Hi, I'm Vapora Dark, a veteran player that's been playing since season 1. During that time I've hit Master tier as a mid lane main in season 5, as an ADC main in season 7, again as a jungle main in season 8, and once more in season 9 playing a mix of all those roles including mid and Fizz. I can play every role to a very high level and have a very good understanding of the general aspects of the game on top of that.
I've been writing guides on MOBAFire since 2011, among which my achievements include winning the MOBAFire guide contest multiple times, achieving the highest score on the site multiple times with multiple guides, achieving the most comments on a single guide of all time by a very large amount which hasn't come even close to being surpassed in the 3 years that it's been archived, and having the most collective guide views on the site by a very hefty amount. I've also written some champion guides for Riot Games on the Lolesports site.
Thresh has been one of the most popular supports in the game for a long time, and it's easy to see why. Even when he doesn't fit the meta well, he's always one of the supports with the most kill potential in and out of lane, and is great at punishing weaker players. If you want to have the highest possible impact from the support role, Thresh is the man for you.
I hope you enjoy reading the guide as much as I enjoyed writing it, and most importantly, that you take everything you can from it!
Resolve & Inspiration
Aftershock: This rune is great for Thresh as it makes him tankier and he has a very easy time proc'ing it, since even if he misses Death Sentence, Flay is an almost guaranteed hit. Also provides some extra damage during all-ins.
Bone Plating: This is just all around one of the strongest runes in the Resolve tree since its release, and Thresh as a tanky support definitely wants to use it.
Overgrowth: Passively gaining an ever increasing health pool is great for any tank support. Whilst you're not buying a lot of pure health from items, Inspiration and Resolve offers good hp per level and you still get some health through items. After 20 or so minutes you'll have a lot of extra health making this rune incredibly powerful.
Cosmic Insight: Thresh being a support with relatively high cooldowns and being overall pretty useless without his spells, he benefits a lot from any CDR he can get.
Flash has been the standard summoner spell to take on almost every single champion since forever. It's always been indisputably the best summoner spell in the game, so there's nothing you can replace it with.
Thresh tends to be a very aggressive and high kill potential support in lane, so Ignite synergises greatly with this playstyle by dealing damage as well as reducing the amount of healing the enemy bot lane will get from Heal, reducing their odds of survival if you should catch one of them out in lane.
Exhaust is an alternative to Ignite in matchups where you don't expect to be picking up kills or think you'll find yourself on the defensive. It can also be a reaction to an enemy picking an assassin such as Zed or Akali to help your ADC survive teamfights better, even if Exhaust may still be worse than Ignite in lane.
Damnation: This passive is often mistaken as giving Thresh monstrous amounts of armor, but in reality it actually on average gives him just normal amounts of armor, and in games where you miss out on a lot of souls you'll be lacking in armor compared to the average champion.
The only thing the passive really gives you in comparison to other champions is AP. The armor it provides is only notable relative to other champions in games that go super lategame.
Q: Death Sentence
Death Sentence: This is the most defining spell in Thresh's kit, and for good reason. Being able to CC someone for 1.5 seconds and also drag them towards you and your team in the process is a very powerful skill, and one that makes the name "Death Sentence" a very fitting name indeed.
If you reactivate Death Sentence while you've hooked someone you can drag yourself all the way over to them. If you're going to do this, make sure to do it only once you've already dragged them towards you twice so they're pulled the maximum possible distance towards your team.
Since the load up time for Death Sentence is so long, it's a very telegraphed ability that gives opponents a lot of time to dodge it, so if you're not casting it from out of vision like in a brush, you should usually aim it to one side or the other, trying to predict where the target will juke rather than aiming it at where they're currently standing. If you miss, make sure not to forget exactly how/where they juked, and try to focus on aiming there next time. Even if you miss again over time you'll get to learn the enemy's juking patterns better and get better at predicting where the enemy will juke and aiming accordingly. Some players are less predictable than others though, remember that this isn't an exact science.
Another really good way of landing hooks is to run towards 1 person but aim your hook at someone else entirely. Death Sentence doesn't make Thresh turn at all in whatever direction he's aiming to, he looks the same whether he's aiming at 180° or 360°. When you run towards 1 person, like the support for example, both the ADC and the support are going to assume you're trying to get the support; once you stop to cast Death Sentence and your body is still facing the support, it's extremely common for the ADC (or vice versa) to not bother dodging because they don't acknowledge the possibility that you could be aiming for them since you were so clearly chasing after the support. You just aim right at where they are, or where they're walking towards, and they'll often be caught so off guard that they won't even begin to dodge by the time the hook hits them, since its travel time is so fast.
W: Dark Passage
Dark Passage: This is a unique ability that's incredibly strong. Even the shield were to be removed the ability would still be good, which just goes to show how strong it is.
The first allied champion to touch the lantern, including Thresh himself, will get a shield, but if that champion then clicks the lantern and is pulled towards Thresh, Thresh himself will also get the shield, meaning it's often best to shield someone else rather than yourself even if you're taking heavy damage so long as your ally picks up the lantern.
In fights you can use the shield to block damage from you or your ADC if either of you are getting too low, but alternatively if the shield isn't necessary you can simply use it as a gap closer for your ADC to get into the fight faster when you're engaging with either Death Sentence or Flay. It'll still shield any immediate damage resulting from the engage anyway.
Where Dark Passage really shines over your typical shield spell is for either helping an ally escape from a sticky situation, or for helping your jungler gank while bypassing enemy vision. For the former, it's as simple as throwing your lantern on top of your ally while they're in trouble and when you're already in the direction they want to run to. For the latter, your jungler should approach the lane from your tower, and you walk forwards to engage while throwing your lantern towards the jungler. If you can get close enough (you can Flash forward if necessary) you'll want to Flay an enemy backwards, or if not possible you'll just have to risk a Death Sentence and hope it lands.
Flay: This spell makes Thresh's level 1 among the strongest of any support. Between the active and the passive you basically have 2 spells' worth of damage in one, and even though it's a skillshot it's basically impossible to miss. Damage aside, it's also very impactful since it drags its target closer to you and your ADC and slows them.
If you're really confident in your ability to win an all-in, if possible you should look to engage with Flay rather than Death Sentence. It's much easier to land a Death Sentence while the enemy is slowed by Flay, and even if Death Sentence still misses, landing Flay still constitutes some form of engage and allows you and your ADC to get some damage down onto the target, even if it might not be enough for a kill. Whereas if you just start off with Death Sentence and miss, then literally nothing happens.
R: The Box
The Box: This spell actually does a shockingly high amount of damage for a support so focused on utility. Between that and the 99% slow, this adds a ton more kill potential to Thresh's already aggressive kit.
There are two main ways of landing this on an enemy in lane, either by engaging with Death Sentence or with Flay.
If you land a Death Sentence you can either fly onto the target and then cast The Box around them, or you can cast The Box while they're still stunned from Death Sentence and Flay them backwards into The Box. The latter is the more reliable way of doing it since it prevents them from being able to Flash out of it, whereas the former is simply the only alternative left if you hit a really long range Death Sentence where they're too far away to be dragged into The Box if you place it in your current position.
While engaging with Flay is usually the most reliable way to engage on Thresh, it's actually not as reliable for landing The Box as engaging with Death Sentence is, you know their Flash is on cooldown. You'll want to Flay them into you and then cast The Box, but most likely they'll either be inside or outside The Box rather than right on top of one of the walls as they're formed.
If they're inside The Box and their Flash is down then that's just about as good as knocking them right on top of the wall, but if it's up then they can just Flash over it and then whether they get dragged into it or not depends on your ability to land Death Sentence. Likewise if they're already outside of The Box then whether they hit the wall or not depends on whether or not you can land Death Sentence through Flay's slow, but again they have the option of dodging with Flash if it's up even if you aim well.
