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Supports of a Different Kind Pt. 2


Welcome back!  This is part 2 of my two-part series about off-meta supports.  This section covers the supports Malphite and LeBlanc.  If you would rather read about Jarvan and Gragas, you can find that article here.  These two champions are polar opposites of each other.  One champion tries to win lane while the other attempts to survive, one champion initiates teamfights while the other avoids them altogether, one of these is a tank, and another is an assassin.  However, both of these champions are very capable supports and can do very well in solo queue and maybe even some competitive play. [tabgroup][tab title=”Malphite”]

Malphite

I was really debating on if I should keep Malphite as part of my 4 off-meta picks since he is the only champ here who will struggle to win lane.  However, his teamfight strength and his ability to hard initiate against the prominent poke compositions of this meta make Malphite a force to be reckoned with.  Another strength of Malphite is that he synergizes very will with the Feral Flare meta.  Junglers are becoming much squishier, so support Malphite can easily fill the role of being your team’s tank.  If you don’t need to tank, you can also play the role of ahq Greentea and build full magic penetration to burst down your enemies while you initiate for your team.

Why Malphite?

Support Malphite was first brought to my attention by ahq Greentea when he played it in the GPL finals 3 times against TPA.  He went 2-1 while playing support Malphite, and drew a Malphite ban against him in game 4 of that series.  They played every Malphite game with a jungle Pantheon and every game Greentea built full magic penetration after getting a Targon’s Brace and Sightstone.  I tried this out myself, and I was pretty surprised with Malphite’s effectiveness even though he offers very little “support” to his ADC. Malphite is a very good champion to pick if the other team has champions like Sivir, Caitlyn, Karma, Morgana, Nidalee, Ziggs, etc.  You get the idea, Malphite is good against poke/disengage comps that are notoriously hard to initiate on.  Malphite is also a good pick if your team has a Yasuo or if your team has a lot of AoE.  He works great with Pantheon, Nocturne, Shen and  Twisted Fate.  Once your teammate can affect the bot lane with their ultimate, you can lock up the enemies with your own ult and guarantee at least a kill.  Malphite is definitely better for people who feel that they are more of a knowledgeable player than a mechanically skilled player.  You don’t rely on winning lane to win games as Malphite, you just need to understand when to initiate fights and when your team is able to win a fight.  Solo queue Malphite can carry you multiple ranks from hitting good ultimates.

Playing Malphite

Runes and Masteries

As I said earlier, there are two ways to play support Malphite, either full tank or full magic pen.  After trying both, I think that full tank is better for climbing solo queue.  My personal reasoning for this is: your ultimate will be just as effective without having the fear of being shut down.  Unless your name is Alex Ich, Malphite ult is not about the damage but rather the long-range AoE knock up.  For Malphite, I run armor marks, scaling health seals, 5 flat magic resist and 4 scaling magic resist glyphs, and armor quints.  I take the scaling health seals because Malphite’s passive scales with his health and that bonus HP on the shield helps protect Malphite from poke.  If you want to build magic penetration Malphite, I would take magic pen marks, scaling health seals, the 5:4 ratio of scaling and flat magic resist, and armor quints.  I would only trade the armor marks for the magic penetration because I feel every other rune choice is too important. Again, I  use 9/12/9 masteries.  The only shift that I do differently for Malphite compared to Gragas is that I take movement speed in the utility tree instead of mana regen.  Movement speed is more important on Malphite than mana regen because he needs the movement speed to initiate fights.  Expose Weakness is really good on champions that have a lot of AoE damage.  Malphite is also very weak in lane and increasing the effectiveness of his potions vastly improves his staying power.  Another viable option for Malphite’s masteries (which I occasionally do switch to) is to go 0/21/9 and sacrifice some damage to survive longer and be a larger tank for your team.  I suggest going 9/12/9 for the magic pen build; I don’t think many of the deeper points in the offense tree are worth the investment.

