Olaf Build Guide
Bearded Lightningwritten by Covenant
Table of Contents
|Bearded Lightning - Olaf for Modern Metas||1|
|Quick Reference Baby-Safe Guide||2|
|The Fall of Lokfar: What Happened To Olaf?||3|
|Building Olaf -- Skilling Order||5|
|Building Olaf -- Basic Runes||6|
|Building Olaf -- Masteries||7|
|Building Olaf -- Summoner Abilities||8|
|Building Olaf -- Items||9|
|Building Olaf -- When All You Have Is A Mallet...||10|
|Building Olaf -- Build Examples||11|
|Going Berserk -- Current Bad Meta Matchups||12|
|Going Berserk -- Working in the team||13|
|Going Berserk -- Blood and Thunder||14|
|Going Berserk -- When To Initiate||15|
|Pillaging for Profit -- Jungle Techniques||16|
|Pillaging For Profit -- A Word About Ganking and Counter Jungling||17|
|Pillaging For Profit -- Lane Farming Techniques||18|
|Changelog -- Patches and Guide Alterations||19|
Bearded Lightning - Olaf for Modern Metas
Everyone, from old pros to (some) developers, agree that Olaf has fallen on hard times. This Guide is designed to offer a new perspective on Olaf's role, and present some ideas for players looking to use him in the current Metagame. As the Meta shifts, I'll keep updating this, so leave your comments and I'll get to them.
Also, if you want to share your good builds, put those in the comments too. If I think it's a good fit for my build, I'll put it in there, just like how I added the section on "good AD items" after someone commented on it. Player feedback is important because I'm just trying to keep Olaf information current.
The controversial thing this build does is demand the player stop building a Frozen Mallet. The premise I'm working from is that if you can get to melee range where you could hit them with your Mallet strikes, then you don't need Mallet anyway, because you'll be able to permaslow them with Undertow anyway. Getting rid of Mallet frees up 3250 gold for better items, and you won't miss the cruddy 20 AD it provides anyway. No fight was ever decided by 20 AD.
This maximizes the best parts of his abilities, and gives him a super-strong niche as a powerful, morale-destroying side-pushing anti-carry who can't even be stopped in a teamfight. You're the original Tanky DPS, but you won't be doing any DPS at all if you can't get into melee without getting blown to smithereens.
Think Jungling Master Yi on Steroids, and you'll be thinking of the right kind of Olaf.
Quick Reference Baby-Safe Guide
or and always
+ + +
[mastery_icon=Sorcery] + [mastery_icon=Awareness] + [mastery_icon=Greed] + [mastery_icon=Meditation] + [mastery_icon=Quickness] + [mastery_icon=Intelligence]
Click HERE for sample setup. 11 Offense and 19 Utility focused on Cooldown, Speed, and Armor Pen.
Foolproof Skill Priority
-> -> ->
+ + + +
+ + + + [item_icon=Force of Nature]
The Fall of Lokfar: What Happened To Olaf?
To understand why Olaf needs to adapt, it's important to know why he's not able to do what he used to do. If you already know Olaf's history first-hand, you can skip this sorry tale. If you're fresh off the Longboat then this will explain why using an outdated build isn't giving you the Viking you heard about in all those sagas of 5v1 kill-frenzies.
You Mentioned Hard Times?
As we know, Olaf the Berserker is not only one of the League's most fun champions, for a while he was also one of the strongest. As the first real Tanky DPS champion, Olaf was heralded as “Unique” in his Champion Spotlight, a carry who could break through stacked AoE Crowd Control--the dominant meta at the time. And for a while, he was unique. But as more Tanky DPS champions arrived, people got angry. Something had to be done.
First things to be changed were items. Randuin's Omen was Olaf's biggest asset, giving him health, armor, huge cooldown reduction and a slow. It was nerfed into a pale imitation of the original. Banshee Veil was also hit. But Riot also needed to address the Tanky DPS Meta itself, so they made a cruel example of Olaf. Being the manliest of all men, Olaf took it like a boss, and didn't flinch.
I think the patch notes said something like "Olaf will contemplate the fate of Tanky DPS Meta upon the Tree of Woe."
Then something strange happened. Players changed their tune and Riot decided that the Tanky DPS champions were a lot of fun. The Stacked AoE CC Meta wasn't fun for anyone but the casters. Powerful CC champs like Anivia and Morgana got nerfed, and new champions like Jarvan, Trundle and Renekton came out marketed as Tanky DPS.
So Why Change Everything?
As a Carry designed with certain items and enemies in mind, Olaf was vulnerable to shifts in Meta. Back then, it wasn't rare for tanks like Rammus or Malphite to have over 200 armor or magic resist, and for Mages to have few hitpoints. The anti-Tanky item nerfs changed that entirely. Suddenly resists went down and hitpoints went way up, especially on Mage items.
Olaf was suddenly faced with "Glass Cannons" that had as many hitpoints as he did. And with nobody having many resistances, his Armor Penetration and True Damage were overkill. Percentage Damage and Gap Closers were the new big thing. There wasn't a niche for someone who used items that no longer existed to kill a kind of target that no longer existed. Olaf was just Obsolete.
So Why Play Olaf At All?
If you have to ask that question, I’ll tell you that you shouldn’t. Olaf isn’t for you. Try jungle Xin, or Irelia if you want CC immunity or Jarvan if you want total Tanky DPS domination. If you can admit that nearly everything Olaf does can be done better by someone else, but still want to unlock the best of what Lokfar’s Fury has to offer, then read on.
