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Aug 23, 2014

What Makes a Good Support?



As the fields of justice become ripe with unorthodox supports, sometimes I wonder to what extent we can stretch the definition of a "support" champion. 

Classically, "support" champions mean the champion bottom lane that operates well with little to no farm, and typically also provides map control for the team. 

However, with new gold items and sightstone, support champions of all sorts have cropped up, and so I think it's a good time to revisit the basics. What makes a good support?

What A Support Does

Outside of the obvious map control (which any champion can provide), what does a support actually do in lane? I think you can break it down into three distinct roles:
  1. Soak Damage
  2. Provide Utility
  3. Deal Burst/Poke Damage

1. Soak Damage

The first role is the easiest one for a support player to do, and also one of the hardest to successfully synchronize with your marksman.

  • Supports pull away or bait out dangerous ADC killing spells such as Alistar pulverize, Leona zenith, etc.
  • To successfully do this, they need highly defensive runes and masteries. Not only melee champions can do this, and with the right runes and masteries any champion can become super tanky. However, many supports have built in tankiness (eg Leona).
  • When supports are soaking damage and dangerous spells, this is an ideal time for the marksman to start unloading some of their damage. This results in good trades and lane advantage.
Points to Consider:
  • If you try and soak damage while your marksman isn't close enough to you, then you're not soaking, you're just taking free damage.
  • If your marksman is TOO close to you, then you both may end up getting hit by the same spells, which isn't productive.
  • If you have the wrong runes/masteries, you will get out-traded (or flat out die before anyone can react.)
Personally, I find this to be the ideal support tactic in solo queue as it gives the most margin of error. Most of the time, your AD carry tends to be very squishy, which means that the more dangerous spells you can pull away from them, the more likely they will survive through laning phase. 

The only difficulty is staying alive. Watch out for those Blitz pulls! 

2. Provide Utility

This is the "I hold, you hit" type of champion or the "I keep you alive" type of champion. Typically, this is the type of champion that everyone (including Riot) had in mind when they say "support champion".

These are your typical healers, shielders, stunners, etc.

Since there are so many different types I won't go into high detail, but I can say that for the most part a lot of them do very well with smart cast enabled

CDR is also a key stat for most of them, and if you can provide the utility from a long range and/or soak damage while you do it, then it makes for an excellent support champion. (Eg. Morgana).

Most champions have a CC to some extent, so certain unorthodox supports may include champions like Jarvan IV in the future as a mainstream picks.

3. Deal Burst/Poke Damage

The majority of the "new" support type champions fall into this category including champions like Vel'koz, Annie, Morgana, etc.

Ideally, most mages deal very rapid "safe" burst, where they can release the majority of their damage during the duration of their CC and then walk away or from long range. This means that champions such as Brand may be viable, whereas more sustained damage dealers such as Ryze are less viable (especially since Riot has changed many magic damage spells on ADCs to physical damage).

Engagement Methods:
  • Wait for ADC to get poked/engaged on, then go all-in on the enemy ADC; or
  • Attempt to land a CC move and then burst whoever is hit.
  • Tend to be squishier champions, and may die too quickly for allied ADC to deal enough damage and make the enemy team back off.
  • Needs to be in position to be aggressive without placing themselves in danger.
  • Generally lacking sustain (all-or-nothing type play).


As you can see, there's more than one way to skin a Yordle, and while Riot has split the masteries into 3 select groups, most supports will fall into more than one tree.

Right now I think that the defensive tree is by far the strongest at the moment, but others may disagree. 

What do you think? Do you have a favorite support style? Are there any unorthodox supports you think should become mainstream? Comment below!

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  1. TonyTheLiger1412August 24, 2014

    Supports often fall into two separate kinds of categories. Basically, those who support a farmlane, and those who support an offensive lane. Champs like Leona or Blitz who are there largely to get you kills, and champs like Janna who are more made to prevent the enemy laners from successfully engaging. Typically, I see those farmlane supports win when either the enemy can't dodge, or when the enemies underestimate the opposing support's impact in a fight.

  2. A much needed post

  3. ShadowSectAugust 24, 2014

    Thank you VERY much for making this. This will tone down the amount of bad supports I see.

  4. ShadowSectAugust 24, 2014

    Btw, you're right. The 1. Soak Damage supports are probably the best at the moment. Braum, despite his nerfs, still does his job, as well as others.

  5. Ramon Alberto Camberos GalavizAugust 24, 2014

    unorthodox supports, i use rammus support

  6. YouAreLyingBroAugust 24, 2014

    I main aggressive supports in Solo Queue. My favorites being Zyra and recently Xerath. One of the hardest things to learn was how to not take kills (Zyras plants have a mind of their own). Personally I think a kill lane is the best lane. At the end of the game I will almost always have the most damage on my team if not the room. If played right I will also have more assists than kills.

  7. Gabriel CurubetoAugust 24, 2014

    I really liked annie supp last season, she was quite funny to play, Xerath being my favourite one now,

  8. BegclawmrfAugust 25, 2014

    My friend does kat support with 25% cdr at level 1, lol. Idk how, but somehow he makes it work. Also, if I ever buy him, i should try that J4 support, since he has a knockup and armor shred and a cage.

  9. Raydy GonzalezAugust 26, 2014

    Braum just has the ability to jump in front of the adc and take all damage which is just amazing. just had a game (gold 3) where i just soaked up all the damage while my adc cracks off all of his.

  10. g_squidmanAugust 31, 2014

    Don't forget, Braum is also the number 2 support. His peel and CC is some of the best for bot lane

  11. I've been doing support J4 for a while now, it feels similar to Leona except you have less cc and a cage.

  12. Quick question: I love playing support. However, one thing always makes me wonder whether or not I should choose the role. Naturally, I can't exactly trust my adc because the summoner behind him/her is ALWAYS passive, no joke. Also, because I've only been playing normal games (ranked coming in soon), the jungle picks range from yi to yi; never any champion that contributes utility.
    Should I play supports such as Blitz when the adc can't follow up properly? Also, should I reconsider my main role anytime soon? I feel top is my go-to role as I'm probably the only one on my team that can cs properly (~300 at 40 with most) and being on an island is perfectly fine by me.
    And also; Irelia top, Lux mid, J4 jungle, MF/Lucian adc, and Thresh/Leona support: good picks to main?

  13. SSJSuntasticSeptember 06, 2014

    If your AD carry won't follow up on a pull then give him easy situations to follow up and not skill-based situations, for instance when your jungler is ganking, pulling into a turret or pulling them in a 2v1 situation.

    As a top laner you should try and influence the game more by either pushing hard or TPing in to help in teamfights. Otherwise, top has low game impact by just farming considering the state of AD carries right now. Those champions are fine picks to main and viable at all elos. If you master all of them then you're off to a great start.


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