Then, I’d speculate that you will eventually play support.
No matter how much you don’t want to, you are eventually going to be have to play support. It is a vital role that has a large impact on objective control and early bottom lane dominance, despite the fact that the position never gets the glory when things go well and often gets the blame when things go sour. (Probably why nobody ever wants to play support.)
Solo queue ranked play roles are decided by pick order, which means that people chose the champion they want to play by their order on the pick-and-ban page, which happens to be organized by ELO. (In non-ranked solo queue games, people are organized randomly. In ranked team games, you pick in the order on the team arrangement screen.)
So, if you are last pick, you’ll probably end up playing either jungler or support — since people tend to dislike playing the positions that always get blamed when things go wrong.
Don’t dispair though, you can really make a huge impact on the game as support and have fun doing it.
The first rule of support is knowing where the mute button is. Seriously. If anybody is complaining at you, hit the tab key and then mute them by clicking the speech bubble in the right column.
Sound like overkill? Maybe you don’t play support enough. Everybody will try to boss you around like you are an inferior life form and will blame you for not warding enough — even if you have a stupidly high ward score and already have max wards placed. (wardscore.loltools.net)
Now that you’ve muted the idiots, you are ready to play support well. I might not be the best support in the world and I really dislike playing the position, but I have a 62% win rate playing the position in low elo. I’ll do my best to give you guidance, but be aware that I may be wrong on many points. However, if you’ve read this far, then clearly I’m your only hope.
The second rule of supporting is: avoid dying. As a support, you won’t get many kills — you shouldn’t get any if you can give them all to your allies — and keeping your KDA good through assists (where an assist is worth half of a kill) is going to be difficult. Will you die? Certainly. However, the only times you should die is when it is clear that your death saved somebody else or earned your team multiple kills. If your team isn’t grateful for your death, then you did it wrong. I see so many supports undervalue their own life and die repeatedly. You won’t have any credibility as a support if you die for any cause less than saving the ADC or starting a winning a team fight at dragon (starting a losing team fight will require you to consult the first rule.)
If you do want to learn to be a great support in high elo, then you should really watch Krepo, who is both talented and a great guy. He can be found on Twitch: http://www.twitch.tv/skumbagkrepo. He is proof that you can play any position and get to high elo — though you’ll probably work a little harder getting to challenger as support.
The anatomy of a support
If you had a stat sheet on every champion, there would be three main criteria you would be interested in if you were going to play them as support:
You are probably scratching your head, because you used to play Everquest or World of Warcraft and you know all about playing a healer… so where is the healing on this list?!
Look, let me immediately disabuse you of the idea that the support’s job is to be a healer. Most ADCs in Season 4 have life steal quints and will heal themselves just fine. There are times that they need help surviving burst, but only for one of the three reasons above — you need the ADC to survive the initiation, escape from an unfavorable engagement, or to allow the ADC to harass and have favorable trades. So, shields are actually slightly more valuable than heals in the current meta — simply because the ADC can heal themselves while shielded, plus a shield gives them more total health to work with in an exchange while ADCs don’t have much total health it can be difficult to time burst healing against burst damage.
Part of establishing lane dominance is to get to level 2 before your enemies, which can be difficult to do if you leash for your jungler. With the changes to smite in season 4, most junglers can solo the blue or red buff without any difficulty and does not need your help. If your jungler can go without a leash, then it is probably a good idea to get to lane quickly. Some junglers simply need a leash or they are still living in the past and demand one. You can help the jungler out, but don’t spend much time. One ability activation and/or one auto attack is probably good enough. I sound stingy, but the new smite is really good and if they can’t solo in the jungle then they need to either pick a different champion or learn how to take less damage while doing it.
When you come into lane, it is generally important to control the bushes — warding the far bush if you and your ADC can keep the lane pushed, or the near bush if you can’t. Your ADC’s wave clear and range will largely dictate whether you should push the lane.
There are two advantages of pushing. First, you are killing minions slightly sooner than your opponents, so you get a slight level advantage that you can extend into a larger lead in gold and levels. Second, it is hard to last-hit minions under turret and if you push the minions to their turret, they may lose a lot of gold. Caitlyn, Ashe, and Varus are all pretty good at pushing and being early lane bullies.
The big disadvantage of pushing is that it leaves you exposed to ganks from the enemy jungler.
As a support, if your ADC is pushing the lane hard, then you need to be sure there is good ward coverage to keep the enemy jungler out, which can be rather difficult if all you have is the trinket ward. You should encourage your ADC to also help ward the river. Unfortunately, they probably will not ward far enough into the river because they are afraid of missing minions to actually protect your lane from ganks.
Some important timings to be aware of as support:
- Junglers typically gank lanes for their first time around 3 minutes into the game. Slightly later if they are lower elo. Don’t waste your wards before then. Ward as close to dragon as you can if the jungler can’t jump over walls into the river bush, so you have the most time possible to retreat. If they can jump the wall into the river bush, then you should ward the river bush.
- The team that finishes the melee minions first on the SECOND wave of minions will turn level 2 first and can immediately bully the other team and delay the other team from turning level 2. Pay attention to this whether your ADC will win the race or not. You need to be able to predict aggression or prepare to be aggressive.
- When junglers are around level 6, they are going to be itching to do dragon. If you notice that the enemy jungler is level 6, you need to make sure you have that dragon warded, just in case. There are some junglers who can solo dragon early, but most cannot. (Fiddlesticks and Karthus are two junglers that love to sneak dragon solo at low level.)
- Around twenty minutes into the game, you need to start thinking about warding baron and keeping a ward up there. It is highly unlikely that they’ll do it this early, but if they do and you didn’t ward it, then your team will blame you. Around thirty-five minutes into the game, you are far enough into the game that the baron is on everybody’s mind and you really need to ward it for real.
One of the primary roles of support in season 4 is initiating fights. Champions like Annie and Leona are huge now. You might not think of Thresh as an initiator, but when he lands a hook, he can pull himself in with his Q and then ultimate, setting up the battlefield.
In previous seasons, the jungler would be the initiator and would be very tanky. As a support, you don’t have even a fraction of the durability because don’t have nearly enough items. So, don’t commit to an initiation unless you are certain your team can follow up since you will likely die and your team is going to need to capitalize on your engagement with multiple kills.
Lulu doesn’t charge into battle to initiate, but can still contribute to that goal by using her ultimate and shield on any diving bruiser to turn that champion into an initiating god.
Other supports, like Janna, might offer a shield or combat buff for the initiator, but their lack of a major contribution in this role is one of the reasons we don’t see them much in the LCS.
The next most important role that a support has, which overlaps a little with engaging, is disengaging. While stuns and roots can both be used to initiate, some abilities work better at disengaging than engaging because of their travel time, activation time, or range.
For example, a Morgana ultimate in mid lane can be used to initiate if she flashes in, hits R, and then triggers a Zhonia’s to become invulnerable. That takes a summoner spell, an ultimate, and an item activation — which is a very expensive initiation that some champions can simply flash and dash away from. As a support Morgana, you probably won’t be able to ever afford a Zhonia’s to become invulnerable and you’ll likely die before your allies can follow you into the fight. Morgana’s ultimate still has value as a support though — it can be used to help your team disengage from a fight. If the enemy team dives and you activate your ultimate, they have a very short timeframe to kill you or back off so that they don’t die. Since you are already embedded among your allies, they can use their own CC to stack with yours to help you stay alive and make the enemy engagement even more risky.
Janna’s ultimate is an obvious form of disengage, since it pushes enemies away, but her whirlwind is another great tool — as it moves in a straight line and enemies who try to chase much move to one side or another to not be knocked up. If it is tight quarters, they may not be able to dodge the whirlwind, and sometimes just having them zig and zag is enough to escape.
Nami’s ultimate (the wave) and her bubble stuns are also great for disengaging because they make areas of terrain risky to pass through without getting stunned or knocked up.
In case you didn’t know, a knock up is roughly equivalent to a short stun with a different animation. Knock ups tend to be rather brief, but they interrupt abilities, stop movement, and prevent auto attacks for their duration.
While laning, it is your job to disrupt the enemy ADC’s ability to get CS without dying. You an do this by doing damage to him whenever he is about to last hit a minion or by drawing his attention away from his minions by hitting his support. Supports tend to have fewer ways of healing in lane and damage tends to stick to them better than ADCs. Still, ADCs are adverse to getting hurt because staying in lane while low on health invites junglers to come in and kill them. However you harass, it is important that you don’t distract your own ADC from getting CS and that you don’t take too much damage yourself.
I’m something of a bully in lane. I generally make a great show of positioning myself in places that looks like I might attack and force the ADC to constantly reposition, which can distract them and make them miss CS. Against supports like Blitzcrank, Mundo, Morgana, Lux, Nidalee, Nautilus, and Thresh, you have to be wary of them grabbing you or hitting you, so keep minions between yourself and them — or, conversely, if you are them, then keep a clear line of sight on your enemies. If you can make them extra nervous by standing in bushes that they don’t have warded, all the better.