Berserker Rage P = Olaf gains a bonus to his Base Attack Speed equal to the percent of his missing health.
Berserker Rage is a funny little Passive. The bonus operates similar to an item bonus, modifying Base AS and not Total AS. So at 50% health your base attack speed will get a 50% bonus. That sounds pretty decent until you realize and Xin Zhao's W gives him a 40% bonus all the time.
Using Berserker Rage
The best way to use Berserker Rage is not trying to use Berserker Rage, and just let it be an extra little something for when you get low on health or push towers. Combining this with Durability means you'll have the positive bonus effects more often and more safely. But it's not a reliable buff, so don't depend on it.
Undertow Q = Olaf throws an Axe at target location, where it sticks into the ground. Enemies caught by the flying Axe take damage and are slowed. Picking up the Axe reduces the cooldown of Undertow.
Undertow is Underwelming as a ganking tool, but by far my favorite skillshot in the game. Even Nunu's post-nerf Snowball is superior because it has a 1:1 AP Scale, short cooldown all the time, and never misses.
Once you get used to the slow projectile speed you will be able to harass in-lane, farm minions, and even snipe targets through walls. Undertow has an astoundingly long range, so utilize it like a Nidalee Spear that passes right through minions. I once killed a Veigar from the bushes, through the green wall, past his turret, as he was about to B--and without any vision on him at all.
Undertow scales poorly with AD (.5:1) and has mediocre base damage, but Cooldown Reduction makes Undertow insane. 40% Cooldown Reduction on a 10 Second ability means 6 seconds cooldown. If you pick it up as soon as you throw it, Undertow has a 0 second cooldown. If your target is in melee range, Olaf picks the Axe up instantly.
One quirk to Undertow is that it provides a short flash of vision upon landing, which can be handy for scouting a bush.
Vicious Strikes W = Olaf temporarily gains a large amount of lifesteal, spell vampirism, and bonus attack damage. This bonus attack damage scales on Olaf's maximum hitpoints.
Vicious Strikes is and always has been Olaf's worst power. Nowadays people get passive effects for powers like these and the actives are a bonus. Olaf is old-school though. With good Cooldown Reduction you can keep this Buff up nearly permanently.
Using Vicious Strikes
Get one point early. The scaling damage component is the first thing people notice, but try to ignore that. Instead of spending 3000 on Warmogs for +10 during Vicious Strikes you could spend 450 gold on a Longsword and get +10 Damage all the time. It's a fine spell, but it's not a priority.
Olaf has pretty low synergy, so this is as good as you'll get. Keep it up constantly to do a tiny bit more and heal a tiny bit more. The spell vamp effectively reduces the True Damage you take from Reckless Swing by stealing some.
Reckless Swing E = Olaf strikes a target with a bolt of lightning, dealing a large amount of True Damage to his enemy and taking a little less than half that amount himself.
Reckless Swing is one of the most well known abilities Olaf has. Even if people don't understand him, they know he can do two things. One, ignore your CC. Two, hit you with Lightning.
Using Reckless Swing
340 True Damage is massive at any point in the game, and the only thing you need to make this ability work magic is Cooldown Reduction. You'll need Undertow first, but Reckless should be your biggest mid-game priority.
Reckless Swing was granted one of the only Olaf buffs ever, removing the mana cost entirely so it becomes a health only spell! This is minor, but trust me, you'll notice it. USE THIS MORE OFTEN THAN BEFORE!
True Damage is calculated as Magic Damage, so Spell Vamp will reduce the backlash you suffer. When you finish a match, check the amount of Magic Damage dealt. You'll see why people fear the Thunder.
Special Note: Casting Time
Reckless Swing has a small but noticeable animation that makes it hard to stick to a moving target. They can't get out of range after you've started casting it, but they'll keep moving. It also seems to break his pathfinding, as he may forget who he was attacking and swing at a minion or stop moving after casting this.
Ragnarok R = Olaf becomes immune to crowd control and many disables, while also reducing incoming damage by a flat amount before resists. Olaf also gains passive Armor Penetration to all his attacks.
Read as: "Olaf gets blinded, exhausted, ignited, and attacked by all champions in radius."
Ragnarok is, all joking aside, an extremely powerful tool that nearly nobody understands entirely. Even if Olaf ignores most debuffs there are still a few that he has to suffer through. Silences, Blinds, Exhausts and Ignites mangle him especially badly. This is a great escape skill, or a way to make sure you won't be interrupted during fighting, but this is not a good way to start a fight.
Timing the use of Ragnarok takes a lot of practice... and some guesswork. Try to use it at the point in the fight where the enemy wants to stun YOU but can't afford to stun EVERYONE. Such as mid-fight, after the Amumu ult or the Gragas keg, when all they have are slows and spammable stuns.
A word about the damage reduction: It works like Sion's Passive, so the 40 damage is deducted from the damage before the game calculates your resistances. Dropping 40 damage from a Tibbers Summon that does 800 damage won't help you much.
It also no longer blocks True Damage, so it doesn't make you immune to Ignite's burn. This is bad news for DPS Olaf again, since it means no lifesteal (from the lifesteal debuff) on top of taking 300ish damage no matter what anytime he gets low. This lets them finish you off like a Tryndamere, ruining DPS Olaf's whole game. So much for combining Vicious Strikes and Ragnarok at low health to become extremely powerful, eh Phreak?
