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Sometimes being in $YOURRANK can make the game feel not worth playing. And tbh, sometimes you’re right; sometimes a game is lost before you can even begin, because people are stupid. But you can’t let that get you down.  Good mechanics will only carry you so far – what we’re here to do is to fix your thought process and the way you think about the game.

There’s a bunch of stuff here, start slow.  Leave a month between reading Part 1 and Part 2.  Seriously.

Just start training yourself to think this way about the game state, and the true nature of League of Legends will reveal itself.


Part 1: How To Know What To Do

Decision-making Process

Every time you base, die, get a kill, secure an objective, have a decision to make, or even just a moment to think, run this checklist to make sure you’re basing whatever decision you make off the right information.  This is arguably the most important thing to being able to reliably win games even if the early game doesn’t go well.

The Decision Making Checklist: EMOVIP

    • Enemy Champions: Where are the enemy champions? Where might they be?
    • Minion waves: where are they? what direction are they pushing?
    • Objectives: what is available? eg jungle camps, dragon, herald, baron, towers
    • Vision: What vision do we have? What does the enemy have?
    • Items: Which enemies are strong? Which are weak? Who is in a power spike?

 

  • Prediction: If I were the enemy team with the above game state, what would I do next?

 

Recite EMOVIP every time you have a moment to think.

Advice

  • Always buy/have a control ward (or two) even if just for sweeping enemy vision.
  • You can bait enemies onto the far side of the map with pushing minion waves
  • Don’t be afraid to make baron calls if you have mid and top priority, waves are pushed, have cleared vision in the pit and you can see two enemies on the far side of the map.
  • Don’t let the enemy see you retreat into Fog Of War heading towards baron. Walk back up lane then go to baron.
  • Put top laner in bot lane and split push while other four set up baron. This can often bait a 2-3 person response so even if you die your team gets free baron.
  • If you kill the caster creeps from a wave and don’t touch the melees, your minion wave will slowly build up and form a super wave.  For added bonus run ahead in the lane and kill the 2nd wave’s casters as well.
  • If your team is behind, equally trading kills/objectives helps you catch up. 1 for 1 kill or tower is fine, or if the enemy loses more than you do (ie they have baron/elder buffs)
  • When you do get a kill or secure an objective, look around the map to see what else you can get to push your advantage. Are you safe to take a second tower? Can you take enemy jungle camps?  Is it an opportunity to ward?  Can you get a dragon on the way out? If the jungler is on the far side, can you shove your wave out? Etc

If you’re trying to actively raise your elo, you should do warm up and warm downs of mechanics training inside customs and bot games daily. Press yourself to achieve higher scores, focus on your inputs and how clean/quick they are, and play reflex games when in queue such as OSU to maximize your input speed.  Speed is a byproduct of accuracy.  Make your movements accurate, and then with repetition they will become quick.

This was the most important bit. You can stop reading here. Using this checklist alone will get you climbing.  You will still make mistakes, but you will be making decisions based on the right things.

Now rewatch a VOD of a game you did badly, and one you did well in.  See what went differently and think about why you made the decisions you did.

Rewatch the VOD and replay every time you get dumpstered to figure out how it happened and how to avoid it.

The idea is to evaluate your play in a vacuum, using a style that gives you a winning playrate in games where you can have influence. Don’t analyze your games in their individuality, but rather over 20, 50, 100 game blocks.

– Pick two things from the last game that you want to improve on,
– Make a conscious effort to work on those during the game
– Evaluate afterwards how you went. What worked? What didn’t? What did you do well? What opportunities were missed? How will you do better next time?

Start Part 2 in a months’ time.  It’ll still be here.


Part 2: Do Things Better And Smarter

Laners

Definitions:

Trade: Exchanging damage with an enemy.  A good trade involves you doing more damage than you take. A bad trade involves you taking more damage than you do.  Be aware that shields and champions with built-in sustain/healing (eg Irelia) may mean an even trade is actually bad, because she can regenerate the health faster than you can.

Kill threat: If one champion goes all in on another, they can kill them.

Priority: Basically means control.  If you have priority on something, you control the area around it and have a positional advantage.  This can apply to minion waves, towers, neutral objective, just about anything in the game.  Having priority on something means your presence makes it impossible or difficult for an enemy to enter the area without taking more damage than they can dish out.

Vision Line: In a perfect world, you have a line of control wards spanning the map top to bot in various brushes, in an area you control.  You can place stealth wards further beyond this line into areas you don’t control.  As you take control of more of the map, move your ward line up further, both control wards and stealth.

