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Supports of a Different Kind


supports of a different kind title

Hey guys!  I am Chris “Asolitaryllama” Blanchard and this is my first article on Cloth5.  This series is an analysis and guide on how to play four supports that shake up the bot-lane meta.

These supports (Jarvan, Gragas, Malphite, and LeBlanc) are all very capable of winning bot-lane and are able to carry their bot-lane success into the mid/end-game and a victory for your team.  Today’s article focuses on the all-in heavy Jarvan IV and the newly reworked Gragas.

These champions are great picks for solo queue because if you get comfortable enough on these champions, you will be familiar with all of their bot-lane matchups while your opponents will not know the strengths and weaknesses of your support.

The Unknown Factor

I like weird picks for a couple of reasons.  The biggest reason is that when there is a stable meta, you learn the matchups for your off-meta pick a lot faster than the enemy learns about the strengths and weaknesses about your champion.  This means you have more knowledge than the other team just for picking something different (that you have practiced) like Poppy top.

People don’t play against Poppy on a daily basis so they don’t know her power spikes, they don’t know her weaknesses, heck, some people don’t even know her abilities.  Meanwhile, when playing Poppy, you are nearly 100% certain you will lane against either a Renekton, a Jax, a Riven, a Ryze, or Rumble.  You have seen those champions all before, and as you get better at your champion, you will know all the best times to fight against them.

Another reason to pick an off-meta champion is because they change and influence the meta.  A year ago, a guy reached high diamond by playing only AP Tryndamere.  This lead to so many people playing Trynd, that he got nerfed.  Even after the nerf, Tryndamere was still played as a competitive split-pusher (AD) for a short while.  AP Lulu and Soraka were originally just innovative picks by solo queue heroes.  Without innovation and people who are unafraid to challenge the meta in solo-queue, we will never have a shifting meta in the professional scene.

Innovation isn’t limited to top-tier players either.  You might never have the mechanics, or knowledge, or even just the time investment available to reach Diamond 1, but maybe you lose a game as Jarvan support in Gold because of a baron throw.  Maybe you impressed they other support with your Jarvan play and they decide to try out Jarvan for themselves.  This butterfly effect can happen in solo queue, and happens fairly often.  Innovation keeps the meta from going stale, and innovation happens in solo queue.

Finally, it’s more fun (for me) to pick weird and different champions and not picking Leona/Thresh every game.

[tabgroup][tab title=”Jarvan IV”]

Jarvan IV

Let me start this with my favorite of these supports, Jarvan IV.  This champion wins many bot-lanes the moment he hits level 2.  He overpowers both the support and the enemy ADC with his raw damage output, his armor shred, and his AoE attack speed buff.  He scales well into the late-game in many team compositions due to his utility and his one-of-a-kind ultimate.  He needs to all-in during the laning phase and he is countered by early peel/disengage.

Why Jarvan?

I decided to start trying Jarvan out as a support after playing a lot of Twisted Treeline with my friends.  For those of you who don’t see the connection, Jarvan IV is a very strong champion in 3v3 and can work as a support or a jungler because he has a lot of early game presence while not needing many items to stay effective.

When the support changes hit, I immediately tried him.  With the new ways to generate gold on Summoner’s Rift, J4 has more than enough gold to be the tank your team needs late-game while also giving an extreme amount of kill pressure to the bot-lane.

Jarvan is suitable for almost any situation.  He fits almost any team composition, and is only countered by compositions that have an immense amount of disengage or have a large amount of dashes.  You want to pick Jarvan when your favorite playstyle is to “be a man” and hard engage whenever possible.

He works well with many marksmen and if you manage to get ahead while playing him, you can build damage and  become a second carry out of the bot-lane.

Playing Jarvan

Runes and Masteries

The first step to playing a champion is to adjust runes and masteries to fit that champion’s playstyle.  Jarvan is a melee support who thrives on all-in fights and is weak to poke.  Since Jarvan will win almost any 2v2 all-in, you do not need a bigger  health pool.  Against any of the other traditional bot-lanes, you would only benefit from health runes against a Corki/Lucian/Graves + Leona lane. In every other lane, I take flat armor Seals, Marks, and Quints.  For Glyphs, I take a mix of flat and scaling magic resist.

