Intermediate to Advanced Support Guide

This is not your typical guide. I am not going to pretend we are here to just gloss over warding, talk about counterpicks and runes or items and then call it a day. Guaranteed: this is more information than anyone ever cared to write on the topic, but that’s exactly how complex playing support can be.

We don’t go over the basics here, you should already know support fundamentals. I want you to read it front to back in the order it’s presented in. I know a lot of you won’t, which is why there’s a handy little table of contents below.

Contents

Last updated 3/21/12

What Makes a Good Support?

1. Awareness
2. Communication
3. Understanding Map Control
4. A Support Mentality
5. Stop Reading Guides and Play

Set Up for Success: Runes & Masteries

1. Defensive Runes
2. Tanky/Sustain Runes
3. Aggressive Runes
4. Masteries Overview
5. Effective Uses for Summoner Spells

The Usual Suspects

1. Soraka
2. Janna
3. Sona
4. Alistar
5. Taric
6. Leona
7. Nunu
8. Blitzcrank
9. Lulu
10. Less Common Supports
11. Hypothetical Supports

Items and You

1. Generally Good Ideas
2. (Highly) Situational
2. You Were Probably Going to Win Anyway
3. Don’t Get These

Who to Watch and Why

1. Nhat Nguyen
2. PureGoldenBoy
3. Xpecial

Other Resources

I wrote this for supports who have some experience but who are trying to get better, or supports who have already dedicated themselves to the craft of supporting but need a fresh perspective or tips to help them improve. Maybe you will have already stumbled upon some of the information here by way of simply playing support a lot, which is great.

Everything else is here for you to soak up like a sponge and ruminate on, think about, and play around with.

Ok, let’s get started. My body… my body is ready.

Thank you to PinkPocky for proofreading and protips, and thank you to Sir Bel de Mont, Jecra, Darkras, Monositaro and Sip Champagne for tossing in their two cents as well. This guide would not exist in its current form without you all.

What Makes a Good Support?

So what makes us good at supporting? Knowledge of the game, being able to multitask, sure. Being good at babysitting, maybe. Being an emotional punching bag? Ahh, ranked queue.

But aside from the knowing sarcasm, what kinds of traits do good support players exhibit, and what does that have anything to do with their performance? Let’s cover some of the most important ones, why they are important, what they look like, and how you can incorporate them into your gameplay.

Awareness

Paying attention… harder than it seems! There is so much going on, it’s hard to figure out how where to place your focus in the first place. What should you be paying attention to? Why is it so important? These are great questions, ones that will get answered here.

As a support, you play one of the two roles that has the best field vantage — jungle is the only position that demands more map awareness than you. You’ll need to have almost as much acute map awareness as your jungler does, because a lot of your job outside of managing bottom lane’s success is vying for map control: watching the enemy team’s movements to create opportunities to take advantage of, coordinating with other lanes for dragon, and when it is appropriate taking down the enemy’s bottom lane turret.

It is crucial that you recognize what these moments look like, and start learning how to see them forming before they arrive.

Watching the Enemy Support

The enemy support will give you so much information about the enemy’s intentions in bottom lane and what kind of playstyle they’re going to commit to. Since you are a support, you know what it feels like when it’s the “right time” to do something, right? Ward the river, initiate on the AD carry, poke and harass, etc. You have started developing a sense of when to do what.

If you know what it feels like, then you know what it looks like as well. You sit at the edge of the bush as Alistar, hoping someone will facecheck it. You’re gliding at max range and poking with your Q as Sona. These are trademarks of their playstyles and lets you know what they’re up to.

It’s the same if you see the enemy Soraka is scooting away toward the river when you’ve got 10 minutes on the game clock and you know she has a pink burning a hole in her pocket: she probably wants to ward dragon.

This is just common sense to us at this point, right? So watching that enemy support will provide you with the most information.

In this screenshot to the left, Sona really wants to go back and has already started recalling in sight of Vayne and Alistar, while Caitlyn continues to last hit minions.

Sona cancels her recall, but it’s too late for her to do anything. Caitlyn has given Alistar an opening and he takes it, leading with a Headbutt into the wall to stun Cait in place and then tanks the turret for Vayne while she picks up the kill.

The support is the one initiating to harass or engage most of the time, and positions to absorb hits and create openings for the AD carry to do damage. If you see the support taking the initiative, like this Alistar is, you need to be able to react quickly and appropriately.

Watching the Enemy Jungler

This really isn’t your job, it’s your jungler’s job. But you should still be keeping track when you can of what buffs, items, and how much CS the enemy jungler has — it’ll let you know where they’re at in their jungle progress and how afraid of them you should be.

Ideally, your jungler is paying more attention to him than you are, but if you notice the enemy jungler going in a particular direction, like towards your team’s red, this is something you want to point out. Your doubling up on their efforts to keep track of the enemy team is to your jungler’s benefit as much as your own. Noting what buffs and direction of exit their enemy jungler took is a great way to keep tabs on their movements.

Opportunities

Being able to recognize when it is a good time or a bad time for certain objectives is a large part of getting better at playing. If you can read the situation at a glance, it will allow you to react quickly and take advantage of these short windows of opportunity:

Dragon — If you know that both the enemy bot laners are recalling, and the enemy jungle is up near top lane, that is a perfect time for a coordinated dragon attempt between you and your AD carry, your mid lane, and jungler.

Enemy buffs — Keeping a ward at the enemy blue or red buff will let you know when it’s up. When the jungler comes by to get it is where you have a chance to steal it, gank them at their own buff, or both. Alternately, you don’t need to ward the buff, just recognize when someone is going for it and shows up moments later with that buff, like the enemy mid carry taking blue from their jungler. It’s easy to keep timers on the enemy blue in particular because of this.

Missing enemies — Did the AD carry leave her support behind? It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Pushing Lanes — If you’re walking all over your lane and denying the enemy AD carry farm, you actually don’t want to push their turret down. The advantage you have is yours to keep for as long as that turret is up, so use it to keep them in the lane since they feel obligated to protect it, and use the situation to deny them even more CS.

Taking Their Turret Down — However, if the rest of your team is also doing very well, taking that turret will allow the laning phase to end sooner and force the enemy team into a weaker position by making them teamfight. If you want to try to sneak an early baron, applying immense pressure to bottom lane by taking the turret and then quickly backing off can do the trick.

Ganks — Keeping track of the enemy wards will let you know when and where it’s safe for your jungler to come in.

Communication

Talking to your team is vital, since you have a lot of information about the current state of the playing field at any given time. You need to use that advantage you have to give your teammates a head’s up if something that’s relevant to them is going on. Enemies teleporting in/out and mid or top suddenly appearing bottom for a gank is something your whole team should know about.

Time everything with your jungler: dragon, baron, all buffs, even wards if you can keep track of them. Tell your top lane you’ve got a ward for them to teleport to, or your jungler that you cleared the enemy ward at dragon with a pink. Even just little things like this will help your team work together more effectively and efficiently.

Your AD Carry

Your AD carry is focused on farming and harassing, so they might not be paying a whole lot of attention to that enemy jungler who just showed up at your ward on dragon. You need to make sure they know what is going on around them, when to fall back and when it’s safe to apply pressure.

They need to know when your summoner spells are up, and you should be asking them about theirs as well. Keeping track of cooldowns will help you with timing engagements, so you can play hyperaggressively when your summoners are up and the enemy’s aren’t.

Do they need help last hitting? You should know how to last hit just as well as they do in order to help them with this, especially early on when they might not have enough AD to kill minions under turrets despite timing their last hit properly.

Your Jungler

When the enemy support lays a ward down, your jungler needs to know where it is. If you don’t have a pink ward, keep track of when it expires and give your jungler the all-clear for ganks.

Understanding Map Control

Map control is so heavily contested in bottom lane, warding and counter-warding and counter-counter-warding… It can be a lot to keep on top of for one little support! Fortunately, we’re going to go over some tips to maximize your lane presence and map control.

