Sylas has had a high presence in professional play since his release in patch 9.2. One player who has made highlight reels in both pro play and solo queue alike on the champion is none other than the LEC Spring Split MVP and MSI champion, Rasmus "Caps" Winther. We caught up with the G2 Esports star to get the lowdown on how he plays the champion, and to bring you our guide on how to make the most of The Unshackled.
As many of you already know, Sylas is Caps’ favourite champion. He has gone so far as to rename his solo queue accounts in both Europe West and Korea after the Demacian villain, showing his affection towards the champion.
One of the many things that makes Sylas strong is his versatility. Your role in a fight changes depending on the enemy team comp and what ultimates are available to steal with Hijack. His damage output alongside his sustainability in a skirmish makes him a tough opponent to deal with if he’s allowed to get rolling. He has a rather strong laning phase for a melee champion and has the ability to push against many opponents that no other melee champion would be able to. This is due to his all-in potential and damage output in a skirmish. Your opponents will have to respect your damage output or risk being chunked down and forced out of lane. You also have a lot of Area of Effect in your kit with Chain Lash and Petricite Burst, making it even easier for you to push lane and gain priority.
“He has a really strong early game for a melee champ. He has so much damage and mobility that allows you to just jump on the opponent and force them to trade with you."
Sylas does have weaknesses though, having such a low range and almost always being forced to push the lane makes you vulnerable to being ganked. Your abilities are on quite high cooldowns early on in the game, creating a window of opportunity that your opponent can take advantage of by poking you or zoning you away from the minion wave. Sylas also relies on having some good ultimates to steal – if your opponents have lackluster ults, then you aren’t nearly as effective as you otherwise would be.
“You have to overextend if you push the wave, leaving you vulnerable to a gank if you aren’t careful."
There are many different runes setups being used on Sylas as of now, as this is because of how versatile he is. There are a number of different ways to play him and all of them work. The most consistent and well rounded rune that provides you with a number of defensive tools would be Aftershock, which gives you a strong amount of survivability both in small skirmishes and teamfights alike. Pick up Shield Bash, which offers some additional damage and a small amount of armor and magic resistance after using gaining a shield from Abscond (E1), Bone Plating, which gives damage reduction for a short time against opponents attacks, up to a maximum of three, and Revitalize for increased shielding and healing from Abscond and Kingslayer.
“There are many different runes being used by different players. I’ve been enjoying playing with Conqueror recently, but I still think Aftershock is the safest option unless you’re super confident in your play."
Inspiration secondary with Biscuit Delivery and Time Warp Tonic is the go to. These two runes provide you with lane sustain and trading power which is exactly what you want with Sylas. Magical Footwear and Cosmic Insight are also strong contenders and could be used instead of biscuits and tonic – it just comes down to preference, here.
“There’s also a divide in which secondary tree to use between Sylas players. Some go for Sorcery, but I prefer the Inspiration tree. I really like cookies because they help you trade more and trading is good!”
Flash is the standard summoner spell for every champion, while Teleport allows you to make proactive and reactive plays around the map at all stages of the game. Teleport also allows you to play a 1-3-1 or a 4-1 style and still be able to join your team should a fight break out.
Passive: Petricite Blast
Your next basic attack after casting a spell deals additional damage and has an AoE effect. This is one of your main waveclear tools and the additional damage helps you win trades easily. Petricite Blast activates on every ability cast, so you should try to weave in an auto attack as often as you can when it’s available.
Q: Chain Lash
You lash your chains at a targeted area, damaging and slowing any enemy struck. After a short delay, the intersecting area detonates and deals damage again. This is your main poke and waveclear tool. Since Chain Lash deals damage to every enemy struck, you can push the wave while also poking the enemy laner.
Dash to the targeted enemy, dealing damage and healing. You deal more damage to opponents below 40 percent health and heal for more when you are below 40 percent health. You can choose to either hold this until one or both of these thresholds are met, or just use it mid combo for the upfront damage.
