It probably comes as no surprise that League of Legends’ next champion, Aphelios, the Weapon of the Faithful, is a unique creation and will no doubt require some expert guides and assistance to get used to.
Riot Games designer Bradford Wenban, the brains behind League’s next champion, may have officially transitioned over to R&D and out of Summoner’s Rift, but the creator behind Yasuo, Thresh, Darius, and others has made a permanent name for himself as the origin of the game’s most iconic – and controversial – characters.
Depending on how you feel about his repertoire, you will either be delighted or exasperated to learn that Aphelios pushes the envelope of what’s possible with League of Legends champion design like absolutely nothing else in the game.
Of course, that means it’s going to be that much harder to learn how to play Aphelios.
Here’s a guide to help get you started on what may prove to be a particularly long road to mastery.
Traditional League of Legends gameplay is an RPG. Every level, you either learn a new spell or ability, or you increase the power of a skill you previously learned – starting with nothing but one weak skill, then ending the game with tide-turning ultimate spells.
Not so with Aphelios. Though he does eventually unlock his Ultimate at level six, everything else is a defiance to the habits LoL players picked up over the last decade. He technically has access to all of his “spells,” each in the form of five guns that are always available to him – cycling to the next in line as soon as the 50-count ammunition of his current main gun runs dry.
That not only means a wholly different levelling mechanic for Aphelios, but a brand new user interface too! Instead of the customary QWER lineup, you instead have just three buttons and a couple of indicators.
- Q always corresponds to his main gun, activating their abilities so long as he’s wielding it, and so long as their ammo reserves are above zero. Each weapon has an entirely different ability.
- W swaps his main gun with his offhand weapon.
- Where there would normally be an E ability, you instead see what weapon is next in the queue.
- R is, as the one point of tradition, his ultimate ability.
When Aphelios gains a level, he does not add points to his skills. Instead, “levelling” QWER corresponds directly to his stat improvements – a first for a League of Legends character. The stats are as follows, with six tiers of possible improvement per type:
- Q – bonus attack damage (+4 to +24)
- W – bonus attack speed (+6% to +36%)
- E – armor penetration (3% to 18%)
That means, even without buying items from the shop, Aphelios can still customize his stats to best fit the demands of the match, whether he needs to burst down targets with spells, crush tanks, or just plough through map objectives as fast as possible.
You still need to buy items as normal, of course – Aphelios isn’t that non-traditional. But his purchase order can get weird, as does his power spikes. You can either double down on one stat or shore up weaknesses by investing in another. For example, his burst damage is better if you pick up a BF Sword while dumping points into bonus attack damage, of course, but his ability to tear down towers and tanks is improved if you sank points into attack speed instead.
What’s best will, of course, be on a case-by-case basis. But to start out, there’s no actual reason to deviate from traditional AD Carry progression: max damage first, then attack speed, then armor penetration as demanded by the situation.
You’d think that only having one “actual” ability on Q and a weapon swap on W means that Aphelios would be fairly easy to play, regardless of the number of guns involved. However, each gun and their abilities are so different as to force some level of memorization.
Aphelios’s arsenal should be considered in two parts: their active ability, and their passive effects. At the start of the match, Aphelios starts with Calibrum and Severum, with Gravitum, Infernum, and Crescendum in queue. However, the order of his guns changes as he uses them – a gun exhausted of all of its ammo always goes to the back of the queue, regardless of where it was in the original order.
Calibrum, the Sniper Rifle
Passive: Aphelios gains extra auto-attack range when using Calibrum. Enemies damaged with Calibrum are marked and revealed for 4.5 seconds. His next attack uses the current off-hand weapon and gains global range.
Active: Pokes targets with a (very) long-range skill shot, with bonus effects based on his offhand weapon.
TL;DR: long auto attacks, long skill shots.
Use for: basic laning and harassment.
Severum, the Scythe Pistol
Passive: Basic attacks with Severum doesn’t use projectiles (and therefore ignores Yasuo’s Wind Wall). Attacks with Severum heals Aphelios per hit, and excess healing is converted into a shield for 30 seconds.
