Master of Self-Lessness – A Look at Support Mastery and Understanding in League of Legends
Mon 4th Nov 2019 - 7:07pm
Supports, the sacrificial role of LoL, the low-econ team facilitator slot, the definition of empowering to enable, has become one of the most gameplay defining roles in all of League of Legends and so we have seen many a support player in pro play become the center of many a highlight reel montage as players such as Clutch’s Vulcan or Fnatic’s Hylissang (the Rakan plays from both these players are insane). But how do you ‘master’ the support role?
Well true mastery is always changing as the game itself is, always changing, that being said there are some core aspects that we can learn as they are ingrained to the very core of the game itself. Therefore, in this piece I will go over those core support aspects which are;
- Understanding when to pick what support
- What is warding and why/how we do it
However, before I break down the cores, there is a key question that must be answered first; What is the purpose of the support player in LoL?
What is The Purpose of the Support Player in LoL?
A lot of people have thought of the support role as just a robotic role. A ward bot, a point and click shield/heal bot. Very basic and limited. This is a major oversight by a large part of the League of Legends community/player base as the support role, in reality, is capable of so much more than that.
Yet the stereotype exists, but why? Well, it comes in the way a support player completes their job. Their impact is often unseen and unnoticed which is what causes players to overlook the complexities of high tier support play and so label them with the ‘robot’ label mentioned prior.
A support player’s job is not just to ward, or heal, or shield, or even any other setup. A support players job is to facilitate the other members in their pursuit of a win requirement by using the tools at their disposal (wards, shields, engage, etc.). For example, the most basic form of this can be seen with a Juggermaw setup where the ADC has a clear win condition of doing as much damage in a front-to-back teamfight setup, the support facilitates this by buffing the carry and healing off any damage they may take (all whilst maintaining the usual warding patterns).
Supporting is often a thankless, unseen role, but when executed right a good support can make any team look good from behind the scenes. So, don’t look down on the role as it carries a lot more responsibility and power than its reputation and lower level of gold income can suggest.
Understanding When to Pick What Support
So, now that we know what a support’s job is, we can start looking at the core aspects of being a support ‘master’ entail. But where do we start? Well, where does any other match of LoL start? Champion select of course.
Now we all know that the right pick can single-handedly win a game of LoL, but how do we know what to pick and when, well that depends on what your team and the opposing side have drafted so far. Using whatever information is present you can pick a support that will best enable your teams win condition. Now every support is different and individual champion matchups are important but most can put into groups such as; enchanters, engagers, disengages, pickers, team fighters, tanks, AP damage and Pyke. So, to cover all of these (and a few other scenarios) we will break down each of them, starting with enchanters;
Includes: Yuumi, Nami, Lulu, Soraka, Janna, Taric, Sona
When to draft it: When your ADC is the primary damage output and you don’t need engage
Does well into: Disengage, Team Fighters
Countered by: Engage, Pyke, Pickers
Breakdown: These picks are ideal when you need to keep a single ranged carry (usually a marksman) alive and maximized in their damage output
Includes: Alistar, Nautilus, Rakan, Leona, Annie, Braum
When to draft it: When your team needs a team-fight initiator
Does well into: Enchanters
Countered by: Disengage
Breakdown: This one is very simple; can your team start a fight? If not then these picks can be very effective, but watch for being countered by disengage specialist like Morgana who can ruin picks like Leona attempts to start fights
Includes: Nami, Janna, Morgana, Braum, TK
When to draft it: When the opposing team has high levels/many ways to start fights
Does well into: Engagers
Countered by: AP Damage
Breakdown: When it comes to kiting out cooldowns from the opposition these picks are ideal. However, be wary of people picking poke supports such as Vel’Koz into you.
Includes: Nautilus, Thresh, Blitzcrank, Morgana, Lux
When to draft it: When the opposing team has a single target or heavy rotation style
Does well into: Enchanters
Countered by: Disengage
Breakdown: The entire idea of this group of champs is to catch out and pick off a single enemy carry/jungler rotating between objectives so that they die before they can output anything positive
Includes: Nautilus, Nami, Taric, Lux, Sona, Braum
When to draft it: When both teams are set for a lot of 5v5 battles
Does well into: Pickers
Countered by: Enchanters
Breakdown: These picks are going to excel in multi-man fights as their immense amount of AOE/multi-target spells mean that when both teams are grouped their impact is going to be maximized
Includes: Taric, Nautilus, Alistar, Leona, Braum, TK
When to draft it: When your team has a lack of frontline
Does well into: AP Damage
Countered by: Enchanters
Breakdown: These picks are designed to play on the forefront of the fight, creating space for your carries using their inert tankiness to soak up as much damage as possible in front to back fights
Includes: Lux, Vel’Koz, Morgana, Xerath, Zyra, MF
When to draft it: When your team lacks a source of poke, magic damage, or damage in general
Does well into: Disengage
Countered by: Tanks
Breakdown: So, the team lacks damage. If they’re not going to bring, you can. These picks specialize in poking out and then using a combo in a fight so they operate best against teams with low levels of engage potential
When to draft it: When you need an assassin, who can take out squishy targets. Or when your team lacks a physical damage threat
Does well into: AP damage, Enchanters
Countered by: Tanks
Breakdown: The assassin, the lone killer. It is simple, you want a single target plus extras dead, then Pyke is the pick. He is a very unique support in the fact that he is meant to take the kill.
Scenario: Blind Pick/1st pick
Includes: Thresh, Morgana, other versatile supports
When to draft it: when you have no idea about the team comps or laning matchups
Does well into: N/A
Countered by: N/A
Breakdown: Since you have no idea what the team compositions will play out and what your team will need, you need to just try and meet as many possibilities as you can, so champions that mix offense and defense are better here even though other supports may specialize better
Scenario: Kill Lane
Includes: Almost everything
When to draft it: When you need to cheese your strategy
Does well into: N/A
Countered by: N/A
Breakdown: The cheese approach to supports. If you’re running with a duo partner and feeling cheesy feel free to run these kill lanes to get aggro early and ty to snowball in under 20 mins (I would say start with Taliyah and Pantheon as an opening pair)
So now we know what to pick, but with this I give a warning, don’t try to bust out a new pick in ranked play. As I will show later in this piece, you will need to understand what exactly every champion needs to be doing in each stage of the game, and this comes with practice. So before you go into ranked, I must advise that you have a champion pool that is not necessarily deep, but diverse and has a nice spread across the categories mentioned prior. For example, my current pool contains Thresh, Nautilus, Nami, Morgana, Lux, and Vel’Koz.
The other part to this is to not assume that your pick will automatically win you the game, it does not, what it does do is give you a win condition, to convert you have to execute on it. So, don’t get complacent, take a good draft into a GG.
What is Warding and Why/How We Do It
Now before we dive in here, there is another stereotype that must be addressed. The tale at hand here is that warding is the support's job. Aline we have all heard a mispositioning ADC cry out as they throw your LP away. Sadly, it is true that the support player is meant to be main source of vision control. But note that I said main source, not the entire source! Your team needs to help you with the vision!
Now, onto the topic of warding. When you look at good warding patterns, you see that wards are meant to do at least one of three things;
- Prevent surprise engages from the fog of War
- Scout the rotations of enemy players (including the junglers gank path)
- Secure control of major neutral objectives
You can only have 4 wards out at any one time (3 from your trinket/Sightstone item and 1 Control Ward), so where you place your wards in each part of the game is vital. For each stage of the game, I will give a basic rundown of where the default wards should be, starting with your basic laning phase
Blue side laning phase
Having a control ward in your tri-brush is a definite need, as it denies a great gank path which will deny the gank. If you're in a position of being able to push the lane, having a ward in the river brush to be good or if you really want to scout the jungler you can roam a little to ward the ramp/front of blue buff. All of this included with your lane brush wards. These wards are designed to get minor scouting on the jungler and too prevent the engages in lane.