Presence

Lane presence isn’t just a huge AD carry stomping all over the enemy, it also has a lot to do with you. Here are some things you can do to maximize your team’s presence in the lane:

  1. Contest the lane bushes. They’re the difference between being pinned against your turret and letting your AD carry have some breathing room to farm. Popping a ward into one of the lane bushes will also allow you and your AD carry to harass when they see the opportunity.
  2. Position yourself assertively. Be present and ready to attack, and get those free hits in where you can. A support that is assertive will demand more space in the lane than a weak, passive one.
  3. Poke your head out of the bushes once in a while. Let the enemy know you’re there! If you need to go back to buy, apply some epic pressure and show yourself a few times, then immediately recall. This can force the enemy to continue to play defensively even when you’re not in the lane.
  4. Get your jungler to gank more than once. It will scare the enemy bottom lane if the jungler keeps coming by and make them more reluctant to poke their heads out.
  5. Fight to keep your wards up. If that asshole Taric leaves to kill your ward at dragon, don’t let him get away with it! You and your AD carry should be on a support away from his own AD like white on rice.
  6. Play aggressively and unpredictably. Even if you’re just farming and waiting for them to make the first move, don’t play too passively or they will take it as a sign of weakness. Don’t let yourself get baited by feigned passive or weak playing! Heal baits are easy to fall prey to.
Warding

Warding should be turning into second nature for you by now. Communicate with your AD carry: If you need to replace the ward at dragon, get your AD carry to help you push the lane up a little bit past the river so you have a safe moment to take care of it. If you need to go back to buy wards, let them know you’re leaving briefly to do so.

Early Oracle (before you finish your two gp10 items) is a great idea if the other team is warding heavily and forcing you out of lane bushes. You can kill wards that are limiting your map control and counter the counterward pinks wherever they may be. It’s a hefty 400 gold investment, but if you kill a few wards and give your AD carry some breathing room in the lane to farm, it’s well worth the price.

Usually you’re buying Oracle otherwise after your Philo Stone, Boots, and Heart of Gold. This is a great time (usually around level 6-7) to go sweeping for wards and make back some of the gold you spent on it. Any Oracle before level 13 is great: you get to clear wards, more map control, easier to contest dragon, etc. It’s very important that you stay alive after you pop it, though, but I’m sure we all know that already.

If you don’t get Oracle by the time the laning phase is over, find the gold to pick one up. You should have an Oracle on you from here on out to clear wards around baron and fight for map control, denying the enemy vision will make them second-guess their ideas about what your team is up to.

Warding aggressively will create opportunities for your team to catch enemies if they’re too far out of position, or just wandered away from the rest of their team. Good places for warding with this in mind are where different paths intersect in the enemy jungle (high-traffic areas).

The bushes near red and blue buffs are ideal for these, and serve another purpose besides cutting enemies off: they maintain your team’s presence in the jungle near the secondary turrets in each lane. Sight in the enemy’s jungle gives split-pushing teammates plenty of advanced warning to get back.

All of these wards in the image are ideally placed for maximum sight with minimum ward commitment. Warding in the mid to late game tends to be highly situational — warding in the areas around objectives rather than right on top of them will keep your wards hidden from enemy Oracles while maintaining vision in key locations.

You can also place wards over thicker walls using the same tricky method a lot of us do when Flashing or blinking with Ezreal: as long as you target over 50% of the way through the wall, you can place a ward “on” the wall and the ward itself will pop up on the other side. Here is an article that covers this topic more in-depth.

A Support Mentality

Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself

Knowledge will improve your game. It’s important to just know how the game works: what champions have what abilities, the kinds of items they get or damage they do, and so on. If you know what you’re up against ahead of time, say during champion select, then you will know how to build against them and what rune/mastery page.

Be honest with yourself about what you are good and bad at. If you’re bad with certain supports, ranked queue is not the time to be practicing your Janna Qs or your Sona ults.

Are you really good at initiating and CCing enemies down? Play tanky asshole support champions like Leona or Alistar. Are you good at poking enemies down while keeping yourself at a safe distance? Play poke supports like Sona or Soraka. The play styles of the champions you normally play will be a huge indicator as to which supports you will have natural success with.

Do a Few Things Well, Not Everything Poorly

This is obvious, I hope, but if your champion is naturally tanky, it would follow that you want to play on those strengths and be an even better tank. You can’t do everything really well and trying to do so will just make you not very good at anything.

When we talk about synergy, it’s because there’s a mutual benefit: your runes, masteries and items should all synergize with your champion pick. There will be tons of examples of how to accomplish this throughout the guide.

In a more micro sense, this also means using your spells meaningfully. Coordinate with your AD carry and set up a few good combos together instead of stunning with no followup harass or wasting an Exhaust with no assured kill. The more effective and efficient your abilities are, the less mana you expend, and the more threatening you become in lane.

Think Like a Support

You need to rein in your desire to carry the team on your back with kills or buy offensive items instead of wards. The way you read the map needs to be out of consideration of the whole team and not just your own positioning. If you don’t think like a support, you will not play like one, and your team is relying on you to play your role and support them.

The better you can leave your emotion out of your gampelay, the more effective your supporting will be. This is more psychological, but is so important and so difficult sometimes. You won’t improve if you are letting emotions cloud your ability to digest the events of a game, react to situations, and learn from mistakes.

“…emotions can be scary, and can make you feel really freaked out. And it’s really important not to be alarmed by your emotions: not to resist them, not to try to get them not to happen, not to try to rationalize them … I like the idea of just poking little holes in yourself and letting it flow right through you. You don’t even have to resist, you just sort of let it happen.” — Day9

Everyone is relying on you to cover their asses, so don’t let shitty teammates or your own mistakes get to you. Every game, every teamfight, every death is another chance to get better. Do not waste your energy and your opportunity by letting your rage prevent you from improving.

Be Flexible

Especially where the enemy team is concerned. From champion select, you should be reacting to their choices and decisions appropriately. We work together with our AD carry to fight as one unit. We watch the enemy team to know how best to react, how the next item we buy can give us a better advantage.

“One should not respond to circumstance with artificial and wooden prearrangement. Your action should be like the immediacy of a shadow adapting to its moving object. Your task is simply to complete the other half of the oneness spontaneously.” — Bruce Lee

Maybe you’re behind and need to rush that Heart of Gold before your Philo Stone for the health. Or the other team is extremely aggressive and your AD carry is intimidated, forcing you to play defensively when you came into the game expecting to go ham. It’s not the end of the world. Learn to let go of your preconceptions of how the game is supposed to play out and adapt to the situation in front of you.


Stop Reading Guides and Play

Seriously. You can consume every support guide on the face of the internet and will have accomplished nothing for it. If you’re even bothering to read a more advanced guide like this, you will only really get better if you just play the game more. The experience of actively being in games frequently is second to none.

Pro support players have thousands of games under their belts, and not just as supports. Playing in every role and with every champion will help you understand League better and give you a breadth of knowledge to base your support decisions on intelligently. Don’t expect to be amazing putting in a fraction of the time and effort Nhat Nguyen does into supporting Epik.

Set Up For Success: Runes & Masteries

The core of our ability to support is in our runes and masteries. This is our first chance to amplify our strengths and establish a style of play with our champion. Before the game even starts, your build should reflect the abilities you have at your disposal and take advantage of anything your champ is particularly good at, so we’ll take a good look at runes and masteries.

I like keeping my options for these open and pretty fluid; you can tailor each page to your own flavor of support and work out the kinks from there.

Defensive Runes

The boring but effective defense build allows you to run a safe lane when you know you’ll be up against a hard-hitting lane like Corki/Leona and want to play it really safe, or when your AD carry is more concerned with farm than they are with kills.

x9 Mark of Resilience
+8.2 Armor
x9 Seal of Avaric
+2.25 gold / 10
x9 Glyph of Warding
+13 MR
x3 Quints of Avarice
+3 gold / 10 sec

This is a pretty self-explanatory one. We have lots of gold for more defensive items sooner, and armor/MR for damage mitigation. This is definitely a build best suited for a defensive Soraka lane, since her defensive/sustain abilities match this build type well.

