Posts by "Mark Mackay"

How to Practice League of Legends Like the Pros

If you’ve ever wondered what makes the best in the world so good at what they do, you’re not alone.

Modern science and especially performance psychology has produced incredible research on this topic in recent years, and it turns out there’s an answer. Not only that, but it’s one that can help you maximize your time in how to practice League of Legends, or any other videogame.

Researcher and author of The Talent Code, Martin Coyle, spent two years visiting the world’s most renowned “talent hotbeds” – very small places that produce very large numbers of top-tier performers. Examples include:

  • A tiny tennis club in Russia responsible for more world top-20 players than all of the US combined
  • A classical music academy in upstate New York where students achieve one year’s worth of curriculum in seven weeks
  • One family in a tiny UK village responsible for three world-class writers

After visiting nine such places, a pattern emerged and it became clear that the number one difference is how they practice.

Coyle’s findings show that certain types of practice grow what he describes as a “fast, accurate brain” and the biochemical component cultivated is called myelin. It insulates neurons so they communicate faster and more effectively, and the premise of this book is that it’s the secret sauce of talent. Here’s a gif to show what that looks like.

myelin-and-deep-practice-for-gaming-talent

[Image credit: Dr. JanaCC BY 4.0]

Before discovering how to make information travel down your neurons like the blue electricity in the animation above, let’s look closer at how the talent hotbeds reliably producing world-class performers use the process of “deep practice”.

What is “deep practice”?

There’s a great quote from Coyle that illustrates how important this type of practice is and why it applies to all skills (which I personally read as “all video games”).

“The idea that all skills grow by the same cellular mechanism seems strange and surprising because the skills are so dazzlingly varied… But then again, Redwoods differ from roses but both grow through photosynthesis.”

Learning how to practice means not queuing up game after game, instead finding the edge of your ability’s comfort zone and stepping over it. If you only do what you’re now good at, you’ll never get better than you are. The way forward is to make mistakes through playing just outside of your capability, focusing there for as long as possible, and take note of your errors before you rinse and repeat the process.

It’s hard pushing your limits and messing up regularly, especially if it means your team mates flame you more often than you’d like. But the research shows that this kind of struggle is a biological requirement for building myelin.

It’s like resistance training in the gym to build muscle, which anyone who even lifts will know all about. You get stronger by pushing yourself bit by bit, always seeking that comfort zone edge so the biological tissue grows back stronger than it was before.

An example of this in action

Here’s a great example from one study on this topic. If you tested to see how many word combinations you remembered, you’d recall those in column B three-fold to those in column A, assuming you’re anything like the average participant.

A

B
ocean / breezebread / b_tter
leaf / treemusic /l_rics
sweet / soursh_e / sock
movie / actressphone / bo_k
gasoline / enginechi_s / salsa
high school / college                  pen_il / paper
turkey / stuffingriver / b_at
fruit / vegetablebe_r / wine
computer / chiptelevision / rad_o
chair / couch

l_nch / dinner

 

 

 

By creating situations where the gaps must be filled in, we remember more. In terms of practicing League of Legends, that means we’ll have more knowledge to apply the next time we’re in that situation, making us better and better at the game. Climbing the ladder then becomes a logical outcome. Before we look at the rules for practicing in this way, we must first understand one thing.

“The sweet spot”

There’s a sweet spot to be found here because going too far outside of your comfort zone will only cause frustration and demotivate you.

For example, if you only ever played against people two tiers above you in League, it would be tough to learn anything as you’d spend most of your time waiting for the respawn timer to end.

But playing against people a little better than you? You’ll get outplayed in ways where you learn from your errors, and to outplay your opponents will push you to the edge of your ability. As Coyle says about students in talent hotbeds:

“They are purposely operating at the edges of their ability, so they will screw up. And somehow screwing up is making them better…It was as if the herd of deer suddenly encountered a hillside coated with ice. They slammed to a halt; they stopped, looked, and thought carefully before taking each step. Making progress became a matter of small failures…”

Examples of that in League might be:

  • Playing with or against people who are better than you at the game, even if it’s laning practice with friends in custom games
  • Going all-in on champions even if you’re uncertain of their toolkits or you can see they have a level or farm advantage over you
  • Developing the habit of pressing tab and taking notes of enemy builds during games to push your focus and multitasking
  • Getting used to reading and making decisions based on armor, magic resist and HP values

Screwing up on these things allows your brain an opportunity to fill in the gaps and, when that happens, myelin is built.

If you practice League of Legends this way, you’re more likely to cultivate a “fast accurate brain” for this complex skill. Let’s look at the three rules for really nailing deep practice.

Rule #1: Absorb the whole thing

On this first rule, the book quotes Anders Ericsson, author of the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance:

“If you were to visit a dozen talent hotbeds tomorrow, you would be struck by how much time the learners spend observing top performers. When I say “observing,” I’m not talking about passively watching. I’m talking about staring—the kind of raw, unblinking, intensely absorbed gazes you see in hungry cats or newborn babies.”

Coyle gives a great example of this when he asked one top-tier tennis player how she learned to swing in such a formidable way at just 8 years old – “I dunno…I just do” was her reply and it turned out her coach didn’t know either.

After later chatting with the girl’s mother, Coyle discovered the whole family were huge fans of world tennis champion, Roger Federer, and they’d watched pretty much every one of his matches ever televised.

Examples of how to apply this insight into your League of Legends practice is by watching streams, pro games and high level games by regular Challenger-tier plays. Here are some resources to get you started:

Rule #2: Break it down into chunks

In addition to absorbing the whole thing, it’s important to break down the games you watch into chunks.

Getting granular with your replay watching means you can truly understand the specifics of what just happened. It’s where you access a level of detail that improves your game knowledge and really helps the outcomes of team-fights sink in.

A lot happens in a 10-man battle in League of Legends, so  look out for things such as:

  • Which champions where at item or level power spikes?
  • Which wombo combos made the difference?
  • Would the outcomee have been different if some champions were closer range when the engagement started?
  • Were any mistakes made with skill uses, such as missed or mis-timed CC?
  • How were summoner’s spells used or mis-used on each champion?

Watching replays inside the client with tools such as LoLSummonerInfo means you can slow chunks of the replays right down and watch in more detail – another practice used by the talent hotbeds.

There’s almost no end to how granular you can get in such a complex game, so be prepared to invest time getting to the nuts and bolts of your replays.

Rule #3: Repetition & learning to feel it

Even if you’re changing your practice sessions to produce myelin on overdrive, lessons don’t sink in unless you put in your reps. Coyle quotes infamous basketball coach John Wooden on this point:

“The importance of repetition until automaticity cannot be overstated… Repetition is the key to learning.”

There’s no quick fix that avoids repetition and continued practice. It’s the only way to master the third rule which is learning the lessons of your mistakes so well that you do them on autopilot – what some learning theorists might refer to as “muscle memory.”

By committing skill shots, CS’ing, and all other facets of your play to muscle memory, you free up mental space for all kinds of other things, such as map awareness and the macro game.

With League of Legends, this means mastering all aspects of the champions you play, including:

  • Trading patterns
  • Flash + skill combinations
  • Last hitting in custom games
  • Jungle clear routes
  • Practicing custom game 1vs1 laning
  • Knowing all skill and autoattack ranges by heart

Only by repeating these things until you can do them without even thinking can you ever hope to master the game. And that’s what rule number 3 is all about.

Eventually comes the point where you just feel it. It’s those moments when you pull off combos or positioning or small tactics during skirmishes without even a moment’s hesitation. That means practicing things like:

  • Sticking with the same champion or a small champion pool
  • Practicing combos daily, in custom games and in fights, even if you don’t have them down yet
  • Studying the Wiki to learn skills, skill ranges, AP ratios, and anything else to help you make good decisions in fights
  • Renounce the quick fix and make time to practice and study

Accelerated learning is the only “quick fix”

Learning complex games is something that takes time… In The Talent Code, Coyle also discusses a study whereby the largest single factor in success was a long term commitment to learning. Students committed to learning their skill outperformed the short-term committers by a factor of 400%.

That’s something worth thinking about if you have aspirations to seeing the shiny Challenger badge when you log in to your account.

“We instinctively think of each new student as a blank slate, but the ideas they bring to that first lesson are probably far more important than anything a teacher can do, or any amount of practice…it’s all about their perception of self. At some point very early on they had a crystallizing experience that brings the idea to the fore, that says, I am a musician. That idea is like a snowball rolling downhill.”

So no, there is no quick fix to getting really good at League of Legends. But you can speed up the learning process by getting good at deep practice and insulating the neurons your brain fires whenever you play.

If you change the way you practice and always seek the edge of your comfort zone, you’ll be very glad you did when your end-of-season results is achieved.

A Beginner’s Guide to League of Legends Situational Items

League of Legends has over 200 items, so learning what each does is a major process; especially if you’re new to the game and have so many other things to learn on already. With so much to focus on during play, working the shop quickly and effectively based on enemy matchup and game state is like a metagame in its own right.

A common mistake for beginners is to stick to the same item build because it means one less thing taking up valuable mental space. This is understandable, but it won’t help you climb. And game knowledge is one of the largest contributing factors that help the Bronze and Silver players that constitute some 70% of the League of Legends player base.

The idea of this article isn’t to say the items discussed are the only ones that work with these champions, but rather to give concrete item choice examples to get you thinking in the right way so you can start confidently switching up your builds based game situations. We’ve broken down the item sets into two types:

  • Core = Essential for the champion, must be bought
    Core items are always chosen. They mesh so well with the champ that you never want to pass on the items in these rows.
  • Situational = Example choices based on game circumstances
    In the item sets labelled “situational”, you can choose up to two or even none of the items in this list. They just represent great examples to introduce you to situational building.

This is a long read, but you can but just skip to the sections of the two or more roles you play for a little inspiration. Here are some page jumps so you can go directly to your role of choice.

