Design Change #2 for a Better LoL: Supports

In my last post, I talked about how to change itemization to make life better for tank junglers, especially those who have gank-heavy and CC-heavy kits, with less sustained damage. Today, I'll be talking about supports. Through Season 2, Support was the role that a lot of people thought of as the short-end of the stick. There were both good and bad reasons to think this. On the one hand, people complained about the support role's 'inability' to carry games. By this, they typically meant 'you can't 1vX anybody'. Yes, this is true, for the most part. But support, as the name suggests, is about setting plays up. The valid complaints about support, on the other hand, were slightly more nuanced. These complaints alleged that the lack of itemization choices gave support little well to express knowledge of itemization as a skill. Yes, there was a distinction between a great support and a good support mechanically, but there was no difference between a great support and a good support itemization-wise. You could always tell the bad supports: they didn't ward, bought AP, and stole farm all the time. But a mediocre support and a great support were basically differentiated solely by mechanics, not by choices. This eliminates one of the key aspects about LoL for this class. Sightstone and the gold changes were supposed to change this in Season 3, but once the novelty wore off, things have gone back to normal, and if you look at LCS games, you see the same scenario of supports ending with no items, and dumping all of their gold into wards. I think runes, masteries, items could all be tweaked make support, as a role, a bit more dynamic.

 

A New Season

To address these problems, we have to look at what the Season 3 changes were, and why they failed.

  1. Passive Gold up from 1.3 gold/second -> 1.6 gold/second
  2. Gold Item changes
    • Avarice Blade from .5 gold/second to .3 gold/second + 2 gold/unit kill
    • Kage's Lucky Pick from .5 gold/second to .4 gold/second
  3. Sightstone created (supposed to stop supports from spending money on wards

On paper, these look like good ideas, although I was skeptical of them in Season 3 posts of mine. They give everybody more gold, which benefits people with less gold (supports and junglers) relatively more than people with more gold (farmers). Avarice Blade looks like a nerf on a support champ (they don't kill many units), but who got Avarice Blade on supports anyway? Kage's Lucky Pick gets a small nerf. Sightstone takes care of 2 of a support's wards/3 minutes. However, other changes came along which really hurt support players.

Oracle's Elixir changed from being an item you lost on death to also only lasting 5 minutes. Why is this bad for supports? Well, you used to get the first and potentially subsequent Oracle's Elixirs on junglers. They were roaming, they got tanky and could stay alive with them in teamfights. And junglers at least had some gold from early jungle farm and ganks (not to mention gold items). But now, there's less benefit to putting them on your tank: they make him squishier, and even if he does stay alive with it, it'll be gone in 5 minutes. This shifts the burden of anti-warding over to supports. So, yes, Sightstone took off some of the 'MUST BUY WARDS' pressure for supports. But that gold didn't go to itemization, it went to "MUST KILL WARDS", in part due to the Oracle's Elixir change.

So how would I try to alleviate this?

Gold Items

The first changes actually fit right along with the suggested changes I made to junglers; gold items and their upgrades could use a boost. Supports could use more options as far as how to use their gold items. Upgrading a gold item for its effect loses you the gold, giving the support a choice between helping his team and losing out on a lot of what gold he would otherwise get. Letting upgraded gold items keep their gold (like Shard of True Ice does) would give supports slightly more stable income. Taking off some stats which supports don't necessarily like could also help. For this, I give an example I gave in my previous article:

Quote from Gentleman Gustaf

 

  • How about we give Twin Shadows the SotAG treatment: cut the extra AP and maybe some MR from Twin Shadows, and give it 10% CDR plus a continued gold passive? All of a sudden, you have an initiation based item that gives tanks CDR instead of AP! The supports who pick this item up aren't exactly going to complain; it's not like they were filling up on CDR before.

 

This benefits all supports: initiators and tankier supports will love the additional tankiness they get, and squishy supports won't exactly complain. The lost AP, however, could hurt some supports who care more about positioning than tankiness: perhaps they would benefit more from a revamped Shard of True Ice? The item has sen little enough play that I think it's safe to say it could use a small buff, either to its stats or its active.

  • A Philosopher's Stone upgrade could have an active that heals in an AoE!
  • Kage's Last Breath could be buffed to not suck!
  • More gold items, maybe? Not a Health one, that's for sure (RIP HoG). Certainly not an Armor one (RIP HoG).
  • Level 2 boots that gave gold? It would solve the problem of supports getting boots at the 30-minute mark because they're too poor!

But while we're at it, why does Kage's Lucky Pick only give 4 gold/10? Is it to prevent AP Carries from going for it? Couldn't we use masteries and runes to make gold items less ridiculous on some laners, but still useful to supports?

