Olaf Top: Alacrity vs Bloodline

Legend: Alacrity and Legend: Bloodline are two competing options in the Precision tree. When is one better than the other, and what do I personally prefer to use?

 

This article started off as a reply to a question on the Olafmains subreddit, so it might look familiar if you’re a frequent visitor there.

 

Stage 1: In Theory

The runes in question

As usual, let’s start off by specifying exactly what we’re talking about. Legend: Alacrity and Legend: Bloodline are these two runes located in the third row of the Precision tree:

Alacrity on the left, Bloodline on the right.

Both are stacking-based runes, and they utilise the same mechanics for achieving those stacks. Legend: Alacrity gives attack speed and has a maximum of 10 stacks but also provides a small flat bonus independent of how many stacks you have.

Legend: Bloodline provides life steal instead. Unlike Alacrity, it has no base value, while also requiring 20 stacks to reach full effectiveness. Taken together, these factors combined make Bloodline the generally weaker rune early on.

From the League of Legends wiki (with minor edits)

If you map out the stats-per-stacks for each rune, you end up with the numbers below:

Tablepress (which I use for the text-based tables on here) wasn’t great at a condensed 22-column table, so I whipped this one together manually. In doing so I discovered there is no easy way to display 22 columns of data within 700 pixels.

For the main part of laning phase you’ll likely either have attack speed in the mid-high single digits from Alacrity, or life steal in the low single digits from Bloodline. Later laning should get you up to or near mid double digits of attack speed for Alacrity, or in the mid single digits of life steal for Bloodline.

Obviously if things go really, really badly for you in lane, your stacking speed will slow down accordingly. You can often make up that deficit in mid-game fights though, particularly if you participate in taking Dragon / Herald – remember that assists still give you the full 20 points (1 complete stack), so you don’t need kills just to get full value.

Stacking speed

I sampled three of my recent Olaf replays from Patch 9.13 to get some real-world data on how quickly Olaf gets Legend stacks. Note that while I believe a couple of these samples were slightly more kill-heavy than typical, their average is not well beyond typical stacking speed.

Here’s the average level when I achieved stacks 1-10, 15, and 20 during these games:1

I do wish the numbers were a bit more round so that they’d be easier to read,2 but in graph form it’s at least easy to gloss over that compared to a table. I’m actually surprised at how quickly I was able to get stacks here – I guess that’s a pleasant side effect of participating in lots of skirmishes in the early to mid game.

On the other hand you could argue that you’re halfway into the game before you actually get to 20 stacks if you take Bloodline. That’s totally fair criticism of the rune, but remember that it’s still providing value before full stacks. During the first few levels it’s quite minimal, but after that point it’s still a modest amount of life steal without you needing to spend any gold on items to get it.

Also note that it’s not as though Alacrity is immediately particularly powerful either, as it’s also a stacking-based rune. Yes, it does get to max stacks faster, but it’s still about level 10 until it’s fully stacked based on my sampled games; I recorded less than four levels difference between 10 and 20 stacks.

I’m getting the feeling that many of those who recommend Alacrity solely on the basis of “it takes too long to stack Bloodline” haven’t actually tracked their stack rate to get numbers like this to analyse. Both runes actually stack a bit faster than I expected, and there’s also less of a difference between fully-stacked Alacrity and fully-stacked Bloodline than I thought there’d be. Obviously each champion level takes more experience (and therefore usually time) to get than the previous one, but even with anywhere between 10 and 20 Bloodline stacks that’s still not a bad amount of life steal to have.

Stat value

If you were to go look up Legend: Alacrity and Legend: Bloodline on the LoL wiki, you’d find that — when fully stacked — both runes provide 450g worth of stats in attack speed and life steal respectively. However, although their fully-stacked gold value is the same, their value to Olaf isn’t.

Attack speed is a fairly low value stat on Olaf, and is usually worse than an equivalent amount of AD or ArPen (by gold value) at increasing his damage dealt. Much of this stems from him having limited kit-synergy with attack speed (compare to Jax or Irelia), and also having some very strong attack speed steroids already.

