For almost a year now, professional League of Legends teams have been trying to break the bot lane meta.
The latest craze is a double-support bot lane. TSM Academy pulled out a Sona-Taric bot lane a couple weeks ago in the LCS Academy playoffs. But that was just Academy—no big deal, right?
Well, in this weekend’s LCS semifinals—you know, matches that matter—both Cloud9 and Team Liquid busted out the Sona-Taric combo. And both teams dominated with it, prompting tweets like this from Riot employees:
So how broken is this combination, and how on Earth do you beat it?
Why it’s broken
Yes, the Sona-Taric combo is busted. After Cloud9 and Liquid won their games handily, their opponents, TSM and Flyquest, respectively, were forced to acknowledge how OP the two champions are together. Both teams elected to just ban Taric for the rest of the series.
But as for why it’s broken, well just look at a couple graphs from League stats site Champion.gg:
These are solo queue stats from Platinum Elo and above in North America. So they’re not reflective of what pros take on stage. There are a number of champions—Ryze, for instance—whose winrates in solo queue don’t accurately reflect their abilities in the hands of a pro player.
But what these numbers do tell us is that both champions are, independently, extremely strong. Sona could probably have used a nerf anyway with her sky-high winrate and a playrate that’s creeped above four percent. Taric isn’t quite as strong, but he might scale into games even harder than Sona. In fact, that scaling curve looks a lot like Kayle’s does right now.
It’s easy to tell why Sona’s strong—she puts out an extremely high level of damage for an enchanter support. Her passive and Q let her chunk enemies while maintaining lane control, a weakness of the Frostmancy Ezreal strategy. And then there’s the healing: Both Sona and Taric have healing so even if they take a bad trade, Sona pops movement speed and they both heal up.
And that’s just the lane phase. As the graphs above show, this comp gets even crazier in the late game. You would think that lacking sustained damage or siege from the ADC role would hurt in the late game, but the team just needs to take Baron to fix that. And good luck trying to run into a Sona-Taric comp during the Baron dance—you’d be walking right into a pile of stuns, Taric’s invulnerability, and all of that sustain.
So how do you beat it?
The two games played in the LCS playoffs made this combination look like absolute gangbusters. But before we get into how to defeat it, we have to point out the mistakes made by both TSM and FlyQuest.
TSM should have been ready for this strat—their own Academy team brought it to North America. Before that, one of the first international iterations was from a Turkish team, and TSM have a Turkish top laner. It wouldn’t be surprising if Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik was the reason TSM picked up on the strat so fast.
TSM messed up by answering Cloud9’s comp with a jungle Gragas, which made some sense: His ult can knock people out of the Taric ult. But that’s extremely hard to execute and ignores the basic weakness of the two support champs. Gragas has little priority in the early game and for Sona-Taric, you need to win early.
Remember those damage graphs? They get ridiculous late-game. But at early levels when they don’t have all their abilities, they can absolutely be deleted, especially by in-your-face kill-oriented bot lanes.
TSM compounded their mistakes by drafting Vayne-Lulu, a lane that doesn’t have kill priority early. FlyQuest at least tried to do stuff with a jungle Rek’Sai who has good tempo and a support Galio who can wreck two squishy supports with his taunt. But they got caught level one, blew a bunch of flashes, and made it nigh impossible for the Rek’Sai to head bot lane.
Beyond lane phase, one criticism that has been leveled from time to time at Sona-Taric is the lack of sustained damage in teamfights. This isn’t really an advantage, though, considering they spike at the late moments in the game when teamfighting is necessary. And it’s relatively simple to draft DPS at another position with an AD top or mid. Just because C9 and Liquid didn’t do that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
If you do want to have a chance in teamfights against Sona-Taric and weren’t able to shut them down with an aggressive bot lane, you have a few options. The easiest is to burst them down before Taric can ult. Think of someone like LeBlanc, not the Zoe that was picked by FlyQuest. Zoe’s poke just doesn’t stick with that much healing.
The other option is a more traditional teamfighting comp with a tank soaking damage. If your tank can get in the enemy team’s face and force cooldowns without dying, that gives your own ranged marksman a chance to free hit. Of course, you need to execute teamfights better, and in both matchups where this combination was played in the LCS playoffs, it was chosen by the team with better teamfighting chops.
The important thing to note is that TSM and FlyQuest had opportunities to beat Sona-Taric, but both teams made far too many mistakes for that to happen.
Does it need to be nerfed?
So is the combo so good that it needs to be nerfed? The short answer is “yes.” The long answer is, as usual, more nuanced.
Like we mentioned earlier, Sona probably deserves a standalone nerf. Her winrate is far above that of other enchanter supports, even the relatively simple-to-play Janna. And this is true in multiple regions: In Korean Diamond, she’s winning just under 55 percent of games right now on a pretty high playrate.
Taric doesn’t need much changing himself. The combination so far has only proven good together because he’s one of few supports with healing that also takes Relic Shield—he’s the one that will be farming the first several waves. But we believe the main problem is Sona.
But even before this combo is nerfed, teams should be able to find a way around it. Banning is a rough fix, but as we mention above, there are common, in-meta alternatives to playing against this duo. After weeks of hidden practice, it’s not surprising that Liquid and C9 found something different that worked. It is, however, surprising how unprepared TSM and FlyQuest looked against it.