Mastery/Rune changes

Currently, Greed gives you .5 gold/second/point. What if we changed it slightly? Here are two proposed new masteries which could replace or supplement Greed:

  1. The Greed mastery gives you an additional 3.125%/6.25%/9.375%/12.5% passive gold gain
    • To clarify what this means, it means that Greed works exactly the same as it currently does unless you buy gold items, in which case each gold item you buy is slightly better. For example, Philosopher Stone would give .5625 gold/second instead of .5 gold/second. It's not a huge amount of gold, only about 4 gold/minute more than Greed currently gives, though, so maybe a numbers buff would be in order. But I think a cleaner solution is:
  2. The Investment mastery grants you an additional 50% gold from gold items, runes and masteries
    • Let's put this far up the mastery tree, just under the 21st point.
    • Let's nerf every gold item to 4 gold/10.
    • Voila, gold items are now better on supports without being OP on non-supports (unless they want to get 17 points in utility).
    • Tweak the numbers (of this mastery and of gold items).

And what about gold runes? No role regularly gets gold masteries BUT support, which to me is a sign that they're too weak. Make them just strong enough that other laners are tempted to get them, but probably won't. I'd say you could up the strength of these masteries by at least 25%. Right now, a Gold Quint gives you 180 gold in a 30 minute game. That's 540 gold for the whole set. Would 135 more gold (675 total) really be that OP? That's not even 4 wards. 9 Gold Seals gives you 405 gold in a 30 minute game. Would 101.25 more gold (for a total of 506.25 gold) be a huge deal? Probably not to a laner; that's 1 wave worth of gold.

Ward Changes

So what's up with Explorer, anyway? An additional 5% sight range on wards? It's almost a wasted point. This point could be put to so much good use, especially if moved slightly higher up the tree. Here are some ways we could change ward masteries (or add new ones):

  • Explorer: Instead of 5% more range, what about 25% more duration? Stops supports from having to sink QUITE so much into wards!
  • The All-Seeing Eye mastery gives a 20% buff to Oracle's Elixir's duration?

But ultimately, perhaps we're not getting at the real problem. For competitive play, you need wards. Wards are RIDICULOUSLY overpowered. They let you see the map without being there. They let you avoid ganks. They help you setup ganks. They let you protect objectives. They let you split-push. They keep your jungle safe. They let you invade the enemy's jungle. Wards make plays. No matter what, competitive play is going to involve wards, and supports are going to pick up an uneven amount of wards, due to stat multiplicatively.

I'd be willing to bet that if you made a mastery (maybe the top mastery in Utility?) that made Sight Wards cost 10 gold and Vision Wards cost 25 gold, and Oracle's Elixirs cost 100 gold, supports would still spend almost all of their money just buying more those three items, doing the same ward-placing/ward-clearing game they play now, just more.

Maybe we should be capping wards like potions; you can only buy so many!

One suggestion that's been floating around for ages is that everybody get a flat amount of wards (maybe 2?) that they can place much like Sightstone's wards, and just have a dedicate ward slot (item slot 7). This would change the game so thoroughly that it's hard to consider theoretically, but I'd guess that would increase support's income significantly, although we'd probably need to get rid of vision wards or they'd turn into the new sight wards and what would Oracle's Elixirs be for, killing vision wards? And how would anybody ever gank with 2 wards in every lane and FOUR WARDS BOT LANE -- OH GOD THIS IS TOO COMPLICATED TO THINK ABOUT NO WONDER RIOT HASN'T TRIED THIS -- So maybe let's just make wards cheaper or gold items stronger or something so supports aren't gold-starved and have money to buy items. Or something.

Maybe I'll revisit wards sometime after I think about this some more.

But actually, back to that ward-cap, what if you still had to BUY wards, but you could only buy 2, and they had their own slot! Then lanes would be no harder to gank, supports wouldn't have to buy ALL of the wards, and then they could buy the many support items available to them, like Shurelia's and...uh...Twin Shadows...and...Kage's Last Breath or something? Part of the problem is that since junglers are poor, they tend to just buy whichever support items are best (Aegis + Locket), which means the supports are stuck with Shurelia's and the random leftover support items. So maybe we could also use some more support items that build out of gold items. But we discussed that above.

Education

An education campaign could go a long way. As Stonewall mentioned, a lot of people probably don't realize how important warding is, for example. Way more people know than in Season 1, but there are still plenty of people who think that only supports should ward. So here's my part in the education game:

Wards save lives. Buy a ward, stop a gank, save a life. Only you can prevent random jungler drive-by killings.

TL;DR

The more I thought about it, the more I realized the issues of supports being stuck doing the bulk of the warding and not getting to itemize might just be a part of the game. You're going to need wards, and the person with the fewest items is, perversely, the best option to do this. So they're going to spend all of their income to get as many as wards as you need, which is a lot. So you have 3 options

  1. Make wards super cheap (making ganking impossible)
  2. Give supports more gold (making ganking bot-lane IMPOSSIBLE)
  3. Cap wards so everybody has to get them (I'm afraid top laners will learn how OP wards are and start buying them and I'll never get to play Skarner again. Plus supports will probably just have to buy more Vision Wards)

 


 For more of my work:

-- Find old posts @ the RoG forums and new posts every Wednesday (3 PM) and Sunday (9 AM).

-- Feel free to find me in the "A DIFFerent View" chatroom on the NA server.
-- Contact me at GentlemanGustaf@Re[email protected]
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