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[GUIDE] AP Tristana - A detailed guide on the Unorthodox and (possibly)Overpowered

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[EDIT] Updated the starting item, as well as Summoner spells and for Deathfire Grasp. You really need this item, even moreso than Lich Bane. [/EDIT]

AP Tristana is the rarest(reasonably viable) build I've seen in the time I've played. The reason? People don't think she's viable.
This works for someone who knows how to play an AP Tristana though as enemy players don't even know what hit them when you start nuking them down from full to 0.

AP Tristana is definitely one of the strongest early game nukers and gankers I've seen and is possibly overpowered during this stage of the game. Her full combo can take out heroes in one go before they even react. The problem is that once the game goes into endgame her viability takes a hit.

I've had alot of lashback from playing AP Tristana so don't expect everyone to be supportive and leave you alone to build what you want. In those games you don't do well they'll call you the worst of things to stick the loss on to your unorthodox build but you'll know that AP Tristana isn't too bad when you get scores like 28/4/3.

I'd like to say that I'm an objective person so I won't turn a blind eye to the problems with AP Tristana. If you choose to play AP Tristana you will get amazing Kill/Death ratios. You will get amazing streaks. You will do amazing burst damage. But what you won't do is win all your games.

The problem with AP Tristana is that your initial burst damage is all you can do, and you will kill at least one person with that burst.
But this isn't enough to win games on Summoners Rift.
As a DPS and Carry you need to kill more than just one person to win team battles. DPS champions need to keep dishing out the damage. As long as they live they will keep knocking down champions after champions.
As an AP Tristana you will kill only one person and then put out piddly sustained dps afterwards, no matter if the team battle was stacked in the enemy's favour or yours.
It's fun entering an enemy battle completely out numbered and killing one of them but this is also the big downside of playing AP Tristana.
You don't contribute enough to team battles. You need to rely on your team mates to finish off the remaining champions while you twiddle your thumbs waiting for your cooldowns to return. Prepare yourself to lose games even when your personal score is 30/5/5.

What does Tristana take from AP?
I've had this asked to me many times when questioned about an AP build.
Rapid Fire does not scale with AP but your other 3 spells do, and they do well. I'll get into depth about this later but 3 spells scaling well with AP already makes a champion viable for an AP build in my books.


Rapid Fire
Tristana fires her weapon rapidly, increasing Tristana's attack speed by 30 / 45 / 60 / 75 / 90% for 7 seconds.
Cooldown: 20 seconds
Cost: 100 Mana

This spell is pretty much your deadweight spell in the early game phase. I occasionally don't level it at all until everything else is maxed but it's a good idea to put at least one point into it for pushing towers or just a bit of extra DPS. Once you build your Lich Bane you'll be using this for an extra Lich Bane proc.

Rocket Jump
Tristana fires at the ground to propel herself to target location, dealing 70 / 115 / 160 / 205 / 250 (+0.8 per ability power) magic damage and slowing surrounding units by 60% for 2.5 seconds when she lands. On kill or assist, Rocket Jump's cooldown resets.
Cooldown: 22/20/18/16/14 seconds
Cost: 100 Mana
Range: 900

Your bread and butter spell. This spell takes 0.8 damage from each point of AP so it scales pretty well. An extremely useful skill. You'll be using it to initiate, nuke, farm, chase, escape, reposition, eat, sleep, etc. Everything you can think of. Max this spell first. This spell will wipe out waves of creeps in one go.

The interesting thing about this spell is that the cooldown resets whenever you get an assist or kill. This opens up interesting strategies such as jumping into a team of champions, nuking the living daylights out of a champion at around 50% hp and then jumping back to safety. Very risky but sure as hell is fun. Learn to use this part of the spell. Keeping an eye on a kill so you can plan your next Rocket Jump will be a big factor in battle.
Also, make sure that if it's not on cooldown before an enemy champion dies, put it on cooldown. Unless you need the mana.

Explosive Shot
Passive: While Explosive Shot is ready to cast, enemies explode when slain by Tristana's attacks, dealing 30 / 50 / 70 / 90 / 110 magic damage to nearby enemies.
Active: Explosive Shot rends target enemy, reducing healing and health regeneration by 50% and dealing 25 (+0.1 per ability power) Magic Damage per second.
Lasts 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 seconds.
Cooldown: 16 seconds
Cost: 50 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 Mana
Range: 600

This spell is extremely underrated. The main purpose you'll be using this spell is not for it's farming capabilities (for which Rocket Jump already nicely covers) but for its damage and anti-healing aspect.
This spell takes 0.1 damage from each point of AP per tick, which at a first glance is pretty underwhelming but this spell ticks every second for 8 seconds, which means that for each cast of the spell it in fact takes 0.8 damage from each point of AP. when you get your SoulStealer and Sorceror Boots alone you'll be looking at a total of about 350 damage all up.
Granted this is still not an amazing skill on damage alone but added with the anti-healing debuff it becomes an effective spell rather than the wasted skill many people perceive it as. Plan for heals, many people take Heal as a summoner spell so lay this debuff on them when their hp is getting low when you're expecting an incoming heal.

