Graves is the brawler of bot lane. Inasmuch, he should be played differently than other ADCs, with in-your-face style that relentlessly forces favorable trades. He is relatively easy to learn and safe to play, with skill shots that are not overly difficult to land and a very reliable escape. Once he reaches Level 6 he becomes a very bursty threat and—when paired with the right support—will decimate the opposing laners with his powerful combo. Our Graves Guide below further delves into the strategies and playstyle that will help you master this shotgun wielding champion.
Most marksmen desire max auto attack distance from their opponents, this is not always the case with Graves. Graves is a bully and is at his best when he acquires lane dominance early. Graves rewards players for taking measured, close ranged risks early and often. Getting in close to land a nice Qs (“Buckshot”) early and often is the primary way Graves gains the upper hand in lane. Remember, this ability fires three projectiles outward in a cone, and if you are close enough to your target they will be hit by all three, significantly increasing the damage of this ability. The beauty of his passive is that fully stacked, it is about the equivalent to a full set of flat armor and magic resistance runes. This, in addition to his high base values, make it possible to win most trades. Graves trades optimally when his passive is fully stacked (10x). The trick to laning with Graves is managing his short range & passive to maximize his trade potential while simultaneously minimizing poke from your laning opponents. This no simple feat and a thin line to tread that leaves little room for positioning errors and slow reactions.
Your bread and butter combo is an auto attack followed by a buckshot then another auto if the enemy is still in range. If you have a advantage over the lane duo such as an HP advantage or summoner advantage, Eing (“Quickdraw”) in to get a full buckshot and attack speed steroid is usually worth the risk. A Graves player may end up pushing the lane when trying to maintain his stacks, when coupled with a Vamp Scepter/Doran’s blades this will generally work in Graves’ favor. Keeping constant pressure on the enemy laners, forcing them to take some minion damage, staying at max passive stacks, and perpetual buckshots is an effective way to play Graves and keep your enemies on their toes. Graves players can create a nice rhythm sticking to this strategy, and if the enemy team’s composition allows it (no unique threats such as a Twisted Fate or Pantheon), keep the enemy ADC and Support hugging their tower begging for mercy. Just make sure to attempt to keep E up and have flash ready if your going to persistently shove the lane. One trick to use is if your mana pool is fairing well: fire your W (“Smoke Screen”) near the enemy tower to zone your opponent and make it even more difficult for them to secure last hits under tower.
Sometimes players will recklessly E in and Q the enemy in the face. As mentioned above, this particular strategy should only be used under certain conditions. If things get hot, you lost your free escape and are now a sitting duck (and may have to blow flash if you take too much damage). It is much safer to wait for the enemy to be distracted with a last hit and move in closer, auto him, Q, auto, and only E in if you sense weakness or to secure a kill. Remember, you need to be in sync with your support when you go in to trade. If you get a few kills early or have an item advantage sometimes an E Q and R (“Collateral Damage”) combo is enough to finish off a squishy support or ADC, particularly when coupled with a bursty support. Sometimes Graves can get a kill through taking your opponent by surprise with instant aggression upon hitting level 6 and landing a full combo.
The main threat to Graves is opposing ADCs and supports that can poke at him from afar and whittle down his health over time. The hard truth is that some match ups can be difficult to keep your cs match your opponent’s cs with a 525 attack range. These are the types such as Caitlyn (650 range) or Lulu that can be a thorn in Graves side while he is trying to secure last hits. A seasoned Caitlyn player will be a very difficult matchup for Graves because of the way her kit is designed to net away and Q every time Graves goes in for his buckshot.
Sure, your default position should be playing aggressive, but there’s a time and a place for it. Sometimes you will get dominated in lane, or your jungler fail ganks and dives tower giving your opponent a kill for that early bf sword, and you’ll need to play passively (maybe pick up a Vamp Scepter and Dorans instead of going straight into bf). If Graves is trading often with his buckshot, he has to keep a close eye on minion damage and be aware of how big the enemy wave is. Graves players will need to get up close and personal, naturally taking more damage from minions.
