Understanding Champion Synergy in League of Legends

Understanding Champion Synergy in League of Legends

In our Teamplay Decompilation, we learned a bit about synergy and the importance of choosing a comp that fits together nicely. In this article, we’ll be going deeper into the different ways champions can compliment each other. As always, this article was written in collaboration with our Challenger Coach Adam “Morïarty” Isles, and our analyst, Hewitt “prohibit” Benson.

Due to buffs, nerfs, and patches, the power of different synergies will change constantly. This guide is not meant to suggest certain synergies over others, but rather help you understand how to recognize and think about how champion abilities can interact and combine to make powerful impacts. By the end of this read, we hope you’ll be able to identify how to make your team composition better within the context of your pool the next time you’re in champ select.

What is synergy?

synergy definition

Definition by Dictionary.com

In League of Legends, what comes to mind when you think about synergy? We’ve all seen epic AoE Wombo Combos where an entire team can be wiped within seconds, but synergy is more nuanced than that. It’s when champion abilities fit together and help to maximize the effects of their actions. It’s about enabling champions to get to areas that they shouldn’t have, preserving a life when death should have been certain, and just making life easier in general for your team. It’s about manipulating the map and creating intense pressure a five-player squad.

Why is synergy important?

When organized and executed properly, synergies can cover your weaknesses and increase your chances of victory. For example, a Kennen can engage for an AoE stun by using Flash – if it’s on cooldown, however, he has a much harder time and would have to look for an unseen flank path to catch the enemy team by surprise. If you pair him with a champion that excels at getting in a locking in multiple champions, such as fellow Yordle, Amumu, Kennen’s level of difficulty for doing his job significantly decreases.

If you add Galio as a Mid laner and a Bot lane like Miss Fortune and Nami alongside the two Yordles, you’ll have a well-rounded comp with tons of engage options, a tanky front line, and a huge amount of AoE damage potential.

Compare this team to a team comp that has a Garen Top, Shyvana Jungle, Ekko Mid, and Soraka/Kog’Maw as the Bot lane. On the surface, the comp as a nice mix of AD/AP damage, a beefy front line and good scaling options. Upon closer inspection of the comp’s overall tools however, you’ll find that they have some huge weaknesses due to their lack of CC – they have no stuns or knock-ups and their only root (from Soraka) is quite hard to land on its own.

They have no reliable way to force a fight. Sure,  Shyvana could try to initiate with a Dragon’s Descent flank but that’s really their only engage option. They would have significant trouble against a comp that was mobile, had good peel, and/or was able to effectively kite.

How to use synergy

During your Pick and Ban phase, the game allows you to show your teammates who you plan on playing for the match. This is a direct hint to try to put together the best ability toolbox possible and build a formidable team that can coordinate and dominate.

Using synergy doesn’t mean trying to choose the perfect champion for specific situations every time. It’s about understanding your champion pool and when you should use the champions you’re comfortable with. Synergy optimizes good play – it doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll win for choosing the right champion for the job. Find the right balance between your personal comfort and proficiency with the needs of the team.

If you find that your champion pool is composed of champions that tend to fulfill the same job with similar toolsets, strive to be more Versatile and slowly new champions with contrasting abilities for your pool. For example, most Support mains shouldn’t strive to master every single Support champion. Instead, they may try to at least master three of the main types: damage by taking Spellthief’s (Zyra, Brand), tanky by taking Relic Shield (Braum, Alistar), and utility from taking Ancient Coin (Janna, Lulu). If you cover these three main bases as a Support, you’ll be able to synergize with many, if not most, team compositions and ADCs.

Types of synergy:

For the most part, synergies in League of Legends fall under three main functions: enabling more damage, enabling more crowd control, and enabling more mobility. The three have much overlap and have inherent compatibility with each other. Let’s study and understand the different tool sets and functions of the following cases:

Increase kill potential: High damage + high crowd control

This is the most basic synergy to understand.  It’s the equivalent of holding someone while your friends beat them up (don’t do that) – the harder it is for your enemy to move or act, the more time and ease you’ll have in killing them.

From a design standpoint, Riot tends to make champs that have good CC but usually don’t have high damage, and champs that have really high damage but limited CC options. This is of course a wide spectrum and every champion falls somewhere in between.

