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:

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Gentleman of the Day

91

Comments

  • #91 boomclap

    Explorer: Instead of 5% more range, what about 25% more duration? Stops supports from having to sink QUITE so much into wards!

    I don't agree that this would be a good solution. It would make keeping ward timers even harder. Also, in early game in the lane phase, wards are just right. They don't need a buff nor a nerf there. It's only in the late-game, ward-everything phase that a longer duration would be helpful.

  • #90 Cerbereth

    The problem is always if you make it good enough laners will just take it.

    Locket is a good item now it gets bought by junglers and toplaners instead of supports.

    Support mastery decent now midlaners go 9/0/21

    gp/5 items too good mid, top and jungle buy them.

    I think the only thing that would matter is buffing gold runes as I don't think laners would sacrifice their normal runes for gold runes.

  • #86 genrtul

    How about an item that builds out of sheen and a GP/5 item? Anything that is based off of base damages would be a viable choice on supports. I could see some supports, like Sona or maybe Soraka wanting to go for extra poke early if they feel like the jungler isn't a huge threat. This could create some choice.

    Last edited by genrtul: 4/16/2013 1:14:50 PM
  • #84 angrymandinners

    If you want to make items that are very good that only a support would be able to buy, you could give them a passive that takes away all last hitting gold.

  • #80 DrMundoMundo

    I don't know if this has been mentioned before, but why not make oracle a non consumable item with an active that gives vision for x sec and goes on cooldown for y sec?

    I think this would benefit the game a lot since the jungler would be forced to make an active decision on what area to focus and not just clear everything.

  • #81 rlipsey

    Actually this may not be a bad idea. It gives a somewhat limited ability to ward clear, so you wouldn't have the all-out ward clearing battles that you did in Season 2, but it does provide the opportunity to clear wards at intervals. A lot of opportunity in that idea I think.

  • #87 GentlemanGustaf

    ooh. That's actually a really good idea.

     

  • #88 rlipsey

    Gustaf, could you make a sort of shout-out to this idea in your next post if you think it's good enough?

  • #89 GentlemanGustaf

    I've been planning on outlining good suggestions in my next post :)

  • #79 airbagtelex

    I completely agree with making wards and oracles cheaper for support, why not "reduce the cost of wards and orcales elixer by 50%", put it right under 21 pointer in utility, that way only supports will get it, and others would rather get spell vamp or something. Or replace the exp mastery with this one

  • #76 lazule2

    The explorer mastery is almost nothing.

  • #82 rlipsey

    It definitely could be changed to what airbagtelex says above.

  • #73 OG_Ace

    Great post!

    My raw thoughts while reading

    Move gold-increase masteries further down the Utility tree, and buff them (be careful of abuse with Ryze).

    Idea: For every gold-increase item bought, increase Gold per 10 by <implement any balancing powers here>.

    Make wards reduce vision over the duration.

    "Wards save lives. Buy a ward, stop a gank, save a life. Only you can prevent random jungler drive-by killings.": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMF6sTQ7dLM

    More organized thoughts

    Make wards reduce vision over the duration. I think this would be a great change. Wards are really strong. Why not nerf them? Make them useful, but don't screw over junglers. This will add more skill into the game. Knowing when your opponent wards, and knowing how to avoid being caught. This will make playing junglers really fun.

    This, with some mastery and item gold-increase changes, might work well.

  • #74 GentlemanGustaf

    I was worried about Ryze abuse, but quickly realized he doesn't really like any of the gold items

  • #75 OG_Ace

    What are your thoughts on changing how wards work? Do you think they should do what they do now, or do you think they should work differently?

  • #70 Winterclaw42

    You forgot option 4: the ADC can get an avarice blade and let the support get a little farm so he can afford all those wards and anti-wards.  Supports were never meant to be 0 kills 0 cs.  The "buffs" were put in place to offset a player created and enforced meta that largely benefits the pros and higher ranked players but not everyone.

  • #71 Kuramhan

    Your solution is a change in the meta, not a change in design. Riot could not make this change, the players themselves would have to. Pro-player don't do this because it's a suboptimal use of gold. Even if Avarice Blade was better, the adc still wouldn't give farm to the support, they would just build their first item quicker.

  • #77 Aquamadur

    Actually support were ment to be 0 cs. If you want to win the game, you need to have a carry. Every kit of every viable sup is to work without gold (means 0 cs). Thats how supports are designed: "Work without money." So wasting money on them cripples your adc. If you want to trade cs with your sup you have poor understanding of the game. (the last sentence reads a bit to harsh, I dont wanted to be rude ^^)

  • #69 ubermelkor220

    So here is a different way to cap wards that I haven't heard talked about much.  What if there was just a cap as to how many wards could be out for your team at once. Instead of giving everyone 2, just say your team can have out 3 wards at any given time.  If you place a 4th then the oldest one goes away.  This would make ward placement more important and limit the number of wards that support (or anyone else) needs to buy, and will still allow for ganking to happen.  I don't know that 3 is the right number.  Right now you can do 3 from a ruby sight stone so that would mean that all your wards could be done by your support as soon as they have that item.  

    Just an idea, let me know what you guys think.  

  • #72 Kuramhan

    Limiting wards is limiting the amount of information available. Responding correctly to information is a major part of good decision making, and separate a top player from a less skilled one. To drastically limit information like that would make the game less skill based and increase the amount of luck involved in the game. This would make face checking bushed a neccesity and drastically increase successful ganks. I think this would fundamentally make the game for frustrating to play.

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