To people new to the Chinese scene, my title might seem peculiar. Isn’t Annie support what people choose when they are forced into playing support, much like AP Nidalee or AP Lux? Annie is, after all, traditionally an ability power carry. Even though Pak Kan “MikakoTabe” Wong of Royal Club Huang Zu did not invent support Annie, he formally introduced her into the Chinese competitive scene by repeatedly destroying his opponents with her. Perhaps he got his inspiration from Mafa of KT Rolster Bullets who played support Annie against Maximum impact Gaming Blitz on the 5th July 2013. Perhaps he got it from an even earlier match in the Garena Premier League’s Spring Season, where Singapore Sentinels’ Kailing played support Annie against ahq e-Sports Club. Or perhaps he just needed a champion that suited his trend for niche, aggressive supports like Cassiopeia. But Tabe has made Annie his own and he will be remembered in the same light as Wickd is for his Irelia, Shy is for his Jax or Doublelift is for his Vayne. Support Annie had not been seen in the LPL until week 4 of its Summer season. Since then, support Annie has dominated Royal Club’s champion pool:
What makes Annie an effective support?
What makes an effective support at the professional level of play?
As you can see, the current dilemma that all competitive support players face is a mundane one. Map control is so vital that supports rarely make it past a ruby sightstone and boots. Supports are crippled by the the costs of map vision. Hopefully Riot can support them with a welfare state.
I gathered data from week 9 of the European LCS Summer Split 2013 and found these statistics:
- Only 32.70% of supports were able to buy a legendary tier item (that didn’t include Ruby Sightstone) and not a single person managed to buy more than one legendary item. This is all despite the combined average of 8250 gold.
So a support in the current system is required to provide as much utility as possible with as little gold as possible. You have to assume that the only legendary item you will be purchasing is the Ruby Sightstone. I think the meta requires a support to have as much crowd control as possible and this is one of the reasons I think that both Taric and Soraka have fallen out of favour. Although both offer a crowd control effect, it’s simply not good enough to be competitive.
- Taric has a targeted stun of 1.2-1.6s at max rank. That would also require you to max it over his heal and armour debuff which is problematic because supports are almost always the lowest level on the team because they move around the map losing the experience from minion waves in an attempt to keep map control.
- Soraka’s crowd control isn’t even a hard one. Her silence is good against assassins though and lasts between 1.5-2.5s at max rank.
The thing that you’ll notice about both of these supports it that their crowd control is single target. Compare this to Sona’s area of effect 1.5s stun; Blitzcrank’s, Thresh’s, Janna’s displacement abilities or even Fiddlesticks potent 3 second terrify and area of effect 1.2 second silence (which can refresh) and you’ll notice that they aren’t used simply because their utility is very weak in comparison. Annie herself has the ability to perform a level 1 area of effect 1.75s stun, and even though that doesn’t improve, it’s still far superior to that of Soraka or Taric. Annie’s utility isn’t the best of all the supports but her damage and utility combined make her a viable pick.
Annie’s lane dominance
There’s a reason that Annie had a 100% pick ban rate in the 2 v 2 skill matchup in the 2013 All Stars Event. She’s incredibly aggressive and has aoe crowd control from level 1. No other support can stake a real claim to having a better level 1.
Annie has fantastic base damage on her abilities. Support Annie is chosen because she works fantastically well in pick compositions and comps which lack some mid game damage. Annie’s level 2 is impressively strong. Not only does she boast a 1.75s aoe stun, Annie deals the third highest potential damage of all the competitive supports at level 2. Annie needs to be played aggressively so you can take map control and dominate the early mid game. I find her similar to Zyra in some respects, but Zyra is more forgiving if things don’t go your way because of her overall better utility. The only problem I have with range in League of Legends is that auto attacks and spells focus on different champion hit boxes which mean that even though Annie’s auto attack and Disintegrate have technically the same range, they are still roughly 100 units apart. This can be quite annoying when you’re trading with the opposition as you have to get closer than you’d like to use Disintegrate which somewhat takes away from your large auto attack range.
For 5 seconds, Annie is surrounded by a shield of fire, increasing her armor and magic resistance and dealing magic damage to enemies each time they use a basic attack against her. Molten Shield
At rank 1, which the spell will be for the most of the game, Molten Shield gives Annie 20 armour and 20 magic resist and returns 20 (+0.2xAP) magic damage per auto attack. This gives Annie an extra depth to her support playstyle. Annie can out-trade supports in auto attack duels, take less damage in all ins and give Annie an efficient way of progressing through her stun cycles. It also makes Annie tankier than you might anticipate. She’s certainly not as squishy as Zyra or Sona. Molten Shield is easy to disregard but it is vital in successfully trading as Annie. On a less useful note, Molten Shield can be used to push lanes too if you stand in a minion wave.