Building Olaf -- Skilling Order
The best skill to max early is, without a doubt, Undertow. It gives you the best lane presence as a Laneloaf, and as a Jungler it's capable first level skill. Undertow is great for a low-cooldown slow and provides substantial damage.
Olaf is lucky in that he has a solid "core build" for level 6 and then the freedom to grab whatever he needs. So let's start with an unusual True Damage build first. This isn't recommended for first timers, but it shows some flexibility:
This is a stronger but slightly weirder setup more appropriate for experienced Olafs who know how to abuse their speed and land their Undertow throws. I prefer the power it gives, but it's risky, so not "recommended." Level 3 Undertow grants you a 33% slow on-hit with it, which should be enough once you learn how to land it repeatedly.
This build is especially valuable now that Reckless only costs health! Big change!
Now the safer "recommended" order. Overall, Undertow offers more bang for your mana buck, and better team utility that doesn't take geniuses to exploit. Undertow slows, any idiot on your team can kill a slowed Ashe.
The real question is how comfortable you feel fighting without maxed Reckless Swings. Even if you're prioritizing Undertow first, that one point of Reckless at 4 gives you a bit of scare factor despite the damage being low. Don't underestimate the psychology of loud noises and flashing lightning. Scare factor makes the enemy mess up or panic and one of Olaf's big advantages is inspiring fear.
This is the Olaf you want to be. This guy. THIS GUY RIGHT HERE. DOES THIS GUY LOOK LIKE HE NEEDS A MALLET!?
Building Olaf -- Basic Runes
Olaf benefits from nearly every stat, so it's hard to go wrong with Rune choice. I recommend this set because it is versatile and gives you a strong start in lane or jungle while also giving you starts that are also valuable up until the Nexus explodes. It's not the most powerful or the most durable or the fastest, but this is a good primer set.
Greater Mark of Desolation
Armor Pen Reds are great for Jungling and Undertow SPam and stack perfectly with your Ultimate's passive. There's no better choice to be found for early or late game benefit, especially for a build that doesn't get a lot of bonus AD.
Greater Seal of Resilience
Armor Yellows beat out the Health or Dodge Yellows for my top pick. Armor Yellows simply provide a mathematically superior return. They're often your only source of Armor, so it's valuable for an otherwise unimportant set of Runes.
Greater Glyph of Focus
Cooldown Blues are great on nearly any champion who relies on their special abilities, and Olaf is no exception. Cooldown is vital for Olaf, and this build uses Cooldown Blues and Masteries to give Olaf a huge amount of Cooldown Reduction right at level 1. There's no other viable pick for these slots except scaling MR per level.
Greater Quintessence of Fortitude
Health Quints beat out the Armor Pen Quints in my opinion because they are one of the few sources of good level 1 health bonuses now. The extra health is valuable for such a risky Jungler: several times I've escaped the enemy with 67 hitpoints or something. Movement Speed Quints are overkill on this build, so skip them.
Building Olaf -- Masteries
Olaf gets very little out of the majority of Masteries, but Masteries can provide you with a few vital, expensive stat points that you really need early. Those are Movement Speed and Cooldown Reduction. These are the Masteries that I think add the most to Olaf's basic kit:
[mastery_icon=Sorcery] + [mastery_icon=Awareness] + [mastery_icon=Greed] + [mastery_icon=Meditation] + [mastery_icon=Quickness] + [mastery_icon=Intelligence]
Leaguecraft Mastery Maker Example, Click Here!
8/0/19 with Cooldown Blues gives you great Cooldown Reduction at level 1, and the all-important Movement Speed bonus as well. I allocate the 3 extra points into Offense to pick up some more Armor Penetration. Meditation helps with his nasty Mana problems, and it stacks nicely with Philo Stone and Greed for a great early game.
You'll notice that I don't bother with the increased buff durations. In a competitive setting I advocate giving the buffs to your Allies instead, and the other Masteries are just more valuable.
Building Olaf -- Summoner Abilities
Smite + Flash
Most people recognize by now that Smite is something all Junglers should have. Instead of seeing it as a waste of a spell on an already strong Jungler, think of it as a crutch we to let us start off with an otherwise sub-par item.
Flash is superior to Ghost in so many ways, but of special note to us is that we'll be brushing up against the second Movespeed Cap, so ghost will get us substantially less benefit than it would for most people.
Teleport or Exhaust + Flash
Ghost is also just a weaker version of Exhaust. Exhaust lets you run away, catch a target, and also cripples that target's ability to fight. It makes them easier for your allies to catch or flee from as well.
Teleport is a decent option. You're going to naturally become an insane split-pusher, and the ability to backdoor with Ward-porting will be hard to shut down. If your team already has an exhaust or two, grab Teleport.
Cleanse and Ignite and Ghost
Cleanse is an interesting trick... but it really isn't better than Exhaust. Exhausting Malzahar or Morgana can save your team from a ton of damage. Cleanse only saves you. I like Cleanse, but it's better on Kassadin than on Olaf.
Ignite is similar. It's a greedy spell and you're playing Olaf, what do you need 330 True Damage over 5 seconds for? You have 340 True Damage on a 3 second cooldown. Leave Ignite for Annie.
