General Guide by FreestyleKneepad
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Not Updated For Current Season
Hi there, the name's FreestyleKneepad. Usually I talk about specific champions, but this time, I'm going to write a guide about a concept.
Cringe if you must, but I guaran-d*mn-tee you that supporting is an important role. This guide is titled "How to Carry a Carry" because that's what the support does. Carries are supposed to be carried through early game or they risk being useless late-game, and whose job is it to carry the carry? The poor Sona or Soraka that has to work with them.
When you play support, you're playing it for one of two reasons: because you're the last pick and your team already has everything else they need, or you actually wanted to play support because you enjoy being a vital asset to your team but don't want to worry so much about kills. Supporting is a casual but in-depth role that requires just as many exclusive skills as the solo top or solo mid.
This guide is meant to focus on both general supporting concepts as well as the specific aspects of 4 support champs. I'd go into detail on every support like most guides, but I blow at Soraka and Taric so instead I got good at a support that fills each individual support sub-role. I've included more supports in the build sheet for people who want an idea of where to start with each champ I've listed, and I may touch on them (very) briefly later on, but the vast majority of the guide will be focused on Sona, Alistar, Nunu and Zilean.
I'm aiming this guide at someone who's curious about supporting and wants a support that fills their specific niche or playstyle. I don't claim to be the foremost expert on supporting, but I do support almost as often as I tank (which is often), so I know a thing or two more than the guy that plays AD carries all day and thinks he knows supporting just because he plays alongside them all the time.
I genuinely appreciate feedback and comments and will make an effort to respond to every single comment and message I receive, and I'm perfectly willing to discuss the content of my guide with someone who disagrees with me. ...Hell, I welcome it.
I hope you all enjoy reading this guide as much as I enjoyed writing it.
What You Need To Know
Supporting is easy. Supporting well is not. Carrying a team by supporting is d*mn near an art form. There's a few things that really separate the okay supports from the amazing supports, and I'll start by mentioning those things here.
General Supporting Principles
- You are the Master of Vision. Ward always and CV often.
- Supports don't get kills or farm, so value stat-per-gold efficiency in items above the actual effects.
- Gold-per-10-seconds is the best stat EVER.
- You are going to be murdered when you're left to run around alone. Remember this always.
- Pick items that fulfill needs you or your team have, especially items with auras, and value spammability over AP.
- Repeat after me: WARDS SAVE LIVES.
- Focus less on getting kills and more on helping allies, softening up enemies and making it easier for your allies to do their jobs.
- Grow a thick skin for insults. If you solo queue, people are likely going to blame you for their mistakes, especially whoever you lane with because gamers tend to be a*sholes. Suck it up and keep playing your best, be the better person.
- Carries are usually cocky, and solo-tops/junglers are usually loners. Be the emotional anchor of your team and communicate with them constantly to foster teamwork.
- You're squishier than squishy. Never ever roam alone.
- Try to hit a bunch of people with Crescendo, it's a game-changer.
- Apply your ability buffs to best help your allies do whatever they're doing.
- Cycle abilities in the middle of a teamfight to max the effects.
- Focus on building items with auras that assist your team, so you support just by being there.
- Your AP ratios suck, don't worry so much about AP.
- Your Unbreakable Will lets you tank without tanky items, so use it wisely.
- Don't Headbutt carelessly or you'll knock enemies back to safety behind their towers.
- Practice the sh*t out of the Headbutt- Pulverize Malphite combo before you try it in-game. Go to Headbutt and, while Alistar is still traveling, press Pulverize so that he reaches the person and knocks them up. Tada, Unstoppable Force.
- Be aware that Triumphant Roar heals your minions, which will push your lane if you're not careful.
- Rank 3 Unbreakable Will = about 250 armor and magic resistance.
- Olaf ignores your CC and your ultimate. He will crush you.
- Use Visionary to save mana, but be careful not to take CS or push the lane too hard.
- Blood Boil can be kept on forever with enough mana regen and CDR. Do it.
- If you use Absolute Zero in a bush, enemies will be slowed but won't be able to see the ice circle.
- Consume can be used as a quasi- Smite for securing buffs in the absence of a jungler.
- Your CC is slows-only, so be careful around enemies with gapclosers.
- Use Consume during a teamfight near minions to keep your health up and stay alive.
- Use Time Bomb, then Rewind, then Time Bomb on the same target to detonate the first bomb early and cast another.
- Time Bomb can be cast on allies.
- Rewind reduces the cooldown of Chronoshift. Spam it.
- Make sure to always have enough mana for Chronoshift.
- Your Time Warp isn't that great compared to the rest of your kit, max it last.
- You can press R and click the portraits on the top left of your screen to cast Chronoshift on the person in the portrait if they are in range.
- Soraka: Pay very close attention to the health bars of your allies so you know the best time to use your ultimate. You can see their current health in the small portraits in the top left corner of your screen.
- Lulu: Don't forget, you can slap Pix on an enemy and throw a Glitterlance in the direction they're running for an easy (and funny) bit of harassment.
- Janna: Practice your shield, it'll make or break your sustain ability in lane. Also, ward carefully, one of Janna's biggest strengths is her anti-gank utility in her tornadoes, Monsoon and slows.
- Kayle: Intervention timing is absolutely vital. Don't use it too early if your team is going to enter a fight, but if you can see some big ults coming or need to help out a carry that's about to die, don't hesitate.
- Taric: Stay in the bushes, making it more difficult for the enemy to harass you while still letting you stun them and heal your allies. Control as a support is all about vision denial and zoning.
- Galio: Your job in lane is harassment. Get used to slinging your Resolute Smite around, because that's how you're going to bring down the hurt on people. Make sure to keep Righteous Gust available for a getaway, it's more useful for the movement speed than it is for damage at early levels.
The Support Sub-Roles
All supports are not made alike. If you pick Alistar over Zilean, you're going to have a different skillset, a different stat prioritization and will have to play differently to support to the full potential of the champion. Supports tend to fall into a few specific roles, so I've picked a few champs that fill each of these roles to use as examples. It also helps that they're the supports I'm really good at.
