We all know Caitlyn is an Attack Damage Carry and classified as a Marksman. We know what her skills do and matchups are pretty well known (and if you don’t the internet is a wonderful place! See here for more info) . This guide focused on playing and understanding the champion rather than simply going over abilities and statistics.
We will start with some simple things like summoner spells, runes, and masteries.
Flash: Take flash 100% of the time, it is irreplaceable on any ADC’s as it gives you the safety and positioning you need. Caitlyn does have an extremely long AA range and an escape to boot so you might be thinking, “well I COULD get away with not having flash” but the fact of the matter is, nothing has a larger effect on the game than flash
Heal: Ever since heal got changed it has become core on most, if not all, ADC’s. It is fantastic for baiting enemies, you can escape with the speed-boost, and you get health back to save your life. Oh, it also helps your support, but who cares about them right? Late game this spell some of its utility and the healing it provides will be less impactful. Try to shift your perspective to using it for its speed boost to close out a fight, or keep yourself safe from a dive.
Barrier: Ah, the meta of seasons past. Barrier used to be invaluable to an ADC. It provided a shield that was not affected by grievous wounds and stopped those damned assassins from deleting you off the map. While still a good choice, barrier outclassed by heal mainly due to you having a lane partner to also benefit from its effects.
Cleanse: A very situational pick. If the enemy team has lockdown after lockdown and the game will basically be you playing in a tar pit then you might want to consider taking Cleanse. It doesn’t really have the offensive prowess of the other summoners but its effect could prove lifesaving if the enemies have a bunch of CC. Consider cleanse against champions with long range, high impact crowd control, such as Morgana with her binding.
I prefer to run more AS on Caitlyn rather than raw AD as AS directly increases your DPS due to headshot plus the fact that her core build contains only one AS item.
- 9 AD REDS
- 9 Armor Yellows (or 5 health and 4 armor depending on if lane has a lot of magic damage)
- 6 AS Blues, 3 MR blues
- 3 AS Quints
This setup gives you an adequate mix of AD and AS which will make last hitting a lot easier and you will proc more headshots.
Standard 21/9: I personally don’t like to take the 3 points in Warlord because even if you have 200 bonus (yes, it only scales off of bonus) AD you only get 5 extra AD. Double Edge, Exposed weakness, and Frenzy give you a much better setup with those 3 mastery points than 5 AD ever could.
Build path is the last of the basics that we will cover. Caitlyn is a standard (well, she is exactly the base on which you grade a marksman). She has a couple of skills with good ratios but her main focus is auto attacks. Her Q shouldn’t really be used late game (we will get to that later) and her ultimate isn’t very effective during a teamfight.
It comes to no surprise that her build is basically the core build of any ADC. There are no twists and turns and every other ADC (well, mainly) build is based off of this core itemization.
- Infinity Edge
- Phantom Dancer/Statikk Shiv (I prefer Phantom’s greater attack speed leading to more headshots as well as more crit damage to synergize with Infinity Edge)
- Last Whisper/Bloodthirster (order depends on individual game but build both)
- Guardian Angel/Banshees Veil (again, depends on situation, only build 1).
- Berzerker’s greaves for boots (furor/homeguard enchantment).
This build gives Caitlyn a substantial amount of damage late game with her headshot procs (which can crit!). You get a massive amount of Attack Damage while still having the Attack Speed needed to properly apply the Attack Damage. Last Whisper peirces any armor they might have and Bloodthirster gives a shield and lifesteal.
Note: A Quicksilver Sash is a great item choice as well, plus it gives a substantial amount of Attack Damage once upgraded to Mercurial Scimitar. Buy with caution though as it won’t save your life as many times as a GA or Banshees will.
General Tips and Tricks
Remember that headshot gets 2 stacks if you auto from a bush. Abuse this fact in lane if it is safe to do so. This also means Caitlyn is actually pretty good at fighting in the jungle due to her having high range to shoot over terrain and the numerous amount of bushes.
Trap them!: Traps are amazing. They are like wards that you don’t have to buy! They can, on occasion, cause a pick. But what they are really useful for is zoning. Place them around objectives (towers, baron, dragon, teemo) so if someone tries to engage you will snare them and then kill them. You can only set 3 at a time though so be weary of when and where you place them. Riot gave us some nifty indicators when you use traps (without smartcasting) to see how many are out, and even numbering the ones on the ground so you’ll know which will go away if you try to place a 4th.
90 Caliber Net: Net forward, net backward. Chase and retreat. Just played Lucian? Accidentally shoot the net forward when you want to chase or shoot backwards when you want to escape! No but seriously, Caitlyn’s EQ combo wins trades, and trades win games. First off fire your net (FORWARDS) and immediately after hitting E press Q. This will fling you backwards to safety but your Q will still fire off as if it was shot from your position pre net.
The Level 1 Cheese: This is a little trick I like to do level 1 when I’m not vs a Sivir. Start by running straight to lane. Take your traps and when you get there, lay down 1 in the lane bush, as close to their tower as possible. 20 seconds later, lay a second one out in the lane, starting to make a line towards the other wall. The 3rd goes just off the wall. This will either for the enemy to step on your traps, taking a decent amount of damage, or disrupt their last hitting and harass. As a Lane bully, this helps put Caitlyn in position to be really oppressive. it works best with a ranged support capable of heavy early harass too, such as Sona, or Lulu.
Now we will get into the real stuff, and that is how to actually play with and against this champion. A lot of guides online give some helpful tips like “stand behind minions when she uses her piltover peacemaker!”, and those are perfectly fine. We want to basically guide you from 0:00 to Nexus dead (hopefully theirs).
Why/when should you choose Caitlyn? Starting off even before 0:00 you have champ select. Games can be won and lost due to this stage of the game alone. Caitlyn’s attack range is 650, which is huge. This alone should give you so much information on when to pick her. She bullies in lane and outranges any other character for a majority of the game. Twitch, Kog’Maw, Jinx, and Tristana all have the potential to outrange Caitlyn come late game, but 3.5 out of5 of them are situational (Trist always has the range and Jinx CAN but it might not suit her best).
Caitlyn fits into any single composition there is. She’s a little better in poke oriented compositions due to her auto attack range, the distance on Piltover Peacemaker, and Ace In The Hole’s massive damage. She also works well with any support but again really shines with the poke oriented ones (Cait/Nami is hell to lane against).
Ok, you’ve decided to pick Caitlyn so we will assume it wasn’t a horrible pick to start off with. You get to lane and at 1:55 and start killing some minions. While last hitting be sure to keep track of your headshot counter, because every 7 headshots (at starting levels) makes your next one empowered. Use this to poke down those pathetic non-650 range champions. You will (should) have a much easier time farming than your opponent because you can reach them without them being able to reach you. Make sure to AA them when they go in for a last hit to get some free harass.
Your Q, Piltover Peacemaker, is a very very strong laning tool. It has a great AD ratio (0.8?) and can hit multiple targets. Be careful using this with minions in the way though as it can lower damage by up to 50%. The best time to use your Q is when the enemy has either stepped on one of your traps or your support has engaged/positioned correctly in lane.
Trades can be iffy with Caitlyn. If you get engaged on you can still safely get out and still deal damage with your E-Q combo (net backwards yet Q still goes to the original length but shot from a farther distance) but it might be difficult for you to out-damage an ADC with useful skills. Caitlyn is the master of bullying others in lane due to the fact that the enemies can’t normally reach her. If they do though Caitlyn is in a world of hurt as she has no AS steroids or even helpful skills to help her win a trade. A Sivir or Lucian jumping on your face will hurt a lot and the only thing you can do about it is cry and try to net away to safety. As with any poke composition (or champion), the best way to counter is with engage.
One thing to remember with Caitlyn is that the laning phase is your best friend. Try not to push down the enemy tower until absolutely necessary as Caitlyn’s mid game is trash (to put it nicely). Once you hit level 6 the opposing lane (assuming one side didn’t win extremely hard against the other) should have equal, if not better, dueling power than you. Sit back, farm, and wait for the 25 minute mark to roll around.
