Patch 4.5 and Supports

Hi everyone and welcome to 2Hp’s 4.5 Bot lane  update. Let’s talk about who you should be playing, what you should be building and what champs you should be watching.

The best three champs in bot lane are… Thresh, Leona, Morgana.

This list really hasn’t changed in a while, though if you haven’t followed Morgana’s rise than it might surprise you that some would consider her better than Annie. With the nerf to Annie’s stun duration, I just don’t believe that Annie has the same high level of strong CC and utility that my big three listed above have. In my opinion, Annie, along with Zyra, is now on a list of mid lanes who became supports but are now poised for a return to mid lane as soon as long range poke and assassin mids fall out of favor (so basically, when they nerf Nidalee).

Also, I received a comment on Nami play and I want to address this directly. I believe Nami is a perfectly fine support with a great kit. Like Thresh, she was one of the first champions designed specifically to fulfill a support role. You will not, and should not, see Nami played anywhere other than the bot lane.
The problem with Nami is the skill curve involved in playing her. Yes her abilities are great, but to use Nami effectively requires a great amount of practice and coordination. Basically, her bubble (Q) is one of the toughest skill shots in the game to land. Her problem is that other supports like Thresh, Leona and Morgana are just as effective as Nami is but require much less skill to use effectively. If you are willing to take the time to master Nami I could see you having a lot of success with her. The problem is that most people don’t have the patience to do this.

Of the big three, who should I play?

This is a fun question, and I think it really speaks to the current variety in bot lane. I think all of these champions have unique strengths and weaknesses depending on what your team comp is like, who your opponents are and how good you are with your champ.

Morgana is probably the safest choice of the three, considering she is pretty effective at countering out the other two. She is very easy to play passively and has a great kit for playing aggressively – once you figure her out aka learn to land bindings.

With that said, there are ways for good Thresh and Leona players to defeat you. If they reach level 2 before you, and you take your binding first (which almost everyone does), then they can catch you out quite easily. If you stand near your ADC than there is a risk that you will shield the wrong person. Leona especially can really punish you if you are slow on your shield or she goes on you or your ADC when you don’t have the shield on. So be careful, but consider Morg a decent counter pick to Thresh or Leona.

Leona, in the right hands, remains the best hard engage support in bot lane. Sure, they nerfed her tankiness a bit. That just means that you can’t afford to get poked as much or launch as many bad engages as before. If you’re smart and pick your engages well you can wreck the other two big three.

Morgana can be tough to play against as Leona, just make sure you pressure her and try to bait out her shield as much as you can. Thresh is a pure skill matchup. He can flay you out of your zenith blade (e), but if you actually get on to him, you will kill him almost every time. Once Leona hits level 6 her engage gets very tough to handle, even for Morgana. Just remember that sometimes it’s better to not follow your ult in and stay back to peal for your ADC, especially in team fights.

Thresh, If you have followed this blog for any length of time you know that this is my favorite champion in the game. The nerfs to his auto attack range have hurt his ability to poke out other supports, especially when they are paired with long range ADCs. What keeps him extremely relevant is the fact that his utility outside of laning phase remains unrivaled amongst supports. No one else in the big three can do what he does in team fights. He can engage, lock targets down, slow an entire team and use his lantern to save allies in a way that no other champion can do.

If you want to beat Leona in lane you need to practice flaying her out of her zenith blade. If you can do that then she is useless against you until she hits 6. Try and poke Morgana as much as possible or max your hook and just keep throwing it at her and her ADC until it works. The way to beat Morg is to pressure her, not sit back and wait for her to bind and kill you.

What should I be building?

Good question. I’m still waiting to see what the pros are doing after the patch changes. Basically, Riot has made it easier for supports to invest into certain items because the build path now contains cheaper items that build into the big item you want while still providing you with significant bonuses in the mean time. Ranged APs, Morgana and Annie, should continue to start with the Spellthief’s Edge because the gold generation is ridiculous. I will upgrade it to tier two but will only finish it if I feel like my team doesn’t need a Talisman to get everyone into fights.

I run Talisman on Thresh and other supports that I feel like can’t use the Spellthief or take advantage of a Doran’s shield. The new item, Forbidden Idol, is a great hold over between the Nomad’s Medallion and the final Talisman. I usually build it first or second after I get my sight stone, if I’m not building a chalice.

You can also start with a Ruby Crystal if you want to rush a Sight Stone. This makes you tanky but does make you vulnerable to poke (fewer pots) and or doesn’t allow you to buy wards. Doran shield is pretty much only good on Leona or possibly Thresh. Only her mana costs really allow it. Pretty much everyone else needs some bonus regen.

I definitely recommend working on one or both of the new mid tier support items and then turning them into whichever of their finished items you think you need. They offer you things like move speed, mana regen and CDR. All of these are valuable on supports. Are they more important than building a chalice and upgrading it to a Mikael’s Crucible? That depends on how much hard CC the other team has. If they are frequently locking down your ADC then I would consider rushing a Mikael’s. Mikael’s is also great if your support is mana hungry.

