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Note: This guide assumes you follow the exact Rune, Mastery, and Item build. Play-Style may vary.
Lulu was designed as a support. She can protect allies and disable enemies with CC, as every single one of her abilites (not couting her passive) is useful for both offense and defense. For those reasons I play Lulu as a full tank with high CDR, allowing for deep, prolonged teamfight influence and extreme survivability.
Thanks to TennStar for presentation tips and her Guide which I'm using as a template, and to all the surprised enemies i've beaten with this build.
OverviewNote: This guide is revolved around Summoner's Rift (5v5). I do no guarantee anything about Dominion.
The key words for this build are Harass, Resistance, and most importantly Bait.
That's what you are if you play this build, a very surprisingly resistant tiny thing, always on the front line in teamfights, always helping your carries in alot of ways and harassing enemies. The harass is both to draw aggression on you instead of your carries, and to make enemies die easier to the rest of your team.
Take solo top or go with the carry as if you were a support, which you almost are.
- Heal, because she's a "surprise" tank which means she has very deceptive survivability, and because it's one of the best and easiest to use (no targeting) teamfight support spells. With it you can survive a killing blow pretty often if ever your resistances, shield, speedbuff, slow, and ulti failed to keep you alive (As you can see it's very hard to kill TankLulu). What's even better however, you can save allies from death with it too. I've already been in a situation where i shielded our carry but they dived him, broke the shield and almost killed it, but heal saves the day and the carry turns back to finish them with his strong dps.
- Flash, because you don't want to die, it can be used agressively and defensively, and sometimes you may use it to join a teamfight earlier (like, some greedy ally started a fight behind that wall) to cast your protection things instantly on your allies.
I don't recommend Smite because this build is not made for jungling, and other summoner spells may synergize less with this build. Exhaust is overkill since you already have your W ("Whimsy" a.k.a. Polymorph).
Red: I used Magic Penetration (i don't have Reds for tankiness), if you want to trade those for survivability, go ahead, it's probably even better.
Yellow: Flat Armor. I personally mix in a few Armor Per Lvl in there.
Blue: Magic Resist Per Lvl. With the rest of the build you can get 100+ MR very early in the game, making you immune to Leblanc's or Fizz's death comboes for example.
Quints: Gold per 10. This makes you more independent from cs count, which allows you to go bottom with carry. In that case, grabbing approximately 10 cs (preferably with approval of the carry) before the 2nd shop run will considerably speed up your build.
Pretty straightforward: every resistance mastery.
Note that the CDR/Lvl is also taken, providing a nice 28.1% cooldown reduction at level 18 with full build.
Depending on your player skill, spend the last 4 points in the way it helps you the most. Summoner spells or the Initiator mastery are safe choices.
Since your first item is Philosopher's Stone, I recommend starting with Regrowth for immediate conflict provoking. That means you don't start with a ward, but then again with this build you're a tank before being a support. Since it's her Riot recommended item, it also means you just dble-click it and immediately leave spawn area, which might let you avoid the supr-early-Clairvoyance, and probably get in the bush first if your jungler starts at blue and you want to make sur nobody will hide in the bush for early damage on you/your carry. I know it sounds like a detail but it can definitely make a difference earlygame.
You may go with the mana item first and a ward, but i don't guarantee the same lane results in that case.
With regrowth, start trading hits with whoever you can hit easier immediately, shielding yourself with E to make sure you win the trade. At level 1 you should have Q instead however, so be less agressive until you have both Q and E.
Try spending your mana so that when you hit ~345gold, you've harassed them both so much with Q that it's dangerous for them to be agressive. It's the right time to teleport to base and finish Philo. Because you knew you would teleport to rush Philo, you could afford to lose alot of HP in those trades, as long as they suffer as much as you. The result of this ideally is: they're low and couldn't focus on lasthits, your carry is probably full HP, and the damage they dealt to you vanishes with your teleport. If things don't go according to plan, don't panic, you're not really tanky (and thus efficient) yet.
When you come back you have great HP regen and decent mana regen, trade as many hits as you can with their carry and E yourself (unless they harass your carry, in that case shield him instead). Your runes and masteries synergize pretty good with this intense early harass, and their support and AD carry probably take significantly more damage than you in those trades, because of their lower resistances (your shield on yourself lasts longer because of those resistances, and you regen fast whatever HP you lost).
