Not Updated For Current Season
Hello. This is a full purpose guide to Syndra, detailing basic fundamentals, advanced play concepts, build design decisions, and general game considerations.
My summoner name is Overlord Forte, Masters/low Challenger Syndra main. The Sovereign is my primary choice for AP mid, and undoubtedly my favorite character in League of Legends. At the time of this writing I've somewhere in excess of 1,200 games played with her, the vast majority of which are in Ranked Solo Queue.
If you're for a thorough guide detailing methodology, play style, and critical skills for playing Syndra, then here it is!
Introduction to the Dark Sovereign
+ Good AOE damage
+ Strong linear / AOE stun
+ Excellent range and control
+ Massive single target burst
+ Uncapped skill ceiling
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- High skill floor
- Extreme fragility
- Demanding positioning
- Mana instability
Syndra is a powerful Midlane AP Carry, sporting one of the highest skill ceilings in League of Legends. With proper training she can dispense top ranking single target burst damage, a potent array of AOE damage, and a game changing skill shot stun. Her fragile design, however, is unforgivably brutal; more than most other champions, she demands excellent positioning and a sense of timing. One mistake can be enough for a grievous set back, and often this can cost a fight or much worse.
In due respect to that, she must be handled with a delicate sense of care for the great specialization she demands. The reward, however, is a strong laner and venerable powerhouse in team fights.
Transcendent is Syndra's passive and doesn't functionally come into play until at least level 9. However, each max ranked ability she acquires jumps ahead in performance upon triggering Transcendent, aiding in her power curve.
Dark Sphere increases the life timer of Syndra's Dark Spheres by 2 seconds. This can greatly enhance her 'Windows of Power' for her ultimate, as the spheres lasting longer means you have more time to use high sphere count ultimates.
Force of Will's receives a new multi-throw component with Dark Spheres. Essentially, if you grab 1 sphere near 1 or 2 more, all of them will be picked up. Each sphere's life timer is refreshed, so this means you have both a repeatable wall of CC and permanent access to her high power ultimate in some cases.
Scatter the Weak's narrow cone widens considerably, making its knockback component easier to apply and reaching more Dark Spheres that lay on the ground. This can really help for multi-sphere stuns and for knocking away enemy divers.
Unleashed Power receives a flat range increase of 75 units, allowing it to be fired from a safer distance.
A detail unmentioned on the surface and worthy on its own accord - With the exception of Scatter the Weak, all of Syndra's abilities may be used while moving. This gives her an amazingly fluid sense of movement, allowing her to bob and weave through attacks without the usual 'stickiness' all other caster Mages possess. Kiting is thusly an innate and important part of her playstyle.
Dark Sphere (Q) is her main ability for damage throughout the game. It has a rather long range and decently sized blast zone, making it exceptional at competing with even ranged control mages like Orianna. Intelligent usage of this ability greatly affects the rest of Syndra's kit as they are reliant on the spheres generated by this ability.
Dark Sphere's damage, blast zone, and reach make it a punishing ability for enemies. It does have a slight charge time before it explodes, similar to Lay Waste, but in a much larger area. If properly used, this charge up can allow a sphere to placed in front of an enemy and lead them into the blast. Conversely, if an enemy is at the edge of Dark Sphere's formation and walking out, they can dodge the damage.
Force of Will (W) is able to grab any sphere, enemy minion, or jungle creep. Its AOE damage adds to Syndra's overall arsenal, while having an effective slow component. Due to its high mana cost however, it should be used sparingly for the early game. A key detail to note is that when a Dark Sphere is grabbed by Force, its 6-8 second life timer is refreshed immediately. Holding onto a Dark Sphere the entire time doesn't stall this timer and the sphere will vanish once Force of Will's expires.
Although Force of Will's unique grabbing function can be appealing, the ability can be deceptively rough to use. Upon grabbing a target, you must wait for Syndra to fully reel it in, then throw it. This throw has a variable flight time and the delay can be long enough at the farthest range the enemy can evade or Flash to escape. Additionally, if Syndra flashes, the object is she holding will stay where she was - so if you Flash and then throw, the object will have an even longer flight time than it would normally. I don't generally advise Flash+W combos unless you're absolutely positive the enemy cannot evade the 1-2~ second flight time.
Scatter the Weak (E) is a knockback cone that forms Syndra's powerful stun combo with Dark Sphere. On it's own, the knockback component can stop melee gap closers and break channeled abilities. Combined with a Dark Sphere to launch, however, and Scatter gains a long range CC that can both knockback and stun multiple targets.
The value of Scatter the Weak cannot be understated in any capacity. The Q+E combo forms Syndra's single defense against enemy ganks and deadly attention, allowing her to back off or outright kill her attacker. At the same time, the reach of its stun makes it impeccable for disrupting team fights, catching enemies, or peeling for allies. It can be easily compared to Sona's Crescendo in scope and strength with an appreciably short cooldown once fully leveled up with maxed CDR.
Unleashed Power (R) constitutes Syndra's single target burst and sits as potentially the strongest single target AP nuke in the game, odd exceptions aside. Each active Dark Sphere on the field adds more over all damage to Unleashed Power, and obstinately requires clever timing to maximize its raw damage output. Once the ability has fired off, the Dark Spheres have a refreshed timer and can be freely used by Force or Scatter.
Of her four abilities, Unleashed Power is the simplest to execute, but the most contrived to pull off successfully. Attention must be paid to the Dark Spheres' timers, as well as using Force and Scatter to extend the timers for a higher sphere count. Practically speaking, four spheres is quick, five is Syndra's mid range, six requires intentional preparation, and seven is difficult to pull off.
Ability Pick Order
Start off with Dark Sphere and max it first, picking up Scatter the Weak at level 2 and maxing it last. Syndra's fundamental Q+E combo is now available, enabling strong jungler ganks in your favor or seriously pressuring your lane opponent. Grab Force of Will at level 4, but be mindful of its costly use, and level it up second. Rank up Unleashed Power whenever you can, as its damage spikes hugely at levels 6, 11, and 16.
Of the two ability choices for leveling up second, between Force of Will and Scatter the Weak, there is a stylistic difference that should be addressed.