Building Olaf -- Items
Starting with the Regrowth Pendant allows you a strong lane phase, but it also is the best item for your Jungler builds too. Why? Because we want the Philo Stone as fast as possible and are willing to sacrifice a little jungle speed.
In the jungle you'll be a bit more sluggish, but slow for Olaf is still fast for the rest. See the section on Jungling for a more in-depth explanation for how this works and why it's worth the effort.
+ + + +
This mish-mash of items gives you a strong foundation to work with, and it is available early in the game. You can get them in that order as well. Philosopher's Stone as soon as you can, then boots, your health items, and a zeal.
Philo Stones are great on Champions with regen problems and poor farming. Your farming is fine, but as we know Olaf is item dependant, so the gold helps a lot. Your Masteries stack well with this, giving Olaf great sustainability.
Boots of Swiftness should make obvious sense for an early game pick. They're the fastest boots around, making your early game much stronger. Zeal is attractive to pick up as soon as you can, but delay it until you get your health items.
Once you get your core built you have a lot of flexibility to build whatever you want. Try to gauge how long you think the game will go. If it's going to be a longer than 30 minute game get some AD after your Core.
Average Game Final Items
+ + + + [item_icon=Force of Nature]
With all your component items built into big end-game stompers, your Olaf is going to be a real problem to deal with. This final build has a ton of great stats on it, and it has so many shared components that you can adapt quickly. I almost never get to finish the Reverie, but don't underestimate the team benefit.
Your movespeed will be extremely high, somewhere around 475 base, and you'll have Shurelya's active effect for that "afterburners" effect on you or your whole team for huge chase potential. Remember to use that active to save allies or help them chase--Olaf has no utility, so this lets him be a mini-Sona. You won't need a Mallet with speed that high, Undertow, and Red Buff.
Your durability is also absurd, with over 9000 effective hitpoints versus your main nemesis: Magic Burst Damage. With this kind of health you'll be able to bait the enemy into "ganks" on you where they waste 2-3 of their ults and you run off while your team circles around. You'll be durable enough to take down towers while being attacked.
Your damage will be surprisingly high too. Critical Strikes, lots of armor pen, and spamming Reckless and Undertow like crazy. It's a great combination, and it's also got an open slot to fit Wards. BUY WARDS!
If you're wondering why to get Warmog's Armor, I can tell you it isn't because of the Vicious Strikes bonus damage. You pick up Warmog's because it's the most cost-effective straight Health item in the game. Not the best armor or magic resist, but it gives you the health basis to build on. Which you need to counter your Reckless Swing backlash, as well as to help grit your way through those first few moments of everyone vomiting their spells on you.
Olaf is the strongest at low hitpoints afterall, and they calculate "low hitpoints" by percentages, so to make yourself as nasty as possible means making you have enough Health to actually survive those fights. If you don't agree, that's fine, just give it a try and I think you'll find that you become more than tanky enough and don't really need more than one HP item. Warmogs+Force of Nature is a great combination for spell survivability.
Olaf needs health early on and later on because he's going to get the snot focused out of him and he has to just run his way through it. No other item, combined with some resistances, provides you as much survivability as the Warmog's Armor does.
If you find that you're not taking THAT much damage, just turn the Giant's Belt into a Sunfire Cape or something later, and that's entirely fine. Olaf has been a Tanky DPS ever since he was made, so the cheaper you can satisfy the "Tanky" part of your description the more money you can spend on the "DPS" part.
Viable Armor Options
The above build assumes that you're facing a normal kind of team, where 90% of the "Scary Damage" is Magic Damage. Even AD champions tend to do their big hits as Magic Damage. But this isn't always a case.
Atma's Imapler is not the best damage item, but it's not a bad armor, and the crit chance is great with Phantom Dancer. I view it as an anti-carry item more than a strict armor item, since it lets me stand and fight better rather than merely survive longer. Sunfire Cape is a better armor, but it can still sting the enemy a little or help farm.
Fancy Footwear Options: Late-Game Swiftness Replacements
Often times I never get to the Reverie, but if you like to make it a priority you may discover that Boots of Swiftness on top of Phantom Dancer just isn't necessary. At that point you can sell your old boots and grab one of these instead.
Swiftness is cheap and effective very early in the game, which is why I like it so much, but it has the least utility aside from speed. If you want to Max your CDR, don't hesitate to pick a different option.
Speed is most valuable when you're split pushing or picking guys off in their jungle. But if you're going to be stuck babysitting in teamfights and unable to go on a rampage, change boots.
Breaking The Build: Attack Damage Items
or or or
If you can, focus on winning the match early. If this just isn't going to be feasible, the enemy will eventually just get so hard to kill you'll need AD items. Remember, a build is meant to give you a solid core, but you need to be adaptable. If the game is dragging on then Axe+Reckless will stop being a team-destroying combo all by themselves.
If this is the case, sell the Philo Stone after core and work on a solid AD at item mid-game. 20-30 minute games are short enough that the enemy won't have the kinds of resists that it takes to withstand Olaf's fast, brutal combat style. But at 45 minutes even the worst farmed fail opponent will have piles of great items. Even one of the big Attack Damage items makes Olaf hit a ton harder.
There's basically no bad AD items for Olaf, but I find the above four to be some of my favorites. Cleaver is one of the best straight up attack items for people without a ton of Crit, and it works great with Olaf's normal armor pen. Bloodthirster is the premiere carry item for sustained damage, and Olaf loves it. If the game looks like it's going to take forever, Bloodthirster is king.