NB: as soon as you finish HoG, your passive gold gain is 200% compared to everyone without a Gp10 item. If you took (with carry approval if ranked game) a couple early cs to build this gold farm early, now is the time to give every cs to your carry.
The next step is adapting to your enemy and getting boots. This is where you decide what you get next: the Chain Vest for around 100 armor to really make their carry weak at damaging you, or the Chalice if most of the damage you take is magical. If because of a kill or something you can afford Giant Belt immediately however, go for it.
Extra benefits of this phase:
- Chain Vest makes you more resistant to minions (for zoning enemies) and turrets too, incase jungler puts heavy pressure or you and your carry are almost towerdiving, which should only happen if you're absolutely sure it's safe. Also it may build into early Glacial Shroud for CDR.
- Chalice pretty much gives you enless mana, starting the true harass party (Q+E spam on whatever enemy is lowest, so your carry can finish them off). Even without AP, the Q+E burst damage is serious on anything that's not a tank. Unfortunately for them, you're a tank so they can't hardly deal as much damage to you.
- Chalice + Mercury Treads immediately take you to 100+ MR, essentially making their magic pointless.
NB: if you break their tower early, make sure to upgrade boots so you can quickly go annoy remaining lanes.
The mid-game build above provides +70MS, +680HP, +18HP regen, +55MR, +45 armor, +425 mana, +15.5 mana regen multiplied by Chalice passive, 15%CDR, 35 Tenacity, +10Gp10 (total 26.5Gp10 counting runes).
That means endless mana and faster cooldowns for your slows/disables/shields, resistance to everything (rush Belt vs true damage), tenacity against chain-disables. The HP, HP regen and armor bonuses can be more or less doubled as it gets to lategame. So adapt to whatever type of damage enemies deal the most. If it's pretty balanced or there's alot of pure damage, save for the Warmogs: it doesn't matter if you don't fill it, and it's the one item that will truely make your resistances pay for themselves. Even an empty Warmog is like 2 giant belts in 1 slot, not counting the regeneration. If the enemy damage is clearly physical however, rush Frozen Heart which to get your 231 armor faster. If it's mostly magical damage, try finishing the warmog before selling Chalice for a Force of Nature (that's something that you should very rarely have to do).It's the right time to go front lines and provoke enemies into chasing you, with your allies nearby. Make enemies try using ulties or AP carry's burst to finish you off, except you shield yourself, slow them, until their carry gets in range for your W. Whenever the time is best (like, their Leblanc is on cooldown or you've W'ed Vayne/Graves), your allies will almost inevitably attack them and take them down.
As the teamfight progresses, your cooldowns come back and your use of spells changes from your own baiting survival to your carries and focused allies: shield them with E and Iron Solari, disable the deadliest DPS enemies, use Q in a protective way (slowing down chasers of low HP allies usually), pop your Summoner Heal. It's perfectly fine to die in those circumstances as long as the enemies take more damage than your allies because they're focusing you instead. Also, It may be best to cast your R on the offtank/jungler of your team (Amumu, Lee Sin, Olaf, Udyr...) than on yourself if you had to run away abit too far, to get a decisive knockup and slow aura in the middle of the enemies. This paragraph is probably the most crucial to the outcome of the game, try pulling that off as neatly as possible (dont bait with just 1 ally close enough for example, it could be a waste).
If all goes to plan, proceed to tank minions and turrets with E as necessary, and damage minions with Q to give your allies the easy path to break as many turrets as possible during enemy respawn.
NB: Trinity Force is pure luxury, for the extra pushing power and the phage proc which is even more CC. Usually games don't last that long, and if they do, you may aswell upgrade Philo into Shurelya instead of selling it for Triforce. In any case this build gives you very tanky stats as you can see: TankLulu Stats detail on LeagueCraft's champion builder
Make a habit of using Iron Solari's active, which means you have 2 shields which can both be used on your allies (unlike skarner's for example).
Key Selling Points
You're a Master of CC:
- Q: strong AoE slow.
- W: complete silence & blind, + weak slow.
- R: Knockup, +7 seconds average/strong AoE slow!
You're extremely hard and annoying to kill:
- Strong resistances since early in the game, and every survival stat there is (tenacity etc, Defense masteries)
- E: Shield which synergizes with your resistances.
- R: Emergency deny of kills.
- Heal: Post-Emergency deny of kill surprise.
- Flash: Last resort survival spell.
- W yourself to get away faster (+35% MS).
- Q them to get away easier (80% decremental slow).