Tanky/Sustain Runes

A typical sustain build will benefit from armor and MR to mitigate early damage taken. You also have the gp10 quints and yellows to rush more wards or earlier items.

x9 Mark of Resilience
+8.2 Armor
x9 Seal of Resilience
+13 Armor
x9 Glyph of Warding
+13 MR
x3 Quints of Avarice
+3 gold / 10 sec

The flat armor yellows are more appropriate for tanky/sustain supports who need more damage mitigation early on to be more effective in their lane.

To match the playstyle, you can run these rune pages with practically any support, either as a tank or sustain. You can swap out those reds for AP reds, which will give your shields or heals more potency, and is more of a consideration toward playstyle. Do you want to be able to shield for more, or withstand more harass?

Movespeed quints can be great on a support, especially someone like Taric or Leona where being able to keep up with the team is hard when they have boots and you don’t. It’s high risk, high reward, so pretty situational — I don’t really recommend them unless you know exactly what you’re using them for — and is a tradeoff for some of your gp10.

CDR runes are an alternate for the blues here, in consideration of Leona in particular (she doesn’t really need mana regen, so you can skip those as well). Soraka can also put them to good use. Be careful of running CDR blues on anyone else, it may encourage you to spam and forget to watch your mana management.

If the other team has a bursty, painful team comp, it would be in your best interest to stick with a tankier build and a more cautious playstyle, like the defensive build above.

Aggressive Runes

The other rune page trend is toward some kind of poke build like the one below, which trades tankiness for offensive aggression. Running this kind of rune page with Soraka will give you more hurt with your E harass, or Sona with her Q poke.

x9 Mark of Strength
+8.55 AD
x9 Seal of Resilience
+13 Armor
x9 Glyph of Replenishment
+2.8 mana regen / 5
x3 Quints of Avarice
+3 gold / 10 sec

The mana regen is great for spamming abilities. You can get even more aggressive by running gp10 seals with that poke page instead, sacrificing even more tankiness for item rushing. The flat AD reds give you more auto-attack harass damage.

Be the aggression! Does the other team have a weaker early game? Feeling cocky and sure you can walk all over the other team? Use it to your advantage. Harass and intimidate early on with a more aggressive build.

Runes and masteries are situational and preferential. If you really need the CDR because you want to spam abilities, or the armor so you can harass more often, go for it. Change these up and tweak them so they suit your needs.


Masteries Overview

Using the same thought process, we can pick out masteries that will amplify our supports’ natural strengths. It’s not so much about following the Defensive tree for a tanky support, there’s a lot more to it than that.

If you are going to be playing a harass-heavy support, I would recommend putting a few points into the Offense tree to give you a bit more damage in your auto attacks. You could easily trade the attack damage masteries seen here on the left for points into the CDR mastery Sorcery, but that’s not useful for auto attack harassing.

Whenever you get CDR, it’s ultimately allowing you to cast more frequently, which can be a good thing if you’re Leona and your abilities are not so expensive, but can also screw you in the long run with supports like Taric who need a heavy dose of mana management and forethought when using their abilities.

So even though you’re putting points into the Offense tree, you’re getting hardly any Offense out of it with the CDR mastery. I’d stick with CDR runes and put your points elsewhere, either the Defensive or Utility tree.

There aren’t any other really good options in the Offensive tree for supports, aside from Summoner’s Wrath, which will enhance your Exhaust. Again, the AP summoner in the first row serves a non-offensive purpose for supporting: stronger heals or shields. Not a great idea, better to get the AP runes we talked about earlier and use the points in other masteries.

We want to play our role, and since this tree isn’t doing us much good with that, let’s take a look at the Defensive tree.

This is a pretty solid selection of masteries. You can see here that it gets pretty complicated with what’s better or more effective, and that there are actually more than the usual 21 points allotted in the main section of this support’s masteries.

For Alistar in particular, the health regen mastery maxed out works great for him, and we skipped the AoE damage reduction mastery Evasion. That’s kind of situational, and was probably a reaction to the enemy team lacking a whole lot of AoE as well as trying to mitigate early auto-attacks.

Maybe you want to save those points for the Honor Guard mastery which reduces incoming damage on a % scale if the other team is heavy on single-target, hard-hitting abilities. In this case, we follow the Defensive tree down because it was meant for a tanky/sustainy sort of support champion like Alistar. If you’re going to do the typical 1/21/8 split that tankier supports tend toward, be sure to put points into movespeed masteries like Initiator and Swiftness for Leona or Taric. It’s the same idea behind running movespeed quints from earlier, without the loss of gp10.

This wouldn’t be very beneficial for a support build we want to get a lot of utility/gold out of, whose job isn’t so much tanking as it is supporting with utility of their kit. Having so many points in the tree certainly limits our options elsewhere. These are the kinds of considerations you should be making when you’re tailoring your masteries to your support’s style of play.

We can look at the Utility tree for builds where we are trying to maximize our indirect effectiveness on the game via gold, experience boosts and CDR.

This tree is great for a defensive Soraka build where you are looking to maximize your gold per 10 in order to rush early items and wards. We also have points in mana regen and CDR for sustain to spam our heals and infuse the AD carry with mana every chance we get.

Building into this tree has a much different goal than the Defensive tree. We use the utility masteries to build supports that have a much more implicit affect on the team via their support items, their quick ability cooldowns, and their elevated mana regen.

This support wanted to earn experience faster knowing that the lane they’re up against is a tough one and will probably try to zone her and her AD carry heavily, so Soraka has prepared for that ahead of time by giving herself 3 points in Awareness.

The extra gold she’ll be getting from Wealth means more wards or pots to start out with. She has also started with +2 gp10 from the Greed mastery for faster items and more wards later on in the laning phase. Building into the Utility tree this far means grabbing Mastermind for a 15% summoner spell CDR.

We have 8 points leftover to put wherever we feel we need them, either into the Offensive tree for the CDR we discussed earlier, or the Defensive tree for some armor/MR and health to help us survive strong early game AD carries like Ezreal.

Again, masteries should be changed for every support, with consideration toward the enemy team comp, their bottom lane, and the synergy you have with the AD carry on your team. Cookie cutter masteries will only hurt you in the long run; build on your strengths and your inclination toward tanking, harassing, sustaining in lane, or playing defensively.

And finally: don’t ever put a point into the ward mastery Scout. It’s a waste of a mastery point.


Effective Uses for Summoner Spells

Coordinating with your AD carry is the #1 advice anyone can give you. It is highly advised that they are the ones that take Heal and not you, as they need to stay alive moreso that the Support does — every second the AD carry is out of the lane they are missing experience and farm. Heal can be their panic button.

Secondly, taking Exhaust as the Support allows you to use it in tandem with your initiations on an out of position AD carry. Controlling when the enemy AD carry gets exhausted takes some of the strategic weight off your AD carry, and allows them to simply rely on hitting the “oh shit oh shit” button for their summoner heal.

Flash is really up to you, some supports almost have to have it to be effective (Alistar), other supports don’t really need to bother (Soraka). If your playing style requires you take Flash, go for it. The mobility of Flash as an escape is more necessary on melee supports for mechanic reasons alone, so just keep that in mind.

Ignite can also be useful, great against Soraka heals and for double Heal lanes, not to be used for picking up kills unless absolutely necessary. This is pretty iffy; again, coordinate with your AD carry. Your communication with them needs to be rock solid if you’re going to skip Flash and pick up another aggressive summoner.

Beyond that, unless you are playing a roaming sort of support which isn’t really covered here, you don’t really need anything else for Summoners. Why not Clairvoyance? Well…

Unless you’re playing at tournament level, competent warding by your whole team will do the job. It’s also a twofold effect in the mindgames of bottom lane: when you see a support with CV instead of Heal, you know they’re missing a more offensive summoner spell like Exhaust, and it’s that sign of weakness which makes it that much easier to walk all over them and take control of the lane.

