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Perfecting Gangplank Barrel Placement to Land Epic Combos

Published: April 1, 2022
How to Ensure You have the Best Gangplank Barrel Placement for Your Combos in Top Lane League of Legends

Gangplank's powder kegs are the core aspect of his kit, and while they're an extremely powerful ability, they mean nothing if they don't hit. On the other hand, they are highly flexible in how you can line them up. But that means that playing the pirate requires knowing what barrel combos there are, how they work, and when to use and not use them.

And for that, you've come to the right place - this guide will teach you Gangplank's barrel combos, how to use them, and which situations each one is meant for. The pirate isn't at the top of the League of Legends roster in terms of number of combos, but it is crucial to understand which one to go for in any given situation.

Reminders - The Basics of Gangplank's Barrels

Starting with a reminder of some basic Gangplank tips on how the barrels function: Gangplank's E makes him place down a powder keg at a location. It is placed with 3 hitpoints, and loses 1 HP every 2/1/0.5s (at levels 1/7/13), down to 1. Gangplank can use his Q or basic attacks on his barrels, deducing 1 to their health bar. If that makes it reach 0, the powder keg explodes and Gangplank gets bonus movement speed and his passive refreshed. His enemies can also do the same, and them dealing the final blow to a barrel will instead disarm it.

Two barrels placed close to each other will form a chain, and detonating one will make each connect barrel explode in turn, regardless of its health (though each enemy can't be hit by more than one barrel at once).

Gangplank Barrel Icon with Fuse Lit

Upon exploding, a barrel will splash the damage of the attack that destroyed it, plus a flat amount against champions based on the rank of the ability. It also has 40% armor penetration, can critically strike, and slows enemies hit. Barrels don't apply on-hit effects, with the exception of Sheen items (including converting Lich Bane to physical damage, for anyone playing AP Gangplank).

Now, with that out of the way, we're looking at the question of "How to make the barrels explode before the opponents can disarm them or move away?"

The Uses of a Single Barrel

Before getting onto the combos, it's important to know how to use standalone barrels - these are the key to bruiser and aggressive tank match-ups. Unlike chains, standalone barrels can be contested by melee opponents; however, they allow Gangplank to take strong melee trades while also doubling down as setup for a chain if the opponent doesn't challenge it.

Standard Barrel: E-Wait-Q-Passive

The most common use of a barrel alone in lane. This is used when:

  • The opponent walked into a barrel hidden in a bush,
  • The opponent decided to challenge a barrel placed under their feet,
  • The barrel is placed to contest minions,
  • Gangplank places a barrel under himself during a trade.

E-Q-Passive (or better, Passive-E-Q-Passive) is the way Gangplank deals the most damage. However, while he is most often able to land the passive on his lane opponent thanks to the barrel's slow, doing so exposes him to taking some more damage in return.

Basic Attack Detonation: E-Wait-AA-Q

The best alternative to the classic way, detonating the barrel with a basic attack instead of Parrrley means being able to follow it up with a Q on the opponent. This deals more damage than a simple E-Q, though less than E-Q-Passive. On top of that, so long as Gangplank has a basic attack ready, he destroys a barrel slightly faster with an attack than with his Q in melee range.

An opponent can usually not reach Gangplank with the powder keg's slow and bonus movement speed, unless the pirate allows him by walking up (to use his passive). Destroying the barrel with a basic attack is the best way to deal damage safely. It is also Gangplank's optimal option to fight without putting himself in range.

Note: Destroying the barrel with a basic attack doesn't give the bonus gold from Q if a minion is killed, but this is irrelevant in the early game and would only amount to about 10 more gold at most.

Fast Gangplank Barrel: E-AA-Q

E-AA-Q is the ideal way to take down a barrel in the middle of a trade. Waiting for the barrel to go down to 2 HP, then using a basic attack and Q to almost instantly take it down from 2 HP to 0, means that less than 3 seconds pass between the placement and the keg and its detonation followed by a passive proc - which turns most trades into Gangplank's favor.

Note: After a 2019 patch, the barrel still applies on-hit effects from Sheen when detonated this way. The Sheen proc will be consumed by the first basic attack, but the barrel "stores" the Sheen damage and will deal it even though the detonating attack no longer had that buff.

Special Trick: The Decoy Barrel

This is a trick to use against ranged top laners - especially the ones with fast attacks (ADCs, particularly Akshan) - after purchasing Sheen. It's unlikely to land a barrel hit on them, and they will trade Q back with basic attacks.

However, they will try to disarm a barrel placed within their range. Instead of trying to challenge the barrel (which isn't likely to work against a ranged attack), Gangplank can simply Q his lane opponent when they disarm the keg, using that window while they can't fire an attack back. This also allows for applying the keystone at no cost.

The Tread-and-Butter Barrel Combos for Gangplank

Now comes the core of playing as Gangplank, both in lane and later in the game - the barrel chains. Again, there is a range of combos to pick from, and the question Gangplank has to ask for his pick is "How do I get a barrel to reach the enemy, and to explode before the target can disarm it or leave its range?".

A barrel combo costs around 30 seconds' worth of cooldowns on the ability in lane. It is crucial to make each one count.

The Standard Gangplank Barrel Combo: E-E-Q

There are fancier chains to build, but they all have their trade-offs, and E-E-Q should always be the first option to think about. Placing one barrel, waiting for it to reach 1 HP, then placing a second one and immediately using Q on the first.

It has limited speed (the enemy can react between the barrel and the explosion), limited range (the max range is about the range of the E), and is vulnerable to a ranged attack (most marksmen and other champions with a fast ranged attack are able to destroy the first barrel without even being threatened by the second), but is the best all-around chain. The other combos are, however, meant to tackle these other limitations.

The first main upside of this combo is the range it has, and the pressure it places as such. From the moment the first keg is ready to explode, the enemy can't get within 300 units of it without making themselves vulnerable. As such, placing one barrel inside the minion wave is a good way to force the enemy to stay further back in lane - a strategy that Gangplank uses a lot in top lane where champions lack ranged waveclear.

Indicator showing the entire range covered by Gangplank's Barrels in red outline in top lane
The entire red area is controlled by Gangplank and his barrels

The second upside is being resilient against melee champions. A standalone barrel will usually be contested in lane, but with this combo, the first barrel doesn't need to be close to the enemy, as only the second one needs to land its explosion.

Note: For this reason, for this combo, Gangplank wants to place the first barrel in a safe location - in a bush, under his feet, or on a part of the lane that the enemy doesn't have control over.

The Phantom Barrel Combo on Gangplank: E-Q-E

Gangplank's best-known barrel combo is the E-Q-E, also called Phantom Barrel. E-Q-E is the one barrel combo that is mechanically challenging and that requires practicing, yet it is also Gangplank's second most important combo as well as being the sign of an experienced player of the champion. It's crucial to learn to consistently pull it off, as it offers significant advantages, but failing one means paying the 30 seconds cooldown loss.

As the name states, E-Q-E means placing one barrel, waiting for it to be ready to detonate, using Q on the keg, and placing a connected barrel while the bullet is in the air. This is a great combo for some of the hardest Gangplank counters to deal with.

Important note: This only works when casting Q from max range. Being any closer means that the bullet will reach the barrel before Gangplank can place the second one - which doesn't work and looks silly.

Max Q range indicator to ensure he can detonate his ability
Image Courtesy of Riot Games

This considerably reduces the time the opponent has to react. With E-E-Q, the enemy sees the keg and then has the entire bullet's travel time to dash or try dodging, while E-Q-E means that the barrel explodes almost immediately upon being placed. Additionally, there's a mental aspect to it. Before the first E-Q-E, the opponent will expect to be safe while ~350 units away from barrels - from this distance, they can walk away in time to dodge an E-E-Q - and will be caught off guard by the first phantom barrel. Afterwards, they'll stand slightly further back in the lane knowing that the danger area is higher, granting Gangplank passive pressure.

The downside and reason the E-E-Q remains the main combo is the range limitation. The E cast range is barely longer than that of the Q, so an E-Q-E can only slightly extend the chain forward. This combo is meant to be used laterally, or occasionally backwards (with the first keg being at the edge of the range in a bush, using the second one to hit an enemy in melee range).

Comparing the range for different gangplank combos
The range at which E-E-Q can extend, vs. the range for E-E-Q

Tip: The range of this combo is extremely precise. In order to do an E-Q-E, it's best to stand slightly beyond max Q range, cast Q from there, and then press E as soon as Gangplank stops moving to fire. Practice away to get the hang of the timing, spam the combo in sandbox, and watch the videos for help if needed.

Positioning tip: In top lane, whenever the lane is even or in Gangplank's advantage, the pirate often wants to keep one barrel at the edge of a bush, on the enemy's side. He can then stand just above max Q range to land an E-Q-E on the enemy whenever they get close to the bush. Alternatively, if they walk back, he can move closer to the keg to instead use it as a longer-range E-E-Q anchor.

The Other Important Barrel Combos

The Simple Chain Variants

Akin to the single barrels, there are variants to the E-E-Q. They're simple alternatives, but it's important to be aware of when to use what.

