“Build a Sightstone.”
Unless you play with everyone muted, you’ve probably heard a teammate say this to a support before. It’s understandable why someone wouldn’t want to build it. The only stat the item gives is Health. Statistically, 1 point of Bonus Health has a gold value of 2.667 gold. Since Sightstone costs 800 gold, this means that it is 50% gold efficient, not counting the wards. You can upgrade Sightstone to Eye of the Watchers (83.81% GE), Eye of the Equinox (95.65% GE), Eye of the Oasis (84.21% GE), or Ruby Sightstone (83.33% GE, not counting the item active CDR). Although gold efficiency isn’t the only factor that makes an item good the fact remains that you’re buying a ward generator and not the greatest stats. Eye of the Equinox, specifically, used to be worse, but it was recently buffed to give 10% CDR to help struggling melee supports in the current meta (However it still has the worst gold generation of starting support items).
I’ve heard a player ask “when is Riot going to nerf Sightstone and Redemption? No one wants to build those.” This was before Redemption was actually nerfed, but if Riot balanced the game around what players want, the game would be a mess. Not to mention, Sightstone actually has been nerfed. Three times to be specific. Not only is this item still good, it’s a staple. What makes is so resilient?
To understand the necessity of this item, you must understand the importance of vision at all stages of the game. Vision gives us information to prevent ganks from junglers as well as roams from mid laners in the early game. Most people think of wards as providing defensive utility, but wards can be offensive as well. Wards tell us when it’s okay to push our lanes out, and how far; they allow us to contest Baron and Dragon (or know when we don’t need to); and they allow us to catch people out when they’re away from their team, or force a group push when they enemy team is not fully grouped.
However, even if we understand why vision is useful, why do we need Sightstone specifically—and why is it the support who buys it? Isn’t it everyone’s job to ward? Don’t we have our yellow trinkets? Yes, everyone should contribute to vision control and we DO have yellow trinkets, but the Warding Totem does not replace Sightstone. Warding Totem can hold up to two charges whereas an un-upgraded Sightstone holds 3 (4 once it’s upgraded), the wards from the trinket last 60-120 Seconds and have an 180-90 second recharge time, depending on level. Comparatively, Sightstone wards last for 150 seconds regardless of your level and replenish immediately upon recall.
What’s more, not all teammates keep the Warding Totem. ADCs almost always switch to the Farsight Alteration, which allows them to get deep vision without putting themselves at risk of getting picked off, and having Sightstone allows you to switch to Sweeping Lens (Oracle Alteration at Level 9+). This should be done 100% of the time. There’s no reason to have both Sightstone and a Warding Totem, and having Oracle Alteration allows you make sure you’re not running over enemy wards when you go to put those offensive deep wards. With the elimination of the Stealth Ward in Season 6, most of the wards your teammates can contribute are Control Wards. Everybody should be placing Control Wards, but those can be seen and destroyed, and each teammate can only have one on the map at a time. Since Control Wards take up an inventory slot, it can sometimes screw up an item buy to pick one up.
Out of all five roles, why the Support, and why “always” the Support who builds the Sightstone? I’ve heard people say that Sightstone makes supports into walking “ward bots.” This is actually not true. Supports were always ward bots, even before Sightstone was in the game. The only difference is that before Sightstone’s introduction, supports had to keep an item slot open and buy Stealth Wards for 75 gold apiece. The tradeoff was that you could buy as many as you want and place as many as you want. That means that supports were expected to keep item slots open for Stealth Wards and Vision Wards. Sightstone isn’t the cause of this problem, it’s a compromise for the problem. It saves the supports money by not having to constantly buy wards, and allows them to at least have something that does give them some stats. “Eye of” items take that even further and have picked up very heavily in popularity over time.
As for the “why,” it goes back to the definition of the role. Supports are, by definition, low economy champions. Economy is a term used that refers to the amount of resources (gold and experience, specifically), that a champion needs to do what they were designed to. Since supports don’t farm, it behooves them to go for more expensive items, especially when they can function just fine with it.
Think about it this way: with all the effort you spend trying to find a way to not build Sightstone, you could probably figure out some really great warding spots to help your team and make yourself a better player. It’s possible to win without it; no one’s denying that it’s happened, but a game without Sightstone is inherently a fiesta. Nobody wants to play a fiesta just because you were too selfish to spend 800 gold.