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(This guide is updated for patch 22.214.171.124. Skip a couple paragraphs down for the TLDR version if you aren't up for a long read)
Sona is a relatively simple to learn support champion. 3 of her spells are considered point blank aoe, so there is no targeting involved. Her ultimate is a simple line-based skillshot. You'll spend most of your time in fights hanging right behind your melee champions, using abilities liberally and only pausing to make use of your passive on the right people at the right times.
This guide will focus on her support capabilities. She can be build as an AP 'carry' of sorts, but due to having only 2 nukes (1 of which is her ultimate), she'll never be able to match a real AP champion's power in that field. Her heal scales rather poorly with AP too. Additionally, she is very frail when build as a nuker, yet to get the most out of her you will need to be reasonably close to the fight. Not a good mix.
Why play Sona?
Sona is unique among support champions in that she does everything. She can burst (extremely well), she can heal, she can CC the enemy team, and she can buff her whole team with AD, AP, armor, MR, and movement speed. She rivals Janna in speed thanks to one of her skills, and can weave and bob in and out of teamfights to drag her allies out of danger or to help them chase down runners.
You should play Sona if:
- You like having a powerful early game presence to scare people with in the laning and ganking phase
- You enjoy being the Swiss army knife of support champions
- You like the concept of being able to juggle your spells and autoattacks to get the most from both
- You get a kick out of infuriating the enemy team by being difficult to chase down, and lending this benefit to your allies
- You enjoy getting lots and lots and lots of assists
You should not play Sona if:
- You do not like being support (Sona, while capable of being built as a nuker, won't match up against a real one)
- You do not like 'non interactive' spells (3 of her 4 abilities are fire and forget, and don't require more input than a button press)
- You do not like 'spammy' champions
- You have an obsession with getting lots of killing blows
- You prefer to choose whom recieves your spell effects rather than the game doing it for you.
- You do not like champions that suffer from mana problems
Skills: R>W>Q>E. Swap priority of W and Q if you can afford to be more aggressive during laning. Add 1 rank of E at lvl 4.
Runes: Mpen red, MP5/level yellow and blue, HP quints
Starting items: Meki Pendant + 2 pots, or Doran's Ring
Core Item build: Chalice of Harmony, Mercury's Treads/Ionian Boots of Lucidity, Shurelya's Reverie, wards, wards, and more wards.
Luxury items (pick according to need): Frozen Heart, Morello's Evil Tome, Rabadon's Deathcap, Zhonya's Hourglass, Banshee's Veil, Will of the Ancients, Abyssal Scepter
Situational: Mejai's Soulstealer, Aegis of the Legion
Power Cord (Passive): After casting 3 spells, Sona's next attack deals bonus magic damage. Additionally, Sona's Auras persist for 2 seconds after deactivating and set off a 2 second global cooldown.
For those who don't understand the wording, the '2 second global cooldown' means that whenever you cast one of your aura spells, all of your other spells go on cooldown for 2 seconds, with the exception of your ultimate. This 2 second cooldown can be reduced by cooldown reduction, so with enough CDR you can rapidly flick between your 3 spells as needed. Due to the auras fading too quickly after changing it, you'll only be able to maintain two auras nearly constantly, so you want to be picking the best two to fit the situation rather than just bashing away at all 3 spells (unless you really need one of the active abilities).
The power chord proc itself does a lot of damage. It deals 14 + 9x your champion level, and depending on which aura you have active, it will have an additional effect. I'll cover each proc effect under the spell that causes each to trigger. Early game you will use your power chord to harrass with, and it will do hefty damage to your lane opponents. In teamfights or gank situations, you will be using it to instead debuff opponents to try and turn the fight in your favor.
Be warned that your proc is consumed on your next autoattack, whether it's a minion, tower or champion (and it does nothing to towers). Try not to accidentally waste it on something you don't mean to, else you'll need 3 more casts to get a fresh one.
Hymn of Valor (Q):
Persistent Aura: Sona plays the Hymn of Valor, increasing nearby allied champions Damage and Ability Power by 6/8/10/12/14.
Activation: Sona fires bolts of sound, dealing 50/100/150/200/250 (+0.7 per ability power) magic damage to the nearest two enemies (prioritizes champions).
Your bread and butter skill during laning. Take some time to get used to the range, as it's a lot longer than you would think. No aiming is involved, so this is an excellent harrassment tool. The aura isn't super amazing, but it's still useful to have in clashes. Note that the Hymn targets the nearest possible enemies, unless there are champions in range (then it will target the nearest champions). The 'lock on' for champions is a bit shorter than the actual range of the spell, so keep that in mind.
