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Sylas Guide: How to Play Sylas and Master Him

Published: September 3, 2021
League of Legends Beginner Guide

Sylas is an extraordinary champion in League of Legends. Not only does his kit involve unique abilities that have a wide range of uses, but his ultimate ability is probably the most challenging and impactful of any currently in the game.

In this Sylas guide, not only will you learn how to play Sylas, you will learn how to BE Sylas. It’s essential to learn how to play Sylas in this way because the strategy to Sylas differs in every single game. Thus, the only way to truly master his strength is to be in tune with his abilities and understand the most optimal tactics to apply to each situation.

Sylas’ Abilities Explained

Sylas Passive Ability

Sylas’ Passive Skill: Petricite Burst

INNATE: Sylas gains an Unshackled stack for several seconds whenever he casts one of his abilities. This refreshes on subsequent ability casts. He can have up to 3 Unshackled stacks at a time, and while he has stacks, he gains a significant attack speed bonus.

UNSHACKLED: Sylas’ next basic attack will consume a stack of Unshackled to whirl his chains around him. Having an uncancellable windup. This deals a large amount of magic damage (scales with both AD and AP) to the primary target and a reduced amount of magic damage to nearby secondary targets.

Note: Damage to secondary targets executes minions that are left at or below 25 health.

How to Use Petricite Burst

Since Sylas can only hold up to 3 stacks of his passive at a time, it’s important to use basic attacks between spells to make sure passive stacks are not wasted. With his stacks for his passive and low cooldown abilities, Sylas can creatively combo between basic attacks and abilities for whatever situation he finds himself in.

How to Win with Sylas and Sit in His Throne

An essential use of this ability is for last-hitting minions. Sylas is a melee champion, so he can easily be punished when positioning to last hit. As a result, Sylas doesn’t generally have a lot of pushing power and can lose control of a minion wave rather easily. To avoid these situations, Sylas should look to use his passive in combination with his Chain Lash to deal area of effect damage.

Advanced Passive Ability Sylas Guide

Skilled Sylas players will effectively use his passive to hit all minions in a wave simultaneously. Since the radius of his passive-empowered basic attack is around his character model, the best way to do this is to use abilities in the middle of the wave. Hence, all minions are within that radius. This gives Sylas much more lane pushing power and makes for a quick minion clear that can lead to some fabulous sneak gank attacks on other lanes.

An effective way to steal neutral objectives from enemies as Sylas is to surprise them with his burst damage from passive stacks. Before using Abscond/Abduct onto a neutral objective, Sylas should use another ability first. This means he has three passive stacks ready so in a quick succession, Sylas’ Abduct and three empowered basic attacks can deal tremendous amounts of damage. This technique can deal more than 1000 damage in just over a second at later stages in the game!

Sylas Lashes out with Glowing Chains

Q: Chain Lash

ACTIVE: Sylas lashes out two chains that converge to the target location and extend beyond it up to a maximum range, dealing magic damage to enemies within the area and slowing them for 1.5 seconds.

After a brief delay, the chains’ intersection detonates, dealing magic damage to enemies within. This AoE damage is reduced against minions and monsters.

Chains cross and Explode on Enemy Champion in League of Legends

Cost: 55 Mana

Damage: 40 / 60 / 80 / 100 / 120 (+ 40% AP) + 70 / 125 / 180 / 235 / 290 (+ 90% AP) on detonation for a maximum of 110 / 185 / 260 / 335 / 410 (+ 130% AP)

Note: Chain Lash slows targets hit by approximately 25% (scales based on level) and has a brief cast time.

Chain Leash Ability Basic Uses and Tips

Sylas’ Chain Lash is a powerful ability for clearing waves quickly and trading with enemies from a safe distance. Sylas should use his Chain Lash slightly behind enemies where they may move to escape his damage. This will likely result in the detonation damaging the enemy and can make for some easy trades.

Sylas can use his Chain Lash to apply the slow to enemies making his Abduct ability easier to hit.

Advanced Uses and Tips

Sylas can use Chain Lash to clear the minions out of the way. Using Chain Lash applies a slow to enemies so Abduct is easier to hit when there are low health minions or monsters between him and the enemy. Using this strategy, Sylas can catch his enemies off guard and set up some incredible plays.