Questions

  • How do I win a trade with my lane opponent?
  • How do they win a trade with me?
  • Do I have more minions in the wave than them?
  • When are they stronger than me?
  • When am I stronger than them?
  • Do I have kill threat on the enemy?
  • Do they have kill threat on me?
  • Can I take lane priority and force the enemy to farm with abilities rather than AAs?
  • Who can shove the wave harder, me or them? If I shove them in for tower damage does that present an advantage to me or make it easier for them to farm without harass?  If I shove them in, will I get ganked?
  • What jungle camps/buffs are available?  Where might the enemy jungler be pathing?  
  • What does a gank from the enemy jungler look like? Where is my jungler and can he assist if a gank comes?

Advice

  • Have a plan. When do you plan to B and shop? What will you get? How does that affect your lane?
  • If you have lane priority, zone your opponent off minion waves.  Watch your minion health dropping, and when they move in to last-hit, attack them.
  • If you force your lane opponent to farm with their abilities, they can’t use them on you.  If you’re winning lane, you should be able to force them to farm with abilities while you farm with autoattacks.
  • Don’t go deep in the wave to trade at low level. If you do, duck into a bush to drop aggro
  • Play around enemy cooldowns. What is the cooldown on their abilities? Bait out abilities and abuse them while they’re down. This includes flash/heal/etc
  • Shove waves before backing so as not to lose farm
  • Be aware of enemy mana/energy/fury bars. If a mana-dependent champ is healthy but OOM you may be able to just straight up murder them.
  • Empty lanes with uneven numbers of minions will push to a tower, damage the tower, then bounce back the other way.  Equal minions will crash in place and freeze.  When running the checklist, determine if you need to go catch a wave before it hits your tower, or whether if you roam to join a pushing wave you can get a tower before being collapsed upon.
  • Lane-to-Lane roam takes ~15 seconds.  Check the minimap every 5 seconds. If adjacent lane is MIA in two consecutive checks, back off due to gank threat – you may only have five seconds left to live.
  • If you are losing your lane and the enemy has kill threat on you, play like a bitch and just farm at range. Concede lane gracefully, don’t feed.
  • Remember that builds are situational, and may be altered when things don’t go as expected. This might mean more resistances, or that it’s okay to go full glass cannon.

Lane-specific tips

Top:
  • Vision: use lane priority to shove in and place down vision in enemy jungle.
  • TP usage can change a game. Be looking around the map for wards/minions to TP to in advance.  Look at relative health/mana bars on mid and bot lane and when your jungler is invading.  Determine whether they might be all-inned and be ready to pull the trigger.  Your wave should be shoved so you don’t lose farm.  Stand back or retreat to a brush so laner doesn’t see TP going out.  Be cautious if they have any CC abilities that can cancel it.
  • Shove wave before backing so you can walk to lane. TPing back first back is fine.  Do this only once if possible.
Mid:
  • How much mana will you require to get you through to level 6 all-in? Do you need to B and get a mana item level 5 to prepare? If so, shove the wave first. If you’re confident enough in your abilities & the match up, consider taking TP over a combat summoner spell. eg. Orianna will OOM level 5 if she’s trading well. B and TP back with lost chapter for level 6 all-in vs a dorans ring opponent.
  • Is there an enemy Zac, Lee Sin, Bard, Talon, Blitzcrank etc who can come at you from weird angles? Where are your wards?  Play towards the side of the lane you have most warded.  Playing against Evelynn? Ward the nearest camp as she breaks camouflage to farm it and keep a control ward near your lane.
  • Aggressive trading can make your enemy scared. If you can make them afraid with surprise damage amounts you may be able to zone them off farm even if they may potentially win the all-in.
  • Be ready to shove the wave in and roam bot or top to get a kill. Consider possible enemy jungler location before doing this.  Retreat up lane into FOW so you’re not seen leaving.
  • Mages: what are the ranges and cooldowns of my abilities and the enemies? Where am i safe? Where am i not safe?
  • Assassins: How much damage can I safely take while AA farming? You are useless if you can’t burst them down faster than they can kill/kite you. Trade with abilities and farm with auto attacks if you can. Take priority on the wave. Be aware of three-hit rune procs and avoid getting hit a third time.

