Why does it work
Well, Volibear has pretty hilarious AP Ratios. His R has a 125% AP Ratio, his E an 80% AP Ratio and his Passive double dips on the AP, as not does it have a 40% AP Ratio on every auto attack, it also gives you 4% Atk Speed per stack for each 100 AP you get on the bear.
This means if you get 2 AP items on the bear, and close into the 200 AP threshold, you essentially turn into an Irelia that has a really easy time keeping up her passive.
The core build is actually Chemtank into Hourglass, which sounds pretty fucking troll, but it's pretty good because you get a beefy shield with your E and Hourglass guarantees at least you get one per fight.
The third item will usually be Thornmail or Spirit Visage, depending if you are against heavy AD or not.
If your team falls really far behind, teamfights are pointless because Volibear really isn't anything special in fights either. He excels in early dives, but he is kinda like a Tryndamere who can stun people once or twice and hits considerably softer in full fledged fights.
In this scenario you should instead rush yourself a Nashors Tooth after the Hourglass and splitpush to your hearts content . Ignore fights, pay attention to the minimap and hope your team can do anything if the enemy comes to collapse on your position. Volibear is always a great duelist, being allowed to win even at a gold deficit against champions who are arguably better duelists themselves, such as Fiora for example, with pretty much just right clicking. Of course Fiora is still favored, but the entire encounter will 100% depend on good Riposte usage.
Either way, your build will usually look like
Lucidity – Chemtank – Hourglass – Visage – Thornmail – Optional item
Lucidity – Chemtank – Hourglass – Nashors Tooth – AP item – AP item
Don't fucking fight until level 3. You can start W against champs like Wukong and Fiora and try to trade with them every time they come to poke you, but don't even try to all in them before you have all of your basic abilities. Volibear really isn't a champion until he gets Q W and E.
Early laning is super easy. Slowpush the first 2 waves, then hardshove the Cannon wave and go into the River if your jungler is around, if not, go back and buy yourself a Dorans Ring, Cloth Armor or Boots. Ward the tribush if on Blue side, or the pixel brush if on Red, try to spot the enemy jungler if you can and help your jungler fight for the scuttle if he is around. Volibear is super strong in early skirmishes, pair him up with an Elise jungle or something and you're virtually unbeatable at a scuttle fight.
Go back to the lane, and you'll nearly always be behind a level, this will make the enemy try to force a trade because they have a level advantage, and the cute thing about Volibear is that doing so is nearly always a mistake. Sure, some champions will brute force you like top lane Olaf, but some other champions who would otherwise hardwin said all-in, like Shens and even Darius, will get decimated and potentially forced to flash, even while being one level up on you. It is important that you don't get discouraged with their upfront damage, and that you at least go even in your life total in these scenarios.
What is AP Voli good at doing
Hardshoving the wave, roaming mid for dives, TP'ing bot to turn around a gank if need be, and most of all, annoying the enemy jungler.
A special perk Volibear has over other juggernauts and tanks is that he can rush Seekers Armguard into otherwise hard AD matchups. It's honestly pretty hilarious because you become impossible to trade with in lane. If they decide to go for a war off attrition and get themselves a Vamp Scepter, that's perfectly ok, because you just need to save 800 gold and get yourself a Bramble Vest.
What does AP Voli struggle against
Ranged top laners in general, but it's honestly not that bad. He can shove the wave and set up ganks and dives for his jungler, if they ever decide to come top. He can farm creeps with his E and he can all-in squishies if they overstep. I recommend maxing Q over W in these matchups.
Teamfight dirsuptors, like Alistar, shuts you down pretty hard. I wouldn't recommend teamfighting in general unless your team is already ahead.
What runes to take
Against melees, take either Grasp, Conqueror or PtA. Both of them are honestly pretty fine and Grasp is considerably more popular right now, but I prefer Conqueror myself.
Press the Attack is great into squishies because if you get close to them you one-shot them from full with pretty much no counterplay, but Conqueror is the only rune that allows you to win extended fights against champions like Darius and Fiora, as the healing and AD/AP are stellar for longer fights.
Grasp is great if you intend on staying in lane. Probably the best splitpusher rune honestly, because you always have a target to proc against OR you get a free tower.
Against ranged, always take PtA. If you get to them, you want to kill them as fast as you possibly can. If you decide to engage, do not back out under any cicumstance.
Secondary runes are a lot less flexible.
You will nearly always go Precision + Resolve or Resolve + Precision.
You pretty much NEED Presence of Mind to get mana sustain during fights, and PoM has great synergy with your passive because if the Passive hits an enemy champion while you are farming creeps, it procs PoMs passive and you get 2.5 times your regular mana sustain.
You NEED Revitalize since it has such great synergy with your W and E.
You need either Second Wind against Ranged OR Bone Plating against Melee.
You need Legend Tenacity. Like, the only time it is ok not to take this rune on Volibear is when the enemy team has literally no Crowd Control at all, in which case you can run Legend Alacrity, but I'd always rune Tenacity just in case.
Then, you'll pretty much always run Last Stand if you went PtA or Conqueror OR Shield Bash if you went Grasp.
Lastly the stat runes are pretty straightforward. You go Ability Haste into Double Armor or Ability Haste into Double MR depending on the matchup. Ignore the AD and the Atk Speed, you deal more than enough damage to the minions anyway. If you are unsure on who is going top or if the enemy top deals mixed damage like Shen, go Double Armor since that also reduces the overall damage from the creeps and the towers.
What boots to buy
Now, most people just autopilot and buy themselves either Mercs or Tabis every game, depending on whom they are playing against.
If the enemy team has a lot of CC, you should be running Legend tenacity. Infact, you should be running Legend Tenacity almost every time anyway.
If they have a ton of auto attackers, you should just buy a Bramble Vest.
The only correct option is Ionian Boots of Lucidity. Buy these boots literally every game. The CDR they provide you is much more valuable than a meas
If you went the Tankier route, then you have some good options.
Randuins suck fucking dick in this game right now, but if the enemy team has Yasuo and a Crit ADC, then it becomes a fine choice.
Gargoyle Stoneplate will net you some 800-1000 HP with the Shield Active, and some much needed resistances.
Sterak's is also quite good, as it also grants you some more damage as well as shield similar to Gargoyle, and the buildpath is quite nice.
If you went for the AP Splitpusher route, then basically anything that gives you some AP and tankiness is good.
Lich bane is full meme but you fucking one shots some bitches with that shit.
Rylais and Cosmic Drive both give you added chasing power, and makes you quite annoying to deal with it in fights.
What about other Mythics
Sunfire – Fine if the enemy team is literally full melee.
Frostfire – Decent, but Volibear doesn't have trouble sticking to his targets once he gets to them.
Stridebreaker – Honestly really fucking good. I still prefer Chemtank but this would be my second choice.
Trinity Force – If you want to go AD, then I'd go Stridebreaker, but this would be my second choice.
Divine Sunderer – Sounds great on paper. Sucks fucking dick, don't buy it.
Prowler's Claw – Hilarious. Buy it for fun. Actually has a one-shot combo against targets without tenacity with E-Q-Prowlers-AA-R-W.
Duskblade – Ninja bear, cute stuff. Buy it for fun.
Riftmaker – Surprisingly good, but only against targets without mobility.
All in all, just go Chemtank
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