Tristana Build Guide

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AP Tristana: Rocket Jumping to Victory

written by triplextralarge

Tristana Build

Starting items

  • OR

Core Build

Late Game / Luxury Items

Situational Items

  • OR
  • OR
  • OR

Skill Order

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • Draw a Bead
  • Rapid Fire
  • Rocket Jump
  • Explosive Charge
  • Buster Shot

Runes for Tristana

Masteries for Tristana

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    Hello everyone, triplextralarge here with a guide on AP TRISTANA. This is my first guide so please forgive me if the guide is a bit rough. Some quick things about me: I am ~1880 elo in ranked solo queue for season one (summoner name hugenoodlebrain), you can find me on my smurf sometimes (r4paci0us), my favorite types of champs are burst damage champs, and I probably have no idea what I am talking about. I also saw that most trist guides are somewhat outdated so I\'ll keep this guide updated as well as I can.

    Now right off the bat, you may be asking yourself: \"Why would I ever play tristana as a burst caster?\" to which I will respond: \"It\'s fun and often hilarious\". It may not be as consistently strong as AD tristana, but in the right situations and with the proper support, AP Tristana can easily tear teams apart. AP Trist focuses are jumping in, killing their carry before they know whats going on, and then jumping out, or jumping around their team doing massive AoE damage and slowing their entire team.

    Look, someone at high elo does it!!!! (picture from 10/20/11)

    I think that AP tristana is comparable to AP yi in the way that both are not how most people play the champ, but both are viable in different ways thans their AD counterparts.

    Hopefully this guide will give you a way to play Tristana that you might not have otherwise thought of.


    Please rate and comment!

  • Quick Reference


    3x Greater Quintessence of Potency
    9x Greater Mark of Insight
    9x Greater Seal of Force
    9x Greater Glyph of Force

    Summoner Abilities:
    Flash, Ignite, or Cleanse

    For solo lane

    For duo lane


    Final Build:

    Use everything on their carry and gtfo or hophophop.

  • Updates

    10/3/12: HOLY UPDATES IT\'S BEEN A YEAR! Lots of updates all around. Check it out!

    10/18/11: Some updates all around. KEEPIN THANGS FRESHHH9/15/2011: Updated some items and text.
    9/7/2011: Video!!!
    8/11/2011: Not much has really changed in the AP Trist world. I think the guide is still up to date!
    4/27/2011: Some changes based upon recent changes. AP Trist more viable then ever!
    4/1/2011: Updated info in items, going solo, and some skills.
    3/26/2011: Patches added
    3/15/2011: Quick Reference added
    3/6/2011: New sections for duo laning and for items that don\'t work so well. Other small changes through out.
    3/3/2011: Small changes, moved cleanse.
    3/1/2011: Guide created! First draft yay! Few small fixes and additions as well.

  • Patches

    As of the Late September Patch, AP Trist is still awesome! They even added an AP ratio to E\'s passive explosions! Keep up the buffs!


    As of v1.23, almost nothing has changed from 1.15. AP Trist is just as viable as ever.

    EDIT EDIT: WHAT I SAID PREVIOUSLY WAS WRONG. I realize now that they not only kept the .8 ratio, and simply compressed the damage within a shorter time span, they also buffed the ratio to 1.0 which means patch 1.15 was actually a large buff to AP Trist, especially now that it has a 1.0 AP ratio from level one, as opposed to a scaling AP Ratio.

    1.15: Slight late game nerf, but an early game buff to AP Trist

    Explosive Shot:
    -Damage now applies over 5 seconds instead of 4 to 8
    -Total damage increased to 110/140/170/200/230 up from 100/125/150/175/200
    -Healing reduction duration is now a static 5 from 3 to 8

    Basically, this change reduces the AP ratio on this skill by .3 by level 5, but applies all damage over a shorter time and has higher base damage. This leads to a small early game buff and a late game nerf. This nerf however is almost unnoticeable as you will rarely need the extra damage from your E to finish someone off.

    1.14: Nothing to see here folks.

    1.13: Nothing that really affects AP Trist too dramatically, not that any patches are probably going to target Trist.

  • Abilities

    Draw a Bead
    Increases Tristana\'s attack range by 9 for each level (+153 at level 18)

    Cool passive for AD Tristana, but will be mostly ignored on AP tristana until you get lich bane. The main use of this is going to be to poke towers late game.

    Rapid Fire
    Increases Tristana\'s attack speed by 30 / 45 / 60 / 75 / 90% for 7 seconds.

