Sona Build Guide by BeauMuse
Not Updated For Current Season
Building up to core
Hello, welcome to my "New Sona" guide!
IMPORTANT NOTE: this guide will become a full guide as I go along, but I already wanted to address some of the concerns with new Sona early. I'll add the "regular" sections that are not too different between "old" and "new" Sona after I publish this.
Update: somehow I never got around to publishing this guide, but reading it through it is still as relevant as it was when I wrote it. So I'll just publish it. If anyone likes it, I'll add more sections, but there is already quite some material you might like.
Update 2: My current meta is more to use "standard" Spellthief's Edge and Exhaust, but I'm leaving the alternative sections in for your reading pleasure. The alternatives are still relevant.
I play as BeauMuse on LoL. I main support, with Sona, Alistar (I mained Ali for a long time), Karma, Braum, Annie, Thresh and Maokai. When I play jungle I prefer Warwick (yup, noobchamp ;-), and as ADC I play a passable Sivir Ashe and Tristana. Mid I play with Karma or Maokai, and top I prefer Maokai. (I was heavily inspired by the great Everything-Kai guide. Thanks Teyso for this great guide!). I watch the LCS like a lot of my contemporaries watch soccer: my favorite players are Krepo and Aphromoo.
I started this guide because I play Sona a lot (especially in Ranked), and saw the many negative comments on the forums about the new Sona (as of patch 4.13). But... I really enjoyed this new Sona! That's why I wanted to make this guide: to make sure that this great champion does not fall out of grace due to bad press.
There's some more (personal) reasons I'm doing this, which you may or may not be interested in. Feel free to skip, otherwise, see the spoiler.
I've also tried to make this guide as "newbie-friendly" as I could, by not assuming you know all the acronyms like "oom" or "hybrid pen". I've not only written down my build, but as much as possible given you my reasoning behind it, and the why behind some alternative options. I found that the guides that were the most useful to me did this, and therefore I'm using this style as well.
In summary: this guide is for you if:
- you want to understand the new Sona as a player of the pre-4.13 patch Sona,
- you want tips on how to play as a mere mortal ;-)
This guide is NOT:
- yet another repeat of Sona's basic statistics and descriptions. There are great references that I'm not going to repeat here, I'll reference them.
Oh no! High cooldowns! I want Cooldown Reduction (CDR)!
One of the main complaints about the new Sona is the higher cooldowns on your abilities. If this happens to your favorite champion this is always a sad moment. But let's look at this from the positive side. Okay, there are higher cooldowns. Now how do we deal with them? More Cooldown Reduction (CDR)! Fast!
For my answer I looked for a way to maximize my CDR as fast as I can to the absolute maximum of 40% CDR (anything above that is useless, 40% is the maximum CDR!), while balancing this with your other needs, like mana, speed and tankiness.
The overall strategy is: get to 45% CDR with my core build (and even 55% with a fully upgraded Talisman of Ascension), and have the option to swap out the 15% CDR of the Ionian Boots of Lucidity with other (non-CDR) boots for late game, like Mercury's Treads that give you crucial Tenacity that really helps in team fights!
Before the game: Runes and Masteries
Runes: I don't use CDR runes. I rather use runes for my survivability with Magic Resistance, Armor and/or Health.
Masteries: 5% from points in Sorcery and 5% from points in Intelligence .
With the proposed Masteries you will already have 10% CDR at the start of the game.
Note: very low cooldowns will only make you burn through your mana faster, so it needs to be balanced with your mana regeneration and mana pool. It's not really useful to have a lot of CDR if you don't have the mana to back it up!
Building CDR with the Core Items
These items with give you 45% CDR: 10% from your masteries, 35% from your items. By this time you'll be over the 40% maximum!
Skill Sequence - why RQWE is still the best
As I said in the introduction I'm not going to repeat Sona's statistics in this guide. Just Google "sona stats" and you'll find some great resources from people who will also do research and math! This Sona stats page is the very first hit, and it's up to date for new Sona!
Note to new players: the combinations of letters Q, W, E and R refer to what the preferred order of upgrading them is. You'll always want to upgrade your ultimate ability so whenever you can, so R will come first. The other letters follow in order from left to right. For example: RQWE means always upgrade your ultimate when you can, then your Q, then W, and finally your E.
I experimented with different skill sequences. Would RWEQ be better? Was she now a fast healer? Would it be better to upgrade W and E together, W-E-W-E-...? Here are my findings.
