Bard, the Wandering Caretaker, is one of the most unusual supports in League of Legends. With a 47.22% win rate and an 8.14% pick rate in Solo Queue, he’s definitely tricky to play, but his roaming playstyle makes him akin to a carry in the right hands. Let’s see how you can use him to break open your games!
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Passive: Traveler’s Call
Ancient Chimes: When Bard is in the game, chimes spawn around the map. Bard picks up chimes, gaining a small amount of experience, 24% out of combat bonus movement speed for 7 seconds (stacks up to 5 times) and restoring 12% of maximum mana upon picking them up. Each time Bard gathers 5 chimes, he empowers his Meeps.
Meeps: Bard has a number of spirits called Meeps at his side. His auto attacks consume Meeps, dealing bonus magic splash damage and slowing enemies struck. Bard can simultaneously have 1-9 Meeps (depends on chimes collected). Collecting chimes increases Meeps’ damage and area of effect.
How to use: Since Bard is a huge mana hog, you want to be moving around the map and picking up chimes as much as possible. The bonus movement speed from these lets you leave the bottom lane and roam to other parts of the map while the additional experience makes it easier to keep up in levels with the enemy support. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want to leave your AD carry stranded, so you have to be careful about your roam timings.
The other part of Bard’s passive is more combat-focused. Meeps add a sizeable amount of burst to your trades, and you always want to go for an auto attack when your passive is up. Plus, their slow allows you to connect more Cosmic Bindings [Q].
Q: Cosmic Binding
Bard fires a burst of energy in the target direction, dealing damage to the first enemy hit and slowing them by 60% for a short duration. Once Cosmic Binding strikes an enemy unit, it passes through them, looking for secondary targets. If the second part of your Q hits a wall or another enemy, Cosmic Binding briefly stuns both foes, dealing the same amount of damage to the secondary target.
How to Use: This is your only offensive ability, so you need to be good at landing it. The slow and the damage from a regular Q is decent enough, but you really want to connect those trick shots that hit two targets at once.
In the laning phase, the best way of doing this is to shoot Cosmic Binding through creeps or at enemies close to walls. In teamfights, people tend to clump up a lot, and you should look for double stuns on the most dangerous champions.
Keep in mind that even if you hit a max range Cosmic Binding, the second part of the ability will still go the same distance, opening up some deceptive stun opportunities.
W: Caretaker’s Shrine
Bard creates a shrine at the target location that builds up power over 10 seconds. Only 3 shrines can be active at the same time. The shrines are consumed when champions step on them. If the champion in question was Bard or one of his teammates, they are healed and gain 50% bonus movement speed that decays over 1.5 seconds. The healing amount depends on shrine’s power.
How to use: When things are going south, shrines are your main way of sustaining through the laning phase. Think of them as health kits. Most of the time, you want to put up shrines behind you to give them time to power up and prevent enemy champions from stomping them out. That being said, if you’re pressuring the enemy duo, you can place shrines along the bottom lane to make use of the extra movement speed when an enemy gank comes.
Also, you can cast W directly on top of an ally to give them a small heal and a burst of movement speed. When you’re roaming, always leave a Caretaker’s Shrine next to your laners—even the weakest heal can turn the tide in a skirmish.
E: Magical Journey
Bard conjures a one-way magical corridor that passes through terrain in the target direction for 10 seconds. All champions can click on the corridor to travel at increased speed to its exit.
How to use: Magical Journey is one of the most unique abilities in the game, and its uses are only limited by your creativity. Want to reach your destination faster? Cast E to zoom through large pieces of terrain. Sense an enemy gank coming? Stand next to a wall and escape through the magical corridor when the jungler shows up. Looking for a way to kill the enemy laner? Blindside them by showing up where they don’t expect you.
Remember that both teams can use Magical Journey and enemies can—and will—follow you. Even so, you’ll always be the first one to emerge on the other side of the corridor, making it easy to stun any pursuers with a well-timed Cosmic Binding [Q].
R: Tempered Fate
Bard launches a mass of magical energy to the target location, putting all units and structures in the area into a 2.5-second stasis upon impact. Epic monsters and turrets can also be placed in stasis.
How to Use: Just like Bard’s basic abilities, his ultimate is insanely versatile. Its most common use is catching out enemy champions to kick-start fights. Tempered Fate can be even more impactful during dives since it disables enemy turrets, and you can also cast it to incapacitate a team that’s trying to rush Baron and give your allies enough time to contest the objective.
