“Photo courtesy of lolesports.com”
Credentials: I have been Rank 1 in Solo Q for long periods of time in both Season 2 and Season 3, playing only support, and doing it both playing only Solo Q and later only Duo Q. I will go over how playing support in Solo Q is different from playing it competitively, and how to play it Solo vs Duo.
First I will explain the current dominant way of playing support in Competitive play, this will allow me to highlight the differences in play between competitive support play and Solo Q support play.
In competitive play the support is generally using 0-1 gold generation runes, buying nothing but wards and pots in the first buy, and buying a few GP5, and generally ending with no more than a sightstone + shurelias at the end of the game. Many viewers watch and copy this playstyle in their solo queue games, but this is not the best way of playing support in solo queue.
Unlike competitive league of legends, laning phase is not all that matters. As a support player, even if you win your lane 100% of the time, you will still lose many games. It is far more important to make sure that you are having a very strong lasting impact throughout the game, not just during laning phase. When you are playing Solo Q it is your goal to carry the game, you shouldn’t be relying on anyone else. To do this you will need income. Equip full gold generation yellow runes and quints, and make sure you go AT LEAST 16 utility masteries for the gold generation. Start the game with Fairie Charm + Rejuv Bead + Ward + Hp Pots. Your first three item buys are Philo/Kage/Sightstone in whatever order you want, and are more important than wards, boots, ANYTHING ELSE. These items, runes, and masteries are your lifeblood and will keep you close to the rest of the team in gold.
With this rune setup you WILL be weaker than the enemy support, and this is something you need to take into account. You will need to backoff in early all in fights, but with good trading early you can still win the lane, just do not force anything. Play aggressively but avoid full engagements. If you are able to win the lane when you are using full gold generations runes you will find it is very easy to win the game.
The next part is where there is very little difference between Solo Queue and Competitive play; the dominance of Oracles. Good oracles play will allow you to control the game, and should be bought early and often. Get oracles and mobility boots and take full control of the map and force your opponents to play scared. Removing wards will also force the opponents to group up out of fear of being caught out; leading us into teamfighting.
Aura items are what you need to carry the teamfights. Unlike competitive, where teamfighting is not always a necessary thing, depending on the team comps, Solo Q ALWAYS ENDS IN TEAM FIGHTS. This is where the gold generation provides a huge impact on the game. It is possible for you to have 1-2 full items on the enemy support, and if these items are aura items your team is almost assured to win the teamfights; auras have a much larger impact on teamfights than most people realize. Start with Locket. Locket/ Wota/ Shurelias/ Zekes are all very strong choices for ensuring team fight dominance. This is the most reliable way to itemize to win games, but certainly not the only option. With the increased amount of money full damage builds are certainly viable and can be very powerful.
For Duo Q I tend to favor going somewhat of a middle ground, where I go a bit more lane focused. This is since you can rely on your ADC to carry the late game. Armor yellows / gold quints. Start Dorans shield + pots and go 1/13/16 masteries. This will allow you to completely dominant the lane if left alone, and will generally force the jungler to come to your lane, which relieves pressure everywhere else. It takes practice to learn when to expect ganks and how to play so that you will be able to survive the ganks without having wards set up, but it is very doable. If you ever die to a gank do to lack of wards make sure you blame your ADC for not warding, and assuring him that you bought wards last game and that it his currently his turn.