Thornmail Guide

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Thornmail is a strong defensive item that can be purchased on Summoner’s Rift map, Wild Rift, and Teamfight Tactics. It is classified as legendary, and it provides maximum utility when worn by tanks with high armor.

The armor is especially potent against teams that rely on healing, regeneration, and life-stealing. It applies grievous wounds on enemies when they strike a Thornmail wearer. This can be a living nightmare for certain ADCs like Warwick or Olaf, who need to lifesteal to survive engagements.

In this Thornmail guide, I will talk about the item stats, history of changes, while also revising some of the optimal builds.

Key Info Up Front

Thornmail is a defensive item that has a situational but very strong passive unique. You can build it on just about any tank and lots of melee fighters. In fact, the armor can be a game-changer in lots of one-on-one situations.

Thornmail Basic Info


This particular item has some semblance to Morellonomicon and Mortal Reminder. While each one of these artifacts is utilized by a different class (Morellonomicon by mages and Mortal Reminder by physical carries), they all apply grievous wounds debuff on enemies.

The passive ability Thorns deals damage based on your armor. So, by getting other defensive pieces, you can also improve your offensive capability by reflecting attacks back onto the enemies.

To purchase this armor, you will need several minor items and a recipe. All in all, Thornmail costs 2,700 gold and can be sold for 1,890 gold. To assemble it, you need Giant’s Belt for 900 gold (400 gold for Ruby Crystal and 500 gold for a recipe), Bramble Vest for 800 gold (two Cloth Armors at 300 gold each, and a 200-gold recipe), and a Thornmail recipe for 1,000 gold.

Thornmail Stats and Uniques

Thornmail is a pretty simple item. It gives the wearer 350 health and 60 armor. You are limited to having just one Thornmail in the inventory. The armor has only one passive called Thorns, which is activated whenever an opponent attacks you with a basic hit.

When this happens, the attacker will take 10 plus 10% bonus armor magical damage. In the case of champions, they will also be affected by grievous wounds (40% strength) for 3 seconds. If an enemy is immobilized, the effect will work at 60% strength.

How Does Thorns Interact With Other Items and Abilities?


Like the item itself, the unique passive is also very straightforward. It has just a few notable interactions. For example, the damage from Thorns is considered reactive damage, so it won’t trigger spell effects, nor will it be absorbed by a spell shield.

As you can presume, the damage is not considered a projectile. Even if the enemy’s attack doesn’t deal damage to your character, the opponent will still get punished by Thorns. For example, if you’re shielded or affected by invulnerability, it will not change the fact that the enemy still takes reactive damage. The same goes for dodge and blind effects.

If your basic attacks have a lifesteal effect, your first strike against Thornmail will still heal at 100%. However, as soon grievous wounds are applied (from second hit onward), you will take reduced healing.

Utilizing Thorns

Considering the 60 armor that the item provides, attackers will take 16 magical damage upon strike from Thornmail alone. Although you can increase this damage by getting more armor, it will become less relevant as the game progresses. Even on lower levels, it is quite negligible compared to damage effects from other items.

Thorns are much better against enemies who rely on high attack speed than enemies who have slow but strong basic hits. Of course, it is much better against enemies who rely on basic strikes than abilities to deal damage. As mentioned, it is a good option against anyone who has high regeneration or lifesteal.

This damage can stack with other abilities and effects. For example, it can work really well when paired with Defensive Ball Curl or Molten Shield. These are some of the rare cases when enemies can actually feel the damage from Thorns. Keep in mind that, unlike some other reactive effects, Thorns will not proc spell shield.

Thornmail History of Changes

Thornmail History of Changes

Thornmail is one of the oldest items in the game, dating all the way back to alpha. In many ways, it resembles Dota’s Blade Mail. However, unlike this item, Thornmail’s reflection is passive, not active. The first patch notes involving Thornmail go way back to the second week of the alpha version. In this update, the return damage was slightly increased. The item got another buff to its reflection during the sixth week of alpha.

During the 9th May 2009 update, the armor was significantly reworked. Its new recipe included Cloth Armor, and the combined cost went from 320 to 500. Furthermore, Thornmail received a boost to its armor stat going from 50 to 70. The developers changed the reflect, making it a percentage ability and classifying it as a unique passive. It returned 20% of damage upon strike, with a minimum of 20 damage.

