A lot of people have been seeing this lately and questioning it pretty heavily. Why on Earth would an ADC start Doran’s Shield over Doran’s Blade? I always love the opportunity to write about ADCs. It’s my personal main role. Mid is also one of my favorite roles, but I’ve been playing it much less recently. Also, if you had to pick out a role that needs to pay attention to analysts the most, it is ADC. Hands down. That’s not to say that ADC players are bad and they need analyst help. In my recent scaling article, we looked at how almost all of an ADC’s power spikes are from items. Since this is the case, building the wrong items or in the wrong order can be devastating.
What are Starting Items for?
Generally we pick a starting item and then fill in the rest of our slots with potions. Starting items give us laning tools for trades and sustain. They are typically highly gold efficient. Doran’s Shield is 107.33% gold efficient. Doran’s Blade is 134.63% efficient. Doran’s Ring is 184.33% gold efficient (not counting 4 mana back per kill passive). The Dark Seal is 133.21% efficient without its stacks. Corrupting Potion is difficult to calculate the efficiency of since it doesn’t really give stats. Its efficiency can be estimated to be very high due to the fact that having one eliminates the need for potions. However, as many players realize, this is somewhat “false” efficiency. It’s not like it’s a full item that you’re intending to keep. You’re going to have to sell it at some point to make room for a real item or a Control Ward. The higher the efficiency, generally the lower the sell back value.
Doran’s Blade has an inherent weakness as a starting item: its sustain comes from Lifesteal. While it has the potential to provide more sustain than Doran’s Shield or Corrupting Potion while also giving you a damage stat, that sustain is entirely based on actually having the opportunity to autoattack stuff. This is not always a realistic scenario. It’s also the only starting item in the entire game that only permits you to have one potion. In some earlier patches, we saw certain ADCs starting Long Sword and 3 Biscuits. This was considered a better approach if you do not have the opportunity to attack the minions due to heavy pressure. If you will undeniably have the opportunity to have a pushing lane, then Doran’s Blade is still probably the best starting item for you.
Quick History: Doran’s Shield
This is Doran’s shield before they updated it. It was fairly popular start on manaless champions that couldn’t benefit from Crystalline Flask (an item long removed from the game) or Doran’s Ring. These champions also weren’t likely to have the push with Doran’s Blade. Either that or they weren’t even AD so why start Blade? Champions like Katarina, Akali, Vladimir, Rumble, Dr. Mundo, and Shen typically went for Doran’s Shield. Some alternatives included cloth armor and boots of speed. Personally, I think Boots of Speed is a a horrible start since it doesn’t give any advatage in trades. The only merit is that you won’t sell them and you get 4 potions. It’s very uncommon nowadays for those exact reasons, but also because of all the new options for starting items.
When Dark Seal came out in Season 6, it became a popular option for champions like Katarina, Akali, and Vladimir. Although these champions were manaless, Dark Seal let you have 3 potions or a refillable potion. It’s passive to increase you potion healing by 25% was very useless for champions like these. Rumble would generally take scaling health runes for mid and lategame and just start cloth armor. Against magic damage dealers, Doran’s Shield was still a common sight.
As we began to see this season in competitive, Shen would often opt to start triple Rejuvenation Bead instead of Doran’s Shield. Three Rejuvenation Beads costs only slightly more as Doran’s Shield in the above picture. Since Shen’s HP regen per 5 at level 1 is 8.5, three Beads gives him 12.75 bonus regen per 5. That’s more than twice the amount from a Doran’s Shield. Beads’ sell back value is for a higher % of gold, but you wouldn’t even sell all three. Tiamat is an essential item for Shen, and a Rejuvenation Bead is a part of the recipe.
Doran’s Shield was clearly intended to be a starting item for tanks. Since tanks generally have weak laning phases, the goal was aimed at surviving it. The problem is that the tools for surviving with a Doran’s shield were pretty sub-par. Sure, you wouldn’t get beaten as hard in trades, but you also wouldn’t clear minions well. With an inability to clear the minions, you’d probably lose your tower around the time you finish your first item.
Triple Doran’s Ring, as we’ve seen on Nautilus, Gragas, Galio, and Maokai, gives decent damage for trades for little gold. The mana sustain would allow these champions with good waveclear abilities to spam them to clear waves. Something became clear to Riot: Doran’s Shield had to change.
The New Doran’s Shield
This is the new Doran’s Shield. As you can see, the damage blocking has been taken away. The stats are the same, but the price has been reduced by 40 gold. Key, is the new passive: Restore 20 Health over 10 seconds when taking damage from an enemy champion. That passive has no cooldown, so it will start triggering every time you take damage. Also, it has a new passive that makes you do 5 extra damage to minions.
A New Approach to ADC Early Game
This is one of my personal ADC mastery pages right now. Typically, I don’t like to use myself as an example since I am a low elo player. That makes me a pretty lousy example if we’re being honest. Masteries are a little different though because you can literally copy & paste from people who are better than you as long as you understand. You’ll find many higher elo ADC mains running similar pages.
As you can see, I am not running 18/12/0 as is standard for an ADC. I’m running 18/0/12. The cunning tree and resolve tree mostly provide utility. It’s all about the value you get out of those potential 12 points. For the cunning tree as an ADC, you will typically take: Savagery, Secret Stash, Merciless, and Dangerous Game. Secret Stash is very good if you’re going to have multiple potions. I would say it’s easily the best thing you get out of 12 points in cunning. Not to say that the rest aren’t bad.
Now let’s take a look at the Resolve tree. I have Recovery, Tough Skin, Runic Armor, and Fearless. Summoner’s Insight is also very popular, but Fearless is actually disgusting in short trades in the botlane. It also gives you a lot of extra resistance against burst damage in the mid and late game. All of these things directly help me in trades no matter what. Not only that, but say I have a support with a heal or a shield, which is very common. 8% extra.
Doran’s Shield on ADC
This all bring us to Doran’s Shield on ADC. I can now clear minions with Doran’s Shield, not as effectively as I could with Doran’s Blade or Long Sword, but I can still do it. My sustain isn’t based on having to have the opportunity to attack the wave. I have more than double the HP regen per 5 that I would have normally, and I start healing whenever I take damage.
The nastiest interaction has to be against Twitch. His passive constantly renews the Doran’s Shield passive. With all that extra regen, you’ll heal straight through the poison.
The jist of it is that unless you can guarantee you’ll be pushing, it’s better than Doran’s Blade. It takes some getting used to though for sure. The hardest thing to get used to will be the last hit timers. For me, the last hit timers on the ADCs I play feels instinctual to me, so trying I have to keep in mind that I’ll be dealing slightly less damage with the Doran’s Shield.
Of course, this means that certain champions will feel less inclined to start D-Shield. In the case of Caitlyn, basically never unless she has a melee support into a ranged one, and even then, it’s a toss-up. I’m also going to drop the analyst garb for one second and talk as an ADC player here. My favorite ADC is Miss Fortune, and when I have started Doran’s Shield, farming and laning normally feels extremely awkward. On the other hand, champions with weaker laning phase like Ezreal or Vayne will probably be starting Doran’s Shield more often. That is of course, if you decide to play Vayne, which I highly recommend that you don’t.