    Another AD trist skill. Use it mainly to take down towers and to proc sheen and lich bane. It also might help you last hit a bit, but generally you aren\'t going too notice too much from this.

    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.

    Your initiator. Your escape. Most of your damage in a team fight will come from this skill and your usage of this skill will determine whether you feed or carry your team.

    The most important part of this skill is that the cooldown resets on a kill or assist, which can give you essentially 5 rocket jumps in a row in an ideal team fight, and 5 AoE nukes in one team fight can be absolutely devastating. The slow can also help secure kills for you team and can be used for chasing.

    You can also use this skill for farming once you get some AP going. A single rocket jump can clear large waves pretty easily.

    WIth max CDR, the cooldown for this skill is ~9.6 seconds.


    Learn what walls screw you over. Learn how much AoE it does. Learn to love it. 

    [spell=Explosive Shot]

    Passive: Enemies explode when slain by Tristana\'s attacks, dealing 50/75/100/125/150 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.

    This skill will be your primary harassment in lane, and will help pick up kills that you might have otherwise missed. With ignite, you can be doing well over 800 damage over those 5 seconds while reducing enemy healing as well. While laning, just try to hit the enemy with one of these as often as you can, especially when they use their health pots to reduce the effectiveness of their healing.

    The passive will help you farm quite a bit, as it will be harder to last hit through auto attacking. Typically, once you kill one creep, the rest of a wave falls pretty quickly with the explosion damage. This passive can also be used to harass enemies if they hang close to their creeps. With the added AP ratio to these passive explosions, it can become very easy to zone certain champs.

    Be warned that this can quickly push lanes, which may not always be desired (especially in a side lane).

    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.

    Boom. Headshot. This will be your signature ability. Late game this can easily hit for over 1000 damage with rocket jump, explosive shot, and ignite, makes for one very dead enemy champion. It can also be used to save your ass, or the asses of your allies in a pinch, though you should try to save it for their squishies.

    Remember to angle yourself in such a way that you push the enemies where you want them to go. If you want to kill them, try to stand behind them and push them towards your team or your tower, otherwise, if you don\'t end up killing them, you will probably have ended up saving them and your team will hate you forever.

    Also remember that the knock back effect has a small AoE and can knock back multiple enemies if they are tightly grouped.

  • Summoner Abilities

    What I like to run:
    I like to run flash because it allows you to get out of situations where you may have rocket jump on cooldown (like if you didn\'t kill the person you meant to) or put yourself in a position to land your rocket jump or ult.

    Ignite works great with your E and can help you pick up early kills, which is very important for AP trist. It just gives you some extra oomph and makes your combo even scarier. It can also make people rage when they die from all the damage over time they are taking from ignite + explosive shot, and helps will getting kills even after you are dead or forced to back.

    A stunned AP trist can\'t do anything. Cleanse can save your life and allow you to continue putting out damage if you are caught in a bad position, but hopefully that won\'t happen. After a few more games of running cleanse, I\'ve determined that against some team comps, this is much more useful than ignite or even flash. Run this against stun-heavy teams.

    Other spells that work:
    More map control. Allows you to stay in lane forever. Allows you to sneak up on people sometimes. Allows you to farm creep waves from across the map. All very useful things.

    This spell can save your life, or make your combo an almost guaranteed kill with the reduced magic resist mastery. It\'s always useful to have one of these on a team, and it certainly isn\'t a bad option for Trist.

    Can help you get into battle when you need to, or more likely get you out when you are dying. I find that flash is generally a better choice for AP trist, as you won\'t be chasing often, and most of the time, ghost won\'t save you if you are caught out of position.

    People will probably think you are trolling by playing AP trist. This will probably confirm their suspicions.

  • Masteries and Runes

    Standard Caster Masteries. Just remember to pick up the relavent summoner ability masteries. 

    Rune Reasoning:
    AP Trist loves ap. Scaling AP works better than flat on blues and yellows because you only really start doing damage after you get your ult, and gives you a very strong mid-game, where AP trist really shines. I choose flat quints for the early harass in lane, which should hopefully setup a kill at level 6.

    Other options for runes include MR blues, scaling health yellows, and scaling AP quints. XP quints can all be some cheesy fun!

  • Skilling Order

    This skill order is for a safer opening, useful especially if you are defending a jungler.

    This skill order is for normal laning and allows you to harass starting at level one.

    For duo lane. Full explanation below.

  • Items

    To start the game, you have a few options.

