League Stuff Explained: The Return of AD Fizz Top

AD Fizz Top - HOWLA eSports

AD Fizz Top is something we’ve been seeing in the LCS lately. When a champion transitions from its typical role, one question it is important to ask is, “What are the advantages to playing it this way as opposed to the traditional way?” As you may have noticed, this article is called “the return” of AD Fizz Top—we’ve seen this Fizz build before.

5.2 Fizz Changes: The Prelude

Rewind to late Season 4/early Season 5. Fizz was riding high as a very strong meta pick in the mid lane thanks to a meta that revolved around the item Deathfire Grasp. On Patch 5.2, Fizz received quite the rebalancing.

His Urchin Strike’s (Q) damage received significant nerfs to its scaling, and no longer dealt damage to the target if he failed to connect.

Seastone Trident (W)’s passive damage lost its missing health damage in favor of higher ability power scaling. The active’s damage took the missing health damage, but lost its AP scaling. Grievous Wounds was also removed from the ability completely.

Then, his Chum the Waters (ult) was given a new effect that amplified his damage against the target hit by the fish by 20% for 6 seconds.

AD Fizz Top Emerges

Fizz’s weaknesses began to seem more apparent after the removal of Deathfire Grasp. A new meta emerged, in which assassins felt weaker due to an influx of tanky junglers with high peeling potential, notably Sejuani and Gragas. Fizz was heavily reliant on CDR, which was not provided by either of his remaining core items—Lich Bane and Zhonya’s Hourglass.

This meant that for Fizz to max his CDR in an AP build, he would have to take CDR in his runes (weakening his early levels as a melee midlaner), build Morellonomicon early, and build Ionian Boots.

That’s when people started playing AD Fizz Top. His core build was Trinity Force, Ionian Boots of Lucidity, Blade of the Ruined King, and Frozen Heart. Trinity Force didn’t provide CDR back then, but Ionian Boots gave 15%. Fizz needed only to take 5% CDR in his runes.

Back then, Trinity Force gave 30 AP, but less attack speed. With this build, Fizz would max his W, as the extra attack speed from TriForce and BoRK would allow him to take advantage of the W’s new passive on-hit damage more frequently.

Not only that, but the new effect of Fizz’s ult increased BoRK’s on-hit damage, as well as Trinity’s Spellblade proc.

Generally, Fizz would build tank after these core damage items, so his burst potential would be lower come late game. As it turned out, Fizz’s passive as also quite useful for a bruiser, as it is essentially free armor. The trade-off, however, was a significantly safer version of Fizz.

Riot: We Take it Back!

In Patch 5.7, Riot decided to switch back the passive and active components of Fizz’s W. his W passive had the Missing Health bleed restored, and the active got its on-hit AP scaling back. This curbed the issue, but only briefly.

Anyone who played during this era of League of Legends can tell you about the power of Smite top. While Smite top may sound ridiculous, at the time, there were huge advantages to it.

For example, Cinderhulk was superior to Sunfire Cape because it amplified bonus health by 25%. Champions reliant on Sunfire Cape, like Dr. Mundo, took it as a substitute. On top of that, it also gave you access to Challenging Smite (the Smite upgrade from Skirmisher’s Sabre) as a laner. Extra on-hit true damage and damage reduction from the one person I’m taking damage from? Yes please!

The one downside to this strategy was that you had to either give up your Flash or Teleport. While there were some midlane iterations of this (AP Ezreal, specifically) that would keep the flash, in the toplane, it was generally advisable to keep your Teleport.

For Fizz, this was not a big sacrifice. His kit offers incredible mobility with just a bit of cooldown reduction. Since he wasn’t building much AP, his E was strictly a utility ability anyway.

Riot Restores Balance

So how did Riot solve this AD Fizz issue? It all started with toning down Cinderhulk and Challenging Smite. After that, Fizz stopped taking Smite in the top lane, but he still didn’t really need Flash because his E, as we stated earlier, was a utility spell. It had been taken down quite a few pegs for sure, but Fizz was still more playable as an AD top laner than as the classic AP mid.

Riot decided that the problem with Fizz more than just an unfavorable meta towards assassins, and they had actually just gone too far when they nerfed AP Fizz. They increased the AP ratio of his Q from 30% to 35%, and of his W active from 25% to to 30%.

Then they lowered the base damage of his W Active, making it was less advantageous to max the ability. Finally, the damage amplification effect from his ultimate only affected Magic Damage.

Nerf it Again, Man

With the removal of Trinity Force’s AP and the lowering of its attack speed, Riot was sure that AD Fizz Top wouldn’t see play in Season 6, and they were right. He was, however, able to make the go-to tank build for top laners work. The core build for almost any top laner was Sunfire Cape and Iceborn Gauntlet, using the Grasp of the Undying Mastery.

