I believe that defensive tools are the answer, and that's an idea that Meddler hit on in a recent post, as well. But I'd like to put a slightly different spin on it. I accept that League is a team game, and if you want to have an effective marksman, you have to peel for them and protect them. That's the supports, job, is it not? But the fact is, there aren't interesting tools for supports that help them peel for the adc.
So the problem, I believe, doesn't actually have to do with marksmen. It has to do with supports. As others have pointed out in other threads, marksmen viability varies *wildly* with which supports are viable, and that in turn affects the rest of the map. The reason for this is, partially, the pigeon-holed itemization for supports. Support itemization, *particularly* for enchanters, trends towards offense.
This leads to the situation where it's "who can blow up who first." And I think the support tier list reflects that truth, as well. If you organize supports by tier on Lolalytics, here are the top 5:
Yeah, I realize that shield/heal power is a stat that exists, but the data supports that it isn't particularly effective. Top 5 supports are all catchers and/or pokers; the implication is that you can't do much about it as an enchanter or a tank.
We know that big, instant shields are really not healthy. We've been down that road, and we know where it leads. This is not a request to re-buff heal/shield power. But couldn't we introduce some itemization that will protect a marksmen in a more healthy way? Knight's Vow is a particularly standout item to me as a choice that isn't overly strong, but does allow you to protect your carry and be rewarded for that. We need more of that, especially in the laning phase where marksmen are so vulnerable to these aggressive supports that can deny them farm and kill them with a couple of spell rotations.
Zeke's Herald and Ardent are cool, but their unique effects give a carry more damage. If you get ahead in a lane where *two* people can buy items that increase an exponentially scaling class's damage output, isn't it common sense that will lead to a snowball problem? On top of that, how is Ardent supposed to make me feel better playing enchanter? That's just an item tax that makes my carry feel like more of a badass. I feel great on a support when I make a clutch save. That's a high that enchanters ought to have every game, and right now, I submit that they don't. More often than not, marksmen survive and die based on other's play, and the support is just there to buff their damage, throw them a shield, and hope for the best.
The key is to make defensive items that aren't brainless. The complaint that players had both playing *as* and *against* ardent Janna a year ago is that the strategy took no skill. Having 90% uptime on a shield that also gives your carry offensive stats is not healthy, which is exactly what Ardent did. But defensive items that require skill to use effectively would be a real game-changer. It would make support more fun to play, and it would make playing marksman feel like less of a crapshoot.
If I'm in top lane, sure, I don't want my fate tethered to the adc all the way across the map. I totally agree. But I'm playing Janna or Taric, I see no problem with expecting that I'm going to play with my adc. It's possible to lean harder into those defensive tools so that "real" supports actually stand a chance in a meta like this.