Whether you like her or not, Syndra has always had a place in the meta because she offers abilities that help her fit into a variety of compositions. Although Syndra is probably most well known for her "gameplay button", she definitely takes a lot of skill to master. If you master Syndra, you may end up like Dignitas' mid laner, Max "Soligo" Soong. That's exactly why I asked him for his input on Syndra's strengths, weaknesses, builds, and more so we can all play Syndra like the best.
What makes Syndra so powerful?
Since Syndra's whole kit is designed around her Dark Spheres, she requires a lot of forethought to efficiently play and master. With incredible damage and short cooldowns, Syndra offers her team a great early and midgame while constantly having a threat of a one-shot at any stage in the game. With her Dark Sphere on a four second cooldown, she can use it often to whittle down her lane matchup. The best way to maximize Syndra's lane strength is through controlling the wave state and generating priority in lane through the easy and regular poking with her Dark Spheres.
With control over the lane, Syndra should be able to assist the jungler to take control of the neutral objectives. Not to mention for skirmishes around scuttle control, Syndra can always take control of the scuttle with her Force of Will to keep it in a position where it's easier to take. With her low cooldowns and utility, it's important for Syndra to keep track of her balls to position around in fights and skirmishes to get easy stuns, and maximize the damage on her ultimate Unleashed Power.
Proactive ball placement will not only threaten an all-in on squishy targets that will likely result in death, but also threaten easy setup for multi-champion stuns or follow up crowd control. This setup is not only important for controlling the flow of the fight, but considering high priority champions in the meta right now, she can easily punish the heavy-dive compositions that are common in solo queue.
Syndra is especially strong during the laning phase, and in a meta where it's really important to have mid priority in order to fight for scuttle crabs, and get early game dragons, and play for the herald, Syndra is a really strong champion when it comes to that aspect. Later on during team fights, although she doesn't scale as hard as the other control mages like Azir, or Viktor, she still has a really strong utility role where she can threaten a lot of the champions that go in, such as Tristana, or Kai'sa for example, with being able to one-shot them. So she is a very good deterrent for a lot of the other meta champions right now.
In champion select, especially in pro play, mid laners are often left for the end of the draft to be picked up to minimize the chances of being countered in lane, and to have as much information as possible to make sure the mid lane champion will be useful to the team. Syndra is one of the few mid lane champions that is incredibly good as a blind pick. With her impeccable laning, in most matchups she can get lane priority and apply that one-shot pressure elsewhere around the map to create easy leads. To synergize with her early game dominance, try to pair Syndra with an aggressive early game jungler to effectively generate leads in the jungler and mid lane.
For the most part, Syndra shouldn't have any hard counters in lane, honestly, because her laning is so strong. I think the main determining factor when picking Syndra blind is just which jungler are you comboing her with. If you have a good jungler to combo with Syndra, then Syndra plus that jungler can really take over the early game and I think that is a really huge factor. A good example is our game against FlyQuest where we played Syndra. I believe that they first picked Hecarim, and our response to that was Graves/Syndra. The game plan behind that is that Hecarim just wants to farm early game and make it to level 6, whereas Graves should have a lot of agency and invade and prevent him from getting to that level 6. Syndra should be able to get mid priority most matchups and help Graves in accomplishing that.
In drafting a powerful mid-jungle pair, Syndra will easily have the pressure to take control over neutral objectives, and warding positions to gather more information. Having an effective jungler in the early game like Graves is an excellent example because Syndra can translate that self-generated mid pressure to help Graves invade to counter-jungle and apply pressure against more scaling-focused junglers like the Hecarim in Soligo's example.
Summoner Spells & Runes
In terms of summoners, there are several viable options for Syndra, but they are quite dependent on the purpose Syndra is trying to fulfill on her team. Ultimately, however, there is one option for runes that is far above the rest overall. Phase Rush is easily the best rune choice overall because it makes up for her lack of mobility while also providing her an easier time readjusting her positioning to setup stuns with her Scatter the Weak. In the rest of the Sorcery tree, it's best to take Manaflow Band, Transcendence, and Scorch. Manaflow Band synergizes with Syndra’s playstyle of poking enemies down in lane with her Dark Sphere and providing her with additional mana and eventually mana regen that will help her in spamming her abilities.
Transcendence also provides Syndra with lower cooldowns that can make her power that much more potent as she levels up. Finally, Scorch is exceptional for Syndra because of how important her poking is to her lane success. Adding extra damage to her poke every ten seconds can add up quickly and again, make her laning that much more potent.
In terms of the secondary tree, summoners should look to take Inspiration tree with points in Biscuit Delivery, and Cosmic Insight. Biscuit Delivery provides Syndra with more sustain in lane, and Cosmic Insight provides Syndra with additional Haste for her Summoner Spells and Active Items. Considering it is common to have 1-2 active items, and how important Flash is to staying alive, Cosmic Insight is essential.