And finally,

Buster Shot
Tristana fires a massive cannonball at an enemy unit. This deals 300 / 400 / 500 (+1.5 per ability power) magic damage and knocks surrounding units back 600 / 800 / 1,000 distance.
Cooldown: 60 seconds
Cost: 150 Mana
Range: 700

This is the big nuke which will separate you from your physical DPS counterpart. This spell takes a whopping 1.5 points of damage from each stat of AP allowing you to reach damage levels comparative to Veigar's ultimate. Whats more is that it's only on a 60 second cooldown. Gank at every opportunity when this comes off cooldown. Gank even if it's not completely off cooldown, more often than not it'll become available during the battle or while your travelling there.

This will be your finishing spell, enemies will WTF at it's damage and rage at being killed at half hp with a single spell.
Be careful that if you plan to use this to deal the finishing blow, make sure the damage is more than enough to do the job, punting the enemy out of danger because you didn't kill them with it and seeing them get away with the tinyiest bit of hp can bring the hardiest of players to the depths of despair (not to mention the rage you will get from your team mates).
Keep in mind that although you want to keep this spell for finishing blows, using it like a normal Buster Shot to reposition the enemy or save an ally is still important, don't be too stingy with it.

Summoner Spells

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. This spell adds 200-500 points of pure damage to your burst combo, and AP Tristana is all about burst damage. This can guarantee a kill from a champion with full HP every 2 minutes. When used with Explosive shot it becomes almost as good as straight up damage due to their health regeneration and incoming healing being stunted by the debuff. Use it, spam it, love it.

Everyone knows Flash, everyone takes Flash. The good thing about having a blink as a summoner spell is that you can use it no matter what champion you pick. The bad thing about Flash is that everyone else has it.
You'll be relying on your Rocket Jump to do damage and very often you'll find yourself in many sticky situations you'll need to get out of ASAP with Rocket Jump on cooldown (more often than not, you may also be in these situations because of Rocket Jump). Flash gets you out of these and can almost certainly save your life, or guarantee a chase kill with each use.

Flash's unappreciated little brother. Low CD, not as reliable, but better for long term chases and running away if you can escape their initial grasp(which you can pretty often with Rocket Jump).

Can also save lives or give you enough hp to finish off a kill, you don't need much hp to kill someone with your combo and many times I've used heal right when I've lured an enemy and given him the good ol' 1-2-3 nuke combo. Won't always get you out of bad situations like Flash does but it's use during the initial laning game phase is indispensible

Cleanse is really too useful to not have alot of the time. When you've got a streak going, people will cc you to oblivion when they can and I can't say how many times I've escaped from near death due to a Cleanse + Rocket Jump combo.

Personally I run with Cleanse and Ignite, with Flash on occasion.

Stack Force(AP per level) on your runes, with Magic Penetration on your red.
If you like AP more than Magic Penetration then you may also stack AP on your Red Runes due to the extra damage on each LichBane proc. This only applies to Lich bane and the difference is pretty marginable though. I've recently started running Mana Regen runes on yellow as well, the extra mana helps you get back to ganking after you've blown your load.

I like running full Utility with Offense up to Archaic Knowledge (15% Magic Penetration) due to the reduced cooldown on Summoner spells (such as Ignite, also Ignite and then again Ignite) but going full Offense for the extra damage as well as the Ignite Mastery is also a very tempting option. The problem with full Offense is that the later levels of the tree really doesn't do much for your spells.


Doran's Ring - This ring gives you everything you need to dominate middle, and some more. The extra hp is priceless and the mana regen lets you spam your explosive shot on your opponent without holding back. Later on you'll really need the regeneration it provides to stay out there and gank. Feel free to sell this item after you've built your Lich Bane.

Boots - Leave these as level one boots until later, the extra MS pales in comparison to getting your SoulStealer 550 gold faster.

Mejai's SoulStealer - I would normally suggest a SoulStealer here but as everyone knows, the new SoulStealer does have its drawbacks now. You may not feel very confident with AP Tristana so you can hold back on this item if you're not up to it. If you are though, you can fill this item up so fast with the amount of burst potential you have early game that it'll be worth it's gold in no time.

