Top 10 Support Mistakes and How to Improve
Tue 3rd Dec 2019 - 8:43pm
There are no perfect players in League of Legends. Every game we make mistakes big and small. It’s up to us to roll back our gameplay and isolate what it is we do wrong and correct the problems before they become bad habits. We can give ourselves an edge in the correction department by keeping an eye out for staple mistakes that are common amongst every player.
Today, I’ll be breaking down ten mistakes that every Support player makes regardless of ELO. We’ll also dive into scenarios and talk about how we can correct them to give us an idea on how to correct our own play. The Preseason is the perfect time to isolate our bad habits and tear them away, so let’s dive right in.
1) Not Building or Adapting Correctly
Often the first and most constant mistake that League players in general make is not optimizing or adapting their builds. Within the context of Support, it’s really easy to fall into the habits of “this is how my Champion is played” and never diverge from builds that Support their intended patterns.
For example, you’re a Blitzcrank main. Riot’s recommended Champion build looks something like this:
There is truly nothing wrong with this setup. Steel Shoulderguards, Potions, and our Trinket are classic starter items. Boots of Speed, Ruby Crystal, and Cloth Armor provide the stats that Blitzcrank cares about as a Catcher Champion that typically matches against Attack Damage lanes. It’s when we transition to our ‘Essential Items’ where we can begin to ask questions.
Boots of Mobility are a gold-standard item on Blitz. They offer him the extra speed that he needs to generate pressure through roaming and to get back to lane as fast as possible. Righteous Glory is a great item that helps Blitz operate as a quick engage source for his team thanks to its speed-boost active while also offering some tank stats. You’ll naturally be inclined to complete these items thanks to what you know about Blitz and what Riot themselves promote as core items to his playstyle.
But what’s our matchup this game? Looks like we’ve been countered by a Morgana pick and the enemy Carry is Senna. That’s a lot of potential lockdown coming our way. One stray binding can lead to a chain of CC that leads to a grey screen. Blitzcrank doesn’t possess any form of dash to dodge their binds and his only movement option makes him slower at some point. It’d be totally worth it this game to deviate from Riot’s suggestion to purchase Mercury Treads to reduce the amount of time we are locked down by this duo. Doubly so if you see another form of hard crowd-control coming from the Jungler or Mid lane. This change may reduce Blitz’s speed and roaming threat slightly, but providing yourself with a safer lane phase is key to winning games.
Let’s now look at the stats that Righteous Glory offers. Armor, HP, Mana, and CDR. Important stats for Blitz without a doubt. But let’s look at Zeke’s Convergence in our hypothetical matchup. Senna and Morgana.
Senna and Morg both benefit from AP Scalings. Though as a Carry in the lane, Senna’s AP will be lower than her Support style. Regardless, there’s a respectable mix of damage coming out early before we acquire our items. Zeke’s Convergence offers Armor, MR, CDR, Mana, and a unique active effect that is utilized with our ultimate. All of these stats benefit us early and can be acquired faster in comparison to the more expensive Riot suggested Righteous Glory. They are also stats that Blitz holds in higher priority throughout the early phases of the game and, if needed, Blitz can pivot the pieces of Zeke’s into two separate items, Locket of the Iron Solari or Frozen Heart, that benefit him and his team in certain situations.
So, we’ve built our Zeke’s and Mercury Treads. We’re not more resilient against the damage output that is being dished from Senna and Morgana. We’re also able to take more aggressive positioning against the lane since one binding isn’t going to lock us down for ten years. We’re still countered on paper by Morgana’s Black Shield, but we’ve done what we can to decrease the power gap between us and our enemies. Without this adaptation in our build, we could be playing a much rougher lane and having to rely more on our enemy to make mistakes. As a Support, we want the priority of agency in lane, or simply put, we want the ability to make an impact. So, look to remove the inhibiting factors that our enemy’s draft and team-comp presents to us by adapting our build to overcome their construction. And if you’re still unsure of what to build, always check out what the Pro-players and One-Tricks are building on your Champion. Though defaulting to their builds may not be as effective as adapting to your in-game situation, these higher caliber players often carry innate knowledge of what benefits the Champion they’re playing within any given meta.