E: Abscond / Abduct
On first cast, you dash in the targeted direction and gain a shield for two seconds and reset your auto attack. On second cast, you whip your chains in a targeted direction, damaging and stunning the first target hit. You then dash to the target, knocking them up. Abduct is your main way of proccing aftershock and the only hard CC in your base kit.
“One tip I can give is that you can use your Q during the second cast of your E which can be a big burst of damage that your opponent isn’t expecting."
You steal the targeted opponent’s ultimate ability. You cannot steal the same ultimate again for an amount of time equal to double its cooldown. This is the ability that makes Sylas such a versatile champion. His effectiveness depends on what ultimates are available to be stolen, and what kind of ultimates your team needs the most.
“I like to steal reliable ults more than volatile ults. For example, a Rek’Sai ult won’t do as much damage as, say, a Lux ult, but it’s guaranteed undodgeable damage. You guarantee the extra damage and it can help you secure a kill that you otherwise might miss.”
Caps bodying Jensen with his own ultimate.
Ability Sequence (Q>W>E)
Many players actually prefer the Q>E>W max after the recent E cooldown nerf, some players even max Q and then put a couple of points into E before maxing out W, but Caps prefers the extra damage output and healing provided by maxing Kingslayer fully before extra putting points into Abscond/Abduct.
Start out by prioritising points into Chain Lash. This is for some extra poke and pushing power. Chain Lash will be your most used ability over the course of the game making it an obvious choice to max out first. Follow up by Maxing Kingslayer. This will give you more trading power in small skirmishes, aiding you in finish off opponents and staying healthy over the course of the fight. Abscond/Abduct is last. As mentioned before, Caps prefers the damage and healing from Kingslayer over the Shielding and lower cooldown on Abscond/Abduct and feels like he is lacking some much needed damage if he maxes E second.
“Q max first is more reliable than W max. I think being able to push is important and Q max gives you reliable push.”
Q > Auto > E > Auto > E > Auto > W > Auto > Q > Auto
This is your highest damage output, making use of every available Petricite Blast auto attack. Autoing in between every spellcast to activate Petricite Blast increases your damage dramatically and can make a huge difference in any fight. You can weave your ult into the combo here somewhere depending on what you steal.
Caps using this combo to win a skirmish against Team Liquid.
E > Auto > W > Auto > EQ > Auto
This is a fast combo that can be used to catch your opponent off guard and may allow you to burst them down. The unexpected damage may force a defensive summoner spell or even outright kill them if they don’t expect it.
Caps using this combo against Jensen, allowing Jankos to secure a kill onto him.
You want to start off with a Corrupting Potion for extra sustain and laning power. Sylas loves to trade and gain control of the lane and Corrupting Potion helps to achieve this. Time Warp Tonic synergises well with Corrupting Potion as it allows you to gain a ton of health mid combat, which can really surprise your enemy if they aren’t expecting you to get a sudden surge of health and mana.
Your aim for your first recall should be a very early Dark Seal. You want this for the lane power it provides, and you may want or need to recall around level 3 anyway depending on the matchup.
Your next recall should contain at least one of the components of your Hextech Protobelt-01. Depending on how your lane is going, you can choose to either get the Hextech Revolver or the Kindlegem component first. I’d recommend getting revolver in most cases to help you in trades where your Aftershock will activate. This lowers the need for flat HP and can net you a bigger advantage than Kindlegem. Grabbing Boots early on is also a good idea as the extra movement speed can give you the safety you need as a melee champion to avoid ganks while pushed up. Early boots also help you rotate around the map faster.
Finish up your Hextech Protobelt-01 and follow up with a Luden’s Echo. This build gives you a large amount of Cooldown Reduction, damage, and tankiness, allowing you to power spike hard upon completing these two items.