As long as the hot spots of bottom lane are warded, and don’t happen to be hyper tunneling on that cannon minion you want so dearly, most junglers/mid-laners won’t present too much of a threat with E to use as an escape and W to slow down their approach. Keep in mind, however, that the cool downs on Graves’ abilities are quite high (Level 1: Q/12s, W/22s, E/20s, R/100s) coupled with relatively high mana costs. Use them wisely. It is easier than most players assume to whiff a buckshot here or an ult there, consider using regular cast to aim your ultimate in clutch situations. This can sometimes mean the difference between a derp and a kill.
Team Fight Phase
If you play your cards right, you will be a huge asset to your team in fights. With 3 aoe abilities, Graves has the potential to deal some big upfront burst (especially with a fully stacked Bloodthirster). Additionally, this burst is followed by excellent sustained damage, with well-placed buck shots and repeated E’s for the attack speed steroid. Smoke screen is a unique ability, which has a multitude of uses in team fights. It can be used as a kiting mechanism, zoning out an area in team fights, or used to cover an escape route in the case that a team fight goes sour. It can even be used as zoning mechanism to finish off damaged enemy towers as the enemy will be reluctant to run through it to get at your team.
Graves, relative to other ADCs, is a difficult target to take out efficiently. His effective escape, passive, AOE blind, and attack speed steroid coupled with life steal all are contributors to his durability. As such, he commands the ability to typically be one of the last men standing in most skirmishes and team fights. Any bold foes such as a anti-carry or assassin jumping on Graves should be met with a not-so-friendly buckshot followed by an E and stutter stepping attack moves. Sometimes quick draw should be used instantly for the extra DPS (activate it by dashing the minimum range and to the left or right), during those times you are not focused right away and no one is diving you. Most the time it should be held on to, allowing you to dash away from threats and kite them.
If you can’t get a clear shot for your ultimate, save it for a better opportunity such as sniping a carry that is towards the back of the enemy team or an enemy trying to escape with low HP. Keep all your abilities (besides W, this should be used more thoughtfully) on cooldown for maximum DPS. The more you auto attack, the more life steal you get, and the faster your E will come on cooldown. Not only does this allow Graves to permanently have his attack speed buffed, but also increases his kiting potential as he will likely be able to use his escape more than once in team fights.
You never, ever, ever want to dash forward in a team fight. The only exception is if the whole enemy team is at 1% and you can dash forward and get a penta kill with your buckshot. Seriously though, remained disciplined until the reward is worth the risk. Dashing in is about the equivalent of shifting in as Ezreal. Don’t be bronzie the bear.
It can be very tempting, especially when fed, to hang out in the front autoing and take pot shots at them with Q but its generally not worth. If someone jumps on you, you’ll need to use E and there goes your get out of jail free card. Better is to stand behind your team and only poke with buckshot. Your overarching goal is to stay alive. Yes, yes it is tempting to sacrifice positioning to harass the enemy as much as you can with your auto attacks when you and your team is pushing and/or before a team fight. Just don’t.. as the ADC you are one of the biggest sources of damage and if you get caught you will be the cause of a lost team fight and lost objectives (and perhaps the target of some verbal harassments). The bottom line is its just too risky with 525 range. The only thing you should be poking with is buckshot here and there. Don’t go quick drawing into range of that Nautty ult.
Graves is a strong duelist and presents a legitimate threat to most other champions in 1v1 type scenarios in the back of a team fight or skirmish. Staying in the back of a team fight allows you to capitalize on using your relative tankiness and dueling whoever comes after you (Red buff is a huge asset here). It is critical that you do not find yourself in the front of your team when a fight breaks out. Because of his short range, you must be ultra-careful with your positioning before and throughout the team fight. Don’t trade a juicy buckshot or ultimate for your life. Your sustained damage is extremely valuable to your team and every second you stay alive greatly increases the chances of your team emerging victorious from a fight.
High Ground Perspective:
- Tankiest marksman in the league.
- Strong lane phase when coupled with a bursty support.
- Great kiting potential with low cooldown dash and AOE blind abilities.
- Does not have the ability to hyper carry late game.
- Marksman Power Level: 6