Force of Will if leveled second can be used more frequently at the cost of a great strain on Syndra's mana. The mana usage is the main drawback to Force of Will, as liberally applying it for damage will dry out Syndra's mana faster than any other ability. That having been said, it is her strongest second DPS-centric option, as its high base damage and ratio plus lower cooldown can outstrip Scatter the Weak for damage contribution. With the advent of Patch 6.9, I recommend maxing W second to make use of it's overbearingly powerful new passive effect.
Scatter the Weak relies upon usage of Dark Spheres, has a long base cooldown, and is Syndra's shining star of a utility skill. Scatter's mana cost never increases with rank, while at the same time decreasing in cooldown. This means it can be applied with less concern about Syndra's mana sustain, and becomes more available quicker. While the 'sniper Syndra' playstyle remains an option, it is somewhat eclipsed due to W's new passive effect.
Masteries, Runes, and Summoner Spells
Sorcery A straight forward 'do more damage' option.
Double-Edged Sword Offers a cheap damage increase, though it also increases damage Syndra takes. The Feast mastery is generally best reserved for laning phase where you need 'more sustain'. Otherwise, it tends to be underwhelming.
Vampirism Sustain increase, and quite appreciably so.
Bounty Hunter and Oppressor are personal pick flavors. I prefer Bounty Hunter for its higher potential damage ceiling. It's basically equal to Oppressor after 2 unique kills, so Oppressor is really only the best during laning phase.
Piercing Thoughts Raw damage increase.
Deathfire Touch is a DPS keystone mastery and does will for a team fight focused combat playstyle. If you prefer to snipe+spike kill the enemy, consider 12/18 with Thunderlord's instead.
Savagery Really helps for last hitting during laning phase.
Secret Stash generally bumps her laning phase up further. If you're more interested in kill power, pick up Assassin instead. I don't generally like Runic Affinity , though it has some strategic value if you are looking at getting the new Glimpse of the Void buff from Herald.
Meditation is the secret to success, and this is functionally a Chalice passive. An absolute must have.
Dangerous Game is the same it always has been with its on-kill recovery. Bandit is just terrible for a carry to take.
Precision amplifies damage, and can greatly increase kill power against weak MR enemies.
Thunderlord's Decree the only direct damage Cunning keystone, synergizes well with Syndra's combos.
If you're more utility concerned, Stormraider's Surge offers a unique speed up mechanic in addition to her already powerful rotations.
If you are trying for 45% CDR Syndra, replace Precision with Intelligence , and Deathfire Touch for Stormraider's Surge or Thunderlord's Decree .
You have a couple different options in your runes, depending on goals.
Your Red runes will almost always be:
* 9x Magic Penetration
Your Yellow runes will change between:
* 9x Scaling AP/per level (Damage + Farming)
* 9x Scaling Armor/per level (AD defense)
* 9x Scaling HP/per level (general toughness, or AP defense).
Your Blue runes will change between:
* 6x Scaling CDR/per level (10% max rank)
* 3x Scaling AP/per level (Damage + Farming)
* 6x Scaling CDR/per level (10% max rank)
* 3x Magic Penetration (Champion damage)
* 9x Scaling CDR/per level (15% max rank)
Your Purple runes will change between:
* 3x Flat AP (+15 AP)
* 1x Flat AP (+5 AP)
* 2x Magic Penetration (Champion damage)
In general, magic penetration runes exist to amplify damage against champions in lane-winning match ups. If you are more interested in farming, or do not have the rune pages for Magic Penetration, you can use AP runes (scaling and flat, respectively). They are both very close in terms of damage application, Magic Pen tends to get her more damage against Champions just slightly more.
Armor runes help the most in AD match ups, especially with RoA.
Health per level runes help if you just need overall toughness or are against an AP user and building defensively. I don't generally like Magic Resistance Blues on Syndra, since the CDR runes are very useful to her. You could swap out all her blues to magic resistance if you absolutely needed to, though.
Finally, all other runes are to squeeze damage in whenever possible.
You will almost always be taking Flash due to how incredibly strong it is.
For all others, you have choices:
Ignite gives Syndra extra kill power in lane, but its usefulness can drop off later.
Exhaust is a powerful defensive option against Assassins and can especially shut down people like Zed when you're fighting him. It also gives you another tool to help your team, as you can Exhaust enemies who go after another carry, for instance.
Teleport is useful when you are more concerned with owning the map, doing teleport ganks, or keeping a brisk farming rate in mid lane. You lose all direct offensive/defensive powers with Teleport, but if you can get ganks off the rest of the map (or stop people like Twisted Fate), it can be pretty strong.
Cleanse helps against CC heavy teams, notably ones who tend to stack things like Fiddlesticks or Rammus with CC machines like Leona or Lissandra.
Heal and Barrier I'm often at odds with and don't generally like them. You can make case arguments for Heal's speed up being useful, or Barrier's extra HP helping to survive, but I almost always prefer to use Exhaust in those cases. They can be very useful if you're doing clutch moments, however, as the sudden defense injection is powerful bait.
All other summoner spells I don't really regard as useful. Ghost might be nice if Flash didn't exist, I suppose.
Core and Situational Item Builds
Sorcerer's Shoes are the standard AP Carry boots of choice, giving Syndra more damage through magic penetration. I do not generally like swapping these out, but some builds may find the Ionian Boots of Lucidity more desirable for the added CDR.
Morellonomicon forms the core of Syndra's mana, CDR, and AP pool. With the emphasis on sheer mana pool sizes, Syndra has longer windows of operation, but much steeper mana crash problems now. In general, if you run only Morello's as your mana item, be very mindful of the fact she needs kills/assists to sustain through a team fight. Syndra's hidden mana costs and AOE expenditures can crash her mana faster than most realize.
Rabadon's Deathcap is a more mid-late game source of AP damage these days. Due to its extreme cost increase and faltering damage profile against Void Staff, it is almost always best to get this item second. Utility or farm oriented AP laners might get Deathcap first, but Void Staff is an incredible buy for Syndra over Deathcap.
Archangel's Staff nicely fits into the role of 'second highest AP item in the game' while also offering a unique, large HP shield and massive mana pool. When combined with Morello's, Syndra's mana concerns effectively vanish, allowing her to sustain damage and sphere management without a single concern for mana costs.
