In the latest patch we saw Zeke’s Harbinger come to Summoner’s Rift in an attempt to balance out the support auras. The addition of Harbinger has come with the removal of its predecessor Zeke’s Herald, a long overdue change. Herald was always awkward to use as a support in solo queue because its stats had a hard time complementing each other while Harbinger looks to be far more rewarding for both the supports who build it and the teammates who synergize with it.
To get a full understanding of how strong each item is we will compare their build paths, stats and uses starting with Herald. Herald, from start to finish, is an incredibly awkward item to fit into a support’s arsenal as it builds from irrelevant stats and has a large recipe cost at 2450. Vampiric Scepter is a fairly useless item as you should never ever build AD on supports. Despite a nice bit of HP from Kindlegem, you end up sitting on 1600 gold that could be used much more efficiently elsewhere. Once completed, Herald’s stats are 250 health, 20% cool down reduction and an aura that consists of giving yourself and nearby allied champions 20 AD with 10% life steal. The health and CDR from Herald are both really nice for supports. The health gives you better chances of surviving damage and the CDR allows you to throw out more spells and peel more. The item’s aura is where it loses steam: This aura, granting lifesteal and AD, is really only good for marksman and bruiser champions. It leaves mages and other magic damage dealing champions in the dust since they don’t tend to auto at all in fights. This negates the value of both the AD and sustain offered from Herald in an AP heavy meta.
Another massive problem with Zeke’s Herald is its scaling since from the second it is built to when you finally group as five, the item never reaches a specific point of power where it is useful. In lane, the stats are inefficient for the cost and when grouped there are too many allies who can’t make use of the stats. The only reason for it to exist is to aid attack damage poke compositions by giving that extra 20 AD; although in a long, drawn-out team fight there might be use for the extra sustain from the 10% life steal. Unfortunately, by late game most champs will not be using auto attacks to clear waves but rather their spell rolls. Imagine Syndra at 35 minutes trying to clear a wave of minions pushing down mid lane with only her auto attacks plus a support’s Zeke’s Herald. In what meta will players solely rely on auto attacks for wave clear? Overall Herald just had such a hard time keeping all of its stats relevant compared to something like Locket of the Iron Solari.
Honestly, I think Harbinger just look super good even before comparing it to its predecessor. Harbinger builds from Glacial Shroud, two Amplifying Tomes and 480 gold. The build path is slightly less awkward than Herald because the Amplifying Tomes are much more useful on a support mage than attack damage on a tank support. The stats themselves on a completed Harbinger are pretty poor because 250 Mana, 35 Armor, 50 AP and 10% CDR for 2300 is pretty low. Most of the stats come from Glacial Shroud which is only 950 gold and there isn’t usually room for two Amplifying Tomes unless the lane snowballs early. The early AP is nice for supports like Morgana and Karma but once completed the item only gives 10 ability power more which is mediocre. Harbinger’s real power is in its passive Conduit. You bind with an allied champion and give them a passive that charges to 100 based off of movement, auto attacking and spell casting and once it reaches 100 charges it increases you and your allies’ ability power by 20% and critical strike by 50% for six seconds.
We finally have a support item that truly rewards you for going on an offensive playstyle. The amount of critical strike you give to your marksman is more than Phantom Dancer (+35%) and almost more than Infinity Edge plus Phantom Dancer combined (+55%). This also gives your marksman more breathing room in his build late game. Instead of double Phantom Dancer lane game they can look for another life steal item or a defensive item. This item does not even stop there. That 20% increase on ability power makes binding with mages just as powerful; for example, maybe your marksman is early game focused like Graves and you have a mage who is more useful later like Azir or Viktor. You can bind them later in the game when they reach their power spike. The 20% increase on AP late game is so much that you can turn fights with that sudden burst of power. The one drawback of this item is that you are going to be squishy so you have to keep vision up and know how to position well enough that you won’t die immediately if a fight breaks out. You also have to play around the burst of power a bit kind of like Gnar bar in a way. The key to a successful Harbinger play is landing as much poke as you can then binding Harbinger to your carry for a quick all-in.
Where does Harbinger sit in League of Legends? Harbinger will more than likely be fine in solo queue because early aggression and snowballing are pretty common. Harbinger is a medium risk, high reward item that looks to make champs that are snowballing turn into avalanches. Harbinger in competitive player can turn out differently though, I think teams that really like early aggression like Impulse or Fnatic could make strong use out of Harbinger since they are always looking for that fight or objective to pull them ahead. On the other hand, items like Locket and Crucible are both still useful and fit in with any composition. It might be that Harbinger will stay mostly situational but not situational enough to leave it out of play. The more passive/reactive teams will probably still favor Locket and Crucible because Harbinger is that item that rewards you for fighting so teams that rather wait won’t get efficient use out of it. In the end it is up to the teams to decide how much they value the item. Hopefully teams will experiment with this item because it does look really strong on paper.
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