Teamfight Tactics Vanguard Carry Challenger Guide

by FearGorm

Hi! I’m “Riot thatsPRIMAL” and I’m Challenger Set 2 on NA. I work at Riot but not on TFT, I’m just a fan of the game. Many of you will be experiencing Set 3 for the first time today so to help you get that valuable LP I’ve put together a guide to one of my favorite family of compositions, Vanguard carries. If you want to see it in action, check out my stream at twitch.tv/thatsPRIMAL – I stream almost daily and I’m online now. I’m going to also post a guide on 6 star guardian 4 sorc, and a guide to Lucian cybernetic carry this week if people like this kind of content.

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Core Principles

  • Get 4 Vanguards (Jayce, Mordekaiser, Wukong and Leona/Poppy) ASAP to unlock the massive 250 armor bonus, which will allow you to outright win vs most comps midgame, and minimize the health loss when you lose.
  • Focus on 3 starring Jayce and Morde: Because it is the beginning of set 3 and there aren’t as many unique champions as there were at the end of Set 2, it is much easier to get 3 stars of champions in general.
  • Play space pirates alongside your vanguards levels 3 through 7 to accumulate a huge gold advantage that allows you to either 3 star Jayce, 3 star Morde, or go 8 without a huge cost to your economy.
  • Prioritize items that deal damage over time for Morde, or damage + sustain items on Jayce, to win fights.
  • Roll at 6 to hit Morde 3 and Jayce 3.

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Strengths

  • Utilizes most items very well
  • Reliably strong midgame and strong econ due to pirates and core units (Jayce, Morde) being easy to 2 star
  • Strong vs infiltrators and snipers due to high armor
  • Fun as hell – watching Jayce 1 shot 3 units at once will never get old. He’s like sorcerer Aatrox from set 1.

Weaknesses

  • If you force Jayce 3 and Morde 3 when other people are forcing, you could end up in a 6th or 7th place scenario (see below for alternatives to Jayce 3 and Morde 3).
  • No backline access without infiltrator Jayce or clever Jayce positioning means this comp can struggle vs blasters (who generally deal percentage or true damage).

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Key Items

  • Gunblade: In my opinion, this is the best Jayce item. This will not only give Jayce more damage, it will also help him stay alive longer to get fight-changing ults off. The reason this works better on Jayce than other units is he has huge armor with 4 Vanguard, so every point of health he regains will be worth more than it would be on low armor units – it takes more damage to kill a 1000 hp unit with 300 armor than a 1000 hp unit with 50 armor.
  • Morellos: Very good item on Morde due to the area of effect nature of his ult and the fact that he stays alive so long, meaning he’s constantly reapplying the true damage and healing debuff.
  • Ionic Spark: This item was updated in set 3 to also reduce the MR of enemy units by 50%. That’s huge, and synergizes perfectly with Morde and Jayce because both of their ults deal magic damage. Prioritize putting this on Morde, as he is the unit who will likely live the longest. It’s ok on Jayce, just not as good.
  • Dragon’s claw: Set 3 has abundant magic damage (even from sources you might intuitively think of as dealing physical damage, like Jinx or Kaisa). Putting this on a vanguard, who already has a massive amount of armor, will greatly boost survivability against all comps. Put this on Jayce or Morde.
  • Deathcap or Jeweled Gauntlet: Great items for Jayce – either one will allow him to consistently one shot even frontliners.
  • Bramble Vest: An amazing early game item for snowballing. Put this on Morde since he’s very tanky and will reflect a lot of damage as the fight goes on. Synergizes well with Ionic since Ionic reduces magic resistance and bramble is a magic item.

