In this guide I'll be talking about one of League's most infamous champions. Vladimir is often regarded as easy and overpowered, and while he is incredibly strong, he is anything but easy.
Most champions in the mid lane have some form of utility. Lux has a snare, Yasuo has a knock-up, Neeko has a root etc. Vladimir doesn't have any of this, which leaves him in a really weird place. Normally when a champion is behind, they can still contribute to their team. They can lockdown enemies with CC or protect allies with shields and such. This is not the case for Vladimir, he is genuinely useless when behind. The only thing his champion brings is damage and safety, This makes the champion a lot riskier than others leaving effectively no room for error on Vladimir.
That being said Vladimir certainly has his advantages. Being one of the strongest scaling champions in the game, Vladimir is a menace past 30 minutes. This coupled with the fact that he is one of the safest champions in the game makes you wonder why he doesn't dominate the meta more if he scales and he's so safe. Unfortunately for the Blood Lord, there's a few hurdles he has to go through before he's able to explode the nexus.
Why Vladimir Mid?
Vladimir is one of the only champions in the game that uses his health as a resource. This makes for some really interesting gameplay. This means he has a really unique learning curve, because minor mistakes can lead to the player unintentionally killing themselves by mismanaging their health.
Once players begin to figure out how to counteract this, and to cut back on positioning mistakes that would otherwise kill them. Vladimir becomes an unstoppable force, to which it feels like their is no counterplay for the other team. This black and white dynamic is what leads so many players to believe he is easy or overpowered, when in reality he's just really hard.
- If you get the perfect gaming mouse you'll really be able to dominate with Vladimir in the mid lane.
Unlike other hyperscaling champions (Jinx, Kayle, Kassadin) Vladimir has no utility, and no way to help if behind. This means that knowing your limits, and when you can go in and when you can't is the biggest part of playing Vladimir. This is exacerbated by the fact that his health is the resource he uses to cast spells. Because of the safety of his pool, Vladimir when in the right hands, will be one of the most oppressive and dominant champions in the game.
He's a late game hypercarry that is incredibly safe in lane so it's hard to prevent him from scaling. Rather than trying to kill him the best thing you can do to shut him down is to play high tempo champions like Twisted Fate or Galio that will impact the game before Vladimir can scale, so that by the time he does become powerful the game is already over, or unwinnable. But due to his strong laning tools a good Vladimir will hardly ever lose lane, making him one of the scariest champions in the game.
If Vlad Is That strong, Why Isn't He Dominating The Meta More?
Vladimir has an absolutely massive learning curve. This tends to deter a lot of players from even trying to pick him up. He's certainly not for the faint of heart, Vladimir is not like Twisted Fate or Lux who are extremely straight forward to play. He's going to require some commitment to learn, but this guide will definitely help.
The meta is often defined or modeled after high-elo and pro-play. So because not many people are playing him in challenger, not many people are playing him in Bronze-Diamond. A big reason Vladimir hasn't show a dominant presence in high elo and pro-play is because of how reliant he is on scaling. For a long time games were set at a medium tempo, where teams were aiming to end around 30 minutes. Because of this late game champions such as Veigar or Kayle have been out of the meta. However with the mage item update this preseason that has changed quite a bit. Because of this Vladimir has been very present in high elo. He's only being played Toplane in pro-play but their meta is a lot more delicate than that of the solo-queue ladder.
Vladimir certainly rewards anyone who puts enough time into him. As you can see from Elite 500's OP.GG he has really good stats at challenger elo the last few seasons. So he is certainly good in the right hands.
How Do I Actually Play Vladimir Mid?
Vladimir fits into two main playstyles currently. The late game scaling Vladimir, and the Lane Kingdom Vladimir. Both playstyles are viable and both require different skills to pull off. However one is good for competitive play, and one is good for climbing the ranked ladder so they each have their place.
Late Game Vladimir
Late game scaling Vladimir is what Elite500 plays (best Vladimir in the world). You buy lots of Ability Haste and focus on farming at a perfect 10cs/min. This build is played toplane in professional play, and is seen as the more standard playstyle. It makes good use of Vladimir's insane safety and puts the enemy on a timer to end the game before Vladimir comes online and ends it himself.