- The Babysitter: Sona, Soraka, Janna and Karma fall into this category. Everyone thinks of these champions when you say "support". Except Karma. Nobody thinks about Karma. They each do little to absolutely no damage when built as full support, and most or all of their abilities are designed to help allies and/or hurt enemies, depending on how they're used. Babysitters are extremely squishy (easy to kill) and often lack natural escape mechanisms, meaning that throughout the game a good Babysitter will stick to their carry's side, protecting themselves and protecting their carry with their CC and support skills. Pick this support role if you want to rely heavily on your carry to protect you in exchange for powerful support skills that matter throughout the game.
- The Bodyguard: Alistar, Taric, Shen, Leona and Blitzcrank fall into this category. These champs are the League of Legends equivalent of those awesome Secret Service agents that take bullets for the President and then just walk it off because they're that awesome. They all have powerful, spammable CC and most have some form of heal or ally-triggered effect, but nothing as powerful or influential as what the Babysitter offers. Bodyguards often build support at the start of the game, but their abilities allow them to be powerful tanks through mid-late game, even though their role leaves them with less income than a normal solo-top/jungling tank. Pick this support role if you want to be the one responsible for your carry's life during the early game and you want to be the one responsible for your team's lives during the late game.
- The Half-Carry: Nunu, Nidalee, Galio, Morgana and Orianna fill this role. These are the supports that make you go "Well stick a fork in my a*s and call me Suzie, I don't wanna lane against them." These support champs have strong early games and usually one or two support abilities that qualify them as viable support champions. They can be played in solo lanes extremely effectively and they scale well into late game without too much farm. Pick this support role if you want a strong champion whose playstyle stays constant all game and doesn't need farm to be a threat.
- The Aggressor: Zilean, Kayle, Lux and Teemo fall into this category. They're the ones that are incredibly annoying for one particular reason, but you tend to forget how annoying they are until you have to go lane against them. Except Teemo. F*ck Teemo. The job of the Aggressor changes throughout the game. They usually have mostly damage-related skills or their support skills are insignificant compared to the rest of their kit. Their job early game is to harass like crazy and keep the enemy champs off of their carry through sheer aggression. They usually do serious damage with a specific skill early game, but the skill doesn't scale well into late game, forcing the shift in playstyle where the Aggressor has to instead rely on a different skill to be most useful to the team, such as Zilean's Chronoshift, Kayle's Intervention or Teemo's Noxious Trap. Pick this support role if you want to have a strong, aggressive early game in exchange for a passive but still influential late game.
- The Support...ish?: Rammus, Singed, Malphite, Fiddlesticks and Garen often fall into this category when forced into a "support" role, often when there is already a jungler but the team still needs more damage/tankiness than a support could offer. This is the kind of support that you'd think would be going mid/top, so when you see them giggling in the bottom bushes you just know the game's gonna be a pain in the a*s. They're champs that either require a duo lane to lane easily or have enough CC/harass to allow them to fill another support role, but they're much, much better off somewhere else doing something else more often than not.
While not ideal, using a "Support-ish" can be a powerful strategy if they start to roam shortly after level 7 or 8, taking advantage of their strong ganking/roaming potential while allowing the carry to solo-lane once they've been supported past the very early game where they're most vulnerable. Pick this support...ish role if you're strong with roaming champs and you can communicate really well with your team and your jungler.
A roamer/jungler double gank is extremely strong when used effectively: Blitzcrank and Alistar have proven to be an amazingly strong combination even at high ELO. Proof: Team SoloMid's Dyrus and Reginald playing Roaming BlitzStar in Ranked
Pros / Cons
It would be a mistake to assume I could simplify this part. While the support class itself does have some clear advantages and disadvantages, all champs are made differently (except Skarnjuani *cough*) and each of the four I've chosen have clear advantages and disadvantages of their own. Choosing the support champ whose strengths benefit your team more than their weaknesses hamper it is key to picking a strong support for the game you're about to enter.
Sona, the Bouncing Goodness
+ // Persistent buffs
+ // Extremely easy to learn
+ // Game-changing ultimate in Crescendo
+ // Amazing early-game sustain
+ // Biggest, softest frontal... buffs in the game
+ // Supports just about any carry well
+ // Can easily support the entire team at once
- // Incredibly squishy
- // Spamming abilities is a massive mana sink
- // Can be difficult to judge how abilities will choose targets
- // Crescendo can be tricky to time and land well
- // Scales very poorly with AP
- // Surprisingly easy to accidentally KS
- // Has a bad rep as a "no-skill" champ
Alistar, the Angry-*** Cow Dude
+ // Spammable, low-cost AOE heal
+ // 2 forms of hard "knock" CC
+ // Headbutt + Pulverize = Unstoppable Force
+ // Ult lets him tank without tank items
+ // Free Cleanse
+ // Strong at countering ganks with his CC
+ // Matador skin gives him an awesome, gold pimp suit
- // AOE heal scales horribly into late game
- // Pulverize and Headbutt burn through mana
- // True damage absolutely molests your Unbreakable Will
- // Does very, very low damage with a support build
- // Only able to full tank during Unbreakable Will
- // Consistently landing the mini- Unstoppable Force is an art form
- // You can't milk those
Nunu, That Annoying Champ That Never Stops Throwing Those OP Snowballs
+ // Ice Blast hits hard and slows hard
+ // Consume gives amazing sustain
+ // Blood Boil is amazing on AD carries
+ // Absolute Zero does massive damage even with no AP
+ // Visionary use greatly helps with mana costs
+ // Doesn't need CS to support/do damage
+ // Nunu Bot's laugh is hilarious
- // Visionary abuse pushes the lane and denies your carry of CS
- // Absolute Zero is very easy to disrupt
- // Only "support" ability is Blood Boil
- // Junglers with gap closers can still gank well despite Nunu's CC
- // Without any AP his damage falls off late-game
- // Only really supports ranged/melee AD carries well
- // Nunu Bot is a freaking expensive skin
Zilean, The Cranky Old Fossil
+ // Time Bomb does ridiculous early game damage
+ // Q-W-Q combo can be amazingly effective
+ // Free Guardian Angel on whoever needs it
+ // Rewind spam makes a good Zilean great
+ // Heightened Learning is more powerful than it seems
+ // E-W-E-W gives surprising mobility
+ // Double-bombing Yorick's ghouls makes Freestyle giggle
- // His only source of damage is his Q-W-Q combo
- // Only form of CC is Time Warp
- // Effectively judging when/how to use Chronoshift takes skill
- // Extremely vulnerable in late game
- // Extremely easy to accidentally push the lane with Time Bomb
- // Without Chronoshift, he doesn't really help much late game
- // Secretly a total stoner
Props to JhoiJhoi for the codes.
