Toughen Up Buttercup
Top tier League of Legends gameplay is all about balance. Push too far up and you open yourself up to getting ganked. Farm too much and you might find yourself missing in teamfights. Jungle too hard and you might die to red buff. The list goes on and on and as our first Skill Decompilation article covered Aggression, it’s only natural that we follow up with Aggression’s natural counterpart: Toughness.
If Aggression is about punishing mistakes, then Toughness is about understanding what mistakes you/your opponent can make and choosing options that make you the least vulnerable. Being based on knowledge and experience, Toughness can be the most arduous skill to learn as it demands the most research out of all the skills. That being said, to set the stage, let’s take a look at Team Liquid’s (then newly minted) mid-laner, Piglet, make the most of his abilities against Immortals in Week 6 of the Spring 2017 NA LCS (skip to 9:23 for the action to start).
The teamfight starts out looking pretty poor for Team Liquid as Youngbin’s Varus is taken out almost immediately and Piglet’s Cassiopeia is left running with a low quarter of health. However, here is where Piglet starts turning it around:
Piglet positions himself accordingly because he knows that neither of the two Immortals champions in front of him (Morgana and Sivir) can damage his Cassiopeia without going through Matt/Lourlo or passing through his [Piglet’s] Miasma field.
Piglet recognizes this and immediately punishes the now slowed and poisoned Sivir, quickly securing the kill with Cassiopeia’s E, Twin Fang (which deals additional damage to poisoned enemies), and a basic attack.
Now at a bare sliver of health, Piglet works to position himself behind Mao’kai to block shots from the enemy Ryze, but is literally just a second or few frames too slow and Piglet’s Cassiopeia finally falls.
To put it all in perspective, what just took us paragraphs to explain happened in less than 15 seconds in the Team Liquid and Immortals teamfight. For those struggling to improve their game, it can be understandably intimidating to process how you can get to Piglet’s level of survivability, but we assure you it’s within your capabilities. That being said, let’s take a look at how Mobalytics puts together your Toughness score to help make you one hard to kill Summoner.
- Positioning is the only Toughness sub-skill that will be highlighted in green as it scores the balance between how much damage you’re doing and how frequently you’re dying. To translate, if we take the above example, a positioning score of 90.4 out of 100 means that you’re in the 90.4% percentile (top 10%) and are likely doing a lot of damage per death.
- It should also be noted that your Positioning score is calculated differently depending on which role you have selected. E.G. a Nautilus will or should be positioning themselves very differently from a Karma or a Jhin player. If you find that your Positioning score is significantly higher from one role to the next, you may want to more carefully evaluate where to put yourself next time you play that role.
- Much like the Aggression sub-skill, Build in Toughness is gray because it does not measure how well or poorly you perform, but how defensive or offensive your kit is. The only distinction is that under Aggression, a Build score of 100 means that you only took offensive items/runes/masteries. Under Toughness, a Build score of 100 means you only took defensive items/runes/masteries.
- Like the Build sub-skill, Damage Taken is also gray because on its own, your amount of Damage Taken cannot be measured as good or bad. A high Damage Taken score simply means that you took a lot of damage and should be viewed through the lens of the most common champions/roles you play. For example, if you’re playing tank characters like Nautilus or Mao’Kai and your Damage Taken is not very high, then perhaps you need to help body block more shots for your supports/ADCs.
- A little self-descriptive, Gank Susceptibility measures how frequently you die to enemy champions outside of their lane, in the early phase of the game. As the game progresses, the dynamics shift more towards team fighting and objectives, so early game gank avoidance is a more measurement of your independent Toughness.
- Hopefully, we don’t have to explain the what the Deaths sub-skill is to you and why it’s a red sub-skill and not gray.
How to take your Toughness to the next level
We feel the best way to explain how to improve your Toughness score is by breaking the learning curve into three distinct components: game knowledge, mechanics, and map awareness.
[STARTER] Learning Champion Abilities
Knowing your windows and cooldown timings and how the enemy can punish them is imperative to good defensive play. You can learn this information through osmosis by just playing more games, but to be efficient about the process, study your champions through the League of Legends wikia.
[ADVANCED] Mastering hard-to-quantify information
As you move up the ladder, you’ll want to start improving your perception and gut analysis of the opposing team. This manifests in concepts such as:
- Estimating how quickly a team can kill Baron
- How fast can the opposing team respond to an enemy Baron attempt
- How quickly can different champions traverse X distance on the map.
