Victory from the Depths: Why You Should Be Playing Support Pyke
Tue 17th Nov 2020 - 7:25pm
The 2020 World Championship just came to an explosive finale after teams finished fighting each other for the trophy, but these teams also had to combat the meta itself, figuring out the best tactics and picks to secure themselves some wins. The League of Legends meta also changed and evolved throughout the tournament as teams debuted their homegrown strategies, but one thing became clear as the tournament progressed: the importance of the support role.
Now, before everyone rushes to their keyboards to correct me, let me clarify: This Worlds clearly featured a jungle-dominated meta. Junglers like Canyon and SofM were the stars of the show, consistently being put on carries like Graves and Kindred to lead their teams to victory. However, if junglers were the main protagonists, I'd argue that supports were the unsung heroes. In order to allow junglers like Lilia and Hecarim ample time to farm and scale up, it was often supports who were the ones roaming the map and ganking for lanes.
Thus the support meta for Worlds featured champions with lots of engage, roaming potential, and vision control, such as Leona, Pantheon, and Rakan. While I was watching the tournament, though, I couldn't help but feel that there was a certain spooky assassin missing from the champion pool. Indeed, Pyke brings all of these advantages to the table (and more), so although he remained underwater at Worlds, read on to find out why he can be a valuable and underrated support pick in your own games.
Why are you running?!
Objectives are critically important in League of Legends, especially now with the abundance of Drakes and Rift Heralds. The skirmishes around these objectives often involve lots of posturing, or trying to get your team into an advantageous position from which to fight (and also forcing your opponent into a disadvantageous position). Posturing is an empty threat, though, if your team doesn't have any ability to actually start a fight.
Fortunately, one of Pyke's greatest assets is his ability to engage fights. His Bone Skewer is an excellent tool for catching enemies out of rotation or displacing an enemy from the rest of their team. It can even pull opponents over walls, which will almost always net you a Flash or a kill if your team is there to follow up.
Pyke's E is also an excellent engage tool with deceptive range. You can E -> Flash to extend your engage range to levels that would make Rakan blush, and it can be very difficult to avoid if you get the timing right. When your Flash is down, Pyke's ultimate can even be used as an engage tool when comboed with E. You lose out on the damage that his ult offers but it can offer some clutch CC in a pinch.
Just keep swimming
In addition to engage potential, another hallmark of meta supports is their ability to roam. Successful roams not only net you advantages around the map, but they can give your ADC some space to collect valuable solo experience (just make sure they don't get dove while you're not around).
Supports like Pantheon and Tahm Kench have global or semi-global ultimates that allow them to quickly traverse the map; while Pyke doesn't have any teleportation himself, his W ability comes pretty close in terms of effectiveness. Ghostwater Dive gives Pyke a massive speed boost that scales up with his Lethality, enabling him to move between lanes extremely swiftly. On top of the speed, Pyke's W also grants him camouflage so he can sneak around trinket wards unseen.
When you notice that the opposing team's support has left lane and is looking for a roam, do your best to mirror them. Your extra movement speed means that you'll get to their intended destination before they do, hopefully catching the enemy team off guard and swinging any potential fights in your favor. Remember: playing support doesn't mean your anchored to the botlane. Don't leave your ADC to drown, but also make sure you're extending your presence around the map.
Scanning the horizon
Roaming is a tactic that is inherently tied to vision. Roams allow you to establish vision control and good vision control allows you to roam. As I mentioned above, Pyke's W is perfect for this task. The movement speed allows him to place and clear wards in enemy territory before they can respond, while the camouflage helps you do it all undetected.
As a Lethality user, Pyke also benefits from being able to use one of the best items in the game right now: Umbral Glaive. This item can detect trinket wards and lets you do three hits' worth of damage to wards in a single hit, meaning you can clear both trinket and control wards almost instantly. These abilities thus give your team exceptional vision control around objectives, especially if the enemy team is lacking a Lethality user who can exploit this item as well. As a result, you'll almost always have the information advantage going into fights, helping you come out on top.
You get a cut! You get a cut! Everyone gets a cut!
The above points are obviously things that Pyke excels at, but they're also things that other meta supports can do. So why is Pyke so special? Well, it turns out that the Bloodharbor Ripper is pretty good at killing, and killing pays well in Runeterra—who knew?
Pyke's kill potential is incredibly high once he stacks some Lethality items in his inventory, and during later stages of the game his ultimate alone can decimate half of a squishy's health bar. With his full rotaion of spells, Pyke can easily 1v1 an ADC these days, making them easy pickings at the start of a team fight if their team is lacking peel. Capitalize on his crazy damage to take the enemy's backline out of the fight, then dip into the shadowy depths while you wait to cash in on some executions once the other combatants get low.
Speaking of executions, his ultimate offers not only kill potential, but snowball potential. Early gold is critical for snowballing a lead into an eventual victory; this is why turret plates and the Rift Heralds are so hotly contested. Luckily, Pyke's ultimate offers boatloads of extra gold on kills. This income goes to Pyke as well as the allies that assisted in the takedowns, injecting your entire team with the money needed extend your advantage. (Just make sure your teammates are aware of this so that they don't flame you for stealing kills.)
Pyke may be more prevalent in the midlane than in support right now, but this doesn't mean that he's a poor support. In many ways his potential closely mirrors that of the most meta supports. He offers a lot, from engage to CC to extra damage. And above all else, playing Pyke is ridiculously fun, so consider choosing this scurvy specter in your next champion select.