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Warning: Massive wall of text incoming!
My first guide and it's a wall of text, oh goody. Anyway, Pantheon is a surprisingly good melee carry, far outclassing his competition. He's capable of great sustained damage and is excellent at 1v1 combat, especially against other DPSers. With a solid initiation skill, he doesn't even fear ranged attackers. This guide will be for your bread and butter physical DPS Pantheon, and also be aimed towards some of the more inexperienced players.
Summoner Spells, Runes, & Masteries
Spells - I personally use Ignite/Flash. Ignite is just a nice offensive spell all around now, weakening healing and does up to 500 damage at level 18, and makes for a great addition to your damage. Flash is flat out too good to pass up, allowing for easy escaping and initiation. Below is a small chart of what I believe works on Pantheon and what doesn't.
Do's: Exhaust (Overshadowed by Ignite since the nerf, but still nice), Clairvoyance (Goes great on anyone), Ghost (Functionally similar to Flash), Heal (Works great on anyone, really).
Don't's: Clarity (Pantheon has mana problems, but you shouldn't need this), Fortify (Wastes a valuable summoner slot for a defensive spell), Revive (Self-explanitory), Smite (You won't be jungling THAT much), Teleport (Grand Skyfall is all the teleporting you'll need).
Masteries - 21/0/9, 21 in the Offense tree and 9 in the Utility tree. This is pretty much the standard for physical attackers and works great on Pantheon. You're free to choose what actual masteries you choose, since it's mostly personal preference.
Runes - While I don't use them myself (I'm so poor), Pantheon benefits greatly off of Critical Chance, Critical Damage, and Armor Penetration especially, so invest in those.
Aegis Protection - This passive is more useful than you think. Every four attacks or spell casts, any normal attack including turret attacks that do more than 40 damage are instantly negated. This passive can make Pantheon a decent tower-diver, and gives him some added survivability in combat.
Spear Shot - This is your ranged spell, and it comes dirt cheap at 30 mana at the first level and 50 at the fifth. This is excellent for harassing and scales with Attack Damage, making it very painful once you get your item build rolling. Also excellent while chasing, and getting last hits if you're getting harassed in the laning phase.
Aegis of Zeonia - This is Pantheon's way of getting in attack range. It's an initiation skill primarily, and has the added bonus of automatically bringing up your shield and stunning the foe. However, it can be fairly costly at early levels with a 70 mana cost at all levels. It's flat out great at chasing and initiating a gank, use it well.
Heartseeker Strike - The passive portion of this skill is straightforward. You get a 100% crit rate if your target is at 15% health or lower. Great for finishing off targets, but that's about it.
The active is nothing flashy, but it gets the job done. Another spell that scales with your attack damage, it will tear creep waves apart and deal heavy damage to champions once you get it to rank 5 and get some damage items.
Grand Skyfall - Trust me when I say this is not to be used as an attack. You have two main uses for this spell. First, it's basically a teleport to anywhere on the map, use it to get somewhere in an emergency.
The second is the main use, area denial. Once your targets see that landing circle, they're forced to scatter and flee or suffer up to 1,000 damage and a real angry Spartan staring them in the face. It's excellent at forcing the enemy away from areas, and making them break formation.
One final tidbit is when the landing circle appears, you can cast summoner spells into the zone. If you have Exhaust, you can cast that on someone and they'll likely be hit, but I still prefer to pack Ignite.
General Item Build
By no means is the following build set in stone. This is merely what I use, and is a basic guideline to what I believe you should get. You are free to tweak the following to whatever you want.
Beginning - Vampiric Scepter, Health Potion (OPTIONAL)
First trip back to base - Berserker Greaves
Second trip back to base - B.F. Sword
Third trip back to base - The Bloodthirster
Fourth trip and beyond - Will vary
When you spawn, go ahead and grab a Vampiric Scepter, the lifesteal does wonders for your lane staying power. If you feel like waiting an extra 10 seconds after the minions spawn, you can also grab a Health Potion, but this wastes valuable time to get into your lane and set up.
Once you get around 1000 gold, recall when you get a chance and grab Berserker Greaves. The +25% attack speed is a nice buff all around, and the extra movement speed lets you keep up with everyone else.
Finally, once you get around 2000 or more, grab a B.F. Sword. This is where your abilities will start getting a damage increase, and you'll see a noticeable buff in your overall damage.
At 900 gold, immediately recall and turn that B.F. Sword and Vampiric Scepter into a Bloodthirster. This item was made for Pantheon. It's a ton of damage and lifesteal, and not all that hard to max out. With a decently-buffed Bloodthirster, you can easily solo the Dragon with little to no health loss. Just be wary, because once you die you lose all your stacks.