Maxing W early burns mana too much to work, and is too passive
I tried to upgrade my W as much as I could, and protected my AD Carry with W precisely when he was attacked (within cooldown and mana restrictions). What happened was that I burned through my mana really fast, and my passive stance lead the opponents to become bolder and push harder.
Maxing E early is not really useful since it does not scale that much
Your first point in E gives you a 14% speed buff for yourself and a 10% speed buff for your allies. Every point beyond that only gives a 1% improvement! So every point I put in E beyond the first was a point wasted. Q and W scale much better!
Maxing Q early makes your AD Carry hit HARD
Finally I tried the "old" RQWE sequence again. When I used Q to harass the opponents AND tagged my AD Carry with the buff, we outtraded them quite hard! The reason is that each point in Q gives the AD Carry a shot of 20 Magic Damage per Q level per buff!
What happened was that we burned the opponents' health quite hard, making them passive and pushing them out of lane. Having pushed them to low health we also were able to snipe them when we had the chance. Total Lane Dominationnnnnn! :-)
Note: I think I understand why Sona had her cooldowns raised. If this Q would be on a low cooldown, Sona would become a monster... :-)
So the final sequence is...
Take one point in Q, W and E respectively. This will give you your complete kit of damage, health and chase/escape. Then continue maxing out according to the RQWE sequence.
Late Game Sona is OP!
Late game Sona is POWERFUL when you have a bunch of AP and XP under your belt!
Sona's Q: Hammer time.
In late game you'll more often than not be teamfighting. Let's assume that by that time you've reached level 16, and you have an Athene's Unholy Grail and an Ardent Censer. You've maxed your Q and W, and you just upgraded your ultimate to level 3.
Let's see how much Ability Power (AP) you have by this time...
- Mental Force : 0.89 AP per level = 0.89 * 16 = 14.24 (let's round down to 14).
- Arcane Mastery: 6 AP.
- Athene's Unholy Grail: 60 AP
- Ardent Censer: 40 AP.
You'll hit two enemies for (200 + 50% AP) 260 magic damage. That's okay... :-)
Now let's see what happens with that buff when you tag your 4 other team mates with your Q, and they all do damage within the buff time window.
On-Hit Bonus Magic Damage (per team mate): 80 (from Q) + 30 (from R level 3) + 30 (25% AP) = 140 Magic Damage per team mate.
So every time you hit your Q, tag your allies, and your four allies attack, you'll do 260 + 4 * 140 = 820 Magic Damage, plus whatever damage your team mates do by themselves!
Sona's W: Massive Heals
I haven't calculated this one, it's so obvious when you see it in game.
Hit W, and the health bar of your allies go fill up by a huge chunk! Half a health bar per W is no exception... Combine this with the shield aura (that I did not even calculate yet) and the Attack Speed buff from the Ardent Censer, and you'll do some major buffing.
Much more than before, timing your W's while you're fighting or escaping is the difference between a dead ally and a live one. Regularly I hit W just before a team mate would almost die, and the heal buff and the shield would just tank them through the final escape or hit for a kill.
Sona's E: Turbo Boost!
Again, you don't need calculations for this one, it's so obvious in game. By end game your E speed boost is FAST. I've saved myself and allies many times by boosting them away, often just outrunning a long range attack (like Xerath's Arcanopulse).
Or conversely, boosted my team in a chase. Combined with the active on the Talisman of Ascension you get some insane speeds.
I found that these speed boosts alleviate the need for tankiness. You can use hit-and-run tactics if you play it well.
All in all, the new Sona is a blast to play at end game.
Using Sona's abilities
Items - Starting Items (and Ancient Coin vs Spellthief's Edge)
The starting items are all about winning the early laning phase by buffing your ADC and (carefully) harassing. To recap, the suggested starting items are:
A Stealth Ward, an Ancient Coin, two Mana Potions and a Sweeping Lens. You need the Wealth Mastery to get the extra 40 gold for this set. I'll explain further in this chapter that because of the Wealth mastery and the Sweeping Lens or Warding Totem choice, you can choose between 1 to 3 wards at the start of the game. Having options is good!
Ancient Coin? Not Spellthief's Edge?
