Captain builds seem very straightforward to most in Vainglory — no need to choose between a Frostburn for peel or Eve of Harvest for sustain. Just buy Fountain, Atlas, Crucible, War Treads and so on. But what do you get once the bread and butter of Captain items are already in your pocket? Maybe some extra defense?
Here comes the groundbreaking truth. Captain builds are more complicated than just getting a few main items. There are items which, when built, can turn out to be the key to winning. Some items, when used at the right time, can turn a fight around. And then there are items that simply can’t be ignored when a perfect situation arises.
This article brings to the spotlight some of the more uncommon, yet extremely effective items to be used in the appropriate situations.
Item silencing for 4 seconds? That’s a longer silence duration than Catherine’s Blast Tremor (2.8 seconds when the ability is maxed) and Vox’s Wait for It (0.7 seconds). The introduction of Nullwave Gauntlet in patch 2.0 meant that silencing (at least, item-silencing) was no longer hero-specific. Any Captain could use an item silence.
Nullwave can also be cunningly used to bait out or nullify a player’s Crucible/Reflex Block. This is then followed up by a stun, debuff, slow etc.. For example, use Nullwave on the enemy Captain before using Blast Tremor — 2.8 seconds of guaranteed team-wide silencing, as well as preventing the enemy Captain from using activables such as Fountain or War Treads… that’s game-changing.
With a shorter cooldown than Reflex Block and Crucible, Nullwave Gauntlet is the counter to Reflex Block and Crucible. It works especially well on heroes who have crowd control skills (stuns, silences, etc.) that affect multiple heroes.
How to use
- Initiation: Use Nullwave Gauntlet to bait out/prevent an enemy Crucible, then follow up with a crowd control skill
- Preventing enemy item usage: Use Nullwave Gauntlet on the enemy Captain in the middle of a fight when your team is focusing on the enemy Carry, to prevent an enemy Fountain (to top up health) or War Treads (to escape)
When to buy
- Playing as Catherine (use before Blast Tremor)
- Playing as Phinn (use before Forced Accord)
- Playing as Adagio (use before Gift of Fire + Verse of Judgement combo)
- Playing single-target focus compositions (e.g. paired with Ringo and Taka)
Nullwave Gauntlet can be countered by the enemy Captain building a second Reflex Block and using it to block the item silence.
Having problems going against sustain heroes such as Krul or Reim? Hate it when that tanky enemy Blackfeather with a Serpent Mask is just attacking while shrugging damage off like it’s nothing? Yes, Poisoned Shiv is the answer, and it’s surprisingly effective on Captains who can just stick to an enemy and land basic attacks.
As of patch 2.5, Poisoned Shiv has become a common item for many weapon heroes (Blackfeather, Vox, Idris, etc.), to the point that it has become a core item in weapon builds. Able to apply mortal wounds every three basic attacks (around every 1.5 seconds), the effect of which will last for 2 seconds, that would mean an almost constant mortal wound debuff on an enemy, reducing any healing or pseudo-healing (fortified health and barrier!) by a third.
Poisoned Shiv also gives heroes 10% lifesteal, meaning heroes with the item will also have some added sustain to their kit.
This means that it is almost compulsory for teams to have a source of mortal wound to counter lifesteal builds or sustain heroes. Poisoned Shiv is a key item which can achieve as such, and should be prioritized on the captain when the weapon carry or jungler does not intend to get a Poisoned Shiv themselves.
