Roam Squad: Impacting the Map as Support
Fri 1st Sep 2017 - 11:59am
Support roaming is something I feel as though I always see, whether during professional games or random personal games, but never got a good feeling for before. I've always been left with questions. Which champions can roam effectively? How is their item build impacted? Where can they spend their time most efficiently, in terms of map locations? What are the benefits of roaming, both in game and in the grander sense of improvement as a player? And perhaps most importantly, what are the signals to look for to know when roaming is a good idea? I'll try to cover these questions as well as other pieces of information.
Bard is one of the best roaming supports in the game. He moves around quickly with his chime bonuses, he can incorporate other members of his team with Magical Journey, and he has a long-range initiation tool once he hits 6 in Tempered Fate. On top of all of this, Bard does a fairly impressively amount of damage for a support and has a fairly reliable stun in gank situations.
A factor unique to Bard is that, even if spotted by wards, no one can ever be completely sure if he's roaming somewhere to gank or simply on a chime-hoarding journey. Bard warps the perception of the map for enemies any time he leaves lane.
Thresh and Blitzcrank
Purely in terms of the roam game, these two are all about their hooks. The range alone grants them much greater room for error as far as when they need to arrive for a gank or where they can yank an enemy champion from. Specifically, Blitzcrank brings a more powerful but more binary gank pattern with a better hook and a guaranteed knockup afterward whereas Thresh brings more versatility with Flay, The Box, and the option to ride his hook to his enemy's location or throw out a lantern to pull an ally into the heart of the conflict with him. Both of these champions are the kind that can make a play even when the enemy knows your location and your intentions.
While almost any support can roam and/or gank effectively given ideal circumstances (Flash Janna Ult anyone?), not a lot of champions can solo-force the issue the same way that Bard, Thresh, or Blitz can do it. Lulu and Braum are good examples of champions that can have great results when ganking for specific allied champions. Lulu needs someone who can reliably close the gap on a Glitterlanced or polymorphed target while Braum needs an ally, probably ranged, who can stack up two or three stacks on his passive for a stun. Braum's ultimate is quite strong, but it often acts as more of a "You can't go here" as opposed to the "You WILL go/stay here" that the three aforementioned champions can provide.
In this category, you'd also have the less common supports. It's fairly obvious that if someone like Veigar or Nautilus gets into position to gank, there will likely be explosive results. The important point these champions bring up is that you still need to be able to fill out enough of the checkboxes on the support to-do list to get into a position to roam and impact the map in the first place. While Nautilus in particular has seen the rare pick in recent pro play, I think the last round of nerfs a while back hit him a little too hard to allow him to do what he wants to do as a support (or a top laner for that matter, but that'd be for another time).
While there's no item baseline for initiating a roaming lifestyle, you may want to shape your first item or two around your newfound intentions of dominating early ward control and ganking unsuspecting enemies. Here are some of the ones I find important. This section will mostly cover items for tanks or initiators, as the more magey supports don't have standout options for a roaming heavy playstyle unless you consider the 8% movement speed from Ardent Censer "standout".
Boots of Mobility
This one should be pretty obvious. The faster you move, the faster you get to and from where you want to be, meaning you spend less time away from your fragile buddy in the bot lane or less time approaching that juicy target who has managed to overextend himself.
Righteous Glory and Talisman of Ascension
These two items function similarly, granting a burst of movement speed, but manifest in slightly different forms with different opportunity costs.
Up front, Righteous Glory is somewhat expensive for a support, requiring 2500 gold. That being said, the situation is largely fine due to the component pieces, Glacial Shroud and Crystalline Bracer, being worthwhile on their own. On top of that, Ancient Coin gives a nutty amount of gold right now just through laning. As far the the item itself, it gives a bunch of generic desirable stats in health, mana, armor, cooldown reduction, and health regeneration on top of a more powerful individual active effect: 75% movement speed toward enemy champions for 4 seconds and a slowing nova when you reach an enemy champion.
Talisman of Ascension, on the other side, is cheaper at 2200 gold, builds out of the Ancient Coin item line, which a large number of supports can justify going right now, and gives a 40% movement speed buff (in any direction) to every allied champion in range. The big issues lie in the item having no flat health or mana, a weaker individual active effect, which will be more important during roaming, and forcing you to dedicate two item slots to a Sightstone item and support item, as opposed to combining them into Eye of the Oasis. Talisman is likely the better item if your team can transition well into a group-heavy mid to late game as you can afford to hedge on the early power, but losing 400 flat health, a stronger effect in Righteous Glory, and an item slot to save the 300 gold can be hard to justify.
Perhaps a bit of an edge case to be mentioned here, but this item is just powerful and a specifically great when fighting skirmishes, which is what you'll often find yourselves in when roaming, with mid laners and junglers, or not roaming, with your AD in the bot lane 2v2, so I thought it was worth mentioning.
Where to Roam
Now that you're geared up, you need to start thinking about where you can gank. Your most common targets will be mid lane or jungle invades with your own jungler, but never completely rule out top lane.
