The support role in League of Legends can often be a thankless job. A good support can go by relatively unnoticed during the game, but playing poorly gets you ruthlessly flamed.
The types of supports in League can be split into three categories: Enchanters, engagers, and poke supports. While there are some champions who crossover into multiple categories, it’s a pretty safe golden triangle to go by.
Enchanter supports, like Soraka or Nami, focus on keeping the bot lane carry alive through the laning phase with heals and shields. Enchanter supports usually go well into poke supports because they can out sustain the poke, but struggle into engagers due to a lack of mobility and relative squishiness.
Engage supports, like Alistar or Leona, look to all-in the enemy bot lane during the laning phase with crowd control and high early game damage. They can capitalize on enchanters during the laning phase because of their lack of poke, but can’t deal with poke supports effectively as they whittle down your health before you can even think about engaging.
Poke supports, like Zyra or Brand, succeed by annoying the enemy laners as much as possible with long-range abilities, forcing them to waste their potions or heals. If an enemy gets greedy, they also have a fair amount of burst in their kits to delete them from Summoner’s Rift. Because of this, they can deal with engage supports, but enchanters can usually out sustain a poke support’s mana pool, rendering their poke ineffective.
With this in mind, let’s break down the top five supports for League’s Patch 11.1.
- Strong sustain
- Lots of crowd control
- Exceptional teamfighter
- High mana costs
Maokai is a great tanky support who provides a lot of crowd control and is useful even without his usual tank items. He can lock down champions for long periods of time, giving your teammates more than enough time to kill them.
He’s quite simple to pick up and can also be fun to play due to how his abilities work. He has a great laning phase with the ability to zone out enemies from the bushes. Though he can be mana hungry, that is fixed when you get your Imperial Mandate Mythic item.
The Resolve primary rune page is the best on support Maokai. It grants you access to the Aftershock keystone, which makes you unkillable for a couple of seconds when you engage. On top of that, there are other useful runes such as Font of Life to provide additional sustain to your carry, Second Wind to keep you topped up, and Overgrowth to make you harder to kill the longer the game goes.
The secondary rune page taken is Inspiration for Biscuit Delivery and Cosmic Insight. The first one will give you additional sustain and fix some mana issues, while the second one will allow you to activate your items more often.
Maokai’s skill priority is R>E>Q>W. Maxing E is a priority due to the poke it provides. You can spam the ability in bushes so that you get the increased damage effect. A couple of saplings and the enemy will be forced to back. Q is maxed second for the area-of-effect crowd control and W is maxed last for the single-oriented crowd control.
Your goal as a tanky support is to be the frontline for your team. You have a lot of lockdown in your kit, which should aid you in your mission of snowballing your ADC. Pre-level six, you can flash in with W and follow up with a Q to allow your carry to easily secure a kill if the enemy is low enough. After level six, you can initiate with your ultimate then follow up with your basic combo.
In teamfights, think about which carry is stronger, if the enemy team has the better carry, focus on locking them down. If your team has the better carry, then peel for them instead. Adapt your playstyle to your team’s needs and you’ll be successful in achieving victories.
- Great initiator
- Innate tankiness
- Lots of crowd control in her kit
- Relies on follow-up from teammates
- No get-out abilities once engaged
Leona is the epitome of an all-in champion. Once you’re in, you can’t back out. You get dragged into the fray with her Zenith Blade and if it was a bad engage, you’ll pay the price. But her presence is terrifying and her crowd control gives you an opportunity to keep enemies at a safe distance from the carry. Leona is the kind of support that can play the lane both aggressively and defensively. Her mere presence in the lane can force enemy laners into playing safer.
Aftershock is the go-to rune for tank supports, especially those who have no way of getting out. Once you go in, you need to commit to your plays. The amount of CC you have should keep a target locked down and allow your team to burst it down. Font of Life will grant some additional health to your allies, especially your ADC during laning phase, while Bone Plating combined with Overgrowth will make you difficult to kill for the first couple of seconds of your engage. The Inspiration secondary helps you have some extra sustain from biscuits and less cooldown on your abilities and summoners.
Leona’s skill priority is the following: R>W>E>Q. Her W is one of the most powerful basic abilities a tank could want. It grants her damage reduction, armor, magic resist, and has some decent damage for the laning phase as well. Maxing E second will allow you to have your engage tool on a lower cooldown. You max Q last since it doesn’t reduce its cooldown with levels. It only increases damage, which Leona doesn’t lack at all.
Try to understand your matchup. If it’s defensive, try to stay in between your ADC and the enemy support and ADC to allow them to farm up safely. If it’s an aggressive matchup, try to look for ways to catch them off guard and engage on them when they go for last hits.
You should aim to get to level six as soon as possible and look for ways to help your jungler gank other lanes or set up a gank in the bottom lane to secure a drake. In teamfights, either be the initiator if required or peel for your carries by sitting behind and locking down divers.
- Well-rounded kit
- Lantern, which acts as an engage or escape tool for teammates
- Can deny dashes with properly timed flays
- Flexible buildpath
- No escape ability
Thresh will always be one of the best supports in League. He’s never really out of the meta since his Death Sentence hook can change the flow of a game immediately. His early laning damage with Flay makes trading with him almost impossible, while he can bail out his allies with a well-timed lantern.
He can have a huge impact across the map once he gets Boots of Mobility and any of the newly released Mythic items. You benefit from most of them so it’s a matter of game state to see which item is better for you.
The Resolve tree is core on Thresh because it makes you tankier, which is crucial for any melee support. Aftershock gives you additional armor and magic resist when you throw some crowd control on an enemy which you have plenty in your kit.
