The Support Dilemma, or why riot needs to shiv MatPat’s spleen

I think that there’s a fundamental error in the game when it comes to support role. This is something pretty big on a level that comes down to both the design of champs, items, and game and the way players approach playing them. This is the core problem as to why a lot of people don’t seem to like supporting even though it’s a fun role to play for others. The true cause of this dilemma can be explored and understood by asking one simple question. That question is: _Why do you as a player hate having a Riven or Yasuo main on your team?_ Now before you ask what Riven or Yasuo have to do with why people hate supporting, try to answer the question honestly. Why do you hate it when a Yasuo or a Riven main shows up on your team? I mean you are sitting there in your promos, one win means you rise up, one loss means it’s back to climbing back towards your promos. Just then a teammate picks Riven or Yasuo. Or with your luck, it’s a Riven going top, a Yasuo mid, and you are tilting so hard the boat just capsized. The answer is pretty simple. It’s because it always feels like the Riven or Yasuo on the other team always feels like a higher elo smurf pub stomping your team while the Riven or Yasuo on your team are boosted animals that are constantly feeding or trying to start a 1v3 while on 20% health, in the enemy jungle, with no vision. You never seem to get the good ones, or rather you never seem to get the ones that make you want to facepalm so hard you slap yourself into next week or [literally face check your computer monitor]( It’s like you are fighting against your teammates as much as you are fighting the enemy. And that my friends, is the key to the biggest issue with support in terms of the long term health of the game. That is the big dilemma when it comes to the support role and why the mains deal with the role while people who never play support hate it so much. So what exactly is this key and why does it exist you are probably asking. Well it’s pretty simple. The key to why people hate supports comes down to a theory. **A GAME THEORY! ** Hence the reference to MatPat in the title. Please don’t shiv him, I like his videos even if he never talks about real game theory and can be of a tinfoil hat guy from time to time. So what is real game theory all about and why is it so important to understanding what the support role is and the core problem it poses to the nonsupport mains? Well to answer that, let me briefly link to the wonderful people of scishow who talk about what real life game theory is at its heart. As you can see in the video, there are two types of game theory. Two ways of deciding how to optimally win a game. And it’s those two choices which are the fundamental aspect of this problem. You see support as a role right now is designed with cooperative game theory in mind. There’s 5 players but 3.5 sources of steady income… no you can’t KS either. This means that someone has to be a jungler with half an income while one person has to be the support. Now on a coordinated team of 5 players, this is fine. This is good even because the team can build around having 3.5 sources of income and then optimize themselves based on the conditions of the game. You know your role on the team. You know what your teammates can do. You can easily coordinate with them. You’ve got a shot caller you can trust. You’ve got enough experience to know how to cover for someone when he’s doing poorly. In the higher levels, you know he can claw back into the game after a poor start if he’s got enough time. Or he just picks poppy and no worries. Now he’s the problem that 95% of players have to deal with: solo queue isn’t cooperative game theory, it’s competitive game theory, even on the same team. For starters, most people playing support probably aren’t support mains. They are people who picked fill or got auto-filled into support. So right off the bat, they are in the eff you role on the team. Their role basically means they shouldn’t be getting money or building real items. Then they get paired with someone who was autofilled to ADC because ADC mains got tired of working with a non-support who got autofilled into the role coupled with constant 4 man ganks bottom. Bot lane is becoming the sewers of the game because nobody wants to be there and they are probably tilted before having to put up with their laning partner and 4-man ganks while getting none. So how bad is solo queue? Let me just put this here (this is a little dated, but this topic has been sitting on my HD for awhile): If we’ve got one of the top players in the game saying he can’t trust his teammates, despite him getting put with master and challenger players, where exactly does that leave the rest of us? What does it mean for the bronzies, the silvers, the golds, the plats, and the low diamond players? What are we supposed to do? The problem with support in this game is it has been optimized for a cooperative game experience when you’ve got a premade team of 5 people. While that’s a great thing for people playing in premade groups of 5, for the rest of us we are screwed. Thus autofill exists because there aren’t enough people willing to put up with supporting to go around. I mean the modern queue system is basically you can queue as whatever you want to, but if riot needs a support, you are going to be support. Then you just hate supporting all that much more after getting stuck with it. So how is it for support mains? Well, we kind of know what we are getting into as we decided to main the role, but if you want to look at it objectively, it’s still a bit rough even for the upsides we get out of it. You still have to give up a lot of potential to support an ADC you know nothing about, have minimal communication or experience with, and might leave you hanging when he decides to feed. You are still the guy expected to ward, but then you don’t have anyone escorting you around the map so you can safely ward. You’ve got no coordination on your teams and if someone makes a call, there’s a good chance it’s the wrong call or people ignore it anyways. Or you get a non-adc autofilled into ADC and watch as he doesn’t know how to right click on a minion, doesn’t know how to freeze a lane, and picks the wrong time to go all in. Or you get yelled at because you got 2 of your team’s 31 kills or took a CS that your ADC wouldn’t have gotten anyway. The problem with solo queue support is you’ve got all the downsides of being a dedicated support without any of the upsides that a regular and reliable group of teammates bring. The problem with solo queue support is you are expected to be a team player when everyone else is looking out for himself and possibly failing at it. While I’m not saying that you can’t carry or it isn’t fun to support, what I am saying is that because solo queue, the support is the