2) Not Tracking Cooldowns
We mentioned in point #1 that we want agency in lane. Agency in Bot is a tug-of-war affair between each Support and this occurs based on who has what ability up within any given situation. Great Supports track what abilities are up and have the majority of their counterparts cooldowns committed to memory. This knowledge allows for proper positioning, roaming, and calls for trading, ganks, or 2v2 engages.
When we look at the class spread of Supports, Tanks, Controllers, and Mages, we can set a basis for who has more agency on paper going into any match thanks to the paper-rock-scissors like nature of these positions. Tanks typically match favorably against Mages thus they should possess more innate agency in lane. Mages favor against Controllers. Controllers favor against Tanks.
But, regardless of favorability, it’s the battle of cooldowns that truly decides who the winner of any given exchange will be. So, let’s talk about a matchup that is highly volatile but one that is ‘countered’ on paper. That matchup being Leona vs. Janna.
Leona is an all in Vanguard. She wants to dive initiate fights and lock down a single opponent to allow her team to burst them down through the utilization of her passive, Sunlight. Janna is a defensive Enchanter. She excels at peeling, shielding, and disengaging would be divers against herself and her backline.
Within this given matchup, Janna is favored. First, Janna possesses a range advantage over Leona. She’s able to sit outside of her auto-attack range and poke away with her autos and her Q or W. Secondly, Janna’s Q, Howling Gale, can be activated while Leona engages with her E, Zenith Blade, which disrupts her all-in combo come level three. And if Leona does sneak her way into the backline, Janna is able to shield her carry with her E, Eye of the Storm, or in the worst-case scenario reset the distance between herself and Leona by utilizing the knockback of her ultimate, Monsoon.
Overall, Leona has a rough time finding a way to stick to her targets while against Janna and this cripples the majority of Leona’s agency and in-game goals. But, as mentioned, Support is a tug-of-war in terms of agency. By tracking Janna’s cooldowns, Leona can find windows of opportunity to utilize her kit to its potential. Especially once she’s level 6.
If Janna uses her Q as a poke tool, rather than a disengage tool, then Leona has a free engagement window every 12 seconds (Not factoring CDR) to lockdown Janna or her Carry. When Howling Gale is down pre-6, Janna is exposed completely and her low base stats are a buffet that any Carry will feast off of when backed up by Leona’s Sunlight. At level 6, Leona has the ability to start her engagements from afar thanks to her ultimate. And should she hit a sweet-spot stun on Janna, even with her Q and Ultimate, it’s hard to imagine Janna surviving a focused assault by Leona and her Carry due to Janna’s fragility.
Tracking cooldowns is key and you can go about initiating this great habit into your play several ways. First, you can simply commit base cooldowns of your matchups to memory. Knowledge is power after all. Or, if you’re like me and suck at memorizing, you can always actively call out when an ability is utilized and rely on guesstimation! Verbally say, “Morgana Black Shield is down. I need to look to engage.” This alone is going to start gearing you into a mindset of looking for windows of opportunity. The more and more you play this way and coach yourself in-moment, the more you’ll get a feel and guesstimation down for the cooldown timings of your matchups. And you want to look for BIG spells being utilized. These typically are what the Champions themselves are known and designed for. So, Morgana’s Black Shield, Blitz’s hook, Lux’s Light Binding, or Nami’s Bubble for example. These tools operate as disruption and once the disruption is off the table, you’re given agency to complete your Champion’s goals. You can always supplement guesstimation and feeling with concrete knowledge later after you’ve coached yourself into the habits so don’t think of this as a ‘one or the other’ type of situation.
Those of you struggling with Support and climbing from the role are probably not doing your best to monitor the cooldowns of your opponent and are pressing for poke or engagements at inopportune times when your enemies have access to their full kits. An ability down is one less tool that your opponents have to use against you so keep your mind on the beat of their uptime.
3) Poor Positioning
You may think warding makes or breaks your skill at the Support role. But truthfully, the skill that separates all tiers of Support is positioning. Being in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time can make a huge difference on the outcome of the game. So, let’s discuss how to position utilizing the mindset and goals of each of the classes.
Tanks and Catchers play forward. Their starting items and base stats make them healthy and allow them to wade into minions for aggression or to secure their quest procs. Tanks and Catchers, unlike Mages and Enchanters, are often a threat due to the nature of their abilities alone, not necessarily their damage output or items backing them up. A single hook, knock-up, or stun executed by these classes usually means you’re crowd-controlled until dead or you’re having to blow all of your Summoner Spells just to eke out with 10 HP.
Think about your cooldowns when playing these classes and understand the pure threat of your abilities. Without adjusting your positioning or by playing far away from where you’d achieve the goals of your Champion’s class, you’re relinquishing pressure and thus agency in ANY matchup favorable or not.
Mages and Enchanters utilize their Carry and their Minions as a defensive line. If you’re behind this line, then the damage output of your carry will dissuade aggression towards you and your Minions will soak any hooks or skillshots that might come your way. Further, the range and poke-oriented quests of these classes allow them to play at this line while still allowing them to apply pressure.
“But, Boss, can’t these classes be positioned aggressively?”
Why, yes! Of course, they can! But, to position a Mage or Enchanter in an aggressive spot requires timing, tracking of cooldowns, and lane control! (Remember the point from above?) In matchups against Tanks or Catchers, stray hooks or quick-witted engages means insta-death for Mages and Enchanters. You have to be aware of where your opponents are positioned, what abilities they have up to take you down, and where their vision is located. Without this knowledge, you’ll be seeing a lot of grey screen and ‘click to expand’ time.
Take the time to play your chosen mains or classes in multiple matchups. Learn what you can and can’t do. Learn the feel and flow of the lane. And know that this flow stems from your ability to position yourself properly!
4) Picking Poorly in Draft
I admit it. I’ve done this a lot just to simply play the Champion I want to play. (Don’t look at my Nami match history please.) And that’s okay. But, understand that if you counterpick yourself, you’re asking for a harder game and, more often than not, a loss.
In Bot, it’s hard for Carries to truly ‘counter’ each other since most of them achieve their goals in the same way but with their own unique flourishes. Yes, there are matchups that are favorable and unfavorable for Carries. Vayne into Caitlyn, Ezreal into Ashe, Kalista into literally anything, to name a few examples of unfavorable ones. But the matchup circumstances can be more easily overcome and compensated through excellent Support play.
In Draft, give yourself the advantage and pick to counter, pick for meta, or pick for EXTREME comfort. Counterpicking the enemy Support in draft should give you the agency to control the outcome of the lane and thus help you win quickly and efficiently. And if you’re a pick ahead of your Support counterpart, pick for the meta or pick a Champion that you have extreme familiarity on.
Picking to the Meta, even in a countered situation, never truly feels bad. Yes, lane phase might be rougher. But if that Champion is S+ tier, they are there for more than just what they do in laning phase.
Picking for comfort is an excellent fallback if you aren’t someone that stringently follows the meta. Comfort picks excel in blind picks spots because your confidence on the Champion will be high and you’ll inherently know your goals and limitations in any given situation due to familiarity.
And never first time something in Ranked. Yes. Senna is busted. But you still need to get the flow of her down with a few Normals before you jump into the most competitive mode that League of Legends has to offer.
5) Poor/Unadaptive Warding
Warding is the go-to duty that most people think of when they imagine the Support role. It’s one of those top tier skills needed to climb and be dominant across the map and lane phase for sure. And in my Support deep-dive, we discussed common spots to drop your wards to counter and set-up control for your lane and objectives.
