Lethality Vs. Attack Speed: An ADC Guide

ADCs in League of Legends have only one job, and that is to dish out as much damage as possible. While this is true, there is not one but two ways AD ADCs can increase their damage output. The first is more on-hit damage, while the second is faster Attack Speed. Both stats increase their DPS, but one of them is preferred much higher over the other. Let’s delve deeper to see exactly which stat that is and why it is shown so much more love.

Is Increased Attack Speed Better Than More Lethality?

If you’re looking for a straightforward answer, yes, additional Attack Speed is mostly better compared to additional Lethality on ADCs. This statement is slightly variable on some ADCs that have high burst potential in their kit, like Miss Fortune or Draven.

The reason why you won’t see professional League of Legends player building Lethality on ADC champs is simply that you can outscale in terms of DPS. Increased Attack Speed also plays a role in kiting, so we’ll talk about that. However, in lower Elos, when players are not that used to kiting well, they can build Lethality on marksmen champions that have burst abilities, not auto-attack-reliant champions.

Drawbacks Of Lethality

We’ve stated that Attack Speed is a better stat to have compared to Lethality on ADCs. Now we’re going to tell you why. There are a few reasons why Attack Speed outscales Lethality, but it shouldn’t be set in stone. This can vary from individual to individual, depending on their play style and what they’re comfortable with.

Slower Kiting

In our opinion, this is one of the greatest drawbacks to building Lethality because your kiting capabilities are handicapped to some extent. Your auto-attack animations are much slower, and players with more experience can predict or react accordingly to your telegraphed auto attacks and movements.

When champions build Attack Speed items, they have lower auto attack windups meaning they can auto attack and move (which is kiting) faster. If you’re wondering whether kiting is that important, it can usually determine whether or not you will survive in teamfights, especially since ADCs are the highest priority targets in almost all teamfights. Kiting can help dodge skill shots and keep space between you and the enemy team.

Lower DPS

Attack Speed items are always stacked with other goodies, especially critical strike chance or critical strike damage. This applies 100% to Attack Speed mythics (also known as crit mythics). Lethality mythics, on the other hand, are made mostly for assassin champions, as you’ll find them in the assassin item portion of the shop. They increase your base AD and ability haste.

Now here is where the distinction between marksmen champions plays a role. Some ADCs, like Miss Fortune, Jhin, and Varus, can still benefit from having extra ability haste and Lethality because they utilize their abilities to deal damage, not only their auto attacks. Champions like Jinx and Tristana would fail to do so as they are very dependent on their auto attacks and need those critical strikes to be effective damage dealers.

Lethality Can Fall Off Late Game

This might be confusing to some people as how can any stat fall off the late game? For this, you need to first understand the difference between Lethality and AD. AD is how much damage one auto attack will deal, while Lethality grants you a flat amount of armor penetration on your attacks rather than a percentage. This means that while it does help get past those beefy front lines, it might not always be as useful on squishier targets with low defensive stats.

Any type of armor penetration is useful when it comes to dealing damage, though as even ADCs have scaling base defensive stats. However, if you compare the trade off against increased Attack Speed, you’ll be losing out on a lot of DPS. This is why Lethality is usually built by assassins going for high-burst builds.

Mythics Not as Useful

Mythic items for each stat are key in deciding which stat you’ll be stacking later in the game. In very rare circumstances, do people buy a Lethality mythic and go on to stack Attack Speed. The same goes for Attack Speed mythics.

Now the problem with Lethality mythics is that firstly, you only have two viable options, Duskblade of Draktharr or Eclipse. You absolutely cannot use Prowler’s Claw as it is a melee weapon. Secondly, both these mythics lose out on stats when used by ranged champions. Since all ADCs are marksmen champions, they receive limited benefits from these weapons.

On the other hand, the Attack Speed mythics are very useful. Kraken Slayer shreds tanks by doing true damage every third attack, Immortal Shieldbow gives you self-healing plus a shield on low health, and Galeforce is amazing for gap close or escaping for immobile ADCs such as Jhin. This is why many ADCs simply prefer to stack Attack Speed over Lethality.

Utility Vs. Auto Attack-Reliant ADCs

We mentioned before that some ADCs are auto attack reliant while others are so-called ‘utility’ ADCs. Some of you may think that utility means helping out allies in some way, but it’s actually ADCs that utilize abilities to increase their damage output as compared to just right-clicking. These ADCs are usually very mobile and prefer long-range, poke compositions to be effective.

If you try to stand in one place and just auto attack the enemy ADC that built Attack Speed items, you’re bound to lose. This is why knowing your playstyle and what you’re comfortable with is very important, as utility ADCs need to position extremely well to be useful. The ADCs that are very good in this Lethality playstyle are:

  • Jhin
  • Miss Fortune
  • Varus
  • Draven
  • Ezreal
  • Caitlyn (Attack Speed Caitlyn has higher DPS)

Final Thoughts

Now we know about how both playstyles are definitely viable, but Attack Speed might be considered superior in terms of DPS. It is also true that Attack Speed stacks better with various abilities and other items that benefit from this stat, while Lethality only helps one of Senna and Aphelios’ abilities scale but is unequivocal for Pyke. In the end, though, you should always consider what works for you and what you have fun with.

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