Unfortunately, there were a few issues with the armor, which is why Riot removed it from the game during the subsequent 15th May 2009 update. It was returned to League of Legends on June 26th. Soon after, the developers changed the reflect damage, so it is calculated before armor.

Patch Changes

Version brought a few significant changes. The armor gain was increased from 70 to 100, and the recipe went from 600 to 1,000 gold. Furthermore, the reflect was boosted from 20% to 25%. Thorns damage was once against increased in one of the following patches, going all the way up to 30%.

In the 3.10 version, the armor got a new icon, and its cost was decreased from 2,200 to 2,100 gold in patch 4.20.

Patch 5.16 brought a lot of significant changes. The cost of the item went from 2,100 to 2,350 gold, and reflective damage was nerfed from 30% to 15%. At the same time, the armor received a brand-new passive that increased reflective damage. It would now dish bonus damage based on +25% extra armor.

In patch 6.14, Thornmail was once again introduced to the Twisted Treeline map.

Patch 7.14 Changes


Version 7.14 changed the item recipe and its passives. Instead of utilizing Chain Vest, Cloth Armor, and Thornmail recipe, you would now require Ruby Crystal, Bramble Vest, Warden’s Mail, and Thornmail recipe to assemble it. The item cost went from 2,350 gold to 2,900 gold.

The armor bonus was reduced from 100 to 75, but you would now get 250 health. Instead of the old reflect passive, the developers introduced a new unique effect called Thorns.

Upon introduction, Thorns did static 25 magic damage plus 10% bonus armor magic damage. It would also apply grievous wounds for 1 second onto the auto-attacker. Thornmail got another passive called Cold Steel. This effect would reduce attackers’ attack speed by 15 percent for one second after a basic hit.

The item was slightly buffed in patch 7.19 when Riot increased armor gain from 75 to 80. The combined cost was also tweaked, but this didn’t have any impact on the total cost. In patch 8.4, the developers addressed a minor bug that prevented grievous wounds from affecting monsters and minions.

In patch 9.8, the grievous wounds effect was slightly improved. It would now last 3 seconds.

Patch 10.23 Changes

Thornmail received several changes in patch 10.23. First off, its icon was updated, and it would no longer cost 2,900 gold. Instead, its price went down to 2,700 gold, and the formula was slightly altered. The item no longer required Ruby Crystal and Warden’s Mail, but you would instead need Giant’s Belt.

Previously, Thornmail gave wearers 250 health and 80 armor. After the patch, it would boost your armor by 60 and health by 350. Players were limited to having just one Thornmail in their inventory. Unique passive Cold Steel was also removed.

As for Thorns, it was slightly reworked. It would now deal 10 plus 10% extra armor magical damage to the champion who struck you with a basic attack. The passive still applied grievous wounds at 40% strength lasting 2 seconds. If the target was immobilized, the grievous wounds effect would be buffed to 60% (still lasting just 2 seconds).

10.23 hotfix dealt with a bug where the owner of Thornmail would continue applying grievous wounds onto the enemies even after they died. The effect was prolonged from 2 to 3 seconds in patch 11.1. The last update came in version 11.8, notifying the team of Thornmail purchase via chat.

The Most Common Thornmail Users

Thornmail is a really solid tank item, which you can sometimes see on brawlers. It provides a significant boost to your defense, especially against AD-based champions. The armor has a low pick rate of 6.4%, making it highly situational. In fact, the main reason why you would purchase it is to stifle regenerating and lifestealing characters.

Given that this is a tank item, it is commonly purchased by top lane champions. Sometimes, you will also notice it on junglers.

Some of the best users are Alistar (58.1% chance to win the game when purchasing the item), Leona (57.7%-win chance), Nautilus (57.4%-win chance), Rammus (56.8%-win chance), and Nunu and Willump (56.8%-win chance). Depending on the situation, you can get an even higher win chance.

Although Thorns don’t do much in terms of damage, they can synergize well with certain types of shields. So, you can experiment with Thornmail by purchasing it on champions that don’t seem like a natural fit.

The Most Popular Builds Featuring Thornmail


In theory, Thornmail should synergize really well with anything that provides armor. Unfortunately, given that Thorns damage is irrelevant (even if you have 300 armor), it is much better to create defensive builds according to a particular situation. In other words, Thornmail should never be the focal point of your build. Instead, it is something that you purchase with other items.