Laning

The lane phase is support Malphite’s weakest area.  The best he can do is harass the enemy with his Q while hoping he doesn’t run out of mana.  Malphite can build any of the gold generation items, however he should only build Relic Shield or Ancient Coin.  If the enemy team has a lot of disengage and long-range poke, Malphite should rush to finish the Talisman of Ascension.  However, you do not want to run into lane with just the Coin, so it is better to start a Ruby Crystal if you are going to get Talisman.  If you do not need more movespeed to initiate against their team, your starting item should be a Relic Shield, 2 health potions, and a mana potion.  Support Malphite needs to avoid engages as often as possible when in lane.  He does not offer much in a 2v2, but if you happen to find yourself in a fight, try to make sure you Ground Slam the enemy AD to slow their attack speed.  That is the most help you can offer your AD.  However,once you make it to level 6,you can call for a jungle/mid gank and get easy kills on the bottom lane.  Since Malphite does not offer much to his ADC, an AD that can handle themselves in lane while also providing a large amount of AoE or long-range damage is the best lane buddy.  The top 5 that fill this role are: Twitch, Miss Fortune, Lucian, Varus, and Ashe.  Skill priorities are R>Q>E>W because you need to try to maximize your abysmal laning presence by harassing with your Q.  This makes Malphite weak to supports like Sona who can poke and heal their ally, thus removing Malphite’s only form of lane presence.

Post-Lane

Teamfights are the reason you pick support Malphite.  He has always been the engage master and he does a great job of nullifying the annoying poke champs that tend to be hated by most of the community.  When initiating a fight, it is important to look at your team before using your ult.  If your team is at half health, even the perfect initiate is a poor initiate.  Also, keep an eye on the champion portraits to see what follow-up your team can offer if you were to initiate.  Unless you also have an Ashe on your team, be wary of the flash into the max range ultimate.  You will almost always be too far away from your team for them to follow.  His ultimate turns fights in an instant;  when multiple high priority targets get knocked up, you will almost guarantee a teamfight win.  Try to peel off bruisers from your backline while waiting to for the right ultimate.  This is easily done by using your Q on them and sticking on them.  As long as it looks like you are busy fighting the other team’s frontline, people will forget that you are actually Malphite and will make the mistake of grouping back together.

Key Items

Greentea builds his magic pen Malphite with the core items of Sightstone, Sorcerer’s, Targon’s, Haunting Guise, and Abyssal Scepter.  This is the cheapest way to maximize magic penetration while also providing the necessary vision for your team.  Apart from this being too risky of a playstyle, I have no issues with Greentea’s build.  It is cheap and it does exactly what the build is supposed to do, give you lots of magic penetration.  My personal build would be Sightstone, Tabi/Mercs, Talisman/Targon’s (Face of the Mountain is not very necessary when a Malphite ult is involved), Locket, and Randuin’s/Frozen Heart/Iceborn Gauntlet (your personal preference).  These items all excel in teamfights, and grant Malphite even more presence in the teamfights he initiates.

Closing Thoughts on Malphite

Malphite is a really good champion.  I am not so sure about his laning phase and his lack of presence in the lane, but the moment I reach teamfights, I completely forget about the difficulties I had while laning.  He is my go-to support when I get fed up with Nidalee and Ziggs, and he does a very good job of preventing them from playing the game they want to play.  Just like Gragas, Malphite is able to carry up the ranks just by having a teamfight presence and hitting precise ultimates.  Seeing as I learned about Malphite from recent tournament play, it would seem safe to assume that he will indeed see at least some competitive play.  I do not see Malphite joining any region other than SEA anytime soon unless Ziggs and Nidalee remain strong picks after patch 4.7 goes through.[/tab] [tab title=”LeBlanc”]

LeBlanc

Support LeBlanc is by far the hardest champion to carry you in solo queue for a couple of reasons.  First off, almost every game has LeBlanc banned.  So, unlike the other 3 champions, you will not be able to play her every game.  Secondly, she is a very risky champion.  She is extremely squishy, and is useful when played mid-lane for her one-shot potential.  If you fall behind on support LeBlanc, you tickle the enemy ADC and die very quickly.  The reason I play her, however, is that she is the most rewarding champion of these 4.  If you start getting kills against the enemy bot-lane, you will snowball out of control from the support position.  Unlike many of the Nidalee supports you loath getting, LeBlanc is very capable as a support and should not be viewed as a pick that a “mid main reluctant to support” would choose.

Why LeBlanc?