Finish your Deathfire Grasp. This item is a godsend for AP Tristana and your drill that will pierce the heavens. This is one big reason why I feel AP Tristana is alot more viable today than it was before this item was introduced. This item will let you one shot anyone except tanks throughout a huge portion of the game. Before then you'd be able to take out anyone for half the game but with this baby, kills will rain from the sky.

Lich Bane
- Start off with the Sheen. Once you build this your combo becomes even more devastating, and if your Buster Shot is on cooldown you will stil be able to put out some damage. Also it gives your rapid shot some meaning when it's activated to proc this.

Read on for what happens to your items after this point.

Early Game
Start off with your Doran's Ring, and take the solo lane. I can't stress this enough, you need the solo lane to get to level 6 as soon as you can. You rely extremely heavily on your burst damage to do well and if your not higher level than everyone else then you will have a hard time playing well.

Level up your Explosive Shot first. Use it to harass the enemy as much as you can, but try not to take too much damage, it's small mana cost as well as the Ring will enable you to spam this with no regards to running low on mana.

Tristana's early game dominance starts from level 1 at the laning phase. A Tristana played well can be one of the strongest solo lane harassers. Don't be afraid to trade a couple of hits to keep the enemy champion at half hp when you're nearing level 6, you want the enemy hero to be at around half hp when you hit 6.

Once you reach Level 3, if you've harassed the enemy into oblivion his hp should be near the half way mark. Now you can use Rocket jump to damage them. If his hp is at 3-4 bars, then you can often kill them at this time.
Wait innocently at the creeps as if your just doing the standard last hitting but once he comes into range of your Rocket Jump then nuke him and hit him with your explosive shot.
If he doesn't Flash away after a couple of shots then finish him off with an Ignite. Even if he has Heal as his summoner spell this wont save him due to the anti-healing effect of explosive shot, and believe me I've had many of them use heal and rage when it had barely any effect.
If he does Flash away, or somehow manages to survive and escape, don't worry, he'll have to vacate the lane and go back to heal or he'll be low enough for you to rinse and repeat (and you should have enough mana).
One point to note, you'll rely alot on your ignite and explosive shot for damage so keep this in mind if you know he has a Cleanse waiting for you.

Try not to spend too much mana on harassing, if your nearing level 6, make sure you have plenty of mana for your combo of Rocket Jump --> Explosive Shot --> Buster Shot.
If you add Ignite on to this, you will be able to kill almost any champion even if they're at 80% hp or so.
Once you reach level 6, harass them a bit to below about 600-700 hp and then nuke them to oblivion. If you managed to kill him, check the other lanes for the enemies' HP. If theyre in the 70% zone then your combo can kill them.
You won't have enough mana after unleashing your combo on your lane opponent yet though so farm a bit in the lane till your Buster Shot CD gets to about half way and then Recall back to shop. If you've got plenty of hp and mana remaining, feel free to skip the shopping, but I recommend buying at least boots before you start ganking.

If you've been doing well you'll have enough for your boots and an Amplifying Tome.
I often carry around a couple of mana potions and health potions during this time to minimize the amount of times I need to go back to refuel.
Once your done shopping go gank the lanes. You should be able to get at least one kill every time from the massive damage your Rocket Jump --> Explosive shot --> Buster Shot combo can do. Don't forget to use and rely on Ignite everytime it's off cooldown. Return to farming mid lane once you've used it. Feel free to perma-chug elixirs at this level, the cooldown reduction is invaluable for Buster Shot and the AP is amazing for how well it scales with AP.
Rinse and repeat till the early game phase is over and they start grouping up.

Mid Game and End Game
This is where you start losing steam. Your still an unstoppable force 1v1 but the enemy team has started grouping up and it's harder to find situations where you can square off on a single enemy. Theres not much you can do other than wait till an enemy champion's hp goes down to about 90-80% and then pounce on them. If you've built your Deathfire Grasp, which you should have by now, then theres really noone that you can't kill one on one except for tanks, but they can't really kill you either if you just avoid fighting them. Even farmed Yi's and Ashes will avoid fighting you one on one since you can burst them into oblivion before they can even do anything.

Now comes the interesting part. There are two ways to branch off after this point.

