What is a Power Spike?
In many games, the term "power spike" is used to refer to a point of time during the game at which a character or other entity has high strength. If we imagine a graph showing the strength of this entity over the duration of the game, we would imagine the graph to shoot upwards at this point, forming a "spike" shape as their strength rises to its peak and then falls off (in some cases of infinite scaling, the fall off may never happen).
In League of Legends terms, we can define power spikes as points in time - levels, items, or phases of the game, that cause a champion to have this "spike" in their power level relative to other champions. Knowing when a champion or team is strongest is invaluable, and allows you to take advantage of strengths and weaknesses to bring home victory. This series of articles will help you get to know how to assess power spikes, and give you some examples of them. This article in particular focuses on champions who are strongest in the early stages of the game.
An early game power spike would mean that a champion is at their strongest, or is at least relatively strong, in the first few levels of the game during the laning phase. Key factors to consider are that these power spikes are independent items, and generally are reliant on base ability damage, innate stats and utility. Below are the primary factors in determining a champion's early game strength.
1. High Base Values or Damage
This is probably the most simple way a champion can derive a strong early game power spike from their kits. Draven is a prime example of a champion that simply has enough early base damage to be a nuisance to anyone laning against him. His Q: Spinning Axes, adds a huge chunk (35%) of damage to his auto attacks - enough to out-trade pretty much any of his competitors, leading to lane dominance and pressure. Similarly, Caitlyn's range of 650, the largest pre-6 range in the game, allows her to have a safe and effective laning phase. Renekton finds a similar area of strength, as well as a kit that synergises extremely well with laning which will be discussed below.
Examples: Draven, Caitlyn, Renekton, Rengar
2. Powerful Laning/Jungle Kit
The aforementioned Renekton is the quintessential strong laner. His kit includes everything that a laner might need: waveclear, sustain, single target CC, high damage, innate tankiness and two dashes. With a loaded kit like this, he can bully his lane opponent and escape when things get tough, or when he inevitably draws the attention of the enemy jungler. Lee Sin springs to mind as a powerful early jungler due to his damage, including 8% missing health execution damage on his reactivated Q: Resonating Strike. With this, on top of high mobility and utility, he can gank effectively and also duel the enemy jungler to apply pressure across the map.
Lane Examples: Renekton, Riven, Kha'Zix, Zed
Jungle Examples: Lee Sin, Elise, Udyr
3. Early Kill Potential
Kill potential in the early game, particularly before level 6, is not so common in LoL without a gank or large error. However, champions such as Rengar can make use of their kit to take early kills and snowball. Rengar's double-Q combo does huge damage, with his slow and ignite he can outright kill most champions at this early stage. To put this into perspective, with an auto attack, double-Q, E and Ignite at level 2, Rengar can deal 120 + 470% AD physical damage plus 90 true damage, which will either force an enemy out of lane or kill them. Riven's low cooldowns, large base values and stun enable her to do almost the same. Wukong and Xin Zhao also have extremely powerful all-in potential at level 2 in the same way. With this threat, the champion creates pressure on the opponent and forces them to play safe or risk being engaged upon. In this situation, the opponent is forced to lose minions, experience, lane pressure, or even their life.
Examples: Riven, Xin Zhao, Rengar, Kayle, Wukong
4. More Than Three Abilities Before Level 6
A lot of early game power comes from abilities, and some champions have ways to use extra abilities in the first few levels. By doing this, they can exceed other champions in damage and utility. Lee Sin not only has excellent base values, but can also make use of six abilities by the time he reaches level 3. Every time he uses an ability, he can reactivate it for a new effect. Elise, with her R: Spider Form available from level one, also has the potential to have six spells by level three. She can clear the jungle and gank very effectively with her extensive kit, with independent cooldowns and no mana costs in Spider Form. Rengar gains enhanced abilities with independent cooldowns when he stacks 5 fury, and through this he can also use extra abilities to cause immense damage.
Examples: Lee Sin, Elise, Rengar, Jayce
More so than later stages of the game, sustain is very important during laning and early jungling. If you get bullied out of the lane, your opponent gains a lot of pressure through roaming or pushing as well as an advantage in EXP and minion kills. With this in mind, it's obvious why champions without mana have a laning advantage. They do not need to conserve ability use in order to sustain adequately. Renekton and Riven are examples of manaless champions that will bully their opponents, forcing them to use their mana in trades and thereby outsustaining them in resources, if not health as well.
Examples: Rengar, Renekton, Riven, Kennen, Shyvana
In reality, just one of these factors won't give a champion a dominating early power spike, rather a combination of a few of them. Renekton, for example, falls into almost all of the above categories, as well as Riven and Rengar. These champions are at their strongest in the early game before other champions have had the chance to out-scale them through levels and items.
When you're in the loading screen, waiting to enter the Rift, look over the enemy champions and consider their strengths and weaknesses and how you should react to them. This is an extremely important exercise, and one you should get used to doing. Are you against someone like Rengar? Deny them their early kills and dominance, play safe, and stop their snowballing potential. Alternatively, if you choose these champions, show your enemy your early power and punish them for any mistakes. Bully them into giving up objectives and snowball your own pressure.
Next time: Mid game power spikes.