I'll just keep this theme going.
The reason certain champions can support well and others can't is in their skillsets. Sion isn't a good support because he needs a lot of farm and none of his abilities really benefit his allies in any way. Supports have at least one way to benefit the allies they lane with, be it a shield, a heal, a buff/debuff or some form of map control by way of CC or heavy harassment. I won't go into excruciating detail on all 4 champions, but I will tell you how you'll want to level your champion to make the most of their supporting capacity.
- Sona: Early game, you're the babysitter. It's your job to keep close to your squishy, killable carry and heal up all their boo-boos and scraped knees. It's best to alternate between Hymn of Valor and Aria of Perseverance, grabbing one rank in Song of Celerity at level 5 just to have it handy. Choose whether to prioritize Hymn of Valor or Aria of Perseverance depending on whether your lane is going to be really aggressive (so you'd max Hymn) or really defensive (so you'd max Aria). Either way, keep alternating between the two in whatever order you chose, grabbing Crescendo when it's available, because those two are your most important support spells.
- Alistar: Your one-to-five skill order is pretty strict: grab Pulverize first for any potential level 1 fights, then get Triumphant Roar at level 2 and Headbutt at level 3 so you can be all like "GET THE FUGGOFFA MAH CARREH" when that cocky Xin Zhao comes a-knockin'. Your heal is most effective early game, so max it first and grab Pulverize when you can't max Triumphant Roar or Unbreakable Will. Save Headbutt for last, seeing as Pulverize is an overall stronger CC, and the one you'd want to have on a shorter cooldown as a result.
- Nunu: The beauty of Nunu supporting an AD carry is in Blood Boil. At level 9, it'll give your AD carry better stats than a Phantom Dancer. That's insane. Get Ice Blast and level 1 and harass with it, then max it second for damage and CC because Nunu's AP scaling is obscenely good, but always always always always get Blood Boil first. I know I said the opposite before, and I was wrong. It's just too good.
- Zilean: Of the four, Zilean is the closest to an AP mage while still being a support. Your job is to harass the ever-loving sh*t out of your enemies so your carry has a hassle-free farming experience and your enemies have nightmares of goofy-looking bombs hovering over their heads. Prioritize your Time Bomb and then your Rewind, grabbing one in Time Warp before level 6 but leaving the rest for endgame. Your Chronoshift is more important late-game than your Time Warp is.
Runes / Masteries
There's certain things you need as a support which vary from champ to champ. One thing to always remember is the fact that (at least in the current meta) you're not going to be getting kills or farm very often, because your carries need it way, way more than you do. I'll highlight some runes and masteries in each of my setups that are important, but the rest can probably be adjusted depending on your preferences.
- Sona: Sona is the definition of "0 CS Support", which is why she needs some other way to rake in the cash. She's absolutely made for support, so your best bet is to just get as much as you can in the Utility tree because it all really helps her out. Thank God Riot added the Greater Seal of Gold, because it helps out big-time. Get every gold-per-ten rune and mastery you can and you'll be swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck. Yeah, you'll be that rich.
- Alistar: Your mindset should be "support now, tank later". Defensive runes and masteries help Alistar kinda-tank through early game, and grab 9 in the utility tree because you can always use a little somethin'-somethin' to help out your supporting job. Armor and health runes keep you tough early on so you last long enough to get your ultimate, while mana regen and cooldown reduction help you spam the ever-loving sh*t out of Triumphant Roar like the healbot you are.
- Nunu: The yeti is a little like a Sona that brings the pain instead of putting bandaids on skinned knees. Motherf*cker, who do you think skins those knees? Nunu, that's who. Grab the gold-per-ten stuff because you're gonna be harassing, not farming, and grab 9 in offense and Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power to give you some help bursting in late game.
- Zilean: In all honesty, I figured this for a joke build at first. It's f*cking INCREDIBLE. Grab a Doran's Ring and you'll burst so hard that your teammate Brand will wonder why the AP carry is running Clairvoyance instead of Ignite. Another rune option involves grabbing 4 flat AP yellows and 5 AP-per-level yellows, 9 AP-per-level blues and keeping the rest the same, so your bombs scale a little better into late game.
THESE ARE YOUR BEST FRIENDS.
THEY WILL ALWAYS BE THERE FOR YOU AND YOU SHOULD ALWAYS COME TO THEM FIRST.
- Flash: Flash is amazing on most supports, since most supports are squishy and Flash is amazing on squishy champs. The only other options would be Ghost on a tankier support like Alistar or Blitzcrank. Even then, Alistar can initiate with Flash and Pulverize which works extremely well and frees up Headbutt to knock some poor idiot back to the lions and Blitzcrank has Overdrive, which is like Ghost minus the unit collision effect but with a much, much shorter cooldown.
- Clairvoyance: CV is amazing. The ability to see anywhere on the map is something that every support should have because knowledge is such a vital weapon in this game that if you play support for awhile and then play on a team without CV, you'll really notice the lack of vision you have without it around. More than once I've saved myself or my teammates with a gut-check "I wonder if something's there" Clairvoyance.
THESE ARE YOUR ONE-NIGHT STANDS.
THEY COULD BE NICE, BUT YOU SHOULDN'T USE THEM OFTEN ENOUGH TO FIND OUT.
- Heal: Good for supports without ally-targeting heals for clutch moments or heal-baiting like a b*stard, but otherwise not as good as Clairvoyance.