“I like the Protobelt into Luden’s build a lot. After those two items, you can go a few different routes…”
After that, depending on how the game is going, it’s usually a good idea to grab a Zhonya’s Hourglass, but if you think it’s not needed just yet and want to forgo the defensive option for now, then you should grab one of the items from the situational block.
Finishing up, Rabadon’s Deathcap is always a strong option when playing a champion with high AP scaling abilities. Rabadon’s provides a large chunk of Ability Power that grows as you get more AP, making it a strong scaling option that gets better with more AP. Void Staff is a strong pickup against magic resist stacking teams. Look to pick one up if a few members of the enemy team begin to buy magic resist.
Morellonomicon should be purchased against heavy healing oriented champions such as Vladimir. Lich Bane can be a strong pickup if you are going to be primarily side laning and want the spellblade proc to help take down turrets. You can opt for a Banshee’s Veil if you need the magic resist and want the spellshield effect given. You’ll usually get a Banshee’s or a Zhonya’s, but not both. Mercury Treads are also a good pickup if you need the tenacity or magic resist, or even both.
“If you need magic pen, you can go for a Void Staff, maybe you want an Hourglass, or maybe you just get a Deathcap because you have good base stats. It really depends on the state of the game.”
Caps 1v2ing both of Team Liquids solo laners, keeping them out of the teamfight.
Sylas’ level 1-3 is decent but not one your overall strongest point. If you’re able to win an early trade versus your opponent, or they can’t push you in while poking you out, then all good, but you’re likely going to get auto attacked often when trying to farm the early waves and get zoned away a bit. After level 3 you can start to push your wave a bit easier. At this point it’s not a bad idea to push out and recall grabbing yourself an early Dark Seal before teleporting back to lane. From here on out, you can start to look for favourable trades. Aftershock makes your short trades in lane a lot better than they otherwise would. After a successful trade, you can either push the lane or try to zone the opponent from farming, threatening an all in if they step too close.
You should try to push and roam with your jungler in order to help out other lanes or to secure vision in key areas of the map. You’ll have an advantage if you push your lane and roam since your opponent will be forced to stay in lane to get the XP and gold from the minions, or be forced to miss out on them by following your roam.
Caps pushes and roams with Jankos botside to relieve some pressure and allow Perkz and Mikyx to get tower damage.
After the laning phase, you’ll usually want to side lane since you’ll be stronger than most at this point. Look for an opportunity to make a play with your Teleport and force a fight with a strong flank, or use it to join a fight that’s already started. If there’s no need to TP, try to take towers and put pressure on the enemy team. You should generally play the lane furthest away from the big objective on the map, usually bot lane when Baron is the focus.
“You’re really strong in a sidelane, you can duel just about anyone at a certain point, but you’re also pretty safe due to having dashes and ways to maneuver around easily. Depending on what ults you get, you can get out of some really sticky situations”
Caps outplaying Impact in a one on one duel in the sidelane.
When teamfights roll around, choose the best ultimates for the situation. By this point you should have your second point in Hijack, likely allowing you to take two ultimates over the course of a fight. Have a plan of which ults you want to prioritise before the fight breaks out. Since you’re building full AP, it's not a wise decision to dive the backline completely. If you find an opportunity to get into the backline and your team can follow up, then go for it, otherwise you should hit whoever you can without risking death.
“You can't really just go ham deep because you’re full AP and really low ranged, but you can try to look to one shot someone, or sneak your way into the backline when someone else engages.”
Caps Teleports into a fight and turns the tide of battle into G2’s favour.
To conclude, Sylas is a Melee AP Bruiser hybrid that steals his opponents’ ultimate abilities and uses their own strengths against them. If you’re looking for an extremely fun and versatile champion to play, then give Sylas a go!
Special thanks go the LEC Spring Split MVP Caps for taking the time to talk to us about Sylas. Congratulations on your MSI victory! Look forward to seeing G2 Esports compete in the Summer Split.