If you’ve been watching professional play this split, you’ve probably noticed a lot of tanks in the top lane. Fortunately, some nerfs to Poppy and Maokai make them lower priority picks, and we’re starting to see the top lane pool open up a bit more to carry champions such as Rumble, Renekton, and the relatively new Camille. There has even been some Kled, Fiora, and Gangplank. One thing that I know for a fact had a lot of people confused was the popularity of Spirit Visage on Poppy and Nautilus, occasionally even as a first item. These champions have no regeneration-based abilities, so why even build Spirit Visage, let alone rush it?
Well, before you consider Spirit Visage as a “healing enhancer”, what else is it? It’s a magic resistance item. Rushing magic resistance is advantageous in matchups where your lane opponent’s damage type is magic damage. You would think that on tanks without healing abilities, Banshee’s Veil would be the better option, but it’s not.
Healing Abilities Not Required
Most tanks in the early game will buy multiple Doran’s Rings, a Corrupting Potion, or a combination of a Doran’s Ring and a Corrupting Potion. Spirit Visage amplifies all healing, and that includes healing from stuff like Corrupting Potion, Guardian Angel (which most tanks will end up buying later) and even your natural health regeneration. Natural health regeneration is a very overlooked stat, especially on very tanky targets. The amount of health you regenerate per second mitigates the amount of DPS you’re taking, which is critical as a tank. Burst damage isn’t a problem, so sustained DPS is the only thing that could actually kill you.
Compare Spirit Visage and Banshee’s Veil side by side: 300 Health, 70 Magic Resistance , and 100% Base Health Regeneration VS. 500 Health, 55 MR, 200% Base Health Regeneration, 10% CDR, AND the 25% healing passive. With the 25% healing passive, the health regeneration that you get from the item alone is 2.5 times that of Banshee’s Veil.
Invisible Strength: Cooldown Reduction
The real stat that pushes Spirit Visage over the edge, making it essentially a core item on all full tank top lane and jungle champions, however, is the cooldown reduction.
Have you ever looked at a damage chart at the end of the game and been surprised by how much damage a Nautilus did? Sometimes they can even deal the most damage in the game! Tanks achieve this damage through survivability. While a tank may not be able to chunk you with huge damage spells like a mage or an assassin, or auto you to death like an ADC, what they can do is survive. The longer you live, the longer you get to damage. Sure, each of my individual casts of Poppy Q may not hurt that much, but when you consider how long I can survive, I can cast this spell 10 times in a teamfight with 30%-40% CDR; possibly more!
How Much is Too Much?
When sharing this concept with a few people, I have gotten one question a few times: Why not both? There are two reasons why. First, let’s look at how resistances work: the % damage reduction is based on how much you of that resistance that is built, and the equation for it is calculated by Resistance Value/(Resistance Value + 100). What this means is that Resistance stacking has diminishing returns. The difference between 50 MR and 100 MR is not the same as the difference between 100 MR and 150 MR. With Void Staff being the only available Magic Penetration item in the game, combined with the natural effectiveness of health against AP based playstyles, it’s not really necessary to build more than Spirit Visage, Guardian Angel, and possibly Mercury’s Treads. Galio had this problem pre-rework: because of his passive’s insane efficiency, players were essentially encouraged to build more MR than they truly needed.
Also, keep in mind that most teams only have 1 – 2 magic damage dealers, so you’re better off getting more armor than MR usually. If they have insane amounts of magic damage—think Double AP Solo lanes, Elise jungle, Ziggs bot—then there may be a case for double Magic Resistance items, but in just about every other situation, the value is not worth the buy.
While Banshee’s Veil may have a useful spell shield, the stats of Spirit Visage simply push it above and beyond it in terms of desirability. It’s simply a better tank item, and it is no understatement to call Spirit Visage the best MR item in the game, if not one of the best tank items, period.