    1. [item=doran\'s ring]
    2. Boots of Speed + Health Potionx3

    Only go Doran\'s ring if you are feeling cheesy, the other person doesn\'t know the match up at all, or you are just super confidant that you can out harass your enemy and kill them before potions kick in. 

    Your core build will be [item=sorcerer\'s shoes] and Deathfire Grasp.

    The first item that should be completed is [item=kage\'s lucky pick]. You will likely miss some farm due to Es passive so getting an early Kage\'s will help you keep up in gold.  

    Next, you should get a [item=sorcerer\'s shoes] as it will give your early game damage a considerable boost and allow for easier early kills. Finish your Deathfire Grasp next ASAP.

    From there, you have many options:

    [item=Rabadon\'s Deathcap] will provide a huge boost to your AP and allow you to decimate the enemy team. GET THIS ITEM ALMOST EVERY GAME.

    [item=zhonya\'s hourglass] gives a lot of AP and the active can easily save your life as you wait for rocket jump to come off cooldown or your team to come save you. This is a core item in most situations.

    Abyssal Scepter
    While the stats look nice, AP Trist focuses on getting in and out of fights. You won\'t be around enemies long enough to make use of the passive on this item.

    Lich Bane adds another part to your combo, and can assist in taking down towers as well. I want to give this item a special mention because I now believe that this is absolutely a core item late game. It gives you something to do between ults, and gives you MUCH more damage overall. This should be a 4th or 5th item every game. 


    Rod of Ages can be used if you want survivability early. Get a catalyst early so you can get your RoA ASAP. This item helps with mana problems if you happen to have any as well, which is very helpful. This item delays your deathfire so buy it when you have squishy opponents and need survivability. 

    Haunting Guise will give your early-mid game another boost and should be considered if you are struggling early or really looking to beat your enemies mid-game.

    [item=mejai\'s soulstealer] is good if you are clearly face rolling your enemies and can help you keep it that way. Trist is also King KS. Get them stacks baby.

    Void Staff should be bought if the other team stacks magic resist against you (and they often will).

    [item=banshee\'s veil] gives you a lot of survivability. Nuff said. Chances are, if you need survivability, this is the item to get. 

    Quicksilver Sash is an alright defensive item for AP trist. Clearing all those debuffs will be a lifesaver in TONS of situations. Pick this up if you are scared of getting chain CCed or whatever. 

    Will of the Ancients is a questionable item. The spell vamp it gives you can be absolutely HILARIOUS as you jump around their team healing each time, but because you are constantly going in and out of fights, you might not get quite a full use out of it. If you are feeling good and feeling powerful, you can probably get WotA and be fine.

    A couple of tips:

    -If your early game is doing badly, or you are being heavily harassed, consider picking up a couple of Doran\'s items. 2-3 Doran\'s Rings are not a waste if they stop you from dying and they do add some AP so you can still hit fairly hard.

    -Check the other team\'s CC. If you think you are going to be CCed, get more survivability AP items.

    -Lich Bane is a great item if you can pull off the combo correctly, and also gives you something to do between ults. If you don\'t think you can pull of the combo correctly, or you don\'t have the time, just grab a different AP item.

  • Not so good items

    Now some people have been suggesting various items to put into the core of the build, so I\'ll list reasons why I didn\'t put them in.

    Many people questioned why I didn\'t put sheen into the core build for AP Trist. It seems logical:

    1. Trist is typically an auto attacker. This item would give Trist a reason to auto attack early game.

    2. It builds into lich bane, a great late game item.

    3. It adds another part to Trist\'s combo early game = more damage.


    In reality, sheen adds very little damage for Trist because Trist\'s natural AD is extremely low. Early game. you will be adding around 60 damage before armor, which really is not worth the gold. The gold is instead better spent on larger AP items, and if you plan on building lich bane, start with the blasting wand.

    [item=Archangel\'s Staff]
    Unfortunately, Trist\'s abilities are not spammable enough to make full use of Archangel\'s Staff, even if you rush tear. It can give great AP, but it would take an EXTREMELY long game to charge this up. If you find yourself needing mana, get a Rod of Ages or a Banshees instead.


    [item=rylai\'s crystal scepter] gives you some much needed survivability while you jump in and out of the enemy team, but it really isn\'t cost efficient for Trist, especially because your W already slows.

    Moonflair Spellblade
    Firstly, no one gets this item, (seriously) but even though it provides 35 tenacity now, if you get stunned, you are pretty much dead no matter how long the stun lasts. AP Trist relies on getting and and getting out, and this item simply doesn\'t really help in that regard.