The main difference with the Sona I always played ( Spellthief's Edge, Tear of the Goddess...) is that with the new Sona you need to stay closer to the AD Carry to buff him, and that leaves you open to more harass. Trying to buff AND poke and earn money with Spellthief's Edge just made me feed. So I needed to stay back a bit more and rush forward when needed. If you don't have this problem, by all means replace the Ancient Coin with Spellthief's Edge. Apart from the source of gold and 10 extra AP, it's not that different from the coin path: both paths will give you Cooldown Reduction (CDR) and Mana Regeneration.
Fun fact: the main damage is by spamming Q on both your enemies and tagging your AD Carry (ADC) with your aura. The aura gives a shot of direct magic damage (20 + 20 / level). This will make your ADC out-trade damage with your opposing ADC!
Mana Potions? Not Health Potions?
Yes, that's an option, especially with the Culinary Master mastery that I have in my Mastery Page. As I explained in the Masteries section I still like to have the option of buying Health Potions that turn into Biscuits (+20 health and 10 mana). But... I find that with the new Sona I am out of mana (oom) way more often. And since I am a healing support, using a health potion is selfish when I can also regenerate my mana to shield and heal my ADC as well with my W!
One ward? But you have the Wealth mastery! You could buy two wards!
Well spotted. For me it's all about having options! It's also about hedging your bets. For me, to be out of mana as a support means you can't do anything at all: you'll have to recall. I place my ward(s) as late as I can, only when an opposing champion starts camping in a brush (which they don't always do). Often I can get by with a single initial ward. By the time the enemy jungler comes by I'll have gone back to buy some more. That's the option you have with the Wealth mastery: two wards or one ward and two Potions. You can defer your decision until the start of the game!
Sweeping Lens? Not Warding Totem?
Both are fine. It's a matter of personal preference, but my personal reason is that as a support you'll often stay hidden in the brush, and the Sweeping Lens allows you to remove the opposing support's ward he placed in your brush (not to forget you get some gold for it too, always nice). When your brush is not warded you are invisible as long as you don't attack. For a squishy champion being "invisible" is the best "armor" you can get, and you can come real close for a poke or slow without your opponents seeing you. Of course an opponent can still shoot into your brush blindly (like Morgana's Dark Binding), but even then you only become visible when they actually hit you: that small time makes a big difference in getting away...
I may take a Warding Totem if I'm on the blue side, since you can be ganked from the tri-bush above your tower, so I'll use an extra ward for that bush or the river by the time you can expect a jungler to come by. If you're on the purple side the opening for the tri-bush is behind your tower so ganks from that direction are much less likely. In both cases I ward the river bush as much as I can. The choice really depends on my expectations (read: Scientific Wild-*** Guess): will the jungler gank from the tri-bush? When is he likely to gank?
Teleport on a Support? Are you nuts? The current meta is Exhaust!
And so it is, I completely agree. Don't worry. But please allow me to explain... :-)
In the current meta game, the most common user of the Teleport spell is the top laner. Top lane is usually a 1v1 lane, and you don't have a lane mate to "hold the fort" while you go back to base. So you want to get back as quickly as possible. It's also nice to be able to keep farming and jump in for a surprise when your team gets into a fight!
Exhaust is used as a "kill-or-save" spell in the typical spirit of a support's kit. You can slow down the enemy AD Carry, reduce their damage and healing which is great for either going for a kill or preventing one.
However, I wanted to present an alternative based on some reasons that I will present: personal (only human) and based on in-game reasons: clutch saves and scares, and the value of maxing XP for Sona's power, especially with her ultimate ability!
The personal reason: I'm a mere mortal
If you read the spoiler section in the introduction you'll have read that I'm a 43-year old with a full-time job. This means that 1) I'm not nearly as fast as I was when I was 15-25 years old, and 2) I can not get the practice in to get really good at pressing active abilities on items and summoner spells really quickly (let alone remember it :-) ). If there's one extra thing to master, it's the Flash spell. I can use that well enough (even though I have my fail-flashes into walls too...), but Exhaust too? Maybe I'll get round to it someday... :-) Don't forget that Sona's W and E Power Chord Tempo partly do the job as well: reduce damage and speed respectively...
Another point of being a mere mortal is that I can get harassed out of lane just as often as not. I'm not perfect. Teleport allows me to get back in lane really quickly, mitigating some of my failure. I've noticed that many times Teleport is up again whenever I need it, or at least really close to being off cooldown. So it works wonders for me!
