Out of the growing list of unconventional supports being picked across major regions right now, support Ashe is the least weird one.
In season 12, she was played 16 times across major leagues and international tournaments, and was picked frequently against Renata Glasc.
This year, within the first few weeks of Spring 2023 alone, support Ashe has already been played 12 times, mostly against Heimerdinger. She’s not alone in filling this role, for support Jhin and Azir were also picked, also against Heimerdinger support.
T1 Ryu “Keria” Min-seok took this a step further, selecting support Caitlyn in their LCK Spring 2023 match against Kwangdong Freecs, whom they swept 2-0.
And so, AD and AP carries, who typically require farm, gold, and items to scale into the late game, are being fielded in the one role that’s starved and denied of all those things. Besides examining their strengths, it’s also important to outline why conventional supports are perceived to be weaker.
What happened to conventional enchanter and engage supports?
At Worlds 2022, played on patch 12.18, Nami, Renata Glasc, and Lulu were the three most picked support champions.
In this patch, Lulu’s trademark ability, Whimsy, was nerfed significantly. Its base bonus movement speed and Polymorph duration were reduced.
One patch before Worlds 2022 on 12.17, Nami was nerfed indirectly via a system update to runes. Tidecaller’s Blessing could not longer proc Electrocute, which limits her to keystone Summon Aery in the Sorcery tree.
In the current patch 13.1B, she received a second nerf in a row to Tidecaller’s Blessing. Riot Games chose to reduce its base damage, as well as Ebb and Flow’s, stemming her strong presence in the current meta.
However, we’re still living in a post-Durability Update world, where both enchanters Nami and Lulu are still popular among pros, with a 44% and 31% presence respectively. At a competitive level, engage supports are, of course, still out of the question, since they aren’t cut out for long team fights.
Naturally, no one beats Yuumi, who has a 89% presence despite getting nerfed in patch 12.23, 13.1, and 13.1B. This does, however, makes her less oppressive to play against compared to Worlds 2022, which is why pros have let her through, preparing counter picks in the form of support Caitlyn.
Support Caitlyn, Jhin, Azir, and Ashe all have one thing in common
Heimerdinger is not far behind enchanters. He has been picked 18 times in major regions and banned 16 times with a significant 42% presence. He was last buffed in patch 12.12, which increased the base damage and health of his turrets while reducing the cooldown of his ultimate.
Even though Lux received buffs in 12.23, which increased AP ratios on her two longest-ranged abilities, Lucent Singularity and Final Spark, she’s still not as popular among pros, and has only been picked eight times.
Comparing both AP mages, Heimerdinger has better pushing power, more zone control in team fights, and less margin for error compared to Lux, a 100% skill shot character. Parallel with the decline of enchanter supports, who have been getting hit by nerf after nerf, these two buffed AP mages in the support role have been on the rise.
The AD carry support picks, together with Azir, are a response to these mages and nerfed enchanters. Caitlyn, Jhin, Azir, and Ashe all possess abilities that completely outrange Heimerdinger, and take minimal to no turret damage when clearing them out.
As demonstrated by Keria, running double long-range ADCs at bot also means that a combo like Zeri-Yuumi would be outranged in lane. At level one, with only Zoomies available, a single heal isn’t enough to negate Caitlyn’s poke damage, especially when she has bush control to proc her passive.
On top of that, double ADC forces opponents to stay under tower, get zoned out from their minion wave, trail in experience and gold, and therefore might never get the chance to scale to the late game.
Now that Nami’s sustain is nerfed further — and Lulu doesn’t have any in the first place — could we end up seeing four marksmen in bot lane? Or perhaps Xerath and Vel’koz who can also play the outrange game?