I am currently the communications coordinator for an event going on at the University of Alberta. The theme of this year’s event is “Creating Solutions for a Healthier World” Here is one way, according to students, we can make our “world” healthier. I couldn’t agree more
The current bot lane meta is focused heavily around two support champions, Thresh and Leona. Let’s take a quick look at the strengths and weaknesses of each and figure out which of these high powered supports you should look to play.
I think we can figure out a lot about why you should play one of these two champions by doing a quick investigation of the current meta. Season 4 arrives. The new defense tree of masteries is quickly accepted as the strongest tree.
Top laners, junglers and even mids emerge who are running 4-26-0 or 0-30-0 masteries, placing a ton of emphasis on simply being as tanky as possible. Champions like Mundo and Shyvana rise to the top due to their ability to be as tanky as possible while still doing reasonable damage.
This new top lane meta means two things for supports. They need to provide the CC/utility that their uber tanks are lacking and they need to be able to live long enough to use it. Squishy supports like Zyra or even Annie have an incredible amount of CC but they rarely survive long enough to maximize it.
So why Leona? Leona is the last of the old school tank supports. By this I mean the breed of supports like Alistar, Taric, Blitzcrank etc who were naturally very tanky and capable of surviving a lot of damage without having defensive items. Over the seasons most of these champions received nerfs to their innate tankiness. When Taric finally began to be nerfed early last season only one naturally tanky support remained – Leona.
There are two stats that set Leona apart from other supports. She has the highest base armor of all supports, and she has the highest base health regen of any champion in the game. In a bot lane where you are constantly being harassed by everything from minions to the other team’s turret, having armor to resist these attacks is very important. Just as important is the ability to gain back the health you are missing so that you can quickly reengage and press any advantages you may have gained in prior fights.
Of course the above assessment doesn’t even take into account Leona’s W, which gives her even more defensive stats plus a nice burst of AoE damage. Free tank stats + damage? Yes please. And that doesn’t even cover Leona’s fun abilities. Leona has a stun, a root and an AoE stun/slow. All easy to land, all with decent range, all great at starting or stopping fights. You can play even with Leona until she hits level 6, but once she does hit 6, all best are off when you are looking to fight her. Leona is by far the best hard engage support in the game, and if you like to fight you would do well to play her.
So why play Thresh? Thresh is the last of another unique brand of supports. So unique, in fact, that only two of them exist – the hooks. The hooks all started out the same, reasonably tanky with the ability to use their hooks to absolutely change the nature of any engagement in the game. The reason that Thresh has emerged as the dominant hook master is the same reason why you should consider playing him over Leona – his utility.
Thresh’s hook is no longer even considered his most valuable, and exciting, skill. His lantern and it’s ability to take friends out of or into danger is something that no one else in the game has anything like. It is easily the longest ranged escape in the game, and it is also one of the hardest escapes to interrupt (though not impossible). The great thing about this kind of utility is that Thresh doesn’t even have to be winning to use it. You can die 10 times in lane and still wander mid, press w, and save your mid laners life as easily as if you were 10 kills up. There is a definite value in possessing this kind of life saving power.
Oh, and did I mention Thresh still has that hook and two AoE slows? You can’t Flash hook like you used to but you can still Flash Flay (E) a whole team. Thresh’s defensive utility is the best in the game and his offensive utility is no slouch either.
So which champ should you play? Leona is tankier and has better engage, but Thresh has a lot more utility and can be useful in any situation whereas Leona is mostly designed to fight and not retreat.
Here is a video showing a little bit of what the head to head matchup looks like. And yes, Madlife is involved, so please recognize that these are very good players at work.
In a head to head matchup between these champs, Thresh hooks can ruin your day but Leona is one of the few champions who actually has the skill set needed to counter engage off a Thresh hook. If Thresh hooks your ADC all you need to do is dash to his ADC. Leona’s ability to lock down Thresh’s ADC is much more consistent, namely she doesn’t have to worry about landing a hook. Her superior damage and tankiness also means she can apply a lot more pressure to said ADC than Thresh does.
But, and this does rely on some good timing from Thresh, Thresh’s Flay can actually be used to cancel Leona’s dash. This is great early, but eventually Leona will just start using her ult to engage and then there isn’t much Thresh can do to stop her directly. At the same time, if Thresh drops his shield and ult it becomes very hard for Leona and her partner to actually finish off Thresh and his ADC. Ultimately, there is some skill involved in this matchup. I would contend that a good Leona can win the lane matchup, but a good Thresh can be more useful around the rest of the map, helping to nullify the Leona.
