Friday, September 21, 2012

A Full Mug of Mead, Tip #6: When Base Stats Just Aren't Enough

League of Legends is an amazing game even if you just plug and play, but as you level up, it becomes even better. Every Champion in the game starts with certain ratios and statistics that help them fit the roles they are designed for, yet ultimately, each is able to adapt based on your play-style using the fantastic Mastery system augmented by the Rune pages.

While complex, both features are intuitive to incorporate into your LoL experience. Like most guides, however, I will recommend not using Runes until you reach Level 21, because you do not have access to the Tier 3 Runes that give the best buffs.

First, let's make sure we define the terms more thoroughly.

Masteries: At every level, a player receive a point to use in their Mastery Page(s) that unlocks a special bonus to starting statistics and abilities. There are three Mastery sections: Offense, Defense, and Utility. Offense improves damage output, armor reduction, magic penetration, and similar base statistics, as well as offering bonus abilities like Life Steal or Cooldown Reduction. Defense takes care of your armor, magic resistance, regeneration, and similar base statistics, as well as offering bonus abilities such as extra gold for kills or lowering damage from Area of Effect sources. Utility runs the gamut, from movement speed steroids to cooldown reduction, or adding free gold to your starting stash. There are 49 Masteries to select from, and a later tip will examine each of them in detail. Masteries for individual Champions or role set-ups are expressed using a */*/* notation. In the example, the Champion is supporting bot lane using 0/9/21 Masteries.

Runes: A Rune is a special item available for purchase from the Riot Store that increases your starting statistics based on what type of Rune you select. There are Marks, Seals, Glyphs, and Quintessences. Marks, Seals, and Glyphs all work the same way, and at Level 30 you can have up to 9 of each. Quintessences are more powerful, and typically more expensive to purchase, and at Level 30, you will have access to 3 Quintessence slots (with one becoming available at Level 10, and another opening up when you hit 20). There are hundreds of Runes, and a later tip will record each of them, but for now, this is designed as an overview of the Rune and Mastery systems. The example shows a blank rune page where Red slots are for Marks, Gold slots are for Seals, and Azure slots are for Glyphs. The three runic scripts are where your Quintessences will be placed.

Setting Up Runes and Masteries: Designed to increase customization, there is no wrong way to use your Masteries as you increase in level and become more exposed to the game. Later on, proper set up will be key to competing in lane during the beginning of your matches, and less experimentation is recommended. For example, as adorable as it is, actually taking a point in Demolitionist will be actively interpreted as trolling, as the Mastery simply does not offer enough to be worthwhile. (Your basic attacks deal 10 bonus damage to turrets, which is such a small increase that it literally has no effect on the game)

As a general rule, although there are many, many exceptions, carries, junglers, and mid lane champions will be set up 21/9/0. Support will almost always appear 0/9/21. Top lane bruisers or tanky champions will frequently be seen 9/21/0. When it doubt, using these suggestions as a benchmark will help you build appropriately for your role. (Again, there are dozens of exceptions, such as a Champion like Irelia usually playing 9/12/9 or a carry like Sivir who is probably best set up as 21/2/7)

With Runes, the most popular Marks are Attack Damage, Armor Penetration, or Attack Speed for damage dealing carries, or Magic Penetration and Ability Power boosts for AP Champions like Morgana or Diana. Seals are frequently seen buffing Armor, or adding similar Mana boosts. If you plan on playing support, it is absolutely critical to pick up Greater Seals of Avarice (+0.25 Gold per 10 seconds) as soon as you have access to them at level 21. Glyphs tend to be defensive in nature, often adding Magic Resistence, bonus Health, or cooldown reductions.

When setting up your Runes, keep in mind that more is definitely better. Having a single Greater Mark of Desolation adding 1.66 armor penetration is far less useful than having 9 of them giving you +15. This is especially true of the Runes that buff in percentages, so you won't want to mix and match very often.

Using the Runes and Masteries in Game: So you get all of these neat buffs or at least have the potential to have them, but what is the point? I'm glad you asked, anonymous internet person, because if you hadn't, I would just be talking to myself and I wouldn't have a good introduction to this paragraph.

