Starting items in League of Legends have varied greatly, but there’s always been one constant set of items that League players can rely on. Though builds such as the old Red Elixir start have come and gone, the Doran’s items have been solid early game investments throughout the entirety of League of Legends, existing in the beta before even the official initial release.
Their strength has generally waxed and waned, and in the middle of Season 7, the items are collectively at the peak of their relevance. Whereas before only one or two of the items would be okay to use, now all three have substantially strong early game properties, with mid game benefits as well.
The most recently changed and most oppressive item of the bunch in its current iteration, Doran’s Shield gives laners everything they desire in terms of health sustain. It increases health and health regeneration, making constant trading favorable for you as the lane wears on. It also has special properties with its passive that make it incredibly annoying for users of damage over time. When things such as Deathfire Touch or Twitch’s passive hit a target with Doran’s Shield, the passive health regeneration on Doran’s Shield will constantly refresh, countering the damage over time and giving greater regeneration overall.
As a final set of positive points, Doran’s Shield only costs 400 gold, meaning that you can invest in another Health Potion, giving you an even greater health sustain advantage in the lane phase. You also don’t sacrifice the ability to CS properly, due to Doran’s Shield’s on-hit bonus damage onto minions. Therefore, the shield is incredibly powerful in every lane. Top laners and AD carries love this item, while melee mid laners such as Kassadin and Talon see great value in it.
Doran’s Ring has seen a massive amount of play in an otherwise unexpected position. While mages love sporting Doran’s special jewellery, top lane tanks have also started decking themselves out with multiple copies of the item. The reason is simple: essentially infinite mana regeneration in combination with enough ability power to actually clear minion waves make pushing in lanes and influencing others very simple.
The mana given back on each wave is amazing when the rings stack, as you earn 24-28 mana per wave on each ring due to the passive. Two or three of them give you enough mana back from the passive to refund the mana cost of a spell. Gragas, Nautilus and Galio in particular love the multiple Doran’s Ring builds, and mages in the mid lane can use a double Doran’s Ring alongside the Dark Seal and some pots to secure a massive advantage in the laning phase.
Though Doran’s Shield has become a pivotal starting item for those looking for early game advantages, Doran’s Blade has been a staple for AD carries for the better part of Season 7. The additional health and life steal provide an element of sustain, and the extra damage helps with all aspects of laning, including killing minions and having damage to harass enemies. Despite the strength of Doran’s Shield, Doran’s Blade is a viable option for bullying AD carries such as Varus or Caitlyn in order to ensure lane presence and pushing power to secure a creep score advantage or first tower.
The future of starting items
Doran's trinity of starting weapons has been assessed as too strong in the current climate by Riot, and it makes sense because their relevance exceeds the small window at the beginning of the game that they were made for. Ring and Shield are getting toned down by a lot, due to the positives I attributed to them above. Doran’s Ring will see its passive become unique, no longer granting extra mana on creep kills, and Doran’s Shield will see its cost go to 450, reducing its efficiency and losing a health potion on first buy.
With these nerfs in mind, Doran’s Ring will be seen as slightly less valuable, and Corrupting Potion and Dark Seal will have more value as an early game stable start with snowballing potential. In harder matchups with all-in potential such as Syndra or Ahri, multiple Doran’s Rings will still be an option in the mid lane. The top lane should see a greater focus on rushing Glacial Shroud to have mana in order to compensate for the mana regeneration lost from these nerfs, or Bami's Cinder as a safer wave clear option.
Doran’s Shield will see play in an environment where hyper carries need the extra protection to just survive the lane phase, regardless of the creep score disadvantage and potential first tower loss. Even then, the ability to trade against some lanes with a Doran’s Shield is still high, and you won’t cede all pressure in lane just by going Doran’s Shield even with this cost nerf. In fact, you’ll mathematically get a safer lane still if you go Doran’s Shield versus going the old safe start of long Sword with three health potions, but will lose out on the dueling potential from the Long Sword’s AD. Doran’s Blade is the choice when you want to put your enemies to the sword (literally), hoping to win lane and force advantages with your offensive start.
Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a news editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.