Hello! Today I'll be breaking down how to play Mages for patch 11.6! Overall Mage has been a staple of the meta ever since Aurelion Sol was added in set 4.5. The fact he utilizes the Mage trait so well has helped bring it to the forefront of the meta, compared to the original set four where Ahri basically didn't need the trait to do well. Mage does rely heavily on Aurelion Sol but despite that the trait is relatively flexible since you can use it in multiple compositions. Alongside those variations I'll be covering the core items, champions and will be taking a brief look at each stage of the game from early to late. Let's go ahead and get started!
1. Core Items
At this point everyone should know that the key to playing Mages is having Aurelion Sol on your board. Aurelion is the main damage dealer which means he’s the champion you’ll be focused on giving items to. There are some other carry options such as Veigar, Brand and in some cases Twisted Fate but those tend to be relatively niche variations of Mage. So when we’re talking about who to prioritize items for it’s definitely Aurelion Sol since he’s the primary carry.
Before we list exactly which items you will want for Aurelion Sol it should be noted first that committing to making these items early in the game will limit your options later on. This is because there’s limited options to using AP items compared to physical damage items. Inherently this isn’t too much of an issue because forcing Mages isn’t too difficult, plus pivoting into a different composition is possible. This is more or less meant to caution anyone that likes to have a flexible mid game as slamming early AP items can limit what choices you have.
Alright with that said let’s get back to Aurelion Sol items. At the top of the list we have Jeweled Gauntlet as it’s by far the best AP item for him when it comes to maximizing his damage output. Since he generally hits multiple units per cast, and does more damage on the second cast to units he already hit, giving him spell crit is huge. One lucky critical can basically wipe out an enemy board.
Other damage items you can look for are Deathcap, Giantslayer and Hand of Justice. All of these are alright secondary options for damage if you’re unable to get Jeweled Gauntlet. On the defensive side of items, Guardian’s Angel is by far the best option. This helps Aurelion cast more than once in a fight and opens up different ways you can position him, such as in the frontline.
And the third most common item for Aurelion is Hextech Gunblade. This can be an optional item if you already have Hand of Justice or know you’ll be running Syphoner, but most of the time it’s essential as it can fully heal Aurelion each time he casts. It will boost his survivability, especially when paired with Guardian’s Angel.
Outside of items for Aurelion there’s not really any specific champion you need to have items for. Chalice is always a worthwhile investment since it also increases the damage of Aurelion. Look to give Chalice to either Lulu or Veigar. Besides Chalice, frontline items are good to grab. Items like Sunfire Cape, Dragon’s Claw, Bramble Vest and Titan’s Resolve are perfect for a frontline Annie or Vanguards like Sejuani and Aatrox.
And the last item to talk about in regards to Mages is a Mage Spatula. If you’re able to procure a Spatula it’s going to help a lot in hitting five or seven Mages. As for who to give it to, well, anyone with good crowd control can use it well but two specific champions to give it to are Shyvana and Swain. Both of them benefit from the second cast as it will increase the health they gain from transforming.
That’s it for items, let’s move on to the core champions & traits for Mages!
2. Core Champions & Traits
There’s two important aspects when playing Mages, which are quite obvious. First is you need the Mage trait, whether that’s three, five or seven. Second is, of course, Aurelion Sol. As long as you have Aurelion with at least three Mage then you’re basically set and can fill in the rest of your board with anything you want.
Within the meta there are several variations you can play with Mage, it mostly depends on what extra traits you want. The most common is going to be 7 Mage which lacks a bit of frontline but does a lot of damage. Aurelion Sol is of course the carry while Annie is equally as important for your frontline. Lulu adds in extra utility and the rest of the Mages fill in to hit the 7 Mage buff which does need either a Chosen Mage or a Mage Spatula.
For the rest of your board at level eight you mostly want to add frontline as that's where 7 Mage tends to be lacking in. Braum gives you Dragonsoul and he also pairs well with a crowd control frontliner like Sejuani or Aatrox. Ornn also pairs well with him since that provides Vanguard and he'll be the third Elderwood. And if you have a Mage Spatula, Swain is one of the best units to add.
