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Rammus has always been known as a tank. His abilities scale well off of tank gear. He has a great initiate with powerball, tremendous survivability and reflective damage with his shield, and a taunt. You will find a million guides on how to play Rammus as a tank. This is not one of them.
What people do not realize is that Rammus is possibly the best DPS jungler in the game? Why is that?
1. Rammus can sustain jungling indefinitely from level 1 without going back to buy. You do not need health potions, so your valuable gold can be saved.
2. Rammus can float between creep waves faster than any other jungler in the game, allowing him an advantage.
3. Rammus has tremendous AoE damage in the jungle, which is great for clearing.
4. Rammus can chase down any player, even without boots and do amazing damage, as well as early crowd control, allowing for great jungle ganks.
5. If you build Rammus like I do, you can dive players at full health under their turret and kill them and escape without being killed by a turret.
6. Rammus can burst down a turret faster than any other player in the game, making him an insane tower pusher.
7. If you build Rammus the way I do, you will be able to out farm most of the players in the game, due to your move/attack speed. This snowballs into an amazing ability to rack up kills.
8. No matter how fed an enemy player is, DPS Rammus still makes them his bitch.
The only downside to DPS Rammus is that people still want to treat him like a tank and build him like one. You have to toss the tank mentality right out the window. Rammus is not a tank. He is also not a team fighter. Your job is to find that one player and pin them down.
Talent Point Setup:
Your choice. Either 21/9/0 or 21/0/9 or 0/21/9. I prefer 21/0/9.
Smite/Flash. No exceptions.
Armor Pen Reds, put Armor in whatever slots you can fill beyond that and then attack speed after that. Generally speaking, you want the same set of runes that any jungler would use. You do not require special runes for Rammus, just your jungler set of runes, which usually has armor in it.
Lifesteal Scepter -> Wriggles Lantern
Attack Speed Boots
Phantom Dancer #2
Infinity Edge or Banshee's Veil
6th Item Logic:
Each game varies and your build needs to vary with it. You cannot deviate from my build in the first five items. Do not say "Oh, +3 boots work for me" or "I get force of nature". I will stab you in the face. Your first five items are built exactly like I said. The 6th item is based upon how well you're doing. If you need to up your damage to do well, buy the Infinity Edge. If you're getting hit hard when trying to engage a player, build a Banshee's Veil. If you're screwed entirely from being able to kill anyone, buy the Infinity Edge and proceed to backdoor towers. Never engage in a team fight unless you can clearly get out a live. You are not playing tank Rammus. Pretend he never existed.
Level 1: Pick up Shield (W)
Level 2: Powerball
Level 3/4/5: Taunt
Level 6: Ult
From there, max out Taunt, then Shield. Powerball is maxed out last, outside of the obvious levels to advance your ult.
Start at blue. Get a leash. Rammus can sustain without a leash, but it makes it easier. When there's a leash, do not activate your shield until blue begins to hit on you. Activating early kills your survivability. Smite when in range and clear the camp. You should hit level 2. IMMEDIATELY pick up powerball and begin rolling right away. Time is money. Powerball right into the big wolf, hopefully hitting all three. Activate your W as soon as they start hitting you and clear the camp. Cut across the lane, but don't powerball yet. Your ball will expire before you get there. The AoE damage is nice. Without boots, you want to powerball once you reach the half-way point of mid's lane. It'll land just in time. Clear Wraiths and then come back up for red. The appropriate method of clearing red is to powerbal into all three minions and then activate W on the first hit. Hit both side minions once and only once and then proceed to hit red. All it takes is one hit on the side minions from Rammus and the passive from W will kill them the rest of the way.
Why does this work?
Rammus is strong at every stage of his itemization levels. I do not recommend ganking until you get your Wriggle's Lantern. The opener levels makes it difficult for you to gank without your taunt, which you won't get until level 3. Also, if you follow my route, exactly, you can keep up with mid, or even surpass mid in levels. There's too much rich jungling going on to be penalized for a failed gank. Once you have Wriggle's + Boots, you are free to start destroying anyone and everyone. No tower dives until you have thornmail. With Wriggle's, you get lifesteal, AD and armor, which converts into more AD. Unless someone is begging to get ganked, I recommend waiting until at least level 5 to gank. If there's someone with an inch of life left, go get them.
As you grow in levels, you'll pick up your first phantom dancer. This means you'll clear your jungle faster, because powerball speed increases with Phantom Dancer speed. With the armor bonus of your W, you will melt people extremely fast. You'll be able to chase people down, even without powerball and you can hit like a truck without getting similar AD items that other bruisers get.
It seems that right when you pick your next item is when you right when you would have otherwise fell behind. Right when AD carries can overwhelm you, you should have your thornmail, which turns them from overwhelming you, to getting 3-shot. Yes, that's right. Champs like Caitlyn, Trist, or any fragile AD carry can frequently get 3-shot at this stage. They start hitting harder, which means that while you're critting them in the face for massive damage, they're killing themselves on your W and the thornmail, reflecting up to almost half the damage that they would have dealt to you. Every time Rammus fights someone, it is like 2v1'ing the player, except the player is playing both teams.
You have to know when ganking opportunities persist. If you're dying because you thought you were invinceable, you're wrong. You need to find that guy who is sitting there by themself, with no real method of escaping. Even if they flash, you're running at them with up to 900 move speed, to catch them anyways. Taunt, attack, shield and ult. You will laugh at how fast they die.
Your job is to still beat others on CS while ganking. With the jungle changes, you can fly between jungle routes extremely fast and they'll keep respawning. Keep your jungle cleared while you wait for ganking opportunities. With powerball, you can be anywhere with short notice. Camping in a side bush for 3 minutes to wait for a gank is a good way to get yourself behind.
Rammus tips and tricks:
When you are ganking with powerball and a wave of minions blocks you from hitting an opponent, flash on top of them. It will stop them immediately and grant you a slight enough stun so you can taunt them. The combo is powerball, taunt, shields up and ult (r/w at the same time).
The harder an enemy hits, the harder they fall. You will mitigate a massive amount of physical damage with thornmail and your shield. You can take the hits from an enemy AD champ. If they become fed, this is great news for you, because now they will burst themselves down even harder. End-game build, you will have approximately a 2.0 attack speed, nearing almost 100% crit (If you got IE) and you'll be critting for somewhere between 400-500. That is upwards of almost 1000 damage per second. Combine that with your ult, doing 150+/sec, your W/Thornmail, reflecting unknown amounts of damage, you can easily take those squishy AD carries and drop them in the duration of your stun.
Thornmail, either by design or by bug, returns 30% of the damage a player would do you, if you were having zero armor. So, that player can end up receiving more damage than they're actually dealing to you. This is great news for you. The only way they can mitigate this is to stack Magic Resist, but then they can't carry as hard, and to be honest, it doesn't help that much. Thornmail reflective damage as well as W reflective damage is all magic. This makes it insanely difficult for champs to counter-build against you.