At level 1 you'll want to take Flay because as mentioned earlier it's a very good level 1 spell, having basically two spells' worth of damage in one. Alternatively you can take Death Sentence at level 1 if you want to invade with your team, which will be worth if you can get a kill or if you even just blow a Flash possibly, but will leave you weaker at level 1 in lane unless you actually manage to land Death Sentence on the enemy bot lane. At level 3 you'll want to take Dark Passage because the shield will make a bigger difference in fights than putting another point into one of your current spells and it can either aid in a jungle gank or save your ADC from a gank.
Maxing Death Sentence and maxing Flay first are both popular options on Thresh, but maxing Flay is the best option since Flay is the best option in lane. Maxing Death Sentence is the best option outside of laning phase though, so it's common to put 3 points into Flay and then start maxing Death Sentence in preparation for the end of laning phase. Personally I just put points in E whenever I'm still in laning phase, and start putting points in Q whenever laning phase is over, even if that leaves me with a whole 4 points in E before I start maxing Q. In long laning phases I'll fully max E before maxing Q.
You'll always want to max Dark Passage, not necessarily last, but after Death Sentence. This means that if you didn't finish maxing Flay in laning phase then your skill order might look something like this.
Ancient Coin: Ever since the Relic Shield nerfs, Ancient Coin has overtaken it as the optimal starting item on Thresh, since unlike melee supports that still want Relic Shield, Thresh doesn't get the execute portion of it. While the tank stats are sorely missed, you gain higher gold generation in return, and you don't risk costing your ADC CS by missing last hits.
Relic Shield: This is still technically a viable option, but for the reasons explained before, it's just pointless to build it, since it's basically harder to use for lower gain. Still, I feel it worth mentioning if only just to warn you not to build it, and to let you know of its strengths on Thresh in case it ever gets buffed and becomes good on him again.
Stealth Ward: This is the default starting trinket, and you'll have no need to swap to anything different until after you've got your warding item. In coordination with your ADC's Stealth Ward you should have sufficient vision throughout the early-game until you get your warding item.
Sweeping Lens: After you've built your vision item you'll want to swap your Stealth Ward to a Sweeping Lens, since you won't have much use for trinket wards anymore, and it'll allow you to deny vision to the enemy bot lane.
Boots of Mobility
Mobility Boots: These are the best boots for a playmaking support like Thresh, since you need to be able to reach enemies in the first place to begin to do anything, and Mobility Boots give the highest possible movement speed. They're also the best boots for roaming, an area where Thresh shines. If you're really ahead I recommend building Mobility Boots early to allow you to engage more easily in lane and allow you to better roam towards mid lane without sacrificing too much in lane since you'll ideally be winning lane without building combat stats anyway.
Nomad's Medallion / Targon's Brace
Nomad's Medallion/ targon's brace: You'll want to rush this ASAP to increase your gold gen and get your warding item sooner.
Control Ward: This is an important part of any support's items. After you've spent your gold on whatever items you need, you should be getting 1-2 Control Wards every back in laning phase, and 2-3 Control Wards every back after laning phase, even favoring Control Wards over item components.
Locket of the Iron Solari: This is an amazing item, giving you decent tank stats (great if you need MR) and a powerful AoE shield for your team on the active. The best times to use this are either to protect one of your carries from being blown up, or while your team as a whole is about to be hit by AoE damage, such as from Spray and Pray or Command: Shockwave.
Redemption: This is one of the highest impact items a support can buy. It was long ago nerfed to be weaker in the early-game but it's still amazing for team-fighting. I recommend building it only after Locket of the Iron Solari since their uses are similar but Locket of the Iron Solari is better for a tank, and only if you don't need any other items more importantly.
Knight's Vow: This is a great item for protecting one ally in particular; an ability most useful when playing vs assassins, who will naturally try to kill one particular person on the team. Usually this is your ADC, but it can also be smart to place it on other high value carries such as a Xerath or an Orianna, especially if they're fed and carrying. You may sometimes want to build this even before Locket of the Iron Solari.
Turbo Chemtank: You can optionally build this if you're ahead and you want better engage/pick potential. I would only build it as a second item directly after your warding item since it falls off throughout the game as Thresh builds utility items rather than tank items and slowly begins to lack the tankiness necessary to properly initiate.
Zeke's Convergence: As a playmaker support, you don't have many tools to directly increase your carries damage. Zeke's Convergence alone offers a huge amount of DPS in fights where you cast your ultimate and because it's next to impossible to escape a Thresh who has you locked in The Box your carry can push out some serious damage with the help of this item.
Mikael's Blessing: This item is amazing for getting rid of key CC from your carries, for example if you time it right you can render a good Solar Flare useless. It doesn't give the greatest stats to Thresh himself, but supports tend to build for the team rather than for themselves, and Mikael's Blessing can be a massive life-saver to your ADC or any other carry.
Bot Lane Matchups
Bot lane matchups are a very complex subject. On solo lanes or jungle matchups it's easy to say that one champion beats or counters another, or that a matchup is even and can be considered a skill matchup.
Bot lane is unique in being a 2v2 lane and to top it off the supports are often even more impactful than the ADCs, so you have to factor the support into the matchup just as much if not more than the ADC, and also the strengths and weaknesses of each support relative to the strength and weaknesses of their partner as well as their two opponents. There's such a ridiculous amount of possible combinations you can run into (minimum 560 counting only common picks) that it's simply impossible to explain the dynamics of how every single matchup should play out, nor can I rate the difficulty of each ADC or support matchup individually because depending on the supports, your pick can either win lane against every ADC/support or lose lane against every ADC/support.
So I'm going to dedicate this chapter to giving a small rundown of what you need to know about laning against each champion, both the ADCs and the supports, and a rating of what their general strength in lane is, which is not necessarily a rating of how difficult your lane will be if you're playing against them in solo queue as it varies depending on who their lane partner is and also who their opponents are, for example champions like Nami can be either big lane bullies against champions like Janna or just passive laners who are otherwise free kills for champions like Thresh; but both matchups also massively depend on their partner and the opponent's partner.
Deep understanding of each champion on an individual level coupled with first-hand experience in witnessing how many different duos perform with each other will lead to a greater understanding of how any given bot lane matchup is likely to go, and with the following brief analyses of each bot lane champion I hope to give you as much of a head start in this area as I reasonably can.
Ashe has very easy to land long range AoE poke, but it's not particularly strong and on a very high cooldown, resulting in low waveclear, weak trades and weak all-ins.
However she's one of the highest auto-attack range ADCs and can easily poke with her auto-attacks, meaning if your bot lane duo is one that can't pressure her and scare her off of trading, she can end up bullying you pretty hard in said matchups despite being an overall weak laning champion.
For a long time regarded as the queen of laning phase, Caitlyn's had a lot of power taken out of her laning phase and given to her mid-late game, and playerbase perception hasn't yet to catch up with the times. She's still a massive lane bully and will win almost any lane that comes down to trading and waveclear, but she's very weak in all-ins and will get crushed in fights by any bot lane that can engage on her.
Because of how extreme her strengths and weaknesses are her threat level really varies between high to low, so I chose medium as a compromise, but beware of how utterly dominant she can be in lane if you don't have a good matchup against her.
Draven is the absolute king of laning phase in today's League, far beyond what Caitlyn ever was at her peak. He is simultaneously the strongest ADC in short trades, long trades, and second best in all-ins. Never has a champion quote ever been more true than "Draven does it all". However, even Draven is not quite without weakness. He's short-ranged and has no escapes so he's very vulnerable to being engaged on. Unfortunately he's so strong in all-ins that if you engage on him there's a good chance he'll just turn it into a double kill, but as with all bot laners, a duo with strong enough all-ins while Draven has a support poorly suited to deal with them is all it takes to overcome the king of laning phase.