From there on, your item choices will depend on several factors, such as how good your team is doing, and the enemy team composition. Here are a few basic suggestions.
Banshee's Veil - One of Pantheon's main weaknesses are enemy casters. His passive is useless against them, and they can usually burst him down easily. A Veil will drastically increase survivability if the enemy has two or more casters.
Phantom Dancer - Attack Speed, Movement Speed, Critical Hit, and Dodge all rolled into one expensive package. If you have the money, this item will give you excellent bang for your buck.
The Bloodthirster - Yes, I am advocating getting another one of these amazing items. More lifesteal means more survivability, and more damage just means your spells kick more ass. Maybe I'm just biased towards them.
Stark's Fervor - If you're in a Physical DPS-intensive team common in solo queue matches, this can drastically increase your team's effectiveness. It gives great Lifesteal, Attack Speed, and Health Regen to your whole team, while applying an armor debuff to the enemies. It can be slightly expensive, but worth it depending on your team.
Warmog's Armor - A tank item on a DPSer you say? Madness? THIS. IS...Survivability. Alot of it. It's easy to bring it up while farming your Bloodthirster(s), and gives a ton of Health and Health Regeneration. It adds a ton of survivability, and it helps you protect those oh so precious Bloodthirster stacks.
The Three Phases (WARNING: This is the true wall of text.)
This is where we get into the meat and potatoes section of my guide. This covers the three main stages of the game: Early, Mid, and Late. Each part will be written in detail and to the best of my ability, and will include strategy and general tips for each stage of the game. One thing to note is that this section is not composed of many Pantheon-specific strategies, and alot of the information can be applied to other champions.
Ideally, you want to take a side lane with someone, as Pantheon is not your ideal solo mid. A burster like Ryze or Annie is an excellent laning partner. I recommend starting with Spear Shot as your first ability. Aegis of Zeonia and Heartseeker Strike are simply too costly to use successively.
If you can coordinate with your partner well, you might be able to stage an early gank around levels 2 or 3. Aegis of Zeonia is an excellent chasing and initiation skill, and if your partner also has a stun, you may be able to stunlock an enemy and burst him down. As I said, laning with someone who does burst damage is a plus.
Be aggressive in your harassing, and don't be afraid to throw the occasional Spear Shot to keep them afraid of you. Your passive makes you somewhat resistant to harassment yourself, so be daring and don't give up ground if you don't have to. However, your main concern at this stage of the game is farming. Don't put yourself in a highly dangerous position just to get a kill unless you're positive you can escape. You want that B.F. Sword and those Greaves ASAP, and not dying and farming is the quickest way to achieve it.
If you can kill or force one or both of your foes to retreat, go on the offensive and push hard while you can. In the best case scenario, you want to have your lane's outer turret down or highly damaged by mid game. As I said, harass and push aggressively, but don't put yourself into a bad position.
Now, some general tips for the early game.
- Watch the minimap! Map awareness will save your life. Take the time to glance at your minimap occasionally and see who's doing what. If one or more of the foes are currently missing, be wary as they may be setting up a gank on your lane.
- Set up ganks! With Aegis of Zeonia, you're an excellent initiator for a gank. See if you can get your solo mid to come over to your lane for an easy kill or assist. Smart ganking will turn the tide in your lane.
- Your Ultimate is your friend. One of the best uses early game for your ult is easily getting back to your lane. If you begin channeling while in your fountain, you'll recover almost all of the mana used to cast it, and you have the added bonus of instantly getting back to your lane.
- Assist your allies. If things are going good in your lane, check up and see how your allies are doing. Is your solo mid having a hard time? Run on down and coordinate to gank him. Are your two allies on the other side of the map forced to turret hug? Skyfall in and help them push them back! While you're there, feel free to help them push their turret.
Mid game is usually the time when both teams begin ganking each other, often forming into groups of three to five people. First of all, if the outer turret in your lane isn't down, you'll want to try and get that down before you do anything. If needed, ask for help to get it down as soon as possible.
After that, your will have two main objectives at this point in the game: You want to get your item build started, and you also want all the outer turrets gone. If you can get your lane pushed, head on over to mid or the opposite lane (Top if you went bot, and vice versa) and assist your allies in getting those turrets down. However. keep an eye on your lane, as the last thing you need is Yi beating down your turret in a matter of seconds.
Ganking will get you far. The most common thing to do is gank one or both enemies in a lane, then push the turret with your allies. It works great if done right, and can get you a hefty amount of gold for your items. If you have gotten all the outer turrets down at this point, pat yourself on the back.