Void Staff is the ruler of AP damage items. This item is damage efficient as long as the target has about 50MR or higher, leaving Deathcap only 'damage efficient' at around 30-40MR. Due to the price differences, though, Void Staff is simply easier to finish. If the enemy is stacking MR, it becomes the best by miles. In any situation you need pure damage and the enemy is remotely looking like they're building magic resistance, get this item.
Zhonya's Hourglass is useful for some of its resistance, but primarily its active stasis component. This item can be rushed ahead of others if you need the stasis, especially to survive repeated enemy dives. Malphite, Jarvan, Vi, Zed, etcetra, are all useful to have Zhonya's against simply to stall them out. If you're not around your team, however, it's pretty much straight suicide. It is easier to build and contributes some useful CDR as of Patch 6.9, so it can be comfortably picked up after Morello's or Morello's+Void if you need the stasis effect.
Doran's Ring, 2 health potions, and Warding Totem is my universal starting building. With Doran's Ring, its stats help mitigate some of Syndra's mana problems and give appreciable damage. Health potions are to help shrug off harass and the usual lane-trading affairs.
Warding Totem because the ward is useful for early laning vision control.
On your first back, your next item purchases are going to be dictated by two things: your type of lane opponent and your goals.
If you return with enough gold, you can effectively buy 3x Amplifying Tome, which will let Syndra walk back to lane with an enormous amount of AP. This approach is strongest when you can overwhelm your enemy at around level 6 and snowball off of killing them, but it can get stopped cold if the enemy comes to lane with Negatron Cloak or Hexdrinker.
If you're looking to have kill power, but also sustain, then pick up Lost Chapter at the least, and hopefully The Dark Seal as well. Both will enhance your sustain, and Dark Seal is rather gold efficient for a long period of the game. Be certain to sell Dark Seal last when you finally need an inventory slot, as a properly stacked Dark Seal can contribute a Blasting Wand's worth of damage.
On your next two return trips to base, finish assembling Morellonomicon. You can generally grab Sorcerer's Shoes around this time. From there, look toward how your enemy has itemized, then counter build.
For heavy MR ( Abyssal Scepter / Hexdrinker / Maw of Malmortius), your next immediate purchase is most likely Void Staff. If you have been put behind and are struggling to survive, Zhonya's can help against AD match ups and an Abyssal Scepter of your own against AP.
For no MR, or if you're ahead, consider picking up Archangel's Staff. This is especially useful if you can buy the Large Rod component first, which is an immediate damage hike. Tear of the Goddess's stack rate doubles when it is completed into Archangel's, which very nicely fits into Syndra's heavy ability usage playstyle. In general, it will take around 5 minutes to finish 'stacking' Archangel's into Seraph's Embrace, so try to plan with that time in mind.
You can also sit on Tear of the Goddess after Morellonomicon to let it passively provide mana while you build other items, and then look at finishing Archangel's as a 3rd or 4th item.
There are multiple choices here, so some experimentation is advised. If you find Archangel's completely undesirable, however, switch it for Luden's Echo.
Zhonya's Hourglass active stasis effect can also help Syndra dodge enemy initiations, burst damage, and counter specific champion abilities like Zed's Death Mark or Fizz's Chum the Waters.
If you do not need Zhonya's, however, you can consider Rylai's Crystal Scepter or Luden's Echo, respectively. The first is a solid AOE slow and durability increase, the second is a hefty raw movement speed increase / slight bump in damage. Thus, Rylai's is great for enhancing her team fight presence, while Luden's gives her more personal options in getting around.
At some point if you ever get rich enough to invest in pure damage, Rabadon's Deathcap is always there - though keep in mind it's risky, since it is literally pure damage. You can 'win more' with it, but if you're suddenly getting signaled out every team fight and can't survive ... well, that damage doesn't matter, does it? Risky.
Matchups: All These Mechanics
The main difficulty you'll find in Ahri is her mobility and roaming. She can gladly leave lane to gank other lanes if losing and you'll have to ward / follow her constantly to keep that under control. Be very particular about using Syndra's stun combo on her, because if you miss Ahri will have free reign to do a lot of damage in her fights. On the contrary, if you dodge Ahri's charm, a lot of her threatening power is removed. Keep in mind her foxfire spirits (W and R) auto target champions, so you don't get anything for hiding behind creeps with her.
In team fighting, Ahri shares a unique characteristic with Katarina in that she doesn't have to be immediately in fights. Many dangerous Ahri's will simply wait at the edges of battle, threatening by sheer presence alone, without committing. If you catch her, you deny her team an AP carry, but if you don't, you risk her team collapsing onto yours as a consequence. It can be beneficial to group together and roam as a horde so she doesn't have many opportunities to pick your team apart.
Akali's real danger becomes apparent at level 6 when she acquires her ultimate's multiple dash ability. Now she can close distance and escape (if minions are near by) very quickly, so you have to carefully space against her. Although Syndra can knock Akali out of one dash, she will usually have one or two more charges ready, and will dash again almost instantly. Have an escape vector and be mindful of how much room you give her to chase. It can be worthwhile to bait Akali into a dash, stun her upon landing, then combo out with Syndra's ultimate. If activated before Akali stealths, Syndra's ultimate will resolve without issue and kill her in the stealth usually. On the flipside, Akali can burst almost all of her damage in a second while chasing, so try not to give her that room to do so.
Post level 6, if Akali cannot dive and get kills, she will roam quite liberally. Ward the lane's sides, push to her tower or follow as the situation mandates. Open river and jungle is her prime territory and unless you're willing to race to the finish on killing each other, be mindful about engagement. Akali is poor at sieges and ranged poke, so kiting can be punishing for her to deal with. Otherwise, she is a single target assassin who will be looking for easy pick offs, or signalling someone out in a team fight to get rid of them. Grouping together and rolling as a battle horde can be effective at mitigating her threat.
Akali's Shroud ability is locational AOE stealth field for her specifically. This is a potent tool she uses to dodge/evade reprisal, giving her a safe place to strike from repeatedly. Buy either the Red Scanner'sOracle upgrade, or normal Pink Wards and always have one of them ready. Being denied her stealth field can seriously cramp her survivability, forcing her to be much more mobile in order to survive.
