League of Legends: A closer look at Azhy's Riven, the Exile
June 9 2022
The League of Legends patch 12.10 durability overhaul changed the game tremendously. With extra health, resistance, and a reduction in healing for each of League of Legends’ 160 champions. The meta changes drastically as the days continue. Riven, the Exile continues to perform as the durability update made her laning phase significantly more consistent in some of her previously weaker matchups.
Riven is a unique League of Legends champion as you can cancel each of her ability animations through correctly “chaining” her other abilities and animations. There is no better player to track than Azhy to see how Riven performs in the new update. Azhy, who many consider the best Riven player in Korea, if not in the world. Azhy’s builds for Riven are extremely diverse, and watching their replays for the champion is unbelievable.
Skills breakdown for Riven, the Exile
Riven’s passive - Runic Blade is one of your main sources of damage and a large part of the difference between a new and experienced Riven player. To maximize your damage as Riven, you need to fit auto attacks into whatever combo you are trying. And, since you can only charge up to three charges of Runic Blade, you have to ensure you don’t lose out on damage by using too many spells in a row.
The best advice for new Riven players is to just jump into League of Legends’ practice tool and see how the different abilities work together. There are too many different interactions to write down, and you won’t “get” most of them until you put in the time to practice with the champion. The most basic combination you should start with here is with your Q - Broken Wings and auto-attacks, as you can cancel the animation of your basic attacks quite easily once you figure out the timing.
Riven’s Q - Broken Wings is one of the most diverse tools in League of Legends. As Broken Wings has three charges, it synergizes immensely with your passive, Runic Blade. In addition, the recasts of Broken Wing make up a large amount of your early damage and mobility options. The second recast, which allows Riven to “leap” and knock up enemies, allows you to traverse various obstacles on the summoner’s rift.
For example, Riven’s leap can cross various walls in the Jungle, towers, inhibitors, and even certain corners or edges in and around the river. Learning all of Riven’s little tricks makes an immense difference in the success you can have with the champion, as the leap aids in both offensive and defensive movement.
As a final note, Broken Wings always casts in the direction that Riven faces, but more on that later.
Riven’s W - Ki Burst is easily the simplest aspect of her kit. Ki Burst is a simple stun and damage tool with a small impact radius. While R - Blade of the Exile is active, the range of Ki Burst increases slightly, which notably improves Riven’s impact in team fighting situations. Like the rest of Riven’s kit, Ki Burst can cancel the animation of your previous spell or attack, which helps improve the damage you can output on the champion.
E - Valor is extremely under-appreciated by many Riven players when they first learn the champion. Valor is essential for Riven’s ability to survive the laning phase and close the gap between Riven and her opponents.
For example, the shield helps prevent popular champions like Gangplank from completely running over Riven during the lane phase. Similarly, Valor is the key tool to traversing obstacles with her leap from Q3 that we mentioned earlier. Riven casts her Q in the direction she faces. Redirecting the champion is important to avoid overshooting your target or to line up correctly for jumps across a wall or object.
R - Blade of the Exile is what ties Riven’s kit together. Activating Blade of the Exile extends the range and increases the damage of everything Riven does, making her ready to take on any enemy. The second part of Blade of the Exile works as a perfect executing tool to take out low-health enemies who try and escape.
Unlike many champions in League of Legends, Riven often unlocks E - Valor at level one rather than Q - Broken Wings despite wanting to level the Q-skill to rank five by level nine. Due to Riven’s playstyle, you need all three skills before you start to look for active trading situations in the lane phase. As such, against champions with projectiles or ranged auto attacks (or Sion), skilling E (the shield) works better than having Q, which has no defensive capabilities.
Itemization - Mythic choice for Riven
Azhy’s itemization for Riven is one of the most interesting aspects of their play style. They build items much more dependent on both the game and their opponents than most Riven players. Goredrinker is easily the most popular choice for Riven players worldwide, as the stats and its active ability fit Riven extremely well in almost every situation.
Where Azhy differs from most is their choice to commonly build mythic items like Divine Sunderer or even Eclipse in certain situations. Azhy chooses Divine Sunderer against champions where extended combat is likely. Anything from full-on tank champions like Poppy or Ornn to champions able to extend combat like Aatrox, Swain, or Vladimir.
Similarly, Eclipse and other lethality options are almost exclusively for situations where you lane swap at the start or in the early stages of a game when you or your mid-laner suffers an early loss. Especially now, with all League of Legends champions getting the durability increase, the lethality build paths are less viable than before.
Other build choices for Riven
Aside from the first decision between Goredrinker and Divine Sunderer, there is a tremendous number of items Riven can choose to build as the game goes on. After the patch 12.10 update, the most common choice is to build the Black Cleaver. Riven benefits immensely from the stats the item provides and has a very easy time applying the Black Cleaver passive to reduce the armor of anyone who dares to fight her.
To complete the “standard” build path for Riven, you want to purchase the Death’s Dance. The main benefit of Death’s Dance is how it changes your ability to both engage and play around in team fighting situations. For those unfamiliar with the item, Death’s Dance converts damage you take into a bleed that damages you over time, which you can remove by receiving an assist or kill during combat, granting you an additional heal upon cleansing the bleed. When you have Death’s Dance, you become nearly impossible to kill before getting your first spell rotation off, which often puts you in a great situation to find the reset opportunities and continue the battle.