- Cleanse: I seriously don't use Cleanse. Ever. On any champ. I'm not kidding. I don't like it, I don't time its use well, I just... don't use it. After all, Quicksilver Sash exists, and a ton of big, scary CC comes from AP sources in the first place.
- Ghost: Good for another escape skill, but never ever ever get it instead of Flash. Ghost is best on tanks, and even Alistar benefits more from Flash anyways.
- Clarity: Something's wrong if you're getting this, unless you're laning with someone who runs out of mana amazingly fast and they value it above Clairvoyance.
- Teleport: The only one that could POSSIBLY use this really well is Zilean because of his crazy strong pushing with his bombs. It's my favorite summoner spell in the game because of the absurd map presence it can give you, but it's just not good on supports. There are too many better choices.
THESE ARE THE BOOTY CALLS AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR LIST.
THEY ARE USEFUL FOR EXTREMELY DESPERATE SITUATIONS ONLY.
- Promote: If you need to push this badly, something's really wrong with your team.
- Exhaust: If you need CC this badly, something's extremely wrong with your team.
- Ignite: If you need to secure kills this badly, something's extremely wrong with the space-time continuum.
THESE ARE THAT 300-POUND GIRL HIDING IN THE DARK CORNER OF THE BAR.
YOU'D HAVE TO BE SO DRUNK TO PICK THESE THAT YOU SHOULDN'T BE PLAYING
IN THE FIRST PLACE.
- Smite: HA HA HA... 0 CS support with Smite. That sh*t's funny.
- Surge: What? I mean... just... what?
- Revive: It's a clutch moment spell, but clutch moments are clutch moments because if every moment was a clutch moment then we'd all be incredibly stressed out or they wouldn't be clutch moments by comparison anymore. Also, if you take Revive everyone instantly and permanently assumes you're trolling.
The problem with itemizing for supports is that you have to take into account that supports typically do not get any CS, and it's best to assume you're going to get 0 CS and be pleasantly surprised when you have 23 at 45 minutes rather than expect what you can't have. That said, what's most important to support champs is gold efficiency, so they sacrifice damage (which is expensive) and tankiness (which is expensive) for cheaper items that offer cooldown reduction, mana regen and the like.
There are a few items that are almost universally good on support champions, and they're items you should consider before looking at Rabadon's Deathcap or Guardian Angel.
- Tear of the Goddess: Amazing on most supports who spam the sh*t out of something like Aria of Perseverance, Blood Boil, Triumphant Roar or Time Bomb. Get it early and it'll make up its cost fast.
- shurelya's reverie: One of the best support items around. It builds from Philosopher's Stone, the best support gold-per-10 item there is, and it also gives you bonus health, cooldown reduction and an AOE Ghost aura for initiations/escapes. Great great great great item.
- philosopher's stone: Get this ALWAYS. Mana regen and a bit of health regen plus gold per ten? This is why most supports start with a Faerie Charm and wards/pots instead of something more substantial.
- Chalice of Harmony: This seems almost designed exclusively for supports. It's incredibly cheap, and the passive only gets better if you get more mana or more mana regen.
- kage's lucky pick: Best on champs that scale well with AP, making it less efficient than a Philo stone since some supports scale poorly off of AP on purpose.
- Soul Shroud: Builds off of Mana Manipulator, which is a great support item and a staple of ARAM. The bonus health and CDR is great on champs who just need health to be more survivable.
- catalyst the protector: Great for its passive in the early game and the bit of survivability it grants, and it builds into either a Banshee's Veil or Rod of Ages for late game damage/resistance.
- Glacial Shroud: A little bit of mana, a little bit of armor and a little bit of cooldown reduction. Practically core on Alistar.
- Rod of Ages: The beauty of Rod of Ages is that it becomes more worth the money the earlier you get it. It's expensive, but it's a good investment when every bit of AP is all the more valuable due to its scarcity.
- Will of the Ancients: The best time to get this is if your AP carry doesn't have the space or if you want it to stack. Will of the Ancients doesn't stack twice on people who don't have the item, but both WotA owners will benefit from both auras, making it an extremely cheap but potent support item if your AP carry needs some help.
- Aegis of the Legion: One of the most gold-efficient items in the game, and a great way to make yourself and your teammates a little bit tankier as well. Auras are always great for supports.
- Zeke's Harbinger: MOBAFire's on top of things: Stark's Fervor now automatically redirects to Zeke's Herald. This is an amazing new support item. It gives you health and cooldown reduction and gives your allies a bit of lifesteal and attack speed. That spells sexy.
Because each of the 4 supports we're discussing plays differently, they all build differently as well:
- Sona: Sona needs money, spammability and MOAR AURAS. By late game you should be able to roll your hand over QWE over and over and not run out of mana ever. Chalice of Harmony basically solves your early game mana problems if you pair it with a Philosopher's Stone, and Soul Shroud or Tear of the Goddess are great choices as well. Sona's utility doesn't scale well with AP, so worry less about that and more about casting more and regenning mana like a boss. Prioritize team-assisting effects, mana regen, cooldown reduction and cost efficiency.
- Alistar: Ali builds like a support early, but like a tank later. Shurelya's Reverie is the only support item you should really need before you get your ult. Frozen Heart is amazing on him, as is Warmog's Armor since your ult basically gives you all the resistance you'll need for awhile. Beyond that, you want tankiness and spamminess, so aim for cooldown reduction and mana and grab resistance to protect against whatever's doing all the damage. Prioritize health, cooldown reduction, mana and resistance.
- Nunu: Rod of Ages is a great early item on Nunu because of the absurd AP scaling on Absolute Zero. A little AP goes a long, long way with Nunu, so the rest of it should be put towards health/mana and cooldown reduction like any other support. Grab a Morello's Evil Tome or Rabadon's Deathcap if you're swimming in money and feel like living a little more luxuriously. Prioritize cooldown reduction, mana regen, AP and health.
