Predicting the Meta for Worlds: Support
Supports play a wide variety of champions with the largest diversity along with top laners. They can fill many roles to round out a team comp, but the top tier picks are versatile and can do all jobs well. Support champions need to fill at least one of these roles:
- Utility (shields, speed boosts, CC, etc.)
- Sustain (healing)
I believe there are two champions that stand out above the rest: Alistar and Braum. These champions are the most consistently picked or banned champions for the support position for the second half of the summer split into the playoffs and regional qualifier. The reason these two thrive is that they’re strong at almost everything you could ask for in a support with no major weaknesses.
Alistar provides an immense amount of CC and is the tankiest support option available. His ultimate lets him tank even better than top laners for its duration and makes front-lining and tower diving a breeze. His gap close and knock-up combo is referred to as a mini-Malphite ult and is un-cleanseable. This knock up is one of the best initiations in the game and his tanky presence afterwards lets Alistar dive in without retribution. The combo or simply his W also provides good disengage. In the early game, Alistar even brings a bit of sustain through healing, but its effects diminish as the game progresses. He is a great roamer that can gank other lanes with the jungler. His laning phase is decent, but can struggle against ranged supports. He’s a great roamer for ganks since his CC is so powerful and he tower dives extremely well. His weaknesses are that he’s melee so its hard to push towers unless in a lane swap scenario and it weakens his laning phase a bit. Without his ult, Alistar isn’t that tanky and getting caught out while roaming can prove disastrous; either you lose your ult to escape or just die. Forcing fights while his ult is on cooldown can be one way to turn the tide in your favor. The speed of his W skill was also changed a few patches ago, so it’s a bit easier to flash out of his combo now, but this is a very minor difference.
Braum has risen to be the top support pick along with the long reigning Alistar. Patch 5.12 increased the damage and lowered the mana cost of his Q, but patch 5.18 reverted those mana costs. Not much has changed with Braum, but the meta shifts have given rise for his flexible kit. Much like Alistar, Braum is great at multiple roles within the support position, but is slightly more defensive oriented than Alistar. While Alistar is great at engaging and decent at disengage, Braum is the other side of the coin – good at disengage and decent at engage. This is simply due to the difficulty landing his ult where a defensive use makes it easier to land since the enemies are closer. Braum’s Q and passive are his main tools for harass and allows his teammates to chase a target. Its important to note that his passive cannot be cleansed; the slow or the stun can be, but the counter of procs cannot, making any enemy hit by Q or his auto-attacks in danger of getting caught out. Braum’s W gives him a bit of mobility which support champions as a whole lack, so having a small dash helps a lot. Braum’s shield Unbreakable is also one of the strongest abilities in all of LoL. Its essentially a moving Yasuo windwall. It blocks damage from poke, can stop an AP mage’s burst, prevents ADCs from targeting the team, prevent enemy engage tools, stop CCing from landing on teammates, the list goes on… This shield is the main reason why Braum has become a top pick. Its great in a siege situation either offensively or defensively, it prevents poke damage when teams are in a standoff fighting over objectives, and it can force an enemy ADC to only target Braum or waste their positioning skills to get around his shield. The versatility and overall strength of the shield cannot be emphasized enough. While an overall defensive champion, he does have some offensive capabilities. His Q allows his team to chase down a target and his ult can be a situational engage tool. For examples watch the CLG vs TSM Summer playoff finals where Aphromoo catches out Bjergsen’s Orianna with Braum’s ult to start a fight setting up ZionSpartan’s Yasuo ult. He’s a better laner than Alistar with his Q and E. He’s also a decent roamer, but is better at counter-ganking. Also like Alistar, he can be exposed while roaming to ward. He’s naturally tankier than Alistar though, not being dependent on an ultimate. His only weakness is much like Alistar, he’s melee so he cannot push towers. His CC isn’t reliable, but his defensive prowess more than makes up for it.
The remaining supports are all still good picks, but less versatile or not quite as strong as the two above. I believe engage supports with an aggressive playstyle will be the most popular for Worlds. Juggernauts from the top lane don’t have any engage tools to start a fight and the tanky jungle picks don’t have reliable engage either. Mid will probably be control mages and ADCs don’t have engage tools unless you’re Ashe who isn’t always a good pick depending on comps. This leaves initiation duties to fall on support picks so I think aggressive supports will be the most popular. Teams may place high emphasis on having these picks that they’ll likely be high in draft picks to ensure the team has a form of engage, which may beat out Alistar or Braum in priority. Vision control will be extremely important in order to get the jump on the opponent.