Clairvoyance shines late game when you need critical vision in one area, but the cooldown is frustratingly high and again is taking the place of another summoner that might afford better utility.

The Usual Suspects

This section will also go over our most prominent/traditional supports, their kits, and how to find those strengths so you can match their natural play styles with the runes/masteries we discuss. Putting these two together will give yourself the best base possible to start throwing items on top of. In addition, at the end of each support’s section, we’ll address just one of the many possible lane combinations and talk about what specific synergy they have.

Soraka

Probably the first champion we think of when we think supports. Soraka has ranged auto-attacks, affectionately known as bananas to those who play her, and very strong sustain. She is best suited to sustain or poke builds.

Kit and Playstyle

Soraka’s Starcall is great for poke, for applying on-hit abilities from items, and also being able to tell whether an enemy is hiding or stealthed nearby — the icon to use her Starcall will light up if an enemy is within range, regardless of visibility. The MR reduction is great when combined with Abyssal Scepter (see the items section for more info). Be sure to spam her Q in teamfights!

There are the heals in her W and R of course, and her E’s infuse to friendly champions, which is where all that sustain comes from. Her E can also be used to poke the enemy from a distance safely, and will do a surprising amount of damage in the early game from offensive Marks on her rune page. Beware: she is very weak until level three when she gets the second point into her heal.

Ideal AD Partners

Soraka can be well-paired with almost any AD carry. Since her playstyle isn’t as suited to running a kill lane as other supports, the AD carry should keep that in mind.


Synergy with: Graves

Graves’ passive gives him bonus armor if he stays in combat (keeps shooting at stuff), and Soraka’s heal stacks a temporary armor bonus on top of that. Let’s run some numbers on this to give you an idea of how quickly Graves can turn into a tanky AD beast:

Level 1
Graves: 10 bonus armor cap
Soraka: 25 bonus armor cap (level one heal)
10 + 25 = 35 bonus armor
Level 6
Graves: 20 bonus armor cap
Soraka: 75 bonus armor cap (level three heal)
20 + 75 = 95 bonus armor
Level 11
Graves at lvl 11: 30 bonus armor cap
Soraka at lvl 11: 125 bonus armor cap (level five heal)
30 + 125 = 155 bonus armor

Not to mention Soraka can keep providing Graves mana for tons of extra harass, as well as heal away most of the damage the enemy AD carry can do. If you don’t dominate the lane early and force him away from farming, you’re going to have a rough time laning. Caveat: this combo is not so effective against lanes that are doing more magic damage than your average bottom lane (e.g. Sona/Tristana).


Janna

A great, aggressive support champion. Her utility makes her a great pick in high-level tournament play, but it also makes her one of the hardest supports to play well. If you put the effort into learning and practicing with her, she will give you an amazing return in her playstyle flexibility.

Kit and Playstyle

Janna’s shield is one of the best things about her kit. She can shield turrets as well as allies, and the two-fold armor and attack damage buff allows the AD carry to harass safely without worrying as much about getting hit once or twice. If you practice enough, shielding your AD carry right before they get hit with a spell (e.g. an Ezreal Q) can nullify some enemy harass.

Her Q knockup is great for disrupting, and chaining that with her slow allows her to prevent low-health enemies from escaping easily. Her ult can completely turn a teamfight around. (Unfortunately that’s both for the better or the worse, depending on how skilled you are at it!) All of this put together allows her to play a pretty aggressive lane.

Ideal AD Partners

The best lanes for Janna’s full range of utility is a kill lane with an equally aggressive, bursty AD carry. Ezreal and Corki stand out in particular, but almost anyone can be paired with Janna and do well.


Synergy with: Ezreal

Ezreal has a very strong early game but is pretty soft and squishy. This is where Janna’s shield really shines; with a Janna running mana regen to spam her shield more often, Ezreal can harass with impunity and play that much more of an aggressive lane. If you’re maxing her shield first, here’s what the numbers look like before level 6:

Level one shield: absorbs 80 (+0.9 AP) damage, 14 bonus AD
Level two shield: absorbs 120 (+0.9 AP) damage, 23 bonus AD
Level three shield: absorbs 180 (+0.9 AP) damage, 32 bonus AD

Her shield granting Ezreal the extra AD is frosting on the cupcake: his Q does physical damage and scales 1:1 with his AD. Wow. Alas, a recent patch now removes the AD buff if the shield is broken, but still, that’s a pretty powerful ability when used effectively, just a shorter period of time in which Ezreal has the buff. (I recommend mana regen blues for more shield spam.)


Sona

One of the most delicate but hardest hitting early-game supports, Sona has to be played with some finesse in order to be successful. Knowing when to put up the right aura and timing her passive procs correctly takes some skill, as well as knowing when to use her AoE stun ult. Keeping her alive can be tricky, but her early game poke is unparalleled.

Kit and Playstyle

Sona’s Power Chord is the best thing about Sona (along with her ult, of course). You can choose whether to debuff the enemy’s damage output, slow them, or use the double damage buff to poke that much harder. All of these can be highly useful given the situation. Her entire kit makes for a strong poke build.

You should have her Q aura up as much as possible. Not only is it helping your AD carry out, it boosts your own auto-attacks. If you are going to transition from another aura to Q, be sure to do it away from the creep wave, or at least try to activate it so you aren’t stealing last hits or disrupting the wave balance. And much like Janna’s shield, try to time your W aura right before your carry gets hit with a spell.

Sona’s ult is an AoE stun that can be clutch in turning teamfights around, buying time for people to catch up or capturing the enemy team in an AoE ult onslaught. Ulting at the right moment requires being in position at the right moment, so movespeed items like Shurelya’s are an optimal choice.

Ideal AD Partners

Sona’s delicacy and poke means that she will be sitting further back from the action most of the time, so it’s best to pair her with a tankier AD like Graves, or someone who can maintain the same distance like Caitlyn or Corki.


Synergy with: Ashe

The power is in the poke, and with these two the poke hurts real bad. Twin stun ults, massive slows and a damage debuff between them, it’s tough to approach them after level six without being sure you’ll get away from them alive.

Slow stacking is powerful between these two. Sona’s E slow proc is 40% over 2 seconds, and Ashe can permaslow with her active Q which slows for 2 seconds on each hit, and her Volley which applies her Frost Shot’s current level of slow as well.

Sona's E proc: 40% or (1 - 0.4)
Ashe's Q at level six: 15% or (1 - 0.15 × 0.65)
1 - (1 − 0.4) × (1 − 0.15 × 0.65) = 45.85% slow

If you don’t understand the math here, we go over stacking slows in more detail while talking about Rylai’s in the Items section later on.


Alistar

If you want to play aggressively, Alistar is a great choice. He can be a bodyguard, a harasser, and is king of the bush coverage. He lives for unsuspecting enemies facechecking his natural habitat. Running Flash on him is a given; it’s hard to catch some enemies off guard in order to get his abilities off, so flashing into a good opening is sometimes your best bet at initiating.

Kit and Playstyle


Since Alistar’s entire kit is melee-based, we want him to be tanky enough to withstand some abuse while he’s knocking people around. The damage mitigation from him ultimate combined with a tanky support item or two gives him amazing success with turret diving.

The Flash/Q/W combo is Alistar’s signature move and uses it to spoonfeed his AD carry kills. This is why bush control is that much more important when playing as or against Alistar.

Ideal AD Partners

Alistar is a great bodyguard for Vayne, and his knockaround abilities make him Tristana’s best friend. Best paired with AD carries who need some super CC to keep their enemies occupied.


Synergy with: Vayne

The goal with these two after Vayne’s first few weak levels is to execute the perfect permastun combo. You can put Alistar in a bush nearby and simply wait for an opening, then Alistar will initiate with a Headbutt into a wall, which Vayne uses to Condemn them against, and then Alistar can finish it off with a Pulverize. Or, when the facechecks are scarce and the enemy is cautious, simply flash it and Pulverize, then Headbutt them backward towards a wall, and Vayne can follow up with a Tumble into Condemn.