If you manage to dodge a Q dash, you can collapse into Azir with Syndra and harass/damage him. Azir himself is technically squishy, most people run Heal/Barrier to mitigate this fact. Syndra can punish him with damage quite heavily and her E counters his dash initiation completely (leaving him very vulnerable). Thusly, you end up in a state where you both can damage each other, whoever is better at zoning and reading/anticipation will come out.
Team fighting Azir is less of an issue in this regard as he has to pay attention to many more enemies. Syndra stun combo can catch him out of place when he's using his soldiers, somewhat reversing his high laning power curve. Again, Syndra E can stop Azir dash, which can ruin a lot of his diving ultimate tricks or escapes, respectively.
Due to the unique nature of Syndra's abilities and Cassiopeia's ultimate, you can levy a clever advantage. Syndra has no cast time on most of her abilities, which means Syndra herself (as in her model) doesn't face toward Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia's ultimate relies on people 'facing her' to be stunned, otherwise they're slowed. A successful stun is almost always a 1-on-1 kill for Cass, but Syndra is particularly difficult to pull that off on. Practice casting abilities while running side-to-side or backwards to capitalize on this advantage.
Team fighting Cassiopeia has to handle other threats, so her duelist capabilities aren't so emphasized. Be mindful of being caught out because her DPS ramps instantly with poison, where as Syndra needs spheres for her ultimate. If you manage to ramp sphere count, though, you can turn on Cassiopeia generally.
Your jungler ganking makes this process vastly easier, for if Syndra gets a kill advantage, she can keep hammering Cho'gath. On the other hand, if she doesn't get a kill - or he does - he becomes extremely difficult to dislodge in lane. His kill pressure is not that great without jungle help, but you won't dislodge because his ramped up health stacking and sustain.
Team fighting he's pretty much a CC machine with damage and his ultimate lets him function as a tank killer. Be careful about getting caught in his knockup, as he can simply silence and or Flash for a quick execute at high levels of HP. Try to keep out of his silence range in general, as the 3s~ penalty is utterly brutal and can stop Syndra's sphere counter.
As a melee based champion, you can harass Diana strongly in laning phase with autos/abilities, her only meaningful return fire his her crescent slash ability. However, Diana does come with a shield that refreshes itself, which many will abuse to help survive along with pot spam. Try not to auto attack poke her when the shield is up AND she is next to caster minions - you will take a lot of damage from them while she backs off. When her shield is down, though, you can stick significant damage to her.
Her main goal is to survive to level 6, where she gets her dash ability. In some ways this ability mirrors Akali's shadow dance dash, in that it is both long range and can situationally refresh multiple times. Be mindful if Syndra is marked by moonlight from crescent slash, if you knock her out of her dash, she CAN dash again, so pull distance quickly. Diana sticks very well and a lot of her damage is instantaneous, so respecting her reach is necessary.
Afterwards, she will either spend most of her time roaming or diving. Ward the sides, watch where she goes, and either push to tower or follow after as necessary. Diana is as an excellent diver and, similar to Fizz, this is how she gets a great deal of her advantage in the early game. This is also her main method in team fighting, where she may either signal someone out specifically, or dive into the team as an initiator with her vacuum pull ability. Pace yourself with Syndra and keep a respectable buffer, setup to catch her, and either force the situation onto her, or let her fall into your trap. Diana has no unique dodge mechanics and diving commits her to the fight, so she can be easy to combo off on if you anticipate her movement correctly.
Pot spam sustain will keep him going in lane and if you over extend with Syndra, his pole jump makes it easy to close distance. Pay very close attention to how he jumps and when, because if you blow Syndra E without stunning him, you give him free reign to fight. You'll quite literally you fight him based on the cooldowns of Syndra stun and his jump, so act accordingly. Be mindful about over extending over half way through lane as he chases extremely well.
In team fighting, this really depends on how well Fizz has done. If he's ahead, Fizz will function as a roaming pick off assassin, grabbing people who are on their own all day. If he's not ahead, Fizz will still try to roam, but he'll have reduced threat in any team fight situation. Grouping and fighting as a horde can seriously ruin his ability to function if he isn't massively fed, so don't let him pick off or roam for free.
Fizz's pole jump breaks projectiles and can counter Syndra's ultimate. Be sure to have him stunned, or his pole jump on cooldown, when trying to ult him.
It's not unusual for Katarina's to rush Negatron->Abyssal Scepter, so be mindful of the extra tankiness that brings. An early Voidstaff can hard counter that approach, as Abyssal gets eaten alive by percent penetration. Otherwise, pay attention to her roaming because Syndra's lane control makes her life uncomfortable. Katarina will look to get cheap kills in other lanes or the jungle and you will need to head that problem off.
In team fighting, Katarina is not a front line fighter. She'll explicitly wait until enemies are low enough she can use her passive to chain reset abilities. It can be troubling to catch her due to this as she will simply dodge and evade until her time is ready. Depending on your own team comp, you can afford to hold onto Syndra's stun combo to make sure Katarina doesn't get a free ultimate channel. Someone has to be sitting on their CC and be ready to catch her, otherwise she'll mop up team fights very easily.
Generally favored by Syndra for her ranged pressure and high kill combo, though ridiculously dangerous if ignored.
In first order, be very careful about Syndra's stun cooldowns. If you miss or otherwise don't seriously pressure LeBlanc, she will abuse that opening massively. You have to pull back and wait for the stun combo to come up, otherwise LeBlanc has a lot of free room. Conversely, however, LeBlanc players who dash straight toward Syndra are easy to catch - the stun combo will almost always land. LeBlanc players who dash sideways and at angles are harder to deal with because their movement patterns are much more unpredictable.
Depending on total AP amount, though, properly stacking Syndra sphere's can allow Syndra to outright combo without using her stun - so keep that option in mind. Additionally, if LeBlanc cannot snowball on her own lane, she will roam frequently and secure free ganks to get it instead. Ward and keep track of her movements to help stifle that capability, follow if necessary.
In team fights LeBlanc functions as a targeted ballistic missile - similar to Talon - in that she signals someone out and tries to erase them. Her dash's blink back can make her frustratingly difficult to catch, but targeted abilities will still make her day uncomfortable. Try to zone or threaten her approach, just don't eat her nuke combo in the process.