Additionally, because of his short range and poor waveclear he can be easily handled by champions who can pressure him from outside his range like Caitlyn on the ADCs' side or Zyra on the supports' side, on the condition that he's not paired with a support that has the ability to easily engage on and lock down these long range champions for Draven to reach and kill, such as what Thresh or Nautilus would bring to the table.
Ezreal is a champion that is primarily picked for safety, he is very hard to kill in lane and his long range low cooldown Mystic Shot allows him to easily keep up in CS from a range in situations where other ADCs wouldn't be able to farm.
In exchange for being so hard to snowball against, he's also made to lack the tools to snowball himself. He has weak waveclear, unnoteworthy all-in power, and would be decent at trading if not for the fact that he can't poke through minions. He will never create a winning matchup solely on his own merits.
However, bot lane being as complicated as it is, if his duo as a whole is one that is either stronger in all-ins or stronger at trading and he is able to pressure the lane rather than play defensively, Mystic Shot becomes an excellent poke tool and he can exert a lot of pressure with his range, similarly to Ashe but stronger.
Jhin's fourth shot hits like a truck, giving him very strong zoning potential and damage when trading with it, which combined with his decent waveclear makes him a strong lane bully in most matchups.
He's okay in all-ins when following up his support's engage to finish someone off, but his damage is not great in extended fights and he is himself highly vulnerable to being engaged on and burst down.
Jinx comes online for teamfights very early into the game but has a miserable laning phase. She's weak at trading, weak in all-ins, has inefficient waveclear, suffers from Ezreal's problem of having decent poke that's impossible to actually use unless you're already winning lane, and is also highly vulnerable to being engaged on.
On the bright side, when the matchup actually does allow her to have pressure in lane Zap! allows for some very high range, very high damage poke, and she has very high auto-attack range to pressure with as well as decent CC and burst to follow up engages with, so should you find yourself on the losing end of a matchup against her don't expect her overall weak laning phase to make toughing through the matchup a breeze.
Kai'Sa has a lot of winning matchups while only having a few losing ones, but she doesn't excell at any particular area. She's decent in trades, has decent waveclear and decent all-ins which makes her a versatile champion fitting well into most matchups and supports, but she generally won't crush you in any individual aspect and can be beaten by duos that strongly outshine her any areas, and is especially vulnerable to ADCs that can best all-in her. Her mobility is decent enough though that she's not overly vulnerable to engages compared to the more immobile ADCs.
A Challenger level Kalista wins almost all lanes, but the average Kalistas you'll encounter in your games won't be quite so impressive, generally winning against low threat ADCs, going even against medium threat ADCs and losing to high threat ADCs.
She's a lane bully that can pressure opponents quite well with her high mobility, low CD trading and strong poke to develop healthy CS leads, but she lacks upfront damage in fights, loses DPS when slowed and is generally quite easy to kill once locked down. However, when in a winning matchup she can be very oppressive due to her high mobility and ability to help her support engage.
Kog'Maw is best known for being a mid-late game hypercarry and respectively his laning phase is appropriately weak to compensate. He can't push very well early on, has very weak trading in lane, very weak poke until level 6 when it becomes okay, very poor followup to engages, and is himself highly vulnerable to them.
When actually in a winning matchup he won't have a hard time exerting pressure between his massive auto-attack range during Bio-Arcane Barrage and his long range poke with Living Artillery, but he doesn't bring much kill potential to the lane. When in a bad matchup he won't have a problem farming safely while avoiding trades but can be easily divable by a strong enough all-in duo.
A traditional lane bully, Lucian sacrifices mid-lategame power in exchange for putting it all into his laning phase. Lucian has great waveclear, decent poke, great trades, is great in all-ins, has great followup to engages, and has great mobility to keep him safe from engages. He's a little worse than draven at most aspects besides waveclear but his extra mobility makes him safer and also better at abusing his leads when he has them, especially as he typically rushes Blade of the Ruined King which also gives him a solid slow to force kills with.
Lucian will typically lose lane into matchups that outrange him when his lane can't easily force engages, or can lose to duos with stronger all-ins.
Miss Fortune is a champion who can be a massive lane bully into many matchups given the huge range and damage of her Double Up, but she suffers from being too easy to kill when engaged on. Against matchups that can't all-in her though, whether in a poke-focused lane or paired with an engage support she can pack a massive punch through Double Up poke and Bullet Time damage in fights.
Sivir is probably the most underrated laning phase ADC there is. She has the best waveclear of any ADC at later levels and still really good waveclear earlier on, great poke, decent trades, is okay in all-ins, is relatively safe from being engaged upon by basically any support that isn't Alistar, and is really good at helping her support engage with On The Hunt. Her short range however means that she's easy to poke and is vulnerable to engages that don't rely on CC that she can spell shield.
Tristana has bad early waveclear, really bad poke and really bad trades, but her strength in all-ins in matchups where she can fully stack her Explosive Charge is absolutely unmatched, and her massive dash range with Rocket Jump makes it easy for her to force all-ins at the drop of a dime. With all her power focused onto this one single strength, it makes for a highly explosive and action packed laning phase, where at any moment she can jump on you and one-shot you.
She has a hard time into matchups where she can't win all-ins, usually either as a result of CC leaving her unable to stack her Explosive Charge in time, or Exhaust nullifying her burst when she does. Since all-ins are her one strength, in matchups where she can't force them she ends up being really useless and falls pretty far behind. However, her amazing mobility also makes her really safe and hard to kill even against bot lanes with great engage.
Twitch may be marked as a low threat, but that doesn't mean you can let your guard down against him. Twitch has bad waveclear, bad poke, is bad at short trades and is highly vulnerable to engage, making him an extremely weak champion in lane overall. However he's okay in extended trades where he has time to stack up Contaminate, and Ambush makes him the best ADC at forcing fights on his own terms when it favours him.
Despite being extremely weak in all-ins and trades and on average being down in CS into every single matchup as a result of it, he still averages being up on kills into every ADC except Tristana. It isn't enough to make his laning phase good given that on average he still falls behind in gold to every ADC except Vayne and Kog'Maw, but it goes to show that while his laning phase in a vacuum may be terrible, you still need to be very careful and aware to make sure that you don't end up giving him free kills in situations where he can sneakily engage on you when it favours him.
Varus has decent waveclear, poke and trading, and his ult is an amazing engage tool which coupled with his bursty kit makes him decent in all-ins too. However as a jack of all trades that makes him easy to beat in a matchup that's much better than him at any given aspect.
Being a late-game hypercarry, Vayne has bad waveclear, bad poke, bad trades and poor all-ins. On the other hand she's relatively safe, and she's great at following up engages or engaging herself when she's in a winning matchup. But she pretty much loses any lane so long as the support difference isn't enough to compensate for it.
Xayah has great waveclear, decent poke, good trades and great all-ins especially when paired with a CC support while also being safe from engages and having great followup to engages by bringing CC of her own. All around a very solid laner, but is quite short ranged and can be easily handled by matchups that can keep her at a distance or beat her in all-ins.
Alistar is a rather weak laning support overall given his vulnerability to being poked, the ease with which his WQ combo can be interrupted by many supports with displacements, and the fact that any CC or mobility spell can prevent him from stunning his target with Trample.
However, after level 6 with Unbreakable Will active he's also the tankiest support in the game, and with all 3 of his non-ultimate spells being CCs and mostly displacements it makes him very hard to ignore in skirmishes.
It also makes him great at setting up plays, so if he is in a winning matchup it makes it very easy for him to dive 2v2 or with the jungler's help, given that he can tank up the tower for long periods of time while CCing the targets to allow his team mates to safely finish them off.
With Cosmic Binding and Traveler's Call, Bard has probably the strongest level 1 of any support which is something you always have to watch out for when playing against him, but in further levels he gains very lackluster abilities and falls off to rather middle of the pack in terms of laning strength, able to beat up the weaker laning supports but also getting beat up by the stronger ones.
He's very good at low-range trading and has a reasonable amount of healing to sustain his ADC and himself despite not quite falling into the healer category of supports, and can set up good engages with Tempered Fate to allow his team to catch up to the caught enemies and kill them, and also allow himself to get into position to stun them either against a wall or each other with Cosmic Binding.
He himself though is quite vulnerable to engages especially when not near a wall he can Magical Journey to for an escape, and since he only has one damage spell and auto-attacks/passive to trade with can also be quite vulnerable to poke from stronger trading supports.
Blitzcrank is probably the most hit or miss champion in League of legends, both literally and figuratively. If he hits his Rocket Grab it will likely turn into a kill, but if it misses he proceeds to have absolutely no lane presence over the next ~18 seconds until it comes back off cooldown and his ADC may as well be laning 1v2.
So obviously it goes without saying that his all-ins have the potential to be great if he's the one forcing them by landing a good hook, but when missed or if used on a melee range target he's rather weak since he doesn't bring much to the table other than forcing a target to become horribly mispositioned and briefly CC'ing them in that spot.
He's generally weak into strong laning supports that can control the lane and make him scared to walk up to hook for fear of taking too much damage or getting caught himself, but can be quite successful into some of the weaker laning supports, especially into enchanters. Though the opponent's general strength in lane is still the overall biggest factor, Blitzcrank is more so happy to face enchanters than other supports, and likewise shines into immobile ADCs who have no easy way of dodging the hook and have to play defensively and far back to avoid putting themselves into a position where they can get hooked.
Brand's combination of strong long range poke, one hard CC and immense burst make him one of the strongest laning supports in the game, alongside most mage supports.
Given the range of his poke along with its strength it's very hard to beat Brand through trades and therefore makes strong all-in lanes with good engage the best chance at beating him in lane, but pre-6 he has the proper tools to keep his opponents too low to be able to risk engaging and after 6 with Pyroclasm he can potentially blow up two targets at once in fights, so all in all there's just no getting around the fact that Brand is just not a champion that ever expects to lose lane, except against other mage supports for whom you can also say the same thing.
Braum has great peeling and defensive properties for keeping his ADC safe in teamfights, but this translates very poorly into laning phase strength where he's just a low-CC melee support with no damage, no way to fight back against poke, and not particularly safe from getting engaged on, so rather abusable in pretty much any matchup.
Fortunately he's very tanky to make up for it so not particularly easy to kill, and Unbreakable can often save his ADC's life in fights too, but overall he's the weakest laning support in the game.
Fiddlesticks has two equally viable spells he can max based on his needs or desires, either Reap to focus on poke or Terrify to weaken enemy trades/all-ins, either way though he has a good time in most trade/poke focused matchups.
Engage is the best way to deal with him but he has the option of taking Aftershock to instantly proc with Terrify if he ever gets engaged on so he gets very high resistances on top of CCing one of his attackers for a high duration, so unless he can be CC chained or caught off guard with cooldowns he's not particularly vulnerable.
Additionally at level 6 he becomes very strong in all-ins where he has the opportunity to jump in with Crowstorm and can find creative ways to force a fight by surprise and catch people out, making him a threat you always have to be particularly cautious of.
Janna can either max Zephyr to prioritise trading and controlling the lane, or Eye Of The Storm to prioritize keeping herself and her ADC safe while still offering some extra damage through the AD and having reasonable poke in her unmaxed Zephyr.
She's weak in all-ins but is also great at protecting herself and her ADC from all-ins in many matchups, making her an overall decent support while still being slightly on the weaker side, though vulnerable to supports with longer range poke and supports who can engage without being affected by her Howling Gale.
Mantra-empowered Inner Flame is probably the strongest poke spell you'll find on bot lane which does massive damage and is very easy to hit, but Mantra has a long cooldown and Inner Flame on its own is rather short ranged while still doing decent damage and making it easy to shove and control waves.
Being a sort of enchanter/mage hybrid she doesn't really shine at either aspect, but her magelike qualities make her a rather good laning champion despite not being quite on the same level as other pure mage supports, and her enchanter qualities make her decent at protecting and buffing her allies, despite not being quite as good at it as pure enchanters.
The greatest thing that Leona offers is easy engage onto vulnerable short range targets, since her Zenith Blade travels through minions which is a feature most engage champions lack on their engage tools.
However it's also quite short ranged which is a big disadvantage over them and her all-ins are not as strong as other engage champions, so while she has an easy time forcing fights to extend her lead in good matchups, she doesn't necessarily have a great deal of good matchups, so is best paired with a strong laning ADC and works best when picked against weak laners.
Lulu has the ability to massively buff her ADC's damage mid-late game as well as offering great anti-burst protection and works best paired with hypercarries, so given her scaling it's not surprising that her laning phase isn't that great. She does pack a lot of damage however, so she can definitely act as a bit of a lane bully in winning matchups, but she needs to get in close range to use it and can easily get blown up in many matchups.
Whether maxing Lucent Singularity to focus on poke or Prismatic Barrier to shield massive amounts of damage for her ADC, Lux brings a lot of damage to the lane either way, and brings both pressure and kill potential, using her long range poke to wear enemies down coupled with her long range snare enabling her to burst down low enemy laners.
However to get the most damage out of her kit she has to get in auto-attack range to proc Illumination, without which she misses out on a lot of damage especially if she maxes Prismatic Barrier, which opens up room for enemy laners to try and punish her either by trading back or engaging on her.
Black Shield makes Morgana a hard counter to most of the CC reliant supports, but the rest of her kit is also strong enough that she generally performs quite well into enchanters too. With Dark Binding and Tormented Shadow she can inflict a great deal of poke damage, and with Dark Binding scaling up to 3 seconds of CC she has very high pick potential, especially after level 6 when she can follow it up with Soul Shackles for a longer lock-down. In general Soul Shackles can make her a large threat in all-ins since she can Black Shield herself to make sure she can't be CC'd so she can complete the channel, and if she uses it before Dark Binding she can guarantee a very high lockdown period onto a target she stuns.
The only supports that can reliably beat her are lane dominant mage supports, but she isn't an awful pick into these either since her Black Shield at worst can act as a regular shield and can also be used to counter any CC these champions commonly have.
Nami brings a perfect balance of poke and healing as she improves both when ranking up her Ebb and Flow, and can frequently both poke and heal her or her ADC with one cast, making it easy to keep her and her ADC topped up and healthy while also applying pressure in the matchup.
Her all-ins however are generally not all that great, hinging massively on her ability to land her slow moving Aqua Prison. When she does hit it she's rewarded greatly with a decent CC duration which can turn around many fights. But when she doesn't her contribution to fights isn't great and even with her heal she's still quite squishy and vulnerable. She scales decently into mid-game though and is a wonderful asset for helping her ADC minimize their losses in lane while also doing a great job of bullying weaker matchups.
Additionally the fact that she does have options to force and win all-ins through her CC is something that gives her an edge in many matchups that other enchanters don't have.
Nautilus has gone through long periods of weakness in the support role, but currently at the time of writing this he is probably the strongest all-in support, bringing a heavy mix of high tankiness, decent damage and long range, very easy to land engage.
However he has no poke and can't engage through minions, so in matchups where he has no prio and can be punished for walking up to fish for hooks he won't be able to contribute much and is vulnerable to poke. When in winning matchups though his ease at engaging makes him very scary to face and can generate very large gold leads.
