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Slyvanus excels at early lane clear and ally-sustainability. His ability to remove single targets from positioning, his ability to sustain his team through poke combat, and even his ability to knock up an entire team all add up to a God that can play true Support while still having valuable offensive presense. Slyvanus is all about positioning and quick initiations. When ahead, Slyvanus' whole team has the opportunity to snowball with him.
VERDANT GROWTH: This ability is maxed first. It is Sylvanus' only source of minion clear outside of his auto attacks. Also when rotating, it hits for well into 200+ once lvl 7-8. Verdant growth doesn't always have to be chained with Nature's Grasp, as it stands to set up kills and protect allies all on its own 2/3 of the time. The ability is rarely used for its passive strength: mana sustain. In Conquest, you are throwing Verdant Growth so much that odds are the sprouts won't stay where you want them to.
WISPS: This ability is what Sylvanus is known for: healing his entire team for 250+ each every 10 seconds. Pretty self-explanatory, simply use to heal teammates. Be sure to use Wisps earlier on your ADC or Mid during lane phase, this way they can be aggressive in the beginning.
NATURE'S GRASP: This is a high-skill ability, one of the hardest in the game to consistently hit in fact. That is why Sylvanus has a root ability to combo off of, so he can line up the grab easily on an immobile target. However, the more and more I use this ability, I find that I prefer to attempt the combo in reverse (only once getting good with the timing). Being able to pull a moving target to you, and THEN rooting them, creates a much worse situation for whoever was grabbed. This is maxed last of course, as it deals no damage and only gets increased cooldown with ranking.
WRATH OF TERRA: [*] This ability is why Sylvanus has kept up with the current support meta: it's a large-area knock up. Knock ups are the most effective form of CC, as relics can not be used while in the air. Utilizing blink, Sylvanus becomes an unpredictable and efficient set up, as well as dealing moderately high (300-500ish)tick damage as well. Once a great Sylvanus ult is popped offensively, that's a near guaranteed team fight. Be careful with offensive positioning though since Sylvanus is slow and has no escape. So, your tactical agression turns into you running away and having to pop your ult in order to survive.
Here I am going to go in depth about the different starts listed in the build section, and of course: when to build them. Then I am going explain certain situational counter defense items (meaning those outside of Sovereignty and Heartward, which should be built in almost all situations).
This is my personal favorite start. It allows, after your 2nd-3rd back, for you fly out of spawn back to support your ADC, or even to complete more of your build and run back to Mid, or even to recall and get refill wards up quickly before starting an objective kill. The inherent ability to be everywhere faster is not lost on Sylvanus, as he struggles with immobility as it is, and allowing his true support nature to be in full use on cooldown while he dashes between lanes in less than 10 seconds.
The speed start build is relatively safe to build at all times, as it is meant to spread out support help across the map more efficiently, therefore helping your team whether you're behind, even, or ahead. Be careful of being squishy early on. You are as low defense as many other people in the game now, so be sure to back constantly to buy defense item tiers to keep up past the lane phase into the mid game. Swift Wing will let you back without risk of missing much clear, or many engages as well.
EARLY SUPPORT HEALING:
This is the usual Sylvanus start, and for good reason. It gives him early cooldown so Wisps is up more often, and it gives him team physical defense and passive team HP5 aura. This helps him boost his ADC by providing superior sustain and physical defense compared to the enemy duo. Also, if Sylvanus is helping Mid clear, the defense aura will protect against junglers.
I would suggest building straight into this build if the game is moving rather slowly. Meaning that no, or few, kills are happening on either team. This means, the game is put to a farming phase to gain the item lead, which will then push the kill imbalance forward. With this sustain heavy start, the lane you are helping will have a much higher survivability through poke-wars. This leads to your ADC/Mid not having to back as often, which makes for more minion waves and possible camp invades. Be careful not to abuse your sustain by staying around too long and be sure to back at reasonable intervals in order to keep up with items.
THE ULT MACHINE:
This start is meant for ult aggresion: Cooldown, Extra Mana, High Defense. It makes for safer ulting more often. Sylvanus will be able to rotate into lanes with an ult around a 60s timer, therefore creating more setup kill potential. Short and sweet.