Another Mage variation leans more into Elderwoods to provide the frontline for Aurelion Sol. The main issue with this build is that it can lack crowd control and requires time to ramp up during a fight for the Elderwood units to scale. But if you are able to buy that time it's an effective board to buy Aurelion Sol time to blast everything away. At level eight this variation will run Aurelion, Lulu, Veigar, Annie and either one extra Mage or use a Chosen Mage to hit five.
The rest of the board is filled with Elderwoods, generally Maokai & Nunu for frontline with Rakan and Xayah adding Keeper, or you can add Ornn for additional frontline. It mainly depends on what you hit, but keep in mind the goal is to buy as much time as you can for Aurelion so the more frontline the better.
There’s plenty of other variations we can cover but the last one we’ll talk about is Dragonsoul. This doesn’t always use Aurelion as the main carry, meaning you won’t be running Mage. That said it’s still playable with Mage as fitting a third Mage in with six Dragonsoul is quite easy. Overall the main issue with running this composition is a weak frontline so you really need to find Swain if you’re aiming to play Aurelion as the main carry for six Dragonsoul.
Overall the core champions to look for when playing Mage are Aurelion, Lulu and Annie. From there you can really play any variation you want as long as you have a solid frontline.
Before we move on the last bit to talk about for champions and traits is which Chosen to look for. In general the best option is going to be either Mage or Dragonsoul Chosen Aurelion Sol since that instantly makes him a two star champion. But that’s not easy to do consistently so instead look for Annie, Lulu or Veigar as a Chosen Mage since that makes fitting in five Mages much easier.
Other than that, an Elderwood Chosen is great if you’re playing that variation. Sejuani or Aatrox also do well as Chosen Vanguards to bolster your frontline. All in all there’s plenty of Chosen options when playing Mage which is one of the main reasons as to why it’s so flexible in the meta.
With items, champions and traits covered let’s move on to a brief overview of each stage of the game beginning with the early game!
3. Early Game
The early game is a lot more involved for Mage than a lot of other compositions because of how early you can get the trait going. Both Twisted Fate and Brand are excellent early game carries that hold onto Aurelion Sol items quite well. Keep in mind that running early Mage doesn’t mean you have to play Mages later on, but it can make the transition into those builds much smoother.
Besides Twisted Fate and Brand, there’s several other early game champions that can hold onto Mage items. Nidalee, despite the nerfs, still does well enough during stage two and does a lot of damage if you have a Jeweled Gauntlet or Hand of Justice. Tristana can also do well with those items. There’s not as many two cost options for Mage item holders but having an early Annie for Fortune or Lulu for Mage/Elderwood are solid choices.
As for three cost units you have several options. Veigar is the most obvious since he’s a Mage, and you can end up running him as the main carry if you’re able to two star him early enough. Kennen can use some of the AP items well and is amazing with Guardian’s Angel. Katarina and Akali are solid choices for AP items and lastly Kindred is one of the best three costs for the early and mid game.
Overall there’s a lot of ways you can play the early game to help get you into the mid game where your goal is to find Aurelion Sol. At the end of the day, though, the plan should be to play your strongest board while hitting standard leveling intervals. Those timings are level four on either 2-1 or 2-2 and level five by 2-5. Leveling to five is especially important as you open the door to possibly high-rolling an early Aurelion Sol.
Let’s move on to the mid game!
4. Mid Game
The mid game will begin around when you level to six. The standard timing is 3-2, but you can delay that by a round or two if you’re close to fifty gold and have the health to wait. Otherwise you want to level to six and can assess whether or not you need to roll.
Basically if your board wasn’t winning a lot in stage two, you likely need to sell your early game Chosen and roll to stabilize your board. Look for any solid two or three cost Chosen, in particular any that use AP items well. Besides finding a new Chosen also look to upgrade your existing board as much as you can. And of course if you do find an Aurelion Sol you can immediately play him as even at level one he’s quite strong as long as you have the Mage trait for him as well as one or two items.
Whether you rolled or not the next important timing is level seven on 4-1 after Wolves. The plan here is similar to level six as you will look to roll for a new Chosen if your current one isn’t doing well while trying to find at least one Aurelion Sol. But this is also where you will form your mid game composition which can be Elderwood/Mage, 7 Mage, Vanguard/Mage or any variation of those builds.
