SMITE Item Builds Strategy Guide

by CunninglyPunning

I find itemisation in Smite incredibly fun, but also incredibly frustrating when it’s the cause of losses in my games – because it’s so preventable. I think in part, the current culture of building is also flawed at earlier levels. It’s a process of eventual self-discovery to a truth that goes against what the early (though necessary!) stages of autobuy and finding builds online leads you to believe. For this reason, I felt inspired to make a guide.

I’ve been paying attention to my matches, streamed games, and the comments on all of these, and I’ve noticed 3 types of people:

  • Entirely rip builds from smitefire/streamers/etc.
  • Have certain “builds” for single gods/types of gods/classes.
  • Theorycraft, however based on item-value itself.

I think at most levels of play, these are fine. However, these simply aren’t anywhere near optimal approaches to building. If you’re new, there’s little wrong with autobuy. Provided you are making the effort to learn, improve, and eventually move past autobuy. In the same vein, if you fall into any of the categories above this could take you very far. But I think all players should be eventually aiming to most past the above. And where to? The way I think about it is, all builds are counterbuilds.

All builds are counterbuilds

You should always be building to win the specific game you are playing. However, every game you play will have (1) different gods, (2) different skill levels for each character in a role, (3) a different pace of play and so on and so on…

So fundamentally, if you’re building to win a specific game, and specific games differ, at the very least your mindset should differ from game to game. You may end up building the same items, and potentially even for the same reason as a previous game, but only because this game and a previous game are similar enough in the challenges facing you. In other words, all building is counterbuilding!

Even if the challenge is, “they’re all really bad so I don’t need to worry too much and still win”, you’re by definition building based on what’s in front of you right now in your role. Chances are, you’ll be defaulting to whatever items are just good for your role, which is by definition at the very least playing to your strengths given (many) enemy weaknesses to turn the tide. All building is counterbuilding is a mindset that puts you into the frame of building relative to what’s going on in the game – even if that’s very little.

But wait…surely I’m supposed to build to my character/class/etc first!

Of course! And this isn’t the way this term is commonly used, but the truth is, this is counterbuilding. Building is always a matter of (1) enhancing your strengths/mitigating your flaws and (2) mitigating enemy strengths/enhancing enemy weaknesses in order to give yourself the advantageThese are two sides of the same coin. If I’m playing Anubis, building Bancroft’s Talon + Typon’s Fang works with his passive to create insane lifesteal (enhancing his strength). It mitigates his weakness (how easy he is to kill when static). Build a Divine Ruin on top of that against a Hades, and Hades now heals 40% less. Mitigating the enemy’s strength. I’m now significantly more viable against this character in a matchup.

So clearly, you always need to weigh enhancing your strengths against mitigating enemy weaknesses. As a Sylvanus, you’re never going to be able to out DPS an Ah Puch. It’ll always be worth therefore enhancing your strength in peel over trying to out DPS an Ah Puch. So build your protections and play support rather than gunning for Sylvanus ADC. But thinking about it in this way, if there’s a problematic Ah Puch on their team, building Pestilence to prevent his healing will help that little bit more.

Why this framing is useful.

So because of the above, I think it makes a couple things clear. Most importantly, there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ X build. You could be playing a four-ring hecate Olorun with Typhon’s Fang + Bancroft’s Talon, but if you’re struggling up against a healing heavy comp, a Toxic Blade would do you better than one of your rings.

From here, you eventually start being able to entirely counter specific gods. Facing a Da Ji or Loki as a warrior/tank, or even a squishy who’s struggling? Build Hide of the Nemean Lion. The obvious example here is anti-heal. The reluctance to build it when faced with healers such as Aphrodite or Hel is befuddling, only because at mitigating 40% of healing you’re nearly always doing more effective damage than building whatever you’d build instead.

There are countless ways to adapt a build to the game at hand, but thinking about all building as counterbuilding makes this intuitive. If a single player on their team is storming, build a defensive item against them. Running a double magical duo comp? Well Spear of the Magus’ passive now lets your carry do that 7.5% extra damage. Someone countering every ultimate of yours because of an Aegis + Relic Dagger? Here’s where CDR may help. Etc. etc. Listing all the possible ways to counterbuild is important, but once you get into this idea and look for reasons to ensure every single item you pick serves a purpose in this game, it starts becoming second-nature. That purpose initially begins with “flat pen is nice early against this squishy and works with my kit”, and frankly that’s more useful (and a much better framework for the future) than “this is a nice item let me build it”

Where to go from here…

I think expecting all players to have an in-depth knowledge of abilities of every god is ridiculous. I’m nowhere near there yet. However, what’s helped me build effectively is broadly knowing (1) which items serve which broad purpose and (2) which items are just good on which types of gods. The final, and most important rules are (3) build for who you wanna hit and (4) build for whose gonna hit you.