You ideally want to end lane with 0 deaths if you're going for the scaling build. A common mistake on Vladimir Mid is over-rotating. Vladimir is extremely gold and XP reliant, so rotating during laning stage is a really big risk. 9/10 times you don't want to simply because you risk getting behind, and once you're behind your game is pretty much over. Every single bit of XP and Gold is really important to you scaling. You really need to be ahead in XP on your lane opponent or your game becomes really difficult. This is one of the biggest reasons Vladimir isn't played in pro-play as often as you'd expect, is because he really can't afford to rotate and help his team early. Every time you leave lane you take a risk, and even if the odds are good it's still usually better to just stay in lane and sit at that constant 10 cs/min. This playstyle also relies in Mejai's for a lot of it's AP/damage. This means that by rotating you are risking dying, and losing stacks.
Vladimir really likes building big amounts of AP because of his passive, which converts AP into HP and vice versa. This means that items like Rabadon's and Mejai's give even more value to him than to other champions. If you want to play scaling Vladimir, make sure to buy lots of pink wards and to track the enemy Jungler as ganks are you're biggest threat to winning.
Lane Kingdom Vladimir
The other playstyle is the Lane Kingdom Vladimir. This build focuses on maximizing damage, and exerting your leads over your enemies constantly, slowly choking them out of the game. While the scaling build requires solid map awareness and perfect farming abilities, this build wants matchup knowledge and limit testing. It's all about your ability to outplay your opponent and build leads for yourself.
Once you've played most matchups in the midlane, Vladimir becomes a lot simpler. You identify your lane opponent and respond accordingly. When fighting control or burst mages like Lux and Orianna, you want to take Predator and rush Rocketbelt. This way you can deny your opponent lots of CS/XP and if they walk up to you, you can pop Predator and run them down for a free kill.
If you're against more aggressive laners like Qiyana or Zed, you can take Summon Aery and focus on poking them out early with auto attacks and Q's. Vladimir has really strong trading in lane due to his Q, which not only does a lot of damage to the enemy, but it also heals him. This tool alone can make Vladimir out sustain and out trade almost every champion in the game. Coupled with bone plating and Summon Aery, every single melee champion will struggle to beat Vladimir in lane.
Knowing your limits will make or break this playstyle. Vladimir is extremely good at towerdiving, especially when ahead. So if the Vladimir has a lead and knows how to use it, he can kill his opponent 2-3 times in lane and put them down several levels of XP. Even if they're a safe champion like Lux or Corki. The biggest problem with this, is if you go to towerdive your opponent and their jungler is there the play backfires really hard. So you have to make sure to watch your map and pay attention to where their jungler might be beforehand.
- If you like this guide, make sure to check out our Kai'Sa Mid Guide!
So how do I build Vladimir Mid?
You want to buy Rocketbelt as normal first item, before going into Lucidity Boots and Cosmic Drive. This will maximize your Ability Haste and make farming much easier. After that you want to go into Rabadon's and Void Staff. Once you have Rabadon's you are 'online' and ready to take over the game. This usually happens around 28-30 minutes if you're farming well. By that point in the game it is just about using your huge damage to impact teamfights and help your team win the game. If you're ahead and want to push your advantage, Void Staff/Mejai's -> Rabadon's is the path for you. Giving Vladimir absolutely bonkers burst damage, he can play around his Predator, Ghost and Rocketbelt CD's to make plays and catch out enemies.
Zhonya's and Banshees are both good most games, but you have to make sure it's the right situation for it. Shadowflame is also viable as an alternative to Void Staff if the enemy team isn't building MR and has a lot of shields. After finishing Rabadon's you can normally close out the game, but if you find yourself with even more gold to spend Demonic Embrace acts as a second passive, giving Vladimir a huge spike in his stats.
Itemizing on Vladimir can be difficult, but it's pretty standard to try and get as much pen as possible when you're ahead or wanting to play aggressively, and as much ability haste as possible when you're behind or trying to scale.
General Tips and Final Thoughts
Vladimir is an incredibly exciting and fun Champion to play. But he requires his (blood) sacrifice to make work. Even if you don't pick up Vladimir after reading this guide, knowing that high tempo utility champions like Twisted Fate or Galio are good counters will still be helpful. If you want to try and beat him in lane, Anivia is also a really good counter to Vladimir.
Just like with any incredibly difficult champion, you'll have to be patient when learning them. You're not going to win at first, so you should probably learn him in Flex or Draft queues.
If you made it this far thanks so much for reading and good luck out there Twilight Enjoye- I mean Vampire Fans!
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