Pyke is currently the strongest support in lane, bringing the same playmaking utility you'd get from other engage/hook supports while also being highly mobile, rather tanky overall in extended scenarios where he can make ample use of Gift of the Drowned Ones, and also bringing a lot of damage into the matchup given his position as the only AD assassin support in the game.
He doesn't quite have the damage to one-shot a carry unless extremely fed, but coupled with his ADC's damage it makes it rather easy to bring a target below the execution threshold for Death from Below, making him great at snowballing especially given the fact that any targets executed by Death from Below give full kill gold to both Pyke and the ADC, causing winning matchups to generate more gold for the duo as a whole than they would for any other duo.
His high mobility and sustain also make it extremely hard to punish him except if he can be CC locked and burst down, making it hard to generate leads from him when he fails at making a play, while not being as forgiving for the enemy bot lane when he succeeds.
Being a scaling support, Rakan's laning phase is rather weak. His engage is hard to land, doesn't do much damage and he isn't particularly tanky to actually win the fights he engages. He has some poke but it doesn't do much damage, and some sustain but it's not on demand and isn't that strong. Sort of a jack of all trades that's weak enough in all aspects that he'll be outshined by most supports in lane.
At level 6 his engages become a little stronger as he can more consistently land Grand Entrance and also gets to charm one other target on top of that, but still isn't great engage compared to other engage supports. He does have special synergy with Xayah's Deadly Plumage in lane that makes his all-ins a lot stronger than they are with any other ADC, but still overall on the weaker side of engage supports.
Sona eventually ramps up to being one of the strongest lategame champions in the game even compared to non-supports, so naturally her laning phase suffers to compensate. First and foremost she's the second squishiest champion in the game besides Yuumi but doesn't get to go untargetable to make up for it, making her the most easily killable support to play in laning phase.
However she does bring decent poke and some healing and shielding for both herself and her ADC, causing her to have an easy time into enchanters and other weak laners who can't punish her in all-ins and allow her to scale and keep herself and her ADC topped up with sustain. However her aforementioned squishiness makes her very weak into stronger laners with either high damage or good engage who can punish her lack of defensive stats.
Soraka is the queen of healing in League of Legends, providing unparalleled levels of healing through Astral Infusion alone while also having a large global AoE heal in Wish to boot. Unfortunately this healing comes at the cost of her own HP and her own self-sustain is quite low and dependant on harassing enemies with Starcall, leaving a lot of room to punish her.
When in winnable matchups she has the option of maxing or putting some early points into Starcall in order to have higher poke in lane, but it's still quite short ranged and doesn't do all that much damage, leaving her still quite an underwhelming laner.
Kench doesn't have a great time into the majority of the support roster, but he actually does quite well into most melee supports. As these supports are mostly engage focused Devour is an invaluable tool for keeping his ADC safe, but additionally Tahm Kench has a ton of damage when he can Devour an enemy champion, but has a hard time stacking it against ranged champions.
Against melees on the other hand, this isn't a problem and he's much more capable of utilizing the full extent of his kit, and Thick Skin makes him incredibly tanky to the point where he isn't scared of letting himself be engaged on. So with this in mind he can certainly be quite strong in lane, but when looking at his performance on bot lane as a whole and not just against the champions he counters, his laning phase suffers quite a bit from his incapability of dealing with champions that outrange him.
Taric is the only melee pure enchanter in the game, every one of his spells except Dazzle being defensive to protect his allies, which makes him great at protecting, but very bad at fighting enemy champions considering he lacks the range that other already weak laning enchanters would have to their advantage.
He doesn't fair as badly into melee matchups since, similarly to Tahm Kench, he gets a lot of damage from his passive which he can't easily apply to ranged champions but can easily use on melees. However while this makes many melee matchups more bearable than ranged matchups, he still tends to not do very well into most of them.
Thresh combines the engage and pick potential of a melee champion with the trading pressure of a ranged champion. With Flay's passive combined with its active, Thresh packs a lot of damage in just one spell rank, and will often put a few early points into it to maximize his early damage. In winning matchups he can easily walk up to Flay an enemy towards him even through minions knowing he can win the trade. Flay is also great defensively and can block many champions' engage tools.
Additionally, the aptly named Death Sentence often spells disaster for targets caught by it as it stuns and pulls the victim closer to Thresh and his ally over 1.5 seconds, and allows Thresh to dash in and chain it with the rest of his CC. Its range makes it hard to cope with Thresh in losing matchups and exerts a lot of pressure over the opponents in lane knowing they can't get too close to farm while Death Sentence is up. But while he shares many characteristics with melee supports and is a great deal tankier than enchanters and mages, he's still notably squishier than the average melee support and has a harder time surviving all-ins and being caught by CC in even or bad matchups.
Vel'Koz provides some of the longer range poke of all the mage supports, with experienced Vel'Koz players also being able to easily land poke on targets hiding behind minions due to the way Plasma Fission works, making it hard to avoid the pressure Vel'Koz exerts over a lane.
He also brings long range massive AoE damage in Life Form Disintegration Ray after level 6 which makes it hard to ignore him in fights, while his range also makes him a hard target to get to. He also has a displacement CC in Tectonic Disruption to keep himself safe with, covering all his bases and making sure there's no easy way to deal with him in lane.
Xerath is the most oppressive mage support in lane despite not being too popular in the role. Neither of his two poke spells are hindered by minions meaning there's no way to avoid his poke except by dodging it, and since in the support role he doesn't have to move into a vulnerable position to last-hit there's not much room to fight back unless he's comfortable enough to step up because he thinks he'd win the fight. As far as mage supports go though he's probably the most vulnerable.
He does have CC in Shocking Orb but it's not a displacement, is single-target, has a short duration at short distances such as when the engage has already happened, and while his poke is the most oppressive of any other mage support he also has the least immediate burst of any mage support so there's generally very little risk in engaging on him in even or close to even circumstances as he won't blow up one or two people at a time like Zyra or Brand could.
This makes long range engage supports a lot more effective at dealing with him than they are against other mages. Which is not to say that they beat him, since in a vacuum Xerath should basically win lane against any support except for maybe Pyke, just that they fare better against him than they do against other mage supports despite Xerath being the strongest laner of them as a whole.
Yuumi is extremely squishy and as such has to spend the vast majority of her time attached to her ADC in order to not get constantly caught out. She provides a lot of healing and poke while attached but while it gives her an amazing late-game, for laning phase it doesn't quite make up for the lane being a 1v2 most of the time as she lacks lane presence, both literally and figuratively.
She fares worst against engage supports who can both force her to detach less for fear of getting CC'd and blown up in an instant and also abuse the fact that her lane partner is sort of 1v2 and easy to engage on most of the time, but tends to perform quite well into other enchanters or weak laning supports who can't abuse her lack of lane presence, and also can't abuse her as hard when she's detached which allows her to detach more often and have more lane presence than she would in tougher matchups.
Zilean is similar to Karma in that he acts as a sort of mix between an enchanter and a mage, though I would personally say he leans far more onto the enchanter side, and it shows in his laning strength, or lack thereof. Like Karma he has rather high damage poke in the form of Time Bomb which also provides an AoE stun as well as doubling its damage if he resets its cooldown with Rewind and lands it twice. The issue is that it's very hard to lane compared to Inner Flame or other poke supports' abilities, and to obtain its full benefits he needs to manage to land it not just once but twice within a 3 second period. When successful he's very highly rewarded, but otherwise he's rather underwhelming.
He can make it much easier for himself to land a double Time Bomb by casting Time Warp on his intended target, but this has a rather short range which leaves him open to retaliation. This means that when facing weak lanes he's more likely to be able to walk up to cast Time Warp for easy double Time Bombs, but in harder matchups where he can't walk up to cast Time Warp without being punished he won't have anywhere near the same level of poke and overall lane presence, leaving a rather large gap between his highs and his lows in laning phase.