What I think this choice comes down to is play style and game understanding. Leona’s abilities are much easier to learn, but learning when to actually use them to start fights is much more important for her and will involve a lot better understanding of the game. Thresh’s abilities take much longer to master, but he doesn’t need to worry as much about when he uses his abilities. Finally, Leona is primarily a champion who is looking to fight. If you are playing Leona and aren’t looking for a way to kill your opponents you’re probably not getting your monies worth.
Thresh, on the other hand, can be played a bit more passively, a bit more in every situation. Of course there is still an expectation by most people that all Threshs should be able to land every hook. I know this isn’t reasonable or even possible, but it is a fact of solo queue that you need to take into account.
Personally, I am a Thresh man all the way – which most of you knew from the beginning. I just love what his hook and lantern can do. More than that, I like the flexibility of not having to always be looking for a fight, and then when I do find one, the hook makes it very easy to let your team mate know you’re looking to fight. Sometimes Leona can enter fights so fast it’s hard for her ADC to keep up if they’re not chatting in real life.
Even though Thresh may be my personal favorite, I will not hesitate to pick Leona when I know I will be fighting a Thresh. She is just so good at counter engaging against him. She is great at taking his offensive utility out of the game and forcing him into a more defensive role than he might otherwise play.
If you’re looking to pick up one of these frequently played supports, I hope this helps make your decision on which one to pick up a bit easier. And if neither of them fits your play style…there’s always still Annie. Or if you want to just cancel both Thresh and Leona out please, please throw down the support Morgana. That spell shield can be just too good.
Amazing article that everyone should read before hitting solo queue in Season 4. Great job, Nhan!
With a new season set to start in mere days, you just knew Riot was going to stir the pot…I mean fix what was wrong…I mean make the game better! Time to take a look at what some of the changes could bring, 2hp style.
Anivia: Quality of life changes. Her mana costs related to her wall and Q will make a difference in extended team fights, but not really for anything else. Anivia still won’t be able to compete with the Gragas’ and Oriannas of the mid lane. A lot of pro mids did get very good with her years ago, so I guess you never know.
Annie: A bit of a balancing act. Her stun won’t be as devastating early game but she will have Tibbers up more often to devastate you later. Fundamentally, Annie’s auto attack range, low mana costs and AoE stun generated by Tibbers remain the same if not better. In fact, there’s a delightful reddit post out there speculating that with 40% CDR Tibbers will become a permanent pet at level 16. I won’t go into it in detail, but the numbers work… So yes, Annie will still be a dominate support. Only Leona is in a better place.
Evelynn: You should play her. Yes, these nerfs will hurt her a bit. How much won’t be clear until you see how slow her Q travels now. Problem is that the current season has just offered her so many fringe benefits. The new vision system and the new changes to spirit stone will keep her in a good, but now slightly less bursty, place.
Janna: In a bot lane dominated by Thresh and Annie…I think you see where I’m going with this. Janna, in my mind, is much more of a team fight support than a lane support. She has some decent tools to help her team, but they simply aren’t as good as what Annie and Thresh can do in and outside of lane. Janna can slow Leona down a bit, but even Leona can get the upper hand on her after level 6. I don’t think we’ll see much solo queue Janna at all.
Jinx: The nerf to her base health is intriguing, as she ends up being significantly more squishy early game. She still has the range to overcome this. Honestly, if you are relying heavily on her flaming chompers then you really aren’t playing her right. Those nerfs won’t matter.
Nasus: The core remains strong. If he can make it into late game he will still turn into a beast. The only good thing about these changes is he will no longer be able to pop ult and just have a presence everywhere in a team fight. That won’t change how much he will wreck you when he gets on you.
Rengar: He’s an odd champ. His burst is explosive, so you will see people pick him up and dominate games with him for a couple of weeks before putting him away again. Probably to do with the fact that Riot keeps saying they are going to rework him but instead just tinker with the numbers halfheartedly. The latest change, now healing him for a percentage of missing health, could actually make him popular in lane again. In this meta you need to be tanky or be able to consistently heal yourself back up to exist in top lane. He now might be able to do the latter.
Riven: Well…the good news here is that if no one plays her after these changes I’ll get to start feeling like she’s all mine again. Seriously though, at first you look at the attack damage changes to her Q and you think it’s a hard nerf. Then you see that they actually switched the damage to scale off of her total attack damage and not just bonus AD. Nightblue, a fairly well known jungler, did the math and it actually looks like her overall damage comes out around where it used to be, maybe a little less or more depending on the situation.
What will actually hurt her more is her shield nerf. 1 second less of shield is an eternity in a team fight, and even when trading in lane – especially for a squishy damage dealer. I think these nerfs will hurt Riven, but I do believe that she will bounce back. Her kit is just too strong as long as enough pieces of it remain in tact.