This is also your primary farming ability. If you position yourself correctly, you can lasthit minions with it at the same time as harrassing the enemy.
Power Chord - Stacatto: This makes your Power Chord proc deal double it's usual damage. This means that you can deal very significant burst damage to somebody in the early game stage. The threat of being hit with this plus the damage from your Q should be enough to zone someone out. If they don't, you can make them learn to respect what you're capable of.
Aria of Perseverence (W):
Persistent Aura: Sona plays the Aria of Perseverance, increasing nearby allied champions Armor and Magic Resist by 8/11/14/17/20.
Activation: Sona sends out healing melodies, healing Sona and the most wounded nearby allied champion by 35/70/105/140/175 (+0.35 per ability power).
The active portion of this skill is similar to Taric's heal, though the range is quite large. It doesn't heal for much, especially at low ranks, so don't rely on it to keep your team alive during a big fight. But since the cooldown is low, you can use it to top people off during pushes. The added defence auras are handy, and mesh nicely with the rest of your kit. Combining this aura with an Aegis (whether from you or a tank) is effectively giving your whole team a free chain mail and 2/3rds of a negatron cloak. It -does- make a difference, even though it may not feel like it.
Power Chord - Diminuendo: This debuffs the target of your attack, making them deal 20% less damage for 3 seconds. It doesn't sound like much, but it can make a huge difference if you use it on the right person at the right time. Catching the enemy AP carry with it before they can blow all their spells on your team will cut a nice chunk of their burst away. Using it on the enemy AD carry, or a tanky DPS trying to eat your squishies, will help keep their victims alive that bit longer to try and get rid of them. This is your go-to use for your passive during teamfights.
Song of Celerity (E):
Persistent Aura: Sona plays the Song of Celerity, granting nearby allied champions 8/10/12/14/16 bonus Movement Speed.
Activation: Sona energizes nearby allies, granting them 6/8/10/12/14% Movement Speed for 1.5 seconds.
This can be considered a team-wide Ghost. Once you have sufficient CDR you can have the % movespeed buff active frequently, and it makes chasing and escaping very easy to do. Note that the active portion works on friendly minions too, so you can string the minions along with your team to help push their tower a bit faster. You can turn this on repeatedly when moving around the map to help you/your team get around faster, and should definately do so unless your mana is running dry.
Power Chord - Tempo: Debuffs your target, slowing their movement speed down by 25% for 2 seconds. It's not a huge snare, nor does it last very long, but combining it with the E you just activated does actually produce good results. You want to save this for helping someone (or yourself) escape from enemies, or to trip up those trying to run from your team. You can also use it to kite, but it doesn't slow enough or for long enough to rely on it to keep someone off your back for very long. At max CDR you can refresh this debuff every 3-4 seconds or so, meaning it's extremely hard to escape (or chase) a Sona effectively.
Sona plays her ultimate chord, forcing enemy champions in a line in front of her to dance, taking 150/250/350 (+0.8 per ability power) magic damage over 1.5 seconds.
Your ultimate, and only targeted spell. It's a fairly wide line-based skillshot with a decent range. The 'dance' is actually a stun, though during the stun they will perform their /dance for you. Needless to say, this spell is great at all stages of the game. The cooldown is moderately long at rank 1, but by the time it's rank 3 and you have your cooldown reduction capped off, it'll be available for use every 60 seconds.
It's difficult to miss this spell, but it can be dodged if you're trying to hit someone at the max distance since the spell doesn't travel all that fast. Keep that in mind when using it on runners.
Skill order, masteries, runes, summoner spells
Offensive skill build: Q - W - Q - W - Q/W - R - Q - E then R>Q>W>E
Defensive skill build: Q - W - W - E - W - R - W then R>W>Q>E
If in the offensive skill build you feel you want to have your E for the little movement boost and acess to the snare ability from your passive, then go ahead and take it at level 4 instead of delaying it 'till level 8. Be absolutely sure you won't regret missing the extra healing from a 2nd rank of W in the lane, because rank 1 W is extremely inefficient and won't do much beyond sucking all your mana away as you try in vain to get some sort of sustain going.
Save the defensive build for particularly hard lanes, or if you're called on to babysit someone. Either you could be finding you're being pressured very early and can't survive, you have a weak partner (like a Veigar) and your opponents are exploiting that to harrass you more than you can do back to them, or you're in one of 'those' lanes. You know. Sion+Taric, or other lovely lane combos that tend to result in kills. Or your team wants you to babysit a Jax or something. These are all good times when you'll definately want the extra healing power.
