Perhaps its a skewed perspective from my RPG history, but I have always imagined support characters in League of Legends as the healer role – There not to take credit themselves, but rather to sit there and help allies do what they do best. Sona, Soraka, Lux, Taric, and other heroes in the game fit this standard cleanly, but heroes like Thresh, Riot’s most recent release, immediately confused me. What is a support champion supposed to do if they are not healing their allies? I’ve come to realize that the idea of indirectly influencing combat doesn’t end with ideas as simple as healing – Anything that turns the tide of combat outside of damage fits in the role of support, and Thresh proves that not only can he support, but he can cause a lot of trouble with his brutal attacks and control.
Since Thresh’s release, players have played the new champion in two roles. League of Legends officially describes Thresh as a support, and his abilities certainly assist the attack damage (AD) carry in controlling lane and minimizing damage. However, Thresh also carries the opportunity of being a tanky AD in his own right. Damnation, Thresh’s passive, allows him to capture souls that increase his armor and ability power. While Thresh’s Ability Power does not significantly benefit his skills, his increased armor can definitely help against AD champions who will be easily bothered by Thresh’s movement control over them. In addition, Thresh’s ability Death Sentence carries a passive that increases the damage of his first attack. It requires a long windup which prevents Thresh from sustained damage, but he can easily poke an opponent from full to half life with a well-prepared attack. Thresh is probably still best played in a support role, but one should not be too hesitant to purchase items like Sheen during the game if it might help your carry get that extra early game kill.
Upon activation of Death Sentence, Thresh can pull an opponent towards his carry or draw himself to his opponent to cause additional damage, and leaves an opportunity for further harassment. Like most pull abilities, Thresh’s Death Sentence has a significant windup and is blocked by minion waves. Though it doesn’t force the enemy into combat as easily as Blitzcrank’s pull, it allows some additional flexibility in case you pull the wrong hero. Additionally, by reactivating Death Sentence, Thresh is pulled to the enemy, acting much like Amumu’s bandages to run in and out of combat.
The key support ability is Thresh’s second skill, Dark Passage. Dark Passage throws a lantern that allies can use as a free flash to Thresh’s current location, as well as offering a shield to any allies that pass by the lantern. Your AD carry can use it as free opportunity to throw some safe extra damage on an opposing champion, or your jungler can come in to turn around a combat. Imagine how frustrating it is for an opponent for a champion like Ezreal to flash in, attack with his abilities, and immediately escape the combat every twenty seconds! For additional frustration, send a Lantern to your jungle Volibear. One right click sends Volibear straight into the combat, allowing him to force the opponent into a combat and making him vulnerable for another kill.
Thresh’s third ability, Flay, is a great tool to use for disrupting enemy motion in and out of combat. Flay moves all targets in a line behind and in front of Thresh forward and causes a minor delay in movement and interruption. While easy to use to keep opponents away from you, only skillful execution (usually due to good use of Death Sentence) will allow you to use Flay to keep an opponent in combat. Positioning is key when using Flay, and I have found an opponent accidentally pushed out of combat instead of into it as a result of poor timing and setup.
Thresh’s ultimate, The Box, isn’t a new concept, but it is an effective one. At a moderate cooldown, Thresh places a pentagon around himself that causes significant damage to enemies that break its walls by walking through them. Additionally, these opponents are slowed significantly for a few seconds. It offers damage and control like Amumu’s ultimate while also carrying the utility of being able to zone opponents in and out of focus areas in combat. The Box can be avoided by using flash techniques, but use in a full team fight will usually result in the enemy team splitting and leaving someone behind to fend for themselves.
All four of Thresh’s abilities can be used in multiple ways, resulting in myriad options in combat. Are you trying to save an AD carry who has gone too far? Use your lantern to give them an easy escape option, Flay to keep the opponent positioned the wrong way, and zone out areas with The Box to stop the shutdown. See an opportunity for a kill but know your carry can’t handle it without some extra effort? Leave the lantern by them, and use Death Sentence to get in close to the enemy. Take advantage of your Death Sentence passive with some heavy direct damage. Flay looking away from your opponent to keep them in range, lock them up with The Box, and autoattack to your kill. Are you in over your head in a combat? Flay your opponent out of the way, Death Sentence to an enemy minion, and use The Box and your Lantern to give yourself the extra wiggle room needed for your safe passage.
In conclusion, I find that Thresh offers a wide versatility to the support role while giving players an opportunity to shift into a heavy poke AD tank style as needed. He is a welcome addition to the staple support players and will give you a good run for your money if you let him latch on to you.