This is technically a neutral match up - it can vary wildly depending on the players involved. Syndra can experience team fights easier, though, in that she isn't locked down to a pure assassin playstyle as LeBlanc is.
Due to her enhanced mobility, Nidalee usually prefers to roam in this match up. She's great for pressuring other areas in the map, so warding and following can counter act that. Keep in mind Nidalee is an ambush specialist, blindly following her can let her setup traps very easily. Her spears become infinitely more dangerous away from lanes where reaction skill is all you have to dodge them.
In team fighting, depending on her build, Nidalee usually performs as a long range sniper. She looks for windows of opportunity and pokes with her massive spear damage, not so much frontline fighting. In a pure AP build, she functions as a poke/assassin based champion, and is only interested in cheap high damage nukes. Again, spear dodging is vital, and while slippery, she can be catchable by a properly setup team.
She's not typically one to leave and roam, so you can expect to sit in a sustained war with her in midlane. Orianna can be motivated to leave if you're not in lane, though, so side warding can help. Be careful about her shield, as it's deceptively powerful and synergizes nicely with MRES. You can sneak damage in on her, though, when the Ball is away - she can't shield instantly, so Syndra Q's can sneak damage in.
Orianna shines in team fights, where her AOE speed up / slow down, vacuum CC ultimate, and shield can do the most work. Pay close attention to who on their team is an initiator, because she will often try to slip the Ball onto them for CC combo. You might find it difficult to fight her directly, as she is almost always hugging her frontline fighters / support, so try not be caught out. Apply ranged damage and try to catch her with a long range stun for she IS vulnerable to being collapsed on.
Just watch out for her team in the process.
Notably, Talon builds in three distinct paths: Ravenous Hydra, Ghost Blade, or Hexdrinker. The first two are high damage specializations, with the second being one meant to counter Zhonya's rush. The third is a survivability choice meant to survive Syndra's nuke combo specifically. You'll be in a damage race against the first two, while the third can be somewhat hard to finish off. In general, if you didn't snowball or capitalize an advantage against him in laning phase, be careful about wandering out on your own. Like Zed, he focuses almost exclusively on pick offs and cheap kills for advantage.
Consequentially, Talon roams frequently if he can't kill Syndra in midlane. Ward likely paths he'll take, but be careful about following. He loves to ambush and does it very well, so if you walk near a brush he's in blindly, you'll probably die. On the flip side, his team fighting is solely defined by his ability to erase an enemy. If he cannot combo kill his target or pick someone off, Talon suffers massively. Grouping can be an effective way of handling him, especially if his team hasn't collectively snowballed ahead.
Twisted Fate's real danger comes from his ultimate and global pressure. He is a roaming machine and will almost never be in a prolonged fight with Syndra. His sole purpose is to find stragglers or assist in ganks via global teleport. This is a profoundly difficult ability to stop and relies on collective team coordination more than anything else. You can try to follow his teleport ganks, this usually works out best when he doesn't get a perfect gank off, allowing you to collapse onto him.
If his gank succeeds before you've left lane (or other relevant objective), consider forcing the objective instead. Taking towers is a powerful way of managing his pressure, as if no one stops you, they lose map control tower-by-tower. Force him to deal with you and your team collectively and you will find him somewhat more manageable in the process. A Twisted Fate that can't isolate kills and snowball will find their life infinitely more difficult to work with.
Avoid wandering into his slow field, as being stunned by it is a free kill setup for him. His power siphon ability favors him in auto attack trades, especially with the empowered blast it gives, so avoid doing trades with him unless he's stunned. Respect your HP thresholds, as his death lazer / chaos storm ultimate combo is a substantial amount of instant damage. He can stick reasonably well with his speed up upgrade on power siphon, so dislodging him can be uncomfortably difficult sometimes.
In team fighting, Viktor functions as an AOE damage specialist. He loves comboing out on multiple people, but can settle for pick offs on single targets as well. Depending on the player, you might see him hugging his frontline support or being risky. Either way, catching him can be a fatal affair if he gets stunned, just mind his team protecting him. If he doesn't immediately die, he'll shotgun out a tremendous amount of damage, at which point he doesn't care about dying usually.
While not one to roam particularly, some Vladimir players prefer to push/shove and then wander. Wandering side areas helps, counter pushing stops minion wave shenanigans, and following him is a fairly reasonable affair. He's not among the preferred ambush specialists, especially if he's behind, but his sanguine pool lets him dodge a lot of damage if you don't keep it in mind.
For team fighting, Vladimir's essentially a team wide AOE damage buff with his ultimate. He himself will wander right into the enemy, either picking off stragglers or using his different AOE skills to tag as much damage as possible. You'll find him somewhat reasonable to hit, as he's not particular about hiding behind the frontline, just keep in mind he can be built quite tanky. Ignite is a great tool to deny his healing during team fights, which can make him explode a lot easier than he would otherwise.
His sanguine pool pops projectiles, so this can counter Syndra's ultimate completely. Either wait for it go on cooldown, or stun+ult combo and kill him before he has a chance to use it. The pool takes a fair chunk of his HP to use, so if he's near death, an ignite can sometimes kill him while he's in pool form.
Farmer Xerath's can be pressured on their ability cooldowns, but they're usually more interested in siting at range for gold. Harasser Xerath's will use his range to actually damage you. Navigating his skill shots is an essential approach, just remember that if his narrow, long range skill is down, he still has a stun and point-and-click slow he can drop out. Syndra's stun combo is nearly as long as most of his abilities, so it can be very useful in actually catching him to do damage. Be mindful that you ARE using her stun for catching him, so if his jungler is waiting nearby, it will dangerously expose Syndra in the process.
In team fights, Xerath's more concerned with long range siege than being in any actual danger. You'll spend a great deal of time fighting his team more than him directly as a result. Catching him can be useful with Syndra's stun, especially if you have someone to follow up on it (e.g, Vi). Forcing Xerath into uncomfortable corners via objectives can be a great way of getting to him. Towers can be troubling, though, as he wave clears with safety very well.