Except for this totally awesome, although irrelevant GIF

Your main goal with Runes and Masteries can be split into two parts. Either you are attempting to enhance something your Champion does well, or you are attempting to improve some aspect of the Champion that they is normally lacking.

This is how you end up with ADCs packing tons of extra attack damage runes and running 21 Mastery points in Offense and supports that use the Utility section of their Masteries to increase their movement speed or gold production.

If you are fortunate enough to have multiple Rune Pages and have taken advantage of the 20 free Mastery Pages you are provided with, then you can even adopt certain set-ups based on your lane match-up. This happens most often in Draft games, where you can more or less determine who you are going to be laning against based on the picks the opposing team makes. Going up against someone with a ton of Magic Damage? Why not select some Magic Resistance Runes to give yourself a leg up. Fighting a squishy top lane? Equip extra damage and smash them with potent harassing attacks.

The possibilities are nearly infinite, and strategy websites that include Champion builds such as LOLPRO or MOBAFire can give you some suggestions on where to start with your bonus stats. Or you could even stick around WTMCF for the eventual reveal of our own build guides, which should happen sooner than you think (unless you think it is happening next week, in which case it won't happen until long after you apparently assume it will).

Until next time, may all your ultimates end in kills and all your matches with "Victory."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Full Mug of Mead, Tip #5: The Short Kid Gets Picked Last, The Metagame and League of Legends

At the lowest levels, most Summoners just pick their favorite Champions or select someone from the free options that appeals to them and head into lane. It will happen fairly organically, although occasionally you might hear some fighting from three players who all want Mid.

Since few, if any players, will be dead set on playing in the Jungle or as a support Champion who doesn't kill any creep, those roles are typically left unfilled, as everyone tries to play to their particular style. As they might say on a never-forgotten 90's sitcom, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Except that what works when you are level five is not going to pass muster once you start playing against other 30's with full Runes and Masteries.

The lanes are set up in the traditional metagame as Solo Top, AP Mid, ADC, Support, and Jungle, for a reason, and it isn't because someone randomly decided that order looked pretty.

Solo top and AP Mid get lanes to themselves in order to maximize the number of minions they can slay. This, in turn, leads to quicker acquisition of powerful items, and access to higher levels faster than they would earn if they were splitting experience. The Champions that play in those lanes tend to be reliant on their item builds and need to have high levels in order to chain their abilities together effectively.

Solo Top bruisers are designed to play by themselves, able to hold their own even in 2 on 1 gank situations. The squishy AP Mid, on the other hand, gets help from either Top or Bot Lane without too much stress caused by roaming through the river or jungle areas.

For Duo Bot Champions, they work well with a teammate. The support often uses devastating Crowd Control effects (known hereafter as "cc") to Stun, Slow, Silence, or Fear opposing Champions and help their ADC escape from sticky encounters. With a Support around, protecting them, the Carry is free to farm and focus on harassing the enemy, splitting the experience but not the gold.

The Jungler likes having a lane to him or herself, and can farm through the Neutral Minion camps fast enough to mimic playing against waves of minions. Without a successful kill early, the Jungler will normally be behind on levels, gold, and experience, but makes up for it with powerful presence during ganks.

When your team composition does not fit this traditional mold, it can have a negative effect on the laning phase of the game. Champions may become underleveled or be unable to purchase the items they need at the times that they need them. If you don't have a Jungler, the opposing team's Jungler can roam your side of the map. All while stealing buffs and ganking from unexpected positions; wreaking havoc seemingly at will.

Remember what I said about Solo Top Champions being able to handle 2 on 1s with relative comfort? If you try and go against a top lane champion like Singed or Irelia with more than one person, all you are doing is letting them farm under turret while slowly out-leveling and earning more money than you.

Keeping all of that in mind, there are unconventional strategies that some teams will adopt to attempt to beat the metagame. This is a brief list of less common set-ups and what they do. More in-depth treatment of each strategy will come later, when each is covered individually. Also, please note that some teams will experiment with the traditional five roles playing in different lanes; this is a legitimate common strategy that will appear with some frequency at higher levels, and therefore does not fall into this section.

2/1/2 -- The most common non-metagame set-up that you will encounter, usually because no one on the team feels comfortable in the Jungle. When run as an actual strategy, 2/1/2 requires either a Support player in both Top and Bot lanes so that the team is not attempting to have two Champions farming the minion waves, or a lane designed to demolish opposing Champions, earning gold through kills rather than creep (see Kill Lane).

Kill Lane -- From time to time, you will fight against or with a team that insists on having two high damage carries play alongside each other. This is known as a kill lane, as one of the carries will farm and the other will harass constantly, hoping to catch either the support or the enemy ADC out of position for an easy kill (earning them the gold and experience they are otherwise losing from not farming).

Double or Duo Jungle -- In this set-up, each lane plays solo, generally requiring a tankier ADC like Warwick or two traditionally Solo Top Champions, with one playing in bot lane. Two roaming Champions will score experience from the Jungle, frequently heading into the opposing Jungle to steal buffs and Neutral Monster camps. Ganks from a Duo Jungle are particularly frightening, as they can turn a 1 on 1 into a 3 on 1 slaughter without warning. Usually, in a Duo Jungle strategy, one of the junglers will have a teleport ability such as Pantheon's, Twisted Fate's, or Shen's, in order to provide even more presence anywhere on the map.

Double or Duo AP -- With two competent AP Mid players, this 1/2/2 strategy can be overpowering very quickly, resulting in a broken turret in the middle lane as early as the 3:00 or 4:00 minute mark. Once the tower is down, one of the mid Champions will start roaming, if not both, creating a rush environment that greatly speeds up the game. When done well, this is hard to counter, as the Jungler will frequently be underleveled and the opposing AP Mid will have been cut off from farming, starved by the power of the Duo AP lane.

Tri-Lane -- A very uncommon strategy that works like the Duo AP method. Designed to break a turret as fast as possible, this 3/1/1 arrangement preys on unprepared teams that send their Solo Top unwittingly to his or her doom. The three Champions that lane together usually start in the Jungle, biding their time to let the opposing Solo Top push the lane far enough that they can score a fast kill and clear the minion wave before the other Jungler can react.

ARAM --  Not so much a strategy as it is a kind of sub-game for LoL players, ARAM stands for All Random All Middle, and plays out exactly as you would expect. Random Champion picks for both teams that smash together in the mid lane until one team loses the game.

In Conclusion --

Finding strategies to beat the metagame is an entertaining exercise in itself, and while I take a fairly aggressive stance against tricky play, I do so only because when you are starting out, even once you hit 30, you open yourself up to crushing defeats as long as the other team is able to react fast enough to your chosen course of action. When I address each strat individually, I will expand on the counter play options that each is susceptible to, but for now, be confident that knowing your role and playing the traditional team is your easiest route to success and skillful play.

Until next time, may all your ultimates end in kills and all your games with "Victory."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Full Mug of Mead, Tip #4: Zen and the Art of Last-Hitting

Would you rather have a crisp $100 in your wallet, or forty bucks in crumpled bills? If you were given two weeks to save up for a new car, would you rather be making $8 an hour and get a junky Plymouth van or $100 an hour and ride off in a tricked out new Humvee?

Or a Volt, if that's more your thing, you sneaky hipster you.
The answer should be obvious, and improving your skill with Last-Hitting in LoL is the gaming equivalent to having extra cash put in your wallet by cash-granting faeries that live in the solar panels you're too cheap to put on your roof (or maybe you're just scared of blinding someone or causing airplanes to fall from the sky like in the new J.J. Abrams disasterpiece, Revolution.)

Either way, last-hitting is a skill you absolutely must master if you want to continue to improve your game in League.

At this point, I should probably explain what last-hitting is. (As with any new term, as soon as we define it in an article, you'll be able to find it in the updated list from Tip #1)

Last-Hitting -- The last attack against an enemy minion, Neutral Monster, or opposing Champion is credited with the kill, and assigned bonus gold and experience. When your attack is the one that kills the enemy, you are the one who benefits. Therefore, it is in your best interest to strike the killing blow against every minion in a wave, an action that results in extra money going in your pocket, and a fatter wallet means more gold to spend when you head back to the Fountain.

