Hey guys, DC941 here with an addition to the important preseason stream of information. With the changes made to support items, most people were happily looking forward for new supporting options – but what did the changes really do to the way the role is played? This week, OGN Champions was played on 3.14 for the first time. We’ll discuss how players made use of the new items and why they played this way. Afterwards, I’d like to look into the new, more distinguished roles for support players.
The Champions’ love for ancient treasure
With the new support income in place, everyone was excited to find out the most effective way to use them – and what is OGN if not the best source for professional play? However, the variety of used items was rather disappointing. Almost every single time and on every champion, the Korean supports went for Ancient Coin as starting item – the few exceptions included two bought Relic Shields which were sold later to get Ancient Coin instead!
But why is it like that? To get to the core of the problem here, you must know that Shurelya’s Reverie was an item always loved by Koreans due to their love of mobility. Most of their teams work with heavy aggression and taking advantage of enemy positioning to pick up quick and easy kills when the situation arises. The speed provided by Reverie was great for this due the fact that it helps your entire team to catch an enemy off-guard. Players in the OGN valued Reverie enough to make it the #1 buy for supports with money after sightstone.
With the new item changes in 3.14, the former active of Shurelya’s Reverie is now the active effect of the support income item Talisman of Ascension. The item being a gold income item is the actual root of the problem – the rule that blocks you from getting multiple gold income items now also blocks you from buying the speed boost when you have another support item already.
This problematic relation was uncovered due to the Korean players sticking to their Season 3 playstyle which was heavily based on them priming their CCvery well and creating pick scenarios generating game-winning plays this way. While I am almost certain that there will be more and more supports buying Targon’s Brace and Frostfang over time, I also think that Talisman of Ascension will stay the top support item unless there will be changes due to the fact that it is the only one with a team-oriented active ability (while maybe being the most impactful as well). This could be changed with bringing back Shurelya’s Reverie as a non-gold item or switching around the active of Talisman of Ascension with one of the other items, but this is a huge mechanical change which needs balancing again – which already is in a late state on live servers. However, there is a slim chance of the support items staying the way they are right now.
Why the other options are good, but not as valuable for a team
While it is true that Talisman of Ascension is great, the other two options are by no means bad item choices (especially in SoloQ).
Relic Shield and its upgrade path provide nice stats for tankier supports who need to take some hits like Leona, Taric, or Thresh. It also provides easily accessible gold for the support while being the only gold income item directly increasing the gold of the receiver of the passive due to the bonus gold per charge. The active’s shield can decide close fights since many people still do not expect it; it is, however, not that strong despite of supports stacking health nowadays.
Spellthief’s Edge and its upgrade line is strong on AP damage-based champions like Annie. It is a difficult choice for others like Fiddlesticks due to its gold passive though: to trigger it as much as possible, you need to harass as much you can in lane. Fiddlesticks is rather squishy and an overly aggressive position can result in his death pretty quickly trough initiating support like Leona, Taric, or Thresh. This makes the item much harder to handle than its two counterparts. Another negative point about its gold income mechanic is that it is tricky to abuse when the laning phase end since supports normally stick to their team since they are not strong enough to duel enemies – this means that Spellthiefs Edge can only earn you money trough skirmishes or big engagements on most champions due to range limits. The active of Frost Queen’s Claim however is an overlooked point: while its CC duration is 2 seconds short and relatively hard to utilize by noncommunicating teams due to its (missing) cast animation, it is a great CC setup to catch enemies out of position – it can easily followed up by stuns like Nami’s Aqua Prison and Annie’s Pyromania.
Both items share one trait: they only affect a single champion with their deciding mechanic. While Face of the Mountain can deal some AoE damage and Frost Queen’s Claim can slow multiple enemies, it is rather hard to use both of them in these ways. It will, purely mechanically, always be easier to follow up on a call based on the speed of Talisman of Ascension. The sudden rush of speed is hardly countered (if not by another Talisman of Ascension) and can get really dangerous really fast while the slow from Frost Queen’s Claim can be cleansed. A change which could bring the items closer together would be to make Talisman of Ascensions active a single target ability, giving a huge speed boost only to one ally. This is connected with other problems though (do we want to take out one of the most “play-generating” actives of the game?) – making the current pyramid a rather problematic scenario.
The fun side of 3.14 – distinctive support roles
There are also positive things to say about the patch though. The three new item paths make support roles more varied, not only through the new gold gain, but also due to the stats provided by them. While supports in season 3 were mostly just ward generators in terms of build, they now can actually have a build – this makes a big difference since every support player can now decide to build up stats for a certain playstyle fitting to their champion much more than before. There are three main subroles for supports which can be oriented on now:
The brickwall – supports like Leona, Taric, Blitzcrank, and Thresh can now build much tankier to survive longer and apply their CC and base damages more often during engagements. They can also get a little more threatening trough items like Sunfire Cape. This is especially the case with the again slightly reworked gem knight, Taric, who now brings an absurd amount of damage to the table to make up for his low mobility. With the increased gold gain, his armor aura which is based on his own armor finally makes sense.
The destroyer – the more recent supports like Annie, Fiddlesticks, Karma and maybe even Lux can now abuse both their harass potential as well as their huge ability power scalings in duo-lanes as well. It can even be a good idea to skip the sightstone in favor of a full caster build if the game gives them the time to bloom.
The classic supports – all of the classic utility supports got changed, introducing the new utility scalings. While these are still a subject to change (I expect number changer for the sake of Janna for example), they present an interesting new way to help your team. This role is the standard way to support: stand back, make your carry survive and help your team with your abilities, especially with heals, shields and CC. The Talisman of Ascension item path features resource regeneration to fuel this playstyle, while the gold generation passive is just as fitting.
While most champions are clearly not a representative of just one of these roles, they can be used as a measuring help for builds while making the playstyles for support a little more varied. I think that this is a great change (especially for people not playing support as a preferred role) making the support role overall more enjoyable while keeping its basics alive. There still will be some changes to numbers or even the active ability mechanics – but the general role rework for supports was a great success in my eyes.