Thresh is the jack of all trades support. Much like Alistar and Braum, versatility in a champion’s kit reigns supreme. Thresh has always been in the upper echelon of support picks simply because his kit is just so good. He has engage with hooks or flash flay, disengage with flay/ult, and safety with lantern. He has no major weakness except that he doesn’t shine in one particular role, which isn’t really a weakness. He’s a great laner and can be effective with literally any ADC. He has pick potential with hook/flay and also provides an escape to ADCs who are generally immobile. His roaming is also very strong for ganks and he pairs great with junglers allowing them to tower dive with safety or invade enemy jungle with an escape. The only reason he isn’t part of the top tiers is because he’s all skillshot dependent so he isn’t as reliable. He’s still a great support pick with many strengths, but his lack of reliable engage or disengage lowers him on the list.
Annie has risen to be the go-to engage support pick with her AOE ranged stun. Her long range AOE stun can be devastating in a team fight and its this skill alone that is good enough for her to be a top pick. Her long auto-attack range is also useful in lane to harass or giving extra safety when clearing out wards. She has a pretty good laning phase with plenty of harass and is a pretty good roamer for ganks. Her stun is also instant so people cannot react to it. Even if people flash at the right time, they are still stunned after the flash. Her main weaknesses are that she’s squishy and has no escape. The downside of engage champions is they can only do one job, but they do it well. She can easily be caught out or ganked to weaken her effectiveness. If she ever has to use her stun defensively, the fight can be considered lost or her team will have to play safe until its back up. A minor flaw is that she relies on the enemy team being grouped up to maximize her effectiveness. If the enemy team plays spread out or positions well, other support picks may be more useful.
Leona used to be the go-to engage support, but her melee status and less reliable engage is what made Annie come out on top. Leona provides an immense amount of CC and her long ranged, short cooldown ult is a great tool for starting fights. While her ult is a great tool, it can be a little difficult to pin-point to land the stun; also, its not instant like Annie’s stun, so people can react and flash out of it. She has great tools, but her E and her melee status forces her to commit to team fights while Annie doesn’t have to. Leona is quite tanky thanks to her W which is always a plus. However Leona has a weaker laning phase and is susceptible to ganks much like Annie. Her Q reset allows her to kill wards more quickly and can be useful in laning phase with quick reactions. While she isn’t as reliable as Annie, she has 3 abilities that lock down allowing her to stun different groups of people while Annie can only stun one area. While Annie is overall a more dependable pick, teams may opt to use Leona because of her tankiness and lower cooldowns.
Kennen has seen resurgence in Korea as a support pick. He probably has the strongest laning phase of all supports, which is what Kennen has always thrived at. His harass/poke is unmatched in lane and can zone the enemy away from being able to farm. He is the definition of a lane bully, but as a support he can bully two people. His roaming for ganks is weak, but his roaming to place wards is relatively safe thanks to his E speed boost. Kennen’s biggest strength is obviously his ultimate; it provides immense CC and zone control in team fights. The downside is he’s reliant on his flash to make it useful so much like Annie you’ll see Kennens rush Boots of Mobility into Distortion enchantment. Kennen has even less reliable engage because his stun requires multiple procs so teams may prefer Annie or Leona over him, but he trades this for immense zone control that can waste enemy summoners. Like Leona, he’s all-in with his engage (unless paired with Kalista) so he has to land multiple stuns in a team fight to be effective compared to the other engage supports. While vision control will always be important, a Kennen may want to flank rather than engage head on, so team fights will require more set up than normal. Teams can play around Kennen by lane swapping and putting him behind in XP to delay his usefulness at 6. His main weakness is being squishy and lane swapping greatly diminishes his effectiveness as a lane bully.
Nautilus was popular early in the summer split, but has fallen off as the season progressed; now being more popular in top lane. With bruisers top, Nautilus might see a comeback in the support position because he brings the most amount of CC any champion has. His laning phase is decent, but not particularly strong. His roaming is pretty good, but like Thresh he requires landing the hook. His engage isn’t very reliable because he needs to land a hook, but if he does, his lockdown with waves of CC is unmatched. His disengage is decent, but using him for disengage isn’t optimal. Like the other engage supports, he’s susceptible to ganks and can get caught out while trying to ward. Nautilus shines in team fights where his immense amount of CC and uncleanseable ult can shutdown enemy carries. Like Leona, he can spread out his CC and hit multiple targets. His ult is an extremely disruptive tool in team fights and forces an enemy carry out of the fight for a few seconds. While a bit risky of a pick, his absurd amount of CC will help shut down any enemy carry and help his team engage. His main weaknesses are the same: being melee hurts tower pushing and he must land hook to really engage so its unreliable.