The number one thing to keep in mind is you need a carry that uses your items. Ideally you’ll be able to find Aurelion Sol but if not there’s plenty of three cost champions that you can use as item holders. Besides your carry the other important piece to your board will be your frontline. Annie should be easy to two star so having her is great, plus any additional frontline units you find such as Vanguards or Elderwoods.
It’s also important to be scouting often during stage four as you need to keep tabs on who else is contesting Aurelion Sol. Keep in mind that you can skate by with a one star Aurelion so it’s not the end of the world if you’re being contested, but knowing how difficult it will be to two star him is important. And if it looks like too many players are contesting him you can also pivot towards a different build.
Other builds you can look to play that use AP items are Vanguard/Mystic/Fabled with Neeko as the carry. This build is easy to pivot into if you find either a Vanguard Chosen or Mystic Chosen, preferably Neeko. Keep in mind this build can lack consistency so it's more or less a ploy to top four in the case that you're unable to find Aurelion Sol for a Mage composition.
Veigar as the main carry for Elderwood/Mage is alright as an alternative for Aurelion Sol if you're still wanting to play Mage. At some point you will still need Aurelion but if you're struggling to two star him you can keep on with Veigar as the main carry with the win condition being to three star him. Overall this is definitely a weaker build than running Aurelion as the carry but is definitely capable of hitting top four.
One more pivot to consider is an Enlightened/Syphoner composition where you use Morgana as the main carry instead of Talon. Morgana isn't that reliable of a carry but with AP items she can do a lot during stage four and five. Ideally this would be a pivot where you hit a bunch of Sword items at Wolves and Raptors so you can itemize your Talon. Alternatively you can stack Morgana during stage four/five and pivot into either Yone or Swain later on.
With most of the mid game covered let’s move into the late game!
5. Late Game
Level eight is the usually the beginning point of the late game which can come anywhere from 4-5 to 5-2. The later you level the more likely you’ll lose out on key champions, but it really depends on how your level seven and stage four went.
The plan at level eight is to find Aurelion Sol 2 and to finish up building whichever composition variation you’re playing. This will mostly be your main economic goal when it comes to the late game as level nine is rare for most games. That said if you had a good stage four, hit Aurelion Sol easily and your board is doing well you can definitely save for level nine to add in five cost units like Swain and Ornn.
Overall the late game matters more about positioning and scouting than anything else. Scouting should be the easy part as you should be looking for any obvious threats like Aatrox, Zephyr or Shroud. And knowing what five cost champions others are hitting is important information.
Positioning, on the other hand, is difficult to teach because each game is so different. Generally speaking the best way to position Aurelion is to maximize the damage he will do. Since he targets the furthest away champion you want to make sure you’re always having him in a position to do the most damage by manipulating that aspect. Also make sure you’re moving him if other players are trying to bait with units in corners such as Azir’s sand guards or a target dummy.
One other positioning tip to keep in mind is that you can frontline Aurelion Sol, as long as you’re not putting him into direct danger against high damage targets like Olaf or Kayle. And of course be careful about front lining Aurelion against Lee Sin as you don’t want him being kicked off the board. The benefit to using Aurelion in the frontline is that he’ll cast faster than being in the backline and has a better chance of doing damage to multiple champions.
Overall if you’re unsure about how to position, watching streams is a great way to learn. As Aurelion Sol with Mage is one of the most popular compositions it shouldn’t be too difficult to find high ranked players that are playing those builds. Actively watch how they position and try to emulate that in your games.
That’s all for today! Mage is a lot of fun in 4.5 as Aurelion Sol, at least in my opinion, is a much more well balanced champion than Ahri was for Mage. Sure he's pretty essential for the trait but there's enough variations to run that playing Mage is usually a viable choice every game.
Thank you for reading and if you're looking for additional TFT content you can find it over on the GiantSlayerTFT YouTube here or on twitter here! And if you'd like to you can follow me on twitter here!
And as always I highly recommend checking out https://lolchess.gg/ as it's a great resource for TFT!