Switch into Physical DPS: After you've built your Lich Bane you'll be able to kill any squishy, though the stronger carries may be able to survive your initial burst. At this point you may be more useful if you start switching out your items to Physical DPS.
Start building your Infinity Edge or if you want more slows and survivability, go for a Frozen Mallet instead.
The idea is to phase out your AP items as it reaches end game, once you fill out your remaining slots with physical DPS items, start selling your AP items starting with the Soul Stealer and buy the standard damage items such as the Black Cleaver and Phantom Dancer. If the game lasts this long your team just gained an extra carry.

Continue with AP Tristana Continuing with AP is usually the way to go if you think the game is in it's finishing stages. Zhonya's will give you a great amount of survivability if used well as well as it's mountain load of AP. Your DeathFire Grasp will start hitting for 45%+ of their current hp and tough carries will melt under your wrath as well as Tanks when their hp starts nearing the mid mark. Your role is the Anti-Carry in your team. You have a Jax/Yi/Ashe thats dealing a majority of the enemy's damage? Take him out and hope for the best. You're only as useful as the enemy's carry so your team will have to do alot of the heavy lifting at this stage of the game.

Twisted Treeline
I used to be a big believer in AP Tristana's strength in Twisted Treeline but as I've had more experience with it, she's not that amazing on this map. A majority of the champions you will go up against are tough to take down (e.g. Mundo, Jax, Mordekaiser, etc.), which really isn't your forte. Another large setback is how you fare in team battles below level 6. You rely on Buster Shot too much to be of much use at lower levels, especially since Rocket Jump starts out at a massive 22 second cooldown. What you still have though is your ability to jump over walls making you hard to catch, and if you can reach level 6 and even better, 9 to max out your Jump, safely then you'll be a force to be reckoned with. These drawbacks are rather large though.

AP Tristana is one of the most fun characters on LoL and personally I'd like it if only I knew how strong she is, but sharing is caring. One last thing, as an AP Tristana even if you lose you'll have a hell of a time playing.

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AP Tristana is definitely one of the strongest early game nukers and gankers I've seen and is possibly overpowered during this stage of the game. Her full combo can take out heroes in one go before they even react. The problem is that once the game goes into endgame you can say goodbye to her viability.


It seems like you put a lot of work in to writing this guide and I don't mean to be a downer. But this was the only paragraph that I needed to read.

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Perhaps I should say that she loses steam instead.

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Senior Member


Thanks for the guide man, I played Trist for the first time going AP, and did quite well (22/7/15, but I had a very solid team). I certainly don't think she is overpowered, but I think it is a very viable way to play the champion. I am definitely looking forward to giving her some play time 3v3.

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Senior Member


So this is the build I've been seeing more and more of lately. Like you said, it dominates midgame. Trist randomly popping out of the woods and spiking away one champ. But she never has great survivability and inevitably dies a few times when outnumbered and in late game can only spike for half a champ's life at best...

Lich Bane - This is your drill that will pierce the heavens.


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Just use AP tristana in 3v3s.

She rapes face (I was physical trist vs ap trist and she dominated me in 3v3...luckily my team was much better overall and we just pushed their base).

She had around 350 AP at the end and could essentially 1 shot me whenever she wanted to.

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Senior Member


This build seems like its begging for a Nashor's Tooth. +Attack Speed, +Ability Power, -CD. Everything you need/want.

Since you switch over to hybrid/physical DPS anyway, wouldn't it make more sense to set it up as you go? Maybe invest in a Rageblade, or something else that benefits both.

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Junior Member


Decent guide. Very detailed, but not overly. I'll be sure to try this next time I do a 3v3.

P.S. Believe in you who believes in yourself!

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This build seems like its begging for a Nashor's Tooth. +Attack Speed, +Ability Power, -CD. Everything you need/want.

Since you switch over to hybrid/physical DPS anyway, wouldn't it make more sense to set it up as you go? Maybe invest in a Rageblade, or something else that benefits both.

I've been thinking about that as well, instead of phasing out the AP items it seemed interesting to reduce your cooldowns as well as getting a few hybrid AP Phys DPS items.

After testing it out for myself though it wasn't that great compared to switching completely to physical DPS due to the CD reduction not being a big deal at late game, you'll be saving your Rocket Jump for your combo rather than throwing it out there as extra dps due to the danger it puts you in by using it as an opener at end game.

This means that you won't get much out of the CD reduction since when you use your Rocket Jump, you'll be expecting a kill to reset it pretty soon. Buster Shot also sees less use at end game so the CD reduction doesnt do much good there as well.

The time it may be effective is during early game though, but other items like SoulStealer and Lichbane really outshine it by too much for it to be taken into consideration.

p.s. I'm loving the Gurren Lagann responses

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How does Rageblade work as a lategame item on her? Seems like it could add to her playstyle.

Il try this build sometime.