- Zilean: Because he tends to get the kills on champions with Time Bomb, Zilean is usually built more like an AP carry than like a support. You still want lots and lots and lots of mana regen and cooldown reduction, but AP is amazing on him as well. AP is so important that I tend to start Doran's Ring rather than a Faerie Charm with Zilean and really rely on Clairvoyance until I can recall and get wards because it's just so damn good on him. Prioritize AP, mana, mana regen and cooldown reduction.
Game Phase Guide
The most important part of supporting (and the most difficult part to learn) is how to play during each phase of the game. Supports, like junglers, have a very clear role that differs slightly depending on what champ you choose, but otherwise works effectively the same way for each.
The early game is where you are both most important and at your weakest, like every beginning champ. Unless your team is choosing some crazy new meta shift, you'll go bot with a carry, most likely the AD carry. A lot of the time it's best to build a Faerie Charm, buy 3 wards and buy 2 Health pots, or 2 wards and 3 pots if you need the extra sustain. Use Clairvoyance on the enemy team's fountain to see their items, which can help your team choose what to build and possibly see where the enemies are going, then listen to your allies to use Clairvoyance where they need it whenever it's off cooldown. If you sit at tower until the minions reach the lane, you should also Clairvoyance the two lane bushes, because people like to be ****s and chill in the bush, just waiting for you to stick your squishy, killable face in.
Your job as an early game support is to ensure the safety of your lane-mate, either by healing, CCing enemies away from your ally, or by zoning with harassment. Zoning simply means harassing in such a way that getting in a certain position puts them right in a spot for you to harass them without them easily harassing you. It's kind of advanced, but you get the hang of it as time goes by. Beyond that, stick to your carry like glue and don't let them jump into anything alone, because they'll probably suck until they get an Infinity Edge anyways.
Also, WARD AT ALL TIMES. This is the stage where warding is absolutely vital, and why you grab some wards right from the start. Wait until about the three or three-and-a-half minute mark and then ward your river bush if you can reach it, so that you have vision if your enemy's jungler comes to gank. WARDS SAVE LIVES. Save your extra wards for when the ward in the river bush dies, unless your enemies are really sticking to the bushes like ****wads. Every time you back, get 2 or 3 more wards to keep the river perpetually warded. If you do this and you have good map awareness, they cannot gank you from there anymore. THIS MEANS YOU LIVE MORE OFTEN. THIS IS GREAT.
This is where your carry begins to get scary, and where you enter the "annoying little brother made of glue" phase. If they begin to roam, go with them. You should not be left soloing a lane. If anyone should, it's them. Stay with them and make sure to ward Dragon often. Dragon control is really important in the pros, and still pretty damn important in normals, too. If you can't ward Dragon, CV it every once in awhile to make sure everything's okay and nobody's taken it yet.
Pick items that solve problems your team is facing. Say you laned with a Corki or Ezreal. They're AD casters, so mana is an issue for them. If you grab a Mana Manipulator, you can build it into a Soul Shroud (great for you) and give them a mana regen aura (great for them). Aegis of the Legion is great if you need a little more toughness, and Zeke's Herald is great to give your AD carry a bit more "oomph" and some survivability, especially if you can't heal them yourself.
This is where things tend to differ by champion. You should still always be warding, but now the entire map is up for grabs. If you keep getting your buffs stolen, ward them and kill the sap when he shows up for another helping of shiny blue rocks. If they like fighting in the river, ward the river bushes so your team gets the jump on them instead of the other way around. Have Baron warded as often as possible, but if it just got taken you can wait a few minutes, or your ward will die before Baron respawns. BARON CONTROL IS ESSENTIAL, AND WARDS PROVIDE CONTROL.
This is the point where you might want to eye up some more expensive stuff, but always keep in mind the cost-efficiency. Thornmail and Guardian Angel will both give you armor, but Thornmail doesn't have a revive aura, and the extra 30 armor it gives won't make as huge a difference as being brought back from the dead every five minutes. Keep in mind your goals and never ever go anywhere alone, and you'll be doing just fine.
Though most supports work similarly in a lot of respects *coughWARDALWAYScough*, each of the four sub-roles plays a little differently in how they do their job and accomplish their goals.
- Sona: As the Babysitter, you basically hold the same role all game long. Early game, you heal with Aria of Perseverance and harass a little bit with Hymn of Valor when your enemies get too feisty. When you start roaming with your carry, use your skills in such a way that they benefit the two of you the most. Running to another lane? Song of Celerity will speed up that commute nicely. Fighting in the river? Alternate Hymn of Valor and Aria of Perseverance to make your carry tougher and stabbier. Chasing down an enemy? Song of Celerity speeds you up while its Power Chord slows them down, and Hymn of Valor gives your carry the damage to finish them off (just be careful that your ability proc's damage doesn't rob the last hit, it's what makes Sona so prone to KSing). Late game is the same story, but now your Crescendo comes in as an absolutely vital fight-changer as well. The ability to stun the entire enemy team for a second and a half can easily turn a fight in your favor, making it something you need to practice for that moment when it's most vital.
- Alistar: As the Bodyguard, you do everything you can to keep your carry safe, which involves brutally mauling anyone that tries to jump on them and make them cry. Conserve your mana by only using Triumphant Roar to heal your ally and using CC only when it's absolutely vital to do so, and save Unbreakable Will for a rainy day/gank where you need to not die instantly to protect your carry. In mid game your ultimate makes you tanky without needing to be tanky, so use it in teamfights or to tank towers for a backdoor. You're your carry's bodyguard, so stick close to them in fights and keep anything sharp and killy away from them, even if it gets you targeted in the process. Start building tanky but efficient items like Warmog's Armor to prepare you for late game, but focus more on health and less on resistance at first. By late game you should be reasonably tanky and able to let your ultimate make you unkillable, at which point you're the official initiator and tank for your team, unless someone else has that covered. Either way, continue keeping their squishies away from your squishies and you'll do just fine.
