Support is one of the most malleable roles in LoL, its non-dependence on farming allowing for a vast array of strategies and playstyles. While the support item system was built for traditional support champions like enchanters and tanks, there have always been champions that break convention. Some toss the notion of playing support in the “intended” way in favor of inflicting LoL’s most effective form of CC: death.
Enter the always vocal and innovative Nick “LS” de Cesare, who has long held the opinion that most players, pro and casual, are scared to defy convention and experiment with non-standard champions. He put his money where his mouth is during his brief time coaching Cloud9, and he’s doing it again by spamming off-meta support picks in Korean solo queue.
While LS has shown off (though not necessarily “inventing”) a ton of off-meta support picks over the past few weeks, some have had much better results than others.
When it comes to forcing early fights and shutting down lanes in the opening minutes, few champions are as effective as Twitch. Due to extremely strong level 1 damage and the ability to stealthily rotate around the map, LS regularly and effectively uses Twitch to catch enemies off guard.
This well-executed level 1 dive shows just how strong Twitch’s early game can be. By helping shove the wave in and tanking the tower, LS played more of a supportive role here than it’d appear, while still dishing out some serious damage.
Skill build and runes for Twitch support
LS will unabashedly run players down at level 1 with Twitch, making it the most aggressive pick in his arsenal. Twitch’s passive true damage, combined with the 5-second-long 40% attack speed steroid built into his (Q) Ambush, allows Twitch to go toe-to-toe with almost any opponent in the early game, even if they have a level advantage. The runes he runs on Twitch support that all-in playstyle.
Hail of Blades is much better than Press the Attack on AP Twitch considering how much more important passive damage is in comparison to AD Twitch. Other than that, his runes are geared mostly toward out-of-combat movespeed and more DPS. The mana regen and cooldown reduction of Presence of Mind also come in handy at every stage of the game. Ability order is standard Twitch with an E>W>Q max path.
LS often uses his lead to keep ganking lanes to provide map-wide pressure. If he manages to get Mejai’s stacked, you’re in for a bad time.
Twitch support feels like a very solo queue-oriented strategy. Its effectiveness is rooted in the enemy support having no idea how to respond. LS’ success is largely aided by often pairing Twitch with Ziggs or Karma bot, self-sufficient champs that can hold their own in a 1v2.
Mage support picks like Brand, Xerath, and Zyra are nothing new when it comes to solo queue. The best mage support champs often have long-range CC to lock down targets, and enough burst damage to have a significant effect on teamfights even if they’re behind on gold in comparison to a typical burst mage in mid lane. Karthus lacks a lot of the burst damage typical mage supports have, and yet he looks pretty strong in the role.
Karthus’ consistent DPS from (Q) Lay Waste combined with the (W) Wall of Pain’s massive 4-second-long 40% slow at rank 1 give Karthus a better early game than you’d think.
The extremely long slow duration on W combined with Q’s isolated damage allows Karthus to chase opponents down and keep them from playing the game. Additionally, Karthus’ passive gives him an advantage other glass cannon mage supports don’t have: staying power. Focusing Karthus down can feel bad when he’s playing in a typical damage-dealing role, and it feels even worse when he’s playing support.
Skill build and runes for Karthus support
LS’ rune choices on Karthus are pretty similar to what you’d standard run on him in the jungle. Dark Harvest and Ultimate Hunter are important for making his ult scale into the late game, and Last Stand is a great choice considering how important Karthus’ passive is to his teamfighting. Ability order here is Q>W>E.
Karthus is very feast or famine on paper. However, he has the advantage of being useful in some way no matter how behind he is due to his passive keeping him in the fight. Other mage champs that can be easily focused will often be shut out of the game, whereas Karthus at least has a few seconds to get damage off.
On the list of support picks that your teammates will flame you for, Urgot is near the top. His identity as a lane-dominant, item-dependent ranged bruiser conflicts with most of the viable supports. Here’s the thing, though: Urgot’s build path and ability order are entirely different in support.
Skill build and runes for Urgot support
The way to go with Urgot in support is to max (E) Disdain. The increased shield, decreased cooldown, and increased damage are all much more useful than maxing other abilities. (W) Purge only gains decreased cooldown and increased AD scaling with levels, so support Urgot usually maxes W last unless he’s snowballing and has a massive amount of gold to spare.
Don’t let any of that fool you into thinking Urgot doesn’t have some serious damage output in support. Even if he isn’t ahead, he can lock down targets with ease.
The key is Urgot’s passive. Those shotgun legs do a lot of heavy lifting for his DPS, especially considering they have % max health damage scaling that goes up with level on top of their AD scaling. Additionally, LS often opts into building Black Cleaver first or second (depending on matchup and game state) to quickly stack 30% armor shred onto any target he can get his hands on. Not even the tankiest champions are safe from support Urgot’s setup.