Anyway, here are some of the popular builds that include this armor:

  • Alistar (Thornmail, Mobility Boots, Knight’s Vow, Zeke’s Convergence, Locket of the Iron Solari, Bulwark of the Mountain)
  • Amumu (Thornmail, Plated Steelcaps, Sunfire Aegis, Randuin’s Omen, Demonic Embrace, Abyssal Mask)
  • Cho’Gath (Thornmail, Plated Steelcaps, Randuin’s Omen, Abyssal Mask, Warmog’s Armor, Frostfire Gauntlet)
  • Mundo (Thornmail, Plated Steelcaps, Sunfire Aegis, Warmog’s Armor, Spirit Visage, Dead Man’s Plate)
  • Malphite (Thornmail, Plated Steelcaps, Sunfire Aegis, Dead Man’s Plate, Frozen Heart, Force of Nature)
  • Maokai (Thornmail, Sorcerer’s Shoes, Spirit Visage, Liandry’s Anguish, Demonic Embrace, Bulwark of the Mountain)
  • Nasus (Thornmail, Plated Steelcaps, Spirit Visage, Dead Man’s Plate, Trinity Force, Frozen Heart)

As you can see, there is a lot of variety when it comes to Thornmail builds. This is because the armor doesn’t actually fit anything, nor does it synergize well with other stuff. Even in these builds, it is a highly situational armor, which can easily be replaced by other things.

If we were to generalize, players would commonly pair it with Plated Steelcaps. This isn’t necessarily because of the Thorns interaction, but instead, because this is a tank item, and it always makes sense to buy Plated Steelcaps on tanks.

Sunfire Aegis is a defensive item that is somewhat nice with Thornmail. Both of these activate once you take damage, stimulating the champion to play aggressively. Furthermore, the burn from Immolate can work really nicely with grievous wounds, preventing the enemy from regenerating over time.

Given that Thornmail doesn’t provide any magic resistance, players will often buy magic protection items to compensate for the flaw. For example, tanks will purchase things such as Abyssal Mask.


Question: Is Thornmail a good item?

Answer: Thornmail is a very underwhelming item, especially in this patch. It has a gold efficiency of 79.01% on its base stats, and what’s worse, it doesn’t make up through its passive. In fact, Thorns is one of the weaker passives in the game, doing meager reflect damage upon attackers. Except for its lackluster base stats, the only other reason why you would consider buying Thornmail is the grievous wounds debuff that is applied against basic strike attackers.

Question: How much is Thornmail

Answer: Thornmail costs 2,700 gold, and it can be sold for 1,890 gold. You can assemble it by purchasing Giant’s Belt (900 gold cost; made from Ruby Crystal and a recipe), Bramble Vest (800 gold cost; requires two Cloth Armors and a recipe), as well as a 1,000-gold Thornmail recipe. Although this is an average price for a legendary item, Thornmail is very inefficient.

Question: Does Thornmail work on spells?

Answer: Thornmail’s unique passive Thorns doesn’t work on spells or items. Instead, it can only reflect auto-attack damage. When you hit an opponent, the passive will deal 10 plus 10% bonus armor as magical damage. It will also apply a grievous wounds stack that lasts for 3 seconds. If a target is also immobilized, the debuff will be slightly stronger (60% grievous wounds instead of 40% grievous wounds).

Question: How to counter Thornmail?

Answer: Despite the fact that this is a weak item, it can sometimes be a nuisance. You don’t want to focus on a tank during teamfights, and you especially don’t want to reduce healing received. Some of the ways of countering Thornmail include increasing your lifesteal and regeneration, increasing armor penetration so you can quickly nuke the user, or simply increasing your health pool so that you’re not endangered by Thorns damage or grievous wounds.

Last Considerations

In the last few patches, Thornmail feels rather underwhelming. It has an awful gold efficiency of 79.01%, which is way below the average. What’s even worse is the fact that it doesn’t compensate through strong passive ability. Instead, Thorns is commonly utilized as a source of grievous wounds and nothing more.

Nevertheless, the armor can be really strong if you buy it in the right situation. It is much better on champions with immobilizing abilities, as it would allow them to apply grievous wounds 60%. This can be really important when going against healing teams.

Thornmail doesn’t synergize with anything except perhaps other armor items. This is both an advantage and disadvantage. In other words, it will often feel like a stand-alone item. However, this also means that it will provide lots of flexibility to your builds.

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