Blogs

The Long Arm of the League - An In-Depth Guide to Hook Champions in LoL

mikallim

mikallim

Fri 1st Nov 2019 - 10:50am

It seems as though in recent League of Legends history, bot lane has been the victim of the most significant meta changes. ADCs and supports everywhere have been subject to constant change starting in season 8 with the near extinction of marksmen and the rise of brawlers and mages in the bot lane. AD Carry players were forced to become familiar with previously unorthodox bot lane champions such as Ryze, Vladimir, Irelia, etc. While marksmen have made a return in Season 9, we can still see the effects of these drastic changes even now with Worlds 2019 going on currently. We've already seen an abundance of previously unconventional picks in the AD Carry role such as Garen, Heimerdinger, Syndra, Veigar, etc. here in Worlds 2019.

But enough about the ADCs! They get enough attention as it is. The true intrigue lies among a group of some of the most underappreciated members of our League of Legends community: supports. 

Due to particularly significant changes in recent patches, support players have been looking to add more assertive champions to their respective champion pools. The passive reign of healers and shield-based champions have come to an end. Now we all bow to this modern meta of assertive champions, and to be more specific, hook-based champions. There's a reason why U.GG has listed the 4 hook champions as the owners of the 4 highest pick rates among all support champions. Let's familiarize ourselves with the 4 champions that are currently terrorizing the solo queue scene, i.e., Blitzcrank, Thresh, Nautilus, and Pyke. 

Blitzcrank

Of the four, Blitzcrank is currently at the top of the pack here in Patch 9.19, and this isn't for no particular reason. This current patch has catered to a very significant buff that has increased the robot's hook range from 1050 to 1150, and bot laners everywhere have felt the drastic effects of this change.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

- Has the longest hook range

- Blitzcrank and Pyke are the only hook champions that can hook units over walls

- Missing hook on Blitzcrank poses the least amount of threat

- His E knock up ability can be used almost instantly after hooking, allowing for a longer time of champion being CCd

- Ultimate ability has an AoE silence with low cooldown (allows for good value if buying Zeke's Convergence)

- Blitzcrank's hook brings the unit to him, rather than him flying to the champion like with Nautilus or Thresh

- Hook speed is rather on the faster side of the 4 champions

- His ability to pull units through walls allows for good invade potential

Cons:

- His high mana cost abilites weaken his early game

- His entire kit is built around the hook, so missing it renders the champion almost useless

- Ability to escape is almost nonexistent

- His W slows his movement speed by 30% for 1.5 seconds when it ends

- Has the longest hook cooldown of the 4 champions

- All of his abilities, with the exception of his ult, can only affect a singular unit

How to Play Blitzcrank

Laning Phase: Right off the bat, you most definitely want to start by giving your first skill point to his Q. You can take one of the two choices at level 1 which is to invade or to not invade. Lets focus on the more appealing, high-risk high-reward option which is to invade the enemy jungle. Playing a hook champion will almost always alert the enemy team of a potential gank, especially when you pick Blitzcrank. This is due to the fact that Blitzcrank's Q has the best invade potential simply because he has the longest range, the hook speed is relatively high, and his hook can pull units over walls.

So keeping in mind that the enemy team more likely than not is anticipating a gank, you're going to want to immediately run with your team out of the fountain and to the enemy buff as soon as possible. Another tactic that can increase the success rate of an invade is to take a more unconventional invade route. For example, if your team is starting on the red side, you can run with your team through the enemy tri-bush and past the krugs to their red buff. If your team is hesitant to invade, which is understandable considering the high amount of risk it involves, you can always solo-invade by hooking the enemy jungler's buff and immediately running away after. This causes the buff to reset, and wastes a significant amount of the jungler's time, which in turn gives your jungler a small advantage. Keep in mind that the enemy team can be anticipating this as well. If you're not willing to solo-invade either, just proceed to leash your jungler. All in all, invades are highly risky. Occasionally, an invade can determine the outcome of an entire game, barring how good or bad the results were. They can be just as detrimental as they can be useful, so execution must be nearly perfect. 

