With the next LoL ranked season still weeks away, here are a few unorthodox, but still effective, champions you can play in the support role. The meta isn't always the only way to go.
What is a support?
There has long been a “right” way to play League of Legends. The bottom lane in LoL has been quite conservative: a “carry” character who will be doing a lot of damage later on but is weak early, and a support character. The support’s job is to “shepherd” the carry, protecting them and helping them get to that “later on.”
Supports tend to be one of two types. On one side we have “enchanters”, as Riot Games dubs them, boosting their carry with heals and shields. The other type is engage-oriented champions that can force advantageous fights with stuns, slows and other disabling effects. Some do “poke” damage – called so because you can do it from a distance without committing to a fight. This is useful but a champion is not normally played as a support just for the poke damage.
Usually, the support’s role is very underrated. You are not expected to care for the details of last-hitting minions or getting the kills. However, that does not mean being a good support is easy or inconsequential. A support’s heals, peeling or engage can make a huge difference in a teamfight. What’s more, supports usually make do with less gold and XP than the rest of the team. While it is not unheard of to secure a kill, the lion’s share of them falls with carries.
With that in mind, here are five unusual champions that you can try out during the pre-season and maybe flex to the bottom lane in your ranked games:
The revered inventor is all about zone control. A LoL fight where his turrets can keep piling on the damage is not going to go well for the enemy team. Furthermore, landing a grenade is good both for the stun and the damage boost turrets get from it. The ultimate upgrades any of them, but that is not the biggest benefit of having a Heimer on your team.
It instead lies in the amount of pressure he can put in a choke point such as a dragon or baron pit. However, it’s not easy being a support Heimerdinger. Turrets in a lane can both force you to push and mess up your carry’s farming. Not to mention that the brainiac yordle is squishy and needs a few levels, so the early game can be a bit of a problem.
Works best with: Compositions with pulls or disengage, playing around an objective
Avoid taking into: Multiple mobile opponents, heavy poke
Runes and items: You want ability power and some survivability, so Sorcery or Domination should be your primary tree. Resolve or Inspiration should go secondary. Start with Spellthief’s Edge, then move on to Zhonya’s Hourglass and Rylai’s Scepter.
Unlike several other engage tanks in LoL, Malphite is not commonly played in the bottom lane. The main reason for that is his poor early game. For the first several levels, this champion offers little pressure. Sure, he is reasonably tanky, especially if he gets the option to recharge his passive. Still, he only has one ability that he can use out of melee range and it isn’t that great. Malphite’s early game is a pain.
This all changes when the ultimate comes online. The aptly-named Unstoppable Force isn’t going to just send the enemy flying. It places Malphite right where he wants to be: in the thick of things, where he can harness his skillset for a nearly guaranteed kill. You get one shot with this combo, but very often, that one shot is all you need.
Works best with: Compositions that need reliable engage, enemies focusing on physical damage
Avoid taking into: Enemies with a lot of poke and magic damage, compositions that have “save” effects like revive or untargetability.
Runes and items: Resolve + Inspiration or Sorcery is a good rune setup. Item-wise, Relic Shield into Knight’s Vow into Iceborn Gauntlets or Frozen Heart is a good option against teams with a lot of physical damage. Mercury Treads and Aegis of the Iron Solari can help against enemies with more magic damage.
The Lady of Luminosity is a LoL champion that sometimes slips in and out of the bot-lane LoL meta. This is due to the amount of utility in her tool support. More than anyone else on this list, playing her as a support will require you to land skillshots. If you do, your opponents will not have a nice time.
A good Lux is extremely oppressive to play against. She boasts some outstanding poke damage and a lot of utility: a slow, a root and even a shield. That is not to say she does not have downsides. In addition to all her abilities being skillshots, she has moderately high mana costs and long cooldowns. This means you will have to pace yourself and make those spells count. Her abilities also push the lane and may interfere with the carry’s farming – but when used well, her kit is more than worth it.
Works best with: Long-range bot laner, teams that need some more magic damage
Avoid taking into: Long-range engagers, assassins
Runes and items: Sorcery is often your best choice, with Resolve or Inspiration as secondary. Start with Spellthief’s Edge. Staple items after that are Athene’s Unholy Grail and either Ardent Censer or Redemption for a more defensive build.
Sun shines, grass grows, Brand melts things – in the LoL bottom lane or anywhere else. Playing him as a support is similar to playing most other poke mages, only turned to eleven. You have one stun that requires setup, everything else is all about that damage.
For a support Brand, it’s all about keeping the pressure. An enemy AD carry that is constantly on 20% of their HP doesn’t need to be stunned to hang back and cede pressure. In big fights or even 2v2s, there is also Brand’s ultimate. It will do a lot of damage, especially if it triggers his passive for even more fire. While equipment and levels are very important for this character, the Burning Vengeance can bring incredible damage to the bottom lane even as a support. More than one LoL professional caster has mentioned – death is the best form of CC in the game.
Works best with: Compositions low in magic damage, teams that want extra damage against tanks
Avoid taking into: Compositions with mobile engage, assassin-heavy teams.
Runes and items: Go for damage and a bit of survivability. Sorcery or Domination are both good picks for a primary or secondary pick. Inspiration is a good secondary as well. Spellthief’s Edge, Rylai’s Crystal Sceptre and Liandry’s Torment is a staple build.
A Shen ultimate pops on a low-health character to keep them alive just long enough. LoL's ninja arrives and draws the enemy in with a well-placed taunt. Is there a more iconic save in LoL? This master’s secret academy is usually the top lane. He can also be seen teleporting around the map and applying pressure. But his brand of ninjutsu makes for an effective, if unorthodox, support tank.
Shen’s passive helps keep him safe, and his taunt is always welcome. In a lane where much of the damage comes from marksman basic attacks, Shen has a very useful ability. He can deny basic attacks in a zone, basically canceling the enemy out. On the downside, his engage is somewhat short-ranged and works best if the enemies are posturing aggressively. Still, the bottom lane offers a lot of opportunities for an ambush.
Works best with: Independent bot laners that can afford your roams
Avoid taking into: Long-range pokers, compositions with a lot of hard crowd control
Runes and items: Either Inspiration with unsealed spellbook or Resolve as your primary. Take the other as a secondary. Start with Relic Shield or Steel Shoulderpads, then take Knight’s Vow and possibly Redemption/Locket of the Iron Solari.
There are no doubt many other unusual supports in LoL. These are only our Top 5 for you to try. Do you love unorthodox picks? We recommend checking with your team before going with them in a ranked game. But with some experience under your belt, you will have a great surprise for your opponents. Tell us how it went!