Pyke’s abilities, including his passive, incorporate Lethality, enhancing their effectiveness against armored foes.

Opting for Lethality items is particularly beneficial for Attack Damage champions aiming to pierce through the armor of their adversaries. This makes Lethality especially potent during fights, as it directly reduces the armor of enemy champions being attacked. This is distinct from items that offer Armor Reduction, which decrease armor in a way that benefits all attacking teammates—not just the item holder.

Despite being the last to be applied in the sequence of armor-penetrating effects, Lethality's impact remains significant. The order in which these effects are applied is as follows:

  1. Flat Armor Reduction (adds together)
  2. Percentage Armor Reduction (multiplies)
  3. Percentage Armor Penetration (multiplies)
  4. Lethality (adds together)


Understanding this order and how Lethality functions within it is crucial for effectively strategizing against armored opponents in League of Legends.

How is lethality calculated?


Lethality in League of Legends is calculated using a specific formula designed to scale its effectiveness based on the champion's level. This formula is:

Flat Armor Penetration = Lethality x (0.6 + 0.4 x (level ÷ 18))

This calculation means that Lethality provides a minimum of 60% of its value as flat armor penetration when a champion is at level one. As the champion levels up, this effectiveness gradually increases, reaching its full value (100% of the Lethality stat) when the champion hits level 18. This scaling mechanism ensures that the impact of Lethality grows alongside your champion's progression through the game, making it increasingly effective at reducing the enemy's armor as you approach the late game.

Items


Every champion in League of Legends begins with a base armor stat, meaning Lethality items can effectively reduce armor on any enemy champion, irrespective of whether they have invested in additional armor items. In this discussion, we’ll delve into two Mythic Lethality items and one Legendary item: Duskblade of Draktharr, Eclipse, and The Collector, examining how each can enhance your gameplay strategy by penetrating enemy defenses.

Duskblade of Draktharr


Duskblade of Draktharr is a potent Mythic item that offers 60 Attack Damage (AD), 20 Ability Haste, and 18 Lethality, translating to 11.2 to 18 armor penetration depending on your level. This item is particularly effective for champions that capitalize on burst damage. Its passive feature enhances your next basic attack to inflict additional damage and, for melee champions, applies a slowing effect.

One of the standout features of Duskblade is its tactical invisibility passive. If you secure a kill or assist within 3 seconds of dealing damage, it not only resets this enhanced attack but also grants you invisibility for 1.5 seconds. This can be exceptionally useful for assassins like Zed, who benefit from quickly dispatching targets and retreating unscathed. ADCs such as Vayne or Sivir may also find this item advantageous, using the brief invisibility to reposition or escape during team fights.

However, as a Mythic item, choosing Duskblade of Draktharr commits you to a specific, aggressive playstyle. This is because purchasing it precludes the option of acquiring other Mythic items like Immortal Shieldbow or Galeforce, which might offer more defensive benefits. Thus, opting for Duskblade often signals a strategy focused on maximizing damage output at the potential cost of versatility or survivability.

Eclipse


Eclipse is a versatile Mythic item that provides 55 Attack Damage (AD), 8% Omnivamp, and 18 Lethality, which translates to 11.2 to 18 armor penetration based on your champion’s level. The distinctive feature of Eclipse is its passive, which triggers upon hitting an enemy with two separate attacks or abilities within a 1.5-second window. When activated, this passive delivers 6% of the target’s maximum health as bonus physical damage. Additionally, it boosts your movement speed by 15% and provides a shield, enhancing both your offensive and defensive capabilities.

This item is especially suitable for champions that can quickly engage with auto-attack resets or rapid-fire abilities, making it a top choice for aggressive playstyles. Champions like Graves, Kayn, and Kha’Zix, who excel at delivering burst damage in short bursts, can particularly benefit from the dual offensive and defensive boosts that Eclipse offers. Its ability to provide a quick shield and speed increase makes it an excellent tool for both initiating fights and making strategic retreats.

The collector


The Collector is a powerful Legendary item that provides an impressive combination of 55 Attack Damage (AD), 20% Critical Strike Chance, and 12 Lethality, which scales to offer 7.47 to 12 armor penetration depending on the champion’s level. This item’s standout feature is its passive ability to execute enemy champions. If your post-mitigation damage brings an opponent below 5% of their maximum health, The Collector will automatically execute them. Additionally, each champion kill grants an extra 25 gold, enhancing your economic advantage in-game.

This item is particularly popular among ADCs who need that extra edge to secure kills during close fights. Champions like Miss Fortune, Tristana, or Draven can greatly benefit from The Collector, as it ensures they can finish off weakened opponents who might otherwise escape. Since it is a Legendary item, it allows for flexible build paths, enabling you to incorporate both Lethality and critical strike into your setup for a balanced offensive strategy.

It’s also important to understand how Lethality interacts with armor levels. While Lethality can significantly reduce an enemy’s armor, it cannot reduce it below zero—the threshold where you’d start to deal bonus damage beyond true damage. To reduce armor below zero, you would need items or abilities that offer armor reduction. Therefore, while Lethality is effective at mitigating armor to increase damage output, it doesn’t enable “extra” damage per se, unlike true armor reduction techniques.