This is a long read, but with the links below you can skip right to the sections of the roles you play. You’ll find “back to top” links at the end of each one.

  1. Jump to Marksman
  2. Jump to Support
  3. Jump to Fighter
  4. Jump to Mage
  5. Jump to Assassin
  6. Jump to Tank

Marksman example: Lucian

Lucian is a great example for ADC; both strong and popular in the meta at the time of writing. We missed out the boots in this list as Berserker Greaves are always going to be your go-to choice. So that’s done.

lucian_item_set

Core 1essence_reaver

The Essence Reaver will always be the first core item because it just has too much synergy with this champ to overlook. Cooldown Reduction (CDR) means making the most of Lucian’spassive and, because you’ll be stacking crit later, increasing CDR via this item’s unique effect is just a good idea.

Core 2

Your second slot to complete will always be a crit/attack speed item so you start gaining that CDR from Essence Reaver’s bonus mentioned above. Broadly speaking, you have three choices.

Rapid Firecannon gives you extra range which is ideal against poke-heavy combinations so you don’t have to get in so close and put yourself in danger. If you’re against a team where no one’s building Magic Resist (MR) then the Statikk Shiv is a good DPS boost that makes a heavy contribution to your waveclear. That means effective farming which is ideal for champions such as Vayne that can’t farm as fast as some other ADC’s.

On the other hand, if you’re against divers and skirmishers that want to 1 vs. 1 you at close quarters, the extra damage reduction and mobility to maintain those melee or low-range champions at arm’s length is something you get from Phantom Dancer.

lucian core 2.1

Core 3

This is another great example of situational building. Being a squishy ADC, you need a little survivability and Lifesteal (LS) is the way to go as it gives you defense while you pump out damage. That’s why The Bloodthirster is suitable for many games. But, if you’re up against a lot of crowd control debuffs then building from Quicksilver Sash into the Mercurial Scimitar means you counter these kinds of skills and still secure the all-important LS in your third slot.

lucian core 3

Situational 1

Oftentimes with ADC, your fourth slot will start to stack armor penetration and the Last Whisper is the go-to choice.

This item builds into either Mortal Reminder or Lord Dominik’s Regards (LDR). The passive from the latter, Giant slayer, is a threshold ability, meaning that it doesn’t get MORE effective against more HP. Threshold makes its passive only useful on low HP champions such as ADC’s which typically have the lowest base health. Choose LDR against these champs (not against tank-heavy team comps) and you’ll make your life much easier.

Swain, Vladimir, Maokai are examples of “drain tanks”. They recover a significant amount of their health over time in order to maintain their tankiness instead of getting percentage-based damage reduction or bonus armor/magic resistance like other tanks. Mortal Reminder is very effective against drain tanks because it cuts down how much life they drain over time, essentially cutting their tankiness. So in these situations, this is what to build your Last Whisper into. If you’re against a squishy team comp and don’t need the armor pen from these two items, Infinity Edge is the way to go.lucian situational 1.1

Situational 2

When mages hit late game and develop serious burst damage by comboing their skills, magic defense might be needed. Benshee’s Veil is the ideal choice in this situation. It’s also good against champions that rely on one spell that sets up the rest of their damage such as LeBlanc, or champions that only have one important spell to avoid such as Malphite’s dash CC engage. Sterak’s Rage will give you a similar layer of protection against non-magical burst.

Death’s Dance gives an LS-like effect and your damage taken also happens as a bleed, giving you and your support more time to react if you get focused. So if you have Varus arrows or Xerath bombs cutting heavily into your HP before a fight, this can be a good item choice in combination with The Bloodthirster.

The wrong choices for your last two slots can make the game much harder than it needs to be. For example, if you’re up against a snowballing LeBlanc or Fizz and decide to build full greed with Mortal Reminder and Infinity Edge, you’ll spend the rest of the game getting 2-shot and it’ll be GG before you can say “ff@20”.

In that same game, if you’d gone Banshee’s Veil for the spell block, The Bloodthirster (pictured above) for more LS and Maw of Malmortius for an additional shield against magic damage, you could have steamrolled the late game.

lucian situational 2 Back to top

Support example – Janna

For the next example, we’ll look at support, and Janna is the chosen champion. Here, item choices are arguably less complex than ADC, but no less game-changing when done correctly.

janna_item_set.1

Core 1

With Janna, there are two types of boots based on the situation. For most games, Boots of Lucidity help you stack CDR on your summoner’s which has nice synergy with the CDR from Locket of the Iron Solari and other items below. Having more casts before going OOM is a good thing.

Generally, you only really want to get Boots of Mobility to help roaming and playmaking around the map in the early stages of the game. Lucidity boots scale better into the late game by allowing you to make flash plays and exhaust key targets more frequently, so if you have a very late game ADC such as Jinx, they might better choice.

janna core 1

Core 2

The Locket has clear synergy with Janna, especially because she typically chooses the Windspeaker’s Blessing mastery that gives bonuses to shields. The other option is the Banner of Command. The promoted minion is killed pretty easily if the enemy team has control of the game, so don’t take this item if you’re on the back foot. If you have a strong split push comp’ with lots of wave clear, then there’s additional synergy with the Banner. It’s also great if there’s a lot of magic damage in the enemy team as no one can clear the bannered minion effectively when it’s in the sidelane.

janna core 2

Situational 1 & 2

Next, it’s time to support your ADC more directly and there are three good choices here. Zeke’s Harbinger is a great way to increase their damage output if they’re having a good game. Ardent Censer is a great DPS increase to all ADCs as well as your other teammates if they’re auto-attack based as well, (such as having a Kindred or Graves in the jungle) so that’s a good time to chose this item.

Keep in mind that Ardent Sensor applies in an AoE through Locket as well as Monsoon, while Zeke’s is very localized and inconsistent, even if it’s incredibly strong. So, if you don’t have other auto attack champs to buff, go for Zeke’s.

Mikael’s Crucible is perfect if you’re against champions with roots such as Morgana or Leona, as the active instantly removes the effect and applies a heal. There’s just one item is an Janna’s situational items example so we’ll link it; Banshees Veil is your go-to defensive item against burst mages such as LeBlanc or Veigar who can easily instagib you if you get caught out of position.

janna situational 1 Back to top

Fighter example – Lee Sin

Lee Sin is a good example of a fighter with a straightforward core item set to compliment his more detailed and complete toolkit.

lee_sin_item_set

Core 1 & 2Tracker's_Knife .1

Starting with Tracker’s Knife and the Warrior Enchantment for Lee Sin jungle is a given. As for boots? That’s situational. If you’re ganking ADCs with strong auto attack damage such as Draven, you’ll have an easier time with assassinations if you go for Ninja Tabi.

If you’re against lots of CC, Mercury Treads are the clear choice. But otherwise, the Boots of Lucidity and their CDR will make the best use of your abilities.

lee sin core 2

Core 3 & 4

With the first our two slots filled, Lee Sin’s third and fourth slots are always The Black Cleaver for HP, AD, CDR and it even helps with the burst and mobility this champion is known for. Likewise for Dead Man’s Plate; it lets you close the gaps faster and be more effective on arrival. Both items are clear choices here.

lee sin core 3 & 4Situational 1

The Banshee’s Veil is the perfect example of building situationally against burst mages such Ryze, LeBlanc or Veigar. Choosing Maw over the Vale with Lee Sin is based on whether or not something is going to interrupt your combo.

For example, if you want to set up plays by kicking champs into allies, but the enemy team has on-demand knockbacks or CC (such as Janna, Alistar or Thresh) then your window of opportunity is very small as it can be interrupted. If you have a Veil, then it’s a lot easier to combo without getting stopped in your tracks.

If it’s just raw damage mitigation you want, Maw is your best bet.

B’veil is to ensure certain spells can be negated whereas Maw is for protection against raw damage. In some cases, blocking a spell will prevent you from taking a lot of damage in the future (such as not getting snagged in a Veigar cage), so having the Veil for that kind of situation is important. In other cases when there are just too many sources of damage the Maw shield is your best bet.

Randuin’s’ Omen is a great item if you find yourself against a mobile AD carries stacking crit. Not only do you mitigate crit damage, but it also slows attack speed and you can even use active for pursuit or escape. That’s a lot of utility.lee sin situational 1 Back to top

Mage example – Ahri

Ahri is a great example of a mage; super strong and popular in the current meta. This champ has less situational options and more core items, but in this case, it’s more about what order you build your core items in.

 

Core 1 & 2Sorcerer's_Shoes

Ahri’s got great latent damage stats, so rushing an item that synergizes with the champion is the best way to increase chances of an early-game snowball. If you’re up against is a Zed, Talon or other champs with bursty early-game kill potential, rushing Zhonya’s is the way to go.

Morellonomicon is your all around utility AP item. It gives flat mana, CDR and AP so that you can keep doing mage things and the Grievous Wounds debuff is ideal against any champion that utilizes heals such as Soraka, Swain or Vladimir. Abyssal Scepter is geared towards offensive playmaking but lacks the mana to upkeep spells in addition to having lower CDR.

ahri core 1

Core 3 & 4

If you didn’t get Morellonomicon or Abyssal Scepter the first time round but you need the debuff or extra magic penetration, grab them now. Otherwise if you’re against a highly squishy in lane, Luden’s Echo might be a good idea if more burst and MS are needed. Deathcap is for when you’re snowballing after a rushed Morello or Abyssal, as it means you stack a load of AP on top and have major gibbing potential that’s very hard to counter at that stage of the game.

If the enemy keeps on stacking magic resist against you, Void Staff is the clear way forward, otherwise you can grab a Deathcap stacking more AP.

ahri core 3 & 4

Core 5 & 6

For the last two, it’s pretty much about filling in the gaps that you missed above. But these are still core item slots because you need one of these items for sure.

Zhonya’s makes a second and late appearance just in case the enemy comp is focusing you or building a lot of burst in general. Rylai’s is a great item if you’re against front line bruisers you can’t burst down or push through, as it will help you kite them down instead.

