Support Itemisation Guide with Trixtank!
Fri 6th Oct 2017 - 9:48am
Season 4 has been big for Smite, bringing in many changes and having multiple different metas. The mid-season changes were some of the most impactful and one the big things they made significant changes to was itemisation. A big effort was made to diversify builds for all roles, which includes support. Support is doubly affected by any itemisation changes, as it gets new powerful items to build but also must adapt to counter new powerful items from other roles. We talked to our star support player Jeppe "Trixtank" Gylling about the new support core build, counter building and itemisation in general and used his insight to create this guide!
The most recent changes to Smite have been focused on making the game less snowbally and weighted towards the early game. What this has meant for support according to Trixtank is that "there is a different start for every single role, but the late game fighting style is the same and the picks and bans have also not changed majorly".
So, support late game is largely the same, but the starts and early game strategy have changed significantly. When it comes to builds, this means that the first few items, the core build, have been the ones most affected by the changes.
For a long time, Heartward Amulet and Sovereignty were the items that you simply had to build when playing support. This hard limit on support builds was removed recently by nerfs to these two items and buffs to other support items.
However, these changes have been even more impactful than that, as the concept of a core build that you build every game has been demolished. As Trixtank puts it, "The core build right now is impossible to write down, there is so many items that can be used and so many different scenarios. So, now as it stands with a lot of items being viable I can't say, because I use a different build almost every game."
So, let’s start with the starter build. While this used to be very easy for supports, the recent addition of powerful starter items has opened up some options for supports. Recently, a lot of supports have been picking up Lono's Mask for the insane HP5 and value that it gives.
Lono's Mask was one of the items introduced in an attempt to diversify support starts and builds in general. While it's passive is definitely powerful, the fact that it only gives health and HP5 has lead to some supports not using it recently.
However, Trixtank says, "I have started to ignore Lono's Mask, because it does not really offer that much and I want my boots online quickly so I can go for invades and so on."
While Lono's is powerful, it does resign you to a slower playstyle, so as Trixtank mentions if you're looking to be more aggressive it might not be worth picking up. Without it, Trixtank tends to build "Watchers and Boots 1, three healing pots, one mana/multi depending on if you're a mana-hungry support," which allows you to be aggressive but also gives you options due to the large amount of pots. Getting an early start on your boots is also noteworthy as boots are a big power spike for supports in the early game
Watcher's Gift is without a doubt the support starter item. With such a large variety of stats it provides and its incredibly powerful passive, if you don't build it you are going to seriously struggle to keep up as a support.
However, locking yourself into one start is not beneficial, according to Trixtank. "This meta is so open, you almost have new starts every game if the enemies do a different start or anything like that. You basically just have to adapt to whatever your enemies are doing or the other way around." The ability to adapt as a support is important in general, so if you can do it from the start you have a distinct advantage.
Moving on, seeing as boots are such a big increase in power for supports in the early game the question arises, "Which ones to get?" This question may seem simple, but right now, there are three viable choices, perhaps even four. The choice of boots all depends on the god you’re playing and the playstyle you'll be using.
If you know that you'll be spamming abilities a lot and need them to be up quickly and have enough mana to cast them, Shoes of Focus are the correct choice for you, as their cooldown reduction and mana will allow you to use abilities more and for longer in fights. If instead you're playing more aggressively and looking for more damage, Shoes of the Magi give penetration and more power, which can allow gods like Bacchus to play super aggressive and dominate their lane.
Reinforced Shoes have not been as popular recently, but they do have a place. If the opposing duo lane has more early game damage but you need to be able to brawl with them regardless, Reinforced Shoes allow you to take more punishment in the early game and stop the enemy duo lane from steamrolling you. Even less popular recently have been Travelers Shoes. Often seen as a joke item, they do have merit in niche situations. The movement speed and gold gain merits a playstyle with a lot of rotations, so if you plan to roam around the map being aggressive and ganking early, they are a decent pickup.
While the choice of boots may seem like it only impacts how your early game is played out, your choice actually dictates the flow of the entire game. The support plays such a big role in establishing the tempo of the game that even a simple choice of playstyle like this can have far-reaching consequences.
However, once your choice of boots has been made, the next set of items are entirely situation based. Whereas before, the basic aura items could have been inserted here, Trixtank says, "The aura items you used to build are not necessary anymore but situationally still pretty important. In certain situations where my build doesn't have too much health, I build Gauntlet of Thebes, for example."
The changes/nerfs to the basic aura items have been successful then, as they have become like every other item in that there is a time and place for them. As well as this, there has been a focus on buffing other aura items. One of those is "Jade Emperor's Crown, it is such a great item right now". Trixtank values the vast number of stats that Jade Emperor's Crown brings, as well as its powerful aura.
Another aura item that is ridiculously powerful right now is Shogun's Kusari. An item that has flown under the radar, Trixtank puts its advantages very simply. "It gives attack speed to your teammates within a certain range, and I don't think people realize how much it does if you have an ADC and a mage ADC in the team, like AMC and Chronos together!" The attack speed aura is enough to make this a very powerful item, but it's stats are great as well, allowing you to be tanky while also making your ADC a lot more dangerous.
Consider being a support on a team with a Sol in the mid lane and a Skadi as your ADC. Just by building Shogun's Kusari, their attack speed is increased by 25% when both of these gods are next to you. This means that with one item, you're increasing the damage that your carries can output by a staggering 50%. When put into perspective like this, it's easy to see why Shogun's is quickly becoming a top tier item in this meta.
An aura item that has been getting a lot of traction in some levels of ranked play recently is Emperor's Armour, being purchased by supports who want to be able to dive towers. However, Trixtank is not convinced of its effectiveness. "I am not a big fan of it. The only situation I will pick it up in is if we are at least 5k gold ahead, about to siege towers and I need health in my build".