I first tried support LeBlanc over a year ago when Daydreamin picked her in week 9 of the spring split of LCS against Complexity.  I was immediately intrigued because I enjoyed playing LeBlanc, but I had never envisioned her as a support.  The following games went very well and I kept her as a pocket pick.  However, LeBlanc changed, and so did the meta.  Her change actually benefited her as a support because her ultimate now costs 0 mana at all levels instead of 100 mana at rank 1.  She also got buffed as a support because her scalings give her more damage if she fell behind while also being less scary when fed.  However, she is still pretty useless when behind and absolutely horrifying when fed, it’s just that she is less extreme than what she used to be.  The shifting meta undid all of the buffs that support LeBlanc received and actually put her in probably a worse place now than a year ago.  Sona is hardly ever seen, and in her place we have Leona, Heal, and Exhaust.  Oh and don’t forget the second Heal in bot-lane too. LeBlanc is a great support if you just want the game to be in control of your hands for just this once.  Either you will do amazingly and win the game, or you will feed horribly and lose the game.  Such is the life of support LeBlanc.  Live or die, kill or feed; I hope that you end up on the side that fights for the living.  LeBlanc is mainly used as a counter-pick due to the extreme variance between her good games and her bad games.  The goal of the support LeBlanc game is to get fed while in lane so you can roam around the map and continue to get fed.  Pick her when the enemy support has already selected a Sona, Nami, or Janna.  Instalock her if the enemy team also selected an ADC like Ashe, Jinx or Vayne.  She is great against champions without targeted CC, and is even better against ADCs that have very little burst in the lane phase.  If you manage to get out of laning phase with at least 2 kills, you can really help your team secure objectives with unmatched warding and 5v4 teamfights.  If you die multiple times in lane, you can help your team with unmatched warding and then lose in the ensuing 4v5 teamfight.

Playing LeBlanc

Runes and Masteries

LeBlanc is an assassin.  She is a burst mage and she excels at killing champions.  However, she is also extremely fragile and does not do well when playing from behind.  Therefore, instead of going full offense in my rune page, I run magic pen reds, flat health seals, either scaling ap glyphs or flat magic resist glyphs, and flat AP quints.  The flat HP gives LeBlanc a bonus 72 health going into lane, which is a pretty large amount since normally you would be walking in with only 465 health.  These seals give approximately the same amount of health as the Relic Shield, however you still get to start with a Spelltheif’s Edge.  The choice for glyphs depends on the enemy ADC.  If they have more magic damage than Varus, I grab the magic resist glyphs.  For everyone else (Varus included), I take the scaling AP blues. Since LeBlanc is designed around making the enemy’s lifebar disappear, I go 21/0/9 for masteries.  The 21 in offense are all standard burst mage masteries, with the only swap being in Expose Weakness instead of Arcane Blade.  As the support you do not need help last hitting, and you will also not have enough AP to make Arcane Blade do more damage than what your team can do with Expose Weakness.  The 9 points in utility are for Recall, Mana Regen, Summoner CDR, and Biscuits.  I take the mana regeneration over the movement speed because LeBlanc is already extremely mobile with her distortion and possibly her mimicked distortion as well.

Laning

Ethereal Chains is LeBlanc’s most important ability when she is support.  I max it first in lane due to the mana cost remaining constant at all levels.  Her damage remains relatively the same no matter what spell you max, LeBlanc’s E is just typically maxed last because it is her only skillshot.  If you decide to max a spell other than her chains, good luck at trying to convince your team to give you blue.  I go to lane with Spelltheif’s Edge, 2 health pots, and a mana pot.  This gives me enough sustain while also allowing for more frequent spell use in lane.  Your biggest goal as LeBlanc is to avoid getting crowd controlled.  If you get crowd controlled, you usually end up dying or being put in a critical state.  The second most important thing on support LeBlanc is to keep the enemies in the danger zone of 3/4 and below health.  Once you hit level 3, this puts them at a very reasonable kill range for you plus some damage from your ADC.    Strong ADs that work with LeBlanc are safe carries that have range or movement that can follow-up LeBlanc when she distortions forward.  Champions like that are Caitlyn, Lucian, Graves, Ezreal, and Corki.  Go for kills whenever possible, and make sure you have excellent ward coverage to avoid their jungler.  Reminder, forcing a Heal/Flash and a back is still a win! Do not overextend after one of those are burned.  Skill priority is R>E>Q>W.  W is lower priority than Q because you only need the W for movement when playing support LeBlanc.

