All power flows down the path of least resistance — gaining momentum and inevitability as it surges. It is a dynamic, living, growing thing, temperamental, and not given well to playing nicely with things like “restrictions”, “obstacles”, or “control.”
Power builds like torrential waters behind a dam. Unfortunately, the dam holding back Syndra’s growing potency is more ramshackle than most. Betrayal makes the first crack – a half-lie from her mentors. It is not to cultivate her powers that she was brought to the monastery, but to curb the monster they feared the young Ionian waif would become. Not love for her, but dry and dusty duty to their precious harmony.
The crack widens; the dam breaks. All shall be drowned beneath dark and merciless waters.
- Dark Sphere: Deals 15% bonus damage to champions.
- Force of Will: Increases slow duration by 2 seconds.
- Scatter the Weak: Spell width increased by 50%.
Force of Will (W) – Syndra leashes an orb, neutral monster or enemy minion with a binding of magical energy. For the next few seconds, she can throw them at a target location, dealing a powerful burst of magic energy to and around the target and slowing any survivors. Grabbing a Dark Sphere will reset its duration.
Scatter the Weak (E) – Syndra unleashes a cone of magical force, shoving away all enemies before her. Dark Spheres will be knocked away farther than anything else, and will stun any enemies they pass through.
Unleashed Power (R) – Syndra draws upon the might of all Dark Spheres in the area, including the three perpetually orbiting her, and send them crashing down upon a target victim. The more Spheres are active, the more damage is dealt. A maximum of six Spheres can be utilized at once, and will all persist for an additional six seconds after Unleashed Power.
Syndra’s immense power comes at a twofold price: First, that her spells’ powerful synergies make for a significant learning curve. Her Q, Dark Sphere, has a delayed casting response similar to Karthus’ Lay Waste: cast it at a location, and magic energy erupts around the area a moment later. Unlike Lay Waste, Dark Sphere is on a four-second cooldown until much later ranks. Force of Will has a similar issue, requiring a two-step catch-and-throw casting process that telegraphs your intentions, allowing it to be trivially juked. Finally, Scatter the Weak severely tests the player’s understanding of how vectors work, as bad positioning and aim treats Dark Spheres like poorly hit cue balls, causing the orbs to scatter in every direction except the one you intended.
Syndra’s second issue is built right into her passive: until she’s maxed an ability, her passive might as well not exist. A relatively short range to Dark Sphere and Scatter the Weak to go along with her casting delays makes her vulnerable to gap-closing assassins and long-range siege casters. Her laning phase is therefore fraught with dangers – while she’s able to clear out a wave with relative ease, she can’t quite do it as safely as her peers.
There is, however, one absolutely clear advantage to playing Syndra. When you use Unleashed Power on a foe, everybody gets to join in on the fun! The same scattering cue ball issue that makes Scatter the Weak somewhat unreliable in a duel is a great benefit in team fights: when used in combination with Unleashed Power’s minimum of three spheres, it grants Syndra one of the best counter-initiations in the game.
Much like other ability power dependent mid-laners, Syndra has an extremely static path, requiring both a high amount of raw Ability Power and cooldown reduction to generate Dark Spheres as quickly as possible, allowing her to maximize Unleashed Power’s damage. Therefore, she wants an early Athene’s Unholy Grail to ensure her survivability in-lane, a Deathfire Grasp to add to her burst potential, and a Rabadon’s Deathcap to maximize her damage. All three are costly items – if she hasn’t won or lost by the time she has them, it’s onto either Zhonya’s Hourglass to prevent herself from getting insta-gibbed, or Void Staff to weaken enemy defenses.
Finally, she might ultimately make a name for herself as a mid-lane anti-jungler. If coordinated well with the team’s jungler, as well as judicious and offensive warding, she’ll be able to exploit Force of Will’s relatively long leash range to snag and deny the enemy’s buffs, even killing them with the same golem or lizard they were so eagerly farming.
- Ahri – The kumiho caster is probably Syndra’s biggest problem as after Ahri gets Spirit Rush, Syndra will find it exceedingly difficult to trade. While there’s still the chance of one-shotting Ahri with a full six-orb Unleashed Power, Spirit Rush makes child’s play out of dodging every other ability in her kit.
- Karthus – Syndra has the least difficult time against immobile farm-heavy carries like Karthus. The AOE range on both Dark Sphere and Force of Will are hard for the lich to avoid, and his lack of escapes makes it easier to tag him with Scatter the Weak’s stun. However, Karthus scales incredibly well into late game, while Syndra’s ratios are comparatively weak, requiring either extremely aggressive harassment or jungler assistance to deny Karthus his lane.
- Morgana – At first glance, it seems as if games against Morgana would degenerate into farming sprees, and ones slightly in favor of Syndra. Dark Sphere and Force of Will used in rapid succession should quickly strip out the caster minion lines, and Dark Sphere’s cooldown lends well to wiping out the rest. However, Black Shield is the game-breaker here. Morgana can outright ignore Syndra’s attempts to slow or stun her, while Syndra has no way outside of basic movement to avoid Dark Binding, nor to get away from Soul Shackle’s secondary burst.
BY FORCE OF WILL
The awkwardness of Syndra’s kit will keep her out of tournaments for the foreseeable future. Much of her success is dependent upon proper placement and utilization of Dark Sphere and Scatter the Weak, and that becomes incredibly difficult to do with any finesse in a pitched and chaotic team fight. Meanwhile, her early laning game is also problematic due to the telegraphed nature of every ability, all of which but Unleashed Power are effectively skill shots.
Her main contribution to a team is, as is with Janna, to act as an emergency reset button on fights – a role she plays incredibly well, especially at max levels of Scatter the Weak. As such, she has optimal synergy with poke compositions that seek to kite and deny hard engagements with melee-heavy enemies, shoving them away when they try to get close and force a fight.
Despite these advantages, it isn’t immediately clear why you’d do the above instead of running Janna in support and somebody like Ahri in the mid-lane caster role. For now, Syndra has no place in the competitive formats.
Though her tournament viability is nonexistent, that shouldn’t discourage the average player from messing around with her in solo queue. Being able to steal and drag the enemy’s Ancient Golem and Elder Lizard halfway across the map might not win you games, but it sure is entertaining.
Please don’t do it to your own jungler.