Thornmail is an item in the League of Legends game that gives many useful defensive statistics. Primarily tanks and bruiser champions make it. Thornmail is made to counter attack damage-based champions and it is effective because of a combination of reasons.
As an ADC or a bruiser, it can be extremely hard to deal with this item as it reduces a lot of your effectiveness. In top lane matchups, this item has become a core part of the build pathing. Oftentimes top laners even buy Thornmail’s core component, the “Bramble Vest” as their first item.
Bramble Vest gives armor and applies Grievous Wounds to enemies who hit you with basic attacks. They are themselves dealt a percentage of the damage they do to you in their auto-attacks. A lot of the top lane champions rely on built-in healing in their kits and you can counter them by spending just 800 gold.
Having said that, you can rest assured that League of Legends is a game where there is counterplay to everything. The same is true for Thornmail. There are multiple ways to counter it and play against it. These are discussed in detail below.
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Non-Attack Damage Focused Champions
The most obvious solution to an item that gives resistance to attack damage threats is to just not go for an attack damage-based champion. You can pick ability power champions. Thornmail is no longer effective against you as your damage is not affected by increasing armor statistics.
For example, some viable top lane ability power champions are Mordekaiser, Vladimir, Kayle, Gragas, etc. While bot laners are rarely troubled enough by a Thornmail to pick a completely different class of champions, they have picks like Ziggs or Syndra if the need arises.
Another key point to keep in mind is that you can pick champions that specialize in dealing “True Damage” to counter Thornmail. True Damage is the kind of damage that is not reduced by any resistances. Both Armor and Magic Resist are useless against this kind of damage.
Champions such as Fiora and Darius are well known for being great picks against tanks for this very reason. They both deal a lot of True Damage. While these champions will still have reduced healing due to Grievous Wounds, the Bonus Armor stats of Thornmail will not affect them as much.
Stocking Up on the Lifesteal
Thornmail’s most useful qualities are to reduce the enemy’s healing via Grievous Wounds and to deal damage to the enemies that attack you. Both of these features of the Thornmail have a common factor of dealing damage to the enemy.
The Thorns passive directly does damage to the enemy. While the Grievous Wounds reduce the opponent’s healing and thus they do not get the same amount of health back that they would otherwise.
Champions that are bound to deal damage in auto attacks such as most ADCs, have lifesteal to increase their survivability. Although hitting a champion that has Thornmail will reduce the healing, you can buy another item to further supplement your lifesteal to counter the Grievous Wounds effect.
For example, if you have a bloodthirster and the enemy gets Thornmail, your healing will be significantly reduced. To offset this deficit you can buy an item such as Blade of the Ruined King to increase your overall healing and negate the effect of the Grievous Wounds.
For the bruiser champions, making lifesteal is not always the most optimal course of action. The reason behind this is that most bruisers do not deal the majority of their damage in auto-attacks. Bruisers tend to have a mix of ability as well as auto-attack damage in their kits.
Buying lifesteal will not have as much of an effect on champions that more versatile damage sources. This is why bruisers should focus on increasing their healing through other means to deal with Grevious Wounds.
One of the prime ways to increase your healing is to buy Spirit Visage. This item increases all the healing you receive by a healthy percentage. So, you not only increase your own healing but as a bonus, you increase any healing you receive from other sources as well.
There are bruisers that do not have any in-built healing in their kits but healing is exceptionally useful on them. These champions should focus on buying items that provide healing through Lifesteal or Omnivamp.
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The damage that Thornmail returns to the attacker is magic damage. You can use this information to your advantage and reduce the incoming damage by making items that give Magic Resist. Magic Resist diminishes the magic damage that you receive.
You have multiple choices in terms of items that increase your Magic Resist. You have to figure out which of these items synergizes the most with your own champions as well as its effectiveness against the enemy.
Maw of Malmortius and Wits End are most often the best choices for ADC champions to look into when they require magic resistance. Maw gives a shield against magic damage while Wits End increases your champion’s damage by doing bonus magic damage on every auto-attack.
Another key item for Magic Resist is Spirit Visage. As we already know, Spirit Visage increases your healing but it also gives a good amount of Magic Resist to help hold out against ability power damage.
Picking Low Auto Attack Per Second Champs
We have already established that Thornmail is most effective against champions that auto-attack to get their damage across. One of the first things that come to mind when looking for counters to this is to go for champions that do not have to auto-attack as frequently to do damage.
These champions are oftentimes called casters if they come in the category of ADCs. Casters include champions such as Jhin, Ezreal, etc. As a matter of course, these champions do inevitably have to use auto attacks to do damage but they do a good percentage of their damage via abilities that can not be ignored.
For other roles, you rarely have to specifically think about picking a non-auto-attack champion. The reason behind this is that other than ADCs, there are very few champions in the game which allow for specifically auto-attack-based damage.
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One of Thornmail’s most effective features to counter-attack damage champions is the bonus Armor it gives. The most straightforward way to counter an enemy that has invested in Armor statistics is to buy Armor Penetration.
Armor Penetration, as the name indicates gives you the ability to penetrate the enemy’s defense. Defense in League of Legend terms refers to the resistances and statistics that enemies have acquired, such as Armor or Magic Resistance.
Lord Dominik’s Regard and Seryldas Grudge are the prime Armor Penetration item choices available in the game. The DPS-oriented champions tend to go for Lord Dominik’s Regard. Seryldas Grudge is the preference for caster champions that rely on their spells and abilities to do damage.
Champions that do not wish to make these items because they prefer survival statistics above the ability to do more damage can make Black Cleaver.
There are various techniques and tactics to counter Thornmail that we have discussed in detail. Each of these techniques is effective. You have to analyze the game situation and assess your champion’s strengths and weaknesses before you make the decision to choose one of these counters.
For example, if your champion has innate healing qualities Spirit Visage is the obvious pick. If your champion does damage through auto-attacks, Wits End is the bests item and Maw of Malmortius is the best for surviving high amounts of burst damages.
Of course, you do have the option to negate any Thornmail options for your enemy by not even going for an attack damage champions. You can pick champions that do magic damage. Even if the enemy makes Thornmail it will not be effective against you as it does not hinder your efficiency.