For example, Maokai’s  four abilities ALL have some form of crowd control while Katarina’s four abilities have no crowd control whatsoever but deal much more damage. Compare and contrast the function and purpose of their ultimates below:

Katarina, Maokai

The two are much more powerful together than if you had paired them with another champ of a similar skill-set.

If you paired matched with another high CC champion like Rammus, they’d be nearly impossible to escape from but they’d have very low killing power. If you paired Katarina with another pure damage-dealer like Akali, they’d have tons of kill potential but would have great difficulty in getting their enemies to stay in place in order to kill them.

A team with good synergy will have a balanced mix of CC and damage, do your part in contributing to this balance. Here are some examples:

  • High CC, low damage potential
    • Alistar
    • Nautilus
    • Sejuani
  • Low CC, high damage potential
    • Fiora
    • Katarina
    • Talon

Improved engaging: Intiation + follow-up

Engage and follow up are extremely important to a team comp. They entail your plan for creating fights and are your ways of catching enemies that are retreating. Usually there’s an initial simple engage that is easy to land or execute, followed by a additional CC that would otherwise be too hard to land due to being to predictable, or slow. Champs that have hard engage with simple mechanics make it easier for champs with harder CC to follow up. If the initiation and follow-up execute their jobs properly, death is almost certain for their foes.

Ashe + Zyra

With slows, roots, stuns, and knock-ups, Ashe and Zyra can both either be the initiator or the follow-up depending on the situation. They make for a very potent combo of damage and CC that allows their enemies to stay in place while their teammates follow up.

Vi + Nami

Vi and Nami exemplify the “easy into difficult” engage because Vi has a very reliable point and click initiation which sets up for Nami’s follow-up CC, such as her bubbles or wave, which are normally tricky to land on their own. The two make for an extremely sticky duo that are near impossible to peel.

Here are some great choices for initiation + follow-up:

  • Initiator 
    • Camille
    • Jarvan IV
    • Warwick
  • Follow-up 
    • Galio
    • Gragas
    • Ornn

Squishy + protector

Champs that are fragile are often the top damage dealers for their teams – the best protectors have great survivability but usually don’t have the damage output to be able to duel or survive on their own. Protectors often have great peeling tools such as knock-backs, stuns, and heals, while squishies may have some utility but usually have an ability set dedicated to inflicting pain. They are often immobile  so pairing them with a protector is almost necessary to survive.

Jhin + Taric

Jhin is an ADC that lacks movement options but is deadly in the hands of a player like C9 Sneaky. C9 Smoothie’s Taric makes a great protector due to his stun, heal, and ultimate which makes his teammates invulnerable. He along with the rest of the team create an impenetrable wall separating Jhin from their foes – allowing the virtuoso to fire away safely.

Try mixing and matching champions like these to give your squishes a better chance to output as much damage as possible:

  • Squishy
    • Kog’Maw
    • Twitch
    • Varus
  • Protector
    • Alistar
    • Braum
    • Janna

Make the immobile, mobile

Champions with low mobility, such as Juggernauts, have a hard time getting to enemies – once they get there, however, they are deadly forces to be reckoned with. By enabling them with champions that can provide mobility, such as speed boosts, they become much more powerful due to their increased capability for staying in the fight.

Darius + Karma

Karma pairs wonderfully with Darius due to her ability to get him to where he wants to be. Champions that would have otherwise been able to kite or escape from Darius are now faced with a turbo-boosted terror. Not to mention that Karma can lock down her  enemies with an AoE slow or a single target root.

  • Low mobility
    • Garen
    • Mordekaiser
    • Nasus
  • Creates mobility
    • Karma
    • Sivir
    • Sona

Map presence and pressure

Champions that have abilities which span the map synergize well with each other because they can outmaneuver and coordinate at a wider level than other combinations. This type of synergy allows for surprise ganks and flanks, potent split pushing, and backdoor potential.

Nocturne + Twisted Fate + Shen

In this example, we see how blue team makes what look like 1v1 situations into 1v3’s. Champions that have map-wide effects and toolsets can help each other extremely quickly and can make their enemies hesitate on engaging what looks like a lone teammate. Consider the following champs if you want to increase your comp’s overall map presence and pressure.

  • Global champions
    • Gangplank
    • Karthus
    • Pantheon
    • Nocturne
    • Soraka
    • Shen
    • Tahm Kench
    • Taliyah
    • Twisted Fate

Terrain Creation

Champions that create terrain synergize well with each other and with champs that utilize walls or thrive when an enemy’s movement is restricted. For example, terrain creation can be strong with poke compositions or AoE because they limit the movement space of their enemies, making it easier for their teammates to land their stuff more consistently.