Hopefully by now you're decently far on your item build and you're ready to begin pushing in the inner turrets. At this stage, the enemies are usually highly defensive and will take any opening you give them. Keep all three of your lanes decently pushed, and take potshots at the turrets whenever you can. Be very careful and pay attention to your map. Because the inner turrets are close to the enemy's forest, you're very likely to be ambushed while pushing or attacking the turret.
I suggest staying with at least one ally at all times. At this part of the game, ambushes are common and being caught alone and surprised will usually end in your defeat. Map awareness at this part of the game is highly advised, try to know where everyone is at all times. Coordination with your allies is key!
General tips for the mid game:
- Jungle buffs are your friend. Pantheon can make excellent use of both the Golem and Lizard buffs. If you get a chance, feel free to get a jungle buff, it'll drastically help your combat capabilities and it's not all that hard to get if you have some lifesteal.
- Control the Dragon! Consider the Dragon as a strategic resource, whoever controls it has a gold and experience advantage. The Dragon respawns once every five minutes, kill it ASAP before your foes do. With a decently-buffed Bloodthirster, Pantheon can take on the Dragon by himself with no health loss, kill it every chance you get!
- Teamwork is Golden. Consider working with your allies in groups of three, four, or even five man parties. If four or five champions are pushing a lane, the enemies will be hard pressed to keep them back without devotion their entire team to it. Coordinate with your allies to push lanes hard.
- Don't be a hero. As I've said numerous times, ambushing is common at this stage of the game and death is likely inevitable. Even more so than in the early game, don't take unneccessary risks. For every death your team has, your enemies get gold and a chance to push against your lanes, and you don't want that.
So you're finally around level 16-18, you have most of your items, and you're ready to finish off the enemy. Well what now? Your enemies are likely on the defensive if you're doing your job of pushing, ganking, and coordinating with your allies. For starters, if the inner turrets aren't down, focus on those. You can either try a coordinated push with allies, or you can just get it when the enemies are otherwise pre-occupied.
When it comes time to get the base turrets, that's the hard part. What you really want to do is give the enemies no room to breathe. Gank like hell the second they leave their base, and keep every single lane pushed to the best of your ability. Controlling the dragon and the jungle buffs is almost mandatory if you want to keep an edge. Keep the pressure on and take potshots at the turrets whenever you can.
Eventually, one of those turrets will go down. When you get a chance, get the Inhibitor down as soon as possible to start spawning Super Creeps. After that happens, you can usually forget about that lane and begin focusing on the others. Continue the basic strategy of pushing and ganking when you can.
Eventually, if you're doing your job right, all three turrets will go down. Get those inhibitors down ASAP. Once the super creeps begin spawning, push with them. The Nexus Turrets inherently regenerate health, so it's no good to just take the occasional potshot. Enemy resistance will be at the maximum, so go big or go home.
At this point, your kill/death ratio won't matter terribly much. If you have to die to get a Nexus turret down, don't be afraid to rush in and sacrifice yourself for the greater good. The last thing you want to do is let your enemies counterpush against you and get turrets down, so don't stop pressuring and harassing every chance you get. However, eventually, the Nexus turrets will go down and you'll hear that satisfying sound of the Nexus imploding.
Some general tips, as per the standard.
- The Baron and Me. Baron Nashor is your friend. Your big, worm like, 10,000+ HP friend. If the enemies are putting up fierce resistance, pay a visit to the Baron with your partners because that buff can make all the difference in winning or losing.
- The best defense is a good offense. The best way to protect your turrets is to keep your lanes as pushed as possible at all times and never let up on the enemy. If your enemies are busy trying to stop you from killing their turrets, that's time not spent on killing YOUR turrets.
- There's always a back door. Pantheon himself is quite a decent backdoorer because of his passive, especially if you stack Attack Speed. If you think you can handle it, and you have items suited to the job, feel free to try and take on a turret alone. At the very worst, you'll damage the turret a bit before the enemy can respond. At best, you'll be one turret closer to winning the game.
- Easier said than done. All of this information has just been general advice, and will likely not be that helpful to an experienced player. However, the best way to learn to play Pantheon effectively is just that: Play as him and practice. Feel free to try new things, and thing's not mentioned in this guide. Experiment!
I am not to be held liable for any of the following: Bodily injuries from being crushed by a wall of text, dry eyes from staring at the guide for too long, urges to shout 300-related remarks at your computer screen, and a burning desire to play Pantheon every single match. Constructive criticism is nice, but a down-vote and verbal abuse is fine too.
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