That guide is a great starting point so I suggest you check it out. But a common mistake that many players fall into is this mode of ‘default’ warding. They’ll come to lane, ward their river bush, keep it lit when their ward is up, but never adapt their vision based on the enemy team or the gank patterns they’ve shown previously.
As a Support, one of your biggest duties is to be able to identify these patterns and anticipate them. If you’re against a Zac, Kayn, or Nocturne, your vision is going to have to be deep and placed in positions and behind walls that are common spots thanks to their tricky gank paths. Simply keeping default positions like Tri-brush and River warded isn’t going to be enough to outmatch the speed and range of these Champions.
So, the next time you come into draft, make sure you counter-pick your opponent and then check out the enemy Jungler. Consider if they are a red or blue side jungler. Consider if they’ll be on your side at three minutes. What are the common pathways for them to execute early? Are they power farming until level 6? Does their range or speed of ganking increase at level 6?
Considering these questions will help you adapt your vision to these pathways to prevent ganks and increase safety on your end. If your opponents are on their stuff though and try to prevent you from securing vision, ask for your team to help you secure the control of the areas you need.
Vision, through a Support mechanic, is a team responsibility and it’s up to them to protect and guide you so that you can set the stage for the biggest plays for your team.
6) Not Roaming or Poorly Executed Roaming
This is another point we discussed in my deep-dive. Roaming is a key aspect to the Support game that often goes overlooked in favor of lane dominance. But, what happens when you are inevitably counter picked or are behind in lane? How do you alleviate the pressure? Do you spam ping for ganks and hug turret? NO! You take charge and look for opportunities to influence your other lanes.
A hidden talent that most players don’t consider is the ability to identify and pursue your win condition. Sometimes that condition is Bot through the Duo Lane. Sometimes it’s through Mid thanks to a favorable matchup. Sometimes it’s through Top. Regardless of where it is though, as a Support you have the ability to influence it through roaming.
So, let’s ask, once again, when do we roam?
1) When returning from base following a recall or respawn.
2) When your carry is not in lane.
3) When a safe and effective freeze has been set.
Returning from base is often the roam that catches most laners as they expect everyone to mindlessly flow back to their lanes as to not lose experience or gold. But if you’re playing a Champion that roams well, like Naut or Blitz, then you have the ability to sacrifice gold and exp due to the nature of your abilities.
When your carry isn’t in lane, even as an Enchanter or Mage, you’re not helping anyone. Your job is to support and enable. So, if your Jungler is Bot, help him secure camps in the enemy jungle or acquire deep vision. And when in doubt, roam to try and exert pressure over Mid. Remember, even being out of vision for a few moments generates pressure on the map for your opponents.
When your carry has the lane frozen and they’re living the dream safe and sound, look to influence to map. But don’t leave them, even in a frozen state, if you’re against an aggressive lane. Lucian-Blitz, for example. If your opponents possess greater kill pressure, you don’t want to leave your Carry in a 2v1 situation just so you can acquire some deep vision or blow a Summoner Mid. The only time I would say leaving your Carry in favor of your Mid or Jungle, is if you’ve identified these lanes as your true carries of the game. Even-so, ditching your lane partner to set up your other teammates can often lead to some tilting exchanges or create avenues for your opponents to continue to exploit the one weak link on your team.
So, roam at the opportune checks and conditions, and never be afraid to roam if you’re on a traditionally non-roaming Support.
7) Not Utilizing Level 2
Be you Mage, Catcher, Tank, or Enchanter. Level 2 can be a deciding point for every Bot lane matchup. Duo Laners acquire level 2 after the first wave plus three melee minions. If you’re playing a lane combo or Champion with a devastating all-in at level 2, look to pressure this and take advantage of it. If you submit the level 2 to your opponents, you can often be zoned away and forced to submit lane control them.
You can look to set the wave tempo early for yourself by coming in and immediately beginning to auto-attack Minions alongside your Carry. Keep in mind your starting item though, as there are some unique moments you can utilize their effects to set the wave for the pristine moment.