Finally, Tempered Fate can be a real lifesaver when used on allies because it effectively gives them a free Zhonya’s Hourglass. Be wary, though, because any teammates hit by your ultimate won’t be able to move for 2.5 seconds and messing up the timing will condemn them to certain death.
R > Q > E > W
Cosmic Binding [Q] is Bard’s main source of damage, and you always want to be maxing it first. Follow up with Magical Journey [E] for more roams and cross-map plays. If you’re not finding many opportunities to move around the map, you can replace Magical Journey with Caretaker’s Shrine [W] for the extra sustain in the laning phase. Level up Tempered Fate [R] whenever you can.
Bard Runes and Summoner Spells
Even though the Domination tree and the Electrocute keystone sound like they’d be a decent fin on Bard, the Wandering Caretaker prefers Sorcery and Inspiration runes. Start by getting the Summon Aery keystone and proceed with Manaflow Band to add more mana regen. Celerity is great for roaming and making your presence known in other lanes, but Transcendence can be equally viable if you want to scale better into the late game. Your last Sorcery rune will be Scorch—the extra bit of damage will be invaluable in the laning phase.
For the Inspiration tree, you have more viable choices. Perfect Timing, Biscuit Delivery, and Celestial Body are amazing for surviving a difficult laning phase, but Magical Footwear and Future’s Market let you hit an earlier powerspike. Finally, Cosmic Insight is always good for its increased CDR.
Bard wants to run Flash as one of his summoner spells to increase his playmaking potential. As for your second summoner, most of the time you want to take Ignite to have more kill pressure in the laning phase. If you find yourself facing several assassins or going into an unfavorable matchup, switch Ignite with Exhaust.
1.) Boots of Mobility > Eye of the Watchers > Locket of the Iron Solari > Redemption > Athene’s Unholy Grail > Knight’s Vow
Bard’s build is very flexible, and most of the time, you want to tailor it to the in-game situation. That being said, certain items are way too good on him to pass up. For example, Mobility Boots provide a ton of movement speed that’s great for finding roams and taking advantage of Magical Journey [E]. In a similar fashion, the Spellthief’s Edge line of items adds more bite to your auto attacks, and the Eye of the Watchers is the most cost-efficient upgrade for it.
Then you have to decide between Locket of the Iron Solari and Redemption. Generally, you want to get the former if you’re facing a lot of burst damage and the latter in every other scenario. Whatever you buy, get the other item next. Athene’s Unholy Grail is strong for its mix of AP, CDR, and crazy mana regen, and you can make use of its unique passive by conjuring Caretaker’s Shrines [W]. Round out your build with Knight’s Vow to protect your carries.
Even though we’ve listed 6 items in our build, we advise you to leave one slot open for Control Wards. Securing vision control in key areas will make it much easier to find the right openings and fulfill Bard’s playmaking duties. And ultimately, that’s worth more than any sixth item.
As we’ve mentioned before, you want to be flexible with your Bard build, and that means being conscious of situational items. Even though Boots of Mobility are great for roaming, Ionian Boots of Lucidity will provide you with cheap CDR that will be more useful in actual fights.
If you can afford it, consider getting Frost Queen’s Claim instead of Eye of the Watchers. Not only will it make it easier to catch out people with Cosmic Bindings [Q] and Tempered Fate [R], but it will allow you to buy Ruby Sightstone—the perfect purchase for spamming your item actives. Also, remember to buy Mikael’s Crucible against heavy crowd control.
Your other options are more… unorthodox. At his core, Bard is a mix between a mage and a utility support, meaning he can take full advantage of items like Iceborn Gauntlet, Nashor’s Tooth, and Liandry’s Torment. We wouldn’t recommend getting these every game, but they are very good for pushing your lead.
When to pick Bard?
Bard is a champion that entirely depends on its player. If you’re a good Bard, you’ll always be able to find a way to break open a game, but if you aren’t feeling confident, you fall off quicker than most traditional supports. That being said, there’re still situations where Bard thrives.
For one, Cosmic Binding [Q] and Tempered Fate [R] are great at catching out immobile champions, so you want to go against supports and carries with no gap closers. In a similar fashion, Bard excels at kiting out bruisers and assassins thanks to his many slows and movements speed boosts. Of course, this means Bard isn’t great at dealing with poke. Also, spell shields present a huge headache for him.
Bard Matchups and Counters
Bard is a strong pick into most melee supports since he can kite them out while dealing decent damage with Meeps. Still, hard engage from the likes of Blitzcrank, Thresh, and Leona is problematic, and poke-heavy supports like Sona, Nami, Lulu, and Zyra can bully you out of the laning phase while staying away from Cosmic Bindings [Q].