Now, don’t butcher me and tell me that I am running a sub-optimal rune set because armor seals got nerfed and health seals got buffed.  I took that into consideration and I believe that flat armor is still the way to go on many supports.  Why?  Flat armor works because as a support you will most likely not be buying an armor item until late in the game.

On many supports your first 4 buys will be: Sightstone, tier 2 gold generation item, Mikael’s, and boots 1.  Since most tanky supports will be building Targon’s Brace as their gold item, they already have an excess of health going into the mid-game without any bonus armor.  At level 1, my Jarvan has 66.6 armor, 38.6 magic resist, and 640 HP.  This is 1067 effective health against physical damage and 889 effective health against magic damage.

If I were to run the most popular HP runes (scaling seals) I would have 57.6 armor, 38.6 magic resist, and 652  HP; or 1019 effective health against physical damage and 906 effective health against magic damage.  Even though scaling health overtakes flat armor fairly quickly, its effects are reduced by the build path that support Jarvan takes while the effects of flat armor are increased by the presence of Heal as a summoner spell.  This is especially true with the change of Aegis/Locket to no longer grant armor.

For masteries, I almost always go 9/12/9 when I play support.  Jarvan is no exception.  I grab CDR, AD, and Expose Weakness in the offensive page, Block, HP Regen, HP, and Armor in the defensive tree, and I grab MS, recall time, Summoner CDR, and Biscuits in the support tree.  Expose Weakness is my favorite support mastery in the game.  It is extremely underrated and gives a nice amount of bonus damage to your team for just a single point.

The AD is to give you some offensive power in the early game to help establish your dominance.  Defense is very important for Jarvan since he is a melee support and can easily be poked down by either the enemy support or AD or both.  I do not go further down the Defense tree because I like the options for the first 9 points in the support tree.  1.5 movespeed is very good and allows for Jarvan to auto-attack the enemy ADC while still keeping up with them.

I also find that having flash and exhaust on 10% lower cooldowns greatly benefit me and my team.  Also, since Jarvan is susceptible to being poked out, increasing the value of his potions goes a long way to keeping him healthy enough to engage.

Laning

Jarvan support is all about the level 2.  For this reason, you want an ADC that has a lot of level 2 kill potential and not a champion like Caitlyn.  The top 5 ADs, in order, are Draven, Vayne, Twitch, Lucian, and Graves.

It is important that you let your AD know what you are doing and you let them know what skills they should have come level 2.  Draven, Vayne, and Lucian need their Q and E, Twitch needs his W and E, and Graves could go either Q+W or Q+E, but I prefer if he gets his W.

When you get to lane, you do NOT want to fast push the first wave of minions.  If you do that, your enemy will be under or close to under their tower by the time you guys hit level 2.  You want to either push the minions at the same speed as the enemy bot-lane or let them remain one minion ahead of you.  Once, the second wave comes, you rush the minions down as quickly as possible to hit level 2 first, and from here you either initiate or zone the enemy if they back off.

You want to start Q at level 1 unless your jungler needs help which you would then start E.  Always grab a Relic Shield as your first item as well.  There are 2 skill orders that you can choose from.  If you are getting kills or constantly winning fights, skill priorities are R>Q>E>W and if the enemy is avoiding fights, switch it to R>E>Q>W.

Post-Lane

Once your team decides that it is time to group up, you now serve 1 of 3 roles depending on your team’s composition.  You are the initiator if your team has a lot of AoE damage.  You are the lock-down if your team is mostly focused around getting picks and you are the disengage if your team is a poke composition.  Everybody is familiar with Jarvan playing the first two roles, but how does he disengage for a poke comp?

Since the enemy team is charging at you it is fairly easy to ult them and get multiple people trapped inside your walls.  Then, you E+Q away from your ultimate, back towards your team, leaving the enemies trapped behind you.  It is very rare for a solo queue team to all have flash available before a fight, so if you do this, some enemies will flash the wall while others will remain trapped.