Lich Bane is for split pushing when you’re playing Ahri and your team is head, or if you want to use an extra slot for more success in your assassination attempts which will, in turn, help you deal with any solo champs that want to try and put a stop to your back-door attempt.

ahri core 5 & 6 Back to top

Assassin example – LeBlanc

LeBlanc is a strong mid lane AP assassin. A little like Ahri, she doesn’t have a lot of situational items, but rather a series of core items to choose in the right order for her to be effective.

leblanc_item_set

Core slot 1 & 2Sorcerer's_Shoes

If you get off to a strong start and you’re snowballing your opponent, go for AP and keep stacking it. If you’re against the drain tanks we discussed earlier (such as Swain, Vladimir, Maokai that get tankiness from health over time), the Grievous Wounds debuff applied by Morellonomicon will help you get kills on them. A way to stack AP while countering magic resist is the Abyssal Scepter, so if your opponents start buying MR items, this is the way to go.

If you’re against a Zed or Talon, a Zonya’s Hourglass will help you stay alive against these tough matchups, while Sorcerer’s will always be your boots with this champ.

ahri core 1

Core 3 & 4

Morellonomicon is a great all-rounder AP item with lots of utility. It gives you mana, CDR and AP so you can keep spamming your abilities and the Grievous Wounds debuff helps against champions with heals as Soraka, Swain or Vladimir. Abyssal Scepter is geared towards offensive playmaking but lacks the mana to upkeep spells in addition to having lower CDR.

If you started with either of these two items and have a snowball going, that’s when you opt for Deathcap. All that AP along with a strong start and this champion’s inherent burst is very difficult to deal with for the enemy team.

ahri core 3 & 4

Core 5 & 6

Zhonya’s Hourglass makes another appearance later, so if you don’t get it first and you see the team comp is getting super bursty and focusing you a lot later in the game, then it’s something to consider picking up at that point.

A lot of the items are the same in these four slots and that’s why they’re considered core and not situational. This champ needs all these items in the set, but it’s more a case of which order you get them in based on matchup. At your build develops, it’s a case of filling in the gaps with the items you haven’t bought yet.

Back to top

Tank example – Volibear

Volibear is our tank example because his situational items are a great example of what it means to build tank.

volibear_item_set copy

Core 1, 2 & 3Dead_Man's_Plate .1

We’ve gone Voli jungle for this example and you need an item for this role, so we’ll get to the tanky stuff in a  sec. You only really have four choices in jungle’s core 1 slot, and for Voli, the Tracker’s Knife with Cinderhulk is the clear choice.

Then it comes down to choice of boots. Ninja tabi will give you more defense if you find yourself up against auto attack-heavy laners or junglers such as Jax, Darius, Kindred or Graves. Swifties is if you’re against constant slows such as Gnar, Singed or Ashe to help counter the effect. If against a lot of harder CC, then Mercury Treads it is.

volibear core 1

Situational 1

Deadman’s Plate just has too much synergy with Voli so it’s impossible to overlook. You need speed to close the gap with your run that also provides more tank in the form of HP and armor to synergize with your Cinderhulk, so the third slot is spoken for.

Additional defense will occupy the fourth, but it just depends on the situation. Banshee’s Veil is for going against burst combo mages, Warmog’s is amazing against poke compositions due to the HP regen passive, and, if you have a Soraka on your team, the passive from Spirit Visage is the clear choice.

volibear situational 1

Situational 3 & 4

This choice also depends on whether or not you’re the primary tank. For example, if you’ve got a Braum support and a Maokai in the top lane, you don’t need to go full tank. If there’s a Janna support and an assassin top lane, you need the tank.

If you’re not the primary tank on the team then you can afford to go for a little extra deeps, in which case, Thornmail is great. If you’re against a snowballing champion doing tons of damage with their auto attacks, this item goes a long way to counter the physical damage output of champions such as Master Yi, Tryndamere and marksmen in general.

If that’s not the case, Titanic Hydra is another great defense item with offensive qualities and its active seriously helps the effectiveness of your engage, in addition to having a ton of useful stats.

.volibear core 3 & 4 Back to top

In conclusion

Writing this guide with the more experienced League of Legends players on the team was an insightful experience for me. If you read the sections in this guide for your role or roles and start making item decisions part of your replay analysis process, it won’t be long before you’re making better decisions a lot faster every time you hit the shop.

[Image credit, thanks to Kilindrox of Deviant Art]

5 Types of League of Legends Power Spikes (+Examples)

If you understand League of Legends power spikes for the champions you commonly face in your lane or role, you’re more likely to choose fights at the right time so you come out on top.

A power spike is a point in time or a stage of progression whereby a champ has exceptional strength relative to other champs in a game. If you watch pro-level play, you may have noticed that teams regularly play around both individual and team composition power spikes to either gain an edge, or deny the enemy an edge.

You know different champs have their strengths and weaknesses based on their toolkit. But even if your champion is a good counter to your matchup, your opponent may have power spike that negates that counter. And building up your pool of power spike knowledge is what this post is all about.

Learning power spikes in LoL is a good example of how it’s good to balance time spent playing vs. time spent studying the game. It could take you many hours of play facing individual champions over and over until you finally get a feel for their power spikes. But taking a few moments by looking them up in a spreadsheet and other sources (which we’ll link to later) means you can learn them much more quickly.

Types of power spikes

Broadly speaking, there are five different types of power spikes to learn in League of Legends .

  1. Power spikes gained by achieving a level that unlocks an ability
  2. Our spikes gains at the point of acquiring a particular item
  3. Power spikes gained by stacking effects
  4. Power spikes gained by toolkit advantages
  5. Power spikes gained by game phase/latent champion scaling

Let’s look at each one individually

1. Level power spikes

Level 2 power spikes
Good examples of the L2 powerspikes are champions that unlock crowd control abilities at level 2 such as Thresh, Blitzcrank or Leona. Leona was picked during the semi-finals of the 2016 MSI Invitational. The early game plan was to take advantage of the level 2 power spike Leona brought to the table with her Q and E combo; a gap-close and stun which, when backed up by an ADC makes the perfect example for the level 2 power spike. It’s worth noting that champions from other roles such as Lucian also have powerful level 2 power spikes that unlock lots of burst damage. So much so in this case, that many memes were made after it got picked up my League streamer, imaqtpie. Here’s an amazing example of this power spike in action.

Level 6 power spikes
Another type of power spike that’s easy for new players to focus on the level 6 power spike when unlocking ultimates. For example, if you’re playing against an Amumu jungle, make extra effort to watch your map, as you can bet he’ll be racing to level 6 before come out of nowhere with an epic gap close and AoE stun. Another go-to example is Annie who, the second she hits level 6, will be dropping an enormous bear on you and, if you get CC’ed, you’ll be back at the nexus before you know it.

Level scaling in general
It’s also worth noting that some champions scale mainly with levels (meaning they’ll always be dangerous, especially around the power spikes) whereas some champion scale well with items. The two levels mentioned above are the main ones for new players to learn. But many champs have spiked at 9,11,13,16 and 18. Other champions, typically AD carries for example, are more item-dependent. That means if they’re zoned out of farm and fall behind, they’re less of a threat than they would be if they get a strong start, which brings us onto the next type.

2. Item power spikes

A great example of an early game item power spike is the BF Sword. Typically picked up by AD carries, this item gives +40 attack damage which makes a huge difference early game.

There’s a lot to focus on during the laning phase. But, by developing the habit of pressing Tab and glancing at your enemy’s items, noticing this early pick-up might see you play more carefully. If you’ve got low HP but don’t want to back, you may think twice before engaging of face-checking an auto attack to last hit a cannon minion. Other power spike items worth looking for with a quick enemy infantry check with the tab button include.

So what about later game power spikes? Other examples of item powerspikes to watch for include:

  • Hextech Gunblade (AD, AP, self-heal and active nuke+slow)
  • Infinity Edge (A ton of crit)
  • Frost Queen’s Claim (Cooldown reduction and a targeted slow that will chase you for miles)
  • Rylai’s Crystal Scepter (Adds a slow effect to damaging abilities)
  • Trinity Force (Huge cooldown reduction and burst damage)

We made this graphic with more detail to save you clicking around the wiki.

Image shows detailed item power spike examples from the League of Legends wiki

3. Effect stack spikes

Some champions have passive abilities in their kits that scale, giving them power spikes when certain thresholds are met. Bard’s passive is a good example of this, with his Meep-backed auto attack gaining a significant slow effect as he collects more chimes. If a Bard goes ham on the chime collecting, his auto attacks can slow by up to 80% when Meeps are in tow.

Stacking effects can be found in items, too. Good examples include:

  • Mejai’s Soulstealer (Grants stacks of glory, giving AP bonuses for kills and assists)
  • Dead Man’s Plate (Grants movement speed stacks)
  • Zeke’s Harbinger (Links between support and ADC, grants stacks that give bonus AD, AP and crit chance)

Here’s a more detailed overview of these item examples.

image shows detailed screenshots of League of Legends stack items that give power spikes

If you’re playing a game and you see a Dead Man’s Plate, you may recalculate your escape distance if there is a carry charging around with this item. Likewise with the Zeke’s Harbinger, you may think twice before taking on an ADC and support duo if you noticed this item picked up earlier in the game.

4. More skills, less mana

Some champions (typically ones that are more technical in nature) have more abilities in their kits. Their increased utility and versatility means they early power spikes than other champions. Good examples of these include Lee Sin and Elise, so if you find yourself slightly out of position in favor of such champions early on, remember they have an edge in this regard.

Champions the don’t use mana also represent another type of power spike, good examples for which might be Kennen, Riven and Renekton. Because they don’t have mana, they can out-sustain mana-suing champs in lane, giving them more bullying potential, especially as they gain levels and unlock more abilities. Unless your hero is a hard counter or they’re regularly way out of position, it’s often best to play conservatively against such champs.