These 4 things can be taken to their extremes – knowing every god in detail and building appropriately. But to be honest, you only need to know vague categories to start. (2) is honestly pretty simple. Mages do ability damage. Hunters to basic attack damage. Supports like protections. Warriors tend to like a bit of both. Assassins either do ability or basic attack damage. There are ofc important exceptions. Mage ADCs build rings, ability based hunters can do well with some ability items.

(1) is covered by being able to select options in the in-game builder tbh. If you wanna see which items include penetration, Smite thankfully lets you see just that. With (3) and (4), at the highest levels of Smite this highly complex, but I think the categories below are useful starting points.

Hitting Squishes – Flat Penetration

Rushing Chronos Pendant is great and all, but by level 20 Hel, for example, with 0 protection items has 61 physical protections and 58 magical protections. Your magical attack that does 1000 damage is now doing 633. If you build 2 flat pen items each with 10 flat pen, that goes down to 41 physical and 38. The same magical attack is now dealing 724 damage. That’s 91 more damage. Even being generous and taking an ability with 100% magical scaling, such as Nox’s Siphon Darkness, if you swapped out Divine Ruin and Spear of the Magus for Rod of Tahuti and Doom Orb, that’s 105 extra magical power at 20 more magical protections. Your 1105 damage is now doing 699 damageAnd that’s ignoring all passives. If you’re building Spear of the Magus and Divine ruin, your target is now taking 7.5% higher damage from all sources and presumably healing 40% less.

I don’t plan on explaining this in detail for the others, but this is to highlight exactly why all of this information is so useful. Smite’s mechanics are built such that penetration is king.

Good, all-round items are Spear of the Magus (probably the best right now) as well as Spear of Myrddin or Spear of Desolation if your ability burst damage is very high. Flat pen is wide in terms of viable physical items, so pair flat pen with other item benefits. Crusher, Jotunn’s (for the CDR), Stone-Cutting Sword (because of its passive) are all good.

Hitting Tankies – Percentage Pen

This one is clearly obvious and goes without saying. If anything, it’s even more important as it’s the only way you’ll be doing large amounts of damage to tanks.

Good items are Soul Reaver (probably your go to) and Obsidian Shard for countering strong, heavily protected tanks for magical. As with above, % pen has an even wider viable pool for physical % pen so pick these items along with other benefits. Titan’s Bane is a good anti-heavy armour item, but Heartseeker, Serrated Edge, Soul Eater, Atalanta’s Bow, Fail-Not and are all strong items with various purposes.

Hitting w/ Basic Attack Damage – Power and Attack Speed

Another simple one, if your character likes basic attacks attack speed is gonna ramp up your DPS.

Good items are Atalanta’s Bow and Qin Sais for physical. The ring tree is strong for magical. Ring of Hecate is busted right now.

Hitting w/ Ability Damage – Power

Even simpler. If you’re a damaging character who does ability based damage, power is nice. The word of warning is that more power =/= always better. See the maths with flat pen above. For this reason, I think here is where you want to pay attention either to other features or specific passives for each character.

For pure unmitigated power however, Rod of Tahuti, Doom Orb, Warlock’s Staff, Book of Thoth (the single most) and Soul Reaver provide the most. For physical, Transcendence provides by far the most. Arondight, Bloodforge, Heartseeker are also strong.

Being Hit by Anyone – Protections

A bit like power, the idea of protections is simple at first but then this demands paying attention to passives and characters. If you’re being burst down by a mage, build magical protections. If you’re being damaged by a hunter, build physical. Even as a squishy, a single protection item can help keep you alive if you’re otherwise nothing but fodder. In general, the more you need to peel (take damage from your teammates), the more protections you need. Supports peel a lot, and so have the highest protections. Warriors peel quite a bit due to being on the frontline, so they also need quite a bit.

Because the logic is simple, balancing protection items is where this gets a bit more complicated.

In general, combined items (both magical + physical / magical + power / physical + power / all three) provide less total protection but are quicker to build and take up a slot less than one magical and one physical item or one protection item and one power item. For this reason, they’re often better in hybrid builds (warriors, or even assassins or some mages operating as bruisers). More so than ever now, most characters want to deal *some* damage so combined items let you save up a slot to do just this.

Good items for physical protections are Breastplate of Valor (likely your go to), Hide of the Nemean Lion (who’d ever thought we’d see the day?) and Contagion for antiheal. For magical Genji’s Guard and Pestilence (for antiheal) are two good examples. For both protections, Mantle of Discord, Gauntlet of Thebes and Spirit Robe are good examples. For power + physical, Glad Shield, Tyrannical Plate Helm and Lotus Crown (for healers) are good. For power + magical, Void Stone, Runic Shield and Ancile are good items.

What about all the others???