Taric

Gems, gems are truly outrageous! He’s got a heal, an armor buff aura, an initiation (targeted stun), and a steroid ult. What more could you want in a support? He can play it safe and go the sustain route, or harass the piss out of the enemy AD carry with his stun/shield burst combo and a few auto attacks. After level 6, Taric takes shit from no one.

Kit and Playstyle

Since he’s got the armor aura and the heal, running him as a sustain support with plenty of damage absorbing power is a great approach. As mentioned, you can initiate harassing the enemy with his classic E into activating his W to reduce the enemy’s armor, which makes the AD carry’s auto attacks more potent. He does require some mana management, however, so be careful with spamming his spells.

Ideal AD Partners

Since Taric is such a solid all-around support, he’s good with most AD champions. In particular, he has a lot of success with Ezreal as a bodyguard and armor debuffer, or with Graves for that extra tankiness on top of his passive armor stacks. Brilliantly!


Synergy with: Caitlyn

Caitlyn’s traps with Taric’s stun make a perfect one-two punch. When Taric finds an opening, he initiates with his stun, leading right into his shield burst. Cait should follow up with a trap underneath. If chained properly, this buys you about 3 seconds of pummeling them for free. Cait’s good early game AD plus the armor debuff means some pretty significant damage.



Leona

Leona and her chain CCs make for an excellent kill lane. She can take damage and dish it right back out again, protect her AD carry from ganks, and commands a strong presence in lane.

Kit and Playstyle

She’s primarily a tank, so her CC can be put to good use with heavy harass and lets her get right up in the enemy AD carry’s face. Her ranged ultimate, her melee Q and her gap closing E are all stuns, and can keep the enemy completely locked down for her AD carry. The ranged ultimate can be a great gank initiator, and her E can keep them from escaping.

Since her Sunlight passive is a damage amplification effect for allies, you want to space out her abilities just long enough that the AD carry can land hits between each one and maximize their damage output.

Ideal AD Partners

Hard burst champions or carries with a good early game do best with her, taking advantage of her passive and using the stun CC to get in a quick burst of damage. Tristana and Corki have the burst, Ezreal has attack speed and great early game damage.


Synergy with: Corki

Get Leona to chain stun the enemy AD carry in front of a Corki who’s spraying Gatling Gun in their face and watch the enemy melt. You have Leona’s Sunlight applied repeatedly with each ability, so Corki can use his Gatling on for extra damage, applying his armor shred for harder hitting auto attacks. Or, he can use his ult’s rockets to consume the debuff and get amplified by Sunlight’s magic damage.



Nunu

Applying constant pressure with a significant lane presence backed up by natural sustain from his Consume and the ability to harass the enemy or buff his AD for free every seven attacks. Nunu makes a great support for champions who already hit hard, and can use his Q to make the other AD carry think twice before trying to come into range for harassing.

Kit and Playstyle

Without a doubt, being able to keep Nunu’s Blood Boil up as often as possible is the star of his kit for supporting. His passive is put to great use for this, and allows his AD carry to last hit easier and harass harder.

Nunu makes a great sustain/tanky support, and with a bit of AP can contribute to the hurt his carry is laying down.

Ideal AD Partners

Hard carries like Vayne benefit from Blood Boil, as do attack speed steroid champs like Trist and Ezreal. Kog’Maw and Nunu is a common favorite.


Synergy with: Kog’Maw

The classic Kog’Maw lane is great for amazing slows and massive damage. With Nunu’s constant Blood Boil, Kog can get some hefty damage out really fast. He does need protection in the early game of a support that’s tankier in order to safely farm: Nunu can amply provide this, along with some pretty strong harassment.

Initiate with Nunu’s E and then follow up with Kog’s AoE slow to prevent them from getting away. Kog’Maw’s attack speed specialty will allow him to bring squishy AD carries down quickly.



Blitzcrank

Blitz has incredible zoning potential because of his Q. The Q/E combo is almost certainly a death sentence, especially if it’s within range of a turret. An AoE silencing ult is great for shutting down the enemy support momentarily while his AD champ wails on the enemy carry. The sustain he has from his passive mana shield is a great bonus, and chasing people down is a breeze with his W activated. Just a really fun support to run in bottom lane all in all!

Kit and Playstyle

The zoning you can do with Blitzcrank in a bush after proving to the enemy you know how to land your Qs is invaluable. If your carry needs the room to farm, you can easily push the enemy AD champion out of farming range and let yours go to town on that creep wave. If he’s good, Blitz is an incredible pain in the ass to lane against, so you can run him pretty aggressively, relying on his mana shield when the situation goes south.

Ideal AD Partners

Blitz is a very offensive support, so it definitely helps to have someone with any kind of sustain and a relatively strong early game. The one exception to this in my opinion is Ashe, which I will explain further below.


Synergy with: Miss Fortune

Miss Fortune has an amazing early game, one you want to take advantage of with early kills so she can snowball easily. Blitzcrank’s Q/E combo with Miss Fortune’s slow will lead to a handy first blood, especially if you can get the enemy carry under the turret. This is definitely a kill lane, and the intimidation of Blitzcrank in a bush without vision is very effective. The incredible zoning power of this lane also means free and easy farming for Miss Fortune.



Lulu

Lulu has great potential as a utility/offensive support, but a lot of this is speculation until a solid build is worked out. Don’t quote me on anything. This section will get updated numerous times over the next few weeks.


Kit and Playstyle

She’s great at harassing with Pix and her Q slow, which makes her a pretty aggressive support to run bottom lane. Use her E on fleeing enemies to get sight of them over walls or trying to escape into bushes, it will help your teammates land their skillshots and prevent them from getting away. Using Help, Pix! on allies while they are pursuing an enemy will actually give the kill to the ally if Pix has the killing shot.

Either max your W to CC the enemy for your AD carry (which I recommend) or max E to sustain and protect. Cast your E to get Pix on them for extra damage, then buff with W for the movespeed. From there, you can fire your Q so that Pix fires his own Q at the enemy your AD is chasing down and slows them substantially.

There are some similarities between Lulu and Janna that are readily obvious. It’s very interesting that her W buffs the ally with AP — makes me instantly think of a Kennen/Lulu or Xerath/Lulu lane… or Vladimir/Lulu? We shall see!

Ideal AD Partners

Champions with squishy early games aren’t helped much by a support with little sustain. Ezreal and Tristana benefit from the AP buff. Caitlyn’s got cupcakes, it’s only natural.

Synergy with: Tristana

The substanial AP that Lulu’s W gives her AD carry means that there is success to be found with AP-scaling carries. Tristana in particular has great AP ratios. Let’s take a look at how much that AP buff affects her burst at level 6 if both Lulu and Trist max their Ws first:

Lulu W lvl 3: +40 AP +35% movespeed
Tristana with lvl 1 boots: 350 movespeed
Tristana with lvl 1 boots & Lulu buff: 461 movespeed
W lvl 3: 160 (+32) magic damage
E lvl 2: 140 (+40) magic damage
R lvl 1: 300 (+60) magic damage
Total combo burst without Lulu buff: 600
Total combo burst with Lulu buff: 732

And we haven’t even talked about adding in a few auto-attacks with twin Doran’s Blades, or Lulu’s ult (which buffs Tristana’s tankiness without lowering her movespeed). That AP really helps Tristana out a lot and will definitely be the difference in securing a kill during the laning phase.


Less Common Supports

Lux

Lux is one of my favorite non-traditional supports. She does need to eventually build into some AP for damage, but picking up a blue buff means infinite harass and CC, and stealing an enemy blue buff with her laser feels amazing. I recommend trying her out if you’re good with your skillshots and not afraid to steal a kill or two.

Gangplank

GP is a great pick for the asshole poke harass type of support. Since his kit is a lot like Nunu’s, he can actually replace him in a lot of situations. His ult is better, and he has the passive on-hit poison for more damage. There’s no reason why he can’t support, we just don’t see a whole lot of him in that role since he is still so strong in top lane, and like Lux inevitably needs a few items to continue to be useful later on in the game.