Following and finishing the mildly amusing trend of most mage supports being located towards the very end of the alphabet, Zyra is just as lane dominant as the other mage supports, providing very high lane presence with her poke and burst, though compared to other mage supports she sacrifices a little bit of poke to make up for her high CC in her AoE knockup on Stranglethorns, and her high DPS in Rampant Growth and Garden of Thorns .
Her poke is also significantly on the shorter range which leaves her slightly more vulnerable to low range engage supports, while in winning matchups not being as much of a problem against long range hook-based engage champions who need to path around minions to find her and leave themselves open to eating up one of her combos, but limiting her ability to poke in losing matchups where she has to stay far away from the minion wave and can't poke without also being at risk of getting engaged on.
However she's very strong in all-ins where she can get her full combo out thanks to the DPS she gets out of her plants, especially when buffed by Stranglethorns, and also her combined 2-3 seconds of CC that prevents the targets from escaping the DPS coming from her plants, making engaging on her a scary prospect if her enemies can't burst her down before she has time to get her full spell rotation out, as while they may very well be able to kill her there's also a good chance that with the help of her ADC she'll take 1 or 2 of them down with her.
Understanding How Two Bot Lanes Match Into Each Other
It's a complicated subject since there are some champion synergies that need to be accounted for, but generally a duo's strength will be the sum of their parts. So a high threat ADC with a high threat support would be a high threat bot lane, but a high threat ADC with a low threat support would be a medium threat bot lane, and a medium threat ADC with a high threat support would be a medium-high threat bot lane, somewhere in between; but of course it's all relative so sometimes a medium-high or even just a medium threat duo can be incredibly oppressive towards low-threat bot lanes, depending on the particular matchup.
Drafting Your Bot Lane
Drafting a low threat bot lane is one of the worst things you can do into a medium-high+ threat bot lane. If you have the time feel free to look over this VOD review, otherwise I'll summarise it for you: the matchup is Caitlyn-Bard vs Kai'Sa-Janna. Janna on her own is pretty middle of the pack/low threat on her own when it comes to trades, while Kai'Sa has the potential to deal a lot of damage in all-ins but is very low threat outside of all-ins. Meanwhile Caitlyn and Bard are both long range, trade heavy bot laners who suck at all-ins but are hard to engage on without engage spells like Death Sentence or Zenith Blade.
While Janna-Kai'Sa isn't a particularly bad bot lane into low-medium range trade-focused champions and there are worse bot lanes for dealing with all-ins too, they're awful into a trade-focused medium-high threat bot lane like Caitlyn-Bard as they lack the tools to deal with them, they can't win trades since they get outranged so hard so their only way to fight back is through all-ins, but while they would win an all-in if they could actually force one, neither of them actually has the tools to force said all-in against this matchup. Give Kai'Sa a Thresh instead and they could heavily threaten the Caitlyn-Bard lane and force them to play more respectfully, but instead her support is Janna, bringing their overall threat level down to a point where they pose no threat at all to the Caitlyn-Bard lane.
The result is Kai'Sa-Janna get their waves shoved in under tower repeatedly, and while they do get a few Rengar ganks to help them out, some counterganks and outplays from the opposing team leave them stuck in their complicated scenario, resulting in their tower falling at 9 minutes and being over 20 CS behind from all the CS lost to tower.
But the onslaught doesn't end there. Caitlyn-Bard rotates to top lane and Kai'Sa-Janna have to follow them since they stand a better chance of defending the 4 platings tower than top lane Kennen does 1v2. But 2 minutes later the top lane tower also falls, Caitlyn-Bard having now claimed two separate towers single handedly by the 12 minute mark.
They proceed to rotate mid lane and repeat the process there, and it all snowballs into Caitlyn-Bard's team claiming every non-inhibitor tower on the map by 16 minutes while their team hasn't even lost half the HP of a single tower. All because Kai'Sa-Janna drafted a bot lane that had no answers for a long range trade-heavy bot lane like Caitlyn-Bard.
How could this have been avoided? Either a change in the ADC or the support could have drastically altered the outcome of the lane:
Looking at Supports
Thresh would have provided a lot more pressure to scare Caitlyn-Bard away from permanently auto-attacking the tower and also could have potentially won them lane priority if neither Bard nor Cait could risk getting hooked for fear of dying.
Brand's harass would have provided enough pressure to stop them completely free-hitting the tower for fear of falling too low in HP, and possibly won over lane priority if Brand landed enough of his spells, especially given that his all-ins when landing Sear are pretty scary due to his burst, even before he has Pyroclasm.
Morgana wouldn't have won over lane priority but would've introduced the fear of getting binded and provided the ability to force an engage onto a snared target without fear of being immediately stunned by Cosmic Binding thanks to her Black Shield, again not allowing them to hit tower as freely as they did, while also providing far better gank assistance than Janna did.
Looking at ADCs
Draven would have manhandled anyone who dared to get into his range, Cosmic Binding be damned, since his spells give him the ability to engage just by walking up with high movement speed and briefly CC'ing his target with Stand Aside, Bard especially would have been particularly vulnerable to this while Caitlyn is a bit safer with 90 Caliber Net but also has to be afraid of being abused by Draven if she misses the slow.
Varus could have snared either opponent close to tower and used that as an opportunity to all-in at the very least getting free damage off, and also makes Caitlyn-Bard much more scared of ganks knowing that getting hit by Chain of Corruption would mark their death and minions offer no protection against it.
Tristana would've also had far better gank followup and also far more threat in all-ins while also having the means to engage herself, again demanding far more respect from Cait-Bard than they had to offer against the Kai'Sa.
What Does This Mean?
As you can see, neither Janna nor Kai'Sa in particular was the problem, nor are they necessarily a bad bot lane duo in general. But the world of bot lane matchups is a complicated one and, either because of having had to blind pick or intentionally drafting their duo into Caitlyn-Bard out of ignorance, their bot lane duo resulted in disaster that particular game. Replace Janna with most low threat supports and the same thing would've happened, replace Kai'Sa with most low-threat ADCs and the same thing would have happened.
I would hate to write a traditional matchups chapter for bot lane because it's never as simple as "Caitlyn beats Kai'Sa" or vice versa, it's highly dependent on the bot lanes as a whole. Reverse the supports and Caitlyn still would've won but probably not as one-sidedly, replace Janna with Nautilus or Thresh and Kai'Sa probably would've been favoured as suddenly they have the tools to capitalize on Caitlyn-Bard's weakness to all-ins.
SYNERGIES EXAMPLE: Lucian + Braum
Of course you also have to account for synergies between champions, but you also need to remember that synergies between champions also tend to be heavily overrated. The
first example that comes to mind is Lucian-Braum, their passives' interactions with each other are insane as Lucian's passive very quickly stacks Braum's passive, and this has given them the reputation of being a brutal bot lane matchup to face.
But Braum is one of the weakest laning supports in the game, and his synergy with Lucian doesn't change that. Out of all the supports in the game, Braum is Lucian's 3rd worst performing support in lane where he causes Lucian to fall 250+ gold behind by 15 minutes in the average game when he's a lane bully who should be ahead in lane, while Lucian paired with some of the high threat supports yields a 400-700 gold lead at 15 minutes for Lucian on average. In winrates they're also an awful duo because Lucian is one of the weakest ADCs at the time of writing this and Braum has been one of the weakest supports for a very long time when writing this too.
A bot lane doesn't necessarily have to shine at the same points, you can pair a strong laning support with a weak laning support, and despite sounding like they have counter-synergy it actually results in a medium-threat bot lane while also having medium-scaling, which you generally don't get from high threat ADCs/supports who tend to fall off. Despite having opposite focuses, the result is a happy compromise between those two focuses, and not necessarily a bad thing unless your team comp really needs a winning bot lane and the enemy bot has drafted an even stronger lane.
