What's A Power Spike?
This term is thrown around quite a bit when people analyze gameplay and talk about things like dueling or teamfights. But what does it mean? Essentially, a power spike is what happens when a champion gains a substantial upgrade in power. Let's go over the two most recognizable and prominent power spikes.
Each champion in League of Legends has what is known as a "kit." A kit is how the champion's skills work around each other and what kind of tools their abilities grant them. For example, a champion like Fiora has a kit focused on short range mobility and single target damage. Maokai, on the other hand, has a kit that leans more towards disruption and control.
A Level Spike is what happens when a champion reaches a level which allows them to utilize their kit more effectively. Let's take a look at a fairly obvious example with Jarvan IV in the top lane.
Most Jarvan IV players will take their Q, Dragon Strike, at Level 1. It gives them some range to work with.
Then, at Level 2, the Jarvan IV will take their E, Demacian Standard.
Let's take a look at how the skills work together and form his kit.
Jarvan's Q and E interact together. If the Dragon Strike touches the Demacian Standard that he has placed down, Jarvan will pull himself to the flag and knock up and units in the way.
This does a few things for Jarvan IV.
- He now has mobility in his kit. This can be used both offensively to engage or defensively to escape a bad trade/gank.
- Jarvan has CC now. He can interrupt enemy champions or use it to deal more damage
- His Q's armor shred can now be taken advantage of.
- The mobility will allow him to get more hits in.
- His E gives him natural attack speed, which means more hits.
- His knockup will allow him to give a few more auto attacks.
So, we can conclude that at Level 2, Jarvan IV is granted his signature skill combo and is substantially stronger than before. This is a Level 2 Spike.
Here's an example with Pantheon.
At Level 1, Pantheon arrives to lane with his Spear Shot (Q), which allows him to either take CS at a range or harass the enemy laner.
At Level 2, Pantheon has now taken his skill Aegis of Zeonia (W), which allows him to leap at a target and stun it.
Right here, the dynamic of the lane is changed. The enemy must now be cautious in challenging Pantheon because of his increased kill potential. Like Jarvan IV, Pantheon now has CC and mobility, although Pantheon's mobility can only be used on an enemy unit.
At Level 3, Pantheon will grab his Heartseeker Strike. This gives Pantheon enormous kill potential.
The skill itself deals 3 instances of damage while being channeled, but the big kicker is the passive. Any units below 15% health will now suffer 100% critical strike chance against Pantheon's Spear Shot (Q) or auto attacks.
This means that if the enemy ever drops to low health, Pantheon's kit allows him to all-in with gap close, CC them for the entire duration of Heartseeker Strike, and then finish them off as they run with the magic 100% crit chance.
Pantheon has power spikes at both level 2 and 3!
Got My Ultimate!
Then there is the most well-known level spike in League of Legends, the Level 6 Spike. This is a big turning point for a lot of champions, as they get their ultimate ability at this level. Champions like Lux and Syndra get huge kill potential at this level. The burst damage lends itself very well to their already established kits.
Lux can pelt the enemy down with her spells and then blast you with her ult when your health is low. It also gives her a ton of range and puts immense pressure on the other lanes if she goes missing from midlane.
Syndra, likewise, can use her very versatile kit to either harass or duel. If you ever fall low enough and Syndra has enough of her balls laying around the field, you will most likely be dead. Her ultimate is a targeted spell, so there's no way to flash or dodge out of that one. This gives her an insane amount of dueling pressure, because her ult simply cannot be outplayed. If she hits her opponent with enough spells, that champion is sure to die.
The above mentioned early game spikes are easy to figure out. They complete certain champion kits or give them access to new spells. However, champions can hit power spikes from their skills later in the game as well.
Syndra, for example, gets an additional spell effect added to her spells whenever they hit max level. This means at levels 9, 13, and 18 (levels you typically max out a spell), Syndra will have a spike in power.