Janna is the queen of disengage. Very few champions have disengage tools in LoL, so Janna will always be a strong pick for support because no one outshines her in this niche. I don’t suspect she’ll be that popular at Worlds because it seems the meta is shifting to needing more engage/initiation coming from the support role; however, if another role can perform those duties then Janna is great at protecting carries. Her laning phase is decent, but mostly wants to play safe. Her ranged attacks helps with pushing towers and the bonus AD from her shield helps the ADC take towers faster. She’s weak against all-in attacks from champions like Leona or anyone with a hook. Her only roaming presence is to place wards which she can do quite well thanks to the speed boost from W and has good safety between her shield and Q for disengage. Janna shines in team fights providing her team a “reset” to a fight by using her ult to knock the enemy team away after they tried to engage. This is especially powerful against picks like Kennen who need to be close but doesn’t have the tools to get in. This is also strong against bruisers top since they typically only have one gap closer, so a reset knocking them back can push them out of the fight dealing no damage. She pairs best with hyper-carries like Kog’Maw who have no mobility options and can act like a security blanket for them. Her main weakness is she’s squishy and requires a lot of teamwork to play around. Even though they’re professional teams, its quite often we see teams with a Janna ult enemies away from a teammates AOE damage. Coordination will have to be on point to maximize Janna’s effectiveness.
The remaining support picks have niche roles they are strong in, but are overall not quite good enough to warrant a pick over any of the above listed champions. They can fulfill a specific role for a team’s specific comp, but otherwise there are better picks to be used.
Morgana has fallen out of popularity recently, but she makes a good counter to the engage focused supports with her Black Shield. Morgana has a pretty good laning phase and is also pretty good at roaming for ganks thanks to her Q. Her roaming to place wards is also much safer than other picks thanks to her E. Her snare gives any team some pick potential where one successful binding usually equates to a kill. The snare also works well with poke comps where a successful bind makes it easy to land all poke damage. While team fighting comps are definitely the meta right now, Morgana does have some engage potential with her Q (although unreliable). She has some disengage ability with her ult, but Morgana’s biggest strength is her Black Shield. Making a teammate immune to CC is incredibly powerful to prevent being locked down and being able to deal damage. While she fits a different role within a team comp, if teams can have a form of engage to supplement her ability to protect a carry, Morgana can be an incredibly strong pick to let carries do “carry things.” Her main weakness is she’s squishy and will likely use her Black Shield on a teammate, exposing herself. Also, since her Q is a skillshot, its unreliable and can make or break a team fight.
Side note: I’m personally not convinced of assassin’s fully coming back for mid lane; however, if some do get picked, Morgana is the champion to shut down AP assassin’s like EDG did against SKT T1 Faker’s LeBlanc at MSI.
Blitzcrank is the definition of all-in for engage supports. He has no other talents or uses. All or nothing; hook or die. Because he’s pigeon-holed to only being useful for his hook, Blitzcrank has never been a top pick for support. Its unreliable and if he isn’t snowballing kills from hooks then he becomes useless. Playing from behind as Blitzcrank is one of the most hopeless feelings there is. His laning is decent and where he should really shine, but he needs to match up 2v2 and win the lane hard. A large CS differential due to his zoning may not be enough of a lead to win a game. In lane swap scenarios he can’t push tower because he’s melee and while he can zone well, the enemy will usually double jungle making him useless. His roaming has potential, but again its skillshot reliant. Roaming to place wards is unsafe though since he doesn’t have an escape. Vision control is the main determining factor for a Blitzcrank’s success. He needs vision control to catch enemies off guard and make his skillshot easier to land. He doesn’t want to team fight. He wants to set up vision and land a hook for a kill. The team can then secure objectives with a number advantage. If the team is behind, the team will usually be losing in vision control as well since its unsafe to ward, further diminishing Blitzcrank’s usefulness. He must snowball lanes to thrive. A small advantage is he’s the best disruptor of enemy jungle. In lane swap scenarios, its often we see supports invade enemy jungle to spot out where the enemy team is double jungling and harass them while they try to farm. Blitzcrank can reset monsters to further set back the enemy team, but this is just a minor victory.
Nami hasn’t seen competitive play in a long time. The main reason being that her bubble is unreliable. If you miss the Q, much like Blitzcrank, you’re of little use. She is one of the few champions capable of disengage, but she isn’t as reliable as Janna. This season she got a buff to her ult where it now gives teammates a movement speed bonus. While it sounds nice, its hard to imagine a scenario where your entire team is lined up in front of where you need to hit the enemy too. She has potential, but is extremely unreliable. I do not think she’ll be picked at Worlds, but if Janna is banned and teams are desperate for disengage we may see her come back.
Shen has only been played support in EU/NA. I do not think he’s very good at support because he needs to ramp up to 6 in order to be effective which takes a long time since supports roam often early game. I think good teams will punish this aspect and render a support Shen useless as he won’t be tanky and only offers a taunt that’s unreliable.
Soraka saw play in the NA Summer playoffs thanks to Adrian on TIP, but I don’t think she’s viable for the Worlds stage. Her insane healing is great and only gets better as the game goes on. It prevents your ADC from getting bullied out of lane so you don’t fall behind in xp and farm. It can also save teammates lives and prevent enemy assassins snowballing off kills. However, she’s extremely squishy and susceptible to ganks with no movement abilities. If she’s able to stay safe, she can be outright oppressive and frustrating to play against, but I don’t think the strong teams at Worlds will let her go unpunished. I think she’d be the target of multiple ganks and not be able to fulfill her role for sustain.