Given the way the current meta is going, it's more common to use the defensive skill build instead of the offensive one. W isn't mana efficient until you have a couple of points in it, but it does the job you need it to do. If the opportunity presents itself though, by all means take a more aggressive stance with your skill order.
Masteries should be a generic 9/0/21 build. You absolutely need the mana regen talents from utility at the very least, and the spell pen in offence is an obvious winner. The defence tree is a possibility if you want to buffer your squishiness a little (strength of spirit is nice to help you lane, but it's not as strong as it used to be), but you absolutely need to have the mana regen to support your early game.
Optional setup: 0/9/21. If you anticipate a very hard lane, this offers you more armor and MR, plus acess to strength of spirit for regen. You lose out a bit on offensive capabilities, but that's less important than not being murdered during laning.
Runes: I suggest spell pen reds, mp5/level or flat hp yellows, CDR or mp5/level blues, and flat hp quints. Sona is very fragile, and very mana hungry. CDR is one of her most important stats. Mix and match runes to personal preference. Given how mana intensive Sona can be, I do recommend starting out with both yellow and blue mp5/level runes. If you find that you're comfortable with your mana useage and have plenty to spare, then look to replacing them with something else.
Look into using gold/10 quints if you're comfortable with Sona's natural frailty, as you don't do a lot of farming as a support champion (or you shouldn't be, anyway). They'll pay for a few wards over the course of the game, leaving you more money for other things.
Recommended: Flash, Clairvoyance
Situational: Exhaust, Ignite, Clarity, Ghost, Teleport
Flash is too important to pass up on Sona. It allows you to escape, and more importantly, it allows you to land a good ultimate. Landing a good ultimate can be game changing, especially if others on your team also have aoe disables. Chaining Crescendo off a Malphite or Amumu's initiation can be absolutely devastating to the enemy team, and you need to get into position to fire it before the disabled opponents can move again.
Your second summoner spell should probably be Clairvoyance. Every team should have one. If you don't use it much, get into practise at doing so. It allows you to scout for the enemy team in perfect safety, and it has a short cooldown. It is useful at all stages of the game, and can be game winning late game if you spot them hiding somewhere and set up an ambush of your own rather than accidentally stumble in. If you have Clairvoyance spoken for, then you may want to try Teleport instead. This lets you be anywhere you need to be, whenever you need to be there. Given Sona needs to be with allies to be effective, this can only be a good thing.
For optional choices, Exhaust and Ignite can be useful if you want to play aggressively. Ignite can add a significant damage boost to your already cruel early game burst, and exhaust is great for shutting down carries or preventing escapes. If nobody else on your team is carrying either of these spells, consider taking one. Clarity is good if you have problems with managing your mana pool, or want to skimp on the mana regen, but you shouldn't need it unless you're working without mana regen runes for some reason. Reliance on Clarity is a bad habit to get into, since it's only really going to be useful at the very early stages anyway. We will fix our mana issues quickly. Teleport is useful for reasons obvious. Being able to jump across the map to help out is never a bad thing. Ghost is your final option. It's been nerfed a lot and isn't as great as it once was. Plus you have your E for movement speed already, so you don't really need it. Still, if you want extra safety for yourself and feel it outweighs the benefits offered by every other option I've suggested, go ahead and grab it. You'll be able to outrun ulting ghosting Singeds and Yis with it combined with the rest of your abilities.
Starting items: Meki Pendant + 2 pots, Faerie Charm + a mix of health/mana pots and wards, or Doran's Ring
Core Item build: Chalice of Harmony, Mercury's Treads/Ionian Boots of Lucidity, Shurelya's Reverie, wards, wards, and more wards
Luxury items (pick according to need): Frozen Heart, Morello's Evil Tome, Rabadon's Deathcap, Zhonya's Hourglass, Banshee's Veil, Will of the Ancients, Abyssal Scepter
Situational: Mejai's Soulstealer, Aegis of the Legion
Meki pendant is my recommended first item, along with 2 health potions, or a ward if you intend to establish jungle control early on. If you're doing that though, I suggest starting with a single Faerie Charm (which you'll need later to make Shurelya's anyway), as it gives you plenty of leftover gold for potions to lane with. If you want a more dominant early game, go for a Doran's Ring instead.
Chalice of Harmony is your first, and most needed item (Try it before parrotting the general view that it's the worst item in the game). With it, you can stave off the crippling mana costs Sona faces and stay in the field that much longer. The added magic resist is a bonus, but we're after this soley for the mana. By itself, it's not going to completely fix your mana woes, but the next item we get will for the rest of the game. An alternative, if you don't like Chalice or don't feel you need it, is to get a Catalyst that you may or may not get round into turning into a Banshee's Veil later. It won't do much for your mana later on, but it's excellent for keeping you in the lane. Note that if you skip the Chalice, you are going to need the blue buff to stay useful for longer pushes or teamfights. Your mana will deplete alarmingly quick once your CDR is caught up and your regen won't be able to handle constant spam for very long.