5. Game phase power spikes

Finally comes phases of the game. Some champions have very strong early games, mid games or late games. A good example of this is the ever-scary assassin Zed. Although he’s a difficult champion to deal with when played well, his real peak is around the mid-game. That means, if your team goes into the late game, his main power spike will have passed and you can stop crapping yourself whenever you’re not near the safety of your team.

A good example of a late game power spike is Jinx who’s one of the latest-game ADCs on the Rift. Even if you have a mediocre early and mid-game with Jinx, because her damage scales so well with levels, you can seriously start coming back towards the late game.

That’s important to know. Because even if you’re playing from the back foot much of the game, you can take comfort in the fact that you have a late-game game power spike coming up, so if you keep playing tight and minimizing your losses, you can take advantage of it and have a good chance of coming back, rather than persuading the rest of your team to FF when it’s definitely not GG.

Start building your knowledge

A good exercise for this is to make a spreadsheet and take notes on the 15 champions you most commonly face in your lane. There’s an amazing resource to pull power spike information from here, Thanks to/u/karuaan in /r/summonerschool. If you read this and check out quick guides on YouTube for your opposition, you can start building up your power spike knowledge. By now, you’re probably taking the time to watch your own replays in League, so use the the journal spreadsheet template we linked to as a starting point.

Another good exercise if you watch professional-level games is to take the things you’re learning about power spikes and then see if you can spot professional players taking advantage of them in pro games. Analysts often point out situations like when a team composition has lots of level 6 power spike champions that the their opponents will tread carefully around at this stage of the game. But look out for the ones that aren’t announced by the casters and it will help this information sink in.

[Image credit thanks to PatrickDeza of DeviantArt]

How & Why to Watch Your League of Legends Replays

Often in League, it’s easy to say “I know what I did wrong there”. Especially for obvious derpy moments, tunnel visioning on plays at the expense of map awareness or your dying because your cat jumped on your keyboard looking for snuggles. But there’s deeper understanding on offer if you watch your League of Legends replays.

But for many of the details, you just don’t have time in team flights to spot everything that happens in the heat of the moment and see what you could have done better. Even if your team comes out on top, could you have done things differently to come out even more ahead?

Without watching your replays, you’ll never know.

It’s an incredibly valuable learning technique used by professionals not only in League of Legends, but (as we discussed in our article on how to learn league like a chess and martial arts champion) by many other disciplines, too.

If you’re anything like me, you won’t find analyzing replays as much fun as queuing another game. But, by using the right tools and the right approach, you can get through it both quickly and effectively. Here’s now.

Set up a League journal

By setting up some kind of journal or note taking system to record your trials and tribulations in League, it’s easy to spot patterns and help the things you notice sink in.

A Google Sheet is a great way to do this because it’s easy information and saves it in the cloud so you don’t have to worry about losing your journal. If you’d rather use Microsoft Excel, tools such as Dropbox backup info in the same way. A paper notebook works great, too but can get pretty chaotic.

How detailed you get in your journal is really up to you that the two areas that will give you the most games for the last time analyzing the mailing phase and your kills debts and assists. So, make two tabs

  1. A tab for the laning phase with a column for each of yours for skills queue through our separate column for Summoner’s
  2. A tab for kills, deaths and assists with a separate columns each
  3. A tab for general notes and observations you come across during the game

Just in case you’re feeling too lazy to set up a spreadsheet I’ve taken the liberty to make one for you here and we’ll get into the tabs and columns in a sec. Feel free to download it or make a copy to edit.

Watching the laning phase

First up, watch the laning phase. The two tools we always recommend for this are Replay.GG and LoL Summoner Info. Both open up replays natively in the League client, a fact that gives a couple of advantages.

It’s worth mentioning quickly though that if you load up a replay recorded in an older client version, it doesn’t work and you’ll get a black screen instead of a League replay. So, if there’s a replay you really want to watch and a patch due soon, take that into consideration.

Native client replays allow you pause and then click around the client and get lots of useful info. For example, if you’re laning against an unfamiliar champion, you can click it and mouse over their skills to get a better understanding of how they work. As we discussed before, game knowledge is the most important factor for players in lower League ranked tiers. So this is a great way to see how you’re playing and build your game knowledge at the same time.

Seek room for improvement in skill usage

When the replay opens, jump to 1:40 on the timeline as this is typically when laning begins. Watch through the first 10 to 12 minutes of each game and make a note each time you use a skill, especially focusing on the good uses and bad uses.

Mana is super precious at this stage of the game. So conserving it instead of wasting it by using at skill at the wrong time can make a huge impact on how effective you are in the early game.

For me, Janna’s E gives a good example. Extra HP and damage on your AD carry’s auto attacks makes all the difference in a trade, but I can only cast it a few times early game before I run out of mana. Getting better at reacting to enemy skill shots and reading engages to optimize my shield use is a major practice for me.

Also remember that gaining advantages in the first 10 minutes of the game means more wins in the long run, so tightening up your early game skill usage is a big deal.

Watch your kills, deaths, and assists

It’s good to assume that every death is a mistake. If you play an engaging champ then you may find yourself being a sacrificial lamb to ensure your team comes out on top once you’ve dumped your CC.

Flicking backwards and forwards through the timeline in the native client tools we mentioned above is kind of tedious. Plays.tv is a tool that screencasts the game while running in the background, automatically time stamping kills, deaths and assists. It doesn’t have that layer of detail that the native client replays brings to the table, but it saves a ton of time and removes some the tedium of scanning back and forth on the timeline.

Personally I like to start with the deaths. Look for patterns such as flashing into walls, trying to steal Baron while playing Soraka, and being at melee range when playing Ashe.

Another benefit of a screencast is it lets you see your camera control. This is a key aspect of League of Legends and it’s good to watch if there’s a lot of unnecessary positioning and re-positioning of the camera during fights (unless of course you play locked camera, in which case it doesn’t matter).

Note down your habits on:

  • Positioning (too far forward, too far back, not taking enemy composition into account)
  • Decision-making (bad time to go for or contest Dragons, bad time to split push etc)
  • Skill usage (not prioritizing enemy targets, too rushed on ult use, etc)
  • Vision (not helping the support with vision, chasing enemy into fog or war)
  • Cooldowns (going in for poke or engages when skills on cooldown, failing to use Summoner’s when off cooldown)
  • Map awareness (Getting ganked when all enemies were missing on the map and you’re deep on their lane)

Personally, I put more of a focus on my mistakes. But it’s good to include when you do things right so you don’t end up looking at spreadsheet full of your less commendable moments and never give yourself credit for good decisions and good plays.

One more note on team fight analysis

The timestamps on Plays.tv are great. But if you have more time, it’s ideal to look at all team fights and not just the ones that give the KDA’s. For example if there’s a skirmish with no kills or deaths, maybe if your positioning was better you could have secured one or more kills. S0, if you have time or the inclination, scan through looking for other skirmishes like this.

If you analyze three games at the time, you should easily be able to do all three in less than an hour and, once you start getting into it, it’s actually pretty fun.

The level of detail you can pick apart a replay is practically endless and some top tier players will spend hours digging into every detail of a game looking for missed openings increasingly optimal decisions. If you decide to do this, you can add additional tabs in the journal for the early, mid, and late games.

This level of detail isn’t for everyone. But it’s worth mentioning as it can be a valuable learning tool, especially if you’re in the higher elos and you’ve long had League fundamentals dialed. But by focusing on skill use and figuring out the specifics of what led to kills, deaths, and assists, you’re more likely to improve faster.

[Feature image credit: Robyn Lau]

How to Win Your Lane in League of Legends Early Game

Trading well is how to win your lane in League of Legends, creating advantages that can give you and your team a significant edge, leading to the kind of snowball momentum that wins the game. And as we saw in an earlier article, if you get ahead in the first 10 minutes of any game, you’re much more likely to improve your win/loss ratio over time, and that means climbing the ladder.

This is why trading matters. So let’s look at some things you can apply in your today and see fast results.

Summoner’s Spells

Summoner’s are potentially a tricky one because to some extent they’re down to personal preference. But by experimenting with different summoner’s depending on the match up, you’re more likely to do well in lane.

Jungle chooses Flash and Smite; that’s pretty much a done deal. But for laners there are typically two summoner’s that can make a big impact on trades. Flash is pretty much a given for laners too, so the first slot’s occupied. Let’s look at the second slot per roll.

  • Top lane
    Many high-level LoL players argue that Ignite gives you a bigger impact in lane as it’s means applying more consistent pressure on your laning opponent. If you go for Teleport, using it on a ward in the bot lane brush (for example) can be incredibly effective ganking tool. The problem is, it’s higher risk which also means it’s less consistent for trading.
  • Mid lane
    Mid typically takes ignite. Many midlaners are squishy, especially the mages such as Ryze or Ahri, so having a Ignite to and take care of those last few hit points on a close trade, ensuring you come out on top.
  • Support
    For, support Exhaust or sometimes Ignite, with the key consideration being whether the enemy opponent has a squishy support or not. For example if you play against Sona or Janna in the bot lane many high level players will go Ignite to secure kills. If you play against more aggressive engaging matchups such as Thresh or Blitzcrank, take exhaust and save it for the enemy ADC upon successful hooks or stuns. That way you mitigate the damage and can actually counter engages very effectively.
  • ADC
    AD carry is another role where there’s typically less choice in summoner’s and most go for Flash and Heal, the latter giving a little more sustainability in lane. It’s the most common combo and many consider it optimal for this role, so try it out if you haven’t already.

All summoner spells are powerful, but getting  by exhaust is especially important to get right trading. Sometimes it can be used to slow an enemy to help secure the gang the jungle is coming to support Lane, but only using the situation if you know there/is expired.