If you want the wave to begin an immediate push and you’re a Support utilizing Steel Shoulderguards, you can take advantage of the quest-effect of this item and execute the first two minions of the first wave to get things going quickly. (Your stack will be up by the time the Cannon wave comes in, don’t worry.) Alternatively, you can utilize the proc on the first minion of the first wave, and then save the proc for the last melee minion of the second wave to deliver up the quick level 2 for you and your partner.
For Supports that don’t use Steel Shoulderguards, you’ll be auto-attacking and poking away at your opponents for the setup. Enchanters and Mages have to play in an uncharacteristically aggressive fashion during this early push as they typically take their poke abilities first and not their crowd-control like their Tank and Catcher cousins. If you can whittle the health pool of your enemies down, while also being clear of their engage, your level two will not only come in with CC, but also they’ll be prepped and low for clean deaths.
In the event that you must concede the level 2 to your opponents, it’s no big deal. This isn’t an insta-loss because you didn’t go for your Lucian-Leona all-in. You simply have to play back until both sides are level three, and someone to have utilized their cooldowns poorly before looking for your windows.
8) Not Checking Items
Supports, even Enchanters, are often more designed around what their abilities do over how they are supported through itemization. There’s a reason why they bring in the lowest gold income on the team after all. With that said, that doesn’t mean itemization isn’t important. Like we mentioned above, you want to always itemize to counter your opponents and what they’re doing, but you also what to be aware of what items your opponents have so that you can be aware of their strengths.
Let’s say you won your level 2 all-in. You, as Leona, and your Lucian, crash the wave and take a quick reset to pick up your items. Your Lucian rolls back with a Long Sword and you grab a Ruby Crystal for yourself. Your opponents return to lane first. Their Xayah was unlucky and came back with only a few more potions to her name, while her Thresh came back with a Rejuvenation Bead.
You have the combat stat advantage at this point, and a part of your game plan going forward until your next recall should be to extend that further. During this period, you can look to engage and take aggressive engages because you know that you’re tankier thanks to your Ruby Crystal and Lucian can deal more damage thanks to his Long Sword. In a completely even 2v2 this early, you are in the driver's seat.
But, conversely, you should be aware of when your enemies hold the advantage through their items. Let’s say you and your Lucian didn’t get the level 2 first, and instead, you were forced back. Lucian’s had to farm under turret now and he’s doing a poor job of it. This has lead Xayah to gain a CS lead on him, but thankfully no one has died. The KDA reads even.
After, Xayah and Thresh take their leave for items and you and Lucian crash your wave and do the same. When both Duos return, Lucian has a Vamp Scepter to his name and their Xayah has her BF Sword. You and Thresh are even in items. You look to make the engage and Thresh lands the sick counter-hook onto your Lucian while you go for Xayah. Xayah ignores you and throws all her feathers at Lucian and blows him up instantly before you are whittled down to death for the double.
To know not to take this engage opportunity, you first should have checked the items. If Xayah and Thresh held the raw damage advantage, then you have to hold off until your Jungler can support your engage or until Lucian gets his act together and catches up in CS and gains equivalent items.
Marksmen and Mages are focused primarily on reaching certain item spikes for their strength to come full-force. In situations where you’re wanting to go in, you have to weigh the risk against what items your enemy possesses. If they hold a statistical advantage against you, in a complete evenly executed engage, you’re going to end up losing the fight. As the gas-pedal that accelerates the lane into fighting, it's the Supports job to keep tabs on this information at all times. Toss out pings to your allies about what items they possess to give your team the extra information. If an item with a cooldown has been utilized, like Bilgewater Cutlass, ping it and show that you’re wanting to engage since this key effect is off the table.
This is a lot like managing cooldowns and if you can keep tabs on this game state, you’ll constantly be aware of who to catch first or who to avoid when making plays across the map.