Clutch Saves and Scares
As a squishy support there is a similar usage as with the top laner's use of Teleport. I've had many cases where I saved some team mates by helping them escape, and then teleported to another lane to help out with a fight, or vice versa. I also had opportunities where I had to save a tower on the other side of the map from a massive creep wave (given that no one else could reach it, of course). This not only saves a tower, this is also a great opportunity for some much needed gold for a support that would otherwise go wasted..
The "scare" part was something I did not expect. In the early laning phase I've had quite some cases where we were forced back to base (yes, mere mortal, it happens :-) ) and our opponents were hitting the tower. There's a good chance that my teleport (ahead of the ADC who is still walking over) would scare them away, saving the tower even though it was "only" the support, muhaha.
The new Sona LOVES XP
I already referenced the Sona stats page. Go on, read up on the passive and the ultimate. I'll still be here... :-)
Did you see it? Especially how upgrades to Crescendo make all Sona's abilities stronger? That is quite a power spike!
This is the other reason I like Teleport. It allows me - whatever happens - to maximize my time in lane, making sure that I get to Sona's massive level 6 power spike as fast as I can with that first level of Crescendo! Ultimate plus upgrades on all my abilities! What's not to like?
Did I mention I like options? (or: what to do with 700-900 gold?)
One of my frustrations in item builds of other guides has always been that I get a lot of options with no deeper explanations on what makes you choose between them, or how you decide on an upgrade path. Therefore I will explain my reasoning behind them.
What I mainly want to share for this build is how nice it is that Ruby Sightstone, Athene's Unholy Grail, Talisman of Ascension (and Frost Queen's Claim if you're going that path) all have fine-grained upgrade paths because they're built up of multiple components that are around 700-900 gold!
The upgrade path to the Ruby Sightstone has two Ruby Crystals (giving you Health).
Athene's Unholy Grail is built out of Fiendish Codex (giving you CDR and Ability Power (AP)) and the Chalice of Harmony (giving you Mana Regenaration and Magic Resistance).
The Talisman of Ascension is built out of the Nomad's Medallion (giving you more Gold Income, Mana Regeneration, Health Regeneration and Speed) and the Forbidden Idol (giving you Mana Regeneration and CDR).
Finally, your Ionian Boots of Lucidity are a direct upgrade from your Boots of Speed.
With all these items you now have lots of options. I hope the following examples will help you make the right decision between survival (Health), power (AP and mana), vision (sightstone) and speed!
You are ahead, you are dominating the lane, and you want to maximize your pressure. Go for the kill with more Ability Power (AP) and CDR. Buy a Fiendish Codex!
You're roughly equal, you're holding your own in lane, the nature of the fights is such that you don't need to spam your spells. Get money and speed with a Nomad's Medallion and Boots of Speed!
You want to boost your income as fast as possible, but you're also getting harrassed badly right from the start. Buy a Ruby Crystal for more health and for a big step towards your main money saving item: your Sightstone!
You're on the purple side, you're close to your own tower all the time so you're not too afraid of ganks, and you want to stay in lane longer. Get a Chalice of Harmony for lots of Mana Regeneration!
You have a Sightstone, a Nomad's Medallion, Boots of Speed and you run the standard Exhaust support summoner spell because BeauMuse is an idiot. Teleport for a support, insane! Still you want to get back in lane as fast as you can. Buy Ionian Boots of Lucidity!
For all my Supports
My rune page is not just for Sona, it's very good as a general support page. It's very cute that you get all these builds that provide you the absolute best page for a specific champion, but chances are you simply don't have the RP and IP to buy tons of runes and rune pages. Therefore I only use two for supports: an "AP Mid" page that I use when I want to poke agressively (for me that's with Annie and Karma), and a "Support" page for all my other supports. The page you see in this guide is the general "Support" page. It will work well enough for you on any support.
Note: if you're not level 30 yet, this rune page is also for you. Don't start buying Tier 1 or Tier 2 runes. They don't help that much and you can't get rid of them all by the time you're level 30, which I personally find annoying. Just fill buy the Tier 3 runes on this page as you level up, and you'll have a solid Support page at minimum RP/IP cost.
I took this rune page from the LoL caster Phreak, who has a very good outline of the 2014 runes in this video. He goes over all roles, so I've just saved you a lot of time and present you with the results for supports.
Glyphs: Fill these with "flat" (i.e. non-scaling) Magic Resistance Glyphs, you need it most versus the (QWER) abilities of your opponents, which is the main source of magic damage. Since they are so important to survive the initial laning phase, fill them with Greater Glyph of Magic Resist as a default. However, Phreak makes a case for replacing some of the flat runes with Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist. I will then replace 4 flat runes with scaling runes. See Phreak's video for an explanation and the math.