 

Support:
  • Your biggest responsibility is vision placement and vision denial.
  • Keeping your ADC safe is only part of it, your responsibility is also to mid and jungle.
  • First back sightstone/control ward/sweeper
  • Second back mobi boots/control ward
  • Now that you’ve placed wards, look at them. You’ll need to danger ping your team.
  • Be aware of how your support item generates gold and remember to proc it
  • Use auto attacks whenever you can, they add up esp where you have runes to proc
  • Upgrade to Oracle Lens @ Level 9
  • Vision doesn’t win you games, it just stops you from losing them. Denying the enemy vision wins games.
  • Might the nearby enemy buff be taken?  Do you know where the enemy jungler is? Can you get in to ward without being spotted?  Sweep tribrush/river to clear vision before invading.  Shove the lane before roaming so you have control over river entrance to return safely. Tell your adc to play safe while you roam.
  • Check. The. Mini. Map. Every. Five. Seconds. No excuses.
  • You can gank mid. Consider ganking mid! Especially as thresh/karma/blitzcrank.
  • Roam to help/accompany your jungler, especially if you don’t know where the enemy jungler is. If you’re not roaming at least a little, you’re a shitty support.
  • Set up vision inside the enemy jungle before moving to take objectives.  Use Frost Queen’s Claim as mobile wards, or check brushes with abilities.  Don’t facecheck.
ADC:
  • Don’t overuse mana early
  • Be aware of giving cannons and melee minions over to relic shield supports
  • No-one will peel for you. Consider playing an ADC with self-peel or mobility.  Save your self-peel for when you need it eg cait traps, jinx chompers, draven standaside, ezreal.
  • Be aware of enemy ability distances and ranges. This is more important for you as you are squishy and useless most of the game.
  • Pay attention to the minimap.
  • If you have a global ult (ezreal, ashe, jinx, ziggs, draven, etc), be looking around the map and at your teammates health bars for an opportunity.
  • If you’re Ashe/Kalista, use your hawkshot/wraiths to check enemy jungle camps.
Jungle:
  • Know or scout out where the enemy jungler is starting. Get your laner to ward your buff while you invade on the far side. Don’t be afraid to go on a long walk to get there, so you can triple-buff him and starve him off farm.
  • Watch the buff timers so you know what’s spawning when. If your enemy jungler is disrupted from being triplebuffed (eg their red, your blue, wolves, your red) it’s unlikely they will be waiting for next spawn, so do it again.
  • Have a plan. What is your path? Are you power-farming to 6 like Yi or Shyvana? or trying to get level 2/3 and ganking like Lee Sin or Elise?  Which lane will you gank?  How long will it take you to get there?  Know your path/gank timing for each early-ganking champion you play so you can inform your laners what time you will be there. Test in customs.
  • Lane priority dictates what’s safe.  If all your lanes are pushed they’re all open to being ganked but you’re also free to take dragon/herald control and ward.
  • Hold onto your skillshots, you’re scarier with them up and they’re harder to dodge close up. eg Elise cocoon, Lee Sin sonic wave.  Wait for your enemy to use their movement ability (if they have one) before activating your gap-closer.  Eg  elise rappel, lee sin resonating strike.  
  • Vision control: control wards as sweepers is a-ok.  Overbuy them two at a time if you can afford it.
  • Tracking the enemy jungler may be hard without deep control wards.  Can you kill them if you find them?  Use the decision making checklist to determine what objectives he might target next and use that to either kill him if you can or avoid him if you can’t.  Don’t count on your laners roaming/rotating to help.

 

Understanding team compositions

Questions

  • When/where are we strong, and when/where are we weak?
  • How should each lane match-up play out?
  • What are our win conditions? What are the enemy win conditions?
  • How do we bridge through our weaknesses to get to our strengths?
  • Does our team composition have a time limit? Eg do we get outscaled?
  • Can we overcome scaling issues by securing infernal drakes?

Some of these questions need explaining. Win conditions are basically the set of things you need to happen in order to win the game.  Does your team have mostly early power but also a caitlyn?  Your win condition is getting your Caitlyn to four items then sieging, when no-one can touch her from her range, Rapidfire Cannon, and traps.  If it’s a Kog’maw or Jinx, your win condition includes being able to protect said carry. In order to get to that win condition, you need a bridge.  A bridge is the strategy/condition required to get you through those late-game scaling champions weakness in their power troughs in order to get to the strong times.  If your team is all late-game scaling, you risk falling severely behind early and losing the game before you get huge.  So, in order to make it to late game, you pick to have some strength early, and some strength mid.  Maybe your plan is ‘play passive as hell for 30 minutes then win’.  That’s okay I guess, but solo queue players can’t be relied on to do this.

To re-iterate:

Draft -> Bridge -> Win condition

Example:

Draft:
You: Darius, Xin Zhao, Orianna, Caitlyn, Thresh.
Enemy: Riven, Elise, Talon, Lucian, Tahm Kench

Your team power/bridges:
Early power: Xin Zhao
Mid power: Darius
Late power: Orianna, Caitlyn

Their team power/bridges:
Early power: Talon, Elise
Mid power: Lucian, Riven
Late power: None

It’s clear they have a much earlier strength than we do, but also that it drops off late game.

Their plan: Elise will surely want to gank mid against an immobile AP mage to snowball talon and get him roaming to distribute their early power around the map, and bring Lucian/Riven online earlier to snowball and end before Orianna/Caitlyn scale up.

Your plan: Darius needs be able to kill Riven so she can’t match him in top lane.  This will draw pressure from Talon/Elise, meaning they can’t focus on snowballing Talon, leaving Orianna free to farm and rotate bot, squashing the quite-safe 2-item power spike Lucian Tahm bot lane and getting herself fed.  Caitlyn and Orianna have safety to farm and get huge.

Understanding both your win condition and the enemy win condition is vital, especially to junglers who will decide where to distribute pressure on the map.  Remember: it’s generally better to attack where the enemy is weak, rather than attempt to counter where they’re strong.  Being baited into a 2v2 trying to countergank mid has much worse odds than a 2v1 top, and if Elise shows up to countergank then at least Riven isn’t as strong as Talon would be, making the 2v2 safer.  This also dictates your warding strategy – keeping control of top-mid river.

Advice

  • Don’t build a team of all AD unless you are 100% sure you can finish pre-30 minutes because armor exists. Mixing damage types is vital. Eg. If you have all AD, consider AP Ziggs/Corki ADC or a mage support like Zyra/Brand.
  • Consider champion choices for team synergy.  Got a Hecarim or general purpose team that wants to run at the enemy? Maybe Karma support is for you for the speed-up and shield.

Your laning should be getting stronger now. Work on this for a month.  Check back in for part 3 at the end of the second month.


Part 3: The Larger Game At Work

Macro Concepts

Slow Pushing

What: If your minion wave has 3-4 more minions than the enemy, your wave will build up into a super wave and push itself down the lane.  

Why: Use this before leaving a lane to create pushes that will damage towers or take them on its own.  If the enemy doesn’t rotate to catch the wave, you get free towers and they lose minions.  If they do, you have an opportunity to fight 5v4 on the far side of the map.

How: Kill just the caster minions from a wave so you have 3 ranged and 3 melee creeps vs 3 melee creeps.  To make it happen faster, skip down the lane and do the second wave’s casters as well, however the crash will be smaller. The minions will become a superwave and push themselves. Then rotate away from the push, since one of them will go to catch it, or your minions will take a free tower.

When: Mid to late game, as laning phase is ending and one outer tower is down in the lane. Yours or theirs, doesn’t matter. As long as the lane is long enough for it to build and for your wave to catch up to your other wave.

Abusing Fog Of War (AFOW)

What: Backing off the minion wave when split pushing so you disappear off the enemy minimap between wave clears.

Why: Create enemy uncertainty about where you are on the map and whether you’ve rotated or TP’d away.

How: Just … walk backwards after you clear a wave like you were going to B until you’re out of sight of the minions.  Maybe take this opportunity to roam into the jungle and set up some forward vision for yourself, then return to the wave as it crashes and clear the next one.

When: Any time, usually when you’re alone in lane.

Split Pushing

What: One team member sits in a side lane and pushes on their own, while the rest of the team does their thing.

Why: To utilize their superior 1v1 or pushing power to force the enemy to rotate multiple members to stop the one person, allowing the rest of the team to get work done with a numbers advantage elsewhere, either fighting 4v3 over an objective or tower, or counterjungling.  Preferably all of the above.

How: Go into a side land and start pushing.  Don’t go too far past your vision, and set up as much as you need as you go. Always AFOW unless you’re specifically trying to draw people to you.  If you leave before the enemy shows up, start a slow push and join your team.  This will create a situation where the enemy has to go chase the wave to stop it taking towers, allowing you a 5v4, or even better, a 5v3 if you TP just before/as two rotate to stop you.  Bonus points if you can draw three and your team mops up an easy 4v2 on the far side.

When: After you take first tower in a side lane.