Since Urgot support has to get up close to be effective, survivability is very important. Aftershock’s tank stats alongside Bone Plating and Overgrowth grant Urgot some much-needed tankiness, and Cheap Shot adds to that heavy burst damage that comes from Urgot’s combo.
That high damage potential is one of the main reasons you’d pick Urgot over, say, Nautilus. Urgot may be less tanky, but he has much higher damage potential and no shortage of CC. That, and Urgot can easily 1v1 other champs.
Urgot is by no means a catch-all pick. If he gets shut down early, he’s arguably the most useless on this list. But as long as he stays even, he can do a surprising amount of damage at every stage of the game. LS has a 55% win rate with Urgot across 31 games, making it a consistently strong pick for him in ranked.
Malphite’s role on a team is usually to be a weakside top laner that turns into a walking ultimate with tank stats. The rest of his kit is fairly underwhelming purely to offset just how potent his ultimate is. It’s one of the strongest engage tools in LoL, and it allows Malphite to always have some level of relevancy.
But what if you just built him full AP to one-shot carries?
Malphite mid or full AP Malphite top have been fun, somewhat viable solo queue picks in the past, but playing Malphite in support has the distinct advantage of not needing to survive the lane phase in a typical sense. And if you get ahead, the payoff is immense.
Hitting level 6 grants Malphite a massive power spike, and the ability to almost instantly pick off any target not expecting his burst damage and engage potential from long range.
Skill build and runes for Malphite support
LS tends to go toward Arcane Comet as a keystone, with Manaflow Band for some mana sustain, Transcendence for the Ability Haste, and Scorch for some extra poke power. With how important Malphite’s ultimate is, Ultimate Hunter makes a lot of sense as a rune choice for this Champion. Ability order on Malphite is Q>E>W, with Q being his most important ability for both the movespeed and easy poke damage. E is useful, but not useful enough to max first.
Surviving the lane phase is very matchup dependent. LS tends to go Relic Shield into more oppressive lane matchups, and Spellthief’s Edge in lanes he can easily bully with Q. The same is true of LS’ overall build path on Malphite, with Luden’s into Shadowflame/Mejai’s being his go-to from ahead, and Everfrost into Zhonya’s being his build if the early game doesn’t go so well.
Malphite is the most easily approachable off-meta support here, and it’s a great place to start if you want to try playing one of these. Malphite also has much more likelihood of getting picked in higher-level play due to his flex potential into top lane, as well as the effectiveness of such a fast engage tool. But the true pro-play viable off-meta support pick has yet to come.
This is the support pick that LS truly put on the map. LS is synonymous with Nasus support these days, going so far as to make an entire video detailing what makes him so strong and where you’d draft him.
Skill build and runes for Nasus support
LS’ runes on Nasus look a little different from the rest on this list due to his usage of Inspiration. Nasus doesn’t have the same early game damage other picks on this list have, so taking something like Cheap Shot doesn’t make much sense. Instead, LS opts into Footwear and Future’s Market to make getting items online as easy as possible. Nasus support scales just as hard into the mid/late game in support as he does in top, but for very different reasons.
Ability order is what makes this pick work. Nasus’ (Q) Siphoning Strike is pretty much useless on support. It’s all about his (E) Spirit Fire and (W) Wither.
Not only does Nasus’ E have fairly high base damage that’s all but unavoidable, but it also adds 45% armor penetration at max rank, making his E the ability you should be maxing. Wither’s attack speed and movement speed slow essentially take an ADC out of the game, and the cooldown gets reduced with every point in the ability. Maxing Wither second with a few additional points early on is the way to go.
Nasus’ debut as a support champ in pro play has been fairly mixed up to this point. But in the games he wins, it’s all about shutting down the enemy ADC.
Even in a case where BFR’s bot lane got camped and shut down early game, Ángel “DuaLL” Fernández Alvarez showed the power Nasus holds at the press of a button. All he had to do was pair Wither with Exhaust, and Zeri’s gap between being able to use Qs grew to more than a second. Despite being put in a position to carry, BAR’s Matthew “Deadly” Smith was consistently kept out of teamfights by how oppressive Wither is.
Through all recent play in Minor Leagues across the world, Nasus support has won in 2 out of 8 games with every Nasus lock-in being for the purpose of shutting down Zeri. Not a stellar win/loss record, but it’s good enough to show that there’s merit to Nasus being a very specific counter pick for certain ADCs. Even if Zeri falls out of the meta, Nasus still has a great matchup into kite-heavy ADCs like Vayne and Kalista.
I hope we see some off-meta support picks like Nasus break into Major Region pro play. LS’ dedication to finding strong, meta-defying picks is admirable, and there are some clear benefits to trying out new things. Hopefully, his creativity inspires high-level players to branch out a little and perhaps inspires you to try out some unorthodox support picks.
Carver is an esports journalist and analyst who specializes in Eastern League of Legends.