Moving on to the actual laning phase, this is where it gets even more tricky. The focal point in playing ANY hook champion is movement. Obviously, you're unable to just outright hook whenever you please because of minions. The enemy AD carry and support will be looking to mirror your movement and always play behind minions. Pay very close attention to even slightest overextensions and anticipate when the enemies will move away from the safety of their minions. When you see a sizable gap from the safety of their waves, look to activate your W. When using your W, you need to find to angle that covers the most distance the fastest, because the boost is short-lived and you will be slowed afterwards.

Patience is KEY in the laning phase if you're looking to land lots of effective hooks. However, missing a hook with Blitzcrank doesn't necessarily pose any risks other than losing lots of mana, so don't hesitate too much. Vision is very important because if you can manage to squeeze into a bush without the enemies knowing, it could easily lead to an instant kill. Be certain of which bushes are warded by the enemies and which are not. 

Also, timing your engages with your jungler is the best way to get the best results out of a gank. Always be mindful of who you hook because hooking particular champions can end up very badly. (Ex. Alistar, Morgana, Jax, Riven, etc.) 

What tends to seperate a good support and a bad support is how much the support roams in game. Keep in mind, roaming is at its most effective when you are winning your lane. Roaming gives your team a great advantage that is beyond just bot lane, and the ability to hook is arguably the best tool for a support to roam with. 

Laning phase is where Blitzcrank players hold the most emphasis because being in the laning phase has a lot to do with waiting for the enemy to slip up so that you can punish. Hook champions can easily punish the enemy for a slight miscalculation or a minor overstep. Laning phase is where hook champions get their money's worth and try to build as big an advantage as they can for their AD Carry so that come post-laning phase, they will be strong enough to teamfight. 

Post-Laning Phase: Post-laning phases are tricky for Blitzcrank players. If you can't pull the right champions at a high rate, it's hard to stay relevant in the game. The kit seems to become a lot more limiting once you enter the full scale of a teamfight because once you've landed your Q + E combo and used your ult, there isn't really much more you can do. That's why with Blitzcrank, its important to pick off champions that overstep in face-to-face interactions between both teams, much like how you pick off champions that overstep during laning phase. 

A good hook on a good target can create a very important kill, which can then lead to the opening of new advantages like getting an objective or pushing a wave with less enemies to defend. A lot about Blitzcrank mid-late game rides on executing effectively while being at the right place at the right time. It becomes a lot more than just hooking anyone when you have the chance to. For instance, if your team is hacking away at the baron in the pit and you see the enemy Jax on the other side of a wall, it would be in your best interest to not hook him. Hooking him can then lead to a steal and force a teamfight where Jax's E stun would be very effective with your entire team all clumped together. 

Be mindful of the timing and the targets that you hook. Playing Blitzcrank later into the game is all about getting the right picks at the right time because these picks can be the catalyst of huge advantages that get your team closer to that enemy nexus. 

Items To Buy (underlined items are NECESSARY):

- Remnant of the Aspect (Income item, gives lots health and important for vision)

- Boots of Mobility

- Zeke's Convergence (goes well with Blitzcrank's low ult cooldown)

- Knight's Vow (makes you tanky when near your AD Carry)

- Redemption (heals your team while dealing damage to enemies if in the AoE can change the course of a teamfight)

- Locket of the Iron Solari (gives your team a decent shield in its AoE)

- Righteous Glory (tank item that gives you a great speed boost that helps you chase vulnerable enemies)

Thresh

Even with the introduction of an overtuned Blitzcrank hook range, Thresh has remained at the top of the pick rate ladder not just among the 4 hook champions, but of all support champions in general. To add even more appeal to the beloved crown jewel of all supports, the Chain Warden is the second most picked champion among all champions in the entirety of the game. (Both of these statistics graciously provided by U.GG) The reason for his popularity becomes abundantly clear once you take note of his highly resourceful kit which allows for a surprising amount of utility. 

Pros and Cons

Pros:

- Thresh's hook not only stuns but drags the enemy towards him

- Thresh can choose to stay put or go to the hooked champion by reactivating his Q

- His lantern ability allows a champion to instantly get to his location which is a great tool to use after he hooks 

- His lantern allows his lane to become significantly easier to gank, or helps allies escape

- His lantern can also be used as a small shield for himself or whomever he throws it on

- His E (flay) can be used to engage or disengage, as well as to slow (and technically counts as a knockup if you are playing with an ally Yasuo)

- His flay works as a CC that can affect multiple targets, unlike Blitzcrank

- The A.O.E. of his ult is very effective not just in laning phase, but during teamfights

- His kit is more versatile and not just hook-reliant

- Works well with any ADC champion

- Hard to gank against a Thresh

Cons:

- Has the slowest hook speed

- Long cooldown on his hook

- Mainly skillshots so lots of practice is required

How to Play Thresh

Laning Phase: A lot of the points made in Blitzcrank's description on laning phase applies to all 4 of the champions talked about, but let's focus on the differences.