Syndra's Q mechanics by pass Wind Wall entirely, meaning it's only really her stun combo and ultimate you have to worry about losing. In laning, try to keep the minion wave near your tower - the farther you extend out, the more time Yasuo can chase. He LOVES doing so and will gain a lot of damage in the process. Syndra on her tower, however, is right difficult for him to do much of anything. Thus, if you manage the minion wave, you mitigate much of his dash's threat, leaving only his Wind Wall. It has a long cooldown, so abuse that window for free stuns / ultimate combos - just don't let him dash out of the way for free.
In team fights, Yasuo concerns himself with dueling or looking for windows of knock up to trigger his ultimate. His Wind Wall can be a hefty way of countering Syndra's stun combo, try to work around it or wait until he blows it prematurely. Keep in mind the position of your allies, as Yasuo can use them to freely bounce around and dodge skill shots while approaching.
As far as fighting him is concerned, he may hang around in the front line or sit back, depending if someone like Malphite is there to initiate. He's the easiest to hit when he has nothing to dash toward. You can also eek out an advantage by learning his dash's limitations - it always moves a set distance, so guessing where he'll land can net you a significant amount of damage.
Yasuo's Wind Wall stops all projectiles, except Dark Sphere and Force of Will. Be careful as clever ones will hold onto it until Syndra tries to stun or use her ultimate, denying her a vital component to the fight.
During laning phase, pay attention to his shuriken angles and where he'll drop down his shadow (usually toward you). While Syndra can trade damage with him, Zed can afford to eek out a bit extra if he lands double shuriken throw + shadow slash. Thusly, you'll find a great deal of this match up dictated by how well you manage dodging his shurikens. Auto attacks can punish him when his abilities are on cooldown, but be VERY careful about over extending, doubly so if his shadow is still up. He can collapse on over extension in a heart beat and it's one of his primary methods of killing people.
Zed is quite liberal with roaming and will freely go between laning and wandering at will. He can pull this off with frightening ease, not unlike Fizz, and is a serious map threat as a consequence. Wards can help, as well as following, to mitigate how much free impact he has in other areas. Just be careful about wandering close to him as his shadow movement means he can close gaps almost as fast as Talon. Ambushing is one of his best strengths, so always respect his threat zone.
In team fights, Zed focuses on single target removal, but can reasonably skirmish with his zone control. His ultimate shadow means he has a strong escape vector, but he can be locked down when he 'lands' upon first cast. This can be useful for a team to grab and blow him apart before he can escape, just watch out for his team following up in the process.
Zed's ultimate can 'break' projectiles, which means Syndra's ultimate gets countered. Either stun and ult him, or wait for him to use his, then ult him. He'll always land on the 'opposite side that he started from', so drop a sphere there pre-emptively for a stun. Zed will have to Flash, W shadow, or some other trick to dodge, which gives Syndra room to operate.
Zhonya's Hourglass has the potential to be strong against Zed, but it can also be a trap. Clever Zed's will not drop their ability rotations when they use his ultimate, so you end up using stasis against a non-buffed Zed ultimate. He then proceeds to combo. Over all, try not to engage where allies cannot back up your Zhonya's usage. Handling him solo in general is intensely frustrating, especially if he builds 100% mage counter as well.
Matchups: The Happening
A key component to Syndra's play style is understanding the meaning of 'skill' for her. Her kit is a unique one in League of Legends as it stresses fundamental player skill to its absolute limits. She demands positioning, timing, understanding of damage, how to apply said damage, when to go in or when to leave, reaction/anticipation, and many more, in extreme excess. The reward, however, is someone who can handle virtually every 1-on-1 lane she's put against, and a fair bit of 1-on-2 lanes as well.
However, the skill investment is steep, and even at the highest levels, she exists in a supremely fragile state. You are almost always on the edge with her where mistakes are punishingly fatal to make. As a result, while you are learning Syndra, you will find what match ups push your specific player skill and which ones do not.
As a practical example, Ahri is often picked against me. I've met fellow Syndra players who despise Ahri, often claiming her mobility is simply too much to handle. In theory that sounds like a counter, but in practice Ahri is one of the best midlane picks I love going against. She is both incredibly squishy and overly reliant on her mobility, making her easy pickings for Syndra's Unleashed Power.
If I'm ever at a point in an Ahri engagement where her mobility, or Charm, are a problem, that means I've seriously messed up my plays OR been seriously outplayed. Correct usage of Syndra will often simply not allow Ahri to reach that dangerous point, so the fault is in me as the player, not her as the champion. With that having been said, one must be vigilant for particularly inventive individuals. One Ahri I've fought flashed over Scatter the Weak, dodging the stun, then charming and killing me. It was an amazing play I didn't expect and now something I try to keep in mind for future fights.
Consequentially, as compared to this guide, you may feel (for example) Ahri or Katarina are much bigger threats than what I've rated them to. Or Cassiopeia is ridiculously easy to manage. That is perfectly fine, practicing against them will help you find Syndra's comfort spots and your own unique combat style. The more experience you cultivate on Syndra, you'll find out how more rewarding she can become.
This section is for specific champions that I find need particular attention paid to them, due to unique mechanics or otherwise. Not explicitly a laning match up, just in what they can do.
Vi, Malphite, Olaf, and to a lesser extent, Jarvan IV, as well as other champions with 'unstoppable' abilities, need to be carefully tracked. They can completely circumvent Syndra's stun combo, often entrapping and killing her. Flash can help to some extent, but remember the enemy probably has it too. Try to be positioned such that diving Syndra is seriously risky, if not suicidal, for them.
Kayle and Zilean both have ultimates that can counter Syndra's burst damage, through invulnerability or resurrection, respectively. Ideally force them to use those abilities prematurely, or try to kill them in the 1.5s stun window of Q+E combo.
Vladimir, Lissandra, and Elise are only remarkable in their ability to dodge Syndra's ultimate, using Sanguine Pool, Frozen Tomb, and Rappel, respectively.
Gameplay: Early, Mid, Late, Tips & Tricks
Early Game : 2 -> 13~ minutes
With items in hand, assist your jungler with their start by watching the jungle entrance in whichever side they're starting at. Be very careful if a Blitzcrank/ Morgana/ Thresh are on the enemy team, as they lock down and kill Syndra at the jungle entrances. Assuming no interruptions, head to the lane and proceed with the early laning phase.