Each of these concepts change from game to game so the best advice really is to play, play, play. To help minimize the learning curve, watch LCS footage to see how quickly a team can reach/take objectives with maximum coordination and use that as a baseline (considering that most of the opposing teams in your solo queue will not have nearly the same level of coordination).
[MELEE] Spacing and Positioning
Positioning is arguably more important for melee champions than ranged. For tanks and bruisers, you don’t always want to dive straight into the fray. Doing so can easily divide you away from your team and result in you getting you bursted or dying before your team even has a chance to help out. If your team comp doesn’t have a lot of great follow-up, think about holding the space right in front of your backline until the enemy missteps before going HAM.
[RANGED] Spacing and Positioning
As a ranged champion, good positioning is considered being spaced within a few units of maximum range. Maintaining great spacing allows you more time to react to skill shots and abilities while keeping you a hair’s length away from dangerous melee champions. If you’re struggling with movement and mouse control, work on your max range spacing in the practice tool by kiting the Scuttle Crab in the river.
Juking and Dodging
Unfortunately, we can’t just tell you how to dodge skill shots, but we can suggest one piece of advice to make juking a much easier task: if you aren’t playing a champion that can make use of walls for mobility, try not to hug too close to a wall. Walls restrict your movement, make you more predictable and also easier to hit. Give yourself more room to make it harder for your opponent to guess where you’ll move next.
Staying at as high of an HP value as possible is imperative in the early game. This might seem frightfully obvious, but the extra 150 – 200 hitpoints that you retain at full HP with a potion makes a huge difference when trying to escape an all-in or a jungle gank. Now the question is do you potion around 70% HP to bring yourself back up to 90 – 100% or do you save it for later? While we can’t answer every specific scenario, it generally depends on how your opponent is playing and what the lane matchup is. If your opponent is relatively passive and you don’t expect jungle ganks, you’ll likely be trading less frequently and can lean towards being a bit more greedy with your potions (as you have a larger window to naturally regen health).
Risk vs Reward
In League, everything is risk versus reward. For example, minions are low risk/reward (~15 minions is about a kill) and 1 v 1 kills are high risk/reward. Part of a good defense is knowing the payouts for each risk you take. For example, if you’re getting crushed in lane and the enemy is looking to harass you for every CS you go for, which minions pose the greatest risk to last hit? In this situation, identify how aggressively your opponent is trying to trade with you when you make a move towards last hitting. If they move to harass, then the risk is too high and the correct move is to wait until the wave pushes closer to your tower to last hit safely. High level streamers like Scarra and resident Mobalytics coach Adam “Moriarty” Isles, who take solo queue seriously, are a great resource to accelerate your learning process when it comes to the risk vs reward dance.
Warding enemy camps/river will help keep track of where the enemy Jungler is (or isn’t) spending his/her time. As a Top Laner, if all your team wards are on the bottom side of the map and jungle, and you do not see the enemy Jungler, you can infer that the enemy Jungler is near the top side of the map. Our community manager, Katelynne, put together this quick reference guide for common warding spots on Summoner’s Rift. Map key is as follows:
- Green Dots – Good early game spots for regular wards, but generally applicable throughout
- Pink Dots – Good spots for control wards
- Red Dots – Good spots for mid to late game phases
Being able to keep mental tabs on your opponents through fog of war is what separates good players from the greats. You can start with the Jungler since their movement is very predictable in the early stages of the game. Pay attention to which lane leashes for their Jungler to predict which side they started on. Most Junglers will gank the opposite side of the map they started on. For example, if they started bottom side, then they will likely work their up and look for a gank top or mid around 3~4 minutes.
Look for patterns in your opponent’s play. Have they been playing cautiously and avoiding trades like the plague, but they’re suddenly going all in on you in a disadvantageous situation? Expect a gank and start to retreat!
We chose the Mr. Mundoverse skin for our featured image because in many ways, building your Toughness skill closely parallels the process of working out and going to the gym. Gains don’t appear overnight in the same way that you won’t magically become an un-killable god of Summoner’s Rift after reading this article (probably). Success in Toughness is built brick by brick on the foundation that is your skillset.
Start with knowledge, learning what to expect of your enemy and what to expect of yourself. Once you’ve established full understanding, practice and refine your mechanical capability to consistently execute that knowledge to the point of muscle memory. Last but most definitely not least, you’ll never defeat the enemy you can’t see so make sure you have map awareness up for yourself and your team so you can apply all that you’ve put together.