I've been waiting for this moment.
Because I'm nostalgic and I suffer from the very human condition of loving storytelling, I'm going to start off this post by saying a bit about my experience playing Sona over the years. If you'd like to skip to the meat of the post, scroll down to the part that says 'Opinion' in bold. If you decide to stick around and see what I have to say and why this is so important to me- thank you. I appreciate it.
Sona was my first champion.
She wasn't the first champion I played, but she was the first champion I really got to know. A friend of mine had been having a blast playing her, and I thought she looked interesting. The next time she was free, I gave her a try, and I was hooked. This was how I ended up falling into Support as my first real 'role' while I was learning the game. I played Sona so much that it got to a point where she was my fallback champion. I'd try other characters, but if I really wanted to ensure that I was bringing my A-game to lane, I would pick Sona. I learned a lot while playing her, through trial and error (I used to think, back in Season 2, that rushing RoA on her was the only way to play her... how embarrassing), and even though I would take time to learn new champions, I could always come back to Sona. She was my most comfortable, well-worn pair of jeans.
When I started playing her, there were two things that interested me the most: turning teamfights with her stun, and her power chords. It's pretty self-explanatory why the stun feels so good (though I'll go into it a bit more in the Opinion section), but her power chords were the tiny nuance that I spent a while trying to master. I learned what each different chord did and cycled through them in-lane, teamfights, and while chasing, trying to proc the appropriate chord for the effect I wanted. It was a fun metagame while it lasted, but Sona's novelty finally began to wear off for me towards the middle-to-end of Season 3. When Thresh was released, I gravitated towards using him more and more, and fewer and fewer of my games involved Sona- even though she's still (and will probably always be) one of my favorite characters.
At Worlds we started seeing the rise of support Annie. I had no real opinion of this trend at first, but the more I saw her in my own matches, the more that I realized how Annie delivered almost everything I wanted from Sona, and did it better. Annie has ridiculous poke with her auto attack range; she can make big plays pre-6 thanks to her passive stun; and she still has enormous teamfight presence with Tibbers. Annie tanks better than Sona, and damages better than Sona- and she can get a heal and speed boost from active items.
This realization was very saddening for me, and though I played several successful support Annie games, I still missed Sona. Sona is more than just a skillset to me; she's an amazing character, a partner that I learned the game with. Nothing would make me happier than to be able to come back to her.
And now that the sappy stuff is out of the way, I'll get down to how I feel about Sona's place in gameplay.
Given the number of nerfs I've had to cry quiet tears of sorrow over as a Sona main, this conversation obviously makes me a little nervous. That said, maybe this could lead to a slight improvement to Sona's current state in the League.
I'll preface this by saying that Sona is one of my favourite champions and my main support champion. She is my most-played champion in ranked and I've probably played about 500 SR games with her. What has historically drawn me to Sona is her strong early game poke and utility, the play-making possibilities with her ultimate, and the challenge of timing and positioning requires in her kit. It might seem like she is a simple champion to play because she lacks skill shots, but timing her skills to switch auras and to prevent excessive pushing/cs-stealing is actually something I find to be a fun mini-game in lane and quite rewarding when done well. I also think Sona, power-wise, is in a pretty good place.
-Landing crescendos is extremely satisfying and rewarding. Sona's ultimate feels fantastic when used well (a combination of both accuracy and timing).
-Strong poke with Q damage/passive
-Powerful, if under-appreciated, defensive aura and hidden skill-floor for aura management
-Strong utility with her damage reduction and slow
-Horrible base defensive stats
-Fewer good lane match ups in the current meta (the Annie nerfs did help this problem a little bit)
-Lacks the hard cc outside of her ult that popular supports such as Leona, Thresh, and Nami bring.
-Increased support gold and itemization devalued her good early game damage stats relative to other support options
What could be improved?
-Sona's E does not feel very satisfying. The skill does provide a strong speed buff to the team (yay Sona taxi), and mobility is very strong in the current meta, but too often in the late game, especially with some mana regen, it just feels like a skill you spam when it's off cd to move your team around. When this is compared to the huge speed boost provided by the Talisman or the large speed boost/shield provided by Karma, Sona's E just feels like a button you press because it's off cd rather than something that makes a big impact on the game. When in a trade you may use the E to pursue or retreat, or to get a slowing power chord, but it feels less interesting than Janna's Zephyr or Karma's E which I think are more interesting uses of similar utility. The new scaling on the speed boost is nice, and again, I recognize the power this mobility boost provides, but it does not feel particularly dynamic as a Sona player. Late-game, with some cdr and mana regen, it sometimes feels as though I am Janna only I have to press a button every few seconds to get the same effect as her (old, boring but strong) passive. What is satisfying about Sona's E is the slow her power chord gives. I would like to see the E reworked to make the active part of the skill more interesting. One option might be to improve her rather weak and expensive heal and change the aura in her W to be a slight increase in health regeneration. The defensive stats could be added to a stronger and more interesting E.
-Sona's terrible defensive stats made sense when poke and harass supports were dominant. Stronger base defensive stats, combined with her auras, made her surprisingly tanky. The trade-off for Sona's early damage and utility was her squishiness if you managed to get on top of her. Now many of the popular supports have multiple tools with which to get on top of Sona and it does not feel as though her upside is as meaningful a reward for this risk. I am not arguing Sona is underpowered; I think she is actually in a reasonable spot and the improved Spell Thief item path has helped, but she is perhaps slightly on the weak side of balanced if for no other reason than bottom lane, when 2v2, emphasizes early game support play making much more than in the past which is an area in which Sona struggles pre-6 due to her lack of hard cc and the prevalence of hard-cc+burst.