Youmuu's Ghostblade is another one of Olaf's favorite items because all the stats on it are his favorite kind of stats. Hexdrinker, by comparison, is a bit of a utility purchase but don't underestimate it. If you need extra Magic Resist, Hexdrinker is a nice item for it with a free -300 damage shield when you get low.
Building Olaf -- When All You Have Is A Mallet...
Now for the most important lesson of the build. Many people may be wondering why Frozen Mallet isn't anywhere here. It's a complicated question with a simple answer: it's a terrible item.
You have better options. Frozen Mallet loses to Undertow in every way that matters to Olaf.
What makes you think they've been wrong all along, and you're right?
The Frozen Mallet was never originally one of his better items. Olaf players considered Mallet a scrub item and preferred Randuin's Omen, Red Buff and Undertow to keep targets next to them. This combination gave Olaf good offense, utility, and defense. The only one who was an early advocate of Mallet on Olaf was Phreak.
Frozen Mallet made a comeback after the Randuin's nerfs when players found Mallet to be their only obvious alternative. High quality players like TheOddOne endorsed Olaf with the Mallet for a while, and I've seen a lot of links to his outdated Solomid guide in response to my Mallet Hate. But even more recently these players have admitted Olaf is no longer a desired pick, like TheOddOne himself says early in This Clip. It's time to give up Mallet.
I'm not the only one either. Not to pimp another guide here, but my guide's polar opposite, The Way of the Warrior, spurns Frozen Mallet too and goes on to lambast the people who still use it much like I do. So you can believe me, or believe the highest rated other build here, or you can believe TheOddOne himself.
So why do I do so much better with Mallet if it's just garbage?
The real answer is... the Placebo Effect. Mallet is an expensive item, so most people never have it before mid-game. The bonus they get from it isn't Phage's slow, but the giant hitpoint blob that comes from the belt and gem.
Mallet cannot be the deciding factor if it is only the component items that provide that big boost. For a character like Olaf, who has a spammable 40% ranged slow, claiming that Phage is vital to his build is an exercise in self-deception. Expensive self deception.
To put it in terms of pure math, mallet is 20AD and 700 Health for 3250 gold. For 250 gold less you can get Warmogs, which ends up giving you nearly 1400 Health. That's double the Health!
How can a decent item like Mallet actually hurt Olaf's build so much?
Mallet is a bad habit for Olaf because it is unnecessary as a slow, ineffective as a damage item, and inefficient as a hitpoint source. As we showed, you gain twice the hitpoints of a Mallet by buying a Warmog's Armor.
Furthermore, the cost that goes into Mallet detracts from other stats. Spending 3200 gold on a sub-par item that gives you a few other stats that you don't in truth benefit from is a 3200 gold TAX on your build and contributes nothing.
Think of it this way. To make use of Mallet, you need to hit with melee attacks. But if you're in melee range to hit with Mallet you're also in melee range to hit with Undertow. By being faster, you'll also close that distance sooner.
Any Olaf who wants to play Olaf well needs to learn how to land his Undertows. As his most important spell overall, Undertow accuracy is one of your greatest assets. If you can't land Undertows in melee range then the solution is practice, not Frozen Mallet.
I just built Phage... I think I'm addicted to the Mallet! How do I break the habit?
Following this build will help you put down Maxwell's Silver Frozen Hammer and play like a real Viking. It is better to buy two different top-tier Stick and Health items that do their job efficiently than to stay hooked on the bad hybrid one that does it poorly. Once you ditch Mallet you may be scared for a bit, but you'll be able to accomplish greater things without it than you ever could still with it. It was your set of training wheels, and now it's time to be free.
Building Olaf -- Build Examples
This is the average build designed for your average team and a 20 minute game where you can afford to get most of your offense from Undertow and Reckless Swings spam. Most of the popular spike-damage carries do magic damage for their nukes, so you'll be their worst nightmare. No target that will be safe from your speed.
Here's the armor variant mentioned above, and costs the same as the Standard Build. Little Magic Resist, but a team with no strong AP Carry is just begging you to stack armor. Sell the Philo Stone for space, but keep it as long as you can. Consider the AD boost as compensation for the lowered CDR, but Ionian Boots would make a good late-game trade for Swiftness for that too.
Super-Fed Olaf Build
If you're doing extremely well, this is the build you'll probably end up with. Yes, this is a joke, but no, it really isn't. The standard build is extremely effective, so if you get fed you might as well just finish it earlier than expected and then buy wards. Lots and lots of wards. You're going to be a split-pushing demigod and running around faster than anyone can chase, so you have literally no reason not to buy an Oracles and 5 Wards and take total control of the map.
Geriatric Olaf Build
The game is dragging on... and dragging on. Past the 30 minute mark, your dominating Reckless+Undertow spam becomes a lot less dominating. If you can tell that nothing is going to end this at normal competition time, or you're playing Normal and everyone is just farming like crazy, you can go into this backup build around minute 25 without deviating from the core items.
Instead of making FoN and finishing Reverie, here we sold the Philo and got some mid-game Attack Damage. You don't need to do both, this is just an extreme example. Interestingly, this build actually costs the same as the rest, but it's slower to assemble because you spend a lot of your time weaker from saving up for expensive components.