There are plenty other super important stats, but in truth I think to some degree, these are all now character-specific. I’ll break these down as much as I can.

Antiheal: The most important one. Notice the bold here. Build antiheal. If you do 1000 damage, but then they heal 400, you’ve only dealt 600 damage. You could build a *whole new magical item* at 100% scaling that does an additional 145 damage, and you’ve still only dealt 745 damage. OR you could have done your 1000 damage with antiheal, they only heal 240, and deal 760 damage. Importantly, anti-heal counters lifesteal. Its ability to essentially do so much higher effective damage is why against a healer, or healing-heavy comp, there’s no real reason not to build antiheal.

Divine Ruin is your typical go to for magical damage dealers. Brawlers Beatstick for physical damage dealers. The others are: Contagion (physical protection); Pestilence (magical protection); Shadowsteel shuriken (attack speed/crit), and Toxic Blade (attack speed).

Crit: Characters with in-built crit build this very nicely in general, as it tends to enhance their kit without much of a trade-off (e.g. Mercury) – giving them mad damage. More broadly, ADCs can build crit as an option to up their DPS, though occasionally this is at the cost of item utility, or both types of penetration. For this reason, crit tends to be better against other squishes especially when you have a lead or when a lack of DPS is the biggest inequality. I think a lot of the crit items are very viable right now. Shadowsteel Shuriken (for anti-heal), Wind Demon (additional attack speed and movement speed), Rage (highest crit %), Deathbringer (to up crit DPS even further) and Malice (characters like Mercury who benefit from both crit and ability-based attacks) as well as Fail-Not for sure are all viable.

HP5 / MP5: Great for health/mana sustain, keeping you alive and casting abilites for longer. For this reason, supports/solo laners in general like this more. Dominates Assault but can also shine on solo lane. Shield of Regrowth, Stone of Gaia and Gauntlet of Thebes are all great for this.

Health: Health outclasses protections in the early game, and is also a better counter to comps or gods with high penetration, as penetration ignores protections but doesn’t do anything about health. The optimal full-tanky build for this reason combines health and protections. Health is generally paired with other features. For this reason, health is pretty widespread but concentrated around your tankies (supports/warriors/tanky mages/bruiser builds). Items like Genji’s Guard provide health + protections. The hammer tree (and sledge in particular <3) is great for providing health + power for physicals, and items like Rod of Asclepius apply health + power.

Movement Speed: Movenment speed is good for chasing people down and running away. For this reason, it is situational but gods with inbuilt speed (like Poseidon) and junglers in general build it well.

For this reason, pair with the reason you want to run people down. For magical damage dealing, Doom Orb is a strong item, or Hastened Ring for Mage ADCs. For basic attack dealers, all the items in the Katana tree are strong. Winged Blade, Toxic Blade (for antiheal) and Witchblade all provide some health, attack speed, and movement, so that makes them fairly flexible picks that helps grant movement speed.

CDR: CDR I think is simultaneously overrated on most gods, yet for this reason entirely underresimated on others. Gods with very high impact cooldowns (e.g. Hun Batz’s ult) benefit from this nicely. Gods with long cooldowns or spammable abilities can benefit from this. If general, CDR is nice later on because in teamfights, being able to spam abilities more often lets you do more damage. Especially if you’re finding teamfights are fairly extended, CDR can be a good pick.

Chronos Pendant (the go to) and Spear of Desolation for magical, and Jotunn’s Wrath (the go to) as well as Arondight / Hydra’s Lament for physical are good items.

For example, I personally like rushing Chronos Pendant + Shoes of Focus + Mage’s Blessing with Poseidon on Joust. Knowing Poseidon is an ult bot yet that he’s easily countered by Aegis, this strategy allows me to keep getting my ult off even given Aegis (and I spam it constantly). If any one on their team doesn’t build aegis, then they’re now heavily punished. It also means tanks such as Cerb or Ares who are countered by beads now either shine if the team builds Aegis and no beads, or if they decide to beads instead they become my prime target for ulting every 50 or so seconds. Pre-level 12, this strategy has been highly successful for me. By level 12, I have my flat pen anyway.

But it’s an example of a situational pick when CDR shines. What CDR isn’t that great for is the early laning phase when you’re clearing minions, poking the enemy, making rotations and generally trying to conserve mana and make sure every use of your abilities is considered. A 3-5 second difference shouldn’t change your gameplay too much.

Passives: I note this down because effectively making use of item passives not only offers exceptionally powerful counterplay, but at lower levels in all honesty can be the difference between turning a match-up you *technically* lose to one you win with ease. A great example is Hydra’s Lament.

