Thursday, August 7, 2014

IV. Laning

Yes. I'm aware I skipped ahead two chapters. Those are coming soon. 


Big bold letters inscribed on the sky in flaming font a mile high: NO ONE ON YOUR TEAM IS FEEDING. 

If you take nothing away from today's blog, remember those big bold letters whenever the urge to bemoan a teammate's peculiar affinity for dying on the enemy side of the river rises. Dude isn't feeding. You don't have a counterargument. He's not. He got beat. Maybe it was a lucky crit like he said, maybe he just doesn't know the matchup as well as he thinks. It doesn't matter. Maybe the jungler showed up. IDGAF. Still isn't feeding.

I'll say it again: dying three times in lane isn't feeding. You know that, I know that. It's annoying, and that guy probably feels horrible, but he's not feeding. Five kills? Approaching it, especially if he didn't secure shutdown gold in exchange for the fifth death. But probably still not feeding.

Intentional feeding is beyond incredibly rare. Thanks to Lyte's umpteen posts on the subject we all know the actual rarity, but even anecdotally, it happens less often than finding an extra McNugget in your six-piece. I've played close to 4000 games of League, and I can distinctly remember an intentional feeder popping up a total of 3 times. I've probably blocked out truly awful games, and let's say my memory is worse than Guy Pierce's at the beginning of Memento and say it's 10 times as common. That's still not even 1%.

Unfortunately, thanks to the sheer volume of games played each day, I know there are some players who see intentional feeders a lot more often than I do--and I could see it a bunch of times in a row at some point--but as a general rule, it's fair to say you should probably go back to that whole defaulting to trust thing and give them the benefit of the Yeah-I've-Gotten-My-Ass-Kicked-By-A-Fucking-Teemo-Before-Too.

Rant over.

Once you've gotten over the feeding fallacy, you can focus on the most salient part of laning. Beating your opponent in gold. That's it. Reduced to its skeleton, that's what you've got to do in lane to contribute to a win. Make more money. Warren Buffett up here in the Rift. If that means outfarming them through careful zoning and harass or just better last-hitting, great. Do that. If you can pick up more gold by counterjungling and dueling the enemy jungler 'til he's scared to set foot in his own forest, awesome. Do that. If roaming or aggressively teleporting for objectives or 3v2s means that you'll end up with a fatter stack than the guy on the other side of the river, fantastic. Do that.

We could debate how to define a winning lane along a number of different axes. But whether you think killing the enemy champion, taking the outer turret first, or having a fifty CS lead qualifies, you should know that come teamfight time, the best way for you to contribute to the victory screen is with an item and experience lead. However you come across that.

I'm not going too in-depth with each lane. Contrary to popular belief, there's a lot you need to learn organically as you play. But I have collected three tips for each lane, culled from the vastness of the interwebs in the form of pro player streams, analyst guides, and tournament reviews.

Top Lane

1) Know if you are building for diving the backline or tanking on the front, and know before the game even begins. Don't just assume the jungler or support is going to be able to peel and soak damage. And if you do plan to build for dueling and split-pushing, make sure the team is onboard. If they aren't, none of you are going to have a good time.

2) Focus on farming and winning skirmish trades, but if you have to prioritize one, concentrate on the CS. With the buffs to Teleport and the general level of sustain among viable toplaners, you can afford to come out on the losing end of trades--especially if they are missing minions to hit you. Whether you're going damage or defense, your build is expensive. Farm up.

3) Pay attention to the rest of your lanes. If dragon is a possibility, you'll separate yourself from other toplaners by knowing when to be around the pit and managing your lane minions to avoid missing crucial gold.  The same goes for countering 2v3s in bot with Teleport, or roaming mid after shoving for a surprise gank. Your team's top lane champion is often thought of as an island, and that's true to some extent, but it's actually more like a lumbering, floating warship that can make its presence felt well inland from the coast.

Bot Lane Support

1) Zoning. The act of positioning your champion in such a way that approaching the minion line to farm results in your opponent getting zapped with a fusillade of damage. Proper zone control can make a lane considerably easier (or considerably more difficult, if the enemy support is winning the zone war).

2) Vision control. Fortunately, the actual warding part of the vision game is usually helped out by the rest of the team in the 2014 season. But you can get a leg up on other supports by practicing de-warding, and using dangerous deep wards to carve out small advantages for your team

3) Building for utility can make a huge difference in solo queue. Some supports still try to build like an off-lane AP carry. Zyra, Morgana and Vel'koz can pull it off, but it still means sacrificing the ability to turn a teamfight with a well-timed Mikael's, or chase down fleeing foes with a speed bump from the Talisman of Ascension.

Bot Lane Marksman

1) Positioning is a real thing, but it's widely misunderstood. For one thing that hardly ever gets pointed out, positioning is highly relative. As you climb while playing marksmen, you'll hear about "bad positioning" and "great positioning" in somewhat disproportionate numbers. The TL;DR of positioning as a marksman is that you need to stay out of range of assassins/dives/burst while still DPSing as much as possible. Finding the right angles and maneuvering with your team instead of trying to force them to work around you will lead to more victories.

2) When your team is shouting about focusing the right target, they are not talking to you. This is an important lesson to learn as a marksman but it's equally important to understand no matter what role you play. 