The biggest tradeoff is durability and maxed CDR, so make sure to control Blue and get some resistances somewhere. In this example we got Hexdrinker, but Atmas also fits in here if you want some armor--just don't get it solely for the AD. Armor Pen items like Black Cleaver or Ghostblade are better for autoattackers than Atmas, especially on Olaf. Merc Treads or Ionian Boots work well with this too, helping to make up for those utility stats you're missing. And you still have a spot for wards. BUY WARDS.
Going Berserk -- Current Bad Meta Matchups
WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE
FOR IGNORING DEATH AND GENERAL MAYHEM
Tryndamere has been a problem for Olaf since the beginning of time itself. I swear they were born at the same moment, forever paired as rivals. But where Tryndamere is on the rise recently, Olaf is still sliding downwards.
How To Counter: Q+W+E his face as soon as you see him and try to knock him down extremely fast. Then you're going to rely on your allies to stun him, because there's nothing you can do to avoid Trynd during Undying Rage. His slow slows better, his spin ignores your Axe, and he'll be even faster than you since he's probably got two Phantom Dancers. Meh.
WAMTED: DEAD OR ALIVE
FOR UNLAWFUL EXECUTIONS AND SPEEDING
Garen has mostly faded as Flavor of the Month, but he's still an aggravation. He's got a speed boost so he's stupid fast, he's got more armor now than he used to, his execute still blows my beard and that silence is horrid.
How To Counter: Don't let yourself get Silenced+Executed and you should be fine, you're best at low health so make sure you're free to be that. Ragnarok won't do A THING to Garen's combo, which blows. Look into a Hexdrinker and a Red Elixer--if you start getting dangerously low, pop it for +250 health and the Hexdrinker will shave 300 damage off Garen's Execute.
Going Berserk -- Working in the team
Olaf does not naturally bring a lot of Utility to his team, outside of damage. Making sure he functions as part of the team is going to be your job as the player. Olaf has a few things this build lets him do competitively well, and by paying attention to your few special skills you should find a good place on nearly any team:
Special Role 1: Isolate The Carry
A speedy Olaf has a lot of power to chase and demolish carries. Resist this urge unless it will be a fast kill. Don't dive their team, you'll die stupidly fast for a guy whose strength is in long fights. Init early, but act as a bodyguard and hammer away at the middle-ground targets like melee carries or Malzahars creeping up to ult on your Ashe. Let your Xin kamikaze himself, you're not the assassin or the dedicated carry. Protect your ranged blasters.
Special Role 2: Force Their Cooldowns
Ragnarok, Reverie, and your base speed means that the enemy is going to have to blow everything on you to stop you as you rampage across the map. That's exactly what you wanted. During split pushes, if you can force the enemy to use their long-cooldown special abilities, like Shen or Sona's ult, you have done your team a great service. Push their "Panic Buttons" and make them blow Flash early. This is also great during laning phase!
Special Role 3: Split Push Their Towers
Split-pushing is pushing a different lane than the rest of your team in order to force the enemy to divide their forces. Stopping Olaf from taking a tower requires a highly damaging character since CC won't work on him. This means they're losing the tower, or sending powerful guys to stop you. If your team stays together, they can force a 4v3 mid while 2 guys come to get you. That should be an instant win.
Special Note: Left In The Dust
You will want to make it clear to your team NOT to rush in and expend every effort to save your butt whenever the enemy responds to your split-pushes. Often, allies will try to "help" by following behind you. If they follow you then you'll just have to leave them behind.
Olaf can turn on Ragnarok and run away but your Amumu or Soraka cannot. Let them know that when you are split-pushing, they should stay together and either gank the people as they trickle in towards you OR push mid and not worry about you. If you die, but your team takes an inhibitor, that's a good trade.
Going Berserk -- Blood and Thunder
One of the biggest challenges to playing Olaf is struggling with his outdated kit in an environment filled with some freakishly more powerful champions. But just banging your head against the wall won't get you anywhere, so to play Olaf well you need to identify what Olaf brings to the table. Those things are:
1: Powerful True Damage Output -- Reckless Swings is not to be underestimated as extra damage.
2: Crowd Control Immunity -- Great 5v1 escape mechanism and excellent mid-battle buff.
3: Free Armor Penetration Runes -- 30 free armor penetration gives you great bonus damage.
4: Several Non-Scaling Abilities -- Lack of scaling sucks, but it means you freely build tanky.
5: Psychological Advantage -- You take away their sense of safety and draw a lot of attention.
Each of these things are nearly unique to Olaf, at least to their degree. Olaf cannot compete with Jarvan for the role of Tanky DPS, or with Nocturne for the role of an Anti-Carry Jungler, or with Irelia for the job of Durable CC-Immune Supercarry. But ignore those roles. Do what you do best.
I'll get into this stuff more later, but I want you to abandon what you think Olaf does and think about him as a new Champion entirely. What is this new Champion all about?
A: Aggressive, Relentless Damage -- Ability spam, lots of harass potential, and early teamfight entry.
B: Unstoppable, High Mobility Pursuit -- Carries can't do damage if they're always running from Olaf.
C: Terrifying, Demoralizing Jungle and Split-Push Potential -- Never let them have a moment's peace. Ever!
Don't play him as a "run in after the tank" carry, you'd be better off as Irelia.
--Go in with the tank to force a no-win choice.
Don't play him as a "tanky DPS with some damage" bruiser, you'd be better off as Jarvan.
--You're a melee mage, your spell is Fist.