But while Bard doesn’t have many great support matchups, he’s much better at countering AD carries. For example, champions like Jhin or Miss Fortune will find it harder to channel their ultimates when Tempered Fate [R] is available. And marksmen without gap closers—particularly if they’re short-ranged—are sitting ducks for your initiations.
Laning Phase and Early Game
Before the laning phase starts, you’ll have the opportunity to pick up two chimes since these spawn in Bard’s vicinity in the early game. Once you enter the bot lane, start looking for ways to play aggressively. Bard is one of the best level 1 supports in the game, and if you connect a Cosmic Binding [Q] or an empowered auto attack, you can easily chunk out the enemy marksman.
At level 2, put a point into Caretaker’s Shrine [W]. You have two options here: either use your W to get a movement speed boost and close the distance to the enemy duo or place a health pack behind your AD carry. Either way, your core playstyle remains the same: auto attack try to weave in Qs through minions.
As soon as level 3 hits, you have an important decision to make. On one hand, ranking up Cosmic Binding gives you more raw power, but unlocking Magical Journey [E] awards you with a free get-out-of-jail card if the jungler comes. Either way, you’ll have to level up your E later.
From then on, it’s roaming time.
Even though Bard is one of the best roaming supports in the game, a lot of it comes down to timing. You never want to leave your AD carry in a 1v2, so the best roaming situations are the following:
- your marksman just recalled;
- you’ve killed the enemy bot lane;
- you’ve recalled yourself, and the enemy team has no idea where you are;
- you’ve pushed in a minion wave and the next one isn’t coming anytime soon;
- the potential gain from a roam far outweighs the cost of your AD carry falling behind in CS/giving up a kill.
When you’re roaming, you want to pick up as many chimes as possible to power up your Meeps and make use of the additional movement speed. The best way of starting fights is to Magical Journey [E] from behind the enemy laner, but don’t overthink it. Simply walking up can be just as effective and doesn’t require as much preparation. From then on, tag your victim with an empowered auto attack and incapacitate them with Cosmic Binding to set up your teammate with a kill.
Another viable strategy is to coordinate with your jungler. Magical Journey is a powerful gap closer, especially when the enemy bot lane is pushing into your turret. Chances are they won’t pay much heed to Bard walking out of vision, but they’ll definitely notice you when you bring your ally on top of them.
As soon as you hit level 6, your kill pressure skyrockets. Sure, your ultimate doesn’t do any damage, but it’s great for catching out carries and setting up great fights. Use it to blindside the opposing duo or alternatively, try to land a Tempered Fate [R] onto the enemy mid laner. Once you destroy a turret, it’s time to transition into the mid game.
In the mid game, Bard is a Jack-Of-All-Trades. He’s reasonably good at peeling and sustaining his carries, and he provides quite a bit of crowd control. Still, his main strength is mobility. Magical Journey [E] lets you seamlessly move around the map, and if the enemy team isn’t aware of this, you can tip the scales in your favor by showing up where they expect you the least.
Try to blindside the enemy splitpsuher, catch out their jungler in the river, or gank a carry that’s trying to farm a huge minion wave. Executing any of these plays will open up opportunities, allowing your allies to take a commanding lead over the enemy team.
At some point, you’ll likely get dragged into teamfights. When that happens, you want to be positioning next to your carries. Peel for them with Cosmic Bindings [Q], Caretaker’s Shrines [W], and empowered auto attacks. Keep in mind that you can split up the fight with Magical Journey or even create a new escape route. Also, try to cast Tempered Fate [R] over their backline. If you manage to connect it, you’ll have 2.5 seconds to cripple the enemy frontline before switching focus to their carries.
The late game is all about fighting objectives. Coincidentally, this is where Bard shines the most. The river has plenty of walls for your Cosmic Bindings [Q] and the Baron (or Dragon) pit is practically made for great Bard ultimates.
If you see the enemy team trying to rush down an objective, put them out of commission with Tempered Fate [R]. The 2.5-second stasis should give your allies plenty of time to get in position. Alternatively, if you’re trying to sneak an objective yourself, you can catch out the enemy jungler with the combination of E, Q, and R. As you can see, you have a lot of tools in your toolkit. The only thing left is finding the right way to use them.
Playing Bard is a challenge. He isn’t mechanically intensive, but the plethora of options he gives to his players makes it hard to choose the right ones. But if you devote time to mastering his kit and learning to play the map, Bard can be one of the most impactful champions in the game.