Remember the first tip? You can scroll up about a millimeter on your mousewheel if you've forgotten already. Because positioning is paramount, you need to shoot the things that are safest for you to shoot. Is that backline Tristana shredding your tanks? Well, the team can try and rotate around to get you an angle on her, but it's still the responsibility of the assassin/AoE/fighter to take her down. If you try and dive in because everyone is screaming to "focus the ADC," you're going to die, and then Tristana is going to finish what she was doing.

3) It's damage per second, not damage upfront. If you're playing marksman as if you were an assassin or mage, you're not right-clicking enough. Learn your animation timing, practice kiting as often as you can, and don't ever forget to right-click on bad guys.

Mid Lane

1) There are a lot of mid champions, and even more midlane strategies. Understanding your goals entering into the laning phase, however, is a universal boon. Always have one. It can be to keep your opponent heading back to base every three minutes. Build a fifty-CS lead by twelve minutes. Whatever your goal is, modify it for the matchup and adjust your tactics accordingly.

2) Take Wraiths. If it's the enemy Wraiths, that's even better. Investing in a ward for the Wraith camp bush on the enemy side is always worth it, even if you never steal the gold. If you have to, take your own Wraiths. Most junglers have very fast clear times now, and with an additional camp on the far side of the map from the Wraiths, with careful timing, you can make sure you get a Wraith camp for every Wraith camp your allied jungler smites down. The extra gold is relevant, but even more relevant in mid-tiers is the extra ticks on your CS count. Building up 4 bonus minion kills on your score every 55 seconds can make it look to your opponent as though they are falling even further behind than they actually are.

3) Make the effort to understand how much damage your abilities do, especially in terms of a full rotation of skills. You don't have to get to Faker's Zed level, but basic calculation of approximately whether or not you'll kill your target in a teamfight or duel can boost your mana efficiency and cooldown management. The good news is that you probably already have an instinctual understanding of the damage you do, so it's just a matter of converting that to real numbers you can subtract from your enemy's health total until you've got enough damage to reduce it to zero.

Jungle Tank

1) The two main styles of jungler are different enough to warrant two sections here. As a Tank, the jungler is still responsible for objectives and crowd control. Because you will most likely have less damage than a carry-style jungler, knowing your opponent's "Smite+X" combo is even more important than it is for Jungle Fighter champs. You or someone on your team needs to hit the bad smite-wielder with CC the instant the objective hits that number, so you can pile on a bit of extra damage and use your weaker combo to finish it off.

2) Mobility boots are your best friend. Tanks who play in the jungle are much slower than their Fighter counterparts. That goes for movement speed and the time it takes them to kill off monsters. For that reason, ganks and the resulting gold are crucial for Tanks. Investing in mobi boots means getting around the Rift faster and creating more opportunities to killsteal your carries.*

3) Bringing that chainable CC hugely benefits your team if you can do it. If you're more of the meatshield-type, don't neglect picking up extra health. Ruby Sightstone's stats are a lot more attractive when you've got the Spirit of the Ancient Golem.

Jungle Fighter

1) So, when the Live Design team stated their intention to bring back carry-style junglers in the preseason, I'm not sure they envisioned Feral Flare's broken release state. But the item has stabilized now, and junglers who want to be clawing and stabbing their way in to the back lines have some solid build paths and strong options that include or ignore FF as needed. That's not much of a tip though, so here's one: many of the strongest duelists and damage-based junglers don't even use FF. But if you are going to, make sure the team is onboard with the plan in champ select. At the very least, explain how you'll use the Feral Flare to secure objectives and map control, along with swifty or mobi boots to wreak some turret-pushing havoc in the mid and late game.

2) That was a little long. When building damage, know your role in teamfights. You'll likely pick up some tank stats along the way, and you need to use those to initiate and burst the opposing carries with your AD as fast as you can. You need to count on your team to follow up. As a reminder, when it comes to your team, default to trust.

3) You are building for counterjungling, so make sure you do it. Opposing jungler shows bot and you're near upper red? Snag his wraiths or wolves, because you're not making it down there in time to contribute. Always leave a ward. When counterjungling, if you can, it is usually better to clear the camp entirely so that you have the timer and your counterpart doesn't. If you remembered to leave the ward, you can time the camps respawns to initiate a duel, or just take advantage of his poor positioning.


Worthy of its own section. The infamous killsteal. Whereby a champion blows all of their abilities to secure a +1 to the K part of their KDA. Oh, you thought I meant whenever a champion that isn't thought of as a primary carry kills an enemy that other allies were attacking?

Yeah. Hate to break it to you, that's not KSing. It's probably not the best strategy, either, but the vitriol spewed in solo queue should the support dare to press Q one more time while the opponent running away is at low health is astonishing.

In general, it's better to get extra gold on to champions who are going to be dealing damage in mid and late game. The addition of assist streaks only magnifies the effectiveness of this. But, damn. Gold in lane is gold in lane. Remember what I said way back at the beginning of this section?  Each lanes' goal in the early game is to generate more gold and experience than the opponents in that lane. Gold on the support still counts for bot lane, and gold in the jungler's purse still counts towards gold from the jungle.

If you're playing one of the non-damage roles, then by all means try to avoid getting kills that could be taken down by damage-dealers. But don't make it a bigger deal than it is. We've got more important things to do, like win the fucking game.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Last Guide to Solo Queue You'll Ever Need

This could have been three times as long. It would have been mostly fluff. I just thought you should know. I've broken this guide into a whole bunch of sections. Here's the Table of Contents. I'll hyperlink each section once I've posted it. Sound cool?

II. Runes and Masteries
III. Level One
V. Dragon
VI. First Tower
VII. Sieging and Countersieging