Wednesday, August 13, 2014

IX. Teamfighting


This is another large section, but don't worry, it's also the last. I've broken it into three phases, to provide a more effective play-by-play. There's been an underlying theme running through this whole blog: you are going to instantly start winning more games if you play better as a teammate and as a team. 

Teamfighting is where all the other sections come together. 

Think of your favorite teamfight memories. That chained CC where the enemy backline was on lockdown for six seconds of face-melting burst from your team's midlaner and marksman. Health bars disappearing as you all sliced through the enemy team.  

That happens when a team maximizes its synergy and everyone knows their role. It's a beautiful thing, I'd say if this were a 1950s B&W drama and not a blogspot site. Here's how you can make sure it always happens.

1) The Vision Game

Before any teamfight breaks out, a good team is going to secure vision of wherever the assault is planned. Proactive deep wards enable picks and skirmishes in narrow corridors where the team that seizes initiative can have a powerful advantage. The jungler and support should both have Oracle's by this point, and you 
can set up traps on the enemy side of the river as well as your own.

Moving as a unit is important while you clear wards during the mid and late game. Because of the possibility of a teamfight at any point, you need to be ready to react to a surprise engage. Generally, stacking your team so that the squishiest member is between one frontline tank, the other squishies and the other tank or offtank is preferable when moving through unlit areas. Know which way you want to scatter if you're facing any sort of AoE that could wreck a clumped team.

One last note on warding: don't be afraid to toss out a ward because you think someone else is about to. While it can be a minor waste of resources, there are a few situations in which it's beneficial to have multiple wards in the same location. As Sun Tzu never said, "You can't have too many wards on the battlefield."

2) The Engage

In solo queue, an aggressive, surprise engage can lead to by-the-book teamfight victories. Because of a general lack of cohesive tactics among solo queue players, the team that seizes the initiative can often springboard that into a clean ace with little more than an extra split second of entering "shit-we're-in-teamfight-now" mode. 

Having a tanky initiator who can competently engage a mid or late game throwdown is so beneficial, I'd say that learning how to do it right might have a better effect on your ranked tier than any of the other topics I've covered in what will eventually be this 15,000+ word opus.

As initiator, you're playing the minigame "catch-the-squishy," trying to create positioning mistakes with your aggressive dives and feints towards the backline. Your goal is obviously to isolate or crowd control-lock one of the opposing team's damage threats. 

But, and this part is often forgotten because it's dangerous (or useless) at the highest levels of play, there are situations in which engaging on a tank or off-tank can be the right move. For example, if a damage threat shows in a different lane, or if any champion without a teleport rears his or her head in any lane away from where your team is standing off with the enemy.

In that situation, going in on a tank is still fine, because you're 5v4, and even blowing a few cooldowns is worth making it a 5v3, which is statistically unwinnable for the downsized team (don't tell Uzi, I know).

2b) The Counterengage

As a result of the same issues I raised in the opening of the Engage section, the ability to counterengage competently and effectively is almost as valuable as being able to start a fight. It loses points because counterengaging implies that your team has already taken a substantial amount of damage after the initiation, and so the counterengage is inherently weaker than perfecting your engage. 

Still, doing it well means hitting Mikael's on the caught-out target and speed-boosting him or her to safety. Or it can mean separating the assassins and fighters from the tanks and other squishies, allowing your team to jump on isolated members of the enemy team.

Timing is everything for counterengage, too early and they have follow-up gap-closers. Too late and your carries have already been deleted. Depending on the champion you choose, your counterengage is going to be about either preventing damage (shields or heals) or re-positioning (displacement effects, crowd-control). 

If you plan to re-engage, preventing damage is usually going to be an initial priority to insure you have the health bars to brawl in a prolonged skirmish.

3) Who's the Beatdown?

I'm borrowing a concept from Magic: the Gathering of all places for this third section. This is the part where the frantic button-spamming and mouse-clicking happens, and one of the easiest ways of improving your standing is through knowing how to win once the CC starts chaining and the AoE starts raining. 

