The Current State of Support
Recently, there has been a decent amount of discussion about the support role, both of it's current state in the game, as well as it's core concepts. As someone who has played the game at an above average level for over six years, as well as followed the competitive scene very closely since it's existence (I've watched every international competition, as well as over 90 percent of every game played in Korea, EU and NA), I thought I'd address some of the bigger talking points and see what the Reddit community thinks.
Gold Income as Support
- Should it be closer to, or matching, the income of other roles to give support players more agency?
- Assuming it should, what are the best ways to give that extra income to supports without creating problems in other roles or incentivizing weird behavior?
While I'm not objecting that there could be healthy changes to the support role, this is something that has been deeply embedded into the game since ADC/support became the bot lane, and would be a very dangerous and tricky thing to change. The support role, at it's core, has champions that can function well enough without the need for a sizable share of the team's gold and experience.
Currently, champions that are not really seen outside of the support role (Alistar, Bard, Blitz, Braum, Janna, Leona, Sona, Soraka, Thresh) are very specifically balanced around the idea that they do not function well as solo laners or junglers, and will not be receiving much of the team's gold. Currently, I don't know any support mains who feel too "poor" compared to their team, or really have much issue with their current gold income.
A comment from the Riot post reads as follows:
Make it so support champs scale off something entirely different than AP/AD. Make their items stronger through tank stats for tank support items and cdr/movespeed/gold per 10/mana hp regen for the mage supports and heal/shield supports. As they scale, they do not gain in damage but rather utility. This could be seen as a radical shake up, but it would make a huge impact to have insane supports providing longer cc, better shields/heals, but at the end of the day, still unable to 1v1 anybody. A support should always be rewarded for being one of the first to group up, and provide vision/utility.
This isn't the first time I've seen this suggestion, but it does seem like this would be something that would either make supports too weak early, or too strong late. Look at someone like Thresh right now, who's rank five Death Sentence has a 4.2 second cooldown with 40 percent CDR when you land it on an enemy. Without tenacity (which most carries won't have, and are generally the targets Thresh is looking for) the hook lasts 1.5 seconds. Any longer of a duration on that, and you're getting to where a single champion could effectively completely shut down a carry by just dedicating one ability to them. I believe that the healthiest place for crowd control is that you require teamwork and coordination to properly chain that cc, and neutralize the target, not just a single champion shutting down a team's carry.
Recognition of success as support
- Damage dealers get great celebrations of their skilled play via things like killing sprees/multi-kills, good KDAs/CS numbers, tracking of damage dealt, etc. Support achievements by contrast can have much lower visibility and satisfaction (clutch saves for example aren’t highlighted well, even if they’re as impressive as a well executed multi-kill).
This one feels pretty irrelevant. I think we're well past the days of people not understanding the importance of the support role, and not appreciating well played fights by the supports. I haven't really seen much of this going on lately. Even a couple of years ago, there was constant posts hitting the front page showing off support plays that weren't properly "appreciated" by their team, and tons of comments telling the sad story of a support saving the day or setting up the penta only for the carry to receive all of the credit. I don't see much of that anymore, and can say pretty confidently that this one isn't a major concern for any support players.
- Are support items sufficiently compelling or does power progression as a support often feel worse than other roles?
- Is Sightstone in the right place as a mandatory 800g first buy? Are there other adjustments to the vision game that would be good both for the experience of playing support and the game in general?
This is a place where I feel supports have it by far the best of any role in League of Legends. As a support, you have a core build of gold item, boots (usually Mobis with the recent changes) and then Sightstone. Supports tend to reach their core builds as fast, if not faster than any other role in the game, and definitely have the most freedom of where they go beyond their core builds. Buying an IE or a Deathcap certainly feels good when you start dishing out that damage, but there's not really much choice of where to go afterwards, aside from the single defensive items carries get to buy, which even then there's usually a clear cut best option.
As a support you get to keep it interesting. Do you want to make the Ohmwrecker plays? Would a ZZ'Rot be able to set your team up to pressure objectives across the map? Is Michael "Bunny FuFuu" Kurylo on the other team and you need that Mikael's to save your beloved carries from that godlike aim? Supports don't really have to deal with any of that. "Well I need to crit this guy so let me get this item with the crit."
This is where I think supports get to have the most fun, and really choose how they impact the game. As for Sightstone, I'd say it's in a really good spot, where both smart ward placements, as well as clever pathing, have their different opportunities to shine and counteract each other. The removal of the raptor smite buff seems to be pretty well balanced by the addition of plants, but we'll have to see some professional level games to really tell where we've gone.
Another part of the same comment on Riot's post:
Feels good with 6.22 making items cheaper. Two quick fixes here and a control ward idea... Make Sightstone after a certain champion level gain another ward charge AND increase total green wards on map ex: At level 11, Sightstone has five wards and you can place a max of four on the map (scales with Ruby and Sightstone + Support item merged items). Maybe make the Merged item have an added benefit to the ward you've placed ex: I buy Eye of the Oasis, typically an item for Soraka. Maybe for X seconds, my placed ward provides a heal. Maybe a Tank Support who scales buys Ruby or Equinox gains a reduced damage aura around his wards? This makes support wards truly the most impactful, and will incentivize purchasing wards. With more wards available for a support, he can still ward for vision but also have a few pocket wards for fights. Also maybe a control ward gains more gold per ward killed after being placed? 30 gold + 10 gold per additional wards killed.