When is it the right time to buy lethality?


Deciding when to purchase Lethality items in League of Legends hinges largely on your game strategy and the specific match dynamics. While Lethality may not always be the optimal choice for late-game scenarios compared to other items, it excels in certain conditions. If your strategy revolves around gaining an early advantage and closing out the game swiftly, incorporating two or three Lethality items alongside traditional AD or Damage Per Second (DPS) items can be highly effective for delivering robust damage.

Lethality is particularly advantageous against squishy targets like AD or AP carries, as it reduces their armor to increase your damage output. However, it tends to be less effective against tankier champions who stack armor items, as flat armor penetration from Lethality does not scale as well against high armor values. Therefore, for champions such as assassins or ADCs whose damage relies heavily on abilities, Lethality can be a strategic choice. In contrast, champions focusing primarily on auto-attacks might benefit more from a build focused on DPS items.

For instance, if you’re playing Miss Fortune against a team lineup including Lucian, Wukong, Lux, Volibear, and Veigar, Lethality might not significantly impact the heavily armored Wukong and Volibear. Instead, mixing a couple of Lethality items with more AD-focused items could be more effective, particularly against softer targets like Lucian, Lux, and Veigar, where you can maximize your damage potential.

Given the variability in effective builds based on your opponents’ compositions and strategies, it’s often wise to reference build guides from sources like MobaFire or OP.gg. These resources can provide insights into the most effective item builds for different scenarios, helping you make informed decisions about when and how to incorporate Lethality into your strategy.

How does lethality differ from armor penetration in League of Legends?

Lethality and armor penetration are two distinct stats in League of Legends that, while similar in purpose, function differently and are suitable for different in-game scenarios.

Armor Penetration directly reduces a percentage of an enemy champion's armor. This makes it especially effective against targets with higher armor totals. For instance, an item like the Black Cleaver can stack its effect up to 6 times, increasing its armor penetration by 5% with each stack, up to a total of 30%. So, a target with 100 armor would lose 30 armor, but a target with 400 armor would lose a substantial 120 armor. This scaling effect makes percentage armor penetration highly effective in late-game scenarios against heavily armored opponents.

Lethality, on the other hand, provides a flat amount of armor penetration. This stat is scaled based on the user's level, starting at about 60% effectiveness and reaching 100% at level 18. For example, if a Lethality item offers 10 Lethality, it would provide up to 10 armor penetration when the user reaches level 18. Because it is a flat reduction, Lethality is generally more effective against targets with lower armor totals, making it ideal for targeting squishier enemies like ADCs or mages earlier in the game.

Understanding the differences between these two types of armor penetration can significantly influence your itemization choices, allowing you to tailor your build to effectively counter your specific opponents in any given match.

When should you build lethality over armor penetration?


Choosing between building Lethality and Armor Penetration in League of Legends largely depends on the type of opponents you're facing. Here's how you can decide which is more effective for your game strategy:

Armor Penetration: This type of stat is particularly effective against tankier champions who naturally accumulate a lot of armor, either through their inherent abilities or by building armor-heavy items like Thornmail or Iceborn Gauntlet. Champions like Malphite and Sejuani, who have abilities that significantly increase their armor, are prime targets for Armor Penetration items. For example, Lord Dominik’s Regards, which offers up to 30% Armor Penetration, can be tremendously effective against a heavily armored champion like Ornn, making it an essential item for dealing with tanks.

Lethality: In contrast, Lethality is more suitable against squishier targets who have lower base armor levels. Lethality removes a flat amount of armor, which means it can be extremely potent when the enemy has little armor to begin with. For example, against a target with 50 armor, a Lethality item such as Duskblade of Draktharr that provides up to 18 Lethality will be highly impactful, essentially turning a significant portion of your damage into near true damage.

Building Strategy: When considering your build path, it’s typically effective to prioritize Lethality items early in the game when facing less armored opponents. Items like Duskblade of Draktharr, Youmuu’s Ghostblade, or Eclipse can provide immediate benefits in penetrating the defenses of squishier enemies. As the game progresses and tankier opponents begin to build up armor, integrating Armor Penetration items like Lord Dominik’s Regards can help maintain your effectiveness in combat.

By assessing the armor levels and types of champions you're up against, you can strategically choose between Lethality and Armor Penetration to optimize your damage output and adapt to the evolving dynamics of the match.

Conclusion

Lethality can be a powerful tool in League of Legends, but its effectiveness largely depends on the context of each game. It’s crucial to consider the composition of the opposing team and their item choices when deciding whether to integrate Lethality into your build. While some players opt for a full Lethality build to capitalize on early-game strength and potentially secure a quick victory, this strategy may not always be ideal depending on the match dynamics.

This guide aimed to shed light on the nuances of Lethality, including the optimal scenarios for its use and the types of champions that benefit most from this stat. Hopefully, this has provided you with a clearer understanding of when and how to effectively utilize Lethality items in your games. Whether you’re looking to dominate early skirmishes or simply explore more aggressive build options, considering Lethality could add a new dimension to your strategic approach.

Posted On: July 2nd, 2024


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