I would recommend this start for when you are behind in the game. Sylvanus has a game-changing ultimate ability and it needs to be up often if you ever want to consistently chip at the gap between the two teams. Though preferably used on cooldown, be sure to keep your positioning and wait for opportunities to strike. Odds are that if you are behind, you're going to have to use your ult defensively. Just try to make sure it's used to save a teammate, not used to save yourself.
This start is meant to progress an early lead into a dominant lead. The extra power and penetration make for a very hard-hitting Verdant Growth along with a devastating Ultimate. Your rotations will become play-makers much more often, but don't let those higher numbers draw you in, you are still a support and should be keeping track of who you need to keep alive, not who you want to kill.
Build this start when you are ahead. ONLY. It will put up your team decently if not far ahead in the mid game, but only when played correctly. Be sure to rotate and be aggressive on enemy camps; these two mindsets will keep you moving and aware. You only build this start when ahead because it has some major drawbacks that may be exploited. First, you are giving up on early physical defense, which means you are giving up on duo lane fights (Supps and ADCs) because you can now be easily poked out by their ADC. So you are now relying on the fact that you hope your ADC is competent and can play from ahead carefully and avoid ganks. The second drawback is that without your physical defense, you are open to aggression from their jungler or their solo while you rotate, and you need to rotate to use this start effectively.
ITEM EXPLANATIONS AND USAGE:
These are going to be a mix of optional defense and offense items and when to build them for maximum potential.
Nemean - Usually built against teams that go double hunter. In this season, jungle has become a very flex option, utilizing a variety of god types to fill the role. This includes some guardians and mages along with ability-based hunters and warriors. Into the late game, Nemean proves useful to deal with dual hunters that try to out DPS the competition. You will now be able to turn their poke against them and engage and bodyblock with better results.
Lotus Crown - Preferably built after at least one of each defensive type is in your build, and with cooldown as well. This provides a power spike to help Sylvanus' Wisps heal more while providing your team extra protections for sustaining pre-fight poke battles, or even that last bit of extra protections in order to escape. Not so good as a 2nd or 3rd buy as the protections are not enough to help Sylvanus, and the pure "Power, no Pen" doesn't help his early mid game offense either.
Bulwark - There is only one conceivable reason why you would need to build Bulwark and that is if you need to be the front-liner for a ***** team. It is purely for self-sustainability, meaning you are tanking much more damage than you should on encounters because your team is slow to follow up. Definitely for supports playing at lower ranks who are playing with others who aren't as comfortable with timing their plays. Believe me, I was there, and this got me through.
Urchin/Spirit Robe - Urchin is good for mid-game stacks with Sylvanus. It's especially helpful if you see your team is starting to take the kill advantage early. It can be built 3rd if you're feeling like being tanky fast, but I would build it 4th, if at all. This way you have already built minor protections earlier, and you have the auras from those items to support the team before building urchin to increase your own survivalbility.
Spirit robe is the quick option to urchin. Generally if you haven't built cooldown yet and want the extra mix protections quickly. Not a bad substitute at all, but has less late game turnout.
Gauntlet of Thebes - A fantastic item in the support meta right now. Utilized as a 5th or 6th item on many guardians, this will provide you with a whopping 400hp and provides extra protections for your entire team. The only set backs are that you give up extra healing from another power item in the late game and that you have to build higher defenses. The support given by that extra item only provides minor protections for your team, which may not be as useful in the late game. I have built this for when the transition to late game is occurring. Picking up Gauntlet as Objectives are becoming the main target gives a slight team advantage in securing and finishing off the team-fight afterwards.
Shield of Regrowth - I honestly don't find much use for this item as of now, it's just an option. I perceive it being an item you pick up then sell later. The speed might help you secure CC on fast junglers who are dominating your Mid and Solo, allowing the gap to close on their lead, or at least keep it contained while your ADC gets online.
Stone of Binding - Stone of Binding has a very niche role: when your team is providing great follow up in small-scale team fights. You will of course sell it later, but for the mid game as a 3rd or 4th item, it may secure more kills. The extra pen added after your Verdant Growth and a successful Nature's Grasp will allow your DPS to shred targets before they themselves have pen built yet.
Winged Blade - Does their team have a lot of slows? Do you want to be able to secure more CC and chase down annoying targets? Buy Winged Blade, that simple. Be careful though, as even though health is provided for you, you still are weaker defensively overall. So don't get chase happy just because you got a slight speed boost.