Also good:

  • Titan’s Resolve: Morde will stack this every fight because he’s usually the last man standing – getting extra damage and resistances will allow him to clean up fights fairly reliably. Also good on Jayce (just not as good as sometimes you will want to position Jayce to avoid damage, meaning he won’t stack Titan’s Resolve).
  • Guardian’s Angel (GA): Decent on Jayce as an insurance policy against burst spells that might kill him before he can heal off of gunblade. I think it falls off once he reaches 3 stars, as he’ll already have so much health, armor (and if you get dragon’s claw, MR) that he will rarely die early anyway.
  • Shojins: Amazing on Ashe and Lulu – this will make them CC bots who can carry your team with utility. Not bad on Jayce or Morde, but you’ll want to prioritize other items for them, and you won’t want a Shojins stuck on a Jayce or Morde that you cannot sell.
  • Runaans: Good on Jhin (if he has Infinity Edge) or Ashe/Lulu (if she has Shojin’s). Jhin will add a lot of damage from this addition, Ashe/Lulu will add a lot more CC, as it will act as a second Shojin’s. Also note that on Set 3, Runaan’s additional attack deals 70% of the original autoattack’s damage, up from 60%. The difference is significant, try it yourself!
  • Infiltrator Spatula on Jayce: OP if you can get him, makes Jayce an assassin who can bypass the front line and 1 shot the backline. Not easy to get because reliant on spat, but perhaps the best Jayce item (sort of like Olaf from set 1).

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Level 8 Comp

There are 3 ideal variants of this comp, and all of them involve 4 Vanguards

  • 4 Vanguards (Jayce 3, Morde 3), 4 Celestials (Lulu, Ashe, Kassadin, Rakan)
    • Based on my experience, this is the strongest variant of the comp – the huge healing buff will mean that Jayce is healing back to full with each ult (especially if he has gunblade), and Lulu and Ashe are amazing units who will constantly be applying CC, giving Morde and Jayce time to do work. Kass is also a reasonably strong unit who applies additional CC. If you don’t have Lulu, Xin or Xayah are fine placeholders. If you run this, I highly recommend putting a dragon’s claw on Jayce to deal with not having magic resistance.
  • 4 Vanguards, (Jayce 3, Morde 3), 4 Mystics (Lulu, Soraka, Karma, Sona)
    • This is also very strong but less consistently achievable since it relies on finding Lulu. There are only 4 Mystics so if you don’t find Lulu, you cannot run it, whereas there are 6 Celestials to choose from.
  • 4 Vanguards (Jayce 2, Morde 2), 2 Snipers (Jhin, Ashe 3), Miscellaneous (for example, you can add a Lulu and Soraka for Celestials and Mystics).
    • This is what you run if you see that you’re not going to be able to 3 star Morde or Jayce because they’re too contested. Ashe with Shojin + Runaan’s (and another Shojin if you can get it) will constantly stun teams, and if you get her to 3 stars, each of those ults will do 700 damage per unit!
    • If you happen to get items for infinity edge, Jhin can also hard carry your team, but be mindful of enemy Infiltrators and Blitzcranks!

What to prioritize on first carousel, in order of priority:

  1. Rod: Builds into 4 key items: Ionic, Morellos, Deathcap, Jeweled Gauntlet. Ionic can snowball early rounds, so build it ASAP.
  2. Cloak: Builds into 2 key items: Ionic and Dragon’s claw
  3. Chain: Builds into Bramble (best), Titan’s Resolve or GA
  4. Belt: Significantly worse than Rod or Cloak, but still decent. Can build Morellos which is key. Warmogs isn’t bad on Morde, and Redemption is good on one of your noncarry Vanguards. Redemption has been reworked and is much better than old Redemptions – it heals your entire team when the Redemption carrier dies and has no cast time. Don’t put this on Morde or Jayce, as they’ll survive until the end.