Karma

A lot of us really wish that Karma was more viable as a support, but she breaks the cardinal rule of supporting: she requires items. Unfortunately, that means she’s going to be benched until further notice from Riot that she’s getting remade to correct this.

Hypothetical Supports

The basics of what makes a support viable in the first place is mainly to do with their effectiveness without items. If you can give up farm and make do with some gp10 items and the shirt on your back, then it could in theory be played as a support champion.

Some of the more obvious ones that come to mind are Garen and Morgana. Both of these champions are fairly strong on their own and have CC abilities that would allow them to play a strong support role.

I highly encourage people to play around with builds for champions who could be viable in a support role, who knows what kinds of bottom lane combinations you could come up with?

Items and You

You think support items are pretty locked down, huh? Heart of Gold, Philo Stone, Boots… and then what? Each item that could be or should be bought for a supporting role is gone over in great detail here.

We’ll break items down by their effects and who they synergize best with, or what situations they’re great for. Not every item is good for every support champion, so we’ll also note who benefits the most from each item.

Generally a Good Idea

Aegis of the Legion

Up against a well-rounded team? Your team on the squishy side? Does the enemy team have an assload of AoE? This item is perfect for all three. The price is right at 1925 gold for an average game, where no enemy stats in particular are jumping out at you. The health and resistance buffs help you absorb damage for your AD carry and team. If the the early/mid game is treating you rough and you need the team buffs, an Aegis can do you no wrong.

+270 Health
+18 Armor
+24 Magic Resist
UNIQUE Aura: Nearby allied champions gain 12 Armor, 15 Magic Resist, and 8 Attack Damage.

On Taric, his armor buff aura gives nearby champions 10-30 armor, so with Aegis his aura gives an additional 12 armor. The armor/MR on Aegis also helps early game Alistar be less squishy, and nearby teammates will benefit the most since he is typically in the center of action. You can really buy this on anyone, but these two get more out of it individually.

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Frozen Heart

Tons of armor, CDR, and that attack speed debuff makes Frozen Heart such a great item for tankier supports. This item tends to be a jungler purchase in mid-late game if they’re building tanky, but putting this on a tanky support frees up that item slot for the jungler, and benefits your own team during fights involving the enemy AD carry.

The Glacial Shroud it builds out of is so great for a support in bottom lane, especially early game where being able to tank hits is appreciated so you can maintain aggression. Let’s take a quick look:

+425 Mana
+45 Armor
UNIQUE Passive: +15% Cooldown Reduction

The extra mana certainly helps, and the CDR we get from Glacial Shroud is what we would be getting from any other early-mid support item. More CDR means less down time where the enemy has free harass opportunity. The other components (2 Cloth Armor) are even more armor for even more tankiness.

Frozen Heart itself comes with a great aura that is the bane of AD carries:

+99 Armor
+500 Mana
UNIQUE Passive: +20% Cooldown Reduction
UNIQUE Aura: Reduces the Attack Speed of nearby enemies by 20%.

After getting the usual starting support items, if you’re doing even just ok and you can tell the enemy team is focused more on attack speed, this is a great pick. The goal with this item is for tanky support champions who have to be up in the enemy’s grill to take more hits and screw up their AD carry attack speed.

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Randuin’s Omen

Another situational, even moreso because this is almost always a jungle or top lane buy. So then why is it a good situational option on supports? If you’re building tanky, it’s easy to work out why this item is so beneficial.

First off, we build out of Warden’s Mail, which is a sleeper tank support item. The benefits of its passive have largely gone unnoticed. Proccing that passive at just the right moment will cripple the enemy’s AD carry early game and give you just the opening you needed to initiate on them.

+50 Armor
+20 Health Regen per 5 seconds
UNIQUE Passive: 20% chance on being hit by basic attacks to slow the attacker's Movement and Attack Speeds by 35% for 3 seconds.

It uses your Heart of Gold which you were going to buy anyway, and a spare Cloth Armor. That 50 armor and HP regen, all for just 1350.

After you use it to finish the Randuin’s item itself, you now have roughly 75% of the armor you would get out of Frozen Heart, plus a bit of CDR, plus plus you can still chance slow auto-attackers:

+350 Health
+75 Armor
+25 Health Regen per 5 seconds
UNIQUE Passive: +5% Cooldown Reduction
UNIQUE Passive: 20% chance on being hit by basic attacks to slow the attacker's Movement and Attack Speeds by 35% for 3 seconds.
UNIQUE Active: Slows the Movement and Attack Speeds of surrounding enemy units by 35% for 2 seconds + 0.5 seconds for each 100 combined Armor and Magic Resist your champion has (60 second cooldown).

Randuin’s is definitely best for tanky supports due to the massive armor, the chance slow passive which requires you to make yourself a target, and the scaling active. If you have 150 armor and 150 MR, you get a bonus 1.5 seconds of slow on top of the 2 second base. That’s absolutely massive in the middle of a baron-deciding or game-deciding teamfight.

The active can keep escaping enemies nearby or temporarily debuff high attack speed champions. Since you spend the majority of the game around their AD carry, the perks of the chance slow and the active slow are attractive. This aura play is a great match for Blitzcrank: since you are already in position to ult, hitting the Randuin’s active afterward can cripple your enemies even more and allow for an easy ace.

The tradeoff is that you are not buying or building other more utility-based support items, so if you are playing a support whose goal is not tanking and debuffing, skip this and hold on to your Heart of Gold for the gp10.

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Shurelya’s Reverie

The staple of all supports. Builds out of Philosopher’s Stone and Kindle Gem, has everything a growing support needs.

The regen, CDR, and the unique active are what make this a must-buy. That active in particular is going to be the different between surviving a push and giving up an ace, or the difference between getting that ace and letting a few stragglers get away. Its initiation/escape potential is too good to pass up.

+330 Health
+30 Health Regen per 5 seconds
+15 Mana Regen per 5 seconds
UNIQUE Passive: +15% Cooldown Reduction
UNIQUE Active: Nearby allied champions gain 40% Movement Speed for 3 seconds (60 second cooldown).

There is incredible synergy here with Sona and Janna due to their movespeed buffs. With Janna, you get a 40% movespeed burst on top of a base 3% movespeed buff from her passive.

Sona offers a 4-20 movespeed aura with a 6-14% movespeed burst — throw a 40% movespeed active burst from Shurelya’s on top of that and you will be virtually unreachable and inescapable.

This item is great on anyone trying to support based off the stats it gives you and the movespeed active, do not skip this item.

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Will of the Ancients

Only 2100 gold, making it cheaper than most support items, and the aura effect we all already know and love. Great for you because you benefit from the AP, and the low price plus the aura means this is a great pick for you after a support item or two.

+50 Ability Power
UNIQUE Aura: Grants nearby allied champions 30 Ability Power and 20% Spell Vamp

That AP is great specifically for your heals/shields or whathaveyou. You’re also giving your team the coveted WotA aura. Even better when your AP carry picks up a second WotA!

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Zeke’s Herald

If you’re already doing well, or your team is heavy on auto-attacking champs, picking up a Zeke’s for 2145 gold is a great bang for your buck. This is a great item for tanky dps teams who don’t need Aegis buffs to survive fights.

The CDR you would get with most any other staple support item will help you keep up casts during teamfights, and your team will appreciate the buffs, especially if one of them can’t afford their more expensive, beneficial items.

+250 Health
UNIQUE Passive: +15% Cooldown Reduction
UNIQUE Aura: Grants nearby allied champions 12% Life Steal and 20% Attack Speed.

Nunu’s Blood Boil will mesh well with the passive aura on Zeke’s: you get a base 11-15% movespeed which makes it easier to catch enemies, and a 25-65% boost to attack speed. Stack the 12% life steal and 20% attack speed from Zeke’s on top of that and your AD champs will sing your praises. This is another example of doing a few things well, we’re using Nunu’s strengths and amplifying them with Zeke’s.

