League of Legends – Support is Science

2013-04-02 by . 0 comments

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Here I come again to talk about League of Legends. With the reign of Season 3, many things have changed. I am sure you have found a number of comments for your favourite AP/AD/Top/Jungle/IDoTonsOfDamage build, but I would rather talk about my favourite role and its changes: the Support. It is really a special type of gameplay that requires more skill than one would think of at first glance, and not just anyone can Support, just as not just anyone can Top, Jungle, AD or AP. Why? Because of many things, the main reasons being because of the gold gathering mechanism and the prevalence of the champion’s kit over its AP/AD ratio. This article will focus on the former.

Notable changes have been introduced in the third season. These changes have considerably improved the quality of life of LoL’s Support champions by allowing new possibilities. This has been made possible by changing the default passive gold per second, the addition of self-recharging items like the “Sightstone”, and the Pickpocket mastery. Furthermore, as the gold pot increases for supports, new items have been developed to add more diversity to the builds.

What is behind gold in the League?

There are many ways to get gold in League of Legends. The most notable ones are: doing the killing blow on a enemy/neutral monster, killing a champion, and assisting a champion in killing another. To this major gold income can be added: the passive gold made by each champion and the gold per 10 seconds items. In the current metagame, the Support champion is required to play on a 0 Creep-Score (0-CS) basis. Because Supports aren’t made to “snowball”, they are also asked not to take kills (the infamous kill-steal a.k.a. KS) unless the kill cannot be done by another player. These restrictions leave the Support its passive gold income, the gold per 10 seconds items, and the eventual assists he may get from other champions. The latter is very situation dependent and has a very flexible scale depending on the enemy’s number of deaths, and the number of assisting players. A Support cannot rely on this. How then can he achieve a successful gold gain with only passive and gold items?

This article will present the different mechanics for support gold gathering, with a comparison between the two seasons.

Why rely on gold items and follow the metagame?

Why play the metagame? Why might a Support not be allowed to be a full champion with CS and kills? The underlying benefits of the current meta are based on these facts:

  1. The Carry (Attack Damage champion, in general) will get all the benefits of the CS on bot lane, allowing him to snowball faster.
  2. Your gold will increase without having to hit creeps, so that you can buy stuff anyway.

One may say “Okay, but I need AP/AD and stuff too”, or “If I can get some stuff I will have more damage to help”. This is were it is necessary to distinguish what makes a champion viable as a Support.

The main difference between a Carry and a Support is that Carries rely on damage. In fact, the team expects him to do the maximum amount of damage in the shortest period of time as possible, and gamers usually refer to this as Damage per Second a.k.a. DPS. What does DPS achieve? Basically: kills. The main problem of Carries is their vulnerability to damage. They can burst, but can also be killed very fast because they have no sustainability. That is why Support has been created.

Support is here to… well… support. What does this mean? How does one know if a champion is a Support (or can be)? The main distinction between a Support and a wannabe Support is their kit. As Carries rely on their characteristics to maximise their DPS (auto-attack, or abilities), a Support relies on his kit alone to be useful. Without surprise, these abilities grow more powerful with more characteristics, but they usually are good enough at their first level. A slow will always slow, a stun will always stun etc.

Lulu’s kit has four crowd control (CC) abilities: Q (Glitterlance) does slow, W (Whimsy) polymorphs one champion so it can’t attack, and R (Wild Growth) knocks upwards and slows within an area. The last skill (E, Help, Pix!)is not crowd control, but has a special effect that reveals a champion for a short period of time. Her kit is mainly focused on utility. CC disables the enemy damage dealers, and E can prevent hiding (bush or invisibility) of a champion. Utility can also be used for the benefit of the supported champion: W gives speed to the allied target, E shields the target, and R provides a useful 300 health points boost. Furthermore, her abilities do damage, so that supports don’t turn out to be weaklings who could not face anyone 1 versus 1 or hold a lane at the turret.

On the contrary, Nidalee is a poor Support champion. Only E (Primal Surge) has real support utility, providing a heal, and W (Bushwhack) reveals champions walking on the traps. All the rest of her abilities are tailored for damage dealing. Some champions can be mixed, for example, Fiddlesticks. He is known to be a very good AP mid or AP Jungler and many are afraid of his ultimate. As a Support, he still can silence (in a group) and fear someone. However, the lack of AP will render him weak in late game.

It’s clear now that Support can be played with the metagame without CS and kills. Now, this article will show what amount of gold a Support can expect.

How much does a Support earn?