Life steal is a fairly high value stat on Olaf, and often does a better job keeping him alive in a fight than the equivalent amount of a defensive stat (by gold value). This is primarily by virtue of his passive and W working in tandem with one another to allow him to sustain through a significant amount of income damage so long as he’s able to hit something.

In an attempt to demonstrate the difference in value between the two stats, I ran some test 1v1s against myself, where each “player” was an Olaf with an identical build except that one used Bloodline and one used Alacrity. I kept the stacks mirrored between both Olafs before all tests.

It honestly felt quite weird to use my Olaf to kill another one of my Olaf.

So that I didn’t have to resort to writing a complex script (or straight up using a bot in the test), I just had each Olaf attack move into the other from full health. In some tests I would also simultaneously press W on both keyboards once they got low to see if that changed the outcome.

Following a standard Olaf build, the Alacrity Olaf won all duels across 1-10 stacks. I was kind of hoping to see Bloodline Olaf pull out at least a couple of lucky wins, but with Conqueror active for most of the fight, the difference in sustain was evidently smaller than the difference in damage output. Doubly true for the first part of the fight, where Olaf’s passive hasn’t kicked in much yet and where Conqueror is activated more quickly by having higher attack speed.

Shown below is the test done at 10 stacks, with an inventory of Doran’s Blade, BC, Pickaxe, Ninja Tabi.

The results of the multitude of tests were interesting, and did a good job showing that Conqueror is actually a good deal of sustain by itself once you get it fully stacked up. However, I was dissatisfied about the test’s representation of reality – most fights don’t play out so slowly, which I felt was over-valuing Conqueror’s sustain because almost no damage was taken during its initial stacking period. In light of this I modified each champion’s build to be basically just a pile of AD. Bloodline finally got its win.

Apologies that dragon is in the way, I kind of panicked about whether this was the right way to test or not after I already set the first Olaf in motion, but decided last second to go through with it.

These are about the best controlled tests I can put together without using scripts and stuff. They don’t do a great job of demonstrating Bloodline’s strength, because typically your opponent isn’t Olaf, and doesn’t do increasingly more DPS the longer you fight them. Nonetheless, hopefully it at least vaguely conveys the point: life steal is generally better than attack speed as a stat for Olaf. Alacrity can somewhat get around this by using a bigger number earlier in the game, allowing it to potentially gain an early lead that Bloodline wouldn’t have been able to.

DPS increases life steal

This statement is factually correct, but is nonetheless a bit of a misnomer in this context.

For the sake of keeping calculations simple, let’s look at an imaginary target with no armor. Assuming no crit chance and ignoring healing amplification from W, healing from life steal would be calculated in the following manner:

AD * AS * LS

Let’s plug in some example numbers.

  • 120, 200, and 280 AD.
  • 100, 130, and 160% bonus AS (including per level AS).
  • 12, 12, and 22% life steal – representing rank 1 and rank 5 W respectively.

Effective life steal with +18% attack speed:3

120 * (0.694 * (1 + 1 + 0.18)) * 0.14 = 25.42 healing per second.

200 * (0.694 * (1 + 1.3 + 0.18)) * 0.14 = 48.19 healing per second.

280 * (0.694 * (1 + 1.6 + 0.18)) * 0.22 = 118.85 healing per second.

Since AD and AS are already quite high numbers, adding slightly to either of them offers only a minimal increase in total sustain. This is true both when W is at rank 1 and rank 5.

Here’s how a fully stacked Bloodline lines up in comparison:4

120 * (0.694 * (1 + 1)) * (0.14 + 0.12) = 43.31 healing per second.

200 * (0.694 * (1 + 1.3)) * (0.14 + 0.12) = 83 healing per second.

280 * (0.694 * (1 + 1.6)) * (0.22 + 0.12) = 171.78 healing per second.

Notice how just the 12% life steal from Bloodline will nearly double the amount of life steal Olaf gets when using a rank 1 W, and it still gives more than a 50% increase when he gets up to a rank 5 W.