4-1 Split

What: Four team members on the side of the map with an objective (tower, baron, dragon), one in the opposite side lane with Teleport.

Why: To create a rotational advantage for the team to fight at a numbers advantage, giving your team the best chance of taking the objective while securing kills.

How: Set up offensive vision on both sides of the map.  Place four members of your team on the side of the objective you want to take, eg Baron, Elder Dragon, Inner turret, with your teleport-equipped top or mid laner in the opposite lane.  When the enemy shows to counter your TP user, start/siege the objective.  As much as your team should AFOW as possible.

If your top laner is ahead, then they’ll be able to solo push and shove in the enemy laner and eventually take tower while you 4v4 the rest of the team.

The enemy now has a choice:

  • let their top laner lose the 1v1, possibly die and lose tower for nothing
  • gamble on a quick 5v4 at the objective before top can TP
  • send 2 to deal with top while the rest of the team fights 4v3 for the objective

None of these options are good for them.  Best case they trade a kill on top for the objective, which is usually worth. Maybe they can get a miracle team fight without you there, but this is risky for them and they lose their base if it goes wrong.  When you leave the 4-1 split, be sure to create a Slow Push before you go, so your minions will continue the lords work without you.

When: Late laning phase onwards.  This can also be used to end the laning phase, by brute forcing bot lane tower after mid and jungle rotate down.

 

1-3-1 Split

What: One solo laner on each side, with jungle/adc/support in mid lane.

Why: Abusing your solo laners’ 1v1 capabilities / superior shoving power to create lose/lose situations on the map, forcing them to rotate two people to stop them, allowing the rest of your team to 3v2 mid, or 3v3 mid while the side lane gets free towers.

How: Send top to one side lane and mid to another. Works better with TP for added fight-joining power should it go wrong.  All start shoving.  Remember to set up vision and AFOW to create uncertainty.  As always, leave a slow push building, unless you specifically want the wave to come back to you quickly for some reason.

When: Mid to late game as quick chaining of objectives becomes necessary.

Intentionally Not Taking A Tower

What: Having the ability to take your lane opponents tower and not doing it

Why: If your opponent has a better teamfight or global presence than you, to prevent them from becoming effective. Or, if you can kill them repeatedly, you can use them to get fed or bait an enemy team response.

How: Take aggro from minions on the deep side of the lane and lead it back to yours so they push away from it. Freeze the lane by making sure the numbers of minions in each wave stays equal.

When: Early-mid game, when first tower has already been taken. When your team will lose more from your lane opponent roaming and it will get from having the tower down. Riven ahead but you can deal with her without dying?  Keep her there. Rumble? Great teamfight AoE, maybe don’t let him group. Galio? He wants to roam to jump into fights, keep him close by so there’s pressure on the tower. Trade it if he leaves and go join the fight anyway.

 

Intentionally Not Taking An Inhibitor

What: Take early inhib turret (pre-baron) but don’t take the inhib.

Why: In the early game, especially while mid outer is still up, taking bot or top inhib could be super bad for you. Taking it makes your wave inaccessible, and funnels gold into the enemy team who are definitely behind if this is an option.  You can’t even use it to threaten baron since it’s not up yet.  Creating an inhib that can be taken at any time lets you take it at a convenient point without breaking your ability to farm and giving the enemy gold to catch up.

How: Just .. don’t take it? Don’t right click on it. Very easy.

When: Early game, usually sub-20 min but can extend later if you have a low damage comp that can’t shred baron.

 

Oh shit, I totally get it. What do I do now?

  • Install plays.tv and record your games.  When you lost a lane badly, rewatch the VOD to see what you did wrong.  It’s important to do this rather than just watch the replay because you won’t see your mouse clicks or where your camera was pointing.  Afterwards, load up the replay and watch that so you can see with total vision what the enemy did and how they surprised you.
  • Get a coach. Ask them to VOD review a game you did well in, and a game you did poorly in.  It doesn’t matter whether you won or lost – it’s about how you play when you’re ahead and how you play when you’re behind.  Also make note of a game you snowballed and won, and a game you snowballed but couldn’t close out and lost.
  • Practise the thought process, especially the team composition one, on past games before you learned these techniques.  What was your teams strengths and weaknesses?  What were your windows of power?  What was your early mid late game strength?
  • And above all else, always respect the Summoner’s Code.

About The Author

Senior Editor

Writer, Editor, Photographer, Video Guy, Audio Engineer, Broadcast Producer. Esports Veteran.

I play Gnar, AMA.

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