How to use
- Apply basic attacks on the enemy your team intends to focus on. This reduces the effectiveness of enemy attempts to support the carry with abilities or items that provide healing (e.g. Fountain, Divine Intervention, Imperial Sigil), fortified health (e.g. Polite Company) or barriers (e.g. Crucible, Vanguard). Mortal wounds with Poisoned Shiv also reduce the effectiveness of self-healing abilities (e.g. Three Ring Circus) and healing items (e.g. Serpent Mask, Poisoned Shiv, Eve of Harvest)
When to buy
- Playing against sustain heroes (heroes who rely on healing and lifesteal)
- Playing against heroes with:
- Poisoned Shiv
- Serpent’s Mask
- Eve of Harvest
- Playing heroes who are able to land basic attacks easily on enemies:
- Allied heroes do not have Poisoned Shiv in their build
One of the more underrated items on the Halcyon Fold, Shiversteel is a surprisingly effective item when placed in the right hands. With a 40% slow for 1.2 seconds, it is less powerful by some other slow abilities out there (e.g. On Point, Principle Arcanum) which have lower cooldowns or larger slow effects. However, Shiversteel provides an on-demand slow that doesn’t require skilled targeting, and the item can be activated for up to 4 seconds (6 seconds if by a melee hero), meaning that the slow effects can be potentially applied for up to 7.2 seconds (if you’re on a melee hero). Shiversteel can also be applied on multiple targets — just land basic attacks on them when Shiversteel is activated
The ability to apply slows on multiple enemies through basic attacks is a great advantage when your team faces mobile — but squishy — carries. Having problems catching that elusive Vox or slippery Skye? Just activate Shiversteel and land a basic attack. The Shiversteel slow animation isn’t very flashy, so your target might even waste their boots activation or abilities trying to sprint away during the slow duration.
How to use
- Activate Shiversteel and land basic attacks on as many enemies as you can
When to buy
- Playing heroes who are able to land basic attacks easily on enemies but lack reliable slow abilities:
A potential team-wide 30% slow for 2 seconds and 100 bonus crystal damage when a basic attack from an ally hits an enemy hero affected by the item? It costs only 300 gold? For how much chaos and damage this item to cause in the early game for such a low cost, its aggressive potential is insane.
Dragonblood Contract can easily be bought at the start of the game, and used immediately when your team engages in a teamfight. With 100 bonus crystal damage (about ⅛ of max health at level 1) dealt to every hero that’s marked by Dragonblood and attacked by an ally, it’s enough to turn the tides of an early game teamfight.
As the game progresses, Dragonblood Contract’s consistent 100 crystal damage falls off, but its slow effect still retains its utility. On Captains such as Ardan or Fortress who lack abilities which provide consistent slows, Dragonblood Contract still remains relevant in the mid game.
How to use
When your team is ready to initiate a fight, run up to enemies while they’re grouped up and activate Dragonblood Contract. Have your allies basic attack enemies to consume the Dragonblood mark, which activates the slow and deals crystal damage.
When to use
- Playing as a melee captain:
- Intending to play aggressively early game
Minion Candy is one of the most underrated items in the game; as a consumable item, it is very rarely considered by many Captains. But seriously, who doesn’t love food. Minion Candy provides allied lane minions, the allied crystal sentry or the neutral gold miner significant offensive and defensive boosts. This is important during teamfights, as any extra damage can help to turn the tide. Putting minions on steroids for just 50 gold? That’s insane.
How to use
- When around allied minions, allied crystal sentry or neutral gold miner, activate Minion Candy. Yum!
When to use
- Intending to fight in your jungle. Bait the enemies to fight within range of your crystal sentry, use the Minion Candy, and gain the advantage! Alternatively, Minion Candy can be used defensively to ward off jungle invades.
- Intending to push lane. This is especially useful if you intend to take down a turret. Candied minions last longer against a turret, buying more time for your team to deal damage on the objective.
- Intending to contest the Gold Mine. If the enemy has Gold Miner aggro, candy the miner, then jump onto the enemy! The enemy team will take extra damage from the miner, giving you an additional ally in the fight. Careful that the Gold Miner doesn’t target you, though.
While these aren’t the only items which are great on Captain, I thought these few deserve the attention and are easier to grasp in terms of when to buy and how to use them. For players who have more experience with the game, feel free to explore other items on Captains such as Echo, Shatterglass, Frostburn, Bonesaw, and sometimes even Journey Boots! (No, this is not an excuse to throw your ranked games.)
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