If you or someone in your lane has a kill attempt on them, Then save exhaust for the enemy’s highest damage dealer. By using skills to disengage or use exhaust to mitigate damage from enemy ADC, turning what Could have been in unfavorable trade probably even a kill

Don’t be lazy on masteries

There are too many different builds of masteries for us to cover effectively here. So, instead we’ll cover a couple of mastery examples that show why it’s good to have multiple mastery pages set up, even if you always play the same role.

  • Example 1: 
    If you’re an engaging melee support such as Leona, it’s reasonable to say that going for Explorer near the top of the Resolve tree is worthwhile, since you can roam more effectively and help set up ganks. But as a melee, Tough Skin would be a better choice for trades as you’ll be in the front line during the laning phase, so damage reduction from champions and creeps is a big deal.
    choosing mastery example 1
  • Example 2: 
    Another good example is for AP supports to choose Oppressor over Bounty Hunter. While the latter will stack up over the course of the game for more damage output, in the early game the former increases the chances of favorable trading. It makes it less likely that enemies escape kill attempts with that annoying slither of HP.

    choosing mastery example 2

The important takeaway here is that early game trading should be an important consideration in your mastery builds because they can help you get an early advantage. It’s tempting just to stick with the same masteries for similar roles just because it’s easy. But don’t leave those advantages on the table just to save a little time in making a new mastery page.

Effective zones

We spoke about “effective zones” in our article interviewing a Challenger coach on LoL’s ranked tiers. Let’s look at this point again here with the screenshot taken from Map Rift; a great teaching tool often used by coaches show positioning examples.

Understanding-the-“effective-zone”-to-better-climb-the-league-of-legends-ranked-tiers

It’s important to learn the effective zones of your most common matchups. Different champions have different ranges, different toolkits, some have dashes and are more mobile in general. By imagining circle around your laning opponents, you can be conscious of their effective zones and position yourself accordingly.

Also discussed in the article above is a concept for bot lane called “holding the line”. This means, as a support, always ensure you’re within the same effective zone as your AD carry, rather than falling back too far and leaving the carry susceptible to attack because they’re left in the effective zone of your opponents.

“The Trading Stance”

This is a great video done some time ago and, I can explain some of the concepts here, but it’s done perfectly in the video below so take a few moments to watch it.

Skill usage journal

We’ve said many times before the importance of watching your replays. And making good decisions about skill use at the right times or saving them and conserving mana makes a huge difference in trading. It means the difference between making kills, and getting kills; between winning games and losing them.

A great way to measure this is to set up a Google spreadsheet with a column for each of your champion skills and also your summoner’s, making a note of each time you used them. Personally, I like to highlight bad decisions with red and good decisions with green just for an easy visual reference. Here’s a screenshot from my spreadsheet which you can click on for a larger view.

League of Legends skill usage journal for trading in lane

This way you can easily identify bad habits for skill usage and find times when you could have saved them for a more effective occasion to be more efficient with mana. Taking a little space to examine your performance this way is a very effective tool for learning because you spot things that you simply can’t in the heat of the moment when there’s so much to focus on.

Early warding

As we discussed in our article on warding in LoL, the best players in the world make a significant contribution to warding no matter what role they play. One of the easiest ways to significantly improve your game overall in the laning phase to place more wards.

Avg-wards-bought

In Challenger tier, ALL roles make a significant contribution to warding which helps ease the load from supports. So get involved!

If you play top, mid, or jungle, or if you leaving your Yellow Trinket on cooldown all the time and you’re not buying Vision wards, you’re simply not doing everything in your power to trade effectively. Ward the brush for your lane and you’re significantly more likely to come out unfavorably in trades.

Remember, the yellow trinket has a cooldown of 180 seconds at the start of the game which means that, as an ADC in the bot lane, it’s important you chain Yellow Trinket placements with your support. Never leave it a ward charge in your inventory at a time when you could really benefit from extra vision in the river, such as when the lane is pushed into the enemy tower.

Start learning HP values

Arguably a slightly more advanced concept but still something to think about are specific HP and damage values in League of Legends. For example, many new players don’t realize that each black line in your HP bar represents 100 HP.

By glancing at these bars lines and keeping in mind how much HP you have vs. how much damage three auto attacks from your laning appointment would take, you know whether you can afford to play a little more forward or whether it’s probably a good idea to recall back to base.

learning_HP_values_in_LoL .1

For example, let’s say you’re an ADC laning against Caitlyn. You’ve just come out of a skirmish unfavorably with about 150 HP. If you stand on a trap, receive a headshot from her passive as a result, a successfully landed Q will probably finish you off.

If you know that, then by thinking ahead about these potential damage output numbers then you might tread a little more carefully in the brush where tasty cupcakes lay hidden, and you might be a little more alert for sidestepping her Q instead of getting complacent and tunnel visioning on your CS. It’ll take a little time but the sooner we learn, the better.

Item choices

Finally comes early game item choices. It’s easy to fall into the habit of choosing the same items every time you go back to base.

But the reality is, some lanes have more poke, more engage, more harass or will just be more aggressive in general. Good examples might be laning against Lucian/Thresh on bot lane, or against a Zed or a LeBlanc in mid, both of which are good and slowly chipping away your HP in preparation for a kill.

If you’re playing lanes like these, choose your items situationally. Perhaps consider opting for a refillable potion and an early Dark Seal if you build into Mejai’s Soulstealer, giving you more effective regen sooner. If you recall early, snag a Ruby Crystal if you build into something it uses later.

Whatever’s relevant for your champion and build, by optimizing your item choices based on improved sustain in the laning phase and making changes depending on the matchup, you have more resources at your disposal to trade effectively and ensure you come out on top and not your opponent.

Impacting the game

The laning phase in League of Legends is considered the stage where you, the individual player, have the most control over the outcome of the game. That’s a very good reason for you to spend time practicing the above tactics, especially watching the first 10-15 minutes of each replay and assessing your performance on skill usage, positioning and other factors.

As the mid to late game unfolds, an individual player in solo queue with a bunch of people you don’t know just means you have less impact on the game. But, by continually working on trades and seeking those early advantages, you’re more likely to improve and climb fast.

League of Legends Streams that are Great for Learning

If you’re into watching League of Legends streams and are learning the game, it’s good to maximize your time on Twitch.tv by choosing streamers that give instructional commentary while they play. Because an ever-deeper understanding of decision-making is one of the most important factors to getting better at LoL.

Some streamers are kind of quiet and chilled, others kind of silly and entertaining. But for learning, it’s tough to beat a good commentary. And for that reason, we’ve started this list of our favorite League of Legends Twitch streamers that talk through their game and have a focus on helping you improve.

Top lane: SickMotionLoL

If you play top lane, check out SickMotion. He often discusses item choices, what went wrong or mistakes made after bad engages and other practical insights you can take away and apply in your own game. He also recently announced plans to take his stream in a more instructional/teaching direction, so it’ll be even better for mastering this role.

Twitch: Link
YouTube: Link
Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link

Mid lane: Plasma_Lemon

Plasma Lemon mains Orianna in mid and gives a lot of matchup commentary while he’s playing. Even if you don’t play this champion, you’ll hear this LoL streamer talk a lot about his opponent’s mistakes and errors he sees people make with that champion in general. You can still learn a lot about mid lane, not to mention get a better idea of how to play against this PiTA control mage.

Twitch: Link
Twitter: Link

Jungle: Night blue 3

Nightblue3 is an amazing jungler with a popular stream for the role. He’s super entertaining to watch and creates killer highlight videos full of memes and anime on his YouTube channel, too. Watching the way this master ganker roams the map and chooses his matchups is so inspiring, it’s almost enough to make me want to switch role.

Twitch: Link
Youtube: Link
Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link

ADC: LoLGeranimo

LoLGeranimo is good to watch for beginner ADCs because he gives very specific chat on aspects such as mana usage, power spikes, positioning and other game fundamentals. It’s great to hear decision-making on these factors during the laning phase, and then on more macro concepts such as objective prioritization and map control as the game unfolds.

Twitch: Link
Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link

Support: Krepo

Krepo is an ex-professional League of Legends player who you may also have seen on the official analyst desk for tournaments. As a pro analyst, Krepo has excellent game insights and gives continuous commentary throughout, unless you see the [tryhard] tag on stream which typically means he’s focusing a little more on winning. You can learn a lot about the support role here in general, and if you’re a Bard main, you’re in for a treat.

Twitch: Link
Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link

Other LoL streams for learning

Once you bookmark the streamer for your particular role from the list above, also check out this list of “one trick pony” streamers published on Reddit. Good commentary is great for learning, and so is watching someone play your main champion who’s mastered it to a high degree. Check out the strat’s they use, the item builds, combos and positioning.

For general learning, here are some excellent League Twitch streams, several of which have solid YouTube channels so you’ve got more content to watch when your favorite streamers are offline.

PhyLoL

PhyLoL plays a lot of ADC and also jungle. He’s definitely one of the chattiest League streamers around and he also has an excellent YouTube channel where he makes a lot of content that’s aimed at beginners improving League play. You’ll find videos on how to improve chances of climbing ranks and how to deal with specific types of champions such as immobile ADCs and other sub groups.

Twitch: Link
Youtube: Link
Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link

Wingsofdeathx

Wingsofdeathx is a long-standing and popularly League streamer. He’s an excellent player with instructional chat who’s very interactive with the audience, often engaging in debates around League of Legends topics, which, along with his high-level play, means you can pick up a lot about the game.

Twitch: Link
Youtube: Link
Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link

Doublelift

Doublelift is a pro player from Team SoloMid and also has a popular stream with lots of explanation on play. It’s pretty cool listening to professionals relay their choices. He’s not afraid to express his opinion on the current state of the game and other useful League insights. It’s a chilled and instructional stream from a top-tier player who’s even willing to answer questions from chat, too.

Twitch: Link
Youtube: Link
Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link

Redmercy

Redmercy has a pretty entertaining stream and is also a very good Zed and Yasuo player. We’ve mentioned his videos before and are recommending him again just because he has such a good YouTube channel for anyone learning LoL.