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Stage by Stage breakdown:

Early Game (Stage 1 and 2)

  1. If you can make an ionic spark or bramble, make them immediately – they can allow you to win rounds outright. Ionic is great on infiltrators since they generally get to carries, and then when the carries ult, they take damage. Bramble should go on a tank, like malphite. You want this item to get onto Morde, so if you don’t have to put it on a Leona or Poppy, don’t, since you don’t want to have to sell a 2 star Poppy/Leona to itemize Morde.
  2. Pick up Graves or Darius so that you can start snowballing a gold advantage the moment you get Jayce. You can also just run both Graves and Darius, but keep in mind that you’ll want to sell one of them the moment you get Jayce, so it’s potentially wasteful. I prefer Graves over Darius – his ult is more reliably impactful, he costs less, and has blaster, which is amazing with an early Ezreal or Lucian.
  3. Scout the lobby for infiltrators and Blitzcrank’s, and consider throwing a Vanguard in your back line to bait them.

Mid Game (Stage 3)

  1. If you already have a pair of Jayce 1 or Morde 1s, consider going to 6 and rolling down to 0 at 3-2 to get them to 2 star. Ideal comp here is 4 Vanguards (including Jayce and Morde), 2 Pirates (Jayce + Graves or Darius), and another strong individual unit from earlier (Blitz, Lucian, Kaisa, Ashe).
  2. At 3-2, you should be strong enough to winstreak, and even if you don’t winstreak, you’ll be getting an average of 2-3 gold per round from pirates, which is huge – that’s the equivalent of winning 2-3 rounds!
  3. If you rolled down to 0, econ back up to at least 30 gold before you start rolling again.
  4. SCOUT! If you see too many other Mordes or Jayces, you may need to pivot to Ashe+Jhin carry. In my opinion, 2 players can afford to go Morde 3 without cannibalizing each other 2 much,, and 1 player can afford to go Jayce. This is the really skillful part of the game, and games are won or lost by the decision you make. I could easily write a whole post about scouting, economy and comp selection, but this is already long enough, so here’s a short primer on how to think here. Consider:
    1. How many other players currently have Jayce or Morde
    2. Whether those players look like they actually plan on holding Jayce and Morde, or are just playing them for a little while as they pursue another comp. (For example, if they have a Jayce 2 but the rest of their units are sorcerers, they probably are going to sell Jayce, and maybe it’s worth waiting until they do that to roll).
    3. Do you have enough gold to pursue Jayce or Morde 3? If you rolled down at 3-2 and still don’t have at Morde 2, you’re probably not getting Morde 3 any time soon, same goes for Jayce.

Mid-Late (Stage 4)

  1. Stay at 6 until you get Morde 3 or Jayce 3. If it looks like you’re not going to hit them, consider holding Ashe for Ashe 3 instead.
  2. Go 7 (if looking for Jayce but already have Morde 3) between 4-1 and 4-5, and finish either Jayce or Morde 3 (ideally both). If you get one but not the other, but are close to the other (say you have 7 Mordes), stay at 7 until you get the second 3 star.
  3. Go 8 once you hit Jayce and Morde 3 OR go 8 if you only have either Jayce or Morde 3, but got a Lulu at 7. You’ll go 8 because you can run 4 mystics immediately, which is a big power spike. In some games, you may even want to just run Lulu+Ashe+1 Mystic+4 Vanguards at 7, it really depends on your health and gold relative to the lobby.

Late Game:

  1. Hopefully by this point you already have Jayce 3 and Morde 3, and are just looking for Lulu, which gives you the strongest variant of 4 Celestial, or 4 Mystic.

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Win (1st places) Conditions:

  1. Morde 3 and Jayce 3
  2. Morde 3 or Jayce 3 and Ashe 3
  3. Morde 3 or Jayce 3 and Lulu 2 with at least 1 Shojin;s.
  4. Note that with just a Jayce 3 or Morde 3, you can top 3 with good items.

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Positioning:

  1. Frontline your Vanguards, with Morde and Jayce in the middle to maximize the impact of their area of effect abilities
  2. (200IQ only): If you know who you’re about to face, place Jayce on the far right or far left so he runs past the front line and one shots the backline.
  3. Vs infiltrators + mech pilots, backline your vanguards so they kill off the infiltrators and don’t get stuck on the gundam.

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