Mages vs Assassins: Which One to Choose for the LoL Mid Lane

By Tristan Zheng

July 25, 2018

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LoL Mid Lane

When it comes to the LoL mid lane, two roles currently dominate the meta, and those are the mages and assassins. Each type has their strengths and weaknesses while also having their effect on how the game goes.

However, mages and assassins have been at the center of debate regarding which role is better to use when it comes down to carrying and playing the mid lane in general. My answer is that they both are equally matched. It just depends on the situation that you’re faced with.

So, when should you choose a mage and when should you choose an assassin? Luckily for you, that’s what I’m going to be going over today in this article. Both roles are extremely important when it comes to winning the game, so I’ll be covering when you should pick a mage and when you should pick an assassin as well as their strengths. Let’s get started!

The Difference Between Mages and Assassins

When it comes down to it, both mages and assassins have more differences than they have in common. This mainly comes from the fact that they’re both meant for different playstyles. A mage is supposed to deal consistent damage from the backline while assassins are meant to take down the squishy carries.

Furthermore, assassins can be both attack damage and ability power while mages are only ability power based. For example, two of the strongest assassins in the game are Zed and Leblanc. Zed is mainly physical damage and relies on his attack damage items while Leblanc is ability power based.

Because of this, Leblanc builds magic damage items while Zed focuses on getting physical damage items. However, if you look at the long list of mages, you’ll see that names like Taliyah, Anivia, Karthus, and Orianna are all ability power and no attack damage.

Also, most mages tend to have little to no mobility to equal out their high damage that they can exert during the late game. Meanwhile, assassins tend to have some mobility to ensure that they can gap close onto their target, but this usually means that their combos are harder to pull off.

As you can see, mages and assassins have very little and common and because of this, choosing whether you want to play a mage or an assassin comes down to what type of playstyle you’re planning on playing and how you’re going to play it.

Pros and Cons of an Assassin

Being an assassin means that you can get into the backline of the enemy team, kill the main damage dealer, and possibly get out without ever falling victim to the crowd-control and damage that tanks and bruisers in the frontline provide.

That means that you have high burst damage and can kill quickly. You also tend to have mobility that is unmatched. If you look at popular assassins like Leblanc, Zed, and Diana, they all have some form of dash that can get them in or out of a sticky situation.

However, to match that, assassins tend only to have enough damage to burst someone down, and after that, there’s a waiting period until they can provide consistent damage yet again. Zed’s full combo takes about one second at most to finish but recharging everything can take three or four seconds.

This means that for three or four seconds, they’ll have little to no damage to provide for their team so if they want to be able to have any impact whatsoever on the team fight, they need to take down the high-priority targets with their burst.

While assassins are highly mobile and have the highest burst damage in the game, their presence in team fights is almost obsolete if they can’t fulfill their duty of taking down the backline carries which could lead to undesired outcomes.

Pros and Cons of a Mage

Mages are everything that assassins are not. Mages have high range when it comes to their spells, are given decent crowd-control, and can be consistent damage dealers in the late game when the team fights matter the most.

Good examples are Anivia and Taliyah. Anivia’s Flash Frost is a skill-shot area of effect stun that can be activated at any time while Taliyah’s Seismic Shove knocks enemies in any direction she chooses. While these may only be two examples of many, the list goes on and on.

They also tend to have lower cooldowns than assassins, meaning that they can cast spells faster. This leads to them having a higher presence in team fights since they’re going to be constantly outputting damage in the fight and can only be shut down if they’re shoved back or killed.

However, to counter this, most mages have little to no mobility and are extremely squishy. Since they mainly focus damage, they’ll have little armor or magic resist stats that will help them stay alive during the fight if they’re focused.

Plus, they’ll have almost no mobility to get out if an assassin gets to them, meaning that positioning is huge. So, even if mages can have some of the biggest impacts on the game, the consequences are huge if they don’t play everything perfectly.

So, how do you know which type of mid laner you want to pick? You know the pros and cons of both the mages and the assassins. Now, how do you know when you should pick each kind of mid laner? I’ll be giving you the rules that you should abide by so that you know which type to pick.

What’s the Meta?