The follow-up variant: E-E-AA. A regular chain, but detonated with a basic attack instead of the Q, allowing Gangplank to hit the enemy with a Parrrley. This deals more damage than a simple E-E-Q if Trial By Fire isn't used afterwards. This is the way to go when wanting to poke without taking return damage.

The fast variant: E-AA-E-Q. Allows for exploding the chain in two seconds, or in just one after level 7. This is really effective in lane, but limits the range as the first barrel has to be placed beneath the pirate. Note that if Gangplank has a Sheen item, this combo still applies on-hit effects from it, even though it'll look otherwise.

The burst combo: E-E-Q-R or E-Q-E-R. The late game way for Gangplank to instantly kill squishy members of the enemy team: using Cannon Barrage as soon as the barrel lands (getting ready for it during the explosion, and pressing R exactly as it connects). With a barrel crit and the Death's Daughter upgrade, Cannon Barrage should be enough to kill anyone that isn't at least a bit tanky. Even though Cannon Barrage is a global ultimate in LoL, it can also be used very effectively at close range.

The Triple Barrel Combo: E-E-Q-E

The triple barrel is the way to hit an enemy from further away, or the most consistent way to hit the enemy team when they have a ranged character who can reliably disarm simple chains. Gangplank places two connected barrels, shoots the first one, and immediately places a third to extend the explosion.

Notes: Unlike the E-Q-E, the triple barrel doesn't have a range restriction, as the spread of the explosion gives enough time to place the last keg. However, the triple barrel has to be detonated with Parrrley and not with a basic attack - otherwise, the third keg won't be placed in time.

The triple barrel serves these specific purposes, but comes with two drawbacks. First, placing this many barrels is slow and gives the opponents more time to react. Second, using three barrels means an even bigger cooldown cost - it takes up to 45 seconds to regain what a triple barrel costs.

Improving the Barrel Chains: The Hidden Connecting Range

The range displayed on Gangplank's E is the explosion range, not the connecting range - the latter is in fact slightly wider. As a result, in order to get a max range barrel chain, Gangplank needs to place his second E slightly further away from what the ability indicates.

Learning how to place barrels in the top lane as gangplank
Spreading the barrels only as far as the ability indicates will make their areas overlap.
Barrels are connected even outside of range
The barrels are still connected even when the ability shows they barely wouldn't be.

This is applicable to any of Gangplank's combos, besides when the second barrel of the chain is already limited by the ability's cast range. The risk is missing the chain for overshooting it, but the habit ends up setting in.

Optimal turret push

This is a simple trick to destroy turrets slightly faster. Using barrels to push turrets is a known practice for the passive refresh; however, a Sheen proc is often lost in the process. The way to deal the most damage to a turret is as follows:

  • Placing a barrel at max Q range (before resuming attacking the tower)
  • Using Parrrley on it with a basic attack ready
  • Attacking the turret immediately after before the ability reaches, getting a second Sheen proc
  • Attacking the turret again for the passive

If the Q isn't at maximum range, then it will use the Sheen instead of the basic attack, losing some turret damage.

The Niche Barrel Combos for Gangplank

Finishing off with the combos that aren't important to playing Gangplank, but sometimes have their uses.

Triple Trial By Fire

This is the way Gangplank deals the most damage in the early game, usable in top lane after starting a trade.

  • Placing a barrel
  • Attacking the opponent (First passive application)
  • Placing the second barrel in melee range, detonating the first
  • Attacking the opponent (Second passive application)
  • Attacking the opponent again after the 2nd barrel hits (Third passive application)

Note: This can also be done with the E-Q-E, but requires precise timing between the Q and basic attacks.

The "Hidden Chain Combination"

A take on the triple barrel that makes it less predictable.

  • Placing the first barrel in a bush and waiting for it to charge
  • Placing the second barrel, disconnected, under the opponent
  • Placing a connecting barrel and detonating the first

If an opponent sees Gangplank placing a connected barrel going forward, they will watch for the triple barrel chain. But if they only see a disconnected barrel under their feet, they'll likely try to challenge it instead.

The Flash Combo: E-Q-Flash-E

A harder version of the E-Q-E, that is almost never useful but that is one of the fanciest combos in League of Legends. Placing one barrel, using Q on it, flashing away during the Parrrley's cast, and placing the second barrel immediately after. This extends the travel time of the bullet and allows to place a Phantom Barrel while initially being too close to do an E-Q-E, to catch the opponent off guard when they wouldn't expect Gangplank to be able to instantly detonate a barrel there.

Wrapping It All Up

That's it for Gangplank's barrel combos! The Saltwater Scourge is one of the highest skillcap champions in League of Legends, but also one of the most rewarding ones to improve at. We hope that was a useful read - make sure to head over to our Gangplank build guide for additional tips!

Images Courtesy of Riot Games.