Hydra’s Lament makes your next basic attack damage for the next 8s after using an ability deal 40% more damage. Gods that chain their abilities with follow-up basics/have many AA cancels (Loki, Da Ji, Awilix, Susano) build this *really* well and it makes their next basic essentially give them the damage of a really good ability. It’s a must-build (for the large majority of games, no such thing as a 100% must-build!) on some of these characters. If you see builds online for these gods, they’ll likely have these items on for this reason.

Because passives are so versatile, there’s no hard and fast rule for them. However, when paying attention to premade builds, pay attention to passives that really make the build! Learning items takes experience (no one wants to sit there and memorise items), but I think the items worth learning first (and are easiest to learn first!) are items with passives that really, really, help gods. All antiheal items for one work on the basis of a passive. Letting you stick to gods with items like Hastened Katana makes it a good pick on AA gods such as Arachne or Mercury, which is why you’ll see these in builds.

Build Order

Finally, a note on build order. I think this is actually one of the most complex parts of building and worth paying attention to builds for. But in general, the simple rule is build according to the progression of the game.

With Conquest, in the laning phase, you’re only playing against the other character in your role(s) and taking ganks from the jungler. Towards the mid-game, you’ll see 2v2 and 3v3 skirmishes. Later in the game, 5v5s become more common. For this reason, I’ll want to build against my lane counterpart first, then widen my focus as the game. This is why in general, as a squishy, you should start with flat pen then build into % pen. Or as a tanky, build the defence for whoever’s hitting you the hardest (e.g. physical defence against another physical solo laner) before widening to the other (magical defence) against late-game burst damage.

There is of course more to build order than this, but it follows the same logic. Anubis is very weak until he gets his lifesteal on, so irrespective of who is opposite you it can be advantageous to get a lifesteal item (Bancroft’s Talon) online early so you don’t feed. Or, AA assassins heavily struggle with jungle farming, but Golden Blade makes it 10x easier. Get your Golden Blade online quickly for this reason!

It’s all the same logic. You’re mitigating your weaknesses and enhancing your strengths to deal with the enemy’s weaknesses and limiting their strength to turn the tide in your favour. You are counterbuilding. The extent to which you need to do either depends on the game and your character. Anubis’ lack of mobility makes him vulnerable against nearly everyone, so it’s worth doing first often. However, sometimes even this can be less important if you’re up against a mid-laner who’s healing constantly that Divine Ruin may work better.

Moving Forward

Will all this in mind, I think a fairly easy starting point is just basic theorycrafting. On an average game as a midlaner, I know it’ll make sense for me to build Mage’s Blessing -> T1 Spear of the Magus -> Shoes of Focus -> Spear of the Magus -> Divine Ruin -> Soul Reaver then save my last 3 items (assuming I’ll sell Maeg’s Blessing and Shoes of Focus) for something like Chronos Pendant, Rod of Tahuti or a Staff or Myrddin. I leave my options open in case I wanna pick that defensive item against a storming assassin or Obsidian Shard against a crazy hard-to-kill tank.

This is basic, but this is counterbuilding! I’m doing what I’m doing because I’m playing against a squishy at first, then up against tankies, and am a magic dealer looking to leverage my higher ability scaling against other characters.

This approach will lead you building pretty similar to a lot of smitefire builds, and to be honest, maybe at times slightly sub-optimally because you didn’t really that one god builds that one item really well. There’s nothing wrong with referring to smitefire for this reason in particular. As bad as Silverbranch Bow is, Apollo actually builds it quite well.

This guide at times probably reads from super-beginner to fairly advanced, but that’s because I truly believe it can help everyone. Most players eventually grow into thinking this way, yet I think Smitefire stubborness is at least a part of why I still see antiheal never come on or come on so late game after game, even for those who know all of these basics. Hopefully this at least helps to foster that change in mindset.

I think this mindset will absolutely see you building significantly better as you progress throughout smite. The more you learn items and learn gods, having this mindset makes your building far better than any of the initial 3 strategies. Soon you’ll be confident in running that rogue build because you *know* just how impactful it could be in this game. So remember, keep counterbuilding!

\Disclaimer\**

There’s a good chance I’ve forgotten items, my maths could be off at times, or forgotten certain mechanics. I’m not an expert by any means! I’m just a keen player and learner of Smite, and have been playing a lot of close attention to streams and competitive gameplay lately. I also think all of the above is a way of vocalising what I think is the intuition that players have after 100s of hours of Smite. Eventually building gets easier and easier, but I believe it’s precisely because at some point there is a change in mindset. However, given this I could ofc be inncorrect.

I’m unranked (I avoid playing ranked in all of my games for various reasons), but do consider myself to be at least strong when it comes to smite theoretically. Though I play support characters *significantly less*, so my knowledge there is fundamentally weaker (especially items I’ve forgotten/misunderstood!) But feel free to doubt my credentials tbh. Please definitely feel free to correct/disagree, I won’t take it that personally.

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