Active: Gain bonus movement speed and automatically hit the nearest targets with a flurry of auto-attacks, prioritizing champions. Aphelios alternates hits with both main and off-hand weapons, triggering both passives. The more attack speed you have, the more hits he gets. Note that this does not trigger Runaan’s Hurricane or Guinsoo’s Rageblade.
TL;DR: heals per hit, and hit multiple times.
Use for: sustain, aggressive trading, jungling?
Gravitum, the Gravity Cannon
Passive: Gravitum’s auto-attacks slows the target by 30% and marks them for 3.5 seconds.
Active: Consume Gravitum slow, rooting the affected targets.
TL;DR: crowd control in the form of slows and roots.
Use for: setting up ganks or slowing down pursuers.
Infernum, the Flamethrower
Passive: Targets hit will spray four firebolts behind them, hitting additional targets. Crits generate more firebolts per hit.
Active: Hit and mark all targets in a cone, then hit them again with his offhand weapon, consuming marks and triggering the offhand’s passive.
TL;DR: Waveclear and AOE damage.
Use for: pushing the lane or attacking grouped up enemies.
Crescendum, the Chakram
This is by far the weirdest weapon and should be seen to understand how it functions.
Passive: Aphelios throws the Chakram at a target, and cannot attack until it returns to him after a delay. When he casts an ability that causes him to throw a chakram, he throws a Spectral Chakram instead that lasts for five seconds and can otherwise be thrown like the normal Chakram.
Basic attacks with Crescendum deal bonus damage scaling with the number of Chakrams he has, and can critically strike.
Active: Aphelios throws out a turret that deals auto-attacks based on his off-hand weapon. It, too, can critically strike, and benefits from both attack speed and bonus attack damage.
TL;DR: Build turrets like Heimerdinger, and use his other weapons to create more Chakrams for extra damage.
Use for: lane control and finishing off an enemy.
And if even the TL;DRs are still too confusing, just basically remember them as Poke, Sustain, Slow, AOE, and Heimerdinger.
Finally, there’s the matter of Aphelios’s ultimate ability, which – like everything else in his kit, is contextual based on his current weapon.
In all situations it starts as basically a hitscan AOE ability: a beam of moonlight sweeps an area, stopping once it passes over one or more enemy champions, dealing a burst of physical damage and locking onto them.
Once locked on, it will then hit all marked champions with an additional burst of damage that can critically strike – and an additional effect based on the main hand’s weapon.
- Calibrum – adds another mark and deals damage to marked champions.
- Severum – heals Aphelios.
- Gravitum – enemies are slowed by 99%.
- Infernum – each enemy is hit with an AOE burst of damage. Overlapping AOEs add extra damage.
- Crescendum – each enemy adds Spectral Chakras to Aphelios’s supply.
Or to sum it up:
- Global-range followup attacks.
- AOE slow.
- AOE burst (and a serious reason to not fight Aphelios at Baron or Drake).
- Extremely fast auto-attacks.
As with literally everything else about him so far, the best time to use Aphelios’s ultimate is incredibly context-dependent. You’ll need to check what weapons are available with what the opponent’s currently doing.
In most cases, however, it probably pays off to prepare for a fight by swapping to Gravitum, if your team needs a way to catch the enemy team, or Infernum if you just need to melt a lot of HP bars right away.
Ironically, despite having so many guns on hand, Aphelios’s shopping might be fairly simple. As most of his weapons have effects that can trigger off critical hits or just plain due to the fact that they can critical-hit at all, his top concern will be to acquire Infinity Edge.
He will likely also want a Phantom Dancer and Stormrazor. Between the Lifeline shield from the former, and the latter’s on-hit Slow effect, he’ll be able to buy more time to access the most appropriate weapon for his current situation.
Aphelios without Caliburn or Severum on either hand is in a vulnerable state, with neither a good attack range or self-sustaining mechanisms to keep him alive through harassment and gank attempts.
To that end, using the Conqueror keystone rune and using Domination’s Taste of Blood and Ravenous Hunter for lifesteal and healing helps Aphelios stay in the fight for long enough to set up the right weapon combo.
With Aphelios out on the week of December 8th, you don't have very long at all to familiarize yourself with his groundbreaking kit. Time to do some studying.
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