However even these numbers are kind of misleading, because they don’t take into account Conqueror, which will be heavily used during most of Olaf’s extended fights. As you could see in the 1v1 tests, Conqueror’s sustain was pretty decent, and is the reason that the calculations don’t strictly line up with the test clips.

The healing from Conqueror works pre-mitigation (because it’s equal to the true damage dealt), which means it’s more effective point-for-point than plain old life steal is. Against a target with 50 armor, that 8% healing is equivalent to having 10.67% life steal and spell vamp.

That number slowly creeps up the more armor the target has; against 150 armor it’s 12.8%. Against 250 armor it’s 13.71%.5 On top of that, it provides a bit of extra healing on top of its “life steal” effect, because it applies to damage you’re dealing from your abilities and items as well.

So in reality the third set of AD / AS / LS numbers would give something like the following for a fully-stacked Alacrity:

280 * (0.694 * (1 + 1.6 + 0.18)) * (0.22 + 0.12) = 183.67 healing per second.

And this for Bloodline:

280 * (0.694 * (1 + 1.6)) * (0.22 + 0.12 + 0.12) = 232.41 healing per second.

The difference isn’t as significant now that the relative gap between the two levels of sustain is smaller, despite the gap in life steal being identical in both cases.

A quick note about itemisation

Life steal is generally harder to fit into an Olaf build than attack speed via items, because all life steal items are almost purely offensive in nature:

  • Blade of the Ruined King (LS + AD + AS + on-hit damage (just “more AD”) + active)
  • Ravenous Hydra (LS + AD + wave clear)
  • Death’s Dance (LS + AD + delayed damage so that you can use your life steal better in combat – still offensive)
  • BT (for Olaf this is essentially just a worse Death’s Dance)

You can cheat a little bit by including “effectively life steal” items6 in the form of Wit’s End and Spirit Visage, but even then these are still a similar category of item as both are magic-resist based.

Attack speed isn’t great at this either, but does offer a few more options. For example, Trinity Force is an easy swap from Black Cleaver (or could even be taken in addition to it if you feel really spicy), and you have some unique options that fulfil different niches such as the aforementioned BotRK / Wit’s End, Spear of Shojin, and even items like Phantom Dancer.

Although you can sit on a Vampiric Scepter as your life steal source, 900g is quite a delay to other items, and you’ll be eating an item slot by doing so. In some cases it can be worthwhile, but usually getting your big items purchased is better than sitting on multiple smaller ones.

Stage 2: In Practise

Different situations can play to the strengths of one rune or the other, so let’s analyse a few common ones. Game time is generally later as you move down this list.

Level 1 fighting – Win: Alacrity

Needless to say, Bloodline having no flat bonus is a liability for it in terms of a winning a level 1 fight. 3% attack speed isn’t going to be doing much for you, but it’s infinite more useful than 0% life steal. That’s maths for you.

Quiet farming in lane – Win: Bloodline

If you’re playing fairly safely in lane and just taking short, safe, opportunistic trades, then neither rune has any significant impact in PvP combat. However, even with just a few stacks Bloodline will be providing some light sustain between the bouts of fighting. Olaf’s attack speed is already high enough that it’s extremely rare to miss low-pressure cs if you’re actually trying to get it, so Alacrity offers almost no practical benefit for this situation.

Brawl-y laning – Draw

This one might be a bit controversial, but in my opinion so long as you have at least a couple of stacks on Bloodline, it will be as useful as Alacrity for most brawly lanes. In the fight itself Alacrity will be providing more benefit,  but with Bloodline you’ll always have a small HP advantage to work with from hitting minions between fights. Early on even that 1-2% life steal can mean 20+ health gained per wave – and across a few waves that right there can be enough to turn a close lost fight into a close won fight.

I think that in this situation Bloodline at low stacks is as or more impactful than Alacrity at low stacks so long as you have time to sustain between waves. Otherwise in a head-to-head fight with no downtime Alacrity would be the victor. This isn’t just some theoretical situation that never happens either: I regularly win early fights on small margins like this.