Orianna is a champion based largely on her ultimate ability. At Level 16, when Orianna maxes her ultimate, it has 80 second base cooldown and 300 base damage. Compare that to her ulti at Level 6, which is 110 second base cooldown and 150 base damage. Those numbers are pretty huge.
Some champions require not only for their skills to be in their arsenal, but for them to also be pretty invested.
A good example is Gangplank. His ultimate gets more powerful with every upgrade, but he has an interest combo. His barrel chain explosions can be devastating, but there is too much of a space when his barrels can be last hit by enemy champions. He really hits critical mass when his Q and E have both been maxed out at level 13.
By simply looking at your champion levels in game and being able to surmise when a champion is at a strong point is a valuable skill. Not every champion has power spikes on the same level and if you know your champion is at a very good place based on levels, it might be a good time to fight for objectives and force the enemy to deal with you when you are powerful.
Another form of power spike is the Item Spike. When you think of a champion and visualize what items synergize with them well, you are already doing a bit of guesswork for the item spikes.
Champions build certain items because it benefits their kit and gives them a big boost to whatever type of playstyle their champion has. When champions finish those valuable items that work well with their kit, they will be powerful compared to those that don't have their items yet.
Even if everyone else catches up in their item build, some champions can use those items more effectively or it has an effect that changes how you react to the champion.
Here are a few examples to give you an idea of Item Spikes.
Jax benefits from every stat the Trinity Force can give him. It also gives him massive dueling and damage potential because he can easily activate the Spellblade with his other on-hit spells. When Jax finishes this core item, he becomes a bigger threat and starts his ramp up to late game.
Most AP Midlaners will think about picking up Luden's Echo. This item gives them not only a large chunk of AP, but also movement speed and an extra damage proc at the end of their spells. Most of these midlaners will be on the move and making plays happen around the map, so the Luden's Echo charge will be up nearly every time they need to deal damage.
Zhonya's Hourglass fits the kits of Kennen and Fiddlesticks far too well. Their AOE ultimate abilities will continue to tick even while they are impervious to damage. When they finally get Zhonya's, these two champions turn into engage/teamfight machines and can singlehandedly turn fights around.
There are also situations where an item will be extremely strong when synergized with another item.
In this situation, Brand can grab either item first. His spells splash to multiple enemies so they will either be taking more true damage burn or be slowed. Then, with the addition of the other, the slow will constantly be procced by the burn, which also deals more damage to slowed targets.
Brand can deal tons of residual damage by throw just a few spells and watching the entire enemy team burn to the floor. The slowed targets will be easier to hit and he is unhindered by tanks, because Liandry's Torment deals true damage. This is an example of an item combo that gives a big power spike.
+ Attack Speed
It is worth noting that Ranged AD Carries are usually slow to itemize and spike late due to a few things.
First, their skills usually are usually not the focus of their champion. They deal most damage by right clicking and their skills either lend to that or give them extra utility.
Second, their itemization is insanely slow. Their item spikes come from having a good combination of damage, crit chance, and attack speed. Any of these things alone is not bad, but is unable to live up to the damage output or tankiness coming from other champions until much later in the game.
For these reason, ADC item spikes come late in the game, but are still game changers and are why people need to be wary of the ranged carries in drawn out games.
Hopefully, this guide gives you a better idea of when your champion gets a power spike compared to everyone else. It is important to realize these timings because if you can take advantage of when your team is stronger, you can push the enemy back further and force their power spikes to come later. By then, you might have been able to squeeze out more items or levels and make up for the differences
This is why sometimes champions that are very far behind have a hard time coming back into the game. When they hit their big power spikes, they are no longer relevant and are still actually behind all the other champions.
Using this information, you can hopefully be more confident in when to go for trades, teamfights, and objectives and translate those things into more victories.
Good Luck out there on Summoner's Rift!
Like our content? Support us by getting our merchandise in our shop