Shyvana: These nerfs target her early game. Now, Shyvana shouldn’t be able to kill you with massive amounts of damage at level 2, but by late game, she will still be the same unkillable tank she was before. In many ways, the Sunfire cape changes might actually hurt her more than her actual changes. I think we could see people deal with the W and E nerfs by maxing twin bites first. Still allows you to trade and push decently while making up for the damage that her other abilities no longer put out.
Thresh: As if landing the box wasn’t already hard enough. I highly doubt this delay in the box deploying will slow him down too much, unlike his opponents. It will simply force Thresh players to be more precise on their timing. Which shouldn’t matter as much if they have someone hooked and flayed. Any change that encourages people to actually grab the darn lanterns is ok in my books.
Yasao: Did they change him? Not really. Quality of life changes. Start playing him now because after everyone picks or bans him this weekend in the LCS he’s going to be very much in demand. In fact, he already was banned in 5 out of the first 6 EU LCS games. There’s a good reason for this – he’s broken.
Other champ changes: I won’t touch on these too much but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t cry about some minor Olaf changes. Seriously though, couldn’t they go nerf Irelia or something?
Spirit Visage: The CDR has been halved. Now those scary top lane tanks will have to consider other non health items if they want to improve their CDR. Champs with strong sources of health regen will still love this item but I think champs that need the cool down reduction might be tempted to do a Frozen Heart.
Sunfire cape: Still a good combo of armor and health. Otherwise, the damage isn’t quite what it used to be. If you don’t require those stats you might be better served by going after CDR or simply rushing the Randuins
Jungle Items: Listening to Nightblue, it sounds like the changes to the jungle item, whereby all items (starting with the spirit stone) will return a percentage of the damage dealt as health and mana, will allow a lot of formerly mana hungry junglers to really start to thrive. One name he floated around as being devestatingly good would be tiger stance Udyr.
The sustain from all that attack speed and damage would be incredible. Clear times might go down a bit with these changes, but expect junglers to come to your lane with more health and mana than they ever had before.
General Game Changes
Turrets: All outer turrets have now had their early game bonus armor removed. Instead, top and mid outer turret are more resistant to champion auto attacks. But what about bottom turret you ask? Well, that outer turret will officially be weaker than any other outer turret.
Riot’s mission here is to keep duo lanes in the bot lane. If you defend said bottom turret with only one person against two from the other team you can expect it to go down very fast. Nightblue also expects, and I agree fully, that pro teams will more frequently deploy their junglers bot to keep that turret up. When that turret goes, so does dragon control and the ability to fully control your bot jungle.
For a company that claims they like to see new things, it is interesting to see Riot take steps to solidify the current meta. This seems to be something they are doing much more frequently with initiatives such as the teambuilder. It is hard to say if this will stiffle player creativity or if players will work around these changes, as they often do.
Vision: It sounds like Riot is really making an effort to make vision work better. Most of this effort appears to be focused around making it easier to see and react to skill shots launched out of the fog of war. For any of you who have ever been destroyed by a surprise Nidalee spear, this change will probably be welcome. For those of us trying to land Thresh hooks out of the shadows…maybe not as much.
Stable Champion Stable: One last interesting note. Riot is planning, sometime in the near future, to make a group of champions permanently free to play at low levels. I like this idea. You have to think that Riot already has more than enough money to take a hit and free up some champions. League is half about understanding the game and half about learning how to play certain champs inside and out. Once you become familiar with one or two champs, it becomes a lot easier to improve your overall game awareness.
I would say that this should help new players pick up league a lot faster but it sounds as though Riot is going to limit these permanently free champions to very low level players. It’s been a while but I feel as though I leveled up quite quickly to begin with. We’ll see if Riot actually gives new players enough time to get to know these free champs or if Riot will take them away at a level so low that most people will only have access to them for a week anyways.
As always I would love to hear what you think about the upcoming patch. Are any of your favorite champs getting nerfed? Does Riot nerfing Riven before releasing a new Riven skin (coming for Lunar revel) show they really are more concerned with the game than the money? Let me know!
Sorry I haven’t had the chance to post as much as I would like. I hope you all had a great Christmas and a happy new years. I am really looking forward to catching up with everyone. This has been tricky because I am quite busy with work right now. Lots of projects and stuff going on, and there are definitely a few that I have fallen behind on.
Just today I had to get a bit creative with some work that I wasn’t quite finished. League of Legends doesn’t usually speak for me, but I think this video describes my Tuesday perfectly. A bit of skill and a lot of luck!
Ever had this happen to you, in real life or in League? Let me know. It can be quite the rush, but also a bit scary. And how was everyone’s holidays? It’s going to sound corny but I missed you guys. Let me know how you’ve been.