Following several buffs over many patch cycles, Hecarim has risen from a niche counter pick to The Shadow of War, a nearly unstoppable rampaging foe. Although Patch 9.9 has reduced his power by a fair margin, he still remains within the fringes of viability as his kit remains powerful.
As long as he is left to scale, he can be a huge contributor to any team composition.
“He's a dangerous champion to let scale and farm and even snowball on you. Everyone has to play more cautious around him.”
Why pick Hecarim?
Hecarim used to be a niche counter pick to Aatrox during the 2018 season, with North America’s Eric “Licorice” Ritchie popularizing the pick. With Aatrox’s inability to deal with him, he was able to scale and decisively impact matchups.
Since then, the pick has grown even stronger, with buffs to his Q – Rampage propelling him to powerhouse status. On top of that, his E – Devastating Charge’s cooldown was reduced at early levels. The buffs have greatly helped his laning phase and transition to late game, but one fact remained true. Leave it to Wunder to state it in his own words:
“[Hecarim] is kind of a champ that can kind of carry a game alone because he can easily access the backline and one-shot AD carries and midlaners, and turn the game on his head.”
Although Hecarim isn’t outright overpowered, players can select him into many matchups – be they melee or ranged. However, he is not a safe blind pick, as counter picks exist at large. The logic that brought Hecarim into relevance remains true: he is a strong counter pick to some of the strongest meta champions.
His rise coincided with Patch 9.4, where the Conqueror keystone was reworked, providing him a significant gameplay edge. Speaking of which:
“Another thing that makes him better is the Conqueror thing, which you can proc really fast on Hecarim and have a lot of sustain in the fights. It can be hard to 100-0 a Hecarim.”
A standard page against Irelia. Note the Offense, Flex and Defense traits, as they can be adjusted to fit different matchups. Little variance exists in the Conqueror runepage.
Hecarim’s keystone of choice is Conqueror, and he can find it in the Precision tree. The rune tree choice allows him to access Triumph, another strong sustain option on champion kill. From there, Legend: Alacrity or Legend: Tenacity are options to consider depending on the nature of the matchup (Ranged or Melee).
As for the secondary tree choices, they are fairly straightforward. The Biscuit Delivery and Time Warp Tonic masteries allow Hecarim to access additional sustain tools, as well as add an element of speed to his kit early on whenever he consumes a biscuit or a potion.
“You run faster for more damage, but you also get some health on the earliest stages of the game, where you can actually be very prone to dying 1v1 or to ganks,” Wunder cautions.
Wunder did note that another keystone also saw use on Hecarim from time to time: Phase Rush (Sorcery Tree) or Aftershock (against Ranged champions). The Aftershock choice allows for extra tankiness rather than sustain, and makes up for the inability to face certain ranged champions in lane. Unlike the Sorcery tree, the Resolve tree also offers sustain-centric alternatives.
But Wunder’s rule of thumb remains as follows: “You'd go Conqueror in every melee matchup. A lot of people do it in ranged matchups too.”
Teleport and Ignite are the Summoner Spells of choice, and there is little variance for Hecarim.
Teleport is a staple for top laners as it provides better laning and incredible flanking opportunities down the line. However, the choice to forgo Flash may catch people off-guard. As Wunder puts it, he has no Flash, but he has Ignite and a lot of damage output.
As it stands, Hecarim’s champion kit grants him incredible mobility should he need it.
Do note, also, that Onslaught of Shadows can be used to escape or facilitate escape attempts should Hecarim find himself in a pinch.
The passive synergizes well with his E – Devastation Charge and proves interesting when Hecarim chooses specific items to purchase. In short: the more movement speed, the stronger Hecarim becomes.
Rampage is Hecarim’s bread and butter. It is his primary damage tool, and the buffs centered around it helped him become a strong option. In Patch 9.6, the ability used to have 10 percent increased damage per stack, for a total of 20 percent when fully stacked. The matter made him extremely powerful, thus the 9.9 nerf. Even then, Hecarim remains rather strong.
“You most likely have two stacks at the later parts of the game, since keeping up two stacks, in the end, can get you out of mana really, really fast to have 20% more damage on the Q, which is your main damage spell.”
W: Spirit of Dread
One level very early on provides Hecarim with a nifty 30 percent healing from any damage he deals, up to a cap against minions. Combined with Conqueror and Hecarim’s high damage output, it makes him nearly unstoppable during the later parts of the game.
E: Devastation Charge
Devastation Charge is Hecarim’s gap closer and his primary means of mobility. Because of the speed it provides him, Hecarim can do away with Flash, allowing him to select Ignite instead for additional damage.
However, since it’s both the primary escape and primary gap closing tool, one would be wise to ward accordingly in lane and play accordingly to vision. An ill-timed charge as an enemy gank closes by has undone many Hecarim players in the past.
When used in a gap closing fashion, Hecarim players can instead go past their target, then knock them backwards into the waiting hands of their teammates. As Hecarim ignores unit collision until given the order to attack a target, he can delay attacking a foe, positioning himself ideally for the task before charging.
R: Onslaught of Shadows
Combined with the previous spells, Onslaught of Shadows makes Hecarim an incredibly dangerous back line threat, as he can flank and position himself in the heat of the battle. Hecarim can often eliminate targets that way, or buy time for his teammates to finish the job elsewhere.
With Conqueror, Spirit of Dread’s 30 percent healing from damage dealt, and Rampage stacks, Hecarim can survive fights much longer than the enemy team could afford – as SK Gaming’s Jorge “Werlyb” Casanovas demonstrated in the playoffs.
“Every game I have played Hecarim, I've gone Trinity Force.”
Hecarim’s primary item is Trinity Force, as it provides him with bonus movement speed upon attacking or killing a target. On top of that, after using an ability, his next basic attack is three times stronger – roughly every time Hecarim casts the low-cooldown Q – Rampage.
From there, his build path diverges. Wunder had seen players build Black Cleaver and Iceborn Gauntlet instead of Trinity Force, but he was not much of a fan.
However, should Hecarim secure a considerable lead in the early game, Youmuu’s Ghostblade becomes a very attractive option – for its stats and movement speed bonus upon activation.
However, more frequent items include Righteous Glory and Spirit Visage, both playing to Hecarim’s strengths. Righteous Glory provides great movement speed and crowd control (slow) upon activation, also providing him extra survivability; and Spirit Visage provides magic resistance and, more importantly, amplifies the healing he receives from Conqueror and Spirit of Dread usage).
With Spirit Visage, Righteous Glory and Trinity Force, Hecarim gets extremely close to 40 percent Cooldown Reduction, making the build extremely efficient knowing that Q – Rampage spam is his bread and butter.
Wunder advises a flexible mindset through itemization for the rest. “Sterak's Gage is a pretty good all-around item. You can build a lot of things after that, like Guardian Angel,” he says.
As a beefy front liner who provides Tons of Damage™, Hecarim is a dangerous pick in the right hands and with the right understanding. In a way, he is a perfect pick for players seeking to deal incredible amounts of damage and being a front line at the same time.
His strength against Aatrox, and his ability to lane against a lot of champions in the current meta, makes him a desirable counter pick. Be advised, however, that he is not to be selected blindly.