Invading is a little bit more tricky with Thresh because once you hook a champion, there is the decision of whether or not you should reactivate your Q. Ultimately this is an impulsive judgment call, but recognize that going in after landing your Q is not always the best choice. 

Now in the laning phase, remember that the focal point in any hook champion is careful and calculated movement. You don't have the speed boost that Blitzcrank has, so punishing overextensions is a bit harder. A way that you can punish overextensions is by flaying enemies that come too close and then hooking them afterwards. Your Flay can also be used as a great disengage as well. You can easily push as many targets as you want towards or away from you.

Thresh's most underrated ability and what transcends his utility in laning phase over the other 3 champions is his W. This lantern creates so much opportunity in game to harass and elevates Thresh's ability to roam by giving you the option to get your teammates more involved. It allows for faster, more effective ganks as well as gives Thresh the ability to even gank other lanes with the jungler if timed well. However, his W can also save your AD Carry if they make the occasional mistake to overextend and have put themselves in danger. His W also makes the lane less gankable if you are aware of your surroundings. 

Post-Laning Phase: After the laning phase, your goal is to still get picks, but his high utility makes getting picks easier and safer. If you were to hook someone, it's easy to get your team into the mix with your lantern ability. Just always be mindful of who you hook whether you're looking for a pick or you are teamfighting. If your teammate is caught or getting picked off, you can easily run over to them, and rescue them with your lantern from a safe distance.

Speaking of teamfighting, Thresh's CC abilities are AoE for the most part rather than set on just a singular target. This allows him to be a lot more useful in teamfights than the likes of Blitzcrank. In the middle of a teamfight, a good flay can disrupt the entire momentum of a teamfight into your favor. If you can manage to flay multiple targets into your general vicinity and then proceed to ult, the slow from your ult that followed the flay leaves your opponents in a very vulnerable spot. 

Items To Buy (underlined items are NECESSARY):

- Remnant of the Ascended (Income item, gives decent health and important for vision)

- Boots of Mobility

- Zeke's Convergence (makes AD Carry strong against enemies slowed by your ult)

- Knight's Vow (makes you tanky when near your AD Carry)

- Redemption (heals your team while dealing damage to enemies if in the AoE, can change the course of a teamfight)

- Locket of the Iron Solari (gives your team a decent shield in its AoE)

- Mikael's Crucible (Cleanses any CC effect inflicted on your teammate, gives them immunity for 2 seconds)

Nautilus

Nautilus is a champion that has recently been ascended into top tier of the support meta. Like Thresh, he has a lot of utility in his kit that creates for great engages or disengages. While he has a lot of benefits in landing his abilities, any play with Nautilus can easily end up going wrong so hook at your own risk...

Pros and Cons

Pros:

- Great hook speed

- Cooldown on hook is significantly shorter than Blitzcrank and Thresh early on

- Seems to have the biggest hitbox when it comes to his hook

- His shield from his W ability creates less risk when trading in lane

- His passive stuns enemies that are auto-attacked by Nautilus, which goes well with Aftershock

- His E is an AoE slow that can be activated instantly after hooking your enemy

- He has a point and click ult that he can angle in order to knock up mulitple champions

- Good ability to escape with his hook (you can hook walls to fly to the wall)

- His W and passive that easily procs Aftershock makes him tanky in any exchange

- Has the ability to front line in teamfights

Cons: 

- Has the shortest hook length of the 4 champions

- Nautilus doesn't have the choice to go to the target he has hooked like Thresh does, which can lead to unintentionally bad engages 

- His E ability (slow) is fairly easy to dodge

- His ult is hard to angle to hit multiple targets

- Very slow attack speed

- Can't do much once all of his abilities are on cooldown

- Hard to invade

How to Play Nautilus

Laning Phase: Nautilus, of the 4 champions focused in this topic, is played with the greatest amount of risk. Any engage can go wrong and engaging when playing Nautilus requires the best judgement out of any of the 4 champions. His hook is a gap closer that will throw you into anything that you hook, including targets that you didn't intend to hook in the first place. 