Post-Lane

Assuming you had a good laning phase, LeBlanc is amazing at objective control and picking enemies off.  She is the best warder in the game because you can W over a wall from a safe spot into a more risky area, walk forward for a couple of seconds, place your ward, and W back to the safe area.  This is very noticeable when you can safely put wards on the enemies red buff by jumping over Baron or Dragon wall, and placing the ward in the red bush on the side of golems.  Once the ward is down, you can hit W again to go back to safety inside Baron/Dragon pit.  Once you have well-placed deep wards, you are able to pick enemies off with your superior vision and burst.  She is also really great with objective control because of her warding and because she can surprise enemies as they filter in through choke points.  LeBlanc doesn’t have the best teamfights, unless your team can make it an uneven fight at the start, so try to avoid those when possible.

Key Items

LeBlanc is all about bursting people down, so it is important to build her in a way that maximizes her damage.  Cooldown reduction also works extremely well on LeBlanc because then she is able to aggressively poke more often.  Therefore, my core items on support LeBlanc are: Sightstone, Frostfang (do NOT upgrade), DFG, and Morellonomicon/Mikael’s/Twin Shadows.  The decision between the last 3 items depends on what the other team has.  If they are abusing the current heal meta, Morellonomicon is the strongest choice.  If the other team has a lot of lockdown, I would get Mikael’s because keeping your AD alive is more important to winning games than having a bit more extra damage.  If the enemy team has little lockdown and healing, Twin Shadows is the strongest choice because it gives LeBlanc even greater pick potential while also providing another source of vision for your team.

Closing Thoughts on LeBlanc

Support LeBlanc is in a bad place right now due to the current meta and her strength in the mid lane.  I still play her as a support because I have fun playing LeBlanc, but I recognize that she is not very good at supporting.  She is very high risk, high reward, and if you manage to play her well, you will carry many games from the support position.  Heal and exhaust are both very annoying to deal with, due to the amount of safety it provides the enemy bot lane.  She is also hard to climb solo queue with because she is banned a lot, picked a lot, and if your team does manage to grab her, why are you not sending her mid?  I do not see her being used as a support competitively as long as heal and exhaust remain strong, but I can see well-played LeBlancs carrying teams from the support role.  If you have a ranked 5s team, I suggest you test her out there as well!  With team coordination, you can grab the LeBlanc to bait out certain mids for a counterpick and you can work around her strengths better as well.[/tab]

[tab title = “Quick-Look”]

Here! Have a fancy infographic that quickly discusses all 4 supports! Enjoy!

Supports of Different Kind Infographic [/tab][/tabgroup]

Conclusion

Off-meta does not necessarily mean that a champion is bad.  Usually it means that a champion is a niche pick like LeBlanc, however, it could just be that the champion has been glossed over by people who play what they are told is strong.  It’s true, champions like Thresh and Leona are strong bot lane picks, but they are not the only options available.  If you are unsure about the champions I discussed here, but you like the general premise of using an unexpected champion at support here is a quick guide on how to identify good supports.  Firstly, the champion needs to be able to offer something to the bot-lane or be a monster in teamfights without items.  LeBlanc and Jarvan make the bot-lane a kill lane for your team.  Malphite provides his ultimate and attack speed slow in teamfights.  Gragas zones and pokes in lane while being able to control teamfights with his ultimate.  A champion like Katarina would not be a good support because she does not offer the CC necessary to get an early kill, and she needs items in order for her to get the resets.  Another qualifier to be a good support is for the champion to have the ability to peel for their ADC if the lane goes to hell.  All of these champions have at least something to allow for the ADC to get away.  An example champion that could work is Maokai.  He offers a lot of kill potential once he hits level 2, and he can snare and slow enemies if escape is needed.  Overall, don’t forget that League of Legends is a game, and try to have fun without impairing others.  Don’t try something like Malphite support for the first time while you are in ranked, practice first, and practice often.

 


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Asolitaryllama

is a Chemical Engineering student at Northeastern University. He has played League of Legends for over three years now and has watched the competitive scene for just as long. Message him either on twitter or Facebook @Asolitaryllama.

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