Your first major item (after buying your boots of course) will be a Shurelya's Reverie. You may want to upgrade your boots before completing this, but at least get the Philosopher's Stone portion before doing so. Reverie is an amazing item, giving you a lot of mp/5 (which combined with the Chalice and your runes and masteries, will mean it's virtually impossible to run OOM for the rest of the game). Not only that, but you get a decent chunk of health, CDR, and an active that synergises perfectly with your E. Trigger both at the same time and your whole team gets a massive speed boost, allowing them to chase down or escape from just about anybody for a short time
Next up will be upgrading your boots. Mercury's Treads are going to be used in 95% of your matches, because the longer you're being CC'd by the other team, the less supporting you can do and the more likely you are to get killed. If there's not much CC around, or you feel confident that you can avoid most of it, go for the Ionian boots instead. That and Shurelya's will put you at 39% cooldown reduction after counting your masteries, or cap you if you're using CDR runes of any sort. Don't bother with Sorceror's Shoes, as they don't make enough difference to be worth it with this build.
After that, the core item build is done. Small core huh? The reason is because you as a support champion are expected to ward the map for your team. You don't really need more items than this to perform your job at 100% efficiency, so after this point take warding more seriously than merely dropping one in the river by your lane. Never leave base without a few wards. Buy an Oracles to hunt enemy wards if you're not dying too much, or if you lack map control.
Moving onto luxuries, if the game is still going and you can fit in items between ward purchases, you have a fairly wide list to choose from. If you're using merc treads (and thus aren't cooldown capped), pick from a Frozen Heart or Morello's Evil Tome. Pick the former if enemy physical DPS keep going for you, or if you need to debuff their carries. Pick Morello's if it's not a problem. You don't need the mana regen offered at this point (you have lots already), but the AP and CDR will help you out nicely. If enemy casters are giving you a problem, get a Banshee's Veil or Abyssal Scepter, picking the scepter if you want to assist your casters, or the Banshee's if you need the health. Deathcap is a great, if expensive boost to your AP. It'll give your Q and R a nice little boost and make your healing a bit stronger. Hourglass offers a lot of AP, some armor to help with enemy carries, and has an active to help keep you safe. Finally, Will of the Ancients is a great way to boost a team primarily made of casters.
It is a big list to pick from, but you need to pick and choose to fit the game. I could list a 'standard' build, but it wouldn't be effective in every game. Therefore, I encourage you to think about what you might need once you reach late game and start building your luxuries. Your primary goal is to not get killed, so put that before stacking AP. You're not there to deal massive damage, leave that to the carries.
Final note on the item build: If you feel like you are surviving and supporting effectively in fights, you may consider a Mejai's Soulstealer at some point. I leave it up to your discretion as to when to get it, but ask yourself how useful the AP from the Soulstealer will be compared to the item you're delaying it for. You may find it's not really worth it after all, since all Mejai's does is give AP until 20 stacks. Don't ever base your item build around having a 20 stack Soulstealer for the 15% CDR, as you'll rarely get it there or keep it there for long if you do. Picking up assists is trivial though, so you'll definately get your money's worth in raw AP.
The other optional item is an Aegis of the Legion. It has fantastic synergy with your W aura. One should be gotten on the team. But your tank will probably be getting it. If he's not (ask him), then pick it up after completing your Reverie. It'll give you a lot of extra tankiness, and you'll make your whole team tankier in the process. It is the most cost-effective item in the entire game. Don't skimp on it just because you wanted that Deathcap. Do however, appreciate that you will probably end up getting it very late into the game, when it's effectiveness is somewhat diminished. This is why you would ideally want someone else to get it.
Early game (lvl 1-7): While in base, cast your Q two times to charge up Power Chord for free (this allows you to use Q once to farm if you're unable to attempt a first blood, without being forced to waste the proc on a minion) then head to your lane. Sona has a decent attack range, abuse this against your enemies. If they are in autoattack range, your Q will hit them as well. This allows you to pull out some good burst damage by simply walking in range, hitting Q and then autoattacking immediately afterward. Power Chord Staccatto procs only make this tactic even better, allowing you to do pretty rediculous amounts of damage in a very short space of time. Be gentle on your useage of Q however, since spamming it will run you out of mana very, very quickly, and at rank 1 it only does 50 damage. Instead, rely more on your autoattacks from levels 1-3, they'll do enough damage to make the enemy back away. Once you're lvl 3, your Q does enough damage to justify the cost, so turn on the pressure.