So Braum being a weak laning support while Lucian is a lane bully doesn't innately mean that they're a bad duo, each individual's strengths in theory are meant to cover up their weakness
while the reverse also applies and leaves them a perfectly viable but not overpowered option; but their weak tuning does make them a bad duo. They're both individually weak and their synergy doesn't make up for it. When you're playing Lucian, you'd rather have a strong support you have no synergy with than a weak support you have strong synergy with. If you're playing Braum the same thing applies, you'd rather have a strong ADC you have no synergy with than a weak ADC you have strong synergy with.
If they were both buffed to a point where they're strong in solo queue then they'd become a great bot lane, but as it stands they're one of the weakest bot lanes in the game, but remain heavily overrated year after year because people overlook their tuning when looking at their synergy, and forget that synergy isn't the only thing that matters, and in this case there's a bigger factor overriding their synergy.
SYNERGIES EXAMPLE: Twitch + Lulu
Another example is Twitch-Lulu, which especially with the rise in prominence of funneling has enlightened the world as to what a terrifying duo Twitch-Lulu can be. But when
you look at solo queue performance, Lulu isn't even Twitch's best support, even though Twitch is Lulu's best ADC (though not by a great margin over #2 or #3). She's consistently very close to the top, ranking from #2 to #4, but not on a single patch is she ever actually his best performing support, an honor which is split between Nami and Taric, slightly favoured towards Nami.
This is because while Lulu is the support which best enables Twitch in the mid-late game by massively boosting his DPS and also providing incredible protection from divers and assassins, she's also one of the weakest laning supports in the game and Twitch is also one of the weakest laning ADCs, which means if you were to just constantly pick them every game you'd very frequently find yourself in scenarios like the Kai'Sa-Janna from earlier where you're too weak to do anything and fall massively behind with no options to fight back.
Whereas Nami is also an excellent scaling support, and while she doesn't scale as well with Twitch as Lulu does, she makes up for it by being far better in lane, especially in those scenarios where you're facing Caitlyn-Bard or similar bot lanes, where Tidal Wave and Aqua Prison give her an excellent engage tool to allow Twitch to open up from stealth and burst down bot laners that just want to maintain their distance and force short trades, and also has heals to keep him healthy and in a position to force those fights rather than being too low to threaten an all-in.
Whereas Taric is probably just as weak in lane as Lulu if not more, but again has a much better engage tool especially paired with Ambush, and has an all around much better performance in all-ins after level 6. Then while his scaling with Twitch in particular isn't as good as Lulu's, his contribution to the team as a whole lategame is much better than what Lulu offers.
All these factors are mainly what lead to Nami and Taric on average performing better with Twitch than Lulu despite Lulu having far more synergy with him. There are definitely scenarios where Lulu is a better pick, for example if you're facing a low/low-medium threat bot lane like
Kai'Sa-Janna then bot lane is probably going to be a farm fest above all else so Lulu will perform much better than she would into stronger bot lanes, but again this example serves to show just how fluid the bot lane ecosystem is. X pick is not always going to be the best counter to Y pick, V pick is not always going to be the best pair for Z pick.
It's not commonly talked about and I believe it's also a very poorly understood subject even at the Challenger level, where even Challenger players sometimes think a Soraka-Twitch lane can beat a Tristana-Rakan lane by poking them down, like Tristana-Rakan doesn't have the ability to one-shot either of them on demand the moment they get in range to poke; while Soraka poking down Rakan would actually be a viable prospect if Rakan were paired with Kai'Sa, against Tristana trying to poke is just suicide.
Bot Lane Matchups & Duos Conclusion
It's impossible to discuss every single possible duo against every possible duo, so a lot of it is going to ride on your game knowledge and experience. The purpose of this chapter was to provide you with as much relevant game knowledge to understanding bot lane matchups/pairings as possible, and I hope it has done so. You will still require a lot of experience to perfectly understand how different duos will interact with each other while also accounting for how the different players perform, but unfortunately that's beyond what a guide can teach you. At the very least though I hope I've at least set you on the right path.
As soon as you've left the base at level 1 you have the option of grouping up with your team and invading the enemy jungle as 5 while fishing for free kills. This works best when your team has good level 1 CC, and Thresh is one of the best champions for this since he can take Death Sentence without being entirely useless in lane because of it.
It's not always smart to invade if the enemy team has a better level 1 team-fight than your team does (invading into a team that has Alistar is an infamously bad move that can go disastrously wrong), but especially at low Elo this rarely matters since enemies almost never stack as 5 in a single brush waiting for your team to facecheck, whereas at high Elo this is almost standard practice against a Thresh or a Blitzcrank since these champions are so good at invading that the invade is pretty predictable.
You'll just want to invade through the enemy bottom side jungle (where you're most likely to find an enemy champion), taking the route I'll show below for each side.
As soon as you run into any champion you'll want to cast Death Sentence on them. Most often they'll be distracted or alt tabbed and won't dodge, and then it's up to your team to qiuckly pile onto them and kill them before they can react. The more CC your team brings, the higher the chances of you getting a kill. At the very least you'll almost always burn a Flash if you find anyone.
Depending on how late the invade was, if you manage to kill the enemy jungler or one of the bot laners, 4 of you can stay at the enemy buff and leash it for your jungler as well as protect him/it from the enemy team, while your top laner recalls and goes to lane. The enemy team won't be able to contest it since they have one member in base, and if their jungler stays to try and contest they're just wasting they're time and risking their life if you manage to Death Sentence them again.
Once the camp is dead your jungler will go do his own thing and you, your ADC and your mid laner will all get into lane and play the game as normal, with the enemy jungler at a big disadvantage.
Assuming you're not coming back from an invade, at level 1 you'll want to take Flay because as mentioned previously it's your strongest level 1 spell. When trading against an enemy, before you even auto-attack them you'll just want to walk up and Flay them towards your minion wave, and then auto-attack them. This is to ensure that if/when they trade back they're going to take maximum possible minion damage, and because being able to auto-attack an enemy after Flaying them is guaranteed while being able to Flay them after auto-attacking is not.
If their bot lane has decidedly weaker level 1 all-in than yours, then this simple action will cause the target to take a lot of damage and if they're overextended enough, you can even Ignite to prevent a fully effective Heal from taking effect, and either go for the kill or force their Flash.
If you're laning with Death Sentence because you're coming back from an invade, don't waste your hook right as soon as you get into lane unless you know it's a guaranteed hit, since when it's on cooldown the enemy bot lane will know you're useless for the next 20 seconds as your auto-attacks will barely hurt and you won't have any spells basically until the next minion wave arrives either. Whereas the threat of having Death Sentence up is enough to cause them to play less aggressively since they don't want to get caught overextended by it.
You'll want to help your ADC shove the wave with auto-attacks, something Thresh is good at since he's ranged and his auto-attacks also do more damage than the average support's thanks to Flay. You'll also want to try and get last-hits for your Relic Shield, especially from melee minions since they give the most gold.
At level 2 you'll take Death Sentence and can look for a full all-in by engaging with Flay and going for a Death Sentence while they're slowed, as explained earlier. Ideally you'll want to hit 2 before the enemy bot lane, which is why it's important to shove with your ADC, and that way they'll be weaker than you and be squishier to increase your chances of picking up a kill.
Here's a clip of SKT T1 Wolf showing a perfectly played early laning on Thresh:
Take note of the following:
1) When he goes in to trade, he wastes no time with auto-attacks, he immediately Flays Janna towards him and then auto-attacks her, forcing her to have to back off rather than retaliate because of how much stronger Thresh's level 1 is. If he'd started off with an auto-attack however, Janna would have used Zephyr -> AA and walked away having out-traded him.
