How to Win Your Lane in League of Legends Early Game

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.


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.


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.