Intimidate your opponents with your harrass, and try to get them to back away to their tower. If you can sucessfully zone your opponents out of experience range, this gives your lane a huge advantage and forces the enemy to hug their tower for fear of having their faces melted by your mighty music. Don't focus on lasthitting minions. Let your partner do that (and tell them to lasthit if they're spending time messing around in the brush instead - don't let your zoning efforts go to waste). They will benefit far more from the gold than you can. Take the lasthits if he refuses or if he's autoattacking the lane, because the gold's going to waste otherwise.
Should you be forced to solo, then the same tactics apply. Just be wary of the counter harrass, especially if you're against someone like Vlad, Ezreal or Morgana, as they can make you pay if you slip up. In a 1v2 situation, you will need to try and hug your tower and farm from safety, while blasting your opponents when they sneak through to harrass you. You won't be able to hold your lane for long against a good pushing combo though, so be ready to call for help when your enemies reach lvl 6.
Try not to be forced to spam W to heal with, since it's inefficient at low ranks, healing a paltry 35hp to begin with. Do use it, but try to avoid running your mana pool dry. If you're out of mana, you can't harrass, and your Q is far better at damaging than your W is at healing. If you are ever in a situation where you must spam W in order to stay in the lane, you will lose control of the lane. Do not let this happen. (Exception: You are using the defensive build, in which case your W should be healing enough to sustain you in the lane by the time you're lvl 5)
When you hit level 6, you can contribute better to ganks with a well placed ult. It may be a 'skillshot', but Crescendo is practically impossible to miss with. Use it defensively as well as offensively - if you're being tower dived, hit them with your ult while the tower beats them down for you!
The most important thing to be wary of, is your mana usage. Make it clear in no uncertain terms, that your partner cannot be reckless with their harrassment just because you can heal them. If you're forced to spend time healing them, your mana pool will be drained trying to do so, and your lane control will slip as you'll no longer have mana to harrass with. With that in mind, be careful not to get reckless yourself for the same reasons.
Mid game (lvl 8-13): You should be roaming around the map either with your team, or with whoever is ganking. Your speed buff will help them do their job efficiently, and you can still put out some good burst damage to help them clean up. Use your ult whenever it's available to ensure kills. Take note of who on the enemy team is singling you out, so you know who to keep your distance from. Doing so should be easy with your speed. Start warding the enemy jungle and the river spots more heavily at this point, or your own jungle if you're being beaten back. If there's a lane free and nobody on your team is farming it, go farm it yourself. You've been nice and letting your lane partner take most of the farm all game, so it's only fair that you get a chance to earn a bit of gold for all the wards you need to be placing.
Make sure that you use the right Power Chord for the right situation. Stacatto won't really be all that helpful once you're out of the lane, so be ready and willing to adapt on the fly and swap auras to get the right passive proc to fit the situation.
Late game (lvl 14-18): You're too fragile at this point to be actively leading the charge in teamfights, so you need to hang back behind the rest of your team (Well okay, if you have your core items here you're not exactly 'fragile', but you won't survive if they all focus you at once because you were out of position). Don't use your ult to initiate with, instead wait for the enemies to commit so you can catch as many as possible in one go when they're exposed and taking damage. Alternativey, cast it a second or two after your aoe initiator's gone in and used theirs to get maximum CC length on the enemy team.
While you can, with maxed CDR, cast a new spell whenever the cooldown ends, do not do so. Select the 2 most appropriate for the fight, and alternate. Adjust the choices as necessary. In a standstill fight, you'll be rotating Q and W for the nuking and healing, as well as the combat auras. In a chase or escape, you'll be using all 3 spells as necessary, but primarily you'll want to keep E active for the additional speed. Since you'll not have to pay attention to aiming anything except your ultimate, you can pay more attention to the flow of the fight. Your ability to read the situation and respond accordingly with your spells will determine how effective you are. Brainlessly mashing the keyboard may lead to defeat.
Keep in mind Power Chord! Just because it's not doing much damage by now doesn't mean the procs are useless. Even though you may be mostly using Diminuendo, with max CDR and careful positioning you'll be able to keep the debuff active on a target about 75% of the time. The 20% damage drop may not be actually visible, but it's there and it is making a big difference.
This is a repost and small tweak to my old guide, which was mostly full of outdated comments regarding her builds. There was some suggestions about remaking the guide thread in order to 'purge' the now irrelevant information, and so here we are.
Comments/constructive criticisms appreciated!
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