Author: MMOsite Writer DJWest
The Support role is one of the most undervalued and underappreciated roles in League of Legends; much like the Jungler, if your team doesn't do well they'll often place the blame on you. Whether they say you didn't ward enough, died too many times, or didn't give the AD Carry enough feed, unless there is an obvious feeder the Jungle and Support usually catch a lot of flak. And while these two roles are often less farmed and less powerful late game than their lane allies, you can still make a lot of difference if you know what you're doing. Let's take a look at some of the more important points of this role.
Pick your Poison
Choosing a Support isn't always as easy as you think. With the differences in play styles between different carries, and the different abilities of your enemies, you may find that you are stumped as to the best choice. You have to pick one that can keep the enemy team from gaining an advantage and allow your carry to get fed, but also one which you won't die frequently with or leave your carry open to attack. There are three general categories of Supports to choose from, and generally the choices of carries and opposing Supports will tell you which to pick.
Sustain/Buff Supports: These are Supports that have abilities designed to protect or simply improve the AD Carry in their lane. Supports in this category should have either a heal, a shield, or a steroid designed for other champions, and can sometimes include other categories' abilities as well. For instance, Nami has a very powerful heal and a very powerful steroid that gives another champion bonus attack damage and a slow effect, and her spells boost all allied champions' movement speed if they are affected.
Aggressive Supports: These champions don't need steroids, because they use massive aggression to get their AD Carry enough kills to get items earlier and secure a heavy lead. Champions like Thresh, Taric, and even apost-6 Sona all fit this bill. Champions in this category are capable of dealing a reasonable amount of damage, and have at least one form of CC to lock down the enemy champions while their carry pounds away, often more than one.
Tank Supports: While they're at a slight gold disadvantage, Tank Supports can make up for their slight lag in defensive items with defensive steroids, higher base armor/MR and health, and aggressiveness. Champions like Leona and Nautilus can be downright deadly, with both in possession of at least three active abilities capable of stopping or slowing enemies (plus a passive, for Nautilus), and their ability to take damage and set up their AD Carry to dish it out can decimate an unprepared bottom lane, taking towers and kills until they're stopped by a gank or fall behind in lane.
Know your Exchanges
A Support's role is not to get kills, and sometimes not even to set them up. This means that, unless your team is steamrolling or you're getting a lot of last hits, you'll likely end up negative at the end of the game. This isn't a bad thing, however; in fact, dying as Support is often a necessary part of the game. If you're a Tanky or Aggressive Support, putting yourself in the line of fire is part of the job. If you're a sustain support, you'll usually have to prioritize healing your AD Carry or buffing them over yourself, as late game they will be much more important than you, and you may have to throw yourself at the enemy team if they're caught slightly out of position.
Therefore, both in lane and later in the game, it's important to have situational awareness. If the enemy team is at half health and your AD Carry is fed, it may be prudent to bait them into an engagement, letting them catch you "out of position" just long enough for your carry to blow them away. Even if you die in this situation, if your carry can get even one kill it will be worth it (especially if the kill is the enemy carry), and if they get two you're not only ahead but have the lane cleared of enemies until they respawn or the enemy jungler appears.
Not every situation is this cut and dry, though. Make judgment calls, and decide whether you should engage in a battle full-force when it starts, or cut and run, healing/buffing/stunning as you go to support your carry. And if you're an aggressive support, or a tank with gap closers, it's also your job to evaluate when to initiate the battles. You're the best shot that your carry has at killing an enemy, and feeding them is your best shot at winning the game.
The Support needs to Support
Many players - especially those forced into Support against their will - feel that Supports carry an unfair burden. They not only earn the least gold, they have to spend the most on wards so that their team won't come into the late game with no vision.
But the fact of the matter is that good warding is every bit as important a factor in late game and mid game success as is building heavy duty items and carrying. Vision and catching the enemy team can turn around a game where you would otherwise get crushed in every teamfight; losing one or both carries can cripple a team completely.
Learning ward placement is a very important step to mastering support. Knowing the location of brushes - and learning which are most frequented both on average and in each game - are what can separate excellent supports from merely mediocre ones. Each opponent has their favorite brushes that they feel comfortable in, and enemy champions with long range leaps or dashes can jump over walls and make use of positions you think you're safe from. Learning composition and behavior is a very important step.
Counter-warding is also highly important. Using pink wards early game to shut down your enemy's brush wards in bottom lane removes their ability to predict your jungler's ganks while simultaneously giving you vision in case theirs approaches. Shutting down the enemy jungler is one of the primary early functions of a Support, since an early first blood to the enemy carry can really cause them to snowball if they keep their farm up.
Finally, don't forget to buy an Oracle's. At lower elos, your enemies may not ward at all, and may make it pointless, but it's always good to get in the habit, so unless you have a pressing need for a few hundred gold, try to buy it anyway. Taking out opponents' wards is not only an excellent way to increase your advantage, but also a great way for the support to make some much needed gold. One pass through a jungle can net upwards of two hundred gold, assuming that only an enemy Support is warding; if an entire enemy team is using warding, then you can actually make back the cost of your Oracle's and more.
The most important thing to remember as a Support is that, while you might not feel like you make a huge difference in teamfights, especially as a sustain or buff support, the victory of your team is dependent on your actions. Supports often have very decisive ultimates with very incredible utility - it's how they stay relevant against champions like Kassadin, Elise, and Zed, who can carry entire teamfights. And your ward can make the difference between life and death for your teammates several times over. Even if you're being flamed, even if you hate the role, know that everything you do is as important or more so than the other members of your team, especially if you're good at it.