Preseason introduced many new changes to the meta: objective bounties, new elemental drakes, and several items were added and changed, including the new legendary item Shadowflame.
What is Shadowflame?
Best understood as a burst item, Shadowflame will give you a whopping 100 AP. Upon damaging an enemy champion, the unique passive Cinderbloom will add 10-20 Magic Penetration (10 at 1000 health, 20 at 2500 health), giving this item a hefty boost of execute damage against low-health and squishy champions. If an enemy has been shielded within the past 5 seconds, Shadowflame will always reduce Magic Resist by 20.
Shadowflame was introduced to diversify offensive build paths for mages and provide an item to counter shields for ability power champions. While more build options can be seen as a positive for the game’s health, you may be struggling to understand just what this item does and when to build it.
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When to build Shadowflame?
Shadowflame provides flat magic penetration – not to be confused with % magic penetration like Void Staff. Flat magic penetration causes damage to ignore a static amount of an enemy’s magic resist, in this case, between 10-20.
As most mages will be building sorcerers’ boots, we can assume an inherent 20 flat magic penetration in your build. To give context, most ADC’s, enchanters, and control mages will have 38.5 Magic Resist at level 18. Provided that these champions don’t buy magic resist, we’ll be able to reduce their magic resist to 0 as long as they’ve recently been shielded or are below 1000 health.
This makes Shadowflame an ideal item for countering squishy champions that don’t build magic resistance and is an excellent choice for single-AP-threat compositions where the enemy prioritizes armor over magic resistance.
However, flat magic penetration does lose value against higher magic resist champions and compositions – ., at a certain amount of enemy Magic Resist, you’ll gain more value from % Magic Penetration over flat magic resist. This is situational based on your boots and mythic item, but that number tends to be around 60 magic resistance.
At that point, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it for you to do more damage to the enemy carries or if your role is to output damage against tankier champions instead. Assassins will be more interested in buying this item regardless of enemy tanks. At the same time, control mages might want their damage profile to be more balanced against all enemies on the opposing team.
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When Not to Build Shadowflame?
While this is a situationally good item, some circumstances may make it a ‘bait’ purchase – where you’ll find more value in other builds instead.
1. Suppose you’re building Ludens as a mythic, Sorcerers’ boots and intend to buy Void Staff down the line.
You’ll find Shadowflame is giving you a redundant amount of Magic Penetration where you’d gain more value from something like Rabadon’s Deathcap to amp your ability power instead.
2. If you’re looking to counter a shield heavy enemy composition.
While an item more potent against shields is nice in theory, this shouldn’t be the main reason you purchase the item. You’ll want to try to keep in mind the magic penetration threshold you’re trying to reach and work towards that – an extra ten magic penetration against shielded enemies is much less significant if they’re packing high magic resistances.
Now that you’re familiar with how Shadowflame works and when to buy it, you’re ready to load into the rift and explode some enemy carries. Just remember to think twice about rushing this item against magic resist heavy teams or teams where you’ll struggle to output damage against squishier members of the enemy composition, and you should be climbing the ranks in no time!