2) There is basically no downtime in his auto-attacking, if he's not auto-attacking a champion he's auto-attacking minions to help his ADC shove.
3) Once the second wave arrives, he stops trading entirely: This is the wave that determines who will hit level 2 first, and it's important that he focuses solely on helping his ADC shove so that they hit level 2 before the enemy bot lane.
4) It takes 3 melee minions from the second wave for bot lane to hit level 2. Notice how just before the last 2 minions are about to die, he already knows who's won the race to level 2, and starts walking forwards to engage before he's even level 2, reaching Xayah for a Flay just as he and Caitlyn hit level 2, and using his CC to prevent her from being able to kill the last minion to hit level 2 throughout the entire fight also even though the race to level 2 was incredibly tight.
5) As soon as the hook lands, he knows there's a chance a kill could happen, so he immediately Ignites her to reduce the healing from the inevitable Heal.
6) Though they got no kills, the enemy bot lane are now down 3 Summoner Spells and have completely lost control of the lane, to the point where even a jungle gank is likely to hurt more than help until their next recall minimum.
This is a perfect example of how to play the early levels with Thresh, and I recommend learning from this and striving to achieve this level of play in your own games, since it really wasn't that hard on a mechanical level.
At level 3 you'll be taking Dark Passage which can be handy either for aiding ganks or saving allies, but overall it won't change much in how you approach laning phase, so there's not much to talk about there that I haven't already mentioned in the Abilities chapter. At level 6 likewise nothing changes except you get even more kill potential, and you can look to abuse this at the fullest by following the tips in the Abilities chapter.
Against some bot lanes the approach of beginning trades by walking up to their face and using Flay isn't actually the greatest idea. Some supports like Zyra and Karma have enough range, damage and CC on their spells that can be very punishing for you to try and walk up to them and then you won't even be able to reach them. Thresh's laning is better against relatively low ranged supports like Lulu and Janna, who need to be in Thresh's range to do anything as much as he needs to be in their range.
Against mage supports you're probably going to be getting pushed in since they'll have better waveclear and better zoning, but you can still go aggressive in these lanes if you chance a Death Sentence onto either them or their carry and can all-in that way, even if just for a trade rather than a full all-in to lower their HP and force them to play more defensively, at which point it's easier to land more Death Sentences since you'll be able to walk past the minion line.
The entire time you're laning you'll want to make sure you have vision in the necessary spots in the river/jungle to make sure you're not being ganked, starting from around 3 minutes when a jungler might start looking to gank bot lane. You and your ADC should coordinate your trinket timers to have maximum uptime on the most important spots, and you should stock up on lots of Control Wards as soon as possible in order to have long-term vision on an easily-defendable spot as well as to control vision as the enemies won't be able to ward that spot.
If you're on blue side, you should place a Control Ward in the tri-brush, and a regular ward in the river brush (if the enemy bot lane has a Control Ward there, clearing it if possible), covering the two main paths from which you can be ganked.
If you're on red side, you need to do the same but in reverse: Control Ward in the river brush, regular ward in the tribrush.
This is because it's easier to defend your Control Wards when they're on your side of the map compared to when they're on the enemy's side, and if your jungler's coming for a gank they're most likely to do it from your side of the map and the gank is more likely to succeed if the enemy bot lane can't see the jungler coming until they're as nearby as possible. With Thresh specifically it also means your jungler can come in from those spots for you to throw a Dark Passage to them as you move to engage, which is slightly more effective than them coming through the lane from your tower, as they can get closer before you give the gank away to the enemies by throwing Dark Passage into fog of war.
Not exactly warding but kind of relevant to the subject, something that's also important to remember is the blast cone on the red side jungle next to the river. If you're playing on red side you'll need to clear it whenever it's up since it's very easy for the enemy jungler to gank you if they can get into your jungle and blast cone themselves over the wall, bypassing the visin you have in the river.
If you're on blue side however, you're on the reverse side of the situation and even if you find yourself in a situation where you could easily clear it, you should leave it up in case your jungler ever thinks to gank through it later on.
You'll also want to keep a Stealth Ward on the dragon pit at all times after you get your warding item to make sure that the enemy jungler can't sneak dragon, which will also serve as a deeper ward to grant even more vision and keep you safe from ganks. Should you ever want to do dragon with your jungler, you should place a Control Ward inside the pit so you can be sure the enemy team has no vision of the dragon and has very low chances of managing to steal it.
If you manage to take the enemy tower early on, if you're plat 1+ you should call to swap lanes with your top laner. This is a great move because if the enemy bot lane follows suit, you get to continue abusing them in a short lane where you have a tower nearby so you can't be as easily ganked as if you were to just try and keep pushing bot lane once you take the first tower.
If they don't lane swap with their top laner however, then he's stuck in a 1v2 lane and you should call your jungler and even mid laner if possible to come dive him 3/4v1 to immediately kill him as well as immediately get another free tower in response to the enemy bot lane's refusal to counter the lane swap.
In lower Elos however I never bother lane swapping and wouldn't recommend it since your team will probably have no clue what to do and the swap might end up doing more harm than good. In these situations your best bet is to push in bot as far as possible with your ADC, then quickly rotate mid to pressure the tower 3v1 while the enemy bot lane has a long distance to push the minion waves back into your tower before your ADC has to go back down to farm up the wave, and then you rinse and repeat.
You should be able to eventually wear down the enemy tower until it goes down, sooner or later depending on who your ADC is and how much waveclear the enemy mid laner has; or if you can get a good gank off on the enemy mid laner you can probably just get the tower down in 1 push.
After laning phase is over you'll want to group with your team and place vision around the next objective, as well as deny vision wherever possible with Control Wards and Oracle Lens. You'll want to take dragons whenever they're up, and siege towers together with your team, as well as try and force fights if you know you can win them.
If you have Turbo Chemtank, you can look to engage a fight by using the active and running up to a carry, Flaying them backwards and then trying to hit them with Death Sentence. It's risky, and you can get blown up if you do it in the wrong situation where the enemy team is easily in position to defend their carry as you charge towards them, but it's also the most reliable way of finding an engage on a carry that's out of position.
If this isn't an option, you could always try fishing for Death Sentences and try and catch out enemy carries like that, especially effective either when your team is sieging an enemy tower or the enemy team is sieging yours, where the carries have to walk up either to defend or to hit the tower.
Remember also to try and play around vision whenever possible: try to throw hooks from places where you know the enemy team has no vision, since if they can't see you casting your hook it's extremely hard to react to it once it comes into vision.
If you ever land a hook onto a carry, if you're close enough you should cast The Box then Flay the target into one of the walls. If you're not close enough, you need to evaluate whether going in on the hook is worth it; sometimes it can lead to a kill, but sometimes the target can just Flash out of The Box unharmed and you just end up killing yourself and engaging a bad fight for your team. Remember that hitting a hook doesn't always mean that the target is as good as dead, and judge for yourself what hooks are worth going balls deep for and which aren't.
Once in a team-fight, whether it's one initiated through a good hook or from your team-mates, your role is to sit back and protect your own carries from the enemy team. To do this you have two great peeling tools in Flay and Death Sentence, both of which can be used to drag attackers away from your carry, and even The Box can heavily impede their efforts of getting onto their target. You can also use Dark Passage to get your ADC to safety in situations where they're being dived on and you're a fair distance away from their attacker.
It's also very important that you remember to use your item actives whenever necessary, since so much power of supports is concentrated into the item actives that they buy.
That's it for my Thresh guide. I hope you found this helpful and learn to play Thresh as well as you want to.
Special thanks to Hopper for banners and coding.