As you lane in the early game, exercise caution with how you harass your opponent with Syndra's abilities. Everything is an AOE except her ultimate, meaning she can push the lane quite hard toward the opposing tower. This is good for pushing, but can dangerously over extend her. This opens her up to jungle ganks and allows assassin's a lot of room to chase her down in. Practice landing her abilities on your opponent without hitting minions, but don't shy away from blasting minions if it means you can put damage on the enemy champion. It's a bit of a balancing act, depending on where you want the lane minions to go in the end.
For positioning purposes, use the friendly lane minions as a shield against dangerous skill shots such as Javelin Toss. Max range casts of Dark Sphere and sniping a stun with Scatter the Weak can allow Syndra to safely damage enemies while avoiding most return fire. With her stun combo on cooldown, though, be careful as a lot of champions love to counter engage when it's down. If you land a long stun, just tag some free damage and back off unless you're very confident in killing them.
When farming, Force of Will is an excellent choice for securing the Cannon Minion if it's too dangerous, or if an auto attack was mistimed. Your standard wave clear technique is to use Force of Will to throw a Melee Minion onto the Caster Creeps, then clear all four (or more) with Dark Sphere. Be prepared to auto attack the Melee Minion, as it can sometimes survive. Alternatively, consider Scatter the Weak instead of Force of Will, as it can clump the wave together and help Dark Sphere clear all 6 or 7 minions in one blast. Again, this puts her stun on cooldown, so be mindful of enemy engagement.
Syndra's mana sustain problems are most evident during this period, as two or three full rotations of Q+W+E are enough to completely drain her. Pressure your opponent with damage, but conserve mana so you are never out of one full rotation. It can be a daunting prospect, especially against shield users like Orianna or self-healers such as Nidalee. In general, abuse your opponent and capitalize on their faults if they let themselves take too much damage. Your most reliable kills come from level 6 onward with Unleashed Power, but it is possible to kill a careless enemy pre-6.
Depending on your choice of raw damage items, Syndra's high damage can force enemy laners to be very cautious or die. The damage route is most useful against non-tanky midlaners - ones who don't have magic resistance runes & masteries, or significant self-defense options (e.g, Abyssal Scepter or Hexdrinker).
Assist your jungler when they gank your lane using Dark Sphere + Scatter the Weak, as the deceptive range of the combo and long stun duration can create ideal windows. Force of Will's slow is most useful during friendly ganks as well. Conversely, both abilities are well suited at stopping enemy jungler ganks from killing her.
For roams to other lanes, I would be picky about doing so. Lacking mobility, Syndra doesn't get to new locations fast or abuse unique windows of engagement over terrain. Her stun, however, is very long, so if she does arrive to an over extended enemy, she'll almost always catches them for a kill. Try to anticipate when you can roam - crossing the map from midlane is about 10-15 seconds, give or take. If the enemy won't be over extended in that time period, it's not worth roaming to gank them. It's also not worth roaming to gank if you're going to lose a lot of minions in midlane / allow the enemy to push your tower down for free.
If, however, the enemy is not in lane, you can shove it to their tower and roam if you see the opportunity. Context matters here, as you don't always want to roam, nor should you always just sit in lane while the enemy midlaner roams.
Mid Game : 13 -> 30~ minutes
Around the beginning of this phase, you should ideally have the items from your 2nd/3rd base trips, and working on / finishing major ones.
More proactive team fighting, objective taking, and pushing start around this period. The importance of positioning only increases from here on out, with clever initiation, skillful counter-initiation, and evasion being critical. Use your team as a living wall, forcing the enemy to go through them in order to reach Syndra. This will form the bulk of her safety against dangerous initiators, letting you work to pick off the enemy and start fights of your own.
While not a proper primary initiator, Syndra can snipe stun high value targets with Q+E stun combo, enabling someone like Leona to follow up for lock down. Keep an eye out for easy shots that can help your team, but don't expect to follow up every long range stun if it's too dangerous. On the same note, these long range shots are excellent for keeping away enemy initiators or people trying to catch her/her team, so you can double dip on offense/defense values here.
Syndra's Dark Spheres and Scatter the Weak can also create a wide AOE stun effect in team fights, as the flight path of the spheres is quite long. Use this to help turn the fight around by catching enemy carries, knocking aside frontline tanks or fighters, and generally disrupting the battle. If at all possible, fire off Unleashed Power on high value threats, such as carries/assasins/high damage dealers, as appropriate. Your goal should be the removal of the biggest threat to your team, then finish the fight using Syndra's AOE abilities. The multiple spheres dropped by Unleashed Power makes for a fantastic wide AOE stun at the drop of a hat, as an aside.
Be mindful of venturing off alone, as stealth champions such as Rengar can be particularly problematic. Their ability to ambush on demand means casting can be difficult, and they can combo out to kill Syndra before there's even a reaction sometimes. Warding choke points and monitoring the mini map can help the most, as well as walking with your team for protection. In the end, you still want to keep farming lanes/jungle so her gold keeps going up, just manage the risk in doing so appropriately.
When taking objectives, such as Dragon, watch Syndra's mana carefully. If you use her abilities on cooldown, she can run out by the time it dies, which leaves her vulnerable to a team fight. Drop some damage down to help, but keep a healthy reserve for her combos incase anything happens. Mindfully, if the enemy is not contesting or too weak to stop it, you can afford to finish it off quickly.
Late Game : >30 minutes
At this phase, you are presumably near or at max build capacity on Syndra.
Zhonya's Hourglass can off set Syndra's fragility in this phase, allowing her to dodge fatal damage or crowd control and escape with Scatter the Weak or Flash.
Due to the very short 48 second~ cooldown of Unleashed Power at 40% CDR, Syndra's high burst damage shines with long death timers. It is quite reasonable to fully combo out on an enemy champion, have them die, and have her ultimate ready to fire again before they even resurrect. This is exceptionally useful if you wish to shut out a particular enemy, such as an AD Carry or AP Carry.
While it sounds as if I am tooting a horn that is overplayed, once again, Syndra's Q+E stun combo is stellar in this phase. The brief 1.5s window can be all that's needed for an explosive fight to kick off in your favor - or stop an enemy team from going all-in on your own. With about 7.2s cooldown on Scatter the Weak with 40% CDR, you may freely attempt stun shots for initiation or counter initiation, but remember her vulnerability in the time Scatter is on cooldown.