This is an advantage for your team as you now have an Xv5 where X is the number of enemies that were able to burn flash to escape your cataclysm.

Key Items

My item build on Jarvan will usually be: Sightstone, Face of the Mountain, Ninja Tabi, and Locket.  As the game progresses, other items to consider would be Hexdrinker, Randuin’s, Iceborn Gauntlet, and Banshee’s Veil.  For boot upgrades, Captain’s are the best, but unfortunately Riot has those as the only boot upgrades that cost more than 475 gold.

If you can’t afford them, Homeguards and Alacrity are decent enough.  If you happen to accidentally secure kills while in bot-lane, it would be wise to avoid the full tank route and look to build towards Trinity Force, starting with Phage.  If you really want to drive it home that you do damage, don’t be afraid to add a Tiamat while you work towards Hydra.  I can not recommend the full offensive build, but those are the two items I would build if I ever did that.

Closing Thoughts on Jarvan IV

I think Jarvan is a very strong solo queue support (but if they pick Thresh, Ali, or Janna, I would leave him unpicked) and I feel a lot of people who do not main support would be very attracted to his playstyle.  He all-ins very early in the lane, and he remains a threat and very useful throughout the game.  I do not see him appearing on the competitive scene anytime soon because a coordinated team can punish the bot-lane with Jarvan support, even though he does do extremely well in the notorious 4v0 lane swaps.[/tab]

[tab title=”Gragas”]

Gragas

Gragas is the newest addition to League of Legends.  He was previously picked in the mid-lane because of his large amount of AoE burst damage and his insane mobility.  However, he was a very polarizing champion because he did everything a mid-laner needed to do while still being one of, if not the safest mid-laner.  Riot reworked him to go back to his roots of being a tanky bruiser, and his new kit works really well as a poke/disengage support.

Why Gragas?

Gragas recently got reworked but kept the most important part of his kit intact, his ultimate.  His ultimate is one of the most skill-based spells in the game and can single-handedly win or lose your team the fight/game depending on how you place the barrel.  I have played Gragas for a very long time, and I have gotten very good at using his barrel to move enemies where I want them to go, so I decided to play this new Gragas as a support.

Gragas is a good support when your team is very poke-heavy.  If you look at your team composition, and you think Karma would be a good fit for your team, Gragas would fit in as well.  He is better in lane than Karma when the enemy bot-lane has any sort of engage potential because Gragas is better at dueling.

He has a massive on-hit steroid in his W and his body slam does respectable damage and stuns.  Karma has better poke in lane than Gragas, but Gragas has better zone control.  You can throw your Q down and let it sit just to deny enemies from standing in that area for 5 seconds.  Again, his ultimate is by one of the hardest skills to use in the game, but if you are good with Gragas, you will quickly climb through solo queue by landing good ultimates.

Playing Gragas

Runes and Masteries

Gragas is a melee support who focuses on poke and is decent when there is an all-in.  Gragas will mainly use only one ability while in lane and that is his Q.  His passive also grants him a lot of health sustain (based off of his max HP) while poking.

This is why I take scaling HP seals, armor marks, AP quints, and 5 flat magic resist and 4 flat mana regen blues.  I take the HP seals because it increases my health pool for my passive, and it allows me to be tankier late game through effective health and my passive.  The reason I opt for health seals over armor seals is because Gragas does not build a lot of HP.

The only items that give Gragas HP that I can really recommend are Sightstone and Haunting Guise/Liandry’s.   I prefer to run armor marks because it makes Gragas tankier and less likely to give up an early kill for a small mistake.  Magic pen marks are also acceptable, but they are less safe.  I also mix mana regen into the glyphs because Gragas no longer regens mana while taking a drink.

The 4 mana regen glyphs are used because U.R.F. mode told me that “no mana means no fun” and with no mana regen on Gragas’s W anymore, he  could really benefit from having some bonus mana regen.

