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When I'm playing Ezreal and I have red buff, I can't decide whether Black Cleaver or Last Whisper is better for him.

What are the relative advantages of each? Should I always pick one over the other?

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7 Answers 7

Since the big remake in Season 3 on Black Cleaver, and subsequent change to Last Whisper, most of the answers on this page are no longer accurate.

Black Cleaver: The Nami patch changed several things, among these were the way penetration works as well as the stats on the Black Cleaver itself. Now, the Black Cleaver provides health, attack damage, cooldown reduction, and its distinctive armor penetration. These changes make the Black Cleaver a far more appealing option to AD bruisers (such as Darius, Garen, etc.). The removal of its attack speed stat makes it less attractive to AD carries, although a little bit of health never hurts.

Last Whisper: Last Whisper, on the hand, has remained a key item in an AD carry's arsenal. Interestingly enough, Last Whisper's passive is no longer armor penetration, per say, but causes all physical damage to ignore 35% of the target's armor (applied before any penetration). While this doesn't seem all that different from normal armor penetration, the key is in the parenthesis: applied before any penetration. This means that Last Whisper's passive has a key difference in the way that it affects armor than normal armor penetration.

You see, percent armor penetration stacks multiplicatively. For example, assume that you have two items, one that has 15% armor penetration and one that has 25% armor penetration. Your total armor penetration is calculated like so:

  1. First, change the armor penetration into reduced armor percentage (15% armor penetration = 85% armor reduction and 25% armor penetration = 75% reduced armor)
  2. Multiply all your sources of percent armor penetration (85% * 75% = ~64% reduced armor)
  3. Change the armor reduction back and you have 36% armor penetration.
  4. This new penetration stat is now applied to your target's armor.

Now, Last Whisper is applied before any armor penetration, so it doesn't follow the above process. Let's see how this affects your enemies.

Set 1: 20 armor penetration and 25% armor penetration (Youmuu's Ghostblade + Black Cleaver, a common armor pen build for bruisers)

Set 2: 10% armor penetration and Last Whisper (10% armor pen from marks, which are more common on AD carries than bruisers)

Target 1 has 100 armor (assumed armor for non-tanks). Set 1 would reduce it to 75 armor and then subtract the flat penetration for 55 armor. Set 2 would apply Last Whisper first to reduce the target to 65 armor, followed by the percent armor penetration to bring it to ~59 armor. Hmm... it seems Set 1 wins this round.

Target 2 has 250 armor (assumed armor for tanks). Set 1 would reduce that to ~188 armor and subtract from flat armor penetration for ~160 armor. Set 2, on the hand, applies Last Whisper first to bring it to ~162 armor, followed by the percent armor penetration to ~146 armor. Clearly, Set 2 is far more useful for killing tanks.

And this is why Last Whisper should be chosen on AD carries rather than Black Cleaver. The job of the AD carry is to kill everything. Fast. As in, they should have been dead two weeks ago. Squishies are easily nuked by the others on your team, AP carry and bruiser, but only you have the damage and consistency to kill the tank.

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Another important thing to note is that Black Cleaver's debuff actually lowers the target's armor. Unlike Last Whisper, whose effect is only realized by the wielder, Black Cleaver's debuff amplifies all physical damage dealt to the target. So, AD carries can benefit from Black Cleaver's debuff without having to purchase it. –  Yuuki May 9 '13 at 1:42
    
You were right that the % armor penetration stacks multiplicatively but your math is wrong. 15% and 25% for a total of 40% is what you said but that is additive. It should be (100%-15%)(100%-25%) = 63.75%. For a total of 36.25% total armor penetration. –  Jay May 10 '13 at 7:06
    
@Jay You're right. Not quite sure why I messed up on the math like that, but good catch. –  Yuuki May 10 '13 at 15:26

I think to answer your question you have to back up and look at the passive effects of flat armor pen vs % armor pen.

First, you know should that flat armor pen ALWAYS gets applied first. So if the enemy champion has 110 armor, and you have 10 flat armor pen and 40% armor pen, the -10 happens first, putting them at 100, and then you reduce it by 40%, giving them 60 armor.

To answer your question quickly, red buff synergizes with attack speed as it allows you to get more red buff hits in, so black cleaver technically synergizes better.

However it's a moot point. Both items are good, but one is mandatory and the other is not. As a game progresses, you will almost always be required to get a last whisper, as the % armor pen helps with armor stacking characters and allows you to continue to be a force to be reckoned with.

Black cleaver is a good early item, if you're doing well you can use it to help you snowball, however it does not stack well with last whisper. flat armor pen makes % armor pen less cost efficient.

I hope this helps flesh it out a little more for you.

EDIT: I should note that in no circumstance should you rush a last whisper. It's an item you get as the enemy team starts to build armor against you :)

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Nope they changed it. % armor pen is applied first now and after that the flat armor pen. Check the release notes and the wiki pages. –  Adam Arold May 9 '13 at 12:42

Black Cleaver is better towards team fights. If one person has it on the team, it reduces the person they are attacking, applies towards physical damage, so even abilities that apply physical damage activate the effects of the black cleaver. It also provides a little tankiness to the wielder, so having it on an adc isn't bad, I've used it before and it works well, especially if you are ahead, but everyone else is lacking. It's situational, to say the least. If you already have a high attack speed, aka Jinx, this items works really well on her. There are a few others, but it's only in speculation and use in those situations that it may be viable on an adc. But better to be suited on a bruiser with the adc having LW, it melts teams.

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I use the black cleaver simply based on the fact it also adds a healthy 55 attack damage. The stacking debuff just makes you more versatile while taking up less inventory room. This is just my preference, I am by no means a pro.

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I find it depends on the situation, if you are hitting with your q a lot then go last whisper because you will be leading with it and last whisper gives instant armor pen, while black cleaver needs a couple of hits to chunk down the armor. It really just depends on your situation if you got some meaty champions on the other team perhaps black cleaver would do the trick to cut them down, while last whisper might be used on armored up carries.

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:) In my opinion, if you're an attack speed kinda carry, BC is always a must. But if you're the "AD caster" kind, I'd go with LW, since it gives you more bang for your proverbial buck, since AD casters like singular big, huge attacks.

(Sidenote: If your team is full of AD, BC benefits your team as a whole a lot more.)

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Last whisper scales better with some carries like Graves,Vayne,Caitlyn. As for BC i found it to work awesomely on MF,Ashe,Kog'maw. Both items are viable and have similar role but they scale better and worse with some characters.

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