Anivia’s moveset exemplifies how these different synergies work. Her wall makes it easy to land her long range stun, or it can be used to trap enemies inside her AoE ultimate as sort of a containment chamber.

Trundle + Vayne

Trundle and Vayne synergize well because they both have great mobility and work well with terrain creation. Trundle’s Pillar can aid Vayne’s Condemn stun and the two can absolutely terrorize a front line due to their anti-tank capabilities.

  • Creates terrain
    • Anivia
    • Jarvan IV
    • Trundle
  • Utilize terrain
    • Bard
    • Poppy
    • Vayne
  • Poke
    • Ezreal
    • Jayce
    • Xerath
  • AoE
    • Rumble
    • Twitch
    • Viktor

Package and delivery systems
Champions  like Lulu and Orianna have ultimates that are incredibly impactful but are difficult or awkward to land on their own. Other champions have abilities that allow them to get into the fray or have great ease at traveling distances quickly. If you pair the two champions together, you can create a delivery system which can reliably activate one champion’s abilities by using another champion as a satellite or extension of themselves. Here’s a great example explained by Flyquest’s WildTurtle:

Kalista + Rakan

Many Supports can synergize with Kalista for awesome engages, but none have quite the reach as when she’s paired with Rakan. Rakan’s incredible mobility makes their combination almost impossible to escape and his AoE charm-knockup combo provides the perfect set up into Kalista’s ultimate. Enemies can stay CC-locked for a very long time and must respect an incredibly large area of the map to be at a safe distance from this package + delivery system.

  • Package
    • Lulu
    • Galio
    • Orianna
  • Delivery
    • Malphite
    • Nocturne
    • Zac

Granting Immortality

In League of Legends, there are a rare few abilities which prevent death, ignore crowd control, or completely nullify damage. If the right conditions present themselves, combining these sort of abilities create awe-inspiring synergies that can allow two champions to sometimes take on five.

Kayle + Master Yi

One of the most infamous duos of Season 7, Master Yi + Kayle has terrorized Ranked queue due to the synergy of their kits. Master Yi outputs very high damage while having the ability to become untargetable. Kayle can speed Yi up and help extend his life with 3 seconds of invincibility with her ultimate. If an enemy team isn’t completely coordinated, Kayle can keep Yi alive long enough for the Wuju master to activate his ability resets which are easy to proc due to Kayle’s AoE damage.

  • Enabler
    • Kayle
    • Morgana
    • Zilean
  • Immortal
    • Master Yi
    • Olaf
    • Tryndamere

Put the pieces together

Once you understand the different types of synergies, you can build a team that can compliment each other beautifully. Let’s take a look at one final example and see if you can recognize the synergies of the composition:

Here’s the final checklist:

  1. High damage potential with high CC
  2. Initiation + follow-up
  3. Speed increase for improved mobility
  4. Terrain creation for reliable skill shots and AoE
  5. Profit

The next time you’re in champ select, remember that your choice can make life much easier on your team’s success.

Thanks for reading, we hope that you found this helpful! Keep in mind that these are just several of the MANY synergies found in League of Legends – experiment and explore to find the best for your play style. For more discussion and advice about synergy, head to our Discord!

  • Crystal Boost

    i like wombo combo but prefer team assasin in our team in lol

  • Werner Kayser

    Thanks for this info. Very easy to understand for new & returning players.

    • Agilio

      Glad you found it helpful! Let us know if there’s any topics you’d like to see us cover 🙂

      • Werner Kayser

        Hi Agilio,

        This sounds like a daunting task, but as I was returning to League recently, I realized that I had forgotten many of the core mechanics of some champs, as well as many having been reworked.

        There isn’t a readily available source for covering just simple information that you just have to know about every champ, in order to fight them with general knowledge of what they do. Such as WW’s passive & how it helps him duel, what to exploit & avoid doing, but just in a simple, easy to digest way such as this article.

        It is a big task and I don’t expect you to do it – but I myself am still in the need of this! Going through every champ spotlight takes centuries. Just a simple blog post that is updated here and there would save me a lot of time.

        Keep up the good work!

        • Agilio

          Okay so you’d like to see content more focused on specific champions? We tend to cover new champions and reworks

  • Rastko D Raicevic

    THis was an eye opener! 🙂