Supports, new and improved
A condensed discussion of League of Legends itself
At its core, LoL is about making plays, especially in the early and middle parts of the game. In the late laning phase and early midgame phase, there's a lot of roaming and aggressive warding going on to try to make action happen. People are trying to get dragons, steal enemy buffs, push down turrets, and pick enemy players off. The team that does this the best in these key moments usually goes on to win the rest of the midgame and lategame.
In this time frame, supports are incredibly impactful. As long as they stay ahead on levels and gold, supports are now greater than an equal partner in any game situation. Before, supports were small contributors to the early part of a fight, and if played well, they would create advantages that would snowball that fight to a victory. Now, supports can continue to cause damage and disruption throughout the fight.
Frequently, a support is simply too durable to be the target of attacks by the enemy team. A Taric or Leona is virtually unbreakable, and even a tanky Lulu is not a choice target. The enemy team would be better off ignoring these characters, but because of the constant disruption created by supports, it's difficult to do so. This lets a team's big damage continue to deal more big damage.
Before, supports' disruption was somewhat balanced by their poor defense. Lulu could not just run into your team, turn everyone into a squirrel, and slow everyone. Now she's a lot harder to get rid of. In the alternative, the support can just be a huge damage threat. Support Annie deals probably 75% of the damage of a team midlane mage. Compressing her damage (or another nuking support like Zyra) with other damage dealers can blow up virtually anyone now, probably without using up too many team resources. It's quite possible that between Annie and her jungler, they can pick someone off reliably without using either character's ultimate.
New supports in practice
As before, supports still support the bottom lane marksmen/ADCs during the early game. They are still the principal damage dealers in the lane until their partners get items. This is even more true now, since supports can get damage items or proc items like Sheen to hit even harder than before. Now more than ever, supports rule the lane. This is why Soraka more or less sucks now; she can't win her lane in most cases. This is true even with the enormous nerfs to her stalemate playstyle.
Increasingly, ADC players are dependent on the support to control the lane and make the lane safe to last-hit. My most recent support game I played as Zyra and locked the enemy ADC out from farming for much of the early game. The enemy support, likewise, tried to get around me and to my ADC partner, a task at which she was somewhat successful, though we still ended up 20 or so CS ahead by the end of the laning phase. I want to emphasize just how useless the ADCs felt in that game. The big plays in bottom lane were made by supports and junglers only, and the majority of the kills were on the supports while the ADCs fled in terror.
As a bit of an aside, I do want to mention that overall, jungling has felt OK for me lately, but I really attribute this to the enemy team not warding enough. Ganking bottom lane is certainly a lot easier, including diving under enemy turrets. It's definitely a different game.
Partnering up with the right person
The new support meta is also why I think the marksman meta is what it is right now. We're seeing a lot of Lucian, Jinx, and Sivir. Sivir is probably somewhat due to her recent semi-rework, but the others are for a reason. All three deal more than average burst damage and follow up on support opportunities well. Jinx is even better since she can set up her support with either Zap! or Flame Chompers and wombo combo from anywhere in lane
, not at all like the old Vayne combos that required the enemy to be near a wall.
In fact, the emergence of the current marksman meta is probably at least due in part to Vayne's nerfs. The dip in Corki and Ezreal usage is almost entirely due to the support meta changes; Ezreal didn't change at all from S3, and Corki, despite a pretty big change to Phosphorous Bomb, is still Corki and still a big threat.
It's a bit amusing to me that the most-played ADCs right now are, with one exception, the ones most like supports. Unfortunately, Graves is still kind of undervalued, but I think he's stronger overall than he was in S3. He definitely works better with supports, but I think that at least part of the problem is that Lucian is really powerful and fills a similar niche.
I really think that the support position has solidified to be in a much better spot than in previous seasons. I don't really like how Season 4 is turning out just due to the radical vision changes, but the change to supports is one big step towards making the game simultaneously more active and allowing support players experience a real endgame fantasy.
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