Bard Build Guide by Thatdudeinthecotton
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Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Well hello there fellow summoners, I am Thatdudeinthecotton and welcome to my guide on Bard The Wandering Caretaker! As a serious take on the universal steward, this build focuses on giving out survivability and utility, as opposed to damage output.
Bard is a pure utility champion. He lacks damage and tankiness when compared to his peers, but makes up for it with a plethora of tools for flanking and disrupting his foes. His ap scalings are low and unlike most mage supports he doesn't gain increased utility from building it. As such it's better to build items which offer survivability and team safety in mind, as it will allow him the time to consistently output his disruptive abilities, without getting burst down immediately by his enemies.
TLDR on myself: Im a Season 4 gold player who wrote a guide on ap gangplank (FIRST RESULT ON GOOGLE, WOOOP) and am a regular mobafire user.
Remember: This guide is not the be-all end-all way to play Bard. This guide represents My conclusions on the optimal way to play/build him. I encourage you to examine and critique this guide as you feel necessary and if you feel I am ignoring some significant items, skill choices etc, please mention it in the forum and I'll consider adding it to the guide. I will try my best to iterate further on this guide and answer any questions concerning the build order, skills etc.
This Guide is consistently being updated as new patches come in :)
Pros and Cons
- High roaming mobility
- Powerful ganks/gank setup
- Low cooldown hard CC
- Helpful when chasing / disengaging
- Has an incredibly versatile ultimate
- Is just a really cool guy
- Base stats are low
- Cosmic Binding can be difficult to land
- Can have difficulty in lane if not ganking
- Bad ults can backfire spectacularly
- Too cool to talk to anybody :/
- Still too cool to talk to anyone :(
Bards raw utility is unparalleled, offering high mobility and safety to his allies, but he requires excellent decision making above all else in order to be played effectively. Its because of this that Bard has one of the highest skill floors of any champion to be played effectively, but also one of the highest skill ceilings for outplaying his opponents. His laning is weak compared to most supports, but his late game is the most powerful. His auto attack harass in lane with Traveler's Call is decent but, much like a cheating husband, he can't commit to anything. He makes up for this with the ability to make normally mediocre gankers devastating with Magical Journey and sustaining the lane with Caretaker's Shrine.
In the late game grouped enemies and jungle walls make landing Cosmic Bindings easy, coupled with Tempered Fate + all of his movespeed buffs / debuffs and Bard essentially dictates what damage does and does not happen. However, a badly timed ult or Magical Journey can backlash so hard that it'll cost Bards team the game. Because of this, a good Bard needs to be able to read his teams wavelength and act accordingly. If he can do that, he's a devastating force to be reckoned with.
Good Summoner Spells
Just gonna get this one out of the way, yes Flash is a good spell choice. It can be used offensively, defensively and for anything in between.
The typical support spell, this ability offers significant dueling power as well as letting you effectively "shut down" any carries damage potential in teamfights.
The classic spell for duels, having it on supports isn't unheard of, though it feels somewhat suboptimal on Bard. That being said it does make up for his lack of early game damage, so it could be good with an adc that has strong early pressure.
Has a move speed buff on use, also the heal scales better than Barrier. Is good for sustain, escapes and chasing, but has less kill potential than Exhaust or Ignite. Only worth taking if the adc hasn't picked it up for some reason, and even then Exhaust is probably better.
Real talk: Every other spell not mentioned is either very gimmicky or just flat out bad on Bard.
Gotta go fast. These Masteries are built to help Bard's roaming. The fact of the matter is, while Bard is "the wandering caretaker" you don't want too much time in the jungle. When you go into the jungle you should have a clear goal and try to execute it as quickly as possible so that you can attend to the lanes. That's why the support masteries which emphasize speed are important.
Also important are the gold generation masteries Bandit and Greed . These will net you huge amounts of gold as the game wears on.
If you ever opted for a more defense based mastery tree, Id recommend Reinforced Armor since you will still be mostly in bot lane, Second Wind since the boost to health regen effects means Caretaker's Shrine will be boosted, and take NO POINTS in Runic Blessing . That is easily the worst mastery in the game on every champion. No exceptions.
Greater Mark of Armor
Greater Seal of Scaling Health
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed
* = Reccomended
* Greater Mark of Armor: Armor is kindof like health in that its useful against literally every enemy (albeit to a lesser extent versus mages), so it should be carried in pretty much every rune page to some extent. I use it here since it goes well with the rest of the rune setup.
Greater Mark of Attack Damage: These are decent if you plan on running Relic Shield as they'll prevent you from faffing up and missing a cs. They're also helpful when harassing your opponents in lane.
* Greater Seal of Scaling Health: Pretty standard, they simply provide very good health over the duration of the game.
Greater Seal of Health: Good if you're worried about early trading. Using these you'll be fairly durable over the first few levels, making your laning safer.
* Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist: Generally take these over flat glyphs as most ap champs hit their stride at level 6, which coincidentaly is when these become better than flat magic resist glyphs .
Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power: Best place to get ap on the rune page if you want it. It'll certainly help in bot lane as it'll empower your heals/harass. But it sacrifices the best mr runes in the process, so id only take these versus AD team comps.
* Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed: Get yo rear in gear. Big speed boost means less time faffing about and more time getting down to business.
Greater Quintessence of Health: Even more sustain in laning phase. If you don't plan on leaving lane cause....reasons...then these will help you not get destroyed.
Greater Quintessence of Armor: Same as above, but armor.
Skills and how to use them
The meep aspect of this ability is pretty straightforward. It simply empowers harass and chasing. To a more limited extent it can be used for peeling enemies off of your carry, but you already have another ability that's much more powerful in that regard.
Cosimic Binding: A slow and stun
In lane you can use minions to proc the effect regardless if you hit them before or after the enemy champion. Be aware though that the projectile is pretty slow, so you'll need to get some practice in before you'll be able to hit it consistently. Also if there are no walls nearby (and you're out of meeps) the slow can still be worth applying to an enemy even if you don't land the stun. In team fights you should aim to use this in enclosed spaces or if the enemy team is bunched together (or better yet, BOTH).
NOTE: This ability has 2 ranges. The first is the initial projectile range, and the second is the stun proc range. The stun proc range is roughly 400 (think just below a standard ranged auto attack). Regardless of how close or far away your target is, the stun range will always be the same, even if the target is hit at the very tip/very beginning of your skillshot.
Caretaker's Shrine: Heal and burst of speed
Cosmic Binding is an ability that is typically used once per battle during laning, and even then its slow projectile speed and its stun condition means there's a high chance it will miss or be suboptimal. Also without levels Cosmic Binding will still do its job adequately. Whereas Caretaker's Shrine is used both in and out of combat. In combat the empowered heal will matter as it can be lifesaving. Out of combat it gives you and your allies a powerful supply of lane sustain. It really just makes far more sense to point points into Caretaker's Shrine as well as Cosmic Binding than to just straight up max Cosmic Binding while ignoring the helpfulness of a leveled Caretaker's Shrine.
Oh and if the enemy has a jungler that is unlikely to invade (like, I dunno, Karthus) then you can take Caretaker's Shrine first, run up to top and put down a shrine there and in mid lane, while still having time to go base for mana and then help with a jungler pull.
Magical Journey: Gank/Gapclose/Escape tool
In lane you use this to set up ganks with your jungler or just to get back to lane when stuffs getting real. In late game its useful for getting to the enemy backline so you can cc them, or just give your allies a means of diving. It's also useful for getting into dragon/baron pits from the outside as well as escaping from the enemy base without getting tower agro.
Troll tactic: You can grab this level one, and tell your team to prep for an invade in an enemy jungle bush (The one's either beside red or just outside of blue buff). You then go wherever you believe the enemy is gonna start in the jungle and go agro on them. Being bard, you'll start to lose and go low, which is when you Magical Journey through a wall to your waiting team. 9 times out of 10 an enemy will follow and either get wrecked or be forced to burn their flash. The main issues with this is that it requires team co-operation and for the enemy to not be able to CC you while you do it. So use with caution.
Tempered Fate: Massive range AOE Zhonya Ultimate
A safe use of this ability is to shutdown towers for dives. Yes it works on towers. Because of this you essentially have an early game ohmwrecker at the point in the game where towers are at their most potent. It can also be used as an excellent ganking/ gank setup tool. Speaking of ganks, this thing stops enemy ganks dead in their tracks, just put it where the enemy wants to go and watch as they either take it head on or are forced to back off.
When using it from a distance its important to aim it so that if the enemy dodges it, they'll be zoned into the direction you want them to go in, as they'll have ample warning beforehand. In teamfights you should ideally target the enemies tanks. By neutralizing the tanks, you remove their ability to protect their carries by disrupting the team. Alternatively if a single person is carrying the enemy team it could be better to target them so that the rest of their team can be cleaned up. This ult can alos be super helpful in dragon and baron steals.
By the way, anyone already in a zhonya's state isn't affected by the ult. In other words, their duration ends when their item wears of, not the ultimate. So casting Tempered Fate on a bunch of dudes around a zhonya'd ally can give them a handy escape.
Early to Late game
For the first few levels Bard is the weakest support in the game. I mean yeah, he can auto attack sort of hard with meeps and he can peel for his adc with Cosmic Binding, but he has no way of really helping in any sortof prolonged fight. Other supports have harder engages and harass than Bard at this stage and its important that you respect that. Harass where you can but try to avoid committing to anything beyond Cosmic Binding to a minion/wall for some free poke.
For the first four levels or so you'll be staying with your adc. You'll need to get to level 3 before you can roam safely with Magical Journey, but without any boots it's very time consuming, so just focus on keeping your adc safe and maybe harassing your opponents with your auto attacks for the gold generation. Use Cosmic Binding only when you can be sure of the stun procing. Other wise use it to peel for your adc if a fight starts. Enemies tend to bunch together when chasing so its easier to use it to escape a fight than to start one.
