An in-depth guide for Caitlyn ADC
Caitlyn is known for being a very strong early game champion thanks to having the highest attack range in the game. This makes her incredibly strong at poking down enemies, especially in the laning phase. Since Caitlyn's kit is easy-to-learn, it's a great champion in the lower elos, but being a combo-reliant ADC with a lot of high-level mechanics that you may not notice when you first start playing her. This makes Caitlyn a worthwhile champion to main or one-trick.
Caitlyn is a champion that has gone through quite a few nerfs in recent patches. Her overall damage nerfs last patch (12.3) have made her winrates drop, but Caitlyn is still a super strong pick, especially when it comes to the laning phase which is where she has always shined.
My name is C3, and in this extensive guide, you will find all the information you need to know to start playing Caitlyn ADC effectively. I will be talking you through Caitlyn's kit, her best playstyles and builds for patch 12.4, as well as combos, laning tips, and other useful information.
Caitlyn's base attack range is the most important trait about the champion. As Caitlyn, remember that you have the highest attack range in the game, so use it to your advantage. Caitlyn's kit revolves around helping you stay at a great range from your enemies while still dealing a great deal of damage.
- Ability breakdown
Caitlyn has a fair amount of viable rune pages that she can go, but when it comes to the strongest options, it comes down to just 2 main keystones, and that's Fleet Footwork and Lethal Tempo. There are a few other rune options that work on Caitlyn. Press the Attack is a good choice if you can keep pushing up for constant pokes, and Hail of Blades is great if you want to do a quick amount of burst damage. Remember that like most other ADC's you can build a variety of different runes, it all comes down to personal preference and what you are comfortable with.
I will, however, just talk about the 4 main rune pages that are the best overall for this patch, as well as an additional rune page for a lethality build which I don't recommend for ranked, but is always fun to play and surprisingly strong if you're consistent with your skill shots and are against a squishy comp.
- Lethal Tempo
- Tempo Alternative
- Fleet Footwork
- Fleet Alternative
- Dark Harvest
- Lethal Tempo
- Tempo Alternative
- Fleet Footwork
- Fleet Alternative
- Dark Harvest
Inspiration and Additional Stats:
Inspiration as a secondary path is always a viable option for every primary page if you're looking to have that extra lane sustain. Magical Footwear and Biscuit Delivery would be the best options.
Caitlyn's additional stats should always be +10% Attack Speed and +9 Adaptive force. It's a standard pick for all ADC's for obvious reasons. As for the last stat, take +6 Armor if against a heavy AD team, and +8 Magic Resist if against a heavy AP team. If unsure, always prioritize who you're directly laning against.
For the lethality build, the only change is that the first stat should be +8 Ability haste or +9 Adaptive Force. The first one so you can spam your abilities more, the other for more damage.
There are 3 options worth noting when it comes to Summoner Spells, and as expected, Flash is part of all of them. This should be obvious as Flash is a must-have spell for all ADC's as you are often the main target of the opposing team, and no other spell will allow you to outplay an assassin the way Flash does.
- Summoner Spells
On the other hand, there are 3 spells that pair extremely well with Flash on Caitlyn.
Heal is a very standard choice. The fact it heals not only you but also a teammate makes it very strong for the bot lane 2v2 skirmishes and can save you from many situations, given that it also grants a slight movement speed burst.
Cleanse: is a great spell for an ADC because you want to be kiting your enemies, but you can't do that if you've been hit by a CC. It's also important in 2v2 bot lane skirmishes when getting hit by a stun which could result in a death, and also great for avoiding jungle ganks from the likes of Amumu or Viego. Staying mobile is important, so consider taking this when going against heavy CC. Note that it also cleanses effects such as Exhaust and Ignite's damage (but not the healing reduction), but does NOT work on suppression or airborne effects.
Exhaust: is more aggressive than the other two, which fits Caitlyn's aggressive playstyle. This is perfect for champions that can usually outrun you, such as Vayne and Draven as you will be able to slow them and directly lower their damage done to you, giving you an edge on a 1v1 and 2v2's. This also allows you to solo lane a lot more safely as you will be able to kite most tanks, fighters or bruisers in a 1v1.
There is only 1 skill path you should take for Caitlyn, and that's Q max, then W and E. Anything else isn't nearly as strong. Q is your main source of damage early game and the only move to push waves so it should always be the first one. E scales off magic damage, so levelling it up doesn't grant you much other than the cooldown reduction, which isn't a big difference, so W is better as you will be able to place more traps and make them last longer. What you can do though, is learn E second against certain matchups that will be diving onto you at level 2 (such as Galio, Pyke, Shen), allowing you to both dodge and hit them at the same time.