I've mentioned it over and over again, but I'll bring it up here, too. Knowing your role wins games.

Assassins and fighters built for damage need to be gapclosing to the backline and blowing up or zoning the ADC, AP or AD caster. The support and tanks need to peel and protect their marksman and other squishies. And the sustained DPS or AoE needs to position immaculately and pump out the damages.

I'll repeat this again here from earlier: if you are the marksman, or you are playing alongside a marksman, please keep in mind that the person they need to be shooting is the highest priority target within safe distance. 

Don't like that your ADC never seems to attack the enemy carries? Practice creating firing lanes or safe zones for them to position into in order to isolate those less-resilient champions. Practice peeling and bodyblocking. If they can't position correctly, the team can reposition around them, as well.

That leads into the last point. It's no one individual's fault if the teamfight goes south. That's why it's called a teamfight and not a ZionSpartan. The concept of who's the beatdown applied to teamfighting is understanding tempo and aggression. 

Does your team have an item or experience advantage? You need to be aggressive and dive harder than they are expecting. Keep in mind that a raw gold advantage that hasn't been translated into items does not signal that your team is the beatdown--you have to consider base stats and relative skill.

If you aren't the beatdown, then you need to identify defensive schemes that will minimize the opposing team's current strengths. Baiting a turret dive with a mobile damage dealer might be worth pulling the tankline back a little. 

Or maybe it means investing more in wards to make picks and avoid roaming death squads.

In any case, teamfighting in solo queue is often wild and chaotic and decided as much by misplays as great maneuvers. That only increases the value of practicing and mastering the art of synergy, as you'll see results immediately, reinforcing the benefit of the work you put in. 

VIII. Baron Nashor

Baron Nashor

This section is real simple: Baron Nashor doesn't exist in solo queue. Baron, and the Exalted with Baron Nashor buff granted by defeating him, is designed to provide a strategic incentive to skirmish in the mid-late game. Specifically, having the buff allows you to push objectives and dive turrets effectively when coordinated well. That last part is important. 

When used by a team that can coordinate turret aggro, maintain their formation, and focus down squishy backline targets while allowing the marksman to whittle down the tanks and utility roles, the purple buff is really strong. Realistically, the solo queue team you're on does not have that level of sophistication. At Diamond or Challenger levels, you may have the game sense to organically orchestrate that kind of play, provided everyone has bought into their role and is equally adept at performing it.

With that in mind, contesting the Baron buff in solo queue is almost never worth it. If you've built any sort of item or experience advantage, it is definitely not worth, as a semi-coordinated five-man push is going to secure at least two turrets if not an inhibitor past the 25 minute mark. You will also normally have the opportunity to grab dragon and purloin buffs from the enemy jungle.

The exception to the rule: There are actually two. You should always encourage your team to grab every free Baron you have served up to you. That's a no-brainer enough I almost didn't include it. But I'm specifically referring to clean aces, or four-for-ones or other incredibly favorable trades that result in you having smite and the carries needed to burst down His Majesty Highness, the Baron of the Rift. A two-for-two where you "know they went b" is not the situation I'm referring to.

The other is when, serendipitously, your whole team happens to be around Baron, at full health, when you catch them with their Armor/MR shredded and health bars half-missing, still attempting to slay the royal wurm. If you can't push towers and secure inhibs, because you all happen to be on top of the enemy WHEN THEY START BARON, then you're good to go in with that Crowstorm, that Unstoppable Force, that Assault and Battery. 

But read that last part again. If, WHEN THEY START BARON, one of you is botlane or getting blue buff, or farming away at those Mini Golems, then you all converge wherever they are and grab as many turrets as you can. Period. Especially if you have an item or experience lead.

Baron TL;DR: Don't bother with the beast in his pit. Take turrets and inhibitors instead. Most solo queue teams can't coordinate effectively enough with the Baron buff, and it's more likely that they'll throw than succeed with it so long as your team is prepared for the siege.