This complication can lie in invading. Invading with Nautilus is a lot harder than with Thresh or Blitzcrank because of the physics of Nautilus's hook. First off, you are unable to hook over walls, and the ability to hook over walls is a huge reason why invading works. Without this advantage, the success rate of your invade drops significantly and invading becomes a lot harder. However, in the event that you DO decide to invade, there are a number of things to keep in mind.

Nautilus's Q hitbox is a bit wider than the other champions so in a group of targets, it's a bit harder to pick out one. Also, if you were to have your hook dodged, there is a high chance you will fly towards the wall that you just hooked, seeing as there are tons of walls in the jungle. Assuming the worst has happened, you have now closed the gap between you and the wall, and you are essentially by yourself in between your team and the enemy team with no abilities to use. You will be forced to flash out and, even then, there's a decent chance you give up first blood. The message to be taken out of this hypothetical scenario is that when playing Nautilus, invade at your own risk.

The actual laning phase poses even more risk because of minions. Missing a hook and then flying towards a minion puts you in a very awkward spot that will ultimately cause you to take lots of unnecessary damage while walking away empty-handed. It isn't like Blitzcrank, in the sense that missing a hook isn't just something you can brush off. There are real risks that can change the momentum in lane when you miss your hook based on how much punishment you end up taking. 

In the event that you do land a hook, you can instantly auto the champion to stun them, and then activate your E in order to slow them. This will, at the very least, force a flash out of the champion. Nautilus has so many different CC abilities that once you land a hook, you will be able to do so much to the target that it will give you a huge advantage. Also, if the champion is very vulnerable (low health or no flash), you can use the Q on a wall near the enemy to close the gap, and then ult the enemy. Lastly, always remember that movement is key.

Post-Laning Phase: Nautilus arguably has the best kit to teamfight with, of the 4 champions. He has a gap closer with his hook that, if used correctly, will get you close to the entire team where you can do some real damage. For more experienced Nautilus players, you can use your ult on a target in the back which causes a ripple that knocks up as many enemy champions as possible in teamfights. Your E ability's AoE will also slows the champions significantly, making them extremely vulnerable. Nautilus's W (shield) also creates less risk in teamfight engages, and of the 4 champions. Nautilus probably has the best ability to engage teamfights. 

By the end of laning phase and on, it is assumed that Nautilus is quite tanky and the risk that comes with missing hooks and what not reduces significantly. Mid to late game, you are tanky enough to endure the pesky damage that comes with mishaps in a botched engage attempt. Nautilus is the only real champion of the 4 that can confidently front line in teamfights. Your role as a tank is much more significant than the likes of Blitzcrank and Thresh. Even if your abilities are on cooldown, you still have a large role which is to absorb damage. This cannot be said about Blitzcrank or Thresh necessarily.

Items To Buy (underlined items are NECESSARY):

- Remnant of the Aspect (Income item, gives lots health and important for vision)

- Boots of Mobility

- Zeke's Convergence (makes it easier for your AD Carry to deal the bonus damage when they are knocked up by your ult)

- Knight's Vow (makes you even more tanky when near your AD Carry)

- Redemption (heals your team while dealing damage to enemies if in the AoE can change the course of a teamfight)

- Locket of the Iron Solari (gives your team a decent shield in its AoE)

- Gargoyle Stoneplate (significantly increases your ability to absorb damage)

- Any tank item is viable (ex: Warmogs, Abyssal Mask, Sunfire Cape, etc.)

Pyke

Pyke is definitely the most intriguing of the 4, and for good reason. He isn't a tank by any means, and the idea of being an assassin support is quite unorthodox. He doesn't have a ton of health like the other 3 hook champions but his kit allows him to sustain his health for a long time in lane. Nothing about this support champion is quite ordinary...