Like most ADC's, Caitlyn has a very straight forward build that consists of the usual same few items that are currently strong in the meta.
I will go into further detail about the builds right below.
Long sword start with 3 potions is my usual start. This is great because you're usually gonna be looking to be aggressive in lane, having that extra damage is great, plus you'll be one item closer to your mythic item. The 3 potions will allow you to heal a lot and stay in the lane for longer.
The Doran's blade start is the most commonly used and is the safest pick overall. It gives nearly as good attack damage as a Long sword but gives an additional 80HP and a bit of omnivamp, which is more balanced for the early game. You usually want to build this item when you're in a lane where you can't play too aggressively.
Early Items and Ideal First base
When you recall for the first time, the ideal amount for you to have is about 1.3k. You can usually get this amount even without any kills by around minutes 6-7 given that you have been CS'ing well. This is your ideal first back as you will be able to get a Noonquiver which is very strong. You can also choose to get Berserker greaves first, depending on the matchup. But whenever you recall during the early stages of the lane, aim to get one of these items. If you're forced earlier or go back at a bad time, simply build towards those items by buying Long Swords, a Dagger, Boots, and of course, get a Control ward every time you have spare money. If you're building lethality though, Serrated Dirk should always be your first item alongside Berserker Greaves, so if you're forced back earlier, buy Long Swords and Boots.
When it comes to the Mythic item, whether you choose to go for the Galeforce or Kraken Slayer build is completely matchup dependent, or what you feel most comfortable with. Galeforce is the overall best option and you will want to use it for most of your games, but consider Kraken Slayer when going against a very tanky team where its passive will have great value. When running lethality, Duskblade of Draktharr is the best for damage and the invisibility on kill is a nice addition. Eclipse is also a good option as it gives slight sustain without sacrificing damage output by much.
Now, boots. Berserker Greaves is always the best option, even for lethality builds. I wouldn't recommend going anything else unless you're going against a 5 AD champion composition or 5 AP, in which case you should consider taking Plated Steelcaps or Mercury's Treads respectively.
As for the legendary core items, The Collector is an incredibly strong item in the current meta and should always be built early on, even for lethality build. Both Rapid Fire Cannon and Infinity Edge are a strong third item, and whichever you go 3rd, the other should be the 4th. IE obviously because the critical strike damage increase scales directly with your Headshot Passive and boosts your damage a lot, and RFC because the extra range is super strong on Caitlyn. Youmuu's Ghostblade is the best third item when building lethality as it gives you a great movement speed buff with its active while still providing you with a great amount of AD and lethality.
Final items/Situational items
Even if the enemy team isn't very tanky, Lord Dominik's Regards is always a good item on Caitlyn since she has a very low amount of health, but obviously, if there are tanks in the enemy team, this item will make Caitlyn melt their HP. Bloodthirster is always a very good option as its base damage is very high and the lifesteal is really useful in fights. Stormrazor used to be one of Caitlyn's Core items, but it has slowly fallen off the meta. Nonetheless, it's a strong cheap item that works great into mobile champions, like Vayne and Kalista. All of the other items are very situational and serve a specific purpose in each game. Get Mortal Reminder if the enemy team has a lot of healing and lifesteal, Mercurial Scimitar if you're against a team with heavy CC in the case you didn't bring cleanse and finally, Guardian Angel is great if you're far ahead and naturally become an even bigger target than an ADC already is.
On the lethality side, there are 3 items that you can build. Edge of Night for the extra protection, Axiom Arc so that you can be spamming that high damage ultimate over and over, and Serpent's Fang if you're against a team comp with a lot of shielding effects. The Flexible build consists of basically adding some attack speed and crit while still having a build focused on armor penetration and sheer flat damage instead of full critical.
Laning Tips and Trap Placement
Caitlyn is one of the strongest early game ADC's, and her range makes her a great laner. Your main playstyle for this champion is simple, play aggressive and use your range to force enemies away from the wave or even from the lane.
NOTE: This doesn't include general ADC laning tips such as wave management, how to kite, etc. This is specific to Caitlyn.
- This one you should already know. Use your range. It's your best trait and it's extremely important to understand just how much difference it is compared to other ADC's and how to use it to your advantage.
- Your E can be used to travel over thin walls by propelling yourself through them.
- Try to keep track of your passive headshot and use it on your opponent whenever possible rather than on minions to maximize poke.
- Try to also keep track of how many traps you have available and keep always one in yo ur inventory, just incase.
- If you get brush control, try to use brushes to stack your passive headshot a lot faster, as shooting from inside a brush gives 2 stacks rather than 1 for the passive.
- Whenever an enemy steps on a trap, use your Q before AA as they won't have enough time to dodge and your AA will always be in range. Attacking first may make the Root effect wear off in time for them to dodge your Q.
- To maximize Q damage, especially onto targets immobilized by your support make sure you move away so that minions don't get in the way as the damage will be halved for subsequent targets.
- Use your ultimate when you're confident that it will hit your target rather than it being blocked by the full HP teammate instead.
- Even if your opponent isn't low enough for your R to execute, if it leaves them low enough they will be forced back, and you will be able to build a small advantage either way by maybe taking some tower plates, making them miss a wave or 2 or giving you time to help your jungler with objectives or roam. Every small lead counts.
Caitlyn's traps, despite not dealing any direct damage and the root time not being all that great, play the most important role in her kit. The biggest difference between an average Caitlyn main and a real Caitlyn OTP lies in trap placement. It can be used to pressure enemies or set them up but there's a lot more to it than that.
Small basic tips:
- Always use traps in the middle of your combos or to extend stun times. For instance, if you're playing with a Morgana or Lux and they land a CC, you can place a trap right underneath the target while they're still stunned. The trap should become active before they're out of the stun, so you get to root them for additional time and get a free headshot.
- There are a few very important situations where you should use a trap, such as when an enemy goes into Zhonya's or gets revived by Zilean or Guardian Angel, since you will get them rooted the moment they become targetable again. Among other situations, you can place a trap when Yone goes into spirit form using his E, so that he will be rooted as he returns, in the center of Zac's blobs so he's rooted if he successfully revives, Zed's or Leblanc's shadows to prevent them from juking you, etc. You can also use it on enemies that are using suppression moves such as Malzahar and Warwick ultimates on an ally as they also can't move during this time.
- Caitlyn's traps placed inside brushes cannot be seen by enemies from outside the brush. They get vision on it though once they walk into the brush.
- Even though it's very small, placing a trap in a brush grants a tiny bit of vision inside it. You can use this as a tool to face check a bush, especially since it has a decent range.
- Caitlyn's traps can be teleported to, so if your teammate wants to join in a skirmish but there are no wards around or available, place a trap for them.
Sneaking in traps:
Quite often in low elo or overall by players just a bit oblivious and distracted from the game, placing traps in the middle of your minion waves goes unnoticed. I remember people walking over them all the time when I was first starting League. This probably won't work at all on any player above Silver/Gold, but just thought it was worth mentioning nonetheless.
Anyways first real tip is brush placement. Don't place your traps in the center of a brush, such as this:
What happens here, is that when the enemy walks into that brush, they will most likely notice the trap and back off before they walk into it. What you want to do instead, is place it on the very edge of the brush as shown in the next image. This way, the moment they walk into that bush, they'll fall right into a trap granting you a free hit.
A very old Caitlyn trick that still catches even the best players off guard is placing the traps right behind a tower. This is because when you're farming under turret, there is a very common camera position that you lock onto, which Caitlyn can abuse to hide her traps.
From this position, you may have not even noticed that there is a trap on top of that tower (slightly signaled by a blue glow).
Those are a couple of the sneaky ways to make an enemy walk into your trap without expecting it at all, but there's another way to use traps in the lane.
Manipulating your opponents:
A lot of Caitlyn players don't realize they can do this, and most players who verse a very good Caitlyn don't notice these strategies that I will talk about, so let's break some of them down.
The first one is very simple. You can block the thin path around the tower entirely with 1 trap, which is usually a safe area to cs from, as even Caitlyn can't poke you there without getting hit by the turret. By placing a trap there, you're forcing the enemy to move closer to the other side in order to keep CS'ing (marked in blue below very roughly). A lot of this area Caitlyn can poke at without being hit by the turret.
One extra about that is the fact that the trap also prevents your enemy from running around the turret doing laps when your jungler is coming in for a dive, helping with cleaner tower dives. You can also keep placing traps all along the turret to limit their space and possibly make them miss more CS and pressure them just not to step in a trap.
Additionally, you can use it to make it difficult for them to move further into the lane by creating choke points. In the following example, the enemy would have trouble moving close due to the traps, but also because his own minions are creating a bit of a blockade too.
You can also manipulate your opponent to move the way that you want. Here's a quick example.
This is a simple example of how u can manipulate your opponent. Usually, Caitlyn's Q is very easy to dodge, but by placing a trap first to his right and then aiming the Q far into his left side makes it impossible to dodge if he were to move left, and if he dodges right, he walks into a trap. Either way, you get a free hit. You can use this tactic to manipulate your opponent in many other ways, such as making them walk closer into the brush where your support or jungler are waiting to engage from or trap behind them blocking their escape before they even realize they're about to get collapsed on.
Caitlyn's W is extremely good at helping your team secure objectives. The most important thing that you need to know is that with just 3 traps, you can completely block any small jungle entrance. This is great for objectives because there are usually 2-3 entrances that the enemy team can take to get near the dragon, so by blocking an entire path you'd force them to take a much longer way around.
You can also block an enemy's flank angle, thus protecting your backline:
Or, in a different situation where the enemy team is already in the river and contesting, you can still place traps in a way that forces them to gather into a choke point if they want to challenge for the objective or engage:
Caitlyn has great combo potential, mainly because her E can be stacked with all of her abilities and her W has no cooldown if you have a good amount of traps stored. I tried thinking of as many useful combos and interactions as I could, and even though I'm almost sure I include all the important ones, there's a bunch of possible ways to combo as Caitlyn that I may have missed as there are just so many ways that you can build a combo when you can add in Galeforce, flash and the no cooldown on W anytime in the mix: These are the essentials but be creative as Caitlyn, there's a bunch of different options. I will include a very short clip for each of these combos for visual aid.
GF = Galeforce
Basic Combo | E + Q + AA | Your basic lane combo, great for early game trades when your support lands a CC or the enemy walks too close to you.
Double Headshot| E + W + AA + AA | Great combo that keeps your opponent in place as you dish out a lot of damage from afar. E+W timing/positioning at first may be tricky but won't take long to get consistent. (Don't E+W simultaneously. Wait a tiny bit before you place your W)
Getaway | E + W + AA | Similar to the previous combo, but in this situation you want to escape instead of dealing damage. Place W near yourself or between your enemy to discourage them from chasing you.
E Gap closer | E + Flash + AA | Great gap closer to begin your combos with. Flash + E also works, but E first gives enemies much less time to react.
Lane Travel Chase | E + GF + AA | For this combo you'll want to be using your E as a gap closer then Galeforce forward. This is great for chasing enemies as you still deal a lot of damage. You can also add Q at the same time as you galeforce for extra damage (example of that in the next combo).
Quick Burst | E + Q + GF + AA | Easy burst combo to quickly execute enemies.
Net Dodge | E + Flash(GF) | This is more of a skill you should always have in your kit rather than a combo. You can Flash or Galeforce during E animation. This gives you the ability to dodge incoming skillshots and overall stay mobile, while staying in attack range.
Caught Lacking | W + GF + E + Q + AA + R | Great combo to execute a nearby enemy who's fallen in your trap without needing to have available traps in your inventory. E + Flash is a lot better and harder to react to, but GF will give you a bit more damage if your enemy doesn't have any means to dodge.
Ranged Execution | E + W + Q + AA + R + AA | Great combo that allows you to kill your enemy from far away. Very useful for your games. The 2nd AA can be done before or after your ultimate, doesn't really matter.
Full damage Combo | W + AA + E + Flash + W+ GF + AA + Q + AA + R | This is a high risk, high cost combo that most times isn't worth trying in-game. But it deals massive damage onto a single target who, even if quite tanky, will regret having stepped in that trap.
Matchups and Synergies
When it comes to matchups, most ADC's outscale Caitlyn in the mid to late game. So you'd consider a favorable matchup that of which you can stomp in the early game and snowball from there. I'm only gonna refer to ADC matchups and not include supports as there are just way too many possible duos. I will also only mention the hard matchups and favorable matchups. Everything else is kind of just a regular matchup that will depend heavily on supports.
When it comes to bot lane Synergies, Caitlyn is at her strongest when paired with a support with heavy CC or heavy poke. Caitlyn needs to be strong in laning phase, so enchanter supports who usually just want to survive the laning phase and play for scaling aren't often good options (with the exception of Karma as she can also deal a great amount of poke damage). I will mention the most notable synergies.
- Hard Matchups
- Favorable Matchups
Caitlyn is a champion that excels in the early stages of the game thanks to her range advantage and high damage poke. Playing agressive is the best option as Caitlyn usually falls off into the m id game, so build an advantage in the laning phase. In the late game Caitlyn offers her team great objective control thanks to her traps. She's great for sieging (both offensively and defensively) and late game she is very strong in teamfights as she can easily attack from a great distance, and is hard to lock down given the mobility from her E, Galeforce and Flash.
Best Overall Runes
Best Overall Build
Thank you for reading!
Share your thoughs, feedback, comments...
Thank you, I am probably going to use the assasin build, it scales really well, and I don't win games early game. I tend to be better late game.