You see that bush, hide in there. If you even look at an enemy you might die unless you got very fed during laning (which is absolutely possible). Caitlyn’s whole shtick is that she scales with items. She has no attack speed steroid, so that beautiful Infinity Edge you bought doesn’t start pulling its weight till you get your attack speed item. Once you purchase Statikk Shiv or Phantom Dancer it gets better but since you have (mostly) no attack damage steroid either it doesn’t help all that much. Once you get your third item late game Caitlyn starts to appear. You have good attack speed with good attack damage so your headshots really start to hurt, especially if you are ballsy and went Last Whisper third item.
During mid game you really just want to farm up as much as possible and try to keep vision control around objectives so they’re contestable. You can poke with Ace in the Hole to try to keep enemies at bay when you farm. You want to always have higher farm than your opposing laner, no exceptions. If the enemy ADC gets more farm than you then s/he can outduel you due to the item advantage. Don’t try to “group up and push mid” as so many want to do. Keep your lanes pushed to their towers, control jungle/vision, and farm until minions beg for mercy.
PRO TIP: Try not to use your Q in teamfights if you can. The cast/animation time is so long that your regular AA’s will do way more DPS during that time. Q also doesn’t help proc your headshots. Q is just for poke. Q is just for poke. Q IS JUST FOR POKE.
Now if it just so happens that your team doesn’t scale so well into late game and theirs does, you might just have to look for a good teamfight. If you have an early/mid game comp against a late game comp then mid game is where you would want to fight, unfortunately. Now assuming your genius last pick didn’t go graves top you should have some solid initiation. Before a teamfight even starts you’ll want to size up the enemy’s potential to dive you. If they’ve got a Vi or, god forbid, a Poppy, you’ll want to be more cautious approaching a teamfight, whereas if their front line is not looking to dive in deep, you can afford to start wearing down their tanks as the fight begins after the initial engage is over feel free to right click as much as you want.
Alright, now that early and mid are done, let’s get into the late game! Caitlyn’s early game is pretty good for an ADC, but that’s not where her true strengths lie. Lets examine what exactly it is a Marksman is:
Marksman: A ranged champion who relies on Auto Attacking from a distance and scales with items.
So what does a late game Caitlyn look like?
- 6 items
- 650 range (at all times!)
- Good late-game AD Steroid with headshot (since it scales with AD it is much more useful late game than any other time).
Everything you see right here, even the escape, means damage. 650 range gives you uncontested auto attacking superiority providing you can teamfight correctly (will get to that in a bit). Headshots means squishies get 3 shot and tanks will melt. Escape means you should never have an excuse for not autoing. If someone jumps on you, reposition with flash and E, that is WAY too much distance for anyone not named Akali to stick on you.
You may be wondering, why would I want to tell you how to teamfight with Caitlyn? All you do is sit back and auto right? Yes! Absolutely yes. There is literally nothing else to do. The mechanics of Caitlyn are not hard at all. You sit back and auto whoever is the highest priority target THAT IS SAFE TO HIT. Again, Caitlyn mechanics are not hard. ADC mechanics in general are.
You have 650 range (see how important this is??). If there is a Shyvanna/Mundo/melee bruiser that won’t just one shot you if you try to auto him, AUTO HIM OR HER. I don’t care if there is a half health Vayne 1000 units away, don’t go there. No, don’t chase that 1/3 HP Ahri. You sit back, and you auto whoever is closest to you or the highest priority target who is safe to do so.
Realize that teamfighting is half fighting, half team. Your team can clean up those low health targets and your tank/support will (should) peel for you. All you have to do is stay 650 range from your target at all times. Don’t get 550 range away from a Vayne, she will murder you dead. Stay 650 range away from whoever you are autoing AT ALL TIMES. And since you are autoing the person closest to you then no one should be able to kill you right? Right.
I hope I have now shown you how to play this champion.
This guide a general overview of how to play Caitlyn. In order to truly master her read other guides, watch streams, watch LCS. Do whatever it is that you need to do to understand this champion if you’re looking to improve. And of course, don’t forget to get out on the rift and actually play some games!