Niche Tibbers Tactics
I’ve seen Tabe use this tactic before and it’s quite clever. Far too often do supports get caught out around dragon or baron pits on their way to ward. Using Tibbers to scout helps alleviate this endemic. Even though Tibbers is a vital spell in Annie’s inventory, it’s better to use Tibbers to scout brushes from a safe distance. I calculated that Tibbers has a range of approximately 2000 units (give or take 100). This is enough distance to check for a sneaky KT Bullets Baron attempt. The only other support ability comparable to this is Zyra’s Rampant Growth which has 825 range but also puts you further into harms way.
- Dragon control & Tower tanking
These two fall under the same concept: using Tibbers to tank global objectives. Not only is stun-Tibbers a great pick tool in dragon fights, it can be used to tank Dragon effectively. The same can be done with towers. It allows for fast push strategies which utilise Annie’s long auto attack range to become ever so slightly faster as Tibbers’ auto attacks damage towers too.
- Blocking Thresh’s Dark Passage (w)
In an incredibly situational scenario, Tibbers can be used to block a champion from taking Dark Passage in the same way that standing on top of it with a champion does. I’m sure it’s been done before, and I look forward to seeing it in professional play.
Like every support, Annie has some inherent advantages:
- She’s severely outclassed by other supports in the mid-late game. In terms of utility, I can’t think of a single competitive support who offers less utility than Annie does in the mid-late game. She can’t give shields, heals or displacement abilities. By the late game Annie won’t even able to able to rely on her relatively high dps to pull her through. Annie is not a late game orientated support, you have to play aggressively in the early game.
- Playing with constant aggression leaves you open to ganks. Though it is less of a problem in competitive play than it is for solo queue. Also, Annie support can become somewhat predictable in her playstyle in a way that a Blitzcrank hook never does.
- Her abilities are relatively short range which requires you to constantly be in harms way. She suffers from Fiddlesticks syndrome in this respect. As you’ve seen, it’s hard to get tanky in competitive play as a support. It means you can get insta killed by a bruiser which could leave your team very vulnerable.
Runes and Masteries
Pre patch 3.10
Post patch 3.10
- Tabe takes Incinerate level 1 because it allows you to charge up your stun in preparation for skirmishes and it’s also great for trading in lane.
- Tabe maxes Incinerate first because he has better wave clear against fast push compositions and does more damage in early team fights. You can get away with this because you will potentially have two area of effect stuns which will allow you to apply the other area of effect ability.
- Tabe normally maxes Disintegrate second as he prefers higher damage than tank stats. This is because Annie is not a front line character, more of a reactive chain ccing support. The extra damage helps Royal’s mid game spikes in the same way a Zyra support does.
Case Study – OMG vs Royal Cub, Grand Finals Game 2 of the Chinese Regionals
Why Annie was selected
- Twitch Annie has been Royal Club’s most picked bot lane when they’ve managed to secure Annie support.
Twitch is one of the few marksmen who add crowd control to the lane composition pre level 6. Not only do they synergise well in lane, they synergise in an overall pick composition. Twitch’s stealth and BotRK active allow him to sneak on unsuspecting champions and outright kill them if he farms well. Annie’s instant stuns and high dps allow her to create picks across the map with Twitch if Royal have good vision ward control. Annie reminds me of a lower utility but higher dps support Fiddlesticks. I’d also like to add that OMG feared the Gragas – Vayne combination which is why they banned Gragas. Uzi plays a fantastic Vayne so when OMG removed Gragas they were confident Vayne wouldn’t then get picked after that.
- Annie’s area of effect stuns work really well in Royal’s team fights.
Tabe might be needed to initiate fights with a flash Summon Tibbers, which works the same way Sona initiates, or chain the crowd control with the three area of effect knockups that Royal had. The fact that Summon Tibbers is instant gives her a large advantage over someone such as Zyra who has to wait 2 seconds for Strangelthorns to knockup the enemy (albeit a much larger area of effect). Anything that can make the job easier for Jarvan, Aatrox and Fizz to lane their crowd control is fantastic for this composition.
- Annie’s hard initiate also works well because Royal Club are running a split push composition which has both great duellists and high pick potential.
If Annie can stun of the two marksmen then that’s essentially half OMG’s dps gone instantly. After a successful pick, Royal’s split pushing duellists would then be free to destroy towers because OMG would need to send resources they didn’t have to stop them. Both Fizz and Aatrox are commonly picked to abuse their split pushing prowess. Aatrox can push very fast with Massacre and Blades of Torment and Fizz can with Playful Trickster. Much like Shen, Aatrox works in this composition works because he has great sustain and is hard to kill. Aatrox’s survivability comes from his passive Blood Well and Dark Flight escape. Fizz just outright kills you. Both are incredibly good at tower diving because they both have abilities that drop tower aggro. Even though Aatrox has to “die” for it, it means that Aatrox can dive knowing full well that he can revive.
- Royal have a high win rate with Annie support and she is definitely one of Tabe’s comfort choices.
Royal’s almost 80% win rate with support Annie means that she gets banned in most games Royal Club play: they like to pick her when they can.
The failure of OMG’s double marksman team composition
- OMG’s very strong early start quickly dissipated.