I think Phase Rush is definitely the best, just because she is a very low mobility champion, and if her E (Scatter the Weak) is down, then she becomes very vulnerable to anyone who jumps on her. So having the extra movement speed will be really good for escaping those situations. But there is some room for some other Keystones. You could argue Comet could be good in certain situations and I think Electrocute can be played as well, but I think in general the best Keystone should be Phase Rush on her. I take teleport and flash because they are the best for mid lane right now in pro play.
As mentioned, there are options for Syndra in the runes. Electrocute is an option when Syndra is looking for heavy snowballing in the early game, or if she is only needed to one-shot an enemy carry. Otherwise, if Syndra is against a team that has little engage or dive, Comet is an option to give her more potent poking in lane. In terms of Summoner Spells, Flash is obviously a must, and Teleport allows her to match side waves or roams. Otherwise, if Teleport won't be that useful, Teleport can obviously be subbed out for Ignite to give her that much more kill pressure in lane.
Like any mid lane champion, it is important to have the build that suits the playstyle. Syndra is no different. Although she has options to choose from, the best options depend again, on what situation Syndra is in. The choice of mythic item is definitely the most important to get right. To start off, it must be noted that in Solo Queue, Syndra is often seen building Luden's Tempest. Although this mythic item works, it really should only be built in the same situations that Syndra should take Ignite and Electrocute (when Syndra's only purpose is to one-shot an enemy carry like a Vayne, Kai'sa, etc.).
Otherwise, Syndra should be looking to build her Mythic item to cover her weaknesses, not add to her strengths. Thus, the best options of mythic items are Liandry's Anguish, or Everfrost. Liandry's Anguish provides Syndra with a lot of damage to tanks. Considering their prevalence in the meta, this will likely be the most common mythic built for her in premade games. Liandry's gives Syndra much more potency against enemies with a lot of health because it has both passives Agony (Deal up to 12% bonus magic damage based on the target's bonus health), and Torment (Dealing damage with Abilities causes enemies to burn for (15+1.5% Ability Power) + 1% max Health magic damage per second for 4 seconds). Otherwise, as tanks are less common in Solo Queue, Syndra will be looking to build Everfrost.
Liandry's can be exchanged for Everfrost, just depending on the team compositions, but a lot of the meta champions right now do tend to be tanks. You see a lot of teams drafting triple tanks in top, jungle, and support, and so Liandry's will get a lot of value against team compositions like that. But in Solo Queue, when you see a lot more squishy champions, like assassins for example, then I think Everfrost is also a very good buy on Syndra. It's a strong item in general and has good stats.
Everfrost provides Syndra with a bit of Health, more Ability Power instead of Magic Penetration, and an Active that deals more damage, and either slows or roots depending on the piece of the cone that hits the enemy. Overall, this item provides her with a secondary method of hard crowd control for setup/follow up, while also providing her with an alternate or backup method to peel for herself or kite out in teamfights. After her mythic item, Syndra builds Seraph's Embrace to give her a large Mana pool to prevent her from running low on Mana, while complementarily adding a lot more damage in the form of Ability Power that scales with her Mana. From there, Syndra builds standard mage items that enhance her damage and utility in fights such as Void Staff, Rabadon's Deathcap, and Banshee's Veil.
After that, I think the build path will be pretty much similar every single game. Seraph's is a really good item because you tend to be wanting to spam your Q over and over to stack balls for your ultimate and to setup for your W. After that it's just kind of standard mage items like Void Staff, Deathcap, Banshee's Veil, etc. just all depending on the situation.
Although the mythic item, boots, and Seraph's Embrace are standard first items, situational items may be built before Seraph's completion to assist her in more complex situations.
Zhonya's Hourglass is an example where for certain matchups problematic for Syndra, she should definitely be looking to build it as soon as possible to minimize her weakness in the lack of mobility and bulk. This is a great option against all-in mid lane champions like Assassins, Juggernauts, or Bruisers where Syndra's stun is not enough to prevent their pursuit.
Let's say you’re against a Zed, for example, Hourglass second will have a lot of value, so basically if you feel like you can get a lot of value out of the active of hourglass, then it'll be a good item to buy. You should have room to get both (Seraph's and Zhonya's), because for the most part you can just sit on Tear for the early game, and actually I think that game (against Golden Guardians) I didn't go Seraph's, haha. Okay, yeah that was a mistake on my part, I'll be honest, haha. I think almost every game you can definitely delay upgrading the Tear into Archangel's until later on if you want to finish an Hourglass right away, or let's say you are into triple tanks, you can just go Void Staff right away, but you should always get a Tear early game and at least sit on it until later on because the Mana is really important.