Once you've gotten mobi boots and can start roaming, be sure to put down wards while you do so. One of the better benefits of playing bard is that he can place deep wards quickly and is less likely to be penalized for it than most supports thanks to his chimes exp and movespeed buff. But be aware of the enemy jungler when you do so, you don't wanna get caught out. If you're roaming up near mid and there isn't an opportunity to gank simply place down a caretaker's shrine for your midlaner and be on your way, it doesn't pay to loiter too much. When you can, try helping the jungler with ganks in the mid or bot lanes with your Magical Journey. These ganks are far and away more effective than if bard is ganking by himself. All this being said don't waste too much time away from bot, adc's need supports early for a reason.
You have your sightstone, mobi boots, your ult and by now towers have started falling. Its your job to roam about, keeping the ward pressure up, particularly around drake as that will be contested fairly regularly now. Use you ult to catch out enemies pushing by themselves (giving your team the time they need to jump on them), to tower dive, contest drake or to save fleeing allies.
At this stage you go from supporting your adc to supporting your whole team. By that I don't mean ignore your adc, I mean, go where you're needed. Sometimes that'll be with your adc as they're trying to get away from the enemy team or push an objective, other times it could be in mid or top lane so that you can pull of a powerful gank. Be aware of the map and go where you can be the most useful.
Pretty similar to mid game really, only difference is that now its way less safe to roam by yourself and Baron can now be contested. Don't overextend too far into unwarded territory alone and keep the teams vision high. You'll also be grouped much more of the time.
Your ultimate in team fights is great for setting up cc chains with your allies as well as your own Cosmic Binding. Sometimes it can be optimal to just hit some of the enemy team as opposed to all of them, as it'll turn a 5v5 into a 5v4/3/2/1 for the moment the ult is active. Focus on slowing and stunning key targets in team fights with your Traveler's Call/ Cosmic Binding and rescuing/engaging allies with Magical Journey.
Make no mistake, you are getting this solely for the gold generation. I mean, yeah the mana and ap are nice, but of all the gold generation items bard can get, this provides the most cold hard cash, especially because you don't have to be in lane to benefit from all of it. Unfortunately however, its upgrade Frostfang is terrible. Why? Well because it will actually generate you LESS gold than Spellthief's Edge. The gold generation on Spellthief's Edge for its cost only takes 6 minutes before it becomes gold efficient for its stats, and that's without hitting your enemies. On the other hand, Frostfang takes a wooping 23 minutes before it becomes cost efficient just from the sheer cost of the upgrade. That's a difference of 18 minutes where you could be making a profit and building more useful items. The only time its worth upgrading to Frostfang is if you're intent on getting Frost Queen's Claim. But even then just selling Spellthief's Edge lategame for Face of the Mountain or Talisman of Ascension is usually better as those give better stats and typically better actives than Frost Queen's Claim does.
You're the support. Get it. Also, the upgrade isn't worth the gold. When you get this swap out Warding Totem for Sweeping Lens to destroy enemy wards. Then when you can get it pickup Greater Vision Totem.
Boots of Mobility
Lets you roam without loitering and can help at the start of fights with setting up Cosmic Binding and getting to your allies to save them with Caretaker's Shrine. It gets you from A to B, which is what Bard is all about.
Locket of the iron solari
A strong all round item. Good to start after you mobi boots if your team is going even, or if the enemy has some powerful magic damage. It provides Bard with some self sustain and CDR, while also giving his allies some useful defensive stats on top of its active shield.
Strong versus AD carries or team comps. It gives hefty CDR, armor and mana as well as a really good attack speed debuff. Watch that you don't go too far over the CDR cap when buying this, otherwise you'll probably be wasting gold that could better be spent on pure defensive stats.
A good pickup versus both AD and mixed comps thanks to the health it carries. The only disadvantage compared to some other defensive options is it carries no CDR, though that can be a good thing if you've already hit the 40% cap.
A strong item for chasing and finishing off your armor build versus full ad comps. The slow on-hit is nice and it provides mana + CDR. Its expensive to build early on however due to sheen not being super great statwise.
Synergizes with Caretaker's Shrine as well as giving a bunch of MR, Health and CDR. Best bought against teams of mixed or ap leaning damage as it provides stats also useful against non mages.
Good if the enemy team has a lot of crowd control and is focusing your carry. Can also be a lifesaver in moments of need thanks to its decent heal coupled with Caretaker's Shrine. The mana regen, cdr and MR are also a nice benefit.
A powerful defence versus burst mages and hard crowd control. That's all it does, but its really good at what it does.
Face Of The Mountain
A lifesaver for both you or your allies. Like Mikael's Crucible but with arguably more useful stats and a gold generator that also heals. Replace Spellthief's Edge with this or another defensive item.
Talisman Of Ascension
A lifesaver and an engage/chasing tool, this has arguably one of the most useful active's in the game. The stats other than the CDR and movespeed are really secondary to its active component. Yet again, if you plan on getting this, keep Spellthief's Edge until just before you buy this.
Well, that's about it for my build on Bard.
I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading it, and hope you see your way to trying him out in the future :D
If you have any criticisms or questions please share them and I'll do my best to reply :)
Obligatory shout-out to JHOIJHOI, Cause without her, every guide on this website would be unformatted and bland :)