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Disclaimer: I realize that most build questions have a, well, questionable presence on Arqade, I feel that my question is different enough in that it can have a definite answer.

I had an argument with a friend regarding build sequence, specifically to stacking Phantom Dancers on an AD carry. All things being equal, suppose that a typical AD carry has a Zeal. Should this AD carry turn this Zeal into a Phantom Dancers and then begin on another Zeal later or should the AD carry buy another Zeal and then upgrade either of them at later time?

I argued that buying another Zeal would be cost-effective as Zeal costs 1195G, as opposed to 1650G for the upgrade to Phantom Dancers. However, my friend argued that the first Phantom Dancers offers improved MS and AS as opposed to a second Zeal.

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I do not see how you think this question will have a definitive answer. While I almost always go multiple zeals first simply because of the way I play the game, if I have the cash on hand to get either or I will probably go with the phantom dancer (unless I have enough cash for 2 more zeals as my final build stages require 3 of those :)).. When to buy What I do not think can ever have a definitive answer unfortunately. – James Aug 29 '12 at 23:34
Well, Zeal -> Phantom Dancer as opposed to Zeal + Zeal involves increases in the same stats (namely attack speed, crit rate, and movement speed). I'm not quite sure how to value these stats and their cost-effectiveness. – Yuuki Aug 29 '12 at 23:36
A problem with multiple zeals is the common AD carry build doesn't have the slots to spare. You'll normally see a carry working towards [boots + IE + PD + LW + GA/QSS + BT] in roughly that order. So when you're working towards your end-game build, a second zeal that you're only going to sell later is wasteful. – Chron Aug 30 '12 at 1:44
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Your friend is correct. From a strict "gold per stat" cost analysis, Phantom Dancer's upgrade cost gives more bang for the buck than Zeal. I break down each stat on its own merit, but you have to take the composite (which is even more in PD's favor) to get the full picture.

Attack Speed

Zeal provides 20% Attack Speed. Phantom Dancer provides 55%, meaning that the upgrade over Zeal is 35% Attack Speed for the cost of the item. The price per stat then looks like:

  • Zeal: 1195 Gold / 20% ASPD = 59.75 Gold per Percent ASPD
  • Phantom Dancer Upgrade: 1650 Gold / 35% ASPD = 47.14 Gold per Percent ASPD

It is worth noting that two Zeals still gives the same Gold to Percent ASPD ratio. ASPD is also not multiplicative as far as items go, meaning that you do not get a higher final Attack Speed from two Zeals due to two multiplications by 1.20 instead of one by 1.55. (1.20 squared is still lower than 1.55, regardless.)

Critical Strike Chance

Zeal provides 10% Crit Chance. Phantom Dancer provides 30% - this makes Phantom Dancer an upgrade of 20% Crit Chance for the cost. This gives us a price per stat comparison of:

  • Zeal: 1195 Gold / 10% Crit Chance = 119.50 Gold per Percent Crit
  • Phantom Dancer Upgrade: 1650 Gold / 20% Crit Chance = 82.50 Gold per Percent Crit

Again, much like ASPD, two Zeals has the same price per stat point, and still doesn't compare to a Phantom Dancer. Crit chance is also additive.

Movement Speed

Movement speed is where Zeal earns a slight edge over the Phantom Dancer. Zeal's MS bonus is 6%; Phantom Dancer's is 12%, meaning the upgrade is merely another 6%. Price per point thus looks like:

  • Zeal: 1195 Gold / 6% MS = 199.16~ Gold per Percent Movespeed
  • Phantom Dancer Upgrade: 1650 Gold / 6% MS = 275 Gold per Percent Movespeed

It is important to note that, when considering Movement Speed, there are numerous soft caps/diminishing returns plateaus. Detailed on League Wiki, the gist is that any movespeed above 415 is reduced by 20%, and any movespeed above 490 is reduced by 50% (not cumulative). With Berserker Greaves and Zeal, any champion with base 320 or 330 movement speed is bumping into that 415 cap - both a second Zeal and their Phantom Dancer would be hit with the reduction. Most AD carries tend to be between 300 and 310 base MS, however, but quite a few have things that boost that, like Vayne, Sivir, or any carry that is running with Nunu support.


With the exception of Movement Speed - which in quite a few cases is already decayed by diminishing returns and is not really the hallmark stat of Zeal or Phantom Dancer, it is (from a gold perspective) almost always a better buy to upgrade Zeal into PD, as opposed to purchasing a second. Raven Dreamer's point about item slot efficiency is also important to consider - item space is often more precious than gold to an AD carry, due to the number of tools they need to succeed (Berserker Greaves, Infinity Edge, Last Whisper, some sort of Lifesteal item, and some sort of defensive item). The popularity of multiple early-game Doran's Blades for early game durability merely compounds this issue, and makes the advantage even more favorable for the singular, more cost-efficient item - the Phantom Dancer.

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Ask Mr. Robot is a really neat tool for comparing builds. Since questions like this can depend a lot on the specifics, I recommend you have a play with it yourself.

I did a quick comparison of the standard graves build (not exactly how I would build him, but close enough!) versus the same thing replacing the BT for a second Phantom Dancer. Where build 1 completes his PD, build 2 picks up a second zeal instead. Have a look at the DPS graph:

Graph of DPS over time

Obviously there are other, harder-to-quantify benefits such as movespeed and lifesteal. And there's a billion assumptions about target armor and other things that you'd have to decide on from game to game. Still; interesting!

Have a look at the setup here.

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There are two things to consider here.

The first is that Movespeed has diminishing returns. So the second Zeal will often provide less movespeed than the first, so that should not be considered.

The bigger question is, do you have the inventory space for it?

With only 6 slots, one of which is going to be boots, buying a second zeal limits your options. Especially if you're in the process of building an IE, Blood Thirster / Sanguine Blade, or another big-cost, multi-component item, you may be shooting yourself in the foot if you run out of inventory space before you can spend the gold. (A common scenario would be having the BF Sword and Pickaxe of an IE, a doran's blade, and two zeals vs. the same with one phantom-dancer).

Gold banked but not spent isn't doing you any good, and if you buy a 2nd doran's blade, or a vamp scepter for early life steal, your inventory is at even more of a premium (to say nothing of buying health potions or wards).

If you've got the room for it, by all means, buy a zeal, but just realize by purchasing a 2nd zeal before buying, say, an Infinity Edge, or a BF Sword, you might actually be lowering your damage potential if you can't buy more damage later on. (A crit with 100 AD isn't nearly as impressive as a crit with 200+!)

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