Of course, it isn't quite as simple as I make it sound, there are nuances to last-hitting that separate the higher levels from those just starting out, and the pros take it to another plane entirely.

Because the gold tallies increase as the game progresses, it is equally as important to deny your opponents the ability to last hit as well, or they will have a chance to catch back up to you incrementally. For that reason, holding off the final hit until the last, tiny shred of life clings to the creep insures that they have dealt as much damage as possible to your own minions, making it much more likely that your allied creep will die before the enemy Champion has a chance to claim the gold.

The difference may not seem like much, but finishing off even a single creep more than your opponent from each wave can mean the difference between buying a Ruby Crystal and a Long Sword, and actually picking up a Phage when you get back to base.

With League of Legends, those incremental gains pay off in huge bonuses when fighting enemy Champions, and can definitely turn the tide in a situation where you are otherwise evenly matched.

For a more detailed look at last-hitting, check out Curse Gaming's LOLPRO website guide that includes more statistics than could possibly be relevant, and a handy spreadsheet so that you can see exactly how much gold you are giving up if you don't practice your last-hitting.

Until next time, may all your ultimates end in kills, and all your games with "Victory."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Full Mug of Mead, Tip #3: Five Behaviors that Will Get You Yelled at in Solo Queue

Entering the random PvP matches in League of Legends can be a daunting experience for a beginning player. Even bot game queues, where you engage a team of AI opponents to better learn the basics of the game, can be intimidating when you are just starting out.

But WTMCF has you covered. Avoid doing these five things and you should come out of every game with four new friends. At least, you won't have four random strangers yelling harsher insults than you would expect to hear on the mildest Real Housewives episode.

"R******* noob idiot."
1) Don't Feed -- This seems obvious as soon as you have played a few games, but stressing the importance of not dying is never a bad thing. A fed enemy champion snowballs very quickly into a major problem, at which point it isn't just you who has to contend with the overpowered demon creature that is constantly demolishing you in lane, your entire team is going to start being picked off.

Erring on the side of caution does not hurt in LoL, especially in solo lanes like Top, Mid, or Jungle.

2) Don't Chase -- It is remarkably easy to get tunnel vision when pursuing an enemy Champion that you've already spent time weakening. Even good players will suddenly start ignoring minions, other allies, and loud multiple pings in order to doggedly hunt down an opponent with low health.

Just remember that the goal of the game is to win, not rack up tons of kills. Forcing your opponent out of lane is nearly as good as killing them because they miss out on gold and experience. When you chase, you open yourself up to being caught out--trapped on your own with no teammates in sight.

So, unless you are 100% certain that you can secure the kill and escape afterwards, then be content to farm and win the long game. (If every other enemy is on the other side of the map from where you are, and none of them have teleport, and you won't get stuck chasing your opponent around a turret, then maybe you can consider chasing.)

3) Don't KS -- This one is almost as hard for me to type as it would be for me to pass a kidney stone. With a competent team it will never be an issue, but while solo queuing, Do not steal kills. For whatever reason, players get inordinately angry if you come in on a fight and end up with the kill if you weren't there in the beginning. With some people, you will be verbally assaulted on a level that will leave you wondering if somehow you strangled their dog, kicked their little brother, and slept with their parents in the seven seconds of combat where you just tried to help them.

Only jump in if your ally is getting beat. Of course, if you are too late engaging, they will equally be upset, so it is kind've a losing situation. It is frustrating and makes absolutely no sense from a game theory perspective, but it is the law of the land. Nothing will turn an ally into a complaining mess faster than a couple of stolen kills.

Except, perhaps, watching this film.
4) Know Your Role -- As I said before, we will be getting into each lane and strategy later on, but to go over the basics again quickly:

Solo Top: Farm, farm, farm. Your job is to make tons of money and become extremely scary in the mid and late game.

AP Mid: Very similar, but if you are winning your lane, be prepared to steal the opposing team's Wraiths or head to the bottom lane to turn an aggressive 2v2 into a 3v2 rout.

Support: Keep your carry alive and harass the enemy carry whenever possible. Don't kill the minions the carry needs to farm in order to build his or her items, and don't let your lane get surprised by ganks. Buy and set up wards frequently and communicate with the team. Later, you'll be expected to pick up an Oracle's Elixir (an item that allows you to see invisible wards, or stealth Champions like Evelynn or Teemo) and make it impossible for the enemy to see.