Here’s a clip from one of the three sample games where I survive an early fight twice with less than 100 HP, plausibly saved at least once by a low-stacks Bloodline. If I hadn’t had light sustain leading up to this clip, I would’ve started with 100 less HP and been killed by Talon.

Running down a coward – Win: Alacrity

In fights where the opponent is nearly exclusively running away and not hitting you, slightly higher attack speed is not that useful because you’ll have 100% (base) + at least 55% (W) + a little bit from your passive. Going from ~160% attack speed to 178% attack speed isn’t a huge increase – only about an 11% jump. If you have a higher level on W or are slightly lower health, then the relative increase gets reduced further e.g. 200% to 218% is only a 9% increase. Against a fleeing opponent, your time is split between throwing Qs, repositioning to continue chasing, and auto-attacking, so any increase to attack speed is only affecting (in a simplified way) a third of your actions and is unlikely to be make a meaningful difference unless you don’t have W available.

However, this is a situation that Bloodline is unlikely to benefit meaningfully at all since you’re probably not interested in sustain in this circumstance except in a few less common versions of it. A small benefit from Alacrity beats out almost no benefit from Bloodline.

Messy fights – Win: Bloodline

In fights where the opponent is fighting you back, your relative usage of autoattacks is much higher because you spend less time moving than before, allowing you to reallocate much of that time into just whacking them – especially for a melee opponent. However, this increase in the value of attack speed is offset because you’re going to get, on average, probably 60-70% attack speed from your passive (which you weren’t getting against a fleeing opponent). Going from 240% attack speed to 258% is again not that big of a jump at just a 7% relative increase.

Compare this to Bloodline which makes you go from 14% life steal (rank 1 W, which will be most of the game) up to 26% if fully stacked – nearly twice as much healing. Obviously it can take a while to stack up, but even at half stacks (6% life steal), it’s a ~40% increase. These figures don’t account for Conqueror though, and once you add that in as well the lines start to blur a little.

I think on balance, messy fights still favor Bloodline for Olaf because of how useful life steal and other in-combat healing is in such situations. Alacrity wouldn’t be worlds behind though, and might be just as useful depending on the exact circumstances of the specific fight.

Clearing minion waves mid-late game – Win: Bloodline

If clearing a minion wave later on (e.g. split-pushing), you tend to not spend that long hitting the wave unless you’re dealing with super minions because your Q will already halve the wave’s health, and W and E take care of the rest. Extra attack speed doesn’t have a significant impact on the time it takes to clear the wave – but being able to heal significantly more from the wave can be a huge asset over your opponent if split-pushing – or be important to match if your counterpart already has that capability.

Aggressively pushing a tower mid-late game – Draw

If you’re pushing down a tower and are being aggressively contested, you often need to hold your W in case a fight breaks out. This is a situation where the bonus attack speed of Alacrity can make more of a difference, since your average attack speed will be lower due to holding that cooldown. However, this only applies if you’re stalemating against the defender and neither of you is strong enough to push the other away. If you’re able to actually just push the opponent off the tower, I think Bloodline is better since increasing combat-strength is much more important than pushing slightly faster (you can afford to W for attack speed if you’re able to push your opponent(s) away).

It might sound unrealistic, but I have been in this situation multiple times, and in some of them I have genuinely been able to zone my opponent off the tower by getting right up in their face almost suicidally-aggressively and using high life steal to make it work. In the times where I didn’t feel able to do that I could’ve done more tower damage with Alacrity though, so I’m calling this one a draw by virtue of it going one way or the other depending on specific circumstances.

Stage 3: In the wild

Lolalytics data

During Season 9 I’ve been keeping a loose eye on the win rates and pick rates of Alacrity and Bloodline on top lane Olaf as tracked by Lolalytics. I unfortunately didn’t have the foresight to copy the stats at each interval, but the story seems to be that Alacrity has a much higher pick rate as a primary rune (2-3x as frequent), but Bloodline averages a slightly higher win rate (it appears to be about a +1% win rate, but fluctuates quite a bit). Pick rates as a secondary rune are <1% for both.

The data as of writing this article. Data source: Lolalytics.