Sunfire Cape allowed you to enter combat quickly thanks to its large Area of Effect, getting Grasp of the Undying charged quickly. The mastery synergized with an Iceborn-enhanced auto for a surprising amount of burst damage for a tank.

The result? An even safer version of Fizz, still capable of dealing out good burst damage, and functioning as a very strong lane bully against tanky top laners.

So, on Patch 6.12, Riot significantly nerfed the missing health damage from his W passive and increased the cooldown of his E. This was also coupled with nerfs to Sunfire Cape, Iceborn Gauntlet, and Grasp of the Undying, reducing the overall effectiveness of this build.

Season 7: a Whole New Champ?

Season 7 brought a series of small changes that led to AD Fizz Top’s return from what many thought might (finally) be a permanent grave.

First were the Trinity Force changes that took away crit chance and increased attack speed.

Fizz himself received some changes as part of the Season 7 Preseason Assassin Update.

The early cooldown of his Q was decreased along with its mana cost. His W passive lost its Missing Health damage, and its AP Ratio was slightly reduced. Its base damage was slightly increased to compensate, and the active became a an auto reset with bonus damage, albeit not that much damage.

They also added a delayed effect, so that if you waited at least 2 seconds of passive bleed before using the W active, the active damage would be tripled. Additionally, it would refund part of the CD and mana cost if it was the killing blow.

Finally, Fizz’s ultimate lost the ability to amplify damage, but it gained the effect of creating a gradually larger fish, based on how far it traveled. Larger fish slowed more and dealt more damage.

Over time, more and more people began to realize how strong Fizz’s ultimate had become with the new mechanic. For example, Fizz’s had always attached to targets that walked on top of the fish if it landed on the ground. With the increased size of Fizz’s ult, not only would the hitbox of the initial spell cast increase, but so too would the size of the pickup, so this effect was removed. On this same patch, they increased the duration of the bleed, as well as the time window for an the enhanced auto-reset, and they increased the AP ratio of his Q.

Can’t Keep a Good Fish Down

How does this lead to AD Fizz Top’s return? The first factor is Fizz’s laning in the top lane. When trading against another melee champion, it is very easy to get off the enhanced W reset, especially with the increased window. While you don’t get access to Fizz’s burst potential with AP, as has always been the case with AD Fizz, he does have access to some pretty insane base damages, specifically on his W. and a high range ultimate.

CDR has always been a stat that has provided Fizz with lot of playmaking potential, and while Lich Bane on AP Fizz gives you only 10%, Trinity Force gives 20%.

Not to mention, that Teleport and Ignite combo allows for some scary all-in potential. The enemy laner has to always be wary that that trade could turn into a very deadly all-in.

Typically after Trinity Force, players build a Sunfire Cape (maybe an early Spectre’s Cowl somewhere in there if they need the MR), which still has that same interaction of making your Grasp of the Undying easier to proc. AD Fizz Top’s damage potential comes primarily from Trinity Force, Grasp of the Undying, and his high base damages.

When armed with Trinity Force and Sunfire Cape, Fizz can clear waves and has can be a potent threat in a sidewave. Splitpushing in a sidewave also gives Fizz the opportunity to rotate down and flank onto the backline with his ultimate.

In competitive play, a single kill can lead to a large payoff in the right situation. Having a man down makes it much easier to push for towers or attempt to take dragons or even Baron, and Fizz’s ultimate makes for a very powerful pick tool.

Not Without its Limits

Of course, there are some potential weaknesses to the AD Fizz Top build. Since Fizz usually builds full tank after his Trinity Force, the later the game goes, the harder it might be for him to 1v1 other carries who look to push sidewaves in the mid and late game, like Camille, Ekko, or Kled for example.

While he doesn’t necessarily need that flash and the Teleport/Ignite combo seems to be optimal, as no one who played it any region has opted for another summoner spell combo, there are still some situations where you could potentially be punished for not having Flash.


What are your thoughts on AD Fizz Top in competitive play or soloQ? Personally, I think part of the problem with AD Fizz’s Season 5 incarnation was the fact that he was edging out AP Fizz’s potential success. This iteration of AD Fizz, in my opinion, may be very strong, perhaps too strong, but I think AP Fizz is still absolutely viable, at least for soloQ, and we’ve even seen some competitive play for it in certain situations.

This might, however, make it even more difficult to nerf AD Fizz should it become an issue, seeing as outright nerfing AD Fizz might have unnecessary backlash on AP Fizz, and nerfing top lane AD Fizz while buffing AP Fizz could push AP Fizz over the edge. Still, Fizz is certainly a champion with high playmaking potential, and with MSI in full tilt, I’d love to see the best Top Laners from around the world showing off what they can do with a champion like Fizz, who has a higher skill ceiling than say, Maokai, who many of us are pretty tired of seeing in competitive play.


Check out our previous columns of League Stuff Explained:

Midseason Patch 7.9 Tank Update

Spirit Visage on Poppy and Shen 

The Necessity of Sightstone.

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