Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bard Chimes In on Pro Play




by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis

One of the newest champs to be released, Bard, finally gets his chance to see professional play. Bard has proven to be a champion with very mixed results. He is Riot’s first attempt at creating a support that is rewarded for leaving his lane. This creates a lot of interesting strategy possibilities, especially in the current meta of constant lane swaps in professional play.

Bard is one of the more utilitarian supports that have been released. Unlike a support like Leona or Annie who only really bring CC and damage, Bard trades this damage and easy CC for more of an ability to help his team reposition, heal, and keep the enemy from moving where they want. He won’t win a 2v2 very often, but that’s not really what his kit is designed to do.

When Bard is brought out, you can most definitely expect teams to try and swap lanes. IF Bard does go into a 2v2 he’s going to want a safe ADC in his lane so it gives him the freedom to leave lane. A popular ADC right now is Sivir. She has a huge amount of waveclear and a spell shield in case she moves up too far. Sivir also works well with Bard's mid game power in his ultimate. If Bard hits a good ult from afar to engage, Sivir can pop hers to not only let her team get to the enemy, but position correctly in order to keep the enemy team locked up with follow up CC or damage.

Bard is still new, and teams aren’t really sure what to do about him. The only pro to consistently pull him out so far in competitive play is GorillA and he’s only seen spotty success on it, winning just 1 of his last 3 games. Sweet, from JinAir has been getting Bard banned against him as well, although he hasn’t actually played him competitively yet.

An interesting note from most high level players that I’ve noticed is that they max E (Magical Journey) second, over the W. I’ve tried both and I definitely see more impact from leveling E second. Bard’s heal is meant to be used as a screw-up fixer. It’s there in case you need it, not to be used when you need a top off on health. He places it for when he isn’t there to help his team, making him useful all over the map and fitting his theme.

Bard can have his shot in solo queue play as well, but he gets played a little differently. It can really depend on how your ADC is by themselves. If you know what your ADC is, make sure it works with your pick. Sometimes you get a little screwed and your ADC picks Vayne after you already locked in Bard, but it’s not a complete loss. Just make sure you’re not putting yourself into a bad situation if you can help it, Bard isn’t a jack of all trades so make sure you know why you’re picking him.

One of the first questions that comes up on Bard is your starting ability. Do you level Q or W? They have their pros and cons, but I think the higher your ELO, the more likely you are to need Q at level 1. Before you go off on me, let me explain.

In lower level games, like Gold and below, players generally don’t skirmish early and fight over getting the level 2 advantage. This means your Meep empowered auto attacks should be enough to let you stay competitive until you get level 2. However, players that understand the power of getting the early level will punish you hard for your passive start if you level W. The upside of leveling W first in lower level games is that you can place a health relic for each of your other lanes, mid, top and jungle, to make sure they can recover from a bad trade early or getting cheesed, which is once again something that happens more frequently in lower ELO games. Most likely we’ll only see Q from Bard at level 1 in professional games unless the team knows for certain they have a lane swap.

The possibilities of Bard’s ult are incredible especially around a coordinated team. I’ve already mentioned the synergy with Sivir ult, but there’s also the objective control he provides. Bard can help guarantee steals; a lot of people see the possibility of ulting Baron or Dragon to keep the enemy from taking them for a little bit. However, with some careful aiming, you can actually do the exact reverse of that scenario and ult the enemy team, specifically the jungler, and keep them from smiting while your jungler swoops in as the hero.

Bard has a lot of room for mistakes, but he brings a huge amount to a team that no other champion can bring. His abilities to Zhonya’s both enemy and ally champions and portal through walls are extremely unique to him. And while his AP ratios aren’t amazing, he scales just fine into the late game with his stacking of chimes to improve his auto attacks and not only more damage, but more utility in slows. It won’t be long before Bard becomes a staple for professional supports alongside his counterpart Thresh.


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by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis