When ranked play started for Riot Games’ new game mode, Teamfight Tactics, there was one champion that ruled the meta. Given the right items, Volibear could slap his ultimate across an entire enemy team and win games by himself.
But he’s pretty strong on Summoner’s Rift, too. He’s not quite the same champion: Rather than serving as the main damage dealer, professional teams are trying him as a support tank.
So is Volibear support a hidden OP champion or are supports like Kim “Life” Jeong-min just bored? After digging into the tape, we were pretty underwhelmed. Volibear support hasn’t been great in pro play, but it might be decent in solo queue.
The first game in a major league that Volibear appeared in this year was when Gen.G support Life locked him in a few weeks ago against Griffin. Usually it’s Griffin who pull out weird bot lane picks—remember Teemo? But this time, Life had enough and decided to counter Griffin’s very boring Kai’Sa and Nautilus duo lane with some spice.
The casters were joking about the pick when the players loaded onto the Rift. “That looks like a rank three Volibear,” Max “Atlus” Anderson joked, referring to how strong the champion is in TFT. “The build is double Rapidfire Cannon into Rageblade,” Chris “PapaSmithy” Smith riffed back.
Of course, Life didn’t build those items. He started with a Relic Shield and the Aftershock rune for tankiness. He and Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk let themselves get pushed in, allowing jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho to show up. A simple flash-flip by Life led to an easy first blood.
But that didn’t lead to a material advantage for Gen.G in the early game. Later on, many of the flips Life was able to pull off were set up first by the other forms of long-range engage on this team, including Camille, Sejuani, Lux, and even the Kalista ultimate from Ruler.
In a more recent LCK match between Damwon and Sandbox, Damwon tried the Volibear tech to solve their deficiency in the bot lane. It didn’t really work, though. The Ezreal and Volibear duo gave up a ton of pressure in the lane phase and Sandbox kept walking out of Damwon support Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee’s flash engage attempts.
BeryL did set up first blood by punishing a Sandbox invade into his blue side jungle. But after Damwon surged ahead in kills, BeryL gave it all back through some mistimed engages. Again, Damwon neglected to draft much engage alongside the Volibear—Renekton doesn’t really count in that regard—which meant he didn’t get his pick of carries to throw back into the team.
Of course, the game really turned when Sandbox support Cho “Joker” Jae-eup stole Baron with a Yuumi Q. That’s just unlucky and wasn’t really on the Volibear.
But as ahead as Damwon were at that point, it didn’t feel like they were necessarily in a position to close, either. Sandbox didn’t accomplish that much with the Baron buff, but another failed engage by BeryL is exactly what they needed to break the Damwon base.
Running it down
A look at the other Volibears around the world returns a win rate that’s just 31 percent this summer. He’s a far cry from the oppressive champion so many TFT players got familiar with.
So why pick him at all? Well, because he’s an extremely easy-to-play tank. And if we know anything about Korean League of Legends, it’s that they love their tanks. The most common build has been the Relic Shield line into first item Righteous Glory. The build gets more flexible after that, but Locket of the Iron Solari has been the most popular item to follow.
With Righteous Glory and Aftershock, his job is literally to run it down. That’s as simple as it gets. And if you’re curious why pros with great mechanics want a champion that runs it down, well, we don’t really have the answer to that.
But in solo queue? Running it down is the name of the game. And if your teammates are kind enough to draft some long-range engage, it just might work. Just like Volibear and Ashe are a great combo in TFT, the Ashe arrow definitely sets up Voli’s flip on Summoner’s Rift. So if you’re down to clown and love running at people, give Voli support a try.