In general, the choice of boots on Syndra is pretty standard, where Sorcerer's Shoes are the most ideal. Sorcerer's Shoes give Syndra a significant amount of Magic Penetration that can basically give her true damage against squishier champions. However, there are certain times when taking Lucidity Boots is ideal.
Well, I think Lucidity Boots are just a really strong buy in general right now. Especially if you can get them on your first recall, as they are 200 gold cheaper than Sorcerer's Shoes it does give you a lot of control if you are able to complete those on your first back. As well as later on, scaling-wise, it's honestly pretty good, especially against, like I said, a lot of the tank compositions that people are playing earlier, you're not getting as much value out of just purchasing magic penetration, so just having the ability to get extra rotations of your cooldowns can be more valuable than just getting more damage.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity give Syndra more Ability Haste, and Summoner Spell Haste. In games when Syndra feels she doesn't need more damage, but needs more utility, these boots are a great option. Otherwise, Lucidity Boots are also a great option when Syndra recalls at a time where she needs items but doesn't have the gold to complete the Sorcerer's Shoes. Although it will not give her more damage, it will indirectly, because she can use her spells more often because of the Ability Haste that the Ionian Boots of Lucidity provide.
Something else that might get overlooked, but is actually quite critical, is making sure that you have a mouse and keyboard that you can count on in the clutch. There are few things more annoying than KNOWING that you hit Q before the enemy fired off their ability, yet, you’re the one staring at the sad, grey death recap screen. We recommend the HyperX Alloy Origins 60. It’s sturdy and hefty so it won’t slide around during intense team fights, and the 60% form factor gives you more mouse room to make big plays. Speaking of mice, the ultralight HyperX Pulsefire Haste clocks in at under 60 grams. That reduction in weight just might help shave off those fractions of a second that can make the difference between clutch or crushed.
The Early Game
My tip for Syndra would be: Make sure you're playing very aggressively with your Q in the early levels, because your Q is on a very short cooldown and it outranges most of the other champions that you are going to be seeing mid lane. So use that to harass them consistently, and at level 6 you should be able to threaten an all-in, and if not, you should be able to just freely push the wave and move around the map and threaten your one-shot with your ultimate on anyone.
Since Syndra's early game is so strong, it's critical to play it correctly to maximize her strengths. The most important thing, as previously mentioned, is obviously utilizing her low cooldown, high range, and high damage ability Dark Sphere, to poke enemies out of lane and develop pressure and priority.
Syndra's Dark Spheres not only deal damage that help generate priority, but their sheer presence alone are enough to create pressure because of her kit design, where her other abilities synergize so well with the Dark Spheres. It is not even that problematic to miss every Q in lane, because Syndra can easily pick up the Dark Sphere and throw it again with her W (Force of Will) or threaten a stun with her E (Scatter the Weak).
As long as Syndra has a Dark Sphere out in the lane, she is applying pressure and should be respected for it. The only way to really punish Syndra is to be agile enough to avoid all of her abilities, or wait for her to use all of them before pursuing a trade or all-in. With that in mind, good Syndra players will predominantly be using Q in lane, and not her W or E to have that constant threat of its use to apply pressure and generate leads.
The Mid Game
In terms of the mid game, Syndra's weakness is in her lack of mobility. In order to play the mid game correctly, it is important to keep that in mind. Especially when attempting to pick up gold and experience in the side lanes, it is key to understand Syndra's weakness and minimize it effectively. That is why her build and rune choices are so important to creating options to keep herself safe in this stage of the game when she is weakest, but at the same time the most impactful. Syndra is best at getting picks on rotations and around objectives by initiating with her abilities, or at least following up and dealing the finishing blow with her ultimate.
Her problem, however, is that she must stay ahead of the curve in terms of income to make sure she is as impactful at this stage of the game as possible. The best way to do that consistently is with CSing in the side lanes. In the side lanes, Syndra must be extremely careful because of her lack of mobility. If Syndra can match an enemy side laner it isn't as problematic, because then her weakness is ultimately mitigated with appropriate map awareness. When she cannot easily match an enemy side laner, Syndra will likely only be punished for moving to the side lanes to catch waves, and so instead, should be looking to setup plays for picks in the jungle, and only move to side lanes when it is safest to do so.
For competitive, side laning is a bit harder compared to solo queue. In general, you want to be split pushing when it's safe to, and if you beat the person that you are going to be splitting against it's not a problem. Otherwise, if you're not able to beat the person you are side laning against, you should probably just group with your team, until the wave in the side lane crashes into your tower, and that's when you need to go back and get the wave. But either way, come the midgame situation, you're not necessarily looking to just farm up into the late game. At that stage, Syndra really excels at getting picks and especially getting picks in the jungle for people who are looking to get vision or just wandering around, and I think that is one of Syndra's biggest strengths at that stage of the game.