High level Olaf players

Here are what some high-level lane-Olaf players are using:

  • Me! – OCE – Bloodline. Although after writing this article I think I’ll start looking for matchups or team compositions where Alacrity might be worth switching to.
  • chance2win – TR – situational. There’s not many recent games to check from as of writing this article, but they don’t seem to stick to a single rune in that row.
  • qiaqia – KR – Bloodline. With a sample of 20 games, qiaqia takes Bloodline in almost all of them. In a couple of games they actually swap to Legend: Tenacity, which I was actually not planning on mentioning on this article at all since I’m currently not convinced it’s ever worth swapping to on Olaf. In a single game they took Alacrity and it was against a Rengar top. Not sure how to read into that.
  • 기묘기묘 – KR – Bloodline. Across 18 games, they took Bloodline in 16. In two they teched out to Legend: Tenacity.
  • TheRoyalKanin – EUW – Alacrity. Kanin is a rare breed of lane Olaf player because he typically goes mid rather than top. Against those types of matchups (faster fights, more burst and less sustained damage) I’d agree that Alacrity would tend to be the better pick.
  • wulihuitian – KR – Alacrity.
  • Berserkurai – NA – Bloodline. They also rock the old school Ignite + Ghost summoners combination, with a Shojin first item to boot. Unusual, but evidently effective for them.
  • 바위게가힘을숨김 – KR – Alacrity. As an aside they’re a TriForce user, in case that affects the rune choice.

So it appears even among the top solo queue Olaf players there isn’t a clear consensus, further suggesting that one rune is not universally better than the other. This list wasn’t cherry picked for the results – I only looked for high-rated Olaf players across all regions and then checked whether they played him with Smite or not.

Conclusion

Before writing this article, I believed that both Alacrity and Bloodline were viable, but that Bloodline was the better choice. After writing it I still believe the first, but am less confident about the second.

With the inclusion of Conqueror, the difference between  in-combat sustain when taking Alacrity vs when taking Bloodline is still meaningful but much less so. However, the difference in DPS with or without Conqueror is also not that significant for Alacrity except in a few (uncommon) outlier scenarios. For the most part, Olaf already has a fairly high average attack speed due to a combination of his passive and his W, and a small addition to it has only minor benefit.

If you know ahead of time how you’re planning to play Olaf in that game, then you may be able to make a rune decision based off of that? Alacrity favors the old school “dive into enemy carries recklessly in the middle of fights” a bit because more DPS increases the speed at which you can neutralise targets – even if only slightly. Bloodline would seem to be better suited to a split-pushing style, where the effects of sustain are relatively stronger due to the differing circumstances. However even in this simplified dichotomy, picking the “opposite” rune for your preferred situation would nonetheless appear to be viable, so it seems to be an inadequate screening method by which to decide rune choice.

In the end I think the biggest factor in deciding between the two options is general player preference moreso than matchups, champion role, or rune strength. If you want a small boost in DPS (2-5%?) whenever you’re in melee range, go for Alacrity. If you prefer to have a bit of light sustain during lane and then a moderate amount of in-combat sustain afterwards, then go Bloodline.

Regardless of what you choose, I do suggest you try to make it an informed decision. If you’ve never tried the alternative, see how it goes. Maybe you’ll find you actually prefer the strengths of the rune you weren’t using – or maybe you’ll struggle to tell the difference between the two during the game. The second outcome honestly doesn’t seem an unlikely outcome at this stage.

 


 

  1. In hindsight it might’ve been easier to read as a line graph sampling all 18 levels and then showing how many stacks I averaged at each. Ah well, live and learn.
  2. three samples have left a lot of .33s and .67s.
  3. Assuming rather ambitiously that Alacrity can get up to 10 stacks while you only have 120 AD.
  4. Again we’re assuming a very ambitious stacking schedule for the sake of simplicity.
  5. Technically it’s actually slightly higher still than these percentages, because once Conqueror’s full effect activates you actually lose the ability to life steal off of the converted true damage (life steal becomes 8% less effective).
  6. Technically this include’s Death’s Dance as well lol.

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