The whole goal of this item is to benefit your teammates, so since you need the armor/regen that comes with other support items, pick something else up first before you build into this. Then you can pick Zeke’s up on any support champion without feeling like you’re missing out on survivability or utility.

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(Highly) Situational

Abyssal Scepter

This will give you a big AP boost, more MR than Banshee’s Veil, and the aura is great against teams with significant MR. Buying this on Soraka in late game is especially beneficial: your heals will be stronger and you get the tankiness of the MR. This item is stupidly expensive though at 2650 gold just for a situational perk.

+70 Ability Power
+57 Magic Resist
UNIQUE Aura: Reduces the Magic Resist of nearby enemy champions by 20.

On top of that, the synergy of the MR aura with your Starcalls means not only will they actually do damage, they amplify the effects of the MR debuff aura! You get 8-12 MR reduction per stack, that plus your Abyssal caps at a ridiculous 140 MR reduction. Not very realistic, but that would completely screw over a team stacking MR.

Remember that whole doing a few things really well idea? This is a really great buy for Soraka if you’re doing pretty well, the teamfights are lengthy, and you already have your usual support items covered.

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Force of Nature

This is a pretty tanky item that doesn’t build out of any gp10 items, so its also pretty situational. Maybe the enemy team is magic damage heavy, or you’re unable to stay out of magic AoE, or you are trying to soak damage as an off-tank: Force of Nature serves a very specific purpose. The movement speed will do you well for positioning, especially if you are chasing someone down or being chased.

+76 Magic Resist
+40 Health Regen per 5 seconds
+8% Movement Speed
UNIQUE Passive: Restores 0.35% of your maximum Health every second.

The massive health regen will benefit Alistar’s heal. This is really only suitable for already-tanky champions, especially given the 2610 gold cost which requires that you’re already doing fairly well. Choose this item wisely.

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Locket of the Iron Solari

This one is so incredibly situational, despite the fact that everyone seems to think that it’s bread and butter for a support role. Let’s pick apart what it actually does and when that can be useful to us.

Its main components are Heart of Gold, which is a staple of a support’s early items, and the remade Emblem of Valor. Let’s take a look at what Emblem does for us first:

+25 Armor
UNIQUE Aura: Nearby allied Champions gain 10 Health Regen per 5 seconds.

Some good armor for us, but when is that HP regen useful? After all, let’s say we’re in a teamfight for 30 seconds: 30sec / 5 = 6 x 10 = 60 extra HP regenerated. The benefit of this is actually not during fights, but in the downtime between fights.

Let’s say you spend 60 seconds challenging an attempt to take your mid turret, and the other team just can’t find a good time to initiate. During all of that dancing around at the turret, your team is ideally getting 60sec / 5 = 12 x 10 = 120 extra HP.

Stack that HP regen boost on top of AoE healing from Alistar and you’re doing yourself a favor. This is a drop in the bucket late game, but think about picking it up earlier on in the game, when 180 HP is easily one or two extra hits worth of working HP. You are giving your lane and your team early sustain they can use to better fend off pushes and contest attempts at dragon.

Let’s revisit the Locket with all this in mind:

+300 Health
+35 Armor
UNIQUE Aura: Nearby allied champions gain 15 Health Regen per 5 seconds.
UNIQUE Active: Shield yourself and nearby allies for 5 seconds, absorbing up to 50 (+10 per level) damage (60 second cooldown).

The health and armor are good for your survivability, but most clickable support items have something like these stats. Discussion from earlier about the health regen still stands, but for late game, the regen synergizes very well with baron buff in late game (which gives you 3% max health in HP regen/5). This goes back to our “Do a few things well, not everything poorly” goal.

You will typically be the lowest level on your team, and therefore the benefits of the shield active are kinda… not good earlier in the game. When the rest of the team is 12, you’re around 10, so the shield absorbs 50 + 100 = 150 dmg. Even at level 18 — which a lot of games will never let you achieve, keep that in mind — your Locket will absorb 50 + 180 = 230 dmg. Not very cost effective damage mitigation given that the item costs 2225 gold, but that’s working health that cannot be reduced by anything (e.g. Ignite, heal debuffs).

If the other team has a lot of AoE, or a Karthus ult, this item can mitigate some of that damage. If you’re playing as Alistar, the synergy can play in your favor. Otherwise, skip the Locket and hold onto your Heart of Gold. It’s not worth the gold in lieu of other items.

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Rylai’s Crystal Scepter

Incredibly expensive as far as support-related items go, and definitely not the first thing we think of, but the combination of stats on this item make it a great choice for Soraka or Sona due to their poke playstyles.

+500 Health
+80 Ability Power
UNIQUE Passive: Dealing spell damage slows the target's Movement Speed by 35% for 1.5 seconds (15% for multi-target and damage-over-time spells).

The health is a great bonus to squishy Sona in particular, and the AP gives the heals and offensive poke with Soraka’s E or Sona’s Q extra oomph, but the star of this item is the passive.

Soraka’s Starcall in tandem with the movespeed slow gives you more utility during fights. Sona’s slow from the proc on her E gives you a targeted 40% slow for 2 seconds, and then you can Q them for an extra 15% slow.

But! Remember that slows have a unique application — the strongest slow is applied as-is, then multiplied by all other slows, which are reduced in effectiveness by 65% — so plan accordingly.

1 − (1 − 0.4) × (1 − 0.15 × 0.65) = 45.85% slow

A 40% slow from her E proc plus the 15% slow from Rylai’s on top of would actually only be a net 45.85% decrease in movespeed. To read more about slows and slow stacking, see this post on the unofficial LoL Wiki.

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You Were Probably Going to Win the Game Anyway

Boots of Mobility

Dat movespeed. Seriously, if you are doing really well and don’t need the CDR or tankiness, these will help you with everything from sweeping for wards, to warding aggressively, to getting into position faster, to helping keep your faster teammates within casting range.

If you can afford to get these over other more traditional support boots, your team is doing very well and these will only help you out even more.


Lucky Pick

Extra gold per 10, and builds into an incredibly not economical item for you (Deathfire Grasp), but that’s not why you bought it. Essentially, you are buying a dead-end item for the extra gold. You are not buying it because it will actually do anything for you, aside from a little bit of AP.

Pick this item up if you can afford to buy it to get an even stronger early gold advantage. Spamming wards, early oracle, and other perks will benefit your team through the early-mid game.

Don’t Get These

Archangel’s Staff

There is a tendency to try to build into this on Sona since some people pair the spamminess of her abilities with the on-cast charging of Tear of the Goddess. Unfortunatley, unless you are spamming the everloving shit out of Sona, your team is already doing really well, AND you have other support items already, Archangel’s is just too expensive and takes too long to make it worthwhile.

You need to support your teammates, and buying this is a somewhat selfish move in lieu of items that are beneficial to the group. If the game is getting you that much gold and is running that long, you should probably just end the game already.


Chalice of Harmony

This might seem really attractive on mana-intensive supports like Taric or Sona. The major problem is that it doesn’t make you money and it doesn’t build into anything useful beyond the early-mid game. You are wasting 890 gold on an item that’s not Philosopher’s Stone or Heart of Gold (or another item which could increase your gp10).

Hear me out: if you need Chalice to cast more, you’re probably wasting your spells or lacking coordination with your AD carry to make them effective getting those harass hits in or initiating for kills. Using your spells efficiently means not having to waste mana on casting them over and over. Learning how to manage your mana will help you improve all across the board, not just with these types of supports. If you’re feeling spammy, mana runes/masteries will help you out here.

A unique exception to buying Chalice would be champions where the benefits of the MR and the mana regen outweigh the detractions, i.e. support Galio.


Morello’s Tome

Maybe this sounds like a good idea due to the stats alone, but in practice, the problem with Morello’s is that every other item that’s good for supporting outshines what it can do.

+75 Ability Power
+12 Mana Regen per 5 seconds
UNIQUE Passive: +20% Cooldown Reduction

You don’t need the CDR, you get it from another support item (Shurelya’s, Zeke’s, Frozen Heart). You don’t need the mana regen, you have it from another support item (Shurelya’s). You don’t even need the ability power, you can get it from a better support AP item (Abyssal Scepter).