I run 9/12/9 in the masteries when I play Gragas.  I grab CDR, AP, and Expose Weakness in the offensive page, Block, HP Regen, HP, and Armor in the defensive tree, and I grab Mana Regen, Improved Recall, Summoner CDR, and Biscuits in the support tree.

Gragas focuses on poke and zone control on his Q.  I want to be able to use that skill as often as possible, both through CDR and mana regen.  Gragas also has a lot of AoE damage, this allows him to apply Expose Weakness to multiple people at once.  Finally, Gragas is still a bruiser, you do not want to die immediately when you get into melee range.

Laning

Gragas excels at zoning the enemy and poking in lane.  This benefits nearly every ADC because they are able to free farm while you zone and harass the enemy.  However, some ADCs synergize well with Gragas and are able to make full use of his zoning power in lane.  Varus, Caitlyn, Ezreal, Jinx and Corki work very well with Gragas.

His zone forces enemies into a decision, and that decision becomes a choice between two evils when your ADC also has poke.  It is important to practice Gragas a bit because his Q now does more damage and slows more the longer you leave it sitting.

It is nice to know when you can let the barrel sit for a bit and when you should explode the cask immediately.  Always grab a Spelltheif’s Edge and 2 health pots and a mana pot when you head to lane, maybe a Ruby Crystal instead if you are up against a kill lane and you feel uncomfortable.

If you have issues conserving mana, grab 2 mana pots instead of 2 health pots.  Skill priorities are R>Q>W>E for Gragas because Q is his main spell, and W gets better with levels than E does.

Post-Lane

Gragas excels with zoning and sieging once he leaves lane.  This is great for objective control and pushing down towers.  It isn’t necessarily the best set of skills to have when playing solo queue, but I’m sure your team will eventually want to take down a tower or do another silly baron attempt.  His ultimate is wonderful for engaging and disengaging, it all depends on where you place the barrel.

He is a hard champion to learn now that his ult is mostly used for displacement rather than using it to one-shot people, but he is by far the most rewarding champion on this list.  A single ultimate can knock away the entire backline for the enemy team while bringing their tanks into yours.  This allows your team to kill the tanks before any real damage comes to harm your frontline.  You can also throw the ultimate in front of their initiator to knock them away from your team to allow for some great disengage.

Key Items

For Gragas, I like having a core build of Frost Queen’s Claim, Sorcerer’s Shoes, Sightstone, Mikael’s, and Morellonomicon/Twin Shadows/Liandry’s Torment.

The decision between those last three items comes down to what your team needs, or what their team has.  If their team has a lot of healing, Morellonomicon is the obvious choice.  Twin Shadows really helps catch people out-of-place if your team does not have a lot of lock-down, it should definitely be considered if you have a pick comp, and is a great item for how much it costs.  Liandry’s is one of the better damage items on Gragas and helps siege towers very well by adding a lot of burn damage when you hit a Q.

Other items to consider are Iceborn Gauntlet against a hard engage team, Rabadon’s, Void Staff, and Randuin’s Omen.

Closing Thoughts on Gragas

I originally hesitated to add Gragas to this list because there were a lot of things that were weird and wrong on his kit when he first got re-released.  However, with the newest patch, I think Gragas is a good solo queue support with a lot of carry potential.  He does not win lane a lot, but if you get used to positioning his ultimate, you will win many, many games.

I suggest trying him out if you put any time into learning him when he was an exceptional mid-laner, or if you are a big fan of Karma support.  I think that Gragas will be a very good support in the competitive scene because he is a very safe laner with a lot of teamfight presence and zone control.  I expect him to be played a decent amount once the tournament realm moves to 4.6.[/tab][/tabgroup]

Conclusion

There are more viable champions than just the ones that match the current meta.  Both Jarvan and Gragas are very capable supports in their own right.  Jarvan excels at snowballing games very quickly from the bot-lane while Gragas has quickly become one of the best poke/disengage supports.

They are both unusual picks and if you understand how they play, you will be at an advantage over your rival bot-lane because they will not know the ins and outs of Jarvan or Gragas.  Part 2 of my guide, featuring LeBlanc and Malphite, will be released soon, so don’t be afraid to check back for updates!


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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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