Aside from the standard choices, items like Guardian Angel, Hexdrinker (and Maw of Mawmortius), Youmuu’s Ghostblade, Force of Nature, Executioners Calling (and Mortal Reminder, or Chempunk Chainsword), Essence Reaver, and many other items all work in the right circumstances. However, items like Hullbreaker simply don’t work nearly as well for Riven. The simple truth is that Riven doesn’t win many late-game split pushing matchups and performs better in team fighting situations.
Try and consider what items you need to help your team defeat the strongest members of the enemy team.
Do you need to survive past a spell rotation of a strong Syndra? Do you need to reduce the healing of an out-of-control Aatrox? Do you need to execute the enemy Marksman? Good news, there are options for each one of these problems! Try and be objective, and build for your team’s success.
Boots Choices for Riven
A vital choice for Riven is which boots you want to build during your game. Boots are vital to close the gap against any range or otherwise poke-centered champion and are commonly the first item you build, even before your mythic item.
There are three main choices. Tabi Boots against strong attack-focused champions (Darius, Fiora, Kayle). Mercury Threads against teams with overwhelmingly large amounts of crowd control that you have to mitigate, commonly for situations where you switch to the mid lane against AP champions such as Cassiopeia or Galio. With Ionian Boots of Lucidity being the default choice in almost every game. The cheap ability haste these boots provide can completely change your options in the laning phase.
(Image source: Riot Games)
Azhy Riven Rune Setups
There are a few main options Azhy chooses between, depending on the enemy team. The staple choices include Primary Precision with Conqueror, Triumph, and Last Stand, alongside Legend: Tenacity or Legend: Alacrity. With Legend: Tenacity being the go-to aside from situations where the enemy team has very little direct CC.
The secondary choices are more interesting, as Azhy chooses between several different paths. The two most common include Secondary Sorcery or Secondary Resolve. The main choice is between Sorcery with Nimbus Cloak and Transcendence with the Ignite summoner spell. Or Resolve with Unflinching and Bone Plating or Second Wind for specific tougher matchups.
Players who are just starting to learn Riven can choose to use Teleport instead of Ignite, but that sacrifices much of Riven’s potential strength. In addition, players who choose this option should choose to use Gathering Storm instead of Nimbus Cloak, as the synergy between Nimbus Cloak (movement speed buff upon Summoner Spell usage) doesn’t perform nearly as well with the new Teleport restriction ahead of the 14-minute mark.
When Azhy plays or plans to switch to the mid lane, they use a secondary Domination tree, with runes like Taste of Blood and Igneous Hunter, but the sample size is extremely small.
Azhy, like almost all Riven players, uses exclusively two Adaptive Force runes alongside the resist option matching their opponent’s fighting style to complete the rune page setup. While the attack speed is more beneficial for most champions, Riven does not need this as every attack animation is cancelable through correct chaining of abilities.
Riven thrives in the early-to-mid stage of the game in most of her matchups. Once you reach level three, there aren’t many champions that can compete with your trading patterns, which allows you to control the lane from then on forward. Your main weak spot is before you unlock your abilities at levels one and two, where your only goal is to survive and collect the minions (for most matchups).
There are always exceptions to the rule, like against champions who also struggle during the early levels. For example, Kayle is a champion you can take on ahead of level three, as she has no way to fight back until level six once her range increases.
Strength and weakness
Riven’s main point of strength is level six. The moment you reach level six, there is almost no champion that can survive a properly executed all-in from Riven. The level-six point is also one of the main reasons you use Ignite in place of Teleport, as there are many situations where you can find kills on your opponents in one-on-one situations.
When you fall behind on Riven through taking a bad trade or dying early on, your goal switches to playing back and reaching your first item power spike. Focus on collecting resources through your lane minions and the excess jungle camps on the map. Doing so should allow you to become a real threat by the time team fighting starts. One of Riven’s main strengths is her ability to switch to the mid-lane as needed. If your mid-laner is crushing, giving them the opportunity of fighting in a longer lane can benefit your team. Or, if you are suffering, you can ask to switch to the mid lane to be closer to your tower during the laning phase, which reduces your chances of death.
Riven’s matchups vs. the current popular Top champions
Riven has established her position in the recent top lane meta. She performs well against champions across the board, against champions like Gangplank or Camille, with an exceptionally good matchup against the ever-popular Sion. Despite Sion’s recent nerf, the champion is still very popular due to the streamer TheBausFFS promoting a certain playstyle with the champion. The Sion matchup becomes incredibly easy once players build towards the Divine Sunderer item. Most Sions simply cannot deal enough damage to get through Riven’s shields and the healing provided by the item.
Right now, Riven’s biggest pain points are three of the biggest winners of the 12.10 update, Darius, Kayle, and Fiora. Two of these popular champions, Darius and Fiora, perform well against Riven overall, as they are now much less fragile in the lane phase due to the large increase in health and armor. While I’d love to share some insight into how you can beat these champions on your own, they often just beat you through base stats in the laning phase. Your options are to play defensively and try to win the teamfights or create opportunities for your jungler to assist you through a gank.
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