Don't play him as a "kill the creeps and gank you" jungler...
--...you'd be better off as basically anyone else. Like, really, anyone.
Play him as an insane, blazing-fast harassment machine that cannot be killed, cannot be stopped, and is either running for a carry, chasing down a fleer, poaching the entire jungle or crushing a tower. In teamfights you have to stay in the mix, focus their weakest links, and surgically land your axes. Get in there and cause their damage dealers to panic.
But how does this help?
The most banned pick in the Dreamhack championships was Nidalee. Nidalee is a valued champion because she can split-push like a pro, and is so strong 1v1 that you have to send 2 champions to stop her. Olaf is potentially the only person who does this better than Nidalee.
When built up, Olaf's split-push potential is huge, but he's also important for putting enemy abilities on cooldown. He's a loud, obnoxious fighter who is an obvious target and draws a lot of attention with his screaming and lightning. If you can bait Annie and Sona into wasting their Ults on you and deny them the kill, you've given your allies a massive Teamfight advantage for the next 90 seconds. Best of all, you can usually come right back in fight at half health.
This is like the opposite of what Olaf always was!
That's probably why it works. Instead of being slow and using Mallet to stick to people, you'll be fast enough that it won't matter, and you still have Undertow and Red Buff for slows.
Don't play like Jarvan or Nocturne. Play like the biggest, scariest, beardiest Master Yi ever. Just like Olaf used to:
Going Berserk -- When To Initiate
Knowing when to initiate into the fight is a big question. Any Champion, even a tank, will die pretty quickly to a 5v1 beatdown. Olaf is no exception. So how do you balance Olaf's need for aggression, mind games, and the reality that if you go in alone you die?
When battle begins, Olaf is tank's Wingman. You should be coming into the fight at nearly the same time as the Tank, and making a beeline for their team's nastiest carry. This will either get you and the tank focused or cause their team to break up into easily killed bits. If they focus you... you're Olaf! You love it when they stand and fight! Your team's Carries will be coming in any moment to deal tons of damage, so your job is to isolate their carry (as stated above), stay in the pile, and kill the biggest threats.
Don't dive their team and don't chase runners unless it's an obviously necessary kill. Many times someone like Akali will sneak around and jump on your powerful, super important carries. You should stomp on their faces for this and get them killed. Know those games where your allies say "I can't get to Ashe, every time I do they focus me and I die!" Well, make your games those games for the enemy.
You don't need to init from the front. As a Jungler, you should be comfortable with roaming the forest lanes and if you have an opportunity to get behind the enemy team, that's awesome. If your team comes forwards at the same time as you run in, the enemy will not be able to defend themselves from both sides and will be forced to run INTO an Undertow to escape.
Pillaging for Profit -- Jungle Techniques
Olaf is an extremely versatile Jungler, but he's constantly at risk of Counter-Jungling and those frustrating early Jungle invasions. Taking Flash will help you stay safe, and you can avoid trouble by varying your start location. Once you get Philo Stone your weak early phase is officially over and you become a much better Control Jungler--that's a Jungler who keeps his side clear and safe so the enemy can't use it.
Even with a Regrowth Pendant instead of a good starter item you will be able to easily take the Blue Buff Golem at level 1 without a Leash. I'll give some advice on start locations and leashing. I also recommend you check out Stonewall008's videos, like this one on Aggressive Jungling to pick up some good techniques that will help you get the most out of Olaf's flexible Jungling.
Welcome To The Jungle: Tips For Newbie Axemen
1: Make sure you have your Runes and Masteries EXACTLY as stated above!
2: As soon as you take damage, use your Red Potion.
3: Use Vicious Strikes before a Smite--you'll Spell Vamp off the damage!
4: If the enemy scouts your location move to an alternate (if using start 1, go to start 2, etc) and TELL YOUR TEAM.
5: You must bring smite. YOU MUST BRING SMITE.
Start 1: Blue Buff -- The Classic Start (high sustain, high risk, secures buffs)
Start at the Blue Buff, position yourself so you're in melee range with a little lizard between you and the big Golem, and start attacking. Spam your axe as much as possible at your feet to hit the lizards and the Golem at the same time. Once one little lizard dies feel free to take a step to put the other one between you and the Blue. Save your smite for the end to secure the Blue Buff. Head to the Wolves, kill them, and then either go B or head to Minigolems. Avoid the Wraiths and Red.
Start 2: Minigolems -- The Safe Start (high sustain, low risk, does not secure buffs) Recommended Start
Start at the Minigolems, attacking one and backing up to pull them closer together. Spam your axes between them at their feet to hit both. Do not use smite yet. Take a point of Vicious Strikes, using it before smiting the Blue Wraith and getting some bonus health. Axe the small Wraiths then head to Wolves to clear out that camp too. Head B to refuel and then clear the Blue Buff.
Start 3: Enemy Wraiths -- The Counter-Jungle Start (medium sustain, high risk, is very annoying for the enemy)
Start near the Enemy Wraith camp, either in mid-river bush or the bush behind red. If they try to scout your Blue just back off and abort. Otherwise, run over when Wraiths spawn and smite the Blue Wraith, spamming axes on the small Wraiths until only one remains. Leave it and run back to your side of the river and clear Wolves or B, then continue Jungling from Minigolems.
When Should I Gank?