- Nunu: For the first few levels you bring infinite slowness, for the few levels after that you bring pain, and by midgame you bring power to your AD carry. Use Ice Blast to keep enemies at bay and let your carry farm, and be careful to make use of Visionary only when your lane is nice and warded, because autoattacking without taking last hits still pushes the lane. By mid game you should be using Blood Boil frequently enough that you and your AD carry are continuously buffed and running around with cool little fireballs on your hands. You do insane damage with Absolute Zero, but you shouldn't be the main damage dealer. Build for spammability (to always keep Blood Boil active) but also grab some AP to keep your damage a big enough threat that you can make people focus you if you have to. By late game your damage is best for its CC, but Absolute Zero can still pack a punch. Don't Blood Boil just anyone, prioritize AD melee and ranged carries because Brand's autoattacks aren't what do damage.
- Zilean: In lane, you are the ULTIMATE HARASSER. Pop a bomb on someone's head and they'll comically run away like running makes it hurt less. Be careful not to bomb near minions, because you'll push the lane hard, and be careful not to over-bomb, or you'll be out of mana and unable to do anything if a gank comes, making you a big, slow target. Buy a little AP at first to help your early game Double Bombs really hurt like hell, and focus more on cooldown reduction and mana/regen as the game wears on. Your Time Warp is useful for moving around the map really quickly, so spam it and Rewind constantly to race around the map and drastically reduce the cooldown of Chronoshift. Through mid and late game your most powerful tool is your ultimate, and being able to notice an ally about to die and ult them in a split-second window is a skill that is very, very difficult to master, but can easily shift the balance of the game in your favor. If you really want to be a gigantic a*shole, get a Guardian Angel and laugh, but only do so if you need the resistance and need your ultimate for your allies, rather than yourself.
While supports are meant to work well with just about anyone and some like Sona work really well with a wide variety of champions, but every support has a few champs that they just absolutely adore to be paired up with. Whether it's ridiculously good synergy between champ abilities or just plain cheapness, these combos are a deadly advantage for your team and a terror to lane against with anyone else.
- Vayne & Alistar: Alistar's CC makes it easy to jump in and serve up a dazed, battered and confused enemy ripe for some deepsing. Add to that Vayne's autoattacks the entire time and a Condemn waiting for the poor soul after Alistar's CC has been used and you've got some ridiculous bumper-car-style knocking around.
- Nasus & Zilean: While technically a duo-top combo at its best, this combo works so well that it's worth mentioning. Zilean's harass is so strong that the current melee tonky-doops top meta can't keep up with it, leaving Nasus completely free to farm like there wasn't even anyone else in the lane.
- Graves & Sona: This is a pretty common combo, and it's common because it works. The combination of True Grit and the bonus resistance from Aria of Perseverance makes Graves incredibly tanky for his role and makes it remarkably hard to push the two out of lane as long as their mana holds up.
- Ashe & Nunu: Just... just think about this for a moment. You're in lane, just doing your thing when an Ice Blast comes out of nowhere and smacks you in the face. You're moving at one inch per hour when an Ashe buffed by Blood Boil shows up and throws slowing arrow after slowing arrow at you until you're colder than a corpse and deader than one, too. And that's not even including their ultimates.
- Yorick & Zilean: The moment you plant a Time Bomb on one of Yorick's ghouls and watch it run past the turret to explode on the turtling carry, you will laugh like a maniac. Because it's the single most hilarious thing ever.
- Miss Fortune & Nunu: This might be a result of my games with friends, but I have a friend who plays a really strong Miss Fortune and he's even stronger with me rocking support Nunu. Her Impure Shots passive works better with Blood Boil, and your Ice Blast makes up for her kind of pathetic CC in Make it Rain. Just an overall good team, they compliment each other really well.
- Twitch & Zilean: If you plant a Time Bomb on Twitch as he stealths, they won't see it coming until the bomb goes off and suddenly they just lost a ton of health. IT IS SO ******* FUNNY.
- Tristana & Alistar: The sheer CC and mobility on these two is insane. With their ultimates, they dash and hop around and knock people every which way, letting them really turn a fight into a fight on their own terms.
- Caitlyn & Sona: Caitlyn has serious poke potential, but tends to take hits due to her less-than-great mobility. Sona's sheer sustain potential lets Caitlyn trade hits with Piltover Peacemaker and Yordle Snap Trap and still come out on top.
- Veigar & Lux: I just had to include this one. Veigar farms and Lux supports and the sheer range, burst and CC the two have at their disposal makes them do absolutely INSANE damage that's incredibly hard to escape once they've stunned/snared you. Me and a friend played this lane a few times back when I was terrible with Veigar and we were still amazingly powerful.
This is so damn important that it needs its own section.
Here's why it matters to you as a support: Communication with your team gets you working as a team. Working as a team helps everyone mesh with everyone else. Everyone meshing with everyone else means everyone has their own clear role and can do their best to fulfill that role. Everyone working to fulfill their roles means everyone relies on everyone else. Everyone relying on everyone else IS WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE, USEFUL AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, ALIVE.
A few concepts and phrases are so absolutely vital to communication that I'm putting them here just so the one guy that doesn't know them doesn't waste time learning them that could have been spent communicating and helping to win the game.
- MIA: "X is Missing In Action." Of all of them, this is the most absolutely vital one, and simultaneously the easiest one to forget. When you see Caitlyn run into the river, type "caitlyn mia" or "cait mia" or "that stupid f*cking cop lady mia" in chat to let your teammates know she's potentially feeling feisty and ready to shoot some unlucky soul in the face. If your enemy in lane recalled and hasn't shown up in awhile, call "mia" in case they're trying to gang up on an ally while they think you think they're still buying. Call "mia" on a champ that's in lane, runs into the fog of war and doesn't come back out. It doesn't matter, this is one of those 'better safe than dead as sh*t' situations.
- Re: "X Has Returned." If you type "mia" after someone apparently leaves and they come right back, just repeat their name and say "re". People understand that as "returned" or "nevermind, Fiddle is still in lane, you can unclench your tender ********s now".