When enemies are positioned within their minions, Sylas can use Chain Lash onto those minions for wave clear and easily proc the detonation damage because the enemy will not escape because of the slow and minion block.

Sylas dashes forward to attack with his kingslayer ability

W: Kingslayer

ACTIVE: Sylas dashes to the front of the target enemy’s location and, upon arrival, strikes them to deal magic damage.

If Kingslayer damaged an enemy champion, Sylas is also healed, increased by up to 100% based on Sylas’ missing health.

Cost: 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 100 Mana

Damage: 70 / 105 / 140 / 175 / 210 (+ 90% AP)

Note: Kingslayer heals for a moderate amount (scaled by AP) and has a range of 400 units.

How to Use Kingslayer on Sylas

Kingslayer is generally Sylas’ priority ability for leveling up. This drastically lowers its cooldown and means Sylas can win trades more often and heal more often. Another easy trick to landing his Abduct ability on a target is to use his Ult (Abscond) within range of his Kingslayer so he can dash to the enemy making it difficult to dodge.

Since Kingslayer heals Sylas more when he is lower in health, Sylas should wait to use his Kingslayer in longer trades to maximize the healing he receives.

How to Play Sylas Around Kingslayer (Advanced Tips)

Kingslayer does not draw aggression from enemy minions, so Sylas should not be afraid of using it when low in health. Sylas can use his Kingslayer to dash to an enemy through a wall or structure when chasing enemies. Regardless of where the enemy’s location is at the end of the dash, Sylas will still deal damage and be healed. This means Crowd-controlling abilities cannot cancel Kingslayer’s effects.

If Sylas casts his Abduct ability but does not want to dash to the enemy it hits, he can cancel the dash with a well-timed Kingslayer onto another target. To do this, Sylas must cast Kingslayer and be dashing towards that target when the chains from Abduct make contact with the other target.

How to play Sylas and lunge forward to his target using his chains

E: Abscond and Abduct

ACTIVE: Sylas dashes to the target location.

For the next 3.5 seconds, Sylas may cast Abduct after a 0.2-second delay from casting Abscond.

RECAST: Sylas whips out his chains in the target direction, dealing magic damage to the first enemy hit, stunning them for 0.5 seconds, pulling himself towards their location, and knocking them up for 0.5 seconds upon arrival.

Cost: 65 Mana

Damage: 80 / 130 / 180 / 230 / 280 (+ 100% AP)

Note: Abscond has a range of 400 units and no cast time. Abduct has a range of 800 units and a cast time of 0.25 seconds. Sylas can move, basic attack, or cast Kingslayer or Hijack before the Abduct chains connect with a target.

Sylas Guiding Chains to Enemy

Basic Uses and Tips

Sylas’ Abscond can be used to dash through walls and structures. Sylas should use Abscond for extra mobility around the map. Both Sylas’ Abscond and Abduct will add a stack of his passive. This makes it very efficient for wave clear as it only costs 65 mana for two stacks of his passive when his other abilities either cost more mana or only give one stack.

Sylas’ Abduct applies crowd-controlling effects so Sylas should use it to cancel enemies’ ability casts.

Advanced Uses and Tips

Sylas should look to use Abscond when outside of vision so that he can Abduct onto unsuspecting targets. That is why enemies looking to counter Sylas will really want to focus on good ward placement and constant map awareness.

Abduct has many advanced uses that expert Sylas players can use. Since Abduct will cast from wherever Sylas was at the start of the cast time, Sylas can hide his Hijack ability animation while the chains are traveling. He can also use Kingslayer to finish off a target before the chains of Abduct connect onto his next target. Perhaps the most beneficial use of Abduct is that it can be used to “buffer” crowd-controlling abilities. This means that Sylas can cast out his chains before being hit with crowd-controlling abilities, and if the chains land on an enemy, he can move while crowd-controlled (effectively negating its effect).

A fancy and effective way to initiate a fight when his teammates aren’t is by using Abduct and the active ability on Zhonya’s Hourglass before the chains contact the target. The chain’s crowd-controlling effect can catch out the target with his teammates’ follow-up without being vulnerable to his enemies.

