Because Annie is so popular and deadly, she's an ideal character to spotlight on the Guidebook. She's fun, easy to play, and oh-so-very cute. When you go up against her, it's good to know exactly what to expect.
No Spotlight for Annie
Unfortunately, there's no Champion Spotlight for Annie. I would have linked another video guide, but I could not find a good professional Annie video (such as Ciderhelm's excellent Don't Feed series) in time for this week's column. We'll have to cover Annie's abilities in text this week, so I apologize.
Annie's passive is Pyromania. Following the Hecarim patch (coming on Tuesday), Annie will get a charge of Pyromania every time she casts a spell, up to three. Instead of gaining a fourth charge, Pyromania will become active, and a white swirl (shown to the left) will appear around Annie. Her next spell will stun any targets hit. Currently, it works very similarly, except she must cast five spells and her sixth will stun.
Disintegrate is Annie's basic nuke. It deals large magic damage to a single target. Disintegrate refunds its mana cost if it kills something, making it great for last-hits.
Incinerate is a cone AoE that erupts fire in front of Annie, dealing magic damage to all enemies in front of her. Because it can be cast without a target, Annie can use it to charge Pyromania if she is at her summoner platform, has the blue buff, or is playing on Dominion.
Molten Shield is a barrier that gives Annie bonus armor and magic resistance and deals magic damage to enemies that autoattack her. Like Incinerate, it can also be used to charge Pyromania. It is very common for Annie to use Molten Shield to gain the final Pyromania charge and then engage her opponent, since she is considerably tougher when the shield is up and it obscures the white swirl. Molten Shield won't eat Pyromania, either. Always be careful if her shield is up as she is likely to have a stun ready.
Annie's ultimate summons Tibbers to the battlefield. It deals very large amounts of magic damage to enemies in a wide AoE, and Tibbers will also attack any foes he can see, prioritizing enemy champions. He deals magic damage in an AoE around him, and his autoattacks are deadly. He is considered a minion for the purposes of targeting and spell effects (he can be Smited, for instance). Also, his aura (but not his attacks) proc on-spell effects like Rylai's Crystal Scepter, spell vamp, and Hextech Sweeper's reveal.
Stuns are cheap
Pyromania is extremely frightening while laning against Annie. Whenever you see her white swirl, you will want to play cautiously. This doesn't necessarily mean that you can't lane at all, but you will want to stay in an area where you are less likely to be ganked. Also, ward your lane on either side. There is nothing more problematic than a stun when an enemy is coming up to gank you. If you know that the enemy is there, you can play defensively to waste his time or call for someone to kill him while he's hiding in the brush.
One of the simplest ways to help deal with Pyromania is to simply get Mercury's Treads. The increased magic resistance will make it harder for Annie to burst you, and the tenacity will reduce the length of her stun.
Another strategy is simply to lane very passively. Annie wants to use spells on the lane as well as on you. If you can deny her the opportunity to hit you with her stun she is likely to eventually burn it on minions, especially if you can also push the lane a bit with AoE abilities. Expert players will simply let you do it, however, so do not rely on this at higher elos.
Characters with spell shields can prevent Annie from stunning them. In particular, Sivir and Morgana can block the stun with their shields and negate the stun. After you've blocked the attack, you may be able to punish Annie for her aggression or simply back up, since she's wasted a lot of her mana for nothing.
In general, Annie's spells are very expensive, so running her out of mana is not bad if you are playing a character with lots of sustain such as Morgana.
Annie is very adept at zoning her opponent. All of her attacks can hit from a great deal away. Her autoattack range is a monstrous 625, outranging every champion in the game other than Caitlyn and a leveled Tristana. Because autoattack range is calculated slightly differently than spell range, she also outranges virtually all targeted spells.
And because her zoning is so strong, you must be very dilligent against her. Be sensitive to Annie if she walks forward. If possible, throw a skillshot in her path; especially at the lower levels of play, she will not react in time to avoid it. Ahri's charm combos are brutal if Annie runs into the heart, as in Morgana's Q-W combo.
Another possible option is to simply walk toward her and ready your best damaging spells or spell combos. You should not do this if she has a stun ready, and you should definitely not do it if you cannot win the trade. However, I have won a fair number of trades against Annie simply by calling her bluff and trading her autoattack or Disintegrate for Ryze's Q-W-E-Q or W-Q-E-Q combo.
Annie's most fearsome damage comes from a Tibbers stun combo. It can kill most champions with 70% health -- even more if Annie is fed. She will open with Tibbers, followed typically by a W-Q combo and autoattacks for good measure. The Tibbers summon will stun anything it hits if Pyromania is charged. Don't get hit by this combo or you will almost certainly die. If she has a stun and she's higher than level 6, expect that she's trying to use this. Stay 750 range or further away from Annie at all times while she has her stun up, and try to keep your health bar very high. Magic resist items can also really help. 50 MR will cut her damage by a third, and adding Mercury's Treads to your base MR of 30 will raise it to 55. Even with magic penetration, that's a lot of damage reduced. If you can get 100 MR, Annie will only deal half damage with her spells. MR helps a lot!
If Annie doesn't have Tibbers up (if she recently used it, you know it's down), you can be a total bully to her. After level 6, your character will have her key skill chains ready and possibly even a kill combo of your own.
Because Annie is very threatening to champions below 50% health, it is very wise to get lifesteal, spellvamp, or health regeneration items as well as magic resist. These items will help top off your health bar and keep her from dropping you from half to dead.
Anti-caster items like Banshee's Veil are worth every gold spent against Annie. Banshee's Veil gives your champion a mini-Spell Shield every minute, which limits Annie's ability to stun you. Quicksilver Sash can also be used if she stuns you to break out immediately. If you're having trouble with Annie's stuns early, you can also use the Cleanse summoner spell to do similar things as QSS. Cleanse does not give you extra magic resist like QSS does, however!
Finally, it is also possible to simply lane a counter-character like Talon, Kassadin, or LeBlanc against her. As I've mentioned above, Morgana is an excellent soft counter to Annie. Even if you're a fairly new player, Morgana is fairly inexpensive to unlock and very strong.
Don't be intimidated by Annie. Once she's spent her bursts, she is a kitten for a bit while she recharges her spells. She can also be bullied into spending a lot of mana for pointless harass, and her stuns can be blocked if you see them coming. Just be careful of that white swirl. Good luck and have fun!
We understand what it's like to climb the skill ladder in League of Legends. The Summoner's Guidebook teaches you the tools you need to get a competitive edge. Whether you're climbing the ranked ladder, playing Draft Dominion, or getting crushed by intermediate bots, every enemy has a weakness. And every Thursday, Patrick Mackey shows how you can improve improve on yours.