Gem of Isolation - Used most effectively against teams that have little to know escape abilities. For example: a team with Serqet, Anhur, Bacchus, Nike, and Thoth will be able to peel out and regroup, getting rid of the set up from the bonus 2s slow. However, a team with Ne Zha, Artemis, Cabrakan, Chaac, and Poseidon would be devastated by a Wrath of Terra knock up with a bonus 2s slow.
Tahuti/Spear - These are both great final items on Sylvanus. Tahuti excels at boosting all of Sylvanus' abilities right into the late game. The 125 power plus the 25% power bonus aura are not lost on him. Squishy targets have much more to fear from Sylvanus when he has Tahuti, as his full combo (Verdant Growth -> Nature's Grasp -> Wisps) into Wrath of Terra can easily nearly kill ADCs, Mids, and Junglers. Usually always safe to build and is seen on many a Sylvanus build, but be wary as you are not getting extra health off of say Ascelpius or Gauntlet of Thebes.
Spear provides much of the same bonuses as Tahuti, since it has great offense capability, but lacks defense or sustainability. Spear should be used against tankier teams, such as those running double Guardian or running double Warrior in Jungle and Solo. This way, your engages and blink Wrath's will hit all targets on the enemy team fairly hard.
Positioning, Positioning, Positioning. Sylvanus is easily caught out and surrounded if you are too aggressive or if you are separated from multiple teammates for too long. He cannot function as a frontliner for very long at all. He does not have the consistent area CC offered by Gods such as Bacchus or Cabrakan, so Sylvanus must engage carefully when he knows there are teammates to follow up.
Talking about engages, more is better, in terms of who you're hitting with your ultimate. Though much more preferably squishy targets, any target is valuable as Wrath of Terra sets up with Sylvanus' other abilities. Used effectively, he can lock down a single target for 5s+, along with forcing other targets to separate in disarray.
Blink is a great ally to Sylvanus. It boosts his engages tenfold, allowing him to suddenly catch whole enemy teams off guard when they are fighting an objective. It also makes for better survivability as Sylvanus no longer has to take extended poke as he moves into an offensive position.
In early game play, early rotations are better, but stay in those lanes you are supporting for longer so you can gain farm. Sylvanus also is great for Camp Aggression. His clear outdoes most other guardians with the exceptions being Ymir, Terra, and certain Warrior supports. With this in mind, you will win lvl 1-3 clear battles, so take advantage by taking the buffs in the enemy jungle. Sylvanus' area auto attack is also great for camp clear as well, lessening the time you must spend in enemy territory.
For mid game play, when fights usually surround the Gold Fury, Sylvanus' ultimate is a key initiation on enemy teams while they are focused on the objective. This is one of the few opportunities that Sylvanus has to use Wrath of Terra alone and have it push a team back.
At this point in the game, Sylvanus' Verdant Growth and Wisps are maxed, or near maxed, out. This means his primary CC ability is hitting fairly hard and clears quickly. His Wisps also are still useful as a healing tool when fights begin with heavy poke before seizing opportunities. Before Sylvanus falls off healing and damage wise late game, his mid game is strong for securing jungle camps and dealing moderate extra damage from all his damaging abilities.
As mentioned previously, Sylvanus does fall off late game. His healing doesn't cover heavy burst from enemy DPS and his damage overall isn't as significant anymore, especially if you built more support and were playing a much more even game. However, Sylvanus does exceed with his Wrath of Terra running on a 60s-ish cooldown. So in almost all fights now, he will have his knock up ready for usage.
The late game for Sylvanus all falls on his ultimate ability, so practice often with how to use effective engages. Something to try and work on is wall-blinking. Try to find places you know are hotspots for traffic and find the nearest wall to set up behind. Most high-level players are aware that Sylvanus utilizes blink, so in many cases he looks like Hercules clearly walking forward, which players cue into very quickly the more it happens. So setting up in places where they won't see you until it's too late will have much greater results, as well as making the enemy team wary of you in future engages.
One last simple thing that will help the lower ranked players move up: call out "Attack!" (VAA) before you blink in or engage from the jungle. Not only will this let players know that you are moving in, it also cues them in to be aggressive as well, instead of them twiddling their thumbs. Simply letting your team know when you are setting up can have much better results in the future, since they now are being trained to engage with your call. You'll be able to control your team's encounters, but be sure to not be that guy. We all know that guy.
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