Sylas Guide Hijack and Steal Enemy Ultimate Abilities

R (Ultimate): Hijack

ACTIVE: Sylas launches his chains at the target enemy champion, gaining a copy of their ultimate ability upon arrival. Sylas cannot select the same champion again for a set duration and can hold the hijacked ultimate for 90 seconds, during which he can recast Hijack.

RECAST: Sylas casts his hijacked ultimate ability at no cost, scaling based on Hijack’s rank and his own statistics.

All Hijacked ultimates and abilities that do not scale with ability power have their attack damage ratios converted to ability power ratios, scaling with 0.6% AP per 1% total AD, and 0.4% AP per 1% bonus AD, respectively.

Cost: 75 Mana

Damage: N/A

Note: Hijack has a cast time of 0.25 seconds and a range of 950 units. Sylas cannot Hijack the same target’s ultimate within 2x of the target’s ult cooldown timer.

How to Play Sylas and Steal Enemy Ults

Hijack applies a stack of Sylas’ passive, so Sylas should weave it into his all-in combos when looking for a kill. Both hijacking an enemy ultimate and using the enemy ultimate will apply a stack of his passive.

Sylas Stealing Jarvin IV's Ultiamte with Hijack Ability

Advanced Uses and Tips for Hijacking Ultimate Abilities

Hijack can be used in countless ways for hundreds of complex interactions that make Sylas a unique champion. Advanced Sylas players will use Hijack to track enemy ultimate cooldowns, distinguish between clones, and even just steal an ultimate with the intent of not using it. For example, the most advanced Sylas players will steal a powerful team fighting enemy ultimate (like Malphite) before rotating to take the dragon. This causes the enemy to hazard contesting the objective and either give it for free or contest and suffer the consequences.

How to Play Sylas in Different Phases of the Game

Early Gameplay with Sylas

Sylas’ early game can be pretty dangerous. After all, he is a melee champion in a lane that generally has ranged champions. As such, he should start with Q at level 1 to safely farm from a distance. However, Sylas should start E level 1 and look to trade into melee matchups, especially after the enemy wastes an ability to clear minions. Overall, he should look to pull the waves before level 3 to set up for easy ganks for his jungler. Sylas has an exceptional gank setup and gap close. In combination with his various damage sources, whenever he can get a gank from his jungler it should easily lead to burning enemy summoner spells if not also killing them.

Once Sylas is level 3 or higher, he can be more aggressive as he can access his three non-ultimate abilities. This is a huge power spike for him where almost all matchups should be winnable. Although he is very powerful at this point, he must still be careful of enemy ganks because he is still easy to gank while his Abscond is on cooldown. At level 1, Abscond has a 14-second cooldown which is a very large window of opportunity for enemies. So, Sylas must take proper precautions and assess the state of the map before initiating aggressive plays.

Champion Sylas Guide in LoL
Sylas Lashes Out with His Chains

When in combat in the early stages of the game, Sylas is next-to-useless when his abilities are on cooldown. As such, Sylas should look to initiate skirmishes when his abilities are available and stall out the fight for his next round of abilities. The best Sylas players will essentially bridge the gap between his rounds of abilities by holding off on using his Kingslayer to bait enemies in and prolong fights when he starts to get low on health. This buys time for his Chain Lash and Abscond/Abduct to come off cooldown and maximizes the healing he will get from Kingslayer.

Although Sylas has utility and potency in his roaming pre-level 6, he should avoid doing so because his roams post-level 6 are much more impactful and likely to succeed. In waiting until at least level 6, Sylas will also have three points in Kingslayer, which means it will have a 9.5-second cooldown. The skirmishes and fights when mid laners roam tend to last much longer than that so Sylas can expect to get at least two heals off. In doing so, his enemies will practically have to deal enough damage to kill him twice before he succumbs.

Playing the Mid-Game with Sylas

The mid-game is the hardest part of the game for Sylas. At that point in the game, Sylas has little to no chance of prioritizing the wave and must help his teammates get ahead. At this stage in the game, Sylas is very powerful and likely has his mythic item complete. Generally, Sylas will purchase Everfrost first, then build into Zhonya’s Hourglass, so he is adept at stalling out fights and providing utility for his team. As such, Sylas should be more than content with waiting for his opportunities in fights around the mid game.