You're very good at protecting allies:
- You can shield them with E and Iron Solari.
- You can Heal them and R them.
- You can W whoever is attacking them, or W them so they run away faster than the chaser.
- You can Q their chasers, who usually give up the chase.
You're ultra annoying in teamfights, and that's probably the best part of this build.
- Q hits and slows almost every enemy if you cross-fire it by shielding/nuking someone with E first.
- You can apply the aforementioned protections on anyone they focus since you're always in range, because you're in the middle of the fight with your tankiness.
- Your R can purely and simply break most teamfights if used correctly. Because of tankiness, you can afford to be in range of all your allies to use it to the best effect. That same tankiness also makes it completely viable to use it on yourself and act like a solid AoE slow beacon in the middle of the enemies.
E+Q: Place your E (Pix) on a unit that's going closer to your target(s) than you can go. This can be a fleeing enemy, a chasing ally, one of your minions going under tower, Shaco/Annie/Morde's pet following his champion... then aim your Q since the second bolt will start from that unit. This might give you a surprise kill, or way more often, a surprise slow on a fleeing enemy, for an ally to finish it off.
Q+E: Slow them first with Q, so you can tranquilly increase the damage with E. Throwing a W inbetween often makes the E guaranteed to land, and you can add a couple AAs to the damage.
Q +E(on your target) +Q(towards that same target): When you have enough CDR for Q to cool down before Pix is removed from the enemy, for an extra surprise damage very hard to avoid (total 3*280dmg).
W: This is your hard CC, always make sure you're it is ready before starting a teamfight. That way you can deny ults from Katarina, Warwick and the likes, and protect your carry from any jumping Jax or Q-ing Lee Sin, for as long as you're in the middle of the fight.
Q (+AA if safe) +W +E +AAs: Standard harass combo in lane, or finish combo for enemies trying to flee from teamfight. Use it on the enemy Vayne for example. She can't really fight back, if she does she's wasting dps on the tank.
Q +AA +W +AA +E +R +AAs +repeat: Maximum damage combo, use it if in that teamfight you don't need to shield anyone, or to shut down a major threat before it causes too much drama. Note that to land the R knockup, you must be close enough, and to keep the slow active, you must move manually to stay close to your target between autoattacks.
If you're bot with carry, draw the aggression on you because of your endless harass on them, shield whoever they focus, secure kills with Q and W. If any facecheck has to be done, Q that bush first (makes a specific noise if someone was hit), and/or shield yourself and go in (have W ready for quick escape) but never let the carry do it.
As for solo top, Tanklulu consistently wins trades of harass vs of olafs and irelias and shit, because they're probably not ranged With extra magical damage on AAs With a shield With a slow With a polymorph/bonus movespeed And similar resistances like them. If it still goes wrong or you're 1v2, Q+E +passive is easily sufficient to get most lasthits even under your own tower. Just remember that for full hp melee minions, simply let the tower hit them twice then attack normally for guaranteed kill.
Midgame - Endgame
You are an excellent bait, exploit that. The concept is getting the enemy to chase you, pretending you're running away scared while you're taking them into the middle of an ambush. It's priceless to see Vaynes, Hecarims and GPs following your ~20%hp champ into a bush for the kill, just before you shield yourself, turn them into a squirrel and watch the horror on their face when they realize they're surrounded by your team (usually instant death ensues).
Some enemies will try to assassinate you because Lulu is usually squishy. When they find out you aren't, they'll still try to kill your ass because you annoy them.
Make sure it happens by provoking them in every key area (Buffs, Dragon, Baron, zones where both teams have wards) while you team is within a screen of distance at most. Your allies then proceed smash enemies into the ground when they're spent their slows etc trying to kill you.
If they still dont focus you yet, start pushing their turrets, they'll come 100% guaranteed. Because they don't know your allies are just around the corner waiting to jump on them, neither do they know that you can potentially take tower aggro on purpose to give your assassins a completely safe towerdive if necessary.
"The funny part compared to normal supports is that, well, they can't get quickly get rid of the major pain that you are ;-) and if they try to, you've done your job of drawing the aggro as a tank, watch your team jump on them for the win."
My ranked performance with this build proves its viability, no matter whatever some persons who think they know everything in the world without ever trying anything new may say.
~~Constructive criticism welcome, best if you cared to try the build, just like i cared to make it and this long guide for you.~~
PS: I'm on EU West if you want to see exactly how this works.