By 7 minutes, OMG were over 2,000 gold ahead, 3:0 in kills and 1:0 in towers. Tabe had given up first blood to cool due to his reckless tower dive at level 1. I must add that Tabe would have easily killed cool had he used his previous runes/mastery setup and probably not died to the tower as he wouldn’t have been so deep behind enemy lines.
But the repercussions of this first blood attempt by Royal Club were quite severe. Wh1t3zZ’s Fizz got to lane just after the 3 minute mark. He was already 8 cs behind Gogoing who used this advantage to bully him. Gogoing even managed to kill Fizz at the 6 minute mark because Wh1t3zZ didn’t have his flash cooldown refreshed since the first blood attempt. Gogoing used his enormous presence to teleport top to help take the tower and aid in the death of GoDlike. Thus far, it had been going according to the double adc pushing plan. Still, there were some warning signs of OMG’s impending defeat.
Tabe had been zoning cool’s Ezreal really effectively. By 05:45, cool had 13 cs to Uzi’s 45. Although this is expected in a 2 v 1 lane swap, mid Ezreal’s mid game power spike is vital to the success of a double adc composition. Cool was put even further behind when Wh1t3zZ’s Fizz managed to 1 v 1 him under cool’s own tower. Ezreal was not able to spike at all in the game against Royal Club. He had fallen too far behind in the early game despite getting first blood.
- Early map control
To successfully “wait-out” a double adc composition, you need to keep as much control over your own jungle as possible. By 9 minutes, Tabe had placed 2 vision and 2 sight wards in and around the top half of his jungle. He had been warding so much that he had only bought a faerie charm by this point.
Compare Royal’s minimap to OMG’s around 14 minutes in. It should not be understated how vital map control is to beating a double adc comp. Tabe had three vision wards and two sight wards compared to comA’s three sight wards and one vision ward. OMG were losing the vision battle.
- The double marksman time bomb ran out.
The above statement is completely true and if you’re interested in the surprisingly weak late game of the double adc composition then this is a good place to start. By 11 minutes, both teams had destroyed 1 tower. By 14 minutes, OMG hadn’t made a significant play since they took dragon and had given up a lot of ground. Fizz’s duelling power meant that they couldn’t take the bottom tower; but OMG hadn’t warded aggressively either, they weren’t pro-actively rotating their champions and had become very stale, very quickly. You can’t play reactively in a double adc composition and expect to win. By 16 minutes, OMG managed to get a slight reprieve. Uzi died to a great teleport pick by Gogoing in the mid lane. Even though it gave Royal a free dragon, OMG managed to take the mid tower. This series of events put them back into the lead by approximately 700 gold. But still, OMG were struggling because Uzi could bully cool’s Ezreal and Wh1t3zZ could bully San’s Caitlyn. Uzi had double cool’s creep score and cool’s Manamune was not even halfway stacked! This, combined with the lacking map control, meant OMG took towers far slower than necessary to win. By 20 minutes the situation was almost the same. OMG simply hadn’t pushed enough towers down to win the game. They had only destroyed two and remained a paltry 500 gold ahead. The 21 minute oracle from LoveLin should have been bought 5 minutes previously because it allowed immediate rotation and destruction of the bottom tower and mid’s tier two tower for OMG. Tabe’s map control had been too tight up till now.
Key team fights
Blue buff 14:00
OMG invested a lot of resources trying to kill Lucky’s Aatrox only to be baited by Blood Well. It setup a fantastic stun Tibbers from Tabe which annihilated Thresh. From here, Uzi assassinated cool who still only boasted a Manamune. ComA’s lack of map control left OMG open to flanking. This is unacceptable against a pick composition who have bags of aoe crowd control.
Mid Lane 22:00
Tabe caught both Gogoing’s Mundo and comA’s Thresh with a superb stun Tibbers. Uzi’s Spray and Pray annihilated both of them. OMG made the same mistake of splitting resources onto killing the Blood Welled Aatrox. This meant that a fantastic Zhonya bait from Wh1t3zZ kept OMG around for long enough that Royal could kill LoveLin and Gogoing. From this, Royal took dragon for the second time and the also top tower which put them ahead by 300 gold. A double adc comp can’t win if they lose the mid game.
From here, all it required was a pick onto Gogoing that was made possible due to Tabe’s map control. After the sub 26 minute baron, Royal easily won three minutes later.
By now you’ll have probably noticed a trend which suggests why Tabe is so successful with Annie. In Royal’s pick compositions, Tabe is very good at nullifying clusters of champions in team fights. It makes Uzi’s job incredibly easy. Uzi is accustomed to playing strong late-game carries like Vayne and Twitch with support Annie because Tabe simultaneously destroys team fights and protects Uzi. I’d be surprised if Annie wasn’t permanently banned against Royal club during the World Championships, but Tabe’s dominance on Annie often allows other comfort picks like Fizz through which make Royal Club a very strong team and real contenders for winning the League of Legends, Season 3 World Championships.