- Care: "X, Be Careful." If you see someone leave in a direction headed towards one of your teammates, such as Caitlyn heading upriver towards mid where your ally Brand is a little low on health and little overextended, calling out "cait mia, care brand" tells him shortly and simply that an angry cop is headed his way to unleash some deathy, snipey justice on his tender, dusty backside, and he should stay on his toes if he doesn't want to see things in black and white for awhile. "MIA", "re" and "care" are all extremely common, so most people understand them right away, making it easier and more efficient to conform and type them than to say "wo" for "watch out" or some goofy sh*t like that.
- OOM: "Out Of Mana." You may hear this (or say this) before your jungler comes up to gank or before you're going to push the lane, to make it clear that whoever said it is seriously hurting for mana, so if sh*t hits the fan the best they can do is auto-attack and cry gently.
- OMW: "On My Way." Less common, but handy to know so you don't spend time trying to decipher it.
- INC: "Incoming." Very similar in use and meaning to "care", "care brand, cait inc" means the same thing as "cait's coming to f*ck you up, best get some lube or get the f*ck out".
- B/Back/RC: "Recall." The B button on your keyboard activates Recall, but "b" is usually meant less as "recall" and more as "get the f*ck out of there". After LoL implemented the V (retreat) ping it's been used more for its literal purpose, but if you're pushing and you see a bunch of "b"s in the chat, odds are you're about to get f*cked in the a*s if you don't haul it out of there.
- BD: "Backdoor." This means sneak around unseen like a ninja crossed with Ethan Hunt until you reach something the "bd" caller indicated, then stop at nothing to kick the sh*t out of it then leg it because the enemy team is probably coming. Don't expect to ever be asked to do this unless you're building 3 Phantom Dancer AD Sona.
- Face Check: This is usually directed towards a bush, buff or something else you can't see. You walk there until you can see whatever's there. Half the time it's nothing and half the time the enemy Garen comes out of nowhere and molests your face to death. This is why Clairvoyance is so nice.
- Def: "Defend." If you don't get this... *sigh*.
- Push: This refers to killing the enemy minions faster to make your minion wave reach the enemy tower. This is good sometimes, but it leaves you vulnerable to jungle ganks, which is why you don't do it unless you're prepared and you and your ally both agree to it.
There's a lot more you can find here that covers just about everything else you could possibly need, but those two sections are what's important for communication. Also know that anyone who types "jajajajaja" isn't laughing weirdly, they're just a d*uchebag.
Warding / Vision
This is so important that it needs its own section.
However, instead of doing a half-a*s job, I'm gonna direct you guys to this guide:
Warding Helper: More Than Your Eyes Can See by Panglot
Go upvote this guide and +Rep this guy because this is the awesomest sh*t ever.
DO IT NOW.
Because a video is worth a few thousand pictures (and therefore a sh*tload of words), I'll post a bunch of videos here of me playing each of the four supports I've chosen to focus on this guide.
Pentakill Sona is the best skin EVAR.
Matador Alistar is the best skin EVAR.
Proof that even I, the almighty Kneepad, have problems with accidental KSing. But I'm still awesome.
Nunu Bot is the best skin EVAR.
GOT A GAME.
Sadly we stomped so hard that it ended before we hit late game, so you won't learn a whole lot about Zil's late game role.
Frequently Asked Questions
Supporting ain't an easy job. There's a lot of things I've had to figure out on my own about the role that I see a lot of new supports deal with, and it's my hope that this section will help answer those questions. If you have a question, ask it in the comments and I'll add it to this list if I think it can help other new players with the same problem.
A: This is a team game, but a lot of people (and a lot of gamers in general) play with a solo (dolo) mindset, which could be why Call of Duty is so damn popular. Good teammates might ward every once in awhile, but getting enough wards to get all the vision your team needs as often as it needs is extremely expensive in the long run, and you're the one to whom a full build isn't a big concern (or even a big goal). You shouldn't be responsible for the entire map during the early game (warding top lane tends to be the solo top/jungler's job), but you should definitely keep bot lane warded and help ward your jungle if you need to. Late game, though, you should ward everywhere your team needs you to, especially dragon/Baron and the rest of the river.
Keep in mind that one ward costs 75 gold, so two cost 150, three cost 225 and four cost 300 gold. It's a good idea to recall when you can afford your item plus two or three wards, four if you can manage it, especially in the early game where you should be the only one warding your lane and you're probably not going to leave it for awhile. It's also important to get Oracle's Elixir if your opponents have stealth champs, or late game to clear wards out of dragon or Baron so your team can take the buffs and gold easily.
Q: Why am I aiming for 0 CS? I need items too, you know!
A: 0 CS supporting is the current meta, and personally I like the concept. It's meant to give your carry duo lane XP but solo lane farm, which is all kinds of good for letting them reach their midgame build as fast as possible. You need to help your carry as much as you can, so this is taking one for the team... literally.
Q: I don't know where is best for wards/CV, can you help me?
A: I'm workin' on some stuff for that, but until then this guide on SoloMid has an excellent section about warding and CV use, you should check that out.
Q: My carry is horrible, and he's blaming me for his f*ckups! What should I do?
A: First of all, don't blame yourself even if they blame you, but don't lash out with insults, either. If you solo queue support, it might be a lot more common because you don't know your allies and they don't know you. Do your job as best you can, and try to compensate without gimping your carry more than they've gimped themselves in the process. If you solo, I can't stress enough the value of having friends you can play with and trust because you know each other as players and as people. Communication and trust are vital to strong teamwork, which is something you as a support require to survive.
Q: I support fine early game but I'm useless late game, even when I get some items. I just don't do enough damage/shielding/healing to my job well enough.
A: A lot of supports are defined by their skill path and item choices. If you're not doing enough damage and dying too fast as support Zilean, consider an Abyssal Scepter or even a Zhonya's Hourglass to help you scale into late game. If you're not healing enough as Sona or Alistar, consider a Morello's Evil Tome to give you some CDR and boost your AP by a smidgen. The key to itemizing a support isn't to follow a build, it's to pick items that fit what you need, what you can afford and the situation you're in.
Q: FIDDLESTICKS JUST ULTED ME! HELP!
A: GO FOR HIS ANKLES! HE'S GOT WEAK ANKLES!