As with every melee support, you’re going to have issues with taking towers, but Demolish is here to help you. It allows you to get some early tower plates if you get close to the enemy tower and give some additional income to your ADC. Bone Plating alongside Overgrowth’s goals give you additional health as the game goes longer and make you harder to kill by assassins and during the laning phase, where you are vulnerable.
The Inspiration tree gives some additional early sustain via the Biscuit Delivery rune and the additional item and summoner spell haste is always welcome. You’ll be able to benefit from the new items more often alongside your summoner spell as well.
Thresh’s skill priority is: R>Q>E>W. The reduced cooldown on Q will allow you to pick off targets more often or keep a tank target locked down for a longer period. The E max over W will grant you additional damage and more opportunities to deny dashes or bring targets closer for your teammates to damage.
Thresh is a melee support who excels at locking targets down and bringing his jungler from the fog of war for a surprise gank or saving his carry from a dive with a well-timed lantern. His goal is to engage most of the time, but in teamfights, you should analyze if it’s a good idea to engage or be the peel your carries need. A well-timed ult alongside Flay and hook will allow your carries to survive longer and deal the damage you need to win the teamfight.
Always look to roam and help your top and mid laners to ensure they snowball and have enough support from you to allow them to carry the game. Remember to communicate your game plan with your jungler to ensure that you’re on the same page, it will help you win more games in the long-run.
- Great initiator
- Strong AoE control (slow/stun)
- Has disengage tool via his Q
- High mana costs
Grabs, pulls, and hooks allow for zone and lane control. Pair that with Nautilus’ sustain and crowd control and you have a support that can be played against almost any matchup. Nautilus presents great pressure in lane while at the same time being easy to play. If you’re looking to peel for your ADC and take engages upon yourself, Nautilus is a great choice.
The Resolve primary tree is the core for tanky engage supports. Aftershock is the best keystone since it lets you absorb more damage in the first couple of seconds after an engage. Shield Bash allows you to have a bit more pressure during laning phase alongside Bone Plating, while Unflinching will provide you additional Tenacity and Slow Resist.
The Inspiration secondary is designed to give you more sustain in lane and increase your mana cap since your mana costs are quite high. Additionally, the increased summoner spell and item haste will allow you to engage more often.
Nautilus’s skill priority is the following: R>Q>W>E. The reduced CD on your hook will allow you to engage or escape a fight more often. The W increase will make you tankiner. E max is last since the increased damage isn’t required for a support. If you were to play Nautilus mid, E max would be a priority to clear waves. In the bottom lane, your role is to protect your ADC and force fights. Therefore, the additional damage on E isn’t as valuable as the reduced CD on hook or the increased health pool from W.
Look for ways to engage on the enemy laners when they want to go for a last-hit on cannon minions. They’ll be focused on getting it and might not be prepared for you to engage. Try to use Shield Bash for additional burst damage at the beginning of the fight. You can dominate the laning phase by engaging often on the enemy laners.
In teamfights, look for ways to catch the carries off guard. Coordinate with your teammates and lock them down with your Q, auto, ultimate combo. Most squishy champions won’t survive this CC chain if properly executed. Although playing aggressively and looking for picks is your primary role, if your carries are having issues with the enemy divers, try to sit back and peel for them instead. While engaging and providing a lot of crowd control for your team is important, remember to also provide good vision coverage to ensure that your teammates don’t get caught out. Around the most important objectives, such as Baron or dragons, keep up a vision ward to see if the enemy wants to take this objective so that you can collapse on them instead.
- Strong crowd control
- Very tanky due to ultimate
- High mana costs
- No disengage
Alistar has become one of the most powerful supports recently thanks to his crowd control and innate tankiness due to his ultimate. He is a great blind-pick champion since he benefits from many of the new Mythic items and can withstand most laners in the current meta.
With a lot of support players prioritizing Leona, Nautilus, and Blitzcrank in their games, Alistar can be a great counterpick to help out your carry in the bottom lane by having a great answer when the enemies attempt to engage. You can easily stop them in their tracks and give enough time for your carry to walk to a safe position.
The Resolve primary tree is the core for tanky engage supports. You want to go for Aftershock for the additional tankiness it provides to ensure that you survive for long enough for your team to back you up. Demolish is taken to help you take the tower plates to snowball, Conditioning for its additional armor and magic resist in the later stages of the game, and Overgrowth to increase your overall health pool.
The Inspiration secondary is designed to give you access to Hexflash when your Flash is on cooldown to be able to engage from unconventional angles, while Cosmic Insight will give you access to your summoner spells and items more often.
Alistar’s skill priority is the R>Q>W>E. Q is maxed first since it’s the most impactful ability in your kit, affecting multiple enemies by knocking them up more often. W is maxed second since it’s the enabler of your W-Q combo, and the reduced cooldown is needed to land your Q. E is maxed last since it’s impact is delayed and predictable, allowing enemies to escape easily.
Alistar is one of the most powerful tanky champions in the game and can provide a lot of utility to his team even without any items. His ultimate allows you to survive for long periods of time against most champions who don’t have a source of true damage available to them. Early on, aim to land W-Q combos on the opposing bottom lane to get favorable trades. Before you engage, remember that you don’t have a disengage tool. If you commit to such trades, make sure your health pool allows you to do this.
As the game progresses, aim to roam to other lanes while putting vision around the map to give your allies ways to see if any enemies are looking for a gank. Look to engage on overextended opponents to get kills and help your team snowball. Always keep a vision ward in your inventory to ensure that you can take objectives any time you want by denying your opponents’ vision.