Twitch: Link
Youtube: Link
Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link

BrickyOrchid8

Finally comes BrickyOrchid8. At the time of writing, he’s been playing some other games than League of Legends but he definitely has an entertaining and informative stream. Likewise, he’s got an excellent YouTube channel for learning LoL, so definitely check that out. The “So you want to maim…” series is a good place to start.

Twitch: Link
Youtube: Link
Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link

Add your favorite streamer to the list

If you have a favorite instructional streamer you think’s a good addition to the list for people learning the LoL, let us know in the comments and we’ll consider adding it.

A More Detailed Analysis of Warding in League of Legends

A big question everyone asks (and knows the answer to) when playing LOL is: “am I warding enough?”

That answer is usually: “no, you’re definitely not and you need more wards.”

But the more important question is: “how many and what type of wards should I place for my specific role?”

If you know these answers and for your personal skill level, it gives you a clear benchmark you can work towards to improve your game.

While working on the Gamer Performance Index (GPI) we hit up Google to see if anyone had pulled the data on this before. There are a couple of excellent articles that give warding data for different roles or different tiers; one official article from Riot and another published on GoldPer10 (now Gamurs.com).

It’s a good general take away that placing and killing more wards equals winning more games. But there are five different roles in League of Legends and different levels of responsibility for placement for each ward.

So what’s a realistic target to hit your next step in the ladder?

How we handled the data

We taxed a bit of the data guys’ time to drill down into some specifics. To get an even spread, we took 100 games from 100 individual players per role, per division (I-V) meaning there were 500 games per role per tier, or 2,500 games analyzed for each tier (Bronze-Challenger).

We presented the graphs in average number of wards placed per game because it gives you a more concrete figure to work towards for your individual games, rather than the total number of wards placed, which is a little more arbitrary and a little less actionable.

Remember, in the article from RiotJules linked above, it was found that 64% of players never buy a single ward. Even though the average player places 0.9 wards per game, he goes on to say that “however, that figure is heavily skewed by the few selfless heroes buying multiple wards.” So, if you’re in this group of players that ignores warding, you should find something useful here to help you win more games.

For example, if you play top lane and find yourself stuck around Silver elo and you’re placing significantly fewer Vision wards than the average for your role and the elo above, the improved vision will contribute to you climbing and finally hitting Gold. You can measure wards placed with LoL Summoner Info, though we plan to have a more details feature in Mobalytics for this in the future.

But enough chat. Let’s look at the data.

Vision wards

We’ll start with Vision wards as they’re everyone’s responsibility. Or at least, in an ideal world. They’re an inexpensive and easy way for other roles to make map vision contributions over and above trinket wards.

Avg Vision wards placed per game

For Vision wards, there’s a pretty steady increase throughout the different tiers for all roles. But there are a couple of notable increases, such as support role in Diamond compared with support role in Master and several roles between Master and Challenger, with mid laner being the biggest jump between these two.

In total over the 2,500 games analysed for each tier, Master placed 3,633 vision wards compared with Challenger’s 4,495. That’s a big difference and says a lot about the importance of this kind of ward.

Even more interesting is that while there’s a huge jump in support from Diamond to Master, Vision wards placed by this role goes down in Challenger supports, a trend we’ll continue to see as we go through the ward types and we’ll offer a few explanations as to why, too.

So even though Challengers placed some 24% more Vision wards than the tier below, all that extra vision was actually contributed by other roles, not the support. Want to ward like a Challenger? Pick up an extra Vision ward or two per game no matter what role you play.

Sight wards

Next up, the bread-and-butter of map vision – Sight wards. These are pretty much only applicable to supports and junglers, even though there are undoubtedly others who place this kind of ward somewhere out there. The recorded data is from wards placed from Sightstone and Tracker’s Knife.

Avg Sight wards per game

There are a couple of notable jumps in this graph, such as the support role between Bronze and Silver, with the Jungle role climbing more steadily until Diamond when there’s a definite spike up in Master tier. This may be interesting for junglers in the top 2% or so of the playerbase currently in Diamond elo.

Perhaps more interesting though, is that things go down again in Challenger. Considering this tier places more wards than anyone else, it’s another indicator that top, mid and bot laners are getting more involved in vision, making good use of trinkets to ease up a little warding load for support and jungle.

This is a great takeaway if you play one of these laning roles. It’s easy to think that warding isn’t your job. But the best players in the world get more involved in lighting up the map.

Blue trinkets

Blue trinkets are an interesting one because we see steady increases in most of the roles throughout the different tiers.

Avg Blue trinkets per game

The most notable increase in Blue trinkets placed is by Challenger mid laners, placing 5 on average compared with Master tier’s 3. This is another good example of how roles other than support contribute to vision in this Challenger.

If you play ADC, mid or top laner, take note that higher elos place more and upgrade sooner. Once your support and jungler are placing Site wards all over the map, the extra utility provided by the Blue trinket is a clear advantage.

It may take a little more practice getting used to this type of ward which, yes, is another thing to think about when there’s a lot to learn already. But you’ve got to start sometime.

Yellow trinkets

So what about warding totem, or yellow trinket? They’re free and don’t take up a slot so it’s perhaps not surprising to see lots of them placed, especially in low elos when players are still getting a handle on the whole warding thing. But, as players improve, they use trinkets less and use more Sight, Vision, and Blue trinket wards depending on the role.

Avg Trinkets per game

For example, Challenger placed 13,984 in the games analyzed, compared with Bronze’s 20,117. As jungle and support up the numbers for Vision and Sight wards, people start exchanging trinkets for scanners to improve ward clearing, too (which we’ll also get to shortly).

It seems kind of silly to say: “place fewer trinkets, win more games”.

A more accurate and useful conclusion might be, think about how you can refine your ward usage based on the other graphs in the article instead of being overly reliant on warding totems just because it’s easy and gives you less things to think about. Because as we can see from the data, better players use them less and upgrade them sooner.

Wards cleared

Clearing wards is another important factor to consider and we can see a steady climb in this skill throughout most roles in most tiers.

Avg wards cleared

Between Bronze and Silver, it seems players realize ward sweeping is a thing, and there’s a big jump up in wards cleared between these two elos.

Also making another appearance is the dip in Challenger support, perhaps because there’s a pretty significant jump in the jungle and mid lane’s ward clearing contributions between Master and Challenger. Once again we see this idea of the whole team pitching in at higher-level play.

Average wards placed

Finally, let’s look at this “average wards placed overall” data to see what we find see more clearly why Challenger supports place less wards.

Average wards placed

Quickly though, the thing that affects most players is the difference between Bronze and Silver (which combined, account for over 70% of the player base, compared with Master and Challenger which is more like 0.01%).

This is often when people start to realize that placing more wards is a surefire way to improve chances of success, and that’s probably why we see such a huge jump between these two elos.

From Silver onwards, things tend to climb more steadily throughout the ranks. If you place a lot less than the average recorded wards for your role and division (which you can measure with tools such as LoL Summoner Info that we also linked above) then you know what to do.

What can we learn from Challenger?

As we now know, Challenger places more wards than anyone else overall, with 73,791 being dropped compared with 71,005 in Master. But what’s surprising (and what was not revealed by previous warding articles that we found) is how many get placed by support.

While all the other roles in Challenger place more than those in Masters or any other tier, support actually places less. Maybe with the help of the whole team helping to secure key warding spots, such as the tri brush or river, support can be present for more team fights and focus on more high yield spots depending on the state of the map.

Or, perhaps because there are typically less deaths in very high level play, supports hold on to their wards for longer, maximizing efficiency. Deaths are bad, but they also mean refilling the Sightstone. If there are less kills, supports might be fielded for longer, forcing them to be more careful about how they spend their charges.

Another graph we can look at is the number of wards bought overall, just to lend a little extra data to the idea that the other roles are contributing to significantly to vision.

Avg wards bought

Every ward counts in high level play, so placing a ward randomly is less likely to happen so there’s an increasing focus on those high yield areas that maximise efficiency. This is a stark contrast to a Bronze support placing a ward haphazardly because their Sightstone is and wanting to at least dump it somewhere it’s giving more map vision than it does in their inventory. I know I’ve certainly been in that situation.

Another factor to consider is that Challenger games are typically shorter than Master games as was reported on League of Graphs. We found similar game time numbers with our own data, so this might be a small contributing factor as well.

Practicing quality with quantity

It’s good to see numbers on the different roles and to get those benchmarks, especially if you’re in the large percentage of players who could benefit from placing a few more wards each game.

While the increases and how they work out per role are valuable, the difference in how many wards get placed is often actually fairly minimal when averaged out. And that brings us to the critical issue of adding quality to quantity.

In another warding article done by Riot, data was pulled on ward locations instead of the quantity placed. It’s was interesting to see how the top-tier professional leagues set up vision.

Riot's professional League of Legends ward heat map

Image credit: Riot Games

Team Dignitas also published a detailed overview on ward spots for the different roles which you can check out here. The important thing to remember is that it’s not just quantity that counts. So how do we improve placement in the heat of the moment in chaotic games? Well, as we discussed in our interview with a Challenger coach on League’s ranked tiers, it’s important to watch your replays if you want to get better at LoL.

By adding your ward spots to the list of things to watch when analyzing your positioning and skill usage mistakes (for example), also keep a look out for more efficient spots.

If you improve the number of wards placed and keep looking for better spots to put them in, over time you’ll seriously tighten up this aspect of your game and are more likely to climb.

[Feature image credit: par Silver’s Propaganda via loleSports]

Learning League of Legends from Team fight Breakdowns

There’s an easy TL; DR for this blog post, so here it is:

Watch team fight breakdown videos because they’re great for learning League of Legends.

If you believe that and you’re going to do it, you don’t need to read the rest of the post.

It’s great tip I got from a Master tier player recently, so I want to make a case for why, because maybe then more people will do it. And the blog is all about learning League, after all.

League of Legends is a notoriously, complex game. It’s got over 200 items, over 120 champions totaling some 480 skills to learn, and that’s if you don’t include passive abilities. Those are some pretty big numbers.

