The bottom lane meta in 2017 has been breaking all the rules. With AD Carries relatively weak and the appearance of mages like Ziggs in the carry position, bot laners have been in for many surprises from the traditional marksman + support combination of years past. Another surprising new wrinkle added this year has been Malzahar support.
Creeping around solo queue for the past few weeks, it’s also been quite popular at this week’s European Challenger Series Qualifiers. The pick has produced mixed results, but it’s easy to see why it can be effective, especially with crowd control-based marksmen like Jhin or Ashe.
First of all, Malzahar follows in the mold of previous mages-turned-supports like Brand and Zyra, who get a lot of impact out of their high damage compared to other supports. This creates pressure in the laning phase (in addition to his damage to champions, Malzahar’s Voidlings and Malefic Visions can help low wave-clear ADCs push), and gives the team essentially another carry in late-game team fights.
But Malzahar is significantly more survivable than Brand or Zyra. His passive blocks a single ability (very effective against supports like Thresh or Blitzcrank that are traditionally good against squishy mage supports) and he can summon Voidlings to block skill shots as well.
Malzahar also has top-tier target lockdown for a support, especially among mages. His ultimate, Nether Grasp, is one of the strongest abilities in the game, whether locking down the AD Carry for a free kill in laning phase or singling out a target right before a crucial team fight (either a Poppy charging in or a carry caught out). His Q, Call of the Void, is also a silence, which is very effective against popular caster ADCs like Ezreal, preventing them from outputting their full capacity of damage and/or escaping by jumping away.
So why now? Two recent changes in particular nerfed Malzahar mid, but made Malzahar support more viable.
- His W was changed. Voidlings no longer spawn on minion kills, and Malzahar can now store up to two of them. This allows for more effective trading as a support without having to take farm away from your ADC. In addition to the damage Voidlings do against champions and their ability to block skillshots, pushing out waves is also arguably the most important factor in winning your lane in the current meta. Voidlings help with this tremendously, especially with low wave-clear ADCs like Jhin.
- Rylai’s Crystal Scepter was changed. The stats on the item were lowered and the slow was unified, but the cost was reduced significantly. This made the item much better on mage supports, who struggle with gold income but still greatly benefit from the ability power, health and slow the item provides.
So what do you build on Malzahar support? We looked at how three premier Korean supports (KT Rolster’s Se-hyeong “Mata” Cho, SK Telecom T1’s Jae-wan “Wolf” Lee and Longzhu Gaming’s Beom-hyeon “GorillA” Kang) have been building him in their solo queue matches.
For the most part, the runes chosen have been pretty similar: magic penetration marks and health glyphs are constant across all three. They differ on seals and quintessences, though: Mata brings 5 AP and 4 mana regen/5 seals, while Wolf and GorillA just bring 9 AP seals. Mata also uses two armor quintessences and one ability power, while Wolf uses three armor quintessences and Gorilla uses two with one mana regen/5.
In terms of masteries, all three use this or a variation close to it:
For items, you definitely want to start by building towards Eye of the Watchers, which is the item that combines Sightstone with the AP support item. As quickly as you can, you also want to build Lucidity Boots for the cooldown reduction.
The two core items for Malzahar support are Rylai’s Crystal Scepter and Liandry’s Torment. Both give you health and ability power and allow you to better stick to targets (with Rylai’s passive) and burn through tanks (with Liandry’s magic penetration).
By that point, you’ve probably won the game (seriously, I’ve looked through dozens of Malzahar support games and have yet to find one that went six items). If you haven’t, you can use your remaining two item slots on something like Locket of the Iron Solari, which will help you and the rest of your team survive, Guardian Angel, which is always a solid item, Banshee’s Veil, which gives you yet another defense against hooks and other deadly abilities, or something to help create side-lane pressure like ZZ’Rot Portal or Banner of Command.