The recent League of Legends patch, Patch 6.13, focused on balancing support items, as well as buffing some support champions to bring them up-to-date. Unfortunately, it didn’t fix the core issue with the role: playing Support just isn’t fun.
The support role is the least played out of the four roles (that is, jungle, top, mid and bottom-marksman). It’s so underplayed in fact, that if a player queues up for the role in ranked mode, they’ll find a game immediately.
No one wants to play support because the gold generation is very slow (meaning that it can take a while to get items and thus have an impact on the game). Supports also have to babysit another player who’ll no doubt take them for granted. At the end of the day, how much you help your team depends on the quality of its player. All of this leads to a role which most players find unrewarding, as well as stressful as you’re required to make plays despite your champion’s somewhat weakened state.
To me the key issue with support is that you’re required to buy an item called Sightstone. In League of Legends, vision is incredibly important. As the entire map is covered in fog, apart from a small circle of vision surrounding your allies and minions, enemy players can hide in the fog and use it to sneak around and gank (surprise attack) other players. This means that having vision of key areas or objectives on the map is incredibly important, as it could be the difference between life and death.
Whilst all players, including supports, have access to wards (an item which grants vision of an area for a limited amount of time), they are on a long cooldown meaning that there can be periods whereby players have no vision of the map. Also, just between you and me, most players don’t even bother to use this free ward. Enter the support.
For quite some time now support’s primary duty has been to run around the map placing wards. Even through major changes to the ward mechanic over the years, this hasn’t really changed much. What it requires during this season is a 800 gold investment (that’s quite a lot) in a Sightstone. Considering a support also has to update their gold generation item (which costs 500 gold for tier-two and over 1000 gold for teir-three), a support player has to pick up a lot of necessary items before they can start buying the items they need to make themselves stronger.
Here-in lies the problem. Getting to that power fantasy, whether it’s becoming a damage-soaking tank, a cooldown stun-lock bot, or an AP caster, takes an awful lot time and there’s so many places where it can get all go wrong. If the player misjudges an attack or gets caught out, then they can potentially ruin the game for their team, whilst pushing back their power fantasy even further because they won’t have any gold or experience.
Riot can easily remove one of the many barriers the role faces by getting rid of Sightstone.
All players have access to a free trinket slot which can be filled with either a vision item (a ward) or a de-vision item (a sweeping lens). With this in mind, there’s really no need for Sightstone.
Instead, the choice should be: Do I get the ward trinket, or the de-ward trinket? That should be the only choice in the game with regard to vision. The ward trinket should give players access to more wards (via a lowered cooldown) as they level up, whilst providing players who get the de-ward trinkets more opportunities to get rid of this vision (via a slightly lowered cooldown).
The current situation, with the support player being responsible for everything relating to vision (with player required to buy a Sightstone and use the de-ward item), just isn’t good enough. League of Legends is a team game, at least that’s what Riot insists with their impersonal ranking system which judges players on whether their team wins or loses, so why should one player have to solider all of the burden when it comes to one of the most important aspects of the game?
I don’t expect Riot to make big, sweeping changes to such a large system mid-season, and I am thankful that they gave some quality-of-life adjustments to the role, however I do hope that this is something which the company properly examines next season.
Until Riot properly fix the role, no amount of patches is going to increase the amount of players playing as Support.