Q: I get a TON of assists. Should I get Mejai's Soulstealer or Leviathan?
A: Personally, I don't like Mejai's Soulstealer, Leviathan or Sword of the Occult, and I've probably bought them once or twice in the past 200 games I've played. It's true that you'll get a lot of assists and they're incredibly cost-efficient the more they get stacked, but a good team will know to focus a champ with stacking items and knowing this gets you into a "preserve the stacks" mindset, which forces you to play overly cautious and defensive. Sadly, being overly defensive can be just as detrimental to your team as being overly aggressive. They're absurdly cost-efficient, which is great for supports, but know your champion, know your playstyle and weigh your options heavily before you buy one.
Q: I want to do my job, but when we get into fights, the enemy team focuses me when I go in and I get absolutely melted in no time.
A: First off, don't play support Anivia versus Brand. ...Get it? "Melted"? Bah-dum tish?
...Yeah, okay, that was awful. I groaned too. Anyways, your problem sounds like one of positioning. In terms of combat strength, you're going to be the weakest person on your team (excluding the 2/10 Lee Sin). That's why you should stick to your allies like a really annoying little brother that wants to play with the carry and his big kid friends but tries to solo red like them and gets hurt and makes the big kids laugh. Never run around alone, let your allies do their jobs and focus on doing yours and staying away from sharp objects and fireballs. Remember that holding the Spacebar will center the camera on you, which makes keeping track of your position in teamfights much, much easier.
Q: I tend to get a lot of kills accidentally (by last hitting the champ), and my teammates really don't like it. What can I do to avoid this?
A: I had this problem myself for awhile, to the point where I'd call myself "Assassin Sona" as a joke that only I found funny. It's really hard to deal with this, because you want to be involved in fights, you don't want to last hit the champion and you don't want them to get away because you didn't hit them, either. It really boils down to judgment gained from experience, with the game and with the support and their capabilities. For now, apologize and try to figure out what you did that led to the accidental KS so you can spot it in advance and avoid it next time.
Q: I help my carry, but they leave me for dead when sh*t hits the fan and hate me for not being able to take care of myself. They don't get that I need their help, either? What can I do?
A: I know it sucks to hear this, but you need to man up. If they can't or won't carry you because their name is Jacob4Ever and yours is EdwardBMine (I'd hate you both) or if they just randomly decided they hate your guts, you need to do your job and part of theirs. Stick close, but stay aware and be ready to turn and burn if things get hairy. Again, playing with friends you know and trust almost completely eliminates this issue, I really can't stress it enough.
Q: I have no friends.
A: I feel your pain.
Q: Do you wanna play with me?
A: If the next words out of your mouth are "have you seen my bear Tibbers", I'll reach through the internet and punch you. Seriously though, if you're a nice guy, don't rage often/easily and play on the NA server, send me a PM and add me. If you're a super tryhard that takes the game extremely seriously, I admire your dedication but you might wanna look elsewhere. No offense, but you're not my type.
That about covers my support guide. I really think that supporting is a fun option in the meta and the game itself, and that it offers its own unique challenges and rewards that really set it apart from any other role in the game. I wrote this guide to try and interest more people in supporting, and to help out those interested but unskilled in its many aspect that differ from the standard carry playstyle. Besides, I'd do a jungle guide but I'm a f*cking awful jungler.
I really don't have much to say for this part.
I'd love feedback on this, and any questions regarding the guide, the support role or my unbelievable manliness in general will be responded to as soon as I notice them. I make an effort to reply to every response I get because I believe strongly in the value of making something better through constructive criticism, so if you've got a different point of view about something I've discussed, lemme have it. I promise I won't hate you unless your name is EdwardBMine, but we've already been over that so you should be able to see that coming.
Change Log / Patch Notes
Change Log Of Great Justice
2/8/2012: Published the guide. LIKE A BOSS.
2/15/2012: Updated for Nautilus patch.
3/19/2012: Added an Alistar game and a Zilean game. Updated Wards section to link to another guide.
Most Recent Sona Patch
Power Chord damage adjusted to 10 per level from 14 + 9 per level
Hymn of Valor passive attack damage and ability power aura reduced at earlier ranks to 4/8/12/16/20 from 8/11/14/17/20
Aria of Perseverance passive armor and magic resist aura reduced at earlier ranks to 3/6/9/12/15 from 7/9/11/13/15
Song of Celerity passive movement speed aura reduced at earlier ranks to 4/8/12/16/20 from 8/11/14/17/20
Okay, people. Put down the pitchforks and torches, this isn't as bad as it looks. Yes, it's a nerf. It's kind of deserved. Sona's auras are half of what make her so strong. They didn't nerf her actives, which just means that you can't assume that Aria of Perseverance makes you tanky forever, which you shouldn't have been assuming anyways. Power Chord also got hit a bit, but the good news is by late game none of these nerfs matter anymore. This was just to knock her early game down a peg. That's fine. You're supposed to support hard and rely on your carry early game anyways. Again, THIS IS OKAY. Nobody likes nerfs, but all things considered, someone should have seen this coming.
Most Recent Alistar Patch
Pulverize mana cost reduced to 70/80/90/100/110 from 80/90/100/110/120
Headbutt mana cost reduced to 70/80/90/100/110 from 70/85/100/115/130
Triumphant Roar mana cost increased at later ranks to 20/35/50/65/80 from 20/30/40/50/60
What this means is pretty simple. Your CC is now a little bit more forgiving on your mana pool, but in return if you level Triumphant Roar fast you'll feel the mana drain a little more than you would before. It might be worth considering getting 3 ranks in E fast and then turning to CC but I'm no theorycrafter so I'm not sure what the best option for dealing with this is besides getting moar mana and mana regen. Either way, it's not a big deal.
Most Recent Nunu Patch
Fixed a bug where Absolute Zero slow did not grant assists.
Most Recent Zilean Patch
Fixed a bug where Chronoshift could prevent a clone from expiring, allowing them to survive indefinitely until killed.
That actually sounds hilarious. Wish I could have seen it.