What should I know about the Rune changes?

The flat armor given by seals has been decently reduced. I would seriously recommend that you consider subbing them out in favor of flat health seals, or a combination of flat health and flat armor . If you’re feeling particularly bold, or like you can survive the early game without immediate armor, the improved armor per level seals make you a beast in the mid to late game. Sometimes I run them with armor quints (which haven’t been changed) to make sure that I still have enough armor to survive the early game.

CDR and mana regen quints and glyphs both received buffs. Both can be worth looking into, depending on your play style, but the armor changes are the big one. I will tell you right now that doing a full regen page will only solve so much of your mana problems. Eventually, you just need to learn to make your abilities count and to manage your mana so that you have some when you need it.

One Rune set up I have been having some fun with is running armor reds (value is now about the same as armor yellows), health yellows, armor quints and magic resist blues. Throw in a Doran’s Shield and you enter lane with over 40 armor and mr and 700 health. You are very hard to kill with this set up and can do a lot of trading with the enemy champs.

What support champs should I be considering playing?

I will give you three of what I consider to be the more obvious second tier supports, who might not be as tier two as we think. I am not including Annie in this list. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe she is a strong support. I just feel that enough has been said about Annie and I would like to introduce you to some supports who have received less coverage.

Karma: Karma has already been seeing a respectable amount of play. You would think it’s her strong poke potential that has made her popular but it has actually been her move speed enhancers. Her mantra enhanced shield actually provides her and all of the champs around  the cast target with a significant move speed bonus. Oh, and did I mention she does a ton of poke damage? Karma is great against Morg and can also be played with some success against Leona and Thresh as long as long as you give them the proper respect and are good enough, mechanically, with Karma to be able to handle an all in from Leona or Thresh.

Zyra: Zyra continues to have solid damage, great poke and some massive team fight AoE CC thanks to her ult and grasping roots. The biggest problem with Zyra is that she remains on the squishy side. It is very difficult for her to survive getting CC’ed by Leona or Thresh.

Sona: There was a time early in the last season where everyone was playing Sona. Yes, she received some slight nerfs at the start of the current season, but I’m not convinced it hurt her that much. What scared people away from Sona was the fact that she needs to be handled with extreme care. Her poke and sustain are amazing, but you have to work your butt off to keep her from getting killed by the likes of Leona or Thresh.
The simple truth with Sona was that it was just easier to play Annie or whichever of Leona and Thresh wasn’t picked. If more people start playing Karma and Morg it wouldn’t surprise me to see Sona make a return. Sona pokes just as hard as Karma and can out sustain both Morg and Karma in lane.

Blitzcrank: I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t give some love to my favorite mechanical golem, and quite frankly, I believe the love is deserved. With the slight nerf to Leona’s W and the armor seals, Blitz is becoming one of the last “tanky” supports. At the very least I think it’s getting easier for him to survive against Leona.

If you love Blitz, try and encourage your ADC to play a high early damage champ with some mobility like Draven or even MF. Even Leona can’t afford to be pulled in against these ADCs as they will chunk her down quite quickly. Also, Blitz just has a psychological effect that no other support has. People play differently when there is a Blitz in lane and in the game in general. A good Blitz can turn this fear into a solid win.

In the end, you’ll never really know how the 4.5 changes affect you until you actually play some games. So get out there, play some bot lanes and let me know what you’re liking and what you’re not liking in 4.5.

Random support tip of the day:

Laning against a Blitzcrank can be pretty scary, especially if Leona, Morgana and Thresh have been banned. Instead of picking a squishy support and hoping for the best, get creative with your pick in lane – try running a Lee Sin, Jax, or Jarvan support. What you are looking for is a champion who is capable of immediately engaging or disengaging when Blitz lands a hook. Jarvan, Jax and Lee Sin are all capable of escaping after being pulled or can all rapidly move to fight if Blitz hooks their ADC. This can be a lot easier than picking a squishy caster support and trying, desperately, to avoid grabs.

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Rotations and TSM

Watching the most recent TSM versus CLG game I was reminded of what bugs me about League of Legends casters. They like to latch on to fad topics and immediately assume that all good teams do a certain thing really well. For example, they would claim that shot calling is important ergo any team that would win games has good shot calling. The same phenomena can be see with “rotations.” The casters love to say that TSM has such good rotations, but I argue that this is simply another example of the casters thinking “Rotations are important. If you win games, you must have great rotations.” I will not suggest that rotations are not important, they are a legitimate thing that good teams do, nor will I suggest that TSM is a bad team, they aren’t, but I will show that stating that all good teams have good rotations, just because they are good teams, isn’t accurate.

To start with, let us describe “rotations” as being the movement of champions between lanes for either defensive or offensive purposes. In a standard game, two champions are present in the bot lane, one in the mid lane, one in the top lane and one in the jungle. A game can be played, theoretically, without any of the lane champions ever actually leaving their lanes. When champions, other than the jungler, do leave their lane it can be considered to be a rotation. Most of the rotations that are commonly discussed involve more than two players. When one player leaves their lane to go to another lane it is more commonly referred to as “roaming.” Technically, it is a rotation, but the term rotation is usually applied when more than just a single champ is leaving their lane.