Hijack applies a stack of Sylas’ passive, so Sylas should weave it into his all-in combos when looking for a kill. Both hijacking an enemy ultimate and using the enemy ultimate will apply a stack of his passive.

League of Legends Champion Flexing his Muscles with Blue Energy in his Hand

Arguably, Sylas’ most influential ability is his Abduct. This ability guarantees his access to an enemy where he is within range of using his other abilities and applying massive amounts of damage. Therefore, Sylas should never look to engage when this ability is on cooldown, or he will essentially be ‘over-forcing’ a fight. With his Abduct on cooldown, he will either need to engage with his Kingslayer (if in range) or engage with his Flash. Neither of these options are ideal because Kingslayer’s value is in the heal it provides Sylas (not the gap close) and flashing onto an enemy is incredibly risky considering he may not be able to lock down the target to dish out his damage.

Sylas is all about the calculated aggression and providing opportunities for his team. A great way to do that without committing to fighting and skirmishing in other lanes is to simply roam with his jungler for vision, counter jungling, and ganking. This gives Sylas the chance to make sure he at least has one other ally within his immediate presence to assist him in capitalizing on enemy mistakes or positioning.

Sylas should use his abilities to maneuver around enemy vision and harass the enemy jungler. Suppose it doesn’t result in a kill. In that case, Sylas will at least be enough of a hindrance to allow his teammates to apply pressure that the enemy jungler cannot answer, or just waste the junglers time so his jungler can find advantages in other areas of the map.

Dominating with Sylas in the Late Game

The Late game is where Sylas becomes a whole different beast because his abilities’ cooldowns approach their minimums of 6 seconds on Chain Lash, 6 seconds on Kingslayer, 10 seconds on Abscond/Abduct, and 40 seconds on Hijack (before accounting for ability haste). Sylas is also almost full build at this point in the game and can turn the tides of even the worst starts to team fights with Hijack. Sylas needs to be very smart about his ultimate because there are five options, and some are better than others.

Although some ultimate abilities are just generally better than others, even the worst ones have their situation in which they make the most sense. Regardless of the ultimate Sylas hijacks, his job in the late game is to follow up on fights initiated by teammates, capitalize on poor positioning enemies, or find a masterful flank onto the enemy carries through the fog of war.

Every Sylas plays the late game differently, but the most important thing is that he is there when the fight breaks out. The late game is not a time for him to be in the side lane split pushing unless necessary. In that event, Sylas’ job is to communicate with his team to position in a way that can prevent fights from occurring while he is away, or at the very least, prolong the initiations so that he can teleport into the fray.

Sylas should not be worried about taking damage in fights at full build because he can easily heal it back up. However, he should be worried about crowd-controlling abilities and anti-healing abilities. Sylas must keep track of these abilities to manage fights and ultimately win the game.

How to Play Sylas in Teamfights

Team fighting with Sylas can be tricky because he is a significant target to his enemies but must be up close and personal to be effective. It’s a tricky balance between laying low and pouncing onto enemies when the time is right. So, regardless of when the fight takes place, Sylas needs to play around his abilities and retreat when they are on cooldown.

Sylas cannot be greedy and pursue a kill if has already used his abilities and instead must be patient and retreat until his abilities are ready again. Unfortunately, because of Sylas’ incredible strength in team fights, it is very easy to get carried away and get caught out. In a way, the best Sylas players will treat team fighting like a dance and dynamically adjust to the flow of the fight moving in and out of the chaos to survive while dealing as much damage as possible.

Sylas Fighting in the Snowy Freljord

Sylas Guide: Ability Combos

The most entertaining part of playing Sylas is his combos (there are just so many). The combos are easily one of the trickiest features of Sylas to get used to because they change as the game progresses. Mostly, because of his Kingslayer ability being leveled up first, as Sylas levels up, he has the privilege of healing more often, and can therefore use it more freely. Early in the game, an effective way to engage on a target from a distance is: Abscond – (Flash if needed) – Abduct – Basic Attack – Chain Lash – Basic Attack – Basic Attack – Kingslayer – Basic Attack.

