How strong are shields in ranked exactly? Currently, the only support champions that can shield allies with over a 50 percent win rate and significant play rate (above two percent) are Sona and Thresh. In the jungle, there is only Ivern, who sits at a solid 52 percent win rate in plat and above, but Ivern’s power is found in more than just his two-second long Triggerseed. For more on Ivern, check out my Playing Ivern Like the Pros.
While I understand players’ outrage over a six-second duration Lulu shield, Lulu has struggled recently with quest itemization, alongside some awkward Whimsey bugs leaving her at a 47 percent win rate. In short, it’s not the champion that is particularly strong that has the community in arms over shield power, but instead the ability to layer shields with specific team compositions and item paths.
Possible Solutions Open Up Unique Gameplay Opportunities
That being said, shield stacking still seems to be very powerful, and a lot of this comes from a lack of support item diversity. Redemption and Locket of the Iron Solari seem to be the go-to items for supports, and a lot of this comes from the lack of viable build alternatives. Knight’s Vow is too expensive and doesn’t give cooldown reduction (the most vital stat for a support), while items like Mikael’s Crucible are too cost inefficient. It is frustrating that a champion like Blitzcrank, who is centered around making picks, has the most commonly built item as Redemption instead of something else that may highlight his pick-off play style. This does not go to say that Redemption should be gutted entirely, as the item is fun to play with and requires a certain amount of skill to use effectively. It does go to say that other items should become more available for supports who want to do something other than heal and shield.
As someone who plays support quite frequently in Diamond Elo, I will never play Soraka again. This is not because I have internalized the “Soraka is cancer” monologue coming out of the loads of players plagued by over-committing aggression, but instead because there is an 800 gold item that reduces the impact of three of her four abilities by 40 percent. Playing just once against an ADC that buys this item first back is an experience that ultimately becomes too frustrating to ever pick this champion back up again. As Soraka in this matchup, you can go from dominating a lane to barely surviving in just one buy. That is insane because once the enemy AD has this item, your champion is significantly less impactful.
That being said, I do understand how frustrating playing against the likes of Janna and Soraka can be, and I do want to see counterplay to the growing power of shields. I just want to see this counterplay come from something more dynamic than a cheap one item buy. This problem actually gives game developers an opportunity for Strategic Diversity, a Riot hot word that will make developers salivate instantly.
The perfect counter for the shield meta could arise in a new champion design. A new “support” champion could have an ability that does damage, but when it hits an enemy with a shield, it completely takes what damage it does to that shield and creates a shield for itself. This ability would have to still be decent enough to be used against team compositions without shields; however, having a hard counter to shielding champions in the bottom lane would add a greater diversity of support champions.
The Consequences of a Grievous Wounds for Shields
So what happens if Riot follows the congregation of shield animosity all the way to the Rift? The first thing we would expect to see is the removal of an entire summoner spell, Barrier, as well as the removal of some strategic items, such as Locket of the Iron Solari, Seraph’s Embrace, Sterak’s Gage, Face of the Mountain, and Bloodthirster. But an item that diminishes the effectiveness of shields won’t only cut out the diversity of defensive items, but also defensive masteries. Courage of the Colossus will take a huge hit, and every champion that benefits from the massive late game shields of this mastery will also drop in win rate substantially, or be forced to take a different mastery entirely. This would lead to a situation similar to the league of Thunderlord’s, or Grasp for each and every top laner.
Already, the effective amount of items and masteries would be diminished from the inclusion of a grievous wounds item for shields, but the viable champion pool for many roles would also take a huge hit. Orianna, Camille, Nautilus, Shen, Skarner, Urgot, and most supports would be devastated by such an item. This item would hinder the Rift more than anything.
Why Shields Are Here to Stay
So what about nerfing shield duration? This is a common go-to for many, but what these individuals do not realize is that shields have a pretty short duration as is, aside from some variables, such as Lulu and Janna. Locket of the Iron Solari has only a 2.5 second duration, Karma shield only lasts four seconds, Rakan’s Battle Dance only lasts three seconds, and Sona’s shield only lasts 1.5 seconds. Sure each of these numbers can be nerfed, but that would be the nerf of an entire subclass of Support champions; but more than that, it would be an indirect nerf to marksmen.
When the ADC in 2k17 meme was at its peak, the most viable support champions were all Ability Power Carries. Brand, Malzahar, and Zyra dominated the Rift, and they did so by devastating other supports in lane and being able to one vs. one the enemy carry early on. ADC was weak at this time due to itemization, but also due to the nature of bot lane. Quite simply, ADCs did not have someone enhancing their abilities; they had no support. What they had instead was a Mage who was ready to kill the enemy carry at any time. What a spooky era. Alas, supports got Redemption, and a few other healing and shielding items were buffed. Then, ADCs got their item paths made more efficient, and with the combination of defensive supports and offensive build paths, the Yin and Yang of bottom lane was finally able to take a crack at the ADC in 2k17 meme.
While ADCs have been stronger, the current shield meta allows them to duke it out in the late game with the protect the carry strategies that have been ever present in League of Legends. These compositions enforce cooperation and teamwork. The claim to fame Mega’Maw and other similar compositions are healthy for competitive League of Legends and solo queue environments alike, just as long as they don’t become the only composition.
Video Courtesy of OGN. Featured Image Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com