Passive gold, Masteries and Runes

First of all, the Support gains gold from passive gold generation. It is possible to map it on a graphical representation (figure 1.). Be advised that the gold generation starts at 90 seconds into the game and that each champion starts with 475 gold (time between 0-90 seconds is not valid for gold earning):


Figure 1: base income for seasons 2 and 3


The Utility tree in the Masteries includes the Greed mastery. At maximum level, it gives an additional 2 gold per 10 seconds. Added to the passive gold generation, you get the following (figure 2.):


Figure 2: Greed mastery

This mastery is worth 700 gold at 3,600 seconds (60 minutes).


The Pickpocket mastery is a bit tricky to evaluate. It generates 3g per ranged hit on a champion, and 5g for melee hits. It has an internal cooldown of 5 seconds. If you can trigger it twice in 10 seconds, it adds up to 6g per 10s and 10g per 10s. This overrides any gold generating item. Being overzealous and triggering it over 3,600sec will earn the support 2,160g for ranged and 3,600 for melee. But don’t get me wrong, you won’t achieve this. However, the potential is huge and it’s really worth the mastery point, as it will allow for an earlier gold generating item purchase. As it is very situational though, the calculations won’t take this into account.

On top of this, it is possible to add runes that boost the passive gold income up to 5g/10. The result is shown on the following figure 3, with and without the Greed mastery.


Figure 3: Runes

Runes are worth 1,053g at 3,600 seconds.

Gold generating items and self-replenishing items

As far as Supports are concerned, it is very likely that a build will include the following GPx/10 items: Philosopher’s Stone [Philo] (800g) 5g/10, and Heart of Gold [HoG] (825g) 5g/10… oh wait… this one is gone now! Then maybe the Kage’s Lucky pick [Kage] (765g) 4g/10. The disappearance has been painful for numerous Supports all over the world. In fact, many players used to pick this item because of the additional bonus in HP it gave aside from the gold generation. However, it was revealed that it was too powerful on non-Support champion as well, giving them too much early sustain and a bonus in gold. So the item was broken because it was mainly a health item with bonus gold, instead of a gold item with bonus health.

However, a new item came to fill the void: the Sightstone. Sightstone is an example of a self-replenishing item: it can hold 4 wards (a typical support item) which can be placed two at a time and refills when the champion is at his fountain. A ward is worth 75g, so four wards are 300g. Assuming a Support used to buy the same number of wards at each recall, the item (950g) is beneficial after 3 recalls. For some more gold (1,550 total), the Sightstone can be upgraded to the Ruby Sightstone, which gives more health and one additional ward (5 total). This makes it beneficial after 4 recalls (in total). All additional recalls are worth 300g.

This make it possible to assume that in Season 3, with the additional 3g/10 of passive gold and the Sightstone, a Support does not need two GP/10 items as in Season 2.

The following graph (figure 4) will show the gold income with one gold item (5g/10) in Season 2 with the different mastery/rune configurations. The vertical arrows indicate the times where the item begins to produce benefits. This occurs when the total gold collected is greater than the passive gold plus the item cost. The graph assumes that you buy the [Philo] as soon as you get the gold for it (from passive gold generation).


Figure 4: First GP5/10 item (season2)

The next figure (figure 5) displays the same calculations for Season 3. On this graph, it is worth noticing the start of the lines occurs at an earlier time than for Season 2. This is due to the increase in passive gold generation, which allows for an earlier purchase. Furthermore, the most interesting thing to notice is that approximately 400 seconds have been gained in order to achieve the benefit. Almost 7 minutes! Where a support would have to wait 33 minutes to earn more from her item (over half a game of 60 minutes!), it now takes only 23 (a bit more than one third of the same game).


Figure 5: First GP5/10 item (season3)

This reasoning can be pushed to a second gold item. In Season 2, this meant buying a [HoG] for an additional 5g/10. In Season 3, however, it’s [Kage] now, which only provides 4g/10. The figures 6 and 7 show the respective functions for Seasons 2 and 3. The curves begin as soon as the first gold item provides enough gold to purchase the next.


Figure 6: Second GP5/10 item (season2)


Figure 7: Second GP4/10 item (season3)


Focusing more on the total gold income after an hour of play, it is important to note the following:

  • Season 3 brought an additional 1k passively earned gold.
  • Runes are worth 1k.
  • Greed mastery is worth 700g.
  • The second GP/10 item used to be worth 684g but only 400g now and comes with a huge cost in term of sustainability.
  • Sightstone after 4-5 recalls is worth 375g per recall.
  • Assists and Pickpocket are not taken into account.

Finally, a Support can now expect to have a good 12k build (the usual suspects: Boots, Locket of the Iron Solari, Shurelya’s Reverie, …) and have it before the game ends! Great news for the season 3, where Supports matter!

Game on!


Game images are the property of Riot Games. Other graphics are drawn by me using gnuplot and you can reuse them as public domain objects (credit and backlinks still appreciated).

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