Enchanters in solo lanes are becoming more and more common in League of Legends Season 12.
Some players have adopted a playstyle where instead of farming in their lane, they abandon the solo lane after level three or four to invade the enemy jungle or roam to other lanes. They then buy a support item and continue roaming, giving the farm to their jungler or other laners.
The Teleport changes have also popularized roaming top laners, since teams can’t respond to early ganks using Teleport now.
While Riot is nerfing this strategy in the upcoming patch 12.4, players across all regions have been trying it out in pro games. One of them, Deep Cross Gaming’s 22-year-old Hsu “Nestea” Bao-Yuan, was arguably made for this new trend. Having previously competed under HK Attitude, ahq, and J Team, Nestea began his pro career as a support before switching to the mid lane when he joined J Team in late 2019.
Still a mid laner in 2022, he debuted Bard smite in his first two Pacific Championship Series (PCS) games against J Team and Frank Esports, winning both of them.
Deep Cross Gaming’s Nestea unleashes smite Bard in the PCS
Perhaps due to this unusual career trajectory, Nestea is known for a more supportive playstyle and has played champions like Malphite, Pantheon, Galio, and even Fiddlesticks mid.
Against J Team, he laned against Shen “Driver” Zong-Hua’s Gragas for just three minutes before abandoning top to roam at level three. At the same time, Deep Cross Gaming’s top laner Chang “Leaky” Tsu-Chia went mid on Tryndamere, who can be flexed in either solo lane.
Nestea proceeded to wreak havoc in mid and bot lane, facilitating dives as early as three minutes. His Smite also helped Hana secure early Dragons, with the first one taken at seven minutes.
DCG constantly pressured J Team with their numbers advantage provided by Nestea, winning fight after fight, sealing the game in under 30 minutes with a scoreline of 22-3. Nestea ended the game with just 34 CS, proving that farming is overrated. You can watch the VODs of DCG’s games against J Team and Frank Gaming here.
Why does smite Bard work?
While the trend of enchanter solo laners began with Janna, Ivern, and Soraka, pros have discovered that many other enchanters can utilize the roaming playstyle to the same success, so the strategy is difficult to ban out.
In fact, one doesn’t even need Smite to execute the strategy, as its uses are mainly for securing objectives and stealing jungle camps, neither of which are mandatory.
Besides Nestea, North American former pro-turned-streamer Samson “Lourlo” Jackson is also playing smite Bard in high Elo.
Unlike, say, Soraka, who requires levels and doesn’t have the crowd control necessary for early roams, Bard’s spell kit is perfect for the roaming playstyle. He packs crowd control, a gap closer, and potent auto attacks — all of which can be unlocked by level three. As such, his need for gold and levels is even more diminished compared to other enchanters.
When he gets Tempered Fate (ultimate), he becomes even more dangerous, for he can disable turrets and set up dives for his teammates.
Not to mention, his passive, Traveler’s Call, which incentivizes walking around the map to collect chimes, and gives him “infinite free scaling”.
YouTube channel HappyChimeNoises analyzed why Bard works so well as a roaming solo laner. You can check out the full video here.
Deep Cross Gaming Nestea’s smite Bard item build
- Spellthief’s Edge
- Boots of Swiftness
- Shurelya’s Battlesong (Mythic)
- Dead Man’s Plate
- Resolve: Guardian (keystone)
- Font of Life
- Cosmic Insight (Inspiration secondary)
- Minion Dematerializer
- +10% bonus attack speed
- +6 bonus armor
- +8 bonus magic resistance
Smite Bard isn’t a strategy that you can immediately run in your next ranked game, because it requires knowing exactly what to do at all stages of the game. The playstyle also takes getting used to and if done incorrectly, may look like you’re intentionally feeding, which is probably why we’ve only seen a few pros play it in competitive so far.
Although Riot is trying to nerf the strategy in patch 12.4 with measures like a minion farming penalty, we’re looking forward to seeing if pros can find another way to make roaming enchanters in solo lanes viable.