9) Not Understanding Your Role From Game to Game
I’ve spoken over and over about accomplishing a Champion’s goals and how utilizing the strengths of your Champion inopportune times against your opponents is the surest way to victory. But, what about when you’re in a situation where the circumstances are against you.
Consider that you’re playing the Leona-Lucian lane and you’re steamrolling the Caitlyn-Nami lane you’ve matched against. You and Lucian are up 30 CS and have kills and tower plates to your name. It seems like an easy win right?
Well, looking at the scoreboard shows that the enemy Akali has dumpstered your team’s Mid And she’s translated that pressure to allow her Top and Jungler to start popping off against their opponents. The lead isn’t insurmountable, but it’ll require some adjustments in tempo by your team.
Fast-forwarding, you’re at the first teamfight of the game trying to contest Infernal Drake. Akali, whose lead has only grown, makes a dive for your Lucian while you take the engage opportunity on Caitlyn. Cait goes down but so does Lucian, all of your teamfight damage, and shortly after the rest of your team hits ‘click to expand’ to complain about Akali’s balance.
During this scenario, you played your Champion correctly. You hit your ultimate, engaged onto a key target, and blew them up. But, the circumstances of the enemy team brought all the good you built crashing down. How do we alter this for next the next fight?
Well, adjust your gameplan. Lucian needs to be alive. And though it might be a duty of Leona to look for points of engage, if you’re his only form of peel and he’s your most fed member, then your goal needs to adjust and role needs to shift from ‘Engager’ to ‘Peeler’. You’re subconsciously switching from Vanguard to Warden so that you can protect the main force of your teamfight away from the one thing that can take it out. With this adjustment, you run over the next fight and Akali is typing in all-chat about being focused and whining that she can’t catch Lucian alone. You’ve turned the tides in your favor by altering the goals of your champion to be in line with what the game needed at the given time.
Sometimes this needs to happen. Sometimes we have to play Champions in fashions that are uncharacteristic to their intended behavior due to the strengths and composition of our enemy. A great Support player can analyze when they have to make this call and adjust their approach, while lesser Support players keep doing the same thing over and over. Again, adaptation comes back as a key to victory.
10) Picking Suboptimal Champions
Support is a lane that almost any Champion with a crowd-control ability or poke can fulfill. But, there is a reason that you don’t see Support Aatrox ranked alongside Nautilus or Pyke in the tier lists. And that’s because he, and a plethora of other champs, are not designed to fulfill the Support role optimally. When you come to a situation where you’re auto-filled Support and you’ve few Champions to pick or you’re a one-trick out to prove themselves, it’s always better to just submit to the meta and game design playing something that everyone recognizes as a Support.
Trying to stiff-arm your Support Tristana into a Ranked match because you’re a Trist one trick isn’t going to do anyone, especially yourself, any favors. In fact, you’re probably going to end up breaking the mental of your team early should the game even get to load screen, and you’re missing out on key contributions from a designed Support’s kit that could be present in the game. And that’s nothing against Off-Meta selections. Champions that are uncommon to Support can sometimes pop up and be successful, but it often requires innovation from players that are professionals and not from random Solo-Queue players. You should look to emulate what is strong in the meta, or play off-meta that you are extremely familiar with, not pick something that you’d imagine getting the immediate response of, “You’re trolling,” with.
The prime suggestion I have for all of you that do not play Support and have been auto-filled, is to pick up one of the Mages that can play Support well. Zyra, Xerath, Lux, Morgana, or Zilean to name a few. These Champions all come with those nice damage focused yet pseudo-supportive kits that can be utilized well from the Support role.
Thanks for taking the time to read through these 10 points. I hope highlighting these common mistakes has come to show you some error in your own play that you can move to correct. Remember, a big portion of our discussion today centered around adaptation. This is the key attribute to a Support’s play and if you can become a flexible and adaptable player, you’ll find nothing but success in Solo-Duo.
Thanks again, and best of luck on the Rift!
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