Since Sylas runes usually include Conqueror, Sylas will have fully stacked his Conqueror before using his Kingslayer. This means he will not only heal more if he’s lower health from the enemy fighting back, but he will heal even more from Conqueror being stacked full. This combo will nearly kill most enemy champions at the early stages of the game if it didn’t already.

In team fights after Sylas has used his initial round of abilities and is looking to jump back in, Sylas will likely be lower in health than the first time. So, Sylas should engage with the following combo while low in health: Abscond – Kingslayer – (Flash if needed to get into range of Kingslayer) – Basic Attack – Abduct – Basic Attack – Chain Lash – Basic Attack – Basic Attack. This can bait in enemies who see Sylas approaching while low on health and can make for a surprising amount of healing and damage to catch them off guard.

Finally, Sylas’ highest damage combo involves adding in his ultimate to the mix. Later in the game when his cooldowns are low, Sylas can weave in some abilities several times before his combo is over. The highest damage combo looks like this: Abscond – Chain Lash – Everfrost – Kingslayer – Auto Attack – Auto Attack – Abduct – Hijack (while Abduct chains are flying and enemy is running away) – Auto Attack – Auto Attack – Chain Lash – Auto Attack – Auto Attack – Kingslayer – Hijack (using enemy ultimate) – Auto Attack – Auto Attack – Abscond – Auto Attack – Abduct – Auto Attack – Chain Lash – Auto Attack – Kingslayer Auto Attack. This combo can be done in just over 10 seconds total and deal over 13000 damage when done correctly.

Want to Know what Ultimate to Steal with Sylas’ Ult?

Sylas’ Ultimate ability Hijack is what makes Sylas unique. Sylas can take any enemy ultimate he sees fit and use it in whatever way needed to win. As such, there are thousands, if not millions of scenarios to account for. The reasoning behind staling each ultimate in the game and when to steal and use them as Sylas is beyond the scope of what we can cover here. So, instead of explaining that, it’s best to cover the best ultimate abilities to steal in the most general sense.

How to Play Sylas in a Teamfight

Any ultimate that provides Sylas with more mobility is never a bad option. He already has so much, so having even more will make it nearly impossible to escape his grasp. Ultimates that fit this category include Ahri, Akali, Hecarim, Kled, Malphite, Vi, and Volibear. The special thing about these ultimates is that they also damage enemies, giving Sylas much more lethality.

Ultimates that make Sylas more difficult to kill are fantastic for Sylas because of how much time he spends behind enemy lines. The best examples are: Alistar, Kayle, Kayn, Mordekaiser, Neeko, Renekton, Swain, Taric, and Tryndamere, just to name a few. All these ultimates can either provide Sylas with more bulk, invulnerability, untargetability, or slow down the onslaught of damage. The longer Sylas can survive in a fight, the more damage he can dish out, and the more likely chance Sylas will win.

In most cases, the last type of ultimate ability that is fantastic for Sylas is high damage ultimates that Sylas can weave into his combos to kill any enemy that stands in his way. This category includes Diana, Evelynn, Gangplank, Gwen, Kennen, Lee Sin, Rumble, Veigar, and Ziggs. All these ultimates have insane damage numbers that scale with Sylas’ ability power when hijacked.

The last category that’s important to discuss is the ultimates to avoid at almost all cost. These ultimates just don’t work well with his kit or are just bad in general. This list includes Fiora, Illaoi, Kalista, Twitch, Udyr, and Zoe. All these abilities simply don’t synergize well with the rest of Sylas’ kit, or are simply just not as good as other options Sylas likely has to choose from! Global ultimates are a mixed bag. He may be able to really turn the tides, unexpectedly. Yet, it's harder to plan around him having it when needed.

Sylas Guide Final Thoughts

Overall, Sylas is an incredibly complex champion that takes more than mechanical skill to master. Unfortunately, players cannot learn all intricacies and interactions through any Sylas guide and can only learn over time. However, if players can grasp his playstyle and learn how to play Sylas effectively, the game can be bent to their will by how adaptable he is. Every game is unique, and that’s exactly what Sylas needs to thrive!

Images Courtesy of Riot Games.