Olaf is a lousy Ganker compared to his competition. Your best bet is to wait until you have Boots of Swiftness. But remember to make early appearances even if you aren't really Ganking. Spooking the enemy with Undertow establishes Jungle Dominance.
What Do I Do After I Return To Base?
Buy your next items and clear your Buffs. Controlling Buffs makes sure the enemy cannot take them. Ask your allies if they need you to cover them while they go back for healing, and do that. If you can, take the Dragon with Bottom Lane's help.
What's Leashing? Does Olaf Need A Leash?
Leashing, for those who don't know, is a way of tricking the creeps so that they waddle around helplessly and end up doing very little damage. I could describe it, but I'll just link to Stonewall's great Examination Of Leashing Techniques here. The answer is no, jungle Olaf does not need a leash to kill blue, but leashing still does make your jungle job safer and faster.
Pillaging For Profit -- A Word About Ganking and Counter Jungling
Ganking and Counter-Jungling are not Olaf's strong suites. As a ganker he is below average, with no gap-closer or speed-booster or even a reliable slow. These same weaknesses make him poor at Jungle Invasion or escaping an Invader, so he's not much of a Counter-Jungler or Control Jungler until he gets his Philo Stone. This is your weakest period, so play it pretty conservatively until you get your Boots of Swiftness and Ragnarok.
When ganking, make sure the enemy is pushed too far and get behind them. Save your axe for when you get close, and try not to use flash at all, except to seal a kill. Forcing the enemy to waste flash or return to base is still a success. Your goal should be to have a presence that makes the enemy uneasy and play defensively.
This is very similar to how Warwick plays. Warwick is an excellent Control Jungler and has no ganking power until level 6. You don't have Warwick's inane level 6 gank power, but you do have a strong early game build that should let you fight well once you're finally ready. You can help in the meantime by covering lanes while allies go shopping. Please offer to do this! It's a big help!
Pillaging For Profit -- Lane Farming Techniques
Olaf is not as bad of a laner as people have made him out to be. Laneloaf, as he is called, is a strange beast. Now, let's be clear--you SHOULD be jungling, because you're very good at it and there are tons of better Melee AD Laners, but if you're playing Normals and just want to have fun, okay. In-lane, try to pair with an ally like Soraka or Kayle. Soraka is superior because she donates mana, but anyone with a heal makes your lane safer.
Your only goal early on is to last-hit as many minions as possible, using Undertow as a way to snipe weak ones that are too far to safely reach. Once you have enough for a Philo Stone, look for a quiet moment and head back to base to pick it up.
Now you'll be able to split your axe use between last-hits and harassing/zoning. Undertow has a long reach, substantial early game damage, and good zone potential because it cannot be creep-blocked. Focus on farming, don't break lanes unless you have to, and keep the pressure up so your opponents cannot leave you alone.
Pairing a Laneloaf with a strong jungle ganker like Nunu means that your lane is incredibly dangerous for the enemy. Undertow and Reckless are strong harass and at level 6, you become all but ungankable. Now your lane is essentially closed for business.
Changelog -- Patches and Guide Alterations
~Wacky Rumor Mill
--Heard some rumblings of Olaf getting some buffs or at least some "clean up" work.
--But then read a post where Phreak whined that he doesn't like things like Olaf winning the game at 45 minutes. I don't know what he's talking about but honestly, whatever man.
--Heard from a friend who talked to some Ex-Devs about an idea that the game is actually being balanced not with NA or EU in mind, but China, which has a more passive farm-intensive gameplay. That would explain Riot's perspective on "long term carry champions" and 45 minute games, when the rest of us finish by minute 25.
Random Guide Edits
--Added a "Why Warmogs" section because people have brought up legitimate criticisms of Warmog's Armor. I wanted to clarify that we're not getting hit for his W or some abhorrent Atmogs build (bad! no!) but because we want to get the "tanky" part of "tanky DPS" out of the way asap, and Warmogs is a surprisingly cheap way to get like 1400 extra hitpoints. Getting it early in the game lets you easily farm it up, and it's just so cost effective.
--If people don't agree with me about Warmog's, I'd love to see some alternatives. Come up with one that's providing the same value for the dollar and I'll replace it!
Patch Level v126.96.36.199
--Huge Change! Sorta. Reckless Swing mana cost removed. Incredible, a buff!
--Massive buff to non-merc tread tenacity items. This is great for Philo stone users like us.
Patch Level v188.8.131.52
--No Changes to Olaf (seeing a pattern...)
--Nerfs across the board to healers. This doesn't really impact Olaf at all.
Patch Level v184.108.40.206
--No Changes to Olaf.
--Several champions other than Olaf got important bugfixes. Alas, Reckless still bugged.
Patch Level v220.127.116.11
--No Changes to Olaf.
--Big change to Tryndamere. He's different, but still a big problem. Not what I wanted...
Patch Level v18.104.22.168
--No Changes to Olaf.
--Added some information on good AD items.
Patch Level v22.214.171.124
--This guide was written! Hopefully many new Olafs will discover an interesting way to play him now, even though he's not exactly the roflstomper he was before.
Thanks for reading my Guide to Olaf, The Berserker!
Hopefully you've learned some useful things, had a few good games, and most importantly... had fun with Olaf. That's really all you can ask for, isn't it? If you've got some ideas that work better, please leave a comment so I can share them with everyone else and update the guide!
Please go check out my Olaf skin as well, Eric the Red! About time Olaf got some pants, I say.
Submitted by Covenant
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