Haunting Guise is an item that almost no one gets. It’s the one that looks like a clown mask if you don’t remember.
I could just say no one uses and therefore it’s clearly bad, but that would be lazy analysis and is in general a bad method of judging viability. Eve was branded as the worst character in the game until people realized her strengths and she became an instant ban. Then Riot nerfed her back into the worst character in the game. It’s been a wild ride for Eve fans. Anyway, the point is common sense is sometimes wrong so when a random team in the WCG decided to buy a Haunting Guise I decided to take an actual analytical look instead of relying on the given principles of the LoL community.
Haunting Guise is an item that doesn’t provide a big boost to any stats and doesn’t upgrade into anything. Items like this that are dead ends upgrade-wise generally compensate by providing early-game strength. The most obvious example is the Doran’s items, which if you want to be strong in the laning-phase are the go-to item.
If you take a simple average of the gold/stat for the tier 1 items (e.g. Meki pendant, giant’s belt) in the game you can get a basic estimate of how much each stat is “worth” in gold. Using this method it’s quite easy to compare basic items like Doran’s Ring, which give roughly 867g worth of stats according to this method while only actually costing 475g. That’s a pretty good deal.
A full Haunting Guise costs 1485g and gives roughly 1049g in ability power and health. Haunting Guise also has that 20 spell penetration which is a trickier stat to isolate and give a gold value to. Sorcerer’s Shoes cost 750g for the 20 spell penetration and more movement speed. Even if we assume that 20 spell penetration is the majority of the cost and is worth 700g (which is probably being charitable), Haunting Guise is still only giving 1749g worth of stats for 1485g actual cost, which is not nearly as huge of a bargain.
For comparison, buying two Doran’s Rings gives you almost as much gold in stats (1734g) for much less cost (950g).
Let’s assume we have a manaless champion and the mana regeneration on Doran’s Rings is essentially worth 0g at this point. Three Doran’s Rings will give 1732g worth of stats for an actual price of 1425g. Even assuming a manaless champion buying Doran’s Rings, it’s essentially a push between the two.
Early-game combined items are supposed to be more powerful than this to actually be worth the cost of taking up their item slot. If you look at similar priced items like Wriggle’s Lantern (1600g), Sheen (1260g), Spirit Visage (1550g), or The Brutalizer (1337g), you can see that all these are very strong mid-game items that drop off later. Haunting Guise could be an interesting option on manaless ap champions but it’s just not powerful enough to be considered strong mid-game.
The thing is Haunting Guise used to have spell vamp on it, and it was a weird lane sustainability choice that could work on manaless champions pretty well, but then Riot removed the spell vamp and didn’t really know what to do with the clown mask besides give a small bump to its stats. So as a result, the mask has mostly just been hanging around without a purpose. It’s an early game item-choice that is simply not good enough for the early-game.