Oh How Time Flies: A Look at Ex-Tier 1 Supports
Much like any other game, League of Legends will eventually, if it has not already, undergo a phenomenon called "power creep". A power creep is the need for a developer to create more powerful elements in order to bring in players. Comparing how loaded your average new champion's kit is today to that of 2012 and you will see a massive gap. Most abilities today have passive and active effects, a 2nd activation effect, maybe even an activate-able passive.
Even the least "mechanically intense" role, Support, has undergone its own set of power creeps.
So today, let us review some of the old Tier 1 Supports. Some supports are old but also remain highly revered, so those will be ignored, at least for now.
Once, there was a time where the meta was still forming and lanes were something that were still strange to hear about. Over time, it became standard that the top lane and the mid lane would be reserved for a single player while two hold the bottom with one last running around in the jungle.
Taric was one of the first "roaming" supports. Whenever he could, he would leave his laning partner alone to farm out the creeps while he would walk to another lane and help secure a kill on the opponent.
Thanks heavily to his point-and-click long-ranged stun, his ganks were devastating, sometimes completely turning the tide of a lane.
Although he might miss some XP from having done these roams, the advantages he would help other lanes pick up usually covers it. Additionally, leaving the AD Carry alone usually meant that they would level much faster than the opposing AD Carry with their lane partner.
Taric's innate tankiness helped out a lot in teamfights, prior to his rework, his ult provided an AOE aura that healed and granted free AD/AP to teammates. His ability to catch an important target with his ult together with the passive buffs that he granted thanks to his ult made him a solid pick for the support role, considering supports were usually the squishiest member of the team back then.
His kit was easy to understand and execute, however as time started flying by, the straight-forward nature of Taric's kit became a negative.
While his roaming was strong, his laning was somewhat subpar, for the best harass, he would need to spend a large amount of mana. The standard combo of Stun-AA-Shatter ate quite a bit of mana and repeated use was not possible. His roaming could also be soft-countered by simply playing safe.
Finally, while he is incredible in teamfights, to make best use of his ult, teamfights needed to be extended, which became harder and harder as the meta shifted.
While newer champions with better kits also began eclipsing Taric, being able to do everything Taric could and more, Taric's linear playstyle was his biggest downfall.
Sona was and still is a premier lane bully. Her poke and her heal combined could make the laning phase a nightmare for nearly anybody. She had a little bit of everything while not being overloaded, she had poke, sustain and CC, all things that a support would want, though toned down.
Sona remained quite a powerful pick, even being used in the S3 World Championships. Her utility was top notch and unlike Taric, she specialized in the laning phase and in teamfights.
Her decent AP scalings were also very attractive, and it still is today. With some AP items, she could do some decent damage and provide stronger heals. Additionally, she allowed two distinct playstyles to be used, either a passive or aggressive approach. While most played her passively, some supports stand out as being incredibly aggressive with Sona, even grabbing kills for herself in the laning phase.
While she had a little bit of everything, mobility was not her forte. With the arrival of more mobile champions, Sona's lack of reliable escapes or gap closers became a problem. CC also became a more prevalent thing and her getting caught out due to her lack of mobility became a real concern. While Blitzcrank grabs have always been around, the arrival of Thresh's hooks added a whole new spectrum of problems for Sona, while she could once walk close to an opponent, Q for damage, throw an AA and W to heal or E to walk away faster, she now faces the constant threat of being caught out and shut down, rendering much of the aggressive play style mentioned before ineffective.
Her lack of CC prior to level 6 eventually became a problem. Should a small skirmish happen in the early game, the most Sona could have offered was a little damage or a small heal where as most other champions (especially newer ones) had at least one CC loaded into their early game.
Unlike Taric, Sona still remains a rather attractive pick in Solo Q, her aforementioned lane dominance and her ability to swing a teamfight is very appealing. However, due to the nature of competitive teams being better coordinated, Sona's strength is effectively cut.
The unicorn lady is one of the oldest champions in the game. And her kit reflects that. Before her rework, Soraka was the premier cleric of the game, giving both health and mana to her teammates along with a powerful silence for her opponents. Her constant regen brought on by her abilities made laning against her a living hell. While Sona attempted to bring the opponents low enough to warrant a back, Soraka's goal was to keep her and her partner in lane as long as possible without backing. Also, her ability to give mana to her partner allowed some distinct ability usage that is out of the norm. Spellcasting AD Carries like Corki, Ezreal and Ashe could spam their abilities with less concern. At the same time, people didn't need to play so uptight thanks to Soraka's healing adding a layer of security.
Her silence was extremely powerful, so powerful that Riot finally decided to hunt down nearly all the silences in the game. Back in the day, before the rise of the assassins, mages ruled the mid lane. These mages relied heavily, if not solely on their ability to fire devastating spells. When silenced though, these mages would be unable to do any damage for anywhere up to a few seconds... every few seconds.
Much like Sona, Soraka's lack of mobility eventually came back and bit her in the behind. Thanks to newer more dangerous threats eventually making their way into the Support role, her heal sometimes couldn't cover the damage that those do. These are the likes of Annie, Zyra, Vel'Koz, Karma, etc.
However, Soraka saw a brief resurgence when support mid laners became the norm. With access to more expensive items, and with decent AP scalings, Soraka could now heal for more and hurt more in lane. With the mid lane being the shortest lane, her lack of mobility became less problematic. Alongside her already strong laning phase, Soraka found herself in an interesting place as the premier healer.
However, perhaps to help fight against the power creep, Soraka was changed. Whether or not she is stronger or weaker due to these changes are still unsure and only time will tell.
Of all the special World Champions Team Skin Splash Arts, the one where it would be hardest to guess who the support is, is by far the TPA one. Out of context, it could be argued that the team looked like a Midlaner, an AD Carry and ... 3 Junglers?
In fact, Nunu was one of the premier supports back in the day. Thanks to his strong sustain in the form of Consume, his obnoxious slow in the form of his Snowballs and the Speed granting Blood Boil, Nunu had everything it took to become a threat.
While Nunu wasn't the most dominant lane bully, he did do a more than decent job. While his standard combo of Blood Boiling a teammate, Ice Blasting an opponent, AA'ing and walking out and eating a minion to heal up sounds bad on paper due to the mana costs, Nunu's passive allowed some of the mana cost to be mitigated.
Nunu also found itself as a rather decent roamer, bring slows and speed ups to the table. His consume ability became even more important out of the laning phase, acting as a second smite, more assuredly securing important neutral objectives like Dragon or Baron.
His teamfighting was also quite powerful, not only did he help maximize an AD Carry's damage through Blood Boil, his Ice Blast was good for picking off a single opponent while his ult created a terrain that became lethal for the enemy team to fight on.
Nowadays, Nunu still remains a powerful and respectable champion, although not in the support role. Instead, Nunu became a powerful jungler who brings Objective Control and Counter-Jungling to the table. Additionally, thanks to the Jungle providing more gold than what is usually given from the support role, Nunu's abilities can be amplified through better items and overall higher stats.
It's interesting to see how things have gone. While it is sad that some of these old champions have gone nearly extinct, we've seen others succeed in other areas of the game.
Thanks for reading this article on old Supports and hey, maybe they'll come back one day.