Itemization Guide for Supports in LoL
Tue 14th Jan 2020 - 8:45pm
With so many combinations and champion types, it can be confusing at times when deciding what to build. Today, we will be breaking down the process and explaining what routes are the best to take, and when we should take them.
With the recent changes to support items, there are four different options to choose from, and it varies from champion to champion. Spellthief's Edge is one of the most common items, focusing on high Ability Power (AP) and low Health, Enchanter-type supports (like Nami, Yuumi, and Lulu) will build this item, since they primarily scale with AP and aren't too concerned with getting large health pools. Upgrading Spellthief's is fairly easy on these champions, since they poke the enemy laner very efficiently.
Spectral Sickle focuses on high Attack Damage (AD) and low Health. Not very many champions will be taking this item, but it is a key choice on Pyke, Senna, and even Ashe support, since they primarily scale with AD and don't gain much from high health pools. It upgrades the same way as Spellthief's Edge does.
The Steel Shoulderguards focus on high Health and low AD. This item is one of the tankier options, and upgrades based on minion executions. In order to upgrade it, you will need to attack low-health minions whenever a charge is active, displayed by small glowing orbs around your champion. For an optimal pace, the best method is to use the execution on melee and cannon minions. Champions that should use this item include Thresh, Nautilus, and even Poppy support, since they primarily scale with AD and want high health pools.
Relic Shield focuses on high Health and low AP. This item is the second tanky option and upgrades the same way as the Steel Shoulderguards do. It is best to use this item on Leona, Rakan, and Blitzcrank, since they primarily scale with AP and benefit by high health pools.
Once a starting item is chosen, grab two Health Potions with the remaining gold. Starting items no longer need to be upgraded through the shop, and will upgrade by themselves as their quests are completed.
Boots are often overlooked in low ranked matches, but one should never forget their importance. There's a lot of options here, so we will break down what is the best in which situations. For a support, the most common options will be Ionian Boots of Lucidity, Boots of Mobility, and Sorcerer's Shoes. Enchanter-type supports can go either way here, depending on the champion and the pace of the game.
For example, when playing Zyra or Morgana, you usually go a route that depends on high AP damage rather than the usual shielding and healing items. Sorcerer's Shoes are a good option here since they provide Magic Penetration, which is effective against Magic Resistance (MR). If there is another AP user on your team, like a LeBlanc in the midlane, it's more likely the enemy team will start to build MR, not to mention champions have a baseline percentage of MR, so your Magic Penetration won't go to waste.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity is a more common option than Sorcerer's Shoes, especially when combined with the rune Transcendence in the Sorcery tree. These boots focus on Cooldown Reduction (CDR) and when paired with the rune mentioned, you will be able to get your abilities off in quick succession along with gaining bonus stats. The baseline CDR cap is 40% unless you're using the Cosmic Insight rune in the Inspiration tree, which will increase this cap to 45%. When using Transcendence you will gain 10% CDR at level 10, along with 2 AP or 1.2 AD for every 1% of CDR exceeding the cap. If you build standard supporting items, like Ardent Censer and Redemption, along with the Ionian Boots of Lucidity you can reach up to 60% CDR, granting you up to 40 extra AP or 24 extra AD.
If you don't plan on using the Transcendence rune, Boots of Mobility might be your go-to. For example, champions like Soraka, Janna, Karma, and even Nami, can be effective when using the rune Celerity in place of Transcendence. These boots are especially effective on Janna, since the damage on her W ability also scales with Movement Speed. It is also effective to choose these boots on champions like Leona, Thresh, and Rakan, since early Movement Speed in the laning phase can be extremely oppressive, especially on supports who can engage. It also gives you an advantage when roaming to help other lanes or catching up in a team fight.
While Boots of Mobility is a powerful option on the tankier supports, due to the fact that they have heavy engage, one can go Mercury Treads or Boots of Swiftness to help negate disabling effects like roots and stuns. This is a good option to take in preparation for late game if the enemy team has heavy crowd control, so that you're still active in teamfights to help peel for your carries.
Shielding and Healing
The more standard routes of a traditional "support" includes healing and shielding your allies. When playing Nami, Soraka, Lulu, Janna, Morgana, Lux, and Karma, you can effectively use items that optimize these abilities.
Ardent Censer is one of the best first options for these champions if you have an Attack Damage Carry (ADC) rather than an Ability Power Carry (APC) with you in lane. It provides the carry with increased Attack Speed and is especially useful on Lux and Karma, since they can shield multiple targets at once, granting Attack Speed for multiple members of the team during a fight. If the carry in your lane is an APC instead, like Veigar or Cassiopeia, you can wait to build Ardent Censer later on, especially if someone else on your team will benefit from the Attack Speed, like a Tristana in the midlane or a Kindred in the jungle.
Athene's Unholy Grail is another option for a first item, especially with an APC. It will convert 35% of the damage you deal into your next heal or shield, up to 250. It has the same CDR as Ardent Censer, with lower AP and higher Mana Regeneration, and offers MR. It also has a unique passive that will grant 5 AP per 25% Mana Regeneration. Since an APC wouldn't benefit from the Attack Speed, Athene's can offer a different advantage in the early game. This is especially useful on champions who do an effective amount of damage, like Karma, Lux, and even Soraka.
Redemption is the third option as a first item. It provides a bonus to shields and heals, as well as CDR, and Health and Mana Regeneration, not to mention the item active, which will heal the targeted area. It is a powerful first item on Soraka, since she uses both Health and Mana as a resource for her abilities. It is powerful on anyone who shields or heals and can help turn around a fight.
All three of these are helpful in the shielding and healing build, and should usually be your first few purchases, along with boots and a starting item. To fill in the final slot, Shurelya's Reverie offers a boost to Movement Speed, as well as healing and shielding, and is a key item for Janna especially. While Rakan is one of more tankier enchanters, he also benefits from these items due to his supportive abilities.
Mikael's Crucible is more situational, since it is used to remove a disabling effect from a chosen ally, but offers more healing and shielding than any other item, by an extra 10%. However, keep in mind, that Athene's Unholy Grail will disable this effect, and the two items shouldn't be used in the same build. This is viable if the enemy team consists of extremely punishing disabling effects, like Veigar's E or Malzahar's R. You can then replace Mikael's with Athene's, and then build either an AP item like Banshee's Veil or a Health item like Knight's Vow, which will offer increased defenses.
Pure Ability Power
There's a few supports who can stray from the traditional routes, and some who can't benefit from those routes at all. For example, Lux or Yuumi can either focus on her shields, or amplify her damage, while Fiddlesticks or Zyra only focus on their damage.
Zhonya's Hourglass is one of the most important items on these types of supports. Morgana, Zyra, and Fiddlesticks build this item extremely early, as it synergizes well with their ultimate abilities. You can time the item to go off during these said ultimates, to help protect you when channeling them out. This can also be a viable defense mechanism for anyone to use mid to late game, despite their abilities.
Luden's Echo makes for a strong first choice on Lux, Karma, and Vel'koz, and can be added to Morgana, Fiddlesticks, and Zyra. Void Staff is a good second or third choice, depending on when the enemy team decides to build MR against you.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter is optimal on Morgana to empower her W, and can also be viable on Fiddlesticks and Zyra to slow and melt the enemy team. This item synergizes extremely well with Liandry's Torment, which is a good first choice on Zyra especially.
You can add Rabadon's Deathcap to your build as a fourth or fifth item, just be sure to pair it with Void Staff to ensure your AP is effective. While extremely punishing, building Dark Seal and then Mejai's Soulstealer can help amplify your abilities, but only if you find yourself doing extremely well.
Banshee's Veil offers CDR and AP, but is situational, and should only be used if you need to survive against large amounts of AP, especially if they have disabling effects. Morellonomicon is another situational item and can be used to help negate the enemy team's healing.
