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.