Red side laning phase
Having a control ward in the river brush is definitely a requirement, as if you’re not shoved in 24/7 it gives a large amount of gank deterrence. Pushing into tri-brush is risky, so don’t go for it if it's not secure. A further scouting ward can be placed behind the red buff. All of this includes your lane brush wards, as these wards are designed to get minor scouting on the jungler and to prevent the engages in lane.
Blue Side Dragon Control
For securing a large neutral buff, the common control ward in the pit is a must to deny easy vision for the enemy team, helping to prevent steals. The second required ward is the mid lane brush. You need this warded, because mid is the strongest entry point for those wanting to challenge by fighting as it is the widest entry point. Pixel brush is awkward, ward it if you think there will be a fight. This just leaves the two remaining enemy entry routes of the blue buff (or at least the slope down to the river from its home) and mid-river slope. These wards are for securing the objective and scouting enemy rotations to contest the objective.
Red Side Dragon Control
The ward locations for red side mirror the blue side locations in part. Put a control ward in the pit, while placing a sight ward in the mid river bush and pixel bush if necessary. This leaves behind the pit and the mid-river slope. Having a ward behind red buff is very powerful and must if you can safely get it (emphasis on the safely). Wards in the red buff brush or just over the wall are good ideas too. These wards are for securing the objective and scouting enemy rotations to contest the objective
For Baron control, utilize the Dragon ward set up for the enemy, because the map is reversed.
No matter how much we dislike it, we can fall behind and have to defend at our tier two turrets. These wards have purely one function, to gain knowledge on which lanes are being dove with numbers from the enemy team. Six wards across your side of the map do this well: raptor brush, jungle entry brush, central brush (these 3 on the red side of the jungle), in the wolf pit, blue buff brush, and behind the wolf pit brush (these 3 on the blue side of the jungle). If you have vision in these areas, you can get to defensive positions faster (as your rotation paths are theoretically shorter) and hope to win fights and get picks, starting a potential comeback. These wards are purely for scouting the enemy team’s movement. Note for red side, flip the wards over as the buffs are on opposite sides
Ok, so you’re in the lead, pressuring turrets, looking to strangle the opposition out. But how do you ensure that the term comeback isn’t going to apply? The best way to do this is to deny the flanks that the enemy will need to win teamfights via surprises or numerical man advantages. There are four ward locations that do this very well: Blue buff brush, behind wolf pit, raptor brush, and red side central jungle. These wards are purely for scouting the enemy team’s movement.
Defending at the Inhib Line
So, your holding on at the inhibitor turrets. One more well-executed dive/pick and it could be game over for you and your team. The wards that are used here are designed to scout out enemies taking risky paths between lanes so that they can be picked or to find enemies taking the longer routes so that you can counter-rotate and hold turrets in your attempt to stall out to a comeback. The wards in this scenario are as follows: pick wards a little in from the base wall, wards just outside the base wall, and in the raptor pit.
At the Enemy Inhib Line
This one is pretty clear cut, you're almost at the GG, just keep them in their base and set up for the close. The wards for this are as follows: wards just over the base wall to scout the enemy in their base, a ward just outside the base on the blue buff side of the jungle, and a control ward in the bush just outside the wall on the rid buff jungle side. A ward hung back a little in case of a cheesy Teleport is potentially a good idea. Scouting movement so you can keep those pesky enemies in check is the intended function here.
Summing Up Tips
To sum this section up, I will give you some general warding tips but first I will make the following statement. Identifying the correct state of the game and adapting to it is one of the core parts of support mastery and so if you can make your wards (and ward kills) match the game state. You really can be set up for success as a support and as part of a five-man team.
- Clearing wards alone can be risky. Don’t get too isolated, as vision is good but your life is worth more
- Changing your trinket to a Sweeping Lens upon support quest completion is a key to unlocking vision dominance
- Always keeping control wards in your inventory is worth more than the item slot until the ultra-late game
So, there we have it, a look at the setup for the support role in its understanding, setup, and vision execution. Now remember mastery takes not only knowledge but time, and I sincerely hope that those of you reading this take the knowledge and apply yourselves to the role of support as while it is a role that can go unnoticed, it is a role that has one heck of a lot of power behind it. With that, I once again leave you with the thoughts of GL, HF, and GG.
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