The first step to knowing which type of LoL mid lane role you’re going to pick is by knowing what’s strong in the current meta. In times where assassins were the dominant pick, mages were rarely played since they were weaker during this time and easier to kill.

If you know what’s strong in the current meta, you can match that with whatever you’re looking to play. For example, if they buffed a large amount of ability power items like Luden’s Echo and Rod of Ages, that might be a good indicator to play mages like Taliyah or Anivia since they work well with those items.

Knowing the meta lets you pick what type of champion you need to play, but that doesn’t determine it right then and there. You also need to be able to tell how your team composition is fitted and what champion your opponent might play to get a feel on what’s good for the match.

Matching the Team Composition

In the game of League of Legends, the team that has the better team composition has, the higher the chances of winning the match. This is because the champions will tend to synergize better and can look to make plays as a team rather than as individuals.

Matching your champion to your team’s champions can help you in the long run. For example, if you have a champion like Skarner on your team who is good at locking down individual champions, you might want to match that with a pick like Malzahar—a mage who can suppress and hold down any enemy champion he clicks on with his ultimate.

If your team is big on scattered fights and skirmishes rather than full on team fights, an assassin might be the best pick since assassins thrive in skirmishes where crowd-control is little to none. If your team has three tanks but little to no damage, a consistent damage dealer like Anivia would be a great pick to counteract the low damage that your team would have.

Knowing what your team composition needs or wants instantly gives you a better chance of picking the type of mid laner that you play. The most important tip to this, however, is to play something you’re comfortable with.

If your team needs a mage, don’t pull out a new mage that you haven’t played or are extremely rusty on. Instead, choose a champion that you know and are comfortable on. You need to be able to perform when it comes down to the team fights.

Are You Playing to Carry or to Win Passively?

When it comes down to choosing whether you’re going to play a mage or assassin, the type of playstyle that you have plays a big part in determining the champion you’re going to pick. Are you looking to carry or are you looking to be more of a team player?

If you’re looking to carry, assassins are the best option for you. Especially in the early to mid game; they have the potential to kill anyone on the map if they’re given a chance. All they have to do is get that one kill to get their snowball started.

That’s why assassins can feel extremely hard to kill, especially when they’re ahead during the early game. Tanks don’t have the sufficient items to negate their damage, and the rest of the players are still squishy enough to be killed in a blink of an eye.

With such a presence on the field, there’s no wondering as to why assassins can be such a threat when ahead. If you want a good example of this, look back at footage from when the assassin meta was in full swing.

However, if you’re looking to be a team player and you’re playing the long game, go for a mage. They may not have the presence during the early game since they don’t have kill pressure like an assassin but come mid to late game, they’ll be the biggest threat on the field.

During the mid-game, most assassins start to fall off, and during the late game, assassins fail to match the damage stats most mages output. This means that if you manage to play it right, you can be just as strong as any mage on the field.

All you have to do as a mage is play more passive than active during the laning phase, only looking for kills whenever you roam. Whenever you manage to get your first core item, that’s when you can start looking to make plays throughout the game.

Conclusion

The LoL mid lane is crucial to the game because you provide one of the biggest sources of damage throughout different stages of the game, whether that’s the early game or the late game. However, because it has two options when it comes down to picking a role to play, it can sometimes be hard to choose what you’re going to play.

For example, choosing whether you should play Leblanc compared to playing Anivia can sometimes be a difficult decision to make since both provide pros and cons. However, one thing that separates the two is the fact that Leblanc is an assassin and Anivia is a mage.

So the question comes down to, when should you use mages and when should you use assassins? Sure, you can choose which one you want to play based off the meta or what team composition is currently the strongest.

However, you can also base it off how you want to play during that game. Do you want to play aggressive, look for kills, and carry the early to mid game with your dominance? If so, then playing an assassin is the way to go.

If you want to play a little more passive, look to roam and utilize all your potential for the mid to late game when you’re a team fighting beast, then going for a mage is the best option for you. In the end, it’s all about the scenarios.

Choosing between a mage and an assassin for the mid lane can sometimes be one of the toughest choices to make, but when done right, it can help give your team a boost and a flair that the other team will not have.

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