Seals: In many, many builds you'll find Greater Seal of Armor, and I currently only have those as well: I'm saving up for the Greater Seal of Health at the moment since Phreak convinced me. So if you have those, fine. The difference is that Health is more general purpose: it helps you against any type of damage (magic, physical and true damage), and the armor is only against physical damage. As always it depends. Taking Armor is fine since you have the Greater Glyph of Magic Resist, and best to use if you have the most trouble from the opposing AD Carry, since they do the most physical damage (compared to the opposing support).
Marks: As support your main damage will come from your abilities (QWER), and they will be magic damage in 90% of the cases (there's always an exception with all those LoL champs :-) ). That's why you want to go for Greater Mark of Magic Penetration. Again you want the flat ones, because this will help you most in the initial laning phase. For supports that also use their auto attack a lot, like Annie, you can go for Greater Mark of Hybrid Penetration. Either is fine. Personally I use the Hybrid Pen marks for Annie because I auto-attack a lot with her. Sona also has a solid auto-attack, but I tend to use it a less due to my more careful play style with her. I need to keep a bit further away in the beginning, so all my poke tends to come from my Q. If you auto-attack a lot with Sona, Hybrid Pen is for you.
Quints: Phreak advises Greater Quintessence of Health, and again I'm saving up for them, because the extra health will definitely help. Sona is really squishy, and if I get killed in the laning phase it can also be the magic damage dealing support that gets me. However, currently I have Greater Quintessence of Gold which used to be mandatory for supports, but now less so with the Gold Income items. Still, I love them as support and they will always be my alternative pick for support Quints.
My preferred mastery page for Sona is my 9/0/21 "Utility AP" page. It has the goodies that supports like in utility and some CDR and AP on offense, both really nice for Sona.
Some notable masteries are:
Culinary Master : makes your Health Potions into Biscuits that restore more health and also mana. Always nice for the squishy, mana hungry support. Note that this might not seem logical with my item build. I use two Mana Potion, not Health Potion. I prefer the Mana Potions because I'm so mana hungry, but when I'm badly behind and I really need some extra health pots, it's nice to have the extra mana as well.
Wealth: Forty gold may not seem like much, but it's the difference between a single Sight Ward and a potion or two Sight Wards and no potions. That extra ward may make all the difference! I default to the one-ward-with-potion option, but I like to have the option for the second ward open. In Solo Queue Blind Pick you only know who your opponents are after you've selected your masteries...
However... there is an important twist in the new Sona. She gets so much advantage from leveling up since her R is a major buff to all her abilities, that maxing XP is a major factor for her. This is also one of the reasons I run with the Teleport summoner spell. Get back in lane, quick! More XP! Therefore you might want to invest in...
Inspiration (not used in my build): This mastery will give you more XP (+5 / 10 seconds) if you're with an ally with a higher level. I don't have this issue often since my style is to maximize my time in lane (sometimes even giving me a higher level than my lane mate) that I don't need to use this mastery. If you are generally behind in level on your lane mate I suggest you change two Intelligence points into Inspiration.
Intelligence: Really important on the new Sona, especially if Riot does not revert the higher cooldowns on the new Sona. The 5% cooldown reduction should alleviate the pain somewhat.
Sorcery: Cooldown reduction! More cooldown reduction! As (the new) Sona you can't have enough of this. Even if Riot ever lowers her cooldowns I'd still run this. The short times on the auras means you really want to spam abilities when teamfights happen!
Just a bit more defense?
Since it's easier to have more mastery pages I also have a general "Support" page that is 5/4/21, trading four points in Offense with 2 points each in the Recovery and Enchanted Armor masteries. That is also an option for Sona if you prefer, and a good general purpose support page. It's my default when in doubt. But for Sona my style is that those points won't help my squishiness all that much, I'd rather poke harder :-)
Items - Early Game
Although all these are your early game items, the order in which you buy them depends. The Faerie Charm is necessary to help your initial mana problems. You want both your sight stone and Nomad's medallion as fast as possible: they are respectively your main money saver and maker. Take boots last if possible. If you're ahead (got an early kill) you might take the medallion and two extra sight wards to help you until your next back. If you are harrassed badly take the Ruby Crystal. Buy a Vision Ward every time your previous one was found.