My thoughts on Sona, personally she is lacking compared to some other supports just for one sole reason. She is a Jack of all trades. She has a buff for everything and a heal to add on that, this makes her well rounded but it doesn't make her strong. She doesn't excel in anything and just does it well.
Her heals isn't as strong as Soraka's and it has more focus then Alistar's while lacking any damage like Nami's. Her speed boost is good but not constant like Janna's and her wave clear is non existent. Her peck is okay, but many champions does it better. Her low Ap ratio's and with the recent nerf to Lich bane it is hard to give her some bite. You can still play her mid (which I do rarely now) and she is still very strong in Aram but her overall damage...
Her aura's though, are a bonus. It has little effect late game and I feel like they fall off. I will max my Q first if we are doing well bot for more damage or my heal if my carry is being pecked to death for more armor when needed. I never up my e past one because the speed it gives off isn't much and maxing it first is useless.
Her ult though is her saving grace. It's aoe stun is easy to pull off and can change the tides of any battle. But with it's high cooldown, it is a one move wonder compared to others. Even with max cd which all Sona's should strive for it is long.
I think, having her auras be a base buff and not a % buff made it stronger for the early game but late game next to useless. I love playing her but I always pick better supports for her role. She feels like a niche champ now with how the meta is shifted. It is weird, I have mixed emotions on this.
What do you love about playing Sona?
The ability to be a healer or poker depending on the situation. Her ultimate is really good, and I love how she has auras. She also has a really good passive, I love the choices you have to make when using her passive.
I also like her itemization. Yes there's the standard Sightstone, Lich Bane, Chalice/Tear build, but I've found that AD Sona is just as fun (Manamune, Triforce, IE, etc.), as well as pure AP Sona (Deathcap, Lich Bane, Athene's, etc.) or even tank Sona (Warmogs, Randuin's/Frozen Heart, Spirit Visage, etc.).
What do you not like about playing Sona?
She's incredibly squishy, I don't think she should be made out of wet tissue paper. One grab by Thresh/Blitz or a stun by Leona/Annie and she's dead, no ifs ands or buts. Her Q's range is too short and highly inconsistent; sometimes it goes to two minions instead of an enemy champion even though they were clearly in range. She runs out of mana TOO quickly even with mana items, I have to spam abilities to get my passive up after all.
I also wish her Q did a tad more damage (something like +25 or +50 base damage at all ranks). Sona has always been a support that's supposed to do a lot of damage early, but right now I feel that she can't chunk enemies early on (levels 1, 2, and 3 mainly) as well as she used to.
What decisions are most interesting to you when you play Sona?
Do I use my W or E on my passive to save an ally or my Q on my passive to poke the enemy extra hard? Do I engage with ult or wait for them to engage so I can counter them with my ult?
What moments of a Sona game make you feel like youíve made a play for your team?
When I counter an enemy engage hard with my ultimate. When I save the hell out of a teammate with spammed heals and speed boosts.
Overall I LOVE Sona, but she feels too weak right now. She needs to have either her damage buffed (and her Q's range made consistent) or be slightly tankier than she is currently. Considering I'm going for 512 Sona ranked games right now, I've been playing her a LOT recently and many of her problems are glaring to me, and her strengths aren't enough to cover her weaknesses.
I like Sona's auras because I like knowing that I am empowering my allies at all times, even if just by remaining by their side. The Power Chord interactions encourage thoughtfulness about which aura to have up while the actives give moment-to-moment power.
My only concern is that the auras aren't powerful ENOUGH. Even some aura items give stronger passive auras than Sona's abilities, and I simply don't feel an ability should feel weaker than an item.
If you want to create a more impactful "feel" for Sona without discussing buffs, maybe a visual indicator of the aura's presence. Like, emanating waves of appropriately-colored music emanating outward from Sona for as long as the aur ais active.
Sona is the first champion I fell in love with, I played with her on my friend's account and the simplicity of her kit allowed me to get into league and enjoy games with my friends who were much more experienced than me. When I created my account, she was the first champion I bought and I did it with RP.
Overall, Sona makes a fantastic entry level support - but that isn't to say she doesn't have a skill curve or rewarding play patterns, almost two years later I still love playing her.
The only thing I think Sona's needs is the same technology used for the new version of summoner Heal for her Aria of Perseverence (W) - if no one is targeted, it will heal either the nearest or lowest health champ but if she hovers over someone it targets them. This would give her more ability to save someone who's about to be bursted but is currently at high health (giving them the extra armor/MR from her Aura).
Unlike most champions who hand out stats to their teammates, Sona is not an "invisible power" champion. Due to her graphics, allies can easily see the colored chords shooting from her to them and enemy's can see the debuff icon. Overall, I think the general problem of "invisible power" is being fixed, with changes like Kog's armor shred now having an indicator so it is appreciated.
I like that Sona's kit overall isn't as mentally taxing regarding her basic abilities, not every champion has to be as skill intensive as Katarina. As I said above, she makes for a great entry level support (like Ryze for casters or Ashe for ADC's). The way her abilities are built frees up mental space to position well for defense (which she needs due to her squishiness, which I think is a legitimate wekaness that she needs) and for a perfect ult. It allows her to focus on thinking about her AA -> QWE (passive reset) -> AA pattern and also which power chord she needs to have up and when.
Finally, one reason Sona may be less popular is the fact that her ult has a small but important travel time (this is especially true for higher levels of play) and that her recent replacement, Annie's ult is instantaneous. Considering this is one of Sona's defining features (besides being a support with poke, which Annie arguably does better as well), having Annie be such a popular pick lately has disrupted her identity as having the most teamfight oriented ults of the supports. I'm not sure of an answer for this, but I do think it's led to this discussion.
Thanks for asking for the community's input Riot, we appreciate it!
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