An easy way to boost game knowledge

In last week’s article, on the difference between League’s ranked tiers, it was highlighted that game knowledge is a key limitation of Bronze players (no surprises there) but also that, as you climb through the ranks, there’s a strong correlation in rank and game knowledge.

  • Make better fight decisions
    Because after all, how can you make correct decisions that win fights and games if you don’t know how items, champions and abilities work? How can you anticipate the next move if you have no idea what the champ’s toolkits are and how they’re used?
  • Track fights better instead of getting lost
    It’s easy to get lost and durp out in fights. When you consider a team fight can be any combination of up to 10 champions bringing any combination of any of the above skills and items at any moment and it’s, easy to see why game knowledge is such a determining factor through the ranks. Not to mention why it’s so difficult to difficult to follow the explosive team fights when watching LoL’s eSports events as a new player.
  • Don’t get lost in the wiki
    What’s the most concentrated source of game knowledge online? The League of Legends wiki. It has much more detailed information on champions and their skills than you’ll ever find in the client, and that game knowledge is critical to mastering any champion. The problem is, the wiki is so dense and massive with endless details for all of those big numbers mentioned before, it’s difficult to know where to start.

This is all where team fight breakdown videos come in. Watch them, learn stuff and whenever something comes up that you’re not sure of, hit pause, check the wiki and get back to the video. Let’s see a couple of examples.

Team fight breakdown example #1

For example now I know:

  • Why Rageblade Hurricane Tristana has insane burst damage and will need to play much will carefully against it, prioritizing it for peel if I can
  • Gragus can body slam through walls and use his ultimate as an effective peel tool that comes out of nowhere. Got to consider that for positioning
  • I need to start thinking about how many resources have been expelled by the enemy team to base my initiation decisions (for example when playing Leona). The opening left here by TSM after blowing so many spells seeking that early advantage is the perfect example

Learning League of Legends takes time and the more effective tools you have for the job, the better. Let’s look at one more.

Team fight breakdown example #2

  • I underestimated how powerful knock-ups were because they don’t just disallow flash but also stun for the duration, so also Quicksilver Sash and other items. Made me realize I need to spend a bit more time on the crowd control page of the Wiki.
  • How to work with the team on positioning to pick out enemy ADCs, and also that entire team compositions can be built around enabling hyper carries (such as Kaitlyn in this example, or Jinx might be another super late game ADC example)
  • The difference in late game strategies between two very different in compositions and how that affects decision-making

Personally, I love this approach to learning League of Legends. Maybe it’s just my imagination but I also found myself more calm and collected during team fights in the heat of the moment, taking a bit more time to plan ahead what champions to use what skills on and a I’m certainly a lot more aware of the toolkits they’re bringing to the table.

I’m kind of hooked on these videos right now, so here’s a link to the whole series from the 2016 LoL season. Try it for yourself.

A Challenger Coach on League of Legends Ranked Tiers

Climbing the League of Legends ranked tiers, or in any competitive video game, is tough. Not least of all because it’s hard to know what you should be focusing on to improve your game at that level, and you’re missing to get out of it. This article is for you if you wonder what keeps you in your current division.

Obviously in LoL, it’s all your terrible teammate’s fault. But I mean apart from that…

As a new League player, I’ve only recently decided which champion to main and will soon start hitting the ranked games. I’ve been wondering a lot about the difference between the tiers. What should I practice and when to climb through each one quickly?

What better way to find out than to speak with someone who’s been there, and now coaches people at all League of Legends ranked tiers. Prohibit is a Challenger player who started playing League of Legends before Season 1, so he knows LoL inside and out, too.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rules here. For example, Mobalytics’ designer, Ling, was a 250APM StarCraft player who came over to League, stomped 8/10 of her placement matches to start in Gold V and a few weeks later was in Diamond. It’s not a typical progression by any means. Very strong mechanics and years of competitive gaming experience can brute force you through a lot of laddering.

But broadly speaking, here are the things that commonly hold back League players in the different ranked tiers.26

Bronze bronze

Mechanics is an interesting point to start. Prohibit believes that even in the lower tiers that most people’s are sufficient. Anyone who’s play video games in the past knows how to hit skill shots, even if orb walking and some other more advanced techniques require practice.

But overall, the main thing that holds people back from different skill brackets is the amount of game knowledge they have and their ability to apply that knowledge to their own game. Naturally, as new players, Bronze tier struggle with this the most: As Prohibit told me:

“It’s very noticeable that the more people learn about the game and understand the variables, such as what their teammates are likely to do with their particular champions at different stages of the game, different divisions start opening up.”

The problem is that learning lots about a complex game like League of Legends takes either:

  • A: A lot of time spent reading guides, which can be kind of tedious compared to queueing another game
  • B: Spamming a huge number of games until things eventually sink in on their own

If you want to climb, there’s no magic bullet; you need to learn stuff. You either play a ton of games and learn the more-fun-but-probably-slower way or start reading guides and learn the quicker-but-probably-more-tedious way.

For example, Rengar and LeBlanc are champions with many different skill combos. New players don’t know the optimum combos based on the situation and matchup at hand. When the player learns more about what these champions can do and what their enemies are likely to do, it becomes easier to apply their game knowledge of their own champion, make more informed decisions and start snowballing more often.

For this reason, bronze players typically benefit the most from learning the basics of the game. For example,

  1. Learn all the champions, what they do and how they work
  2. Learn all the items and buffs (from neutral minions, too)
  3. How much damage can be given and taken by your champ and those you commonly face
  4. Start practicing more advanced mechanics such as orb walking
  5. Improve basic decision-making such as when to retreat from lane instead of brawling it out to the end no matter what

To free up the mental space to get these fundamentals down, Prohibit recommends sticking to a maximum of three mechanically simple champions in the lower levels. By focusing on less mechanically intense champions, new players can more easily concentrate on aspects of the game such as those above.

Champions such as Soraka or Vollibear or other champions that are just “a big ball of stats” are more forgiving. Mechanical champions such as Zed just take up more mental space to play well than simple champs do.

If you’re a low elo Zed player, no one’s saying that you can’t learn this champion. It’s just that it’s much easier to learn and focus on broader game concepts when you have a simpler champion that’s easier to play.

Silver Silver

League players ranked in Silver tier typically reached the level where they’re comfortable with the game. Mechanics a decent, they know roughly how to play their champions, the fundamentals of their skill combos and can kite sufficiently, for example.

But, although Silver players can use their champion’s toolkits more effectively, the combos, positioning, and other aspects are yet second nature to the extent where it frees up mental resources to consider more macro strategies. The biggest things often holding Silvers back are:

  1. How to apply their champion knowledge in all situations (for example, a better knowledge of enemy match ups)
  2. More advanced aspects of minion wave control (we linked some videos on this at the end of last week’s article)
  3. How to make correct macro strategy decisions

For this reason, Silver players often benefit most from concepts such as basic minion wave management and the effect it has on the lane. Like when practicing CS drills in custom games, taking the time to study such concepts in an isolated way means they become second nature more easily

Another example of principles is positioning based on the effective zone of champions. Higher-ranked League players envision a circle around each champion to represent their effective zone for auto attacks and skill shots, like when you press A in game and it shows a circle around your champion. Prohibit showed me a tool called Map Rift that’s used to play around with this kind of idea. Here’s a screenshot:

Image shows an annotated screenshot from LoL tool map rift to explain how effective zones help climb league of legends ranked tiers

If you’re playing support, then yours and your ADC’s effective zones should be overlapping as often as possible. That way, if your laning opponents step too far from each other, then you can trade 2 vs. 1 easily. For example, If you’re playing a Leona support with a Lucian ADC, you can E to close the gap, Q to stun, and because Lucian was standing right next to you, he can easily follow up with a couple of skill shots and chase to secure the kill if necessary.

Prohibit teaches Silver players concepts like this and finds that this tier generally benefits most from learning:

  1. Laning
  2. Trading effectively
  3. Avoiding early minion aggro
  4. Positioning in team fights
  5. Keeping up CS throughout the game and maintaining a lead (which we’ll get to an example for soon)

When people hit Silver and start getting a little better, the blame game is still a big problem. In our chat, Prohibit used the analogy of playing Street Fighter. In these 1 vs. 1 fighting games, it’s painfully clear that the only way you can possibly win more games is if you assess and improve your own individual performance.

The problem in League of Legends is that there are so many variables (with 4 the biggest bring on the same team as you) it’s much easier to blame everything else. There’s always going to be blame thrown around League of Legends ranked tiers, and sometimes if we make a really dumb mistake, maybe some of it’s even justified.

But around high Silver is when more players start realizing it’s on them to concentrate on their own game. Like we mentioned in our article on How to Learn League of Legends from a Martial Arts & Chess Champion, you can’t expect circumstances to always be perfect. It’s much better to focus on yourself.

When that happens, it’s only a matter of time before Silver players climb to Gold.

Gold Gold

High Silver to low Gold is when players start getting comfortable with their champions, positioning and trading better to focus on more macro aspects of the game, such as how to keep your team’s lead.

Often times, players at these levels know some strategies, but they’re not great at executing them in the heat of a game without losing a ton of XP and farm along the way. There are just so many things to weigh up in the moment.

Here’s an example of a macro concept on what to do after you take the first tower that Prohibit teachers to Silver through Platinum, with Gold players being the level that really start to get it down. He calls it “completing the wave”.

