Coaching to Gold: A guide to support

Support is the role most often belittled and ridiculed by solo queue players.

It’s a role many aren't familiar with and even less want to play. The situation becomes a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma as a result: players don’t want to play support, and then lose ELO because they aren’t experienced enough or focused enough on how to be successful in the role.

But don't believe the (lack of) hype. Support is actually one of the most fulfilling​ roles in the game and one that teaches you plenty about playing around the entire map and succeeding as a teammate. Good supports can easily carry games through their crowd control, vision denial, and in some cases, damage to the enemy team.

Choosing a support

Ranged supports are the easiest to get a grasp on if you are normally a mage or ranged carry player, since the transition between understanding the positioning and abilities is less of a hurdle. The same goes for top laners and junglers with respect to learning melee supports.

Remember that each have their own strengths and weaknesses overall. Melee supports are front line beasts who want to constantly apply crowd control and shields in fights and skirmishes. Ranged supports are generally more lane oriented, and focused on ensuring their own team is healthy and safe from afar due to their squishiness.

Supports to start out with in each category include the following:

Ranged Melee
Karma Alistar
Lulu Braum
Soraka Thresh

Focusing on these champions will give you the most important lessons on ability usage, how to lane as a support, how to position yourself in fights and using item actives. They're also incredibly simple champions to grasp, meaning you can spend more time focusing on how to ward and play the laning phase.

Laning as a support

The support position is one of the more fun lanes in League of Legends, just because you can be more focused on fighting and harass versus farming and … farming. Supports also have the best tools to roam after pushing in a lane, often carrying vision and a ton of movement speed through masteries and Boots of Mobility.

Fighting as a support is simple, but involves one key thing: trust in your AD carry. A daunting request, but think of it this way: if you don't trust them, you've already lost the lane and likely the game. Trusting them means avoiding some of the pitfalls of newer support players, which include the following:

  • Playing physically behind your AD carry
  • Not harassing the enemy laners when they go for farm
  • Warding during your AD carry’s attempts at farming, leading to bad trades
  • Not being the lead and main target of any bot lane fight (as you almost always have more early sustain)
  • Not roaming for vision when your lane is pushing into the enemy

When laning as a support, be conscious of the cooldown of enemy laners. Try to figure out the general time in which summoner spells come back up, and be cognizant of pings and their best usage. You want to trust your AD carry to follow up on any moves, so iterating a game plan of how the 2v2 lane will go before minions spawn can give both players a visualization of the best case scenario.

Ask yourself questions about which bot lane has the most range, which has the most kill pressure (for example, a Draven alongside a Thresh with ignite is a lot of kill pressure), which has the greater ability to push the lane, and which is more likely to spike at level six.

Teamfighting as a support

One of the main questions you ought to ask yourself as you load into a game as support is: “How can I save my carries in fights?” For supports, these options are plentiful but worth analyzing for the best itemization path. If there is a lot of immediate burst on the enemy team, for example, Redemption may be less useful as a first major item over a Locket of the Iron Solari. A lot of crowd control means Mikael’s Crucible is a good early purchase.

But it's not just items that will give you these opportunities to save your carries, it's also your own abilities. It's not important that you dive into the back line as Alistar if your Q and W can be used to zone the Zed off of your AD carry and allow them to auto attack in the fight as a result. In some cases, your threat and presence make enemies less eager to jump in, or force them into bad decisions when they do try to jump on you.

Damage supports

Finally, don't forget about the damage supports. These are supports that don't necessarily have an excess of utility, like Zyra, Malzahar and Miss Fortune. They do provide some crowd control but are focused on being enemy targets due to their low economy damage.

In this sense, they peel for their team by being so outwardly dangerous. Playing these champions as you would a mage is normally the best plan of action. This doesn't mean taking creeps, but does mean using your low income damage items such as Liandry's Torment or The Black Cleaver to set up kills for your allies.

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a news editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

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