I do not think that TSM makes elite level rotations. I think TSM has very good players who quite often do well in lane thus allowing them to exert good map pressure, when TSM chooses. Because TSM does well in lane they don’t tend to do a ton of rotating. Sure they’ll send mid to gank another lane, but they generally don’t need to rotate to succeed. When we do see TSM actually rotate it is usually in reaction to what the other team does. If the other team wants to force Dragon, Baron, a turret etc then TSM will move to counter, and more often than not, team fight.

Team fighting, I feel, is really what TSM does extremely well. Their players are strong mechanically, they lane well and are often ahead or at least not far behind, and they prioritize well in team fights (protect their carries, focus enemy carries, etc). Do they actually rotate effectively? Well, I wouldn’t say that they do a lot of, or very good, proactive rotations but they do react well to what other teams are doing and then crush them in team fights.

Now, when it comes to using rotations proactively to create positive situations for themselves I’m not so convinced that TSM is as good as the announcers would have you believe. The biggest supporting evidence here is their record against teams that team fight at least as well as they do, and rotate better than they do. Historically, TSM gas struggled against most Korean teams and Cloud 9. What do these opponents have in common? They all team fight well, and they all proactively use rotations to put their opponents in bad positions.

All of these teams are able to beat TSM in team fights. Do they do this because TSM is a poor team fighting team? No. TSM is a good team fighting team. These teams beat TSM in team fights because TSM’s own rotations are not good enough to consistently put them in situations where they have the advantage they need to defeat teams who can actually team fight as well they do. Thus, they are able to beat teams like Coast and Curse because they don’t need a rotational advantage to out team fight them, but they cannot beat C9 or teams from Korea because they can’t consistently create the rotational advantages they need to out team fight them.

Supporting this assertion is their latest record against CLG. I contend that CLG used to have a lot of the same strengths as TSM. They had mechanically strong laners, like Hotshot and Jiji, who were better than their opponents and CLG could team fight extremely well because of the advantages their good lanes provided them with. But, CLG could not beat TSM because they could not out team fight or out rotate them. TSM would react extremely well to whatever CLG tried to do and would proceed to out team fight them.

As CLG started to make changes to their roster throughout the second and third seasons they never really established themselves as being strong laners, or being able to use strong rotations or team fights. Recently, CLG has established a steady roster that has generated some success. Their lanes are not necessarily the strongest lanes, their players not the most mechanically talented, but they have developed a strong tactical presence. Their team fights are much improved but are still not quite as good as teams like TSM or C9. What many pundits have said they are starting to do almost as well as C9 are their rotations. What CLG lacks in their lanes or their team fighting prioritization/coordination they make up for with by using rotations to put themselves in a superior position to their opponents when team fighting.

In the most recent matchup, the last in March, between CLG and TSM we saw this playing out. CLG still struggled to beat TSM in team fights, often losing fights even when in advantageous positions. The reason that CLG won the game was that they continued to rotate and put themselves in better positions than those taken by TSM. TSM may be a better team fighting team, but CLG defeated them by avoiding unnecessary team fights and then putting themselves favorable positions for the fights they did fight. TSM still won or came close to winning many of these fights but CLG put them on the back foot so often that even TSM’s superior fighting eventually couldn’t overcome the fact that they almost always fighting from inferior positions.

CLG defeated TSM by playing a style of game similar to that used by C9 and most of the Korean teams and was able to produce results similar to what happens when C9 or Korean teams play TSM. What this says to me is that, counter to the popular opinion of many of the NA commentators, TSM does not have superior rotations. Does this make them a bad team? No. Does this mean their rotations are bad? No. They are an excellent team fighting team and they use that to beat opponents who are not as strong in lane or in team fights. TSM is also extremely good at countering the moves of their opponents. This is certainly a form of rotating, but it is only the defensive part of it.

Being good at team fighting and defensive rotations is enough for TSM to beat inferior teams, but it is not enough to consistently defeat teams with similar team fighting abilities and elite rotational capabilities. Korean teams and C9 all possess incredible defensive and offensive rotational capabilities. While TSM is able to counter the sloppy rotations of inferior opponents, they struggle to keep up with teams who are able to out rotate them offensively and defensively. TSM wins games by bullying their opponents in lane and beating them in straight up team fights, not by using rotations to gain advantages over them.

Until TSM becomes better at utilizing offensive rotations, perhaps demonstrated by TSM obtaining success against teams such as C9 or various Korean teams who are renowned for their superior rotations, I don’t think it is accurate to say that TSM makes extremely good rotations – as has been the recent claim. In no way is this piece claiming that TSM is a bad team. It is simply demonstrating that being a “good” team in League of Legends is not, despite what the casters claim, necessarily synonymous with making elite rotations.