  • When the first turret’s down, push your minion wave right into the t2 turret, provided the enemy jungle isn’t close by and lots of kills up
  • This forces the enemy ADC to make a decision. They can either farm the wave stacked at their turret, or deal with you while you invade their jungle, go Dragon or gank mid and lose all that farm from the wave you just pushed under their turret
  • Don’t stick around in lane pushing for a second turret, as you’re susceptible to backstab ganks from both their jungle and the river
  • If they def’ and farm that lane CS, that gives you free reign of the map and you have the man advantage because their ADC is stuck defending their tower
  • Either way, you’re going to win a fight or take another objective, thus pressing the advantage you gained after taking the first turret
  • Once the enemy ADC has cleared the minion wave hammering down their t2 turret, the lane eventually gets pushed back down to your turret. Once you’ve taking the Dragon, an easy team fight, or invaded their jungle for resources, head back down to your turret and collect all the farm there, too

This is an example of a more macro decision-making process you that’s easier to focus on once you’re out the lower elos where people just tend to brawl everything out to the bitter end at every opportunity.

As we get into higher Gold and working towards platinum, improving at League becomes a lot about making such decisions second nature and then honing in on specifics based on the matchup and game situation at the time. For example, this concept often benefits Silver players and many Gold players. But the level of detail to which Gold and Platinum players can implement the strategy will be greater. It becomes not just about what you learn, but also the depth and degree of specificity to which you learn it.

It’s a lot like those CS drills again. When you practice regularly in custom games, you don’t need to think about last hitting because you’ve got it dialed. Playing your champ all the time means you don’t have to think about that, because you’ve got it dialed, too.

Instead, you think about concepts like the above, or free up mental space for things like the fact that Dragon is spawning in 5 minutes so you’ll ward 2 minutes in advance and make sure you’re pushing bot lane instead of top. Any gank opportunities or easy CS that come your way in between those times are taken care of on autopilot.

PlatinumPlatinum

As players climb towards Platinum, they begin focusing more on how actions such as these affect the future of the game. They know what to do situationally, and that frees up mental space to think about how actions will affect the game in the future. Prohibit uses the example of fencing, a sport he’s done for some many years.

In the beginning, people learn to fence just learn how to move properly. Once they learn how to move properly, they learn how to attack. Once they learn that, they move on to mind games and how to get inside their opponent’s head. One layer at a time, more and more is committed to muscle memory,  freeing up mental space for broader concepts.

Typically, by the time players reach Platinum, this is the process they’ve gone through with League of Legends. And, because they have a better understanding of the game, it also allows for more balanced team play.

For example, a lot of people want to a hero and carry the game. But the difficult truth is that there’s not enough farm to go round, so in an absolute best case scenario, only three champions are going to get super fed. And if that happens on a team with 4 very farm-dependent champs, someone’s going to get screwed, be easy to pick off and then get all salty about the fact they’re having a bad game. If you have an Ekko top, Jinx bot, Zed mid and Master Yi in the jungle, they can’t all be OP by late game.

Yes, just by chance, you’ll probably always gets super greedy pick games like this in all the League divisions at least some of the time. But, by the time players get to Platinum, enough of them have typically developed a better appreciation for team composition aim to have more balanced games.

Getting really good at playing carry roles is, by all accounts, an effective way to climb the ladder. There will always be League of Legends players in ranked and otherwise that focus hard on this role. But, as players reach Plat’, those in more support-oriented roles can spot these super focused players that know their champions inside and out and will play as a team to help them snowball out of control and support them accordingly.

As players climb to high Platinum, they’ve typically also developed the skill of how to work on their own problems. They’re good at spotting mistakes when watching their own replays, take notes of their downfalls and always (or at least most of the time…) approach their own game with a good mentality. When they do that, with all of the fundamentals of the micro and macro game in place, and a better appreciation for team play, they eventually reach Diamond.

DiamondDiamond

When I asked Prohibit what was the biggest thing holding people back in Diamond, he said it’s often their own mentality. Getting to Diamond feels good, and players he’s worked with are worried about falling back down the ranks which ultimately results in ladder anxiety.

This is a problem, because you’re essentially playing in the top 2% of League and winning games means you need to be in a good mindset, not freaking out about dropping your rank.

The advice he gives is not to focus on winning, but to focus on getting better. Worrying about losing means that when you do (which would you inevitably will approximately 50% of the time) you’re much more likely to go on tilt.

But, if you keep breaking down your mistakes, and put a huge focus on improvement, you’ll get through it.

Regarding tools and strategies for the job, many Diamond players will already do this. And really, it applies to all elos, too. But Prohibit believes that strategies that involve looking for mistakes pays the highest dividends in and around Diamond elo. Because, after all, when in Bronze and Silver, there are champions and items and buffs to learn, and you’re never going to climb to Diamond without such basic game knowledge.

Here’s a checklist for higher level players.

  1. Do warm-ups before ranked games
  2. Drill CS until hitting 100+ in the first 10 minutes can be done with your eyes closed
  3. Use Plays.tv or Replay.gg to pick apart your deaths, kills, assists and other aspects of the game
  4. Make a Google doc with tabs for early, late and mid games, taking notes of your mistakes at these stage
  5. Focus on one of your game flaws each week until you’ve shored it up.

Diligently and systematically seek out mistakes and weak points in this way, take notes, isolate the practice techniques, keep a good mentality that doesn’t involve blaming teammates and you too can one day hit Challenger.

Farming League of Legends 101: Don’t Autoattack in Lane

Look, it’s a super simple blog post this week because we’re poring over the data we’re pulling from Riot’s API right now. But we also wanted to cover a basic beginner mistake just because we see it so often, and this principle on farming League of Legends lanes is so fundamental that not many guides elsewhere point it out. Plus we said we’d cover in the last week’s article on LoL opening strategies, too.

If you’re going into lane at the start of each League of Legends game (or Dota, and probably other MOBAs, too) and standing in there auto attacking creeps like you’re farming in World of Warcraft, you’re doing it wrong. This approach means you’re:

  • Needlessly pushing the lane and leaving yourself open to easy ganks (explanation below)
  • Easier to hit for enemy skill shots
  • Missing out on valuable last hits

The competition at the beginning of the game is not who can push the creep line hardest in the other’s direction. It’s who can most skilfully manipulate the creep line into the most favorable position possible which, for you at the start of the game, is not directly underneath the enemy’s turret where they’re very hard to kill thanks to its protection.

As far as farming League of Legends goes, this is basic stuff, but I once played with someone who had 500 games under their belt, and they still pushed the lane out with auto attacks from minute one. In solo pub games, I had numerous conversations like this one.

Me: Hey, can you please last hit creeps only during the laning phase?
Laning buddy: *silence…keeps auto attacking and pushing the lane out*
Me: If you keep pushing the lane out like this, we’ll be under the enemy tower which is bad for us
Laning buddy: *silence…keeps auto attacking and pushing the lane out*
Me: Because we’re wide open to backstabs and won’t be able to gank them is easily…
Laning buddy: SHUT UUUUUUP!

It’s kind of a funny scenario, but it actually happened multiple times. I didn’t want to be obnoxious, but I didn’t want the ADC I was supporting and trying to set up kills for pushing the lane right up to the enemy tower either. But the player just didn’t get what I meant, no doubt because he was too busy concentrating on his game. So here’s how to do it right.

Why not to push too early

I loaded up a custom League instance with Lucian and stood in lane auto attacking creeps, making sure to use the PROJECT skin because it’s so damn OP. Here’s where the creep line was at 2:40 into the game. Remember, this is with auto attacks only. Many new players use their abilities to farm in addition to their auto attacks, which kills creeps quicker and pushes the lane even faster.

image shows lane position while farming League of Legends when auto attacking creeps

Of course, there are times when you should push your creeps into enemy towers like the screenshot above. For example, if you’re about to go back to base or if you actually want to take the tower (towards the end of the laning phase or later). When to push and when not to comes under the broader and more complex topic of lane control, which we’ll cover in the future and provide a few resource links below, too.

But pushing the lane out right away without a moment’s thought on strategy puts you in a vulnerable spot.  So here’s a second screenshot also taken at 2:40 into the game, except with me last hitting creeps only, no auto attacks.

image shows lane position while farming League of Legends when last hitting creeps to improve lane control

The second screenshot is a much safer place to be when you’re lane farming League of Legends, because you’re much less susceptible to ganks from roaming enemies, typically by the enemy jungler or midlane.  Just to clarify this point, let’s blow up and annotate a couple of LoL minimap screenshots.

mini map screenshot shows the danger of farming League of Legends wrong with auto attacks in lane making for poor positioning

Even in most lower-level ranked games, you should have a ward in the river. But, if the enemy jungler has a gap closer such as Amumu or Nidalee or especially the super ganky Lee Sin, and you’re pushed right up into their tower, it will only take a very brief drop in map awareness for them to come in and pull off a successful gank.

And all because you were auto attacking and pushing the lane when you shouldn’t have been.

mini map screenshot shows the benefits of farming League of Legends correctly with last hits in lane making for better, safer positioning

If you’re standing in the position of the above screenshot, you’ve got plenty of time to see the enemy coming from the river and are much more difficult to kill.

Farming in League of Legends means moving a lot

So how should you last hit? Essentially, you should do it by moving around a lot, re-positioning yourself in between your single attacks. When you let the auto attack fire one shot or swing after another, you’re standing still for way too long and just asking to eat a Thresh hook or a Morgana dark binding or any other number of initiations that will ruin your day.

In addition to that, you also mess up your last hit timing. Moving in between attacks helps keep a rhythm going. I remember when I first saw streamers and pro’s moving a little between each and every attack and it looked kind of hard. But upon trying it, I found it was actually pretty easy and that the rhythm aspect helped put my CS up a lot. Try it for yourself.

Here’s a side-by-side video comparison to show the difference between these two approaches. Remember, I’m learning this game with you guys, so if I can do it, (even if it’s nowhere near as precise as better players) you can, too.

It’s a super basic principle that opens up doors of more complex ideas such as lane freezing and building minion waves, both of which also fall into the lane control category mentioned above. If you want to master farming in League of Legends or any other MOBA, it’s important to study and practice these ideas.

But for now, just don’t go auto attacking creeps in lane as soon as you arrive. Think about where the creep line is, and what that means for your current situation. And when the lane’s pushed out, make extra effort to watch your minimap.

Lane control resources: