How does Lethality work in League of Legends?

There are three types of damages in League of Legends; true damage, magic and physical damage. Unlike True damage, magic and physical damage can be reduced by purchasing stats against them. In this article we will be focusing on what is lethality, how does it work and why it is different from armor penetration.

What is Armor?

Depending whether you want to block physical damage, or magic damage, you can buy different resistances. They are divided into two branches, magic resistance and armor. When it comes to denying physical damage, we are talking about armor. It is the reason why every ad carry shivers when they see a fed Malphite, or a full AD team in a champion select. Depending on the amount of armor you have, you will be reducing a certain percentage of enemies’ physical damage.

While that Malphite is indeed scary, there are ways to make him look more normal, as normal as rock can be. Purchasing items that contain Lethality or Armor Penetration stat will reduce his armor. Thus, he will be receiving more damage and be easier to take down. Although, there is a difference between lethality and armor penetration.

What is Armor Penetration?

Imagine you just came home from work, queue up and pick your favorite ad carry Jinx. Your team proceeds to pick a full AD comp, and enemy last picks Malphite. You start sweating and the game did not even start yet because you realize how hard it’s going to be to kill him. In order to make it easier for you Riot introduced Armor Penetration.

It works by reducing enemy armor by a certain percentage. If you purchase Lord Dominik’s Regards you will gain 25% Armor Penetration. Hence, if enemy has 100 armor, you will be reducing his armor to 75. This works better when we are talking about higher armor numbers, which are primarily connected to tanks. If enemy has 300 armor, just with that one item he will now have only 225 for you. As you can see, armor penetration is more effective when used against higher armor values.

ALSO READ: How to get rid of Demotion Shield Expiring

What is Armor Reduction?

The second half of Armor Penetration is it’s brother in crime, armor reduction. To put it simply, armor penetration amplifies the damage you do to the enemy. On the other hand, armor reduction reduces enemies’ armor so all of your teammates will be benefiting from this bonus as well. Abilities such as Garen’s Judgement (E), and Vi’s Denting Blows (W) work using this method.

At the moment, there is only one item in the game that provides such effect which is Black Cleaver. It can stack up to 24% armor reduction, which makes it extremely cost beneficial. Another way to reduce someone’s armor is by catching them fighting baron. Baron reduces its attackers’ defensive stats by 0,5 each second and stacking up to 50. This is a flat reduction, meaning if you have 100 armor when you started, when baron’s stack is at it’s max you will be left with 50.

What is Lethality?

Unlike Armor Penetration, Lethality uses fixed numbers in order to reduce number. Due to that it is sometimes also called Flat Armor Penetration. Meaning, if you have 10 Lethality, you are going to reduce enemies’ armor by 10 (not by 10% percent). This is a common misunderstanding when it comes to lethality. Following the previous example, if enemy has 150 armor and you have 10 lethality, their new armor value is going to be 140 (10 armor less).

Lethality should be primarily used by assassins and ad carries with high base spell damage that can’t benefit from Crit builds. It is most valuable against squishes, such as enemy carries that do not have many resistances. If enemy ad carry has 38 armor, and you have 50 lethality, he will effectively have -12 armor versus you. Yes, you read that correctly. Armor can also go into negative numbers.

In order to be easier to balance, lethality scales with levels. When you purchase your favorite Duskblade of Draktharr that provides 18 lethality you do not get access to all of it instantly. Furthermore, is uses the following formula in order to determine how much Lethality will u get:

LETHALITY × (0.6 + 0.4 × level ÷ 18)

Here is how Dusbklade of Drakhtarr scales like:

How does Lethality work like

Can I have multiple Lethality items?

Yes! Lethality items can, and do stack. Unfortunately though, they’re unique so you can’t have more than 1 of each of them. It is also a great idea to stack them if enemy team has a lot of squishy members, since lethality will be more useful against them compared to armor penetration. In fact, the most lethality you can have is 139 which is more than enough to reduce most carries armor to basically 0.

Does Lethality work on Abilities?

All of your damage towards enemy champions gets increased regardless of its form. It doesn’t matter whether it is auto attack, or an ability. The same is also true for armor penetration.

ALSO READ: What is good CSPM

Is Lethality good in LoL?

Yes, absolutely! Lethality is a great stat to invest your gold in if you are an assassin, or if enemy team is not going to have a lot of armor.

Is Lethality good vs Armor?

Sadly, no. Armor is the biggest counter to lethality as it is much cheaper to acquire big amounts of armor, compared to the price of getting a lot of lethality. Furthermore, you can get a maximum of 139 lethality, while certain champions can increase their armor even above 600.

What happens if I have both Armor Penetration and Lethality?

When you have multiple sources of armor penetration, they will be getting applied in the following order:

  1. Armor Reduction
  2. Armor Penetration
  3. Lethality

When should I build lethality?

You should build lethality against squishy enemy teams that do not have tanks. If they do have tanks, you can opt for 1-2 lethality items which will be effective vs enemy carries, and then continue your champions traditional damage build. For example, Kha Zix can have a full lethality build (5 lethality items) but he may do less than some other build in this game. Every game is different and thus we should be adapting our build paths accordingly.


There are different ways of reducing enemies’ armor in League of Legends and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Lethality is the straightforward one that reduces enemies’ armor by a flat amount and is widely used by AD (attack damage) assassins, as well as some ad carries. It is extremely beneficial in certain scenarios, while in other it can be a waste of gold.