You don’t need to kill the enemy, you just need them to miss CS. Sometimes, your constant harassment will pay off and you’ll get a chance to cleanly engage. A target ping on the person you are going to focus is a good idea, so your ADC knows who to hit. Remember, they get so caught up in their little mini-game of last hitting minions, that they may not notice you engage if you don’t ping. Waiting for a jungler can be good, but at low elo, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to jump on people’s faces because they will position themselves poorly and take too much harass to get back to tower before dying.
Don’t dive towers as a support. Pro Leona’s can. You cannot. If the jungler dives, you can follow up with your own CC, but remember that (no matter how tough you pretend to be) you are just a support with support items. You can’t take many tower hits before they kill you.
You need to work on getting a blue sight stone as soon as you can and then switching out your warding totem for a sweeper. You want to keep one ward up in the river by dragon at all times. You can spend the other two wards to help your ADC as best as you are able — either by warding bushes nearby or by warding deeper into the enemy jungle to keep tabs on his movement.
Around twenty minutes in, you’ll probably need to use one of your wards to keep baron warded. Chances are, that will be miles away from where you are and your jungler should really ward it, but if your jungler isn’t smart enough to ward it, then you’ll have to because the team will blame you. You can try to ask him to ward it, but don’t argue with him and don’t expect that he actually will.
Vision control wins games, but you can expect that most of your team is stuck in season 3 and won’t ward well and expect you to do it… which of course is stupid, but you have no choice. Do the best you can with your 3 normal wards and your one pink ward.
Place your pink ward defensively in your own jungle or possibly in the small river bushes, in the hopes that nobody will spot them for a long time. There are many good places to put them if your team is ahead and you have the gold to put new ones up if you lose one (there’s a post on this blog with many great suggestions.) If you don’t have a lot of extra gold, you have to hope that ward lasts a long time and offers some protection or gives your team a chance to catch somebody out and get a kill, which is why I suggest putting it strategically in your own jungle where you can spot invades from their jungler. If that ward allows your team to get a kill — even if the ward is lost, that is totally worth it.
As a support, you probably have at least one, if not multiple ways of locking up an opponent with CC. Try to save something to catch fleeing enemies if possible. Practice with your favorite support champions is the best way to learn how to judge which abilities to use when to keep people from escaping.
In previous seasons, supports took exhaust, which would slow down fleeing or chasing champions, but in season four, it is common for supports to take ignite. This prevents enemy ADCs from healing up and does significant damage to them throughout the game. As a support, it is important that you ignite early in the fight so that you don’t steal the kill and that it reduces life steal and healing to maximum effect.
Before the most recent nerf to Doran’s shield there was really only two main choices: the coin or Doran’s shield. The brace, which gives you gold for killing minions, is fine, but the health and health regen from Doran’s shield was good enough to be worth more gold early game. The coin is a rather passive item and something that I didn’t really give much consideration, probably because I’m a very aggressive support.
With the nerf to Doran’s shield, I think that Targon’s Brace is possibly as good of a choice as Doran’s shield. I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I think so. You have to make sure that you are getting last hits on the cannon minions (which will probably cause dismay to your ADC if they don’t know how the brace works — so explain it to them: they get more gold if you kill it.) Missing your last hits will really tick off the ADC if they are counting on you giving them that gold.
I don’t think the spell thief’s line of items is very good. I might be wrong. Feel free to experiment, but because it doesn’t heal you, you probably won’t be able to sustain in lane adequately. The bonus AP is also not terribly relevant because your damage is not as important as your ability to offer disabling effects like stuns and knock ups.
Final words of wisdom (?)
You should be conserving your mana! How many times have I seen supports run out of mana for no good reason. Seriously. Stop wasting your mana on excessive heals and shields. Your ADC can heal themselves with basic attacks and only need shields if it looks like the enemy is going to really aggress on them. If they have more than 60% of their health, then any form of heal is probably a waste of your mana. You want to be able to polymorph or stun or knock up or root an enemy when it is really needed. If your ADC is taking more damage than they need to, they’ll figure it out when you aren’t healing them. If they gripe about it, see the first rule at the top of this post.
Some shields are also combat steroids and you probably should put such buffs on your ADC before you go aggressive so that they can follow up with maximum potential. If your ADC is hurt and missing CS because of low health, then you should also shield them so they can get those last hits in and heal through auto-attack life steal. Though, if you have to shield or heal them for every last hit… well… you are going to run out of mana and lose the lane. Watch the minion health and shield shortly before your ADC needs to go into last hit it. This is especially important if your ADC is going in to last-hit a cannon minion and he might take extra harass.
You don’t want to set the precedent that you are there to heal and shield for every last hit. That’s not an efficient use of resources. Spend more resources getting your enemies to back off and stay back — they can’t do any damage if they leave lane or are playing far back. Just remember the second rule: don’t die.