I'd say the best thing from this is the idea of Sighstone giving an extra ward on the map allowed at level 11. It's hard to say if this would be too much, but when you're getting split-pushed late game while Baron is alive, it's pretty hard to get your team proper ward coverage. While vision is a team effort, supports are still responsible for the majority of their team's vision, and with the change to allowing three control wards in your inventory (which I think was a good change that made that slot feel a lot better off in the late game), I've found it to be a bit too easy to shut down vision compared to maintaining it the mid-late game. Again, I think it will really take a bit more time for the effects of the three control wards and the vision plants to show where vision in general stands, but for now, it does seem like this would be a nice way to make supports feel better about that item slot in the late game.
- Are supports properly served by pre-game choices (runes/masteries/summoner spells) in terms of their effectiveness? *Are those choices sufficiently satisfying to use?
I'd say the universal answer to these questions for years has been "no." Runes and masteries, simply by their nature, will have a setup that is the most efficient, and that's what will be used. While there are some choices in the mid-tier of masteries that you can sort of choose what fits you best, most champions have a keystone that fits them far better than the rest and the majority of the mastery pages for that champion will be 99 percent alike.
As far as runes go, they were a mistake to begin with. While Riot has always hoped that they could be used as something to express and amplify your individual play style, that goal has failed miserably. Sure, I remember things like Hoodstomp running a full AD page back when Graves was released, but aside from the random gimmicks here and there, standard rune pages have always existed and been used.
Unfortunately, I think it's a bit too late to really remove or revamp runes as, when balancing a champion's numbers, the standard rune pages are accounted for. All in all, I'd say runes are fine, but without a massive overhaul to the numbers of many champions, runes will just be those extra stats that people have.
- Many champions played as supports have really engaging gameplay in lane based off their positioning, harass, wave pushing, vision play, etc. Some supports, or at least some supports in certain lane matchups, can end up having to play really passively though. How can we improve that?
This one had me kind of lost to be honest. The way I view it, some champions are optimally played passively, and some champions are optimally played aggressively. This goes for every single role in the game. You're not picking Janna so you can flash-Q the enemy ADC in lane and burst them down. You pick Janna so when that Kennen comes teleporting down to your lane, you can send him back over that wall he flashed over to ult you. The same way you don't pick Gangplank to solo kill their Riven; you pick Gangplank so you can farm for 20 minutes until you start popping off barrels across their entire team to smash their carries.
The statement seems to say that playing passively is either bad or boring, but ignore the whole concept of that's just what some champions do. There's certainly enough snowbally champs in the meta right now that can punish that passive play early, so you're certainly not inherently rewarded for picking these champions that force you into that passive play style, but if played properly, you can reap the benefits of them.
This comment from the Reddit thread on Riot's post was the top comment. The main thing it had an issue with is supports falling behind on levels, or at the very least, not hitting the critical levels of six or nine early enough and feeling a bit too weak at levels five and eight, emphasizing that you wind up behind from simply doing your job by roaming or warding.
I'd have to disagree with this because you do have a counterpart on their team that's either the same level as you, or their team isn't receiving the benefit that you're giving your team. It's a choice to leave lane and give up that experience to roam and ward. As with any role in League, doing your job is giving your team an advantage. If your team is unable to utilize those advantages, that is a player issue and of course comes with punishment. The person who posted the comment does state that it's usually not a problem, and seems to be another support main that's pretty satisfied overall with the role.
Another topic that is being brought up is a way to get more people into the support role. Riot's plan is to throw more supports into the free champion pool, and see if an issue was simply players not finding the right champion to get them into the support role. I don't think that this is something that will ever change. Looking at the comments in this thread, the general sentiment is that people want to be the guy who gets the kills. Most players don't get their joy from saving their ADC from certain death, as much as they do from seeing their name pop up in the middle of the screen repeatedly.
I previously played World of Warcraft for several years, and healers or supporting roles aren't what players will gravitate towards. That's just going to be the nature of the majority of players in any game and there's no way around it. Right now, the highest played support is Thresh by a huge margin, because he's all about the flashy plays that people love. Well timed Janna shields in lane just won't cut it for most people, and that's just fine.
Allowing people to queue for specified roles is possibly one of the most universally loved changes I've seen in a while, and was the saving grace of dynamic queue. In my experience, if I'm avoiding the support role, autofill immunity has made that a fairly easy task after just one game. Sure it sucks getting auto filled into support both for the person who doesn't play it, as well as their team, but queue times will always be bottlenecked by the least popular role and there's no way we're going to see equality in positions desired.
So those are my views as a someone with a fair bit of experience with the game. Of course, these are just my opinions, and should be taken as such, but I'd certainly love some feedback to keep the discussion going. Feel free to comment any arguments or criticisms and I'll be sure to respond.
Do you plan on trying out all of the support champions now that they are in the free rotation? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom.