On GP5s and Metagame



Mon 1st Oct 2012 - 7:07pm

Heart of Gold, Philosophers Stone, Kages Pick. Any LoL player who has ever bothered to play the support role in any capacity is at least familiar with at least one of these items, commonly referred to as (and incorrectly, at least technically) gold per 5 (GP5) items. Pick these items up early, build them into late-game items, and keep your teammates active enough to win the game.


This look familiar?

Being primarily a support player, I appreciate the combination of precise timing, positioning, and awareness that come along with playing a support champion in League of Legends. But while I doubt the meta-game will shift anytime soon to where supports never need to buy something as crucial as sight wards (unless you play a roaming Eve support), I do feel as if there needs to be some shift in the way the support meta-game changes to create a more engaging and action-packed play style.

The standard support build, as it stands, is not incredibly varied. Shurelya's Reverie and Aegis of the Legion are almost de facto with any support build out there. Locket of the Iron Solari, while among the more recent additions to support item choices, is not seen much in play, and situational items such as Frozen Heart, Randuin's Omen, or Zeke's Herald are even rarer to come by on a support character. While this could partially be attributed to the popularity of certain item builds by professional players, one has to wonder what Riot could do to create a more dynamic support meta-game.

It's not that Riot is not aware of how to properly create a dynamic support meta-game. Part of the problem lies in the champion mechanics themselves, which Riot is well aware of. In response to the rework of several support champions in February earlier this year, particularly in regards to Sona, Riot Games Associate Technical Designer Xypherous posted the following on the official forums:

“There's a slight miscommunication here between 'Support' as in 'Can be played bottom lane with zero CS' and 'Support' as in 'I can babysit my allies, counter enemy harass and undo my team's mistakes.'

Leona/Blitz/Galio/Soraka/Sona/Taric/etc. can all be played in the 'I can go bot lane with zero CS'

However, Leona/Blitz/Galio and others can't babysit their allies and counter enemy harass. They have to kill the opponent to win that lane - in exchange, because they lack the ability to reverse enemy harass and support the team, they get chain CC and lockdown CC.

Sona, however, doesn't give up anything in her 'aid ally' kit to have access to that form of lockdown CC.

In contrast with her closest cousin, Alistar gives up harass potential, mitigation, long range initiation, and has subpar initiation for a tank because he has an incredibly weak heal other ability. I mean, contrast Leona and Alistar, where Leona can simply decimate you in lane with a proper setup and sunlight procs --> Alistar gives up quite a bit for being a kill tank because he can heal someone else for 80.

In the end, it's all about trade-offs. You pick one support over the other because they are better at some things and worse at other things. If a support lets you have access to an ability you typically wouldn't have, you should be weak in some other area to compensate. We don't mind AoE lockdown teams being played - we mind it if they have free access to it without any tradeoffs being made.

Is there a truly viable solution to shift the support meta-game away from heavy reliance upon GP5-based items aside from upcoming support champions having radically different abilities? Riot clearly prefers a continually more aggressive play-style as evidenced by their latest series of champion releases. But while the various tanks, junglers, and carries may continue to evolve, it will be interesting to see how exactly the role of support plays out and whether or not it changes with Riot or with the players as League of Legends moves into Season 3.