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Play like a Pro: Kneel before Vlad

In this article you can find what runes, masteries and build paths the pros are using, as well as how to play Vladimir in every phase of the game.

In the wake of the Mage update, many forgotten mages have returned to the Rift including The Crimson Reaper himself, Vladimir. Once the pros learned how to leverage his insane early/mid game, Vlad quickly rose to the top of the pecking order with an 86.7% pick/ban over the first three weeks in the European LCS.



Skill Order & Runes

  • Every pro runs Magic Penetration marks, no debate here.
  • Likewise, the consensus is scaling Health for seals. While many mages run the same seal, Vlad benefits even more via his passive.
  • Glyphs are a mix between 3 choices; flat Magic Resist is useful against heavy AP compositions, while scaling Cooldown Reduction and flat/scaling Ability Power are more offensive options.
  • Finally, in quintessences there’s a mix of Ability Power and Movement Speed depending on preference. Want to pack a bigger punch? Go AP. Want to add more mobility to that from your kit and masteries? Try Movement Speed quints.

Skill Order

  • Pretty much every mid laner skills in the same way. 
  • Sanguine Pool can be taken at level 3 or level 4 depending on how threatened you feel from a gank or your opposing laner.
  • Transfusion is vital to max first for your lane harassment.
  • Tides of Blood is valuable later on when you start getting into teamfights and skirmishes, so max this second.


  • There are some slight variations on masteries, but most of the pros align on 0/18/12. 
  • Savagery makes it a lot easier to last hit with the lackluster spurts of blood Vlad hurls. 
  • Assassin makes sense over biscuits and runic affinity because Vlad doesn’t typically get Blue buff or benefit from mana regeneration.
  • Most pros opt toward Intelligence over Precision for that slightly faster spell rotation.
  • Stormraider’s Surge is unanimously picked among those who spec 0/18/12. It’s extremely easy to unlock Stormraider’s power with Q + E, allowing you to speed towards an enemy with Crimson Rush, follow up with Tides of Blood, then cheese it back to your tower with the speed boost from Stormraider’s.
  • Some pros also run Strength of the Ages because of Vlad’s passive, which converts a percentage of bonus health into Ability Power. If you choose to go this route take Swiftness over Legendary Guardian.


Starting options

  • Doran’s Shield: Shield is not typically as gold efficient as its Blade and Ring shaped siblings, but Vlad gets extra mileage out of the health with his passive and the lane sustain from reduced incoming damage. The health regen also helps with difficult early match ups.
  • Boots + Pots: If Vlad isn’t feeling threatened by his lane match-up he can go boots and try to bully his opponent out before their intended first back timing. 


  • Spirit Visage: Spirit Visage is an item almost built for Vladimir. Health, cooldown reduction, magic resistance, and even increased healing from the passive. Doubling up as a defensive and offensive option, Spirit Visage is always going to be a solid first pick up.
  • Hextech Protobelt-01: Protobelt doesn’t give as many defensive stats as Spirit Visage but it makes up for it by offering significantly better offensive options. Later on we’ll discuss how to use the active but, even from the stats, Vlad benefits from everything Protobelt has to offer.
  • Rylai’s Crystal Scepter: As well as the additional health and AP, Rylai’s passive helps Vlad stick to his targets. Once a Vladimir with Rylai’s gets on top of a target they’re not going to escape without help.
  • Zhonya’s Hourglass: Combined with Sanguine Pool, Vladimir has two independent ways to lose an opposing team’s focus. Pick this item up when you find you’re getting blown up in fights.
  • Boots: Ionian (CDR) are the most common boots purchase, allowing Vlad to cap out at 40% CDR easily in the mid game as he gears up for teamfights. Mercury’s Treads can also be strong against AP-heavy or CC-stacked teams.


  • Void Staff: Typically picked up after the core is finished and when enemies start heavily itemising toward magic resist.
  • Rabadon’s Deathcap: Deathcap can be a “win more” option when significantly ahead or as a last item to amplify the AP from the rest of his build. It’s inefficient to pick this up early over Vladimir’s other fantastic offensive and defensive options.
  • Warmog’s Armor: It’s very rare you see this item in competitive but on Vlad it can be a valid option. Not only does Vlad like the Health and CDR from Warmog’s, but Vladimir hits 3000 maximum health very easily in mid game which triggers the regeneration passive.


Vladimir is a tanky, mid-range sustain mage who loves to get up close and personal with his enemies. He shines in early and mid game so it’s important to know your power levels if you want get the most out of him.


Vlad’s laning phase is a trickling process so get to know Vlad’s threat ranges. How large is Tides of Blood’s AoE? How much distance can I cover with Crimson Rush? Laning as Vlad is like a dance, your opponent will try and stay away from your Q and E ranges while you dodge their spells and close the gap with Crimson Rush.

You have a lot of kill potential with Ghost/Flash on your opposing midlaner but at the same time you are nearly unkillable with your Summoner Spells, Sanguine Pool, the huge Q heal and Stormraider’s Surge.

Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage


Vladimir is extremely oppressive when ahead; if you find yourself in this position an Item like Protobelt can be super effective to mix up your harassment process. Protobelt’s short dash active allows you to break up the Q+E pattern unpredictably and get in damage you wouldn’t have otherwise. Vlad can charge up Tides of Blood then use either Protobelt or Flash, as demonstrated here by Fox, to get in range to deal your damage.

Since Vlad automatically pushes waves when harassing because of Tides of Blood, you’ll usually be pushed up to their tower when ahead... but Vlad’s personal-space invading tendencies stop there. While your prey tries to last hit under tower, this is a perfect time to stack up Crimson Rush, charge at them between tower shots with your combo, and Sanguine Pool out before the tower shot even lands.


In teamfights you want to single out AD carries or mid laners if the opportunity presents itself, otherwise your main objective is to land Hemoplague and Tides of Blood on as many targets as possible.

Vlad is deceptively tanky and once you know his limits, you’ll be able to much more effectively access his damage in fights. Since the mage update, Vladimir now gets a sizable heal based on the number of targets hit with Hemoplague when it completes its duration. This can throw off your opponent’s calculations in a trade. Knowing that you can wait one more second to land a final Transfusion before sinking into Sanguine Pool can be the difference between life and death for both Vlad and his opponent.

“Vlad is really strong in teamfights against enemy compositions that don’t have a lot of crowd control, so he can run around, wait for cooldowns and then get all his health back with the healing from his Q and ulti.” - Chres “Sencux” Laursen

The later the game goes, the more careful Vlad will have to be. Opponents will begin picking up Vlad’s mortal enemy: healing reduction from Grievous Wounds. Once you spot enemies with Morellonomicon or Executioner’s Calling/Mortal Reminder you’ll need to reevaluate how much damage you can take. Diving into 5 people might have been a good play before, but now it’s highly likely you’ll get blown up before triggering Hemoplague or Crimson Rush.

Vlad excels with his oppressive laning phase and strong mid game fights, but can suffer later on into the game as enemies start to itemise against him. Overall, Vladimir is an exceptionally strong pick which does well into almost every mid lane match-up and is incredibly difficult to finish off in every stage of the game.

Now that you’re fully equipped, take to the rift with Vladimir and make the rivers run red.