I'd like to start by emphasizing that there is no one build that will fit every player and every scenario. First of all, merlin is busted rn so it really doesn't matter what you build. After he gets balanced though, it may be time to take a closer look at builds. A lot of people like the tier 1 chronos pendant with magis blessing start, where they get boots, chronos pendant, gem of iso, and spear of magus (see other builds on smitefire). Maybe that build is better for your playstyle. Or maybe, the bancrofts build is better for your playstyle. As an example, I'd like to point to paul, one of the best pro mid laners. In ranked, he loves rushing bancrofts. He just destroys everyone with his insane mechanics and snowball playstyle. On the other hand, take a look at EU pros (former to be accurate) like prettyprime, he will almost always opt for mage's blessing and tier 1 pen or chronos pendant while still being successful in ranked. Two things you can take from this comparison. One, while builds are somewhat important, there are far more important things to practice/possess if you want to be a high-level player. Two, it's important to either build to your playstyle, or adapt your playstyle to your build. Both prettyprime and paul are successful with different builds, but they build what's best for their playstyle. Now, onto what I build...
1)Be very aware that you are starting tier 2 bancrofts, meaning you don't have tons of sustain in terms of mana. You have the ability to fight well when needed, but you can't fight multiple times or in long engagments while you have tier 2 bancrofts. Keep that in mind. Your main goal early game is to ensure that your first back will allow you to purchase bancrofts. Getting first blood or assist will help you do this easily, but it's not necessary as long as you're careful.
2)Understand your power spike and limitations. When you do that first back and purchase bancrofts for 1100 gold, the enemy mid laner and sometimes assassin will still be working on their boots. You have very good fight potential, but you also have 2 major downsides: long cooldowns because we went for dmg and not utility and slow movement. Because you don't have boots, do not try to rotate to duo lane to help with a gank. Only rotations you should be doing is mid camps, red buff, and sometimes back camps. Your cooldown are going to be kind of long as well, but that's ok because you're gonna be in ice stance most of the time early game. When fighting happens (usually close quarters early game), just switch to fire and kill everyone cuz merlin is op and you have bancrofts.
3)As soon as you enter the game, switch to ice stance in fountain. Pop your 2 over the wall to clear speed buff, walk to wave and start basic attacking while you wait for you ice 2 to come back up. Don't switch to another stance to try and clear the wave. Save that stance switch for when the 2v2 fight or invade happens because you are trying to conserve mana.
4)My leveling order usually is 4>1>2>3. I have seen so many different variations of this though, that it really is your personal preference what you value most. Just make sure you level your 3 last
5)Idk about console, but i think quick or instacasting is important on merlin.
6)As of a week ago, rod of tahuti was bugged on merlin. It doesn't proc on several of his abilities. However, this isn't a big deal rn because merlin is op af and it doesn't matter what dmg item you build or don't build on him.
7)Explanations for some of the situational items
Celestial legion helm - this is a good pick if you feel like you need some defensive option against a jg that is farming you. However, don't pick this up as one of your last 2 items. This should be picked up before or after spear of magus.
Gem of isolation - widely considered a core item on Merlin (mainly cuz having this item makes sure always get the bonus dmg on your ice 1, even if the target isn't previously slowed). It's a good item and I enjoy picking it up, especially if i want a bit more health
Obshard - is good if the enemy's tanks are running the game. If I have to build anti heal, I always pick up divine with obshard. In the rare occasions that the enemy has at least 3 tanks or the 2 tanks are causing tons of trouble or you just want to focus busting tanks, spear of magus plus obshard is godly. Usually however, spear of magus alone is enough pen.
Typhon's fang - because rod of tahuti is bugged, I like picking this item up if the enemy team has only 1 or no anti heal items.
Rod of tahuti - Your go to dmg item this season. Basically the soul reaver of last season
Doom orb - I don't know how I feel about this item still. I think the best way to build it is to start tier 2 boots and tier 1 doom orb with 1 potion. The finish boots before getting doom orb. I really don't know why I included this item other than it has dmg.
Shaman's ring - Some people love this item to death. Others think this is one of the most useless item. I think it's a good pickup on merlin, even though I rarely purchase it myself. I think it's a good pickup just cuz merlin can throw out so many abilities/empowered basics in a short span and get the bonus dmg
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