Knowing Syndra's strengths of the early game, and weaknesses in defenses and mobility is important to play Syndra well. But, to play Syndra exceptionally, it's crucial to know how to balance her strengths and weaknesses in a teamfight setting. In teamfights, no matter what champion a player picks, it's important to be as aware as possible of all features of teamfights to come out on top. Syndra is perhaps one of the champions that is so dependent on this awareness that it really makes-or-breaks her gameplay. Positioning around her Dark Spheres to play aggressively is one thing, but also positioning to minimize her chances of getting killed at the same time, is a whole different challenge.
I think the most important things during teamfights are, making sure that: 1. You have balls stacked up before the fight starts in order to get the maximum number of balls for your ultimate. As well as: 2. Setting up just potential balls for you to look for stuns off of. I think once you have balls in a good position, just looking for any sort of stun to start the fight off or any kind of stun on a key target is a good way to look at it, or just following up on someone's engage. Otherwise, after that, once your Summoners are down, you do have to play kind of conservatively because it's very easy for people to jump on you after your E is down, and yeah, after that, it's just about DPSing them with the rest of your spells and playing with the rest of your teammates.
The most basic way to play Syndra in teamfights is to spam her Q to make sure she has the Spheres available at all times in the event she can use her ultimate to one-shot a carry. Otherwise, more advanced Syndra players must think ahead to how the fight will play out and how the enemies’ positions will change in the coming seconds to effectively place her Dark Spheres to zone, by threatening a stun, dealing damage, or follow up with her W to slow targets and potentially use her ultimate for lethal damage. On top of all of these factors, Syndra can also play a fight in more of a utility role where she uses her ultimate to position all of her Dark Spheres in front of her to set up an easy (and also massive) stun that can potentially hit the majority of the enemies. As the fight continues, her role gets a bit easier as she just needs to position for safety, while using abilities to continue dealing damage.
Although Syndra is an incredible blind pick, she still has some counter picks. As mentioned previously, Assassins, Juggernauts, and Bruisers are quite effective against Syndra in lane. That may seem like a lot of champions to worry about, but with appropriate gameplay, Syndra can still one-shot Assassins, or position and poke out Juggernauts and Bruisers to come out on top in lane.
Nonetheless, these champions offer stats that either effectively "shrug-off" the damage Syndra applies, or have the slipperiness to avoid and potentially lock-down and kill Syndra if she is not prepared. Assassins like Zed, Talon, or Kassadin all have damage that can easily kill Syndra once they are close enough, while simultaneously having the easy gap-close that can get them within reach.
In terms of the Juggernauts, and Bruisers that do well into Syndra, consider champions that are extremely tanky early game, or have access to great sustain that can minimize her method of applying pressure through poking out enemies.
I think one of Syndra's biggest weaknesses is that she is very low mobility, so any champion that can get on her pretty easily, so champions like Fizz for example, can be considered a counter, or champions like Talon or Zed can be good into her in Solo Queue, as well as champions who can easily dodge her E. Her E is the most important ability in her kit, so if the champion you are playing can deal with that in some way, whether it's becoming invulnerable and dodging it, or just having the movement speed or tankiness to not care about it, champions like that should be good into Syndra.
11.6 Patch Changes
Patch 11.6 brought out some changes to mid lane items that have impacted builds and meta. What significance do these changes have for Syndra specifically? Well, Liandry's makes Syndra even better into tanks which will make her that much more viable in pro-play or in Solo Queue against tankier teams. Although Luden's Tempest did also see changes that can enhance her ability to deal that much more damage, the changes are not enough to make it surpass the other options as the best mythic item on Syndra overall. Really, all this change does, is help players see the situations where Luden's Tempest should be built in more easily (when the emphasis is on consistently poking to threaten one-shots and not threaten crowd-control and utility focused abilities).
Even with the changes, Syndra doesn't seem like the best user of Luden's Tempest, so I think for the most part you will still just be going Everfrost or Liandry's Anguish. But, at the same time, I haven't played that many games on the new patch or experimented with Luden's Tempest that much yet, so I can't say for sure. But, my gut feeling says that Liandry's and Everfrost should still be the two best mythics on her.
Overall, the changes to these items essentially make it easier to see that Syndra should build Liandry's into heavy tank teams, Luden's into heavily squishy teams, and Everfrost into teams where she needs to kite for herself and have more of a utility role for her team.
Overall, if you want to play Syndra like Soligo, you’ll need to understand the reasoning behind his choices in runes, items, and gameplay. Syndra can provide a lot of early game pressure and pick potential that can surely set precedence for how the rest of the game will play out and dramatically snowball small early leads to victories. Why not follow in Soligo's footsteps and unleash the power of The Dark Sovereign!
Do your best, and keep asking questions. Good luck, Summoners!