one asked to make the biggest investment in his teammates who aren’t really teammates. This investment then turns out to be a bad one in enough cases that turn people off from the role. In solo queue, there are enough times that the people you are put with just don’t know how to be supported while asking the support player to give up CS and kills, which brings the whole experience down. As a support I’m giving up money and XP for the rest of the team, and am probably the main guy warding without escort. If something goes wrong, I may not have the kit, the levels, or the items to cover for one or more teammates. Supports are designed as multipliers, the problem with the role is sometimes we are expected to multiply a bunch of zeros. We make it easier for you to carry, but if you aren’t going to carry this game, we may not be playing a champ that can cover for you and even if we are, we are still missing XP and items to do the job well. This is one of the big reasons I think that AP mages are taking over the support role. It’s becoming a case of, I’m better off playing a champ who can hard carry after getting a sightstone than being a pure support. I mean if you are better off being an AP mid who is behind in gold and levels than it is being a support, a lot of people are just going to be an alt-mid. Mids to support are the expected reaction to a situation where the mentality of “to my own self be true” takes over. BTW, that phrase actually means to be a self-serving SOB, there’s nothing noble about it. Just a FYI. In the long term, this is working against riot’s goals of more teamwork because it means the only guy on the team whose job is to be concerned with the team is seeing that it’s better to just go it alone. That means the last vestige of teamwork is dying for league. For everyone who mains support and likes the role, there are a ton of people forced into the role who don’t want to be there, or there are people who like it but realize there’s a big flaw, even if they can live with it. That leads to the big dilemma riot is facing. LCS and groups of 5 need a dedicated support because they can actually build around a support and be supported but for too many people. Supports are great in that environment. However the average player has had it with being the guy who is a dedicated support because he doesn’t want to keep multiplying zeroes and thinks if he got the role he queued for, he’d be winning this game. Being a support is much more problematic in that environment. Why should I bother to be a traditional support if there is a 50-50 chance my team’s ADC is just going to feed anyways? I might as well take a hard carry mid because he’s going to be dead weight often enough to justify me not taking a champ designed as a support most of the time. This in turn is going to have its own consequences. The first is champs like Soraka and Janna will probably have to be kept in an overpowered state. I mean if it becomes standard that the bot lane is filled with mages that when combined with ADCs can blow you and your ADC up very fast, in order to be viable you need to have a lot of healing and shielding stats. Hence we get the buffs to support items in terms of heal and shield power. Traditional supports needed a percentage scaling buff because without it, they’d be worthless. The second big consequence is going to further destroy teamwork, and team sanity, in solo queue. You know that “support” Nunu guy who screws over his ADC by leaving him to hang? Well, I think the next natural step is more selfishness like that, but not in terms of counterjungling. What I’m talking about is a player on support Veigar, Malz, Brand, Zyra, Xerath, etc thinking to himself, “if I’m on a champ who can carry without CS, just think how much more I can carry if I actively farm”. So he sees how poorly his ADC did and thinks to himself, I’m glad I took all that CS, I need to do that more often. And he will. Yep, I’m thinking the next step of support is probably going to be the farming support. This isn’t something the league can control or punish. CS aren’t assigned to any one player. It’s also okay to screw over your ADC if you can make a case for it as evidenced by the “support Nunu” unbanning. I mean not farming on your support is fine for pros on coordinated teams, but that doesn’t describe most of the player base. The conditions are ripe for a player who is fed up with the crappy ADCs he’s getting and deciding he’s just going to take as many CS and kills as he can get because he doesn’t want to lose another series because he got autofilled to support someone who can’t right click. All he needs to think is “I trust my ADC as much as I trust a Riven or Yasuo main so I’m better off hogging all the kills and CS I can.” Yes ADCs will be mad losing out on CS and kills, but screw those whiners. They are mad about everything. Just mute them and carry on. Sooner or later people will try it. Why? Short games. I’m serious. Games in LoL are getting shorter and shorter. You can’t count on a 40-75 minute epic slog anymore so you don’t really have time to waste as there isn’t much time for a comeback. Coming into the game, you need to get as much of an advantage as possible as quickly as possible. You are on a champ who can CS well enough and will be able to carry the game if you get gold. You’ve got no idea if your ADC is going to be any good and by the time he proves that he isn’t, it could be too late in the game for you to farm up and take over. You've got a champ who needs both XP and Farm to scale more than a traditional support does. There certainly is both a reason and the ability for you to go ahead and just start farming up “as the support” and riot can’t stop you. Premade groups of 5 are about teamwork, but soloqueue is about mework. So if I’m on support, where I may or may not want to be, I’ve got a champ who can farm and scales okay with farm and levels, I’ve got an ADC/team who I can’t automatically trust, and an MMR I only want to go up, why should I do the best thing possible for me? Why should I distribute my gold and XP to these feeders, who are only going to keep feeding with it? What if I have more fun getting gold and XP on support than I am with playing support the correct way? I mean if I’m having more fun, I think I’m winning more, more power to me right? This will show riot/the feeders for putting me in support. In short, sooner or later, people playing support could very well ditch the idea of cooperative game theory and switch over to competitive game theory. When that happens, teamwork in this game is going to be even more dead than it is now. So this is the support dilemma riot is going to be facing: either they reward and encourage cooperative game theory for supporting or the meta for bot lane could easily turn into an ugly competitive game theory.
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