Presuming you are constantly supplied Crest of the Ancient Golem , this allows Syndra nearly unconstrained mana. If you are willing to endure the hassle, continually dropping Dark Spheres everywhere insures Unleashed Power and her other abilities always have spheres on demand. This is a stylistic choice more than a practical one, as during tower sieges Syndra will typically have an abundance of spheres laying around anyway.
Tips & Tricks : All the Little Details
Closing Summary, FAQ, Change log
Syndra offers a unique challenge in my experience, uncompromisingly demanding of player skill and knowledge. At first I found her somewhat of a turn off to play, mostly owing to the fact I didn't understand how serious of an investment she wanted. What stuck out to me the most, though, was upon review of her, Rioters themselves suspected she might 'not have a skill ceiling'. To me, that made it obvious I hadn't paid attention when I tested her out.
Since my second go around to her, I've found that singular fact disturbingly accurate. In nearly every situation I played with Syndra, my failures have been due to my lack of skill or knowledge, rather than her kit design as a Champion. It is certainly frustrating to realize that, but it invigorated me to practice and learn more. As I climbed up through Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and Master/Challenger tiers of competitive play, I noticed she continues to improve and improve as I learn. I don't feel I've hit a wall that wasn't a problem because of me, rather than her.
For you, fellow players, I only try to present her case as aptly as possible. Syndra is an incredible mage, deftly powerful in her laning phase, sporting a range of AOE damage, a game changing utility stun, rounded out by a scarcely matched single target nuke. Her cataclysmic damage comes with a catch, though, in that she is the most literal example of a Glass Cannon that could exist. Only the slightest room for error exists, and mistakes are ruthlessly punished by death - possibly even costing the match. If you straddle that threshold, though, it's a fun ride all the way to doomsday.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why The Dark Seal?
With our new mana-pool centric mage gameplay, The Dark Seal stands a bit taller than a second Doran's Ring for AP mid laners. On its own, it provides equal damage, respectable mana, an immediate increase in the value of using Health Potions, and the potential to transform itself into a Blasting Wand.
It also re-sells for a great value.
Honestly, in any situation you're looking at a second Doran's Ring, I'd advise considering The Dark Seal first.
Sell this item last when you need inventory slots, especially if it has Glory stacks on it.
Rod of Ages vs Seraph's Embrace for Anti-AD build?
As the game continues to evolve, so too must we. In the mage item update, Rod of Ages received significant buffs to all of its stats (essentially). I passed this over at first, but as others pointed out to me (and I experimented), I realized it was much more useful now. It's direct and immediate return on defense (raw HP) trumps Seraph's active shield later, as you will make actual use of RoA's stats before the shield comes online.
It also synergizes better with Zhonya's and scaling armor runes, as raw HP+armor nets more effective HP than a conditional active shield. Thusly, you will probably find RoA+Zhonya's or RoA+Void Staff the much more powerful answers to enemy AD users in Season 6 at the moment.
So Syndra is OP? You mention she has no counters or anything.
Syndra is only as strong as the person playing her is knowledgeable. She embodies this fact above everything else. If you as a player are using her better than your opponent is playing, she can easily crush them. Conversely, a crafty opponent or someone with a trick you're unfamiliar with can easily reverse the odds. She's very adaptable, but fragile as a result. If your team is collectively suffering or behind, her wiggle room decreases significantly, and life can become difficult. At equal levels of skill between players, though? Whoever plays better is who'll win. Her potential is always there, it's just a matter of realizing it.
That might sound exceedingly obvious or condescending, I simply believe she can handle everything. It just takes a lot of effort.
So why am I getting linked to something called Hextech Syndra?
No, really, how do you feel about the new Hextech items?
I don't think the rocket belt is appealing to Syndra except as an escape item (in which point, why not Zhonya's?), it can also screw up her stun angles something bad. You'd only use it to catch someone with her ultimate, which is ... eh?
The ice belt has potential, but I cannot find any satisfying place to put it into my build. I think it might replace Zhonya's/Abyssal in the 'utility defense item' slot, but my games don't typically last long enough for it to matter. So, something to keep an eye on and test, I think.
Change Log(Top is most recent)
6/15/2016 - Swapped the base rune recommendation to 3x Flat AP Purples from 1x Flat AP / 2x Magic Pen. For some reason, magic pen builds are having trouble right now, so defaulting to the safer AP farmer one instead.
5/15/2016 - Itemization updated, build order changed, minor grammar fixes. Rest in Pieces, Will of the Ancients, 2014-2016.
3/1/2016 - Tips section updated, new tip 'Assisted Jungling'.
2/7/2016 - Updated for Season 6, Patch 6.2. Swapped out Seraph's for Rod of Ages in the Anti-AD build. Modified build orders and mastery information somewhat. Minor grammar/word optimization, legacy Season 5 information removed. New FAQ question added.
12/10/2015 - Updated for Preseason 6, Patch 5.24. Switching masteries to 12/18, with Thunderlord's + Precision. Rune adjustment to 2x Magic Pen Purples, 1x Flat AP Purples. Generally a more champion-focused killing build. DFT remains ideal for team fighting purposes.
11/14/2015 - Updated for Preseason 6, Patch 5.22. Primarily runes/masteries. No serious revisions will be done until preseason is complete, however incremental updates may occur during testing.
7/29/2015 - Updated for Season 5, Patch 5.14. Revision and overhaul in most areas of content, though core fundamentals remain mostly the same. Match ups greatly expanded upon, build order cleaned up, itemization details cleaned up.
2/28/2015 - Updated for Season 5. Item order streamlined, abilities at level 3 and 4 changed, general tips for certain match ups added in the build section. Minor grammar improvements, removal of text referring to items no longer in the game. Buffed the 'counters' section with more helpful(?) advice.
4/14/2014 - Updated to reflect new WOTA changes, faq question added.
2/19/2014 - Minor grammar/word choice changes.
Rune page fixed (6 CDR blues, not 5, whoops).
Scatter/Force's AP ratio fixed (ratios are different, base damage is what I actually meant was equal).
2/11/2014 - First draft of the Guide unleashed.