ADC (Attack Damage Carry): Like the Top and Mid lanes, you need to farm. Kill the minions using Last Hits (see tomorrow's Tip #5) and don't get too aggressive unless your support gives you the green light. Focus on building items that increase your damage and practice targeting the right champions during Team Fights.

Jungler: Going back to why playing in the Jungle is so difficult, the Jungler has the most responsibilities on the team. You'll be expected to be everywhere at once, helping with ganks and initiating fights over map objectives like the Neutral Minion camps and most especially Baron/Dragon. You must be able to prioritize properly and keep in mind that, of everything you'll be asked to do, you have to keep up with the enemy Jungler. Clear the Neutral Minion camps on your side and poach from the other side whenever you can. Second most important, however, is ganking. Scare the enemy team with your presence, and make them nervous about cross the river.

These are, again, just the basics. Knowing your role and performing it means that your team will do better, and will greatly improve your chances of winning the game.

5) Don't Disconnect -- Not only does disconnecting open you up to punishment from the Tribunal (more information later) but even leaving for five minutes can make it impossible for your team to win the game.

Do you have a spotty internet connection? Wait until it gets better or find a new place to play.

Are there crying babies in your house? Make sure someone is there who can take care of them for the next hour.

Homework to finish? Get it done before you start.

The list goes on and on, but it comes down to this: if you start a game, do it with the knowledge that the next hour of your life has been blocked off by the kind of critically important appointment you hear bosses on television always saying they can't miss.

Do you think Don Draper leaves a game before it's finished?
Only if he is.
As a bonus, remember to not act like an asshole either. It's a game, and if someone messes up, give them the benefit of the doubt. They probably aren't purposefully trying to ruin your life. If one person starts in on a player that is having a difficult time, pretty soon the whole team will be yelling at them for feeding and being worthless. Unless they are actually feeding (trust me, you'll know the difference), just smile and remember the  first time you tried to hit a baseball. That's them, flailing away like a newborn calf, looking more adorable than deplorable. Of course, after thirty levels, if they still can't hit a baseball, feel free to butcher them and pack the meat off to China or wherever it is beef ends up going nowadays.

Until next time, may all your ultimates end in kills, and all your games with "Victory".

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Full Mug of Mead: LoL Tip #2

In honor of League of Legends 105th Champion, Syndra, WTMCF is embarking on an epic quest to share 105 Tips for Getting Started with the game. Actually, it's more like 105 posts about LoL, but as most of them are geared towards beginning players, it works out to the same thing. Check back each day for new content, and don't forget to submit anything you'd love to see on the front page.

League of Legends: Tip #2, The Most Important Thing to Learn

League of Legends is a complex game with thousands of variables and dozens of moving parts that combine to create a complicated play environment. In order to be successful in the game, having goals for each match becomes much more important than simply "winning."

What many new players fail to understand about LoL is that the ultimate goal of each match is not to kill as many opposing Champions as possible.

You need to focus on not dying. Not dying is roughly equivalent to winning the lottery or becoming the mayor of your own island. If you can not die enough times, you will always defeat the player you are Laning against, purely because of accumulated experience and gold if for no other reason.

Of course, killing the enemy Champion is awesome and, if you do it enough times, you'll have a similar level of success. Still, the reason I emphasize staying alive is that "not dying" is more important than securing a kill.

This applies mostly to the early phases of the game, and, as with anything, there are exceptions. But if you are looking for one easy tip to drastically improve your LoL play, which will make your experience more rewarding in turn, try not dying. Just listen to these testimonies:

It may seem as though I'm being very tongue-in-cheek, suggesting "not dying" as the end-all strategy for League of Legends. If you could categorically avoid dying, more than a few people would be doing it already. As a strategy, however, the suggestion is to change your focus so that instead of needlessly taking risks in order to tack on one more kill or take down one more turret, you sit back and play with reasonable caution.

If you give that concept a try, I guarantee you'll see immediate results.  Until next time, may all your ultimates end in kills and all your matches with victory.