See where this is going? Every other item in your kit can outperform this one. It’s just taking up space in one of your item slots. Skip it.


Soul Shroud

The health is enticing, but other items give you health that’s more cost effective than Soul Shroud. At 2285 gold, it’s more expensive that Shurelya’s AND Locket of the Iron Solari without a clickable active effect or gp10. That alone should turn you away.

+520 Health
UNIQUE Aura: Nearby allied champions gain 10% Cooldown Reduction and 12 Mana Regen per 5 seconds.

If you’re buying this item, it’s probably mid to late game already, and you’re fighting as a team, which makes the CDR and the mana regen alluring. Don’t fall for it: 10% CDR is barely noticeable as the rest of your team already has a lot of the CDR items they needed anyway, and the mana regen will mean nothing.

Into the late game, you are either going to win a teamfight or die, which means the mana regen’s contributions during a given 30 second period will be negligible: 30 / 5 = 6 x 12 = 72 mana over 30 seconds. This item is too expensive and contributes too little to justify buying.

Who to Watch and Why

All of these guys are top notch supporters who regularly talk through their thought process and explain the reasoning behind specific decisions or builds they use. Their commentary is the icing on solid gameplay, even tempers, and interesting discussion between them and their viewers.

Nhat Nguyen

Streams at least 10 hrs each day, very dedicated, answers questions and is very responsive.

Nhat’s stream: http://www.own3d.tv/live/10955/Nhat_Nguyen

PureGoldenBoy

Doesn’t stream very often, solid higher-level support player.

PureGoldenBoy’s stream: http://www.own3d.tv/live/701/Puregoldenboy

Xpecial

TSM’s support player, streams pretty frequently. Good-natured and talks about builds & strategies from time to time.

Xpecial’s stream: http://solomid.net/livestream.php?s=229

Other Resources

Comments
15 Responses to “Intermediate to Advanced Support Guide”
  1. Anonymous says:

    maybe ad some counter-supports

  2. Anonymous says:

    You spelled finesse wrong in the beginning of the Sona section

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good guide. Although I think you meant that Lucky Pick builds into Deathfire Grasp, not Fiendish codex.

  4. Ssunflash says:

    Thanks for the guide- I’m still learning about supports, getting to the point where this kind of information is excellent (and novel).

    I have a question about Nautilus. I understand he’s meant for a solo lane (or at least played there a lot), but I like to use him as support. I already build Philo stone and Hearth of Gold, meaning his laning sustain is pretty good. He also has the excellent perk of locking an enemy champion down for a couple of seconds. Between his passive, his ult (on a fairly short CD), his Q, and finally the slow on his E, opposing carries have a hard time getting away before my AD has cleaned up.

    I suppose he’s very much like Alistar, in that he can set up kills and play bodyguard. He doesn’t have the heal, or the damage reduction, but he has a defense boost and synergizes well with the GP10 items, as well as FoN. The worst part about him in my opinion is his movespeed, which can be remedied with an item or even a couple quints if it’s bothering somebody a lot.

    • PinkPocky says:

      Nautilus’ utility in lane in general is really awesome and appealing to use as a support. I think my problem with him is, that (especially mid to late game) he is very item dependant to stay useful, when team fighting becomes more important than just a strong lane presence. He needs to be able to stay in the midst of the chaos, especially considering that his pull and his disruption abilities requires him to be tanky enough to do anything. By the very nature of the support role, you don’t expect to have enough gold to build the expensive, tanky items you need to do what he needs to do.

      Examples of tanky supports like Leona and Alistar, are naturally tanky because of their abilities and their almost-guaranteed potential to assist in kills early in lane. You could also attribute this to the fact that they don’t need to have a high movespeed (like you mentioned with Nautilus) because they have gap closers. In that way, I don’t really liken him to Alistar as much, only in my opinion of course.

      • Ssunflash says:

        I agree with the item-dependent bit. I tend not to have too much of a problem, but I usually run normals and my experience bears very little weight (if any at all). Usually my GP10 items help out, but then I have trouble keeping up with wards. But Reverie isn’t too difficult to gain, aegis is right up the block, and then I usually look for who’s killing me a lot. That’s why I’m a big fan of FoN. I absolutely agree those he’s harder to maintain (especially with warding) than other supports.

        • PinkPocky says:

          Even so, I don’t really like the idea of trying to build Nautilus as a hybrid support-tank. For me, it’s one way or the other (with Shurelya’s the only item I almost buy on every support). I think Nautilus as a champion in general would benefit the most from going the pure tank route + Shurelya’s, without wasting time on an Aegis, and instead opting for more straight tank items like Randuin’s, FoN, Frozen Heart, etc. So in a support role, of course it’s going to be pretty difficult to try to manage your gold and items and warding responsibilities at the same time. At the very least, I’d probably ask my jungler and AD carry to help spot me a couple wards so I could make more progess towards the expensive build I need.

          But overall, I personally think support Blitzcrank is just simply a better version of support Nautilus, really.

  5. Pissis says:

    Well put guide, but should touch more on the subject of “any hero can support in the right team combination”. 5/5 <:

  6. Brozita says:

    I must greatly dissagree with you sight of Karma.

    First of all she has with no item a really good shield and a really good heal along with the effect to slow an enemy or speed up an ally.

    With her Mantra charges she has a great harras like Sonas and more heal then Janna does.

    She can easily deliver kills to her carry, and its really hard to kill her carry or her. With her burst dmg, healing and slow she is great at delivering kills.

    I myself like to play her with a friend, and normaly supports gets punished when overextending, but with Karma it makes kills easily.

    • Shirahago says:

      It’s generally agreed that Karma is not viable as a support up to the degree that Riot is remaking her kit.

    • Tristan says:

      I feel Karma only works in premades. Honestly I lover her, but if your team doesn’t understand how she works, which is a possibility due to her rarity then it is really hard to accomplish anything with her. That being said I feel she will be buffed soon… hopefully.

    • mcsquiggedy says:

      The problem with Karma is that she falls off very hard in the mid- to late-game. The only thing that she has which doesn’t require farm to scale up is the movement speed buff/debuff on her W. She has no other CC, which means no hard CC or channel breakers. If she doesn’t have farm, her burst quickly becomes negligible.

      She can heal more than Janna, but Janna has huge AOE knockup and knockback abilities, and her shield comes with an AD steroid, whose effectiveness scales with the target’s attack speed.

      She can harass like Sona, but Sona also offers better sustain, better buffs, and a Big Damn Ult.

      Basically, a Karma duo lane is a kill lane. If you don’t get fed pretty hard, you’ll become irrelevant later in the game. At that point, you might as well pick support LeBlanc, who at least has a silence and a snare.

      • maurice12346 says:

        It is the same story with kayle you can very play aggro. with karma and is really good. build her little ap and she is op.

        srry for bad english. I hope that you can read it.

    • PinkPocky says:

      “A really good heal”:
      Sona’s heal is comparable in effectiveness,
      [Sona's W: 40 / 60 / 80 / 100 / 120 VS Karma's Q: 35 / 55 / 75 / 95 / 115 / 135]
      and costs less mana,
      [Sona's mana cost: 60 / 65 / 70 / 75 / 80 VS Karma's: 70 / 75 / 80 / 85 / 90 / 95]
      and is on a shorter cooldown, which INCLUDES the needed wait time for her Mantra to come up every 20 to 30 seconds.

      “A really good sheild”:
      I do agree that her shield is amazing in strength, but it falls short of the extra utility you get from Janna’s shield, Soraka’s armour increase, Lulu’s utility… heck, Sona’s W gives a shield AND it heals at the same time. Sure you can stick the added R effect to Karma’s shield, but at what cost? Again, a high cooldown on Mantra and potential to push your lane.

      Don’t get me wrong, Karma is loads of fun to play (she is Queen of ARAB lolol). But without an AP heavy item build, her use as a support falls much shorter compared to other favourable supports being played right now.

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