The thing that lets Emperor's Armour down is the price combined with the small variety of stats that it gives. This is an item that must be built early and early support items must have a lot of different stats, not necessarily just large amounts. If Emperor's Armour gets changed and has more stats added, it could be picked up a lot more.
Another way to go for your core build is to eschew aura items and simply go for pure tankiness. According to Trixtank, the best item for this type of build is "Hide of the Urchin, as it gives every single role so much protection". Hide of the Urchin is one of the best items in the game right now in general and is a great pickup for supports.
If we look at Trixtank's build from one of their recent games against Valance Squad (highlighted in red), we can see he built Urchin straight after boots. Building it this early allows him to have more time to get those all important stacks on it. Furthermore, we can see that the rest of his build is aura based. Urchin is such a powerful item right now that it is definitely worth considering even if you're going for a more passive aura based build.
The other items in the Urchin tree are also extremely useful for this type of build. Mantle of Discord is very powerful, as it provides a lot of base stats as well as a possible game winning passive, as shown by QvoFred against NRG during the Dreamhack Masters LAN. However, what must be noted about these items is that they don't help your team get more tanky or do more damage. If you have a squishy team or a team that's struggling to do damage, some of the more powerful aura items might be better for you.
The 'selfish' support build also benefits from items with a high variety of stats, as it allows the support to get the most value for their purchase. These are items such as Breastplate of Valour, Winged Blade and Genji's Guard. Genji's Guard specifically is a great item right now and if built with Breastplate of Valour it can give you a large amount of cooldown reduction as well as defensive stats, which can allow you to stay in the enemy team for longer periods of time and be a better front liner.
Genji's Guard is an absolutely ridiculous item for the selfish support build. A large variety of stats and a large amount of each paired with a powerful passive makes this an amazing item if they enemy team has a powerful mage that you need to be able to bully.
So far, we have discussed the core builds for the two main philosophies behind building for support: the aura based build and the more 'selfish' build that focuses on self-protections. However, we have yet to discuss when is the best time to do each. As with most things in Smite, there is no concrete answer, but there are a few factors to discuss. Firstly, the god that you're playing and that gods role. Let's take Khepri for example. Khepri tends to stay in the backline or the middle of his team and peel for, making the most out of his crowd control, his ult and his passive. He is an obvious choice for the aura build, as being around his team all the time means they will get the full benefit and because of his positioning he does not need to be ridiculously tanky.
On the other hand, a support like Xing Tian thrives when he can dive into the enemy team, disrupt their backline and generally be a front liner for his team. He is a prime candidate for the selfish build, as it allows him to stay alive for long periods of time and disrupt the enemy team for long periods of time and by extension keep his team alive longer. There are gods who can go both ways as well, for example, Fafnir can be played as a full front liner and utilise the selfish build, or he can play more conservatively and use the aura build to help his team to stay alive.
These three supports can be said to represent the three different possibilities within the support role. Khepri is skewed towards the aura build, Xing Tian works best with the selfish build and Fafnir can build either, due to his adaptable playstyle. This is one of the reasons why Fafnir is so strong right now.
The other thing that you need to consider is what your team needs. If you already have a strong solo laner who can build tankily and be a good front liner, it is more beneficial for you to go the aura build to help keep your team alive and try to peel for them. On the other hand, if your jungler and solo have a lot of peel or your mid and ADC can peel for themselves, it might be worth going the selfish build and use their independence to your advantage and set up kills for them.
So, at this point, you have your core build set, no matter what it is. It usually leaves you with 1-2 item slots left and as a support you are going to use these for counter building. Trixtank notes, "Counter building is important. If they have a 2 ADC combo you need Hide of Nemean Lion and so on. So, you always have to look at what the enemies have before you build any items."
Here we see 4 common counter building items, Hide of the Nemean Lion, Midgardian Mail, Runic Shield and Witchblade from left to right. These items do not have the pure stats to warrant them being picked up in the early game but in the late game where you're trying to reduce the amount of damage the enemy team can do as much as possible, they can be game changing. Getting two of these items to counter two different aspects of the enemy team will allow your team to have a distinct advantage.
Counter building as a support is obviously important throughout the build, but the last two item slots should be saved for these specific items. Items like Nemean Lion and Midgardian Mail have okay stats, but their passive effects directly counter certain gods or certain builds. As the support it is your job to carry these items because of your build space which other roles don't have. Therefore, it is always beneficial to study the enemy team and who their most powerful players are, to know which items you will need to build to counter them.
Finally, the last part of building we haven't covered is Relics. Relics are another important part of the support counter building mentality. According to Trixtank, "Right now as support the relics you want are Sprint and Shell. Sprint is really good if you have a pressure lane as you can run your enemies down. If you are against a lot off DoT damage and you don't have the best lane, Shell is the go-to first". Sprint and Shell is a good combo as it gives you one defensive and one offensive option and allows you to adapt effectively, one of the most important skills for a support.
It is worth noting that while the relics Trixtank mentioned are good, it is worth noting that as a support it can be worth it to save one or both of your relic slots for relics to specifically counter the enemy team. If the enemy team have an Odin or a Cabrakan, getting a Phantom Veil will allow your team to escape from their ults, potentially saving the fight. Similarly, if the enemy team have a lot of DOT's and tick damage, getting a Thorns will allow you to reflect this damage back, and discourage them from using these abilities on your team
Overall, we've covered starter builds, the two main build philosophies, counter building and build strategies in general. I hope you learned something and I hope you'll be able to apply it in your games! I'd like to thank Trixtank for his valuable input and thank you for reading!