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

- Long hook range

- His E stun is controllable by your movement

- His W allows for quick and stealthy engages

- His ult allows for a great amount of gold to be made among your team

- Passive lets Pyke heal, so trading is less risky

- His ult is an execute that can be used on multiple targets, as long as his ults are successful

- Great teamfighting kit

- Great ability to escape

- E can be used as a gap closer

- W allows for great roaming ability

Cons: 

- Very squishy

- Very income reliant

- Skillshots are hard to land

- Doesn't do enough damage to justify the fact that he isn't tanky

- Pyke needs to channel his hook to get a good hook range

- Using Pyke's W alerts the nearby enemies that he is somewhere in their general vicinity

How to Play Pyke

Laning Phase: Invading with Pyke is essentially a less effective version of invading as Blitzcrank. You can still hook champions over walls, but the hook physics of Pyke is more of a tug to your direction rather than Blitzcrank who can fully just hook the target directly to him. It still has the same effect but just to a lesser scale. However, Pyke's invading ability is still good and should be something that enemies are weary of. 

Pyke has an interesting kit and this allows for Pyke players to get very creative with their engages in laning phase. There are 3 main ways that you can go about engaging which are

1) You can easily just go the classic route and wait for an overextension to hook them in. Then you would proceed to use your E to stun the target(s). 

2) If the targets are low or vulnerable enough, you can just close the gap by using your E towards the enemy and then hooking them after.

3) You can take a stealthy route by getting out of the vision of your enemies, activating your W which makes you invisible to the enemy, and then engaging on the enemy out of nowhere. However, keep in mind that W'ing near your enemies will create a ring around the enemy's champion that alerts them that you are invisible and near them.

Another great thing about Pyke is that his W inspires creative ways to roam as well. You can very quickly travel up the river while having your W active. Much like Thresh, you can time the jungler's gank with your roam, and get a very effective double gank on a lane. Ganking is easier with Pyke because you can use your E as a gap closer on unsuspecting victims.

Post-Laning Phase: Pyke's W allows for a good chance to get picks. If you're roaming around with a teammate, his ability to go invisible is useful in getting integral picks in game. This will allow for you team to have an advantage in getting dragons, baron, or pushing lanes.

However, Pyke excels in teamfighting. His hook can get things started, but the real damage is done with his E and ult. His E can be used to stun multiple targets, and the last thing you want if your entire team is low is to be near an enemy Pyke. He has the ability to immediately execute any champions that are low enough in health. To add insult to injury, it isn't just Pyke who gets the gold, but also whomever gets the kill credit. Pyke excels engaging teamfights, but his ult allows for him to finish teamfights just as well as starting them. 

It is important to stay safe in the midst of teamfights however. Pyke is a very squishy champion so E into the enemy team at your own risk. There is a decent chance that you will not be able to make it out alive so contemplate if a big stun is what your team needs in the immediate fight or not. Sometimes, it is better to play safer in teamfights, and be alive towards the end so that you can get off your executes.

Items To Buy (underlined items are NECESSARY):

- Remnant of the Aspect (Income item, gives lots health and important for vision)

- Boots of Mobility

- Duskblade of Draktharr (lots of lethality, and can be used to spot enemy wards)

Youmuu's Ghostblade (bonus movement speed for roaming and getting picks)

- Guardian Angel (after a hard engage, you will probably die so being revived helps)

- Edge of Night (Gives lethality and a spell shield that will help block out any CC when going in to engage)

Some Tips on Countering Hook Champions

Hook champions are great for getting instant advantages, but there are plently of weaknesses to exploit. With how the meta is shaped right now and catering to these hook-based champions, some people in the community will look to rebel against these overpowered champions. For the select few and the underdogs of the bot lane, here are a couple of friendly pointers to keep in mind when playing against these overpowered supports.

- Pick a champion that can disengage (Ex: Alistar, Braum, Tahm Kench, Leona, etc.)

- Pick a tanky champion (Ex: Alistar, Braum, Leona, etc.)

- Stay away from mages and other squishy champions (Ex: Nami, Lulu, Janna)

- If you're good at dodging hooks, try to out poke them (Ex. Brand, Lux, Vel'Koz, Zyra)

- Always have vision in bushes

- Stay behind minions and keep track of how many minions are left in the wave in front of you

- Freeze lane near your turret

- Mirror the movement of the hook champion so that you're always a safe distance away

To anyone reading this, hopefully this helped encouraged you to try out these champions while they are still strong in the current meta. It's always fun to abuse overtuned champions, so try out the new Blitzcrank before he gets nerfed, if Riot chooses to take that route!

Like our content? Support us by getting our merchandise in our shop