  • Going Solo

    Levels 1-5

    AP Tristana does best in a solo lane. Getting your ultimate as soon as possible is very important. Until level 6, your laning phase will be focused on last hitting creeps and harassing the enemy champion with your E and auto attacks. Use W to harass only when the other enemy is over extended and not surrounded by creeps, or the damage you take will be more than the damage you do to them.

    As soon as you hit 6, look for your first kill, either on the enemy champion in your lane, or on a sidelane. Your combo is: [spell_icon=explosive shot] then auto attacking them hopefully until they are dead. Remember to ult them towards allies or a tower, and use flash if needed to position yourself correctly. From this time on, you can roam and gank frequently, and hopefully pick up some kills. In team fights, try to jump on one of their weaker champs and pick up kills and assists that way. Be sure to jump out after your first jump in unless there is another champ that you know you can kill with another rocket jump.

    By this time, you should have at least Deathfire Grasp and [item=sorcerer\'s shoes] and a level 2 ult. What his means is that your combo is extremely deadly. A single [spell_icon=explosive shot] combo should be able to take squishes down from full health to zero if you land everything correctly. At this point, team fights should have already started as well. Wait until you are sure the battle has started and jump onto their carry and unload your combo. After you kill them, either jump around the enemy team, picking up kills and assists, or jump out and wait for your W and E to come off of cooldown. Kill stealing is important as it both refreshes the cooldown on your W, and feeds you so you can carry.

    Basic Combo:

    Late game is all about killing their carry, and getting out. Using the same [spell_icon=explosive shot] combo should easily score you at least one kill per team fight. If you manage to land multiple rocket jumps in one battle, you will do massive damage to the other team, as well as keep them slowed. If you bought lich bane, the combo changes slightly to [spell_icon=explosive shot]. Remember to never be the first to engage and to save your combo for a high priority target. When pushing towers, be sure to use and abuse the extra range from your passive.

    Late game, you may find yourself not even needing your full combo to kill their carry. If so, try to save your ultimate for someone else as it gives you both damage and utility. Often times a [spell_icon=explosive shot] combo is more than enough if they didn\'t pick up much survivability. Beware however, that it may take them some time to die from the damage over time, which will put you in danger as your cooldown on will not instantly refresh. REMEMBER: Better safe than sorry.

  • Going Duo

    Duo laning with AP Trist is far less than ideal as she needs levels to stay ahead, but every now and then you might be forced to do it (though really if you have to duo lane, just go AD uness you are feeling brave).

    In a duo lane, just focus on last hitting. In a duo lane, you max W>E because maxing E first means that your last hits will push the lane, which will make you easier to gank. W will also give you greater burst and slow which will make coordinating ganks with your team easier. Don\'t use rocket jump to harass the enemies because chances are you will take a lot more damage from them then you can do to them, and because your escape will be down, chances are you will die. Hopefully your partner will let you take all the last hits as AP Trist needs the farm, and will probably have less opportunity to get early kills in a duo lane.

    Once you hit 6, you can start roaming looking for ganks and the gameplay becomes similar to that of a sololane.

  • Pros and Cons

    Huge single target burst

    Can be strong in lane with the right match up
    Potential for large AoE damage
    Great mobility with rocket jump
    Still able to take down towers quickly late game
    Look really pro doing a rare build
    Often get hilarious kills just by jumping around (killing stealth champs or champs in brush)

    Needs kills to stay effective late game
    Not as much sustained damage
    Probably only gonna ult once per team fight
    People will complain about you not going AD all the time, even if you do well

  • Random Stuff

    I\'ll add miscellaneous stuff here like pictures or videos here!

    A now not so Recent AP Trist game
    External Image

    A game where i focused on survivability early
    External Image

    After patch 1.15

    External Image

    You\'ll get a lot of this:
    External Image

    First video!

    Link to my stream:
    I stream pretty inconsistently. If there is demand for me to stream, I will probably do it more often.

  • Summary

    AP Trist ends up being a huge single target nuker that can make opposing carries rage as you jump in and kill them before they even have time to flash. Hopefully you guys will give it a chance and have a lot of fun with it just as I have. Please comment and rate my guide! Suggestions are welcome!

    Another thing I have learned from playing AP Trist is how to play AD trist early game. I find that the harassing style of AP trist early game is very applicable to early game AD trist, especially up until around level 8, where you can land that ult for the kill. It\'s kinda like how AP shaco teaches shaco players to use boxes.


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Submitted by triplextralarge

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