This will be the easiest and and likely most efficient gank target. Ask any Shaco player and they'll tell you the number of places from which you can gank mid is nearly infinite, largely because of how difficult it is to get quality wards in every corner of mid lane without jungler help and perfect ward placement. When you are looking to go mid, there are two things you should think about: "Where can I drop wards on the way there so my time isn't wasted on a failure?" and "What champion am I trying to gank and what does that mean?" As I stated above, warding mid is incredibly difficult, so do them a favor and put one down somewhere. Even a basic ward in the tiny river bush can mean a lot to helping them succeed and securing a little control over dragon at the same time. As for the enemy laner, consider what movement abilities they have and what the chances are they'd actually use them. For a LeBlanc or Zed type of champion, there is a fair window of time between Distortion/Shadow usage and the cooldown refreshing.
You'll also need to consider the possibility of a turnaround, which is more likely against the less mobile but higher damage champions like Syndra or Orianna. If your mid laner has been placed firmly in the dumpster or the enemy jungler has been hovering mid in the early game, you'll need to consider having your own jungler around or getting better vision before attempting any assault or just not going through with it. Again, make sure to leave good wards behind so your time wasn't wasted.
While your jungler is the more important member in this sort of roam, you can secure vital vision to fend off collapsing laners and add additional damage or crowd control.
A simple thing to try is coordinating with your jungler to invade the enemy buffs on their first respawn, around 7 minutes. In any timed jungle invade, you'll want to get a ward slightly deeper than whatever your target is slightly before it spawns. Seeing the approach to the camp is generally more important than seeing the camp itself. You'll want mid lane pushed or at least able to follow up and bot lane pushed to tower. When an invade like this fails, it is often due to insufficient vision or the lack of properly pushed lanes.
Something I would've forgotten to mention until I watched the recent CLG vs. NV Summer Quarterfinal is the level 1 invade to push the enemy jungler off of their starting buff camp. Throughout the series, the NV jungler, Lira, and NV's bottom lane made a concerted effort to push CLG's jungler, Omargod, off of his buffs or at least delay him. The opening of Game 1 in the series in particular was a great example of how to execute a level 1 invade play. NV sends a 3 man squad of mid laner and bottom lane duo to harass at the enemy red buff. Once they determine they only have the opponent's jungler and bottom lane to worry about, they abuse their early power as Thresh and Caitlyn to nearly pop the passive of OmarGod's Zac, forcing him to recall before getting any camps at all and ultimately granting Lira a 3 to 1 buff lead on Elise, a very powerful early game jungler. Game 1 starts at around 15:00.
The key to this play in particular is knowing where both of the enemy solo laners are as well as having a mismatch in terms of early game bottom lane power. In this example, Caitlyn and Thresh have an extreme advantage over Tristana and Alistar, even in a 3v2 situation, because of their range and relative power at level 1. Looking at it as a support, having a ranged champion like Thresh versus a melee one like Alistar is one of the best signs that you can attempt something like this with proper team backup.
Getting all the way up to top lane and making an impact without actively harming your bot lane partner's ability to get gold and experience is a delicate balancing act. Attempting it during normal laning patterns is rarely a good idea. The best time to look for something like this is after either of the towers in bottom lane has fallen. Your AD will be able to either farm at your secondary turret relatively safely or, if you took the first tower, look to shift mid and pressure there. These events free you up to try some riskier stuff with lessened consequences away from the play.
When to Roam
We've covered the Where, but what about the When? Minions spawn, you end up in lane and you're doing the standard 2v2 dance. The absolute earliest you could want to roam is if your team knows the enemy jungler started on the top side of the map, your jungler started at the bottom side and you got a great push at level 1. In this case, you can contest the enemy's second buff. After this admittedly fringe case, you likely won't want to do any planned roaming until your first recall. Boots are naturally pretty important, but you could also use the illusion of a recall to roam instead. Back away out of vision while your AD recalls and do your thing. You won't have Sightstone if attempting this on your first recall, meaning there's quite a bit of risk involved, but it can pay off big time in terms of jungle control, first dragon control, or simply getting your jungler or mid laner an experience advantage. The fake recall is a great time for any roaming mainly because, if tendencies I've noticed hold any truth, the average bot lane pairing wil less consistently communicate that you're missing as they think they know exactly what's happening. Even if the trickery doesn't work, the recall period is still a good time to roam as you won't be missing much experience or hanging your AD out to dry for longer than is absolutely necessary.
More generally, you want to be roaming when you've managed to get the bottom wave pushed to the enemy tower and have cleared the final minion in the enemy wave. At this point you have 30 seconds minus how long it took to clear the wave of "free" time. You'll want to leave immediately if there is a location you can affect, as you'll want to minimize the relevant time you're missing in bottom lane. You don't have the luxury that some junglers can have of being able to wait in a bush to see if a play develops. In the majority of situations, you'll need to force the action or bail nearly immediately.
In the end, minimizing risk is the most important factor in roaming, both in the sense that you need to minimize risk before you roam (push lanes, stick to your vision, knowing your when/wheres) and that you are minimizing risk for future actions by roaming (getting that vision to stick to, controlling swathes of land through presence). As always, thanks for reading, I hope I gave you something to think about, and I appreciate any comments or feedback.
Like our content? Support us by getting our merchandise in our shop