Focusing on damage over healing and shielding, like when playing Lux or Karma, depends on what your win condition is. Being full "support" can be just as powerful as full damage, especially when it means enabling your carries to be an unstoppable force. If you don't have any other AP on your team, it can be a good idea to add some powerful AP items into your build, but never underestimate the power of amplified heals and shields.
Attack Damage Supports
Champions like Pyke, Senna, and Ashe support build very different items than traditional supports. Umbral Glaive will be one of the most important items for these champions, since it will help control vision.
Senna can be built either AP or AD, and can even do well in a hybrid build. Building AD gives her an extremely oppressive laning phase through her large attack range. When building Ashe support, you'll want to balance between CDR and AD, while Pyke builds Lethality and AD.
Tanks like Leona, Blitzcrank, and Nautilus also build very different items than those previously mentioned. They focus on engaging for the team and protecting their carries and are looking for items that help with that. Zeke's Convergence is a strong first item on tanks but is also optimal on Rakan, Lulu, and Fiddlesticks. You will want to Conduit onto your carry, but since it doesn't have a punishing cooldown, you can change your Conduit in a teamfight if your carry isn't present, to still make use of the item's active.
Righteous Glory is a powerful second item since you can use to quickly catch your enemies and engage. It also provides you with decent protection.
The rest of your build depends on whether you need MR or Armor. Randuin's Omen and Frozen Heart can be combined to shut down an ADC, or you can replace Randuin's with Thornmail if you need to target the enemy's healing as well. Gargoyle Stoneplate makes you especially strong when activated, as it provides both Armor and MR, and can be built second or third. Knight's Vow is another powerful early item and can be built in place of Gargoyle Stoneplate if you don't need the MR right away. You will want to designate your carry as your Partner, to help sustain each other throughout the game.
Once you've build your Health up, you'll want to build Locket of the Iron Solari to help protect your team. This also offers both Armor and MR which will be useful against a majority of teams and combines well with Gargoyle Stoneplate. If you have an APC instead of an ADC, you could even build Abyssal Mask to help amplify their damage, and give you more MR. If you need even more MR (such as when multiple fed champions on their team are AP), you'll want to build Adaptive Helm. If you're finding that you need even more protection and are being focused in fights as you peel for your team, you can build Warmog's Armor as your final item.
Keep in mind that the carries are usually midlane and botlane, with a few exceptions in jungle and top. Identifying who is the largest threat to your team is key, since you will want to build against their win condition. Protecting your carries will be your focus, as well as surviving your engages.
The First Back and Beyond
One of the most important stages of the laning phase is your first back. It varies depending on what you're against, and who you're playing. Enchanter supports will want to grab Faerie Charms that will eventually build into Forbidden Idol, which can be finished into a majority of items in a healing and shielding build.
Tankier supports will need to build according to what their lane contains, whether they need MR or Armor, or both. Cloth Armor and Null-Magic Mantle build into a majority of items in this build and make for strong first purchases. The base item for boots should be purchased early in the game, preferably the first back, and should be finished as a first or second full item for optimal use. Be sure to build items one at a time so that you finish a full item before spending too much of your earnings.
If you already used your Health Potions, and are against a botlane with large amounts of poke, it's a good idea to grab a Refillable Potion. This item is also important for Soraka's early sustain. A Control Ward here is also key for early vision control, and you should aim to always have one in inventory if possible.
Once you finish your first quest on your starting item, be sure to purchase your Oracle Lens to clear the river and future objectives.
As the game progresses, and you hit your third full item, you'll want to start looking for opportunities to buy Elixirs. You should buy one to have and use right as an objective fight starts. If your team plans on gathering for Dragon Soul or even Elder Dragon or Baron, having an Elixir will help boost you. Be sure you'll still building items as usual and focus on using these for game-changing fights.
The Elixir of Iron is optimal for tanks, while the Elixir of Sorcery will be optimal on all types of enchanters. You can then choose Elixir of Wrath for AD supports. Once you're full build, it'll be even easier to buy these and use to help secure the win.
Supporting your team and enabling your carries requires an optimal item build. It's important to identify your win condition and keep up with the pace of the game to excel at one of the most important roles in League of Legends.
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