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October 14, 2012 / realelohell

My End of Season 2 Goal.

On Sept 12th, Riot announced the end of the season as well as the end of season rewards.  At the time I was 2200 Elo (having been around there for a while).  While the prospect of achieving 2500 Elo (and obtaining some pointless icon for it) seemed daunting, I decided that I would give it a try.  After all, I had almost 6 weeks to gain 300 elo (only 7 elo a day!), how hard could it be?  Despite the fact that I had never even been able to achieve a high of 2300 Elo, I gave it the old school try.

When the end of September loomed and I had still not hit 2300 (I had been hovering around 2190 to 2220), I almost gave up my goal.  But one fateful day (Sept 23rd), I jumped straight from 2227 to 2306.  In one day I had accomplished something that I had not been able to do for weeks.  Although I quickly lost my 2300 rating and went back to around 2250 for the next week or so, I gained the confidence to move forward with my goal.

Then, in the second week of October, after I managed to regain my 2300 Elo rating, I had an almost surreal winning spree that culminated with the achievement of my goal with almost two weeks remaining.  In THREE DAYS I gained almost 200 Elo.

Success.

My goal progression.

Now you might be thinking, “That’s all well and good for this guy, but how does this apply to me?

Well, ask yourself what I did differently in these two weeks that I wasn’t able to (or didn’t) do previously?  I play roughly the same champions that I used to play anyways, so it didn’t have much to do with that.  I also play in roughly the same style (on said champions) that I did before, so it probably wasn’t that either.

What did I do differently that prompted such a massive and sudden change?

What happened was that I had forgotten the cardinal rule of carrying solo queue games: You have to be significantly better at whatever you are playing than the opposing team.  Without a significant edge in skill at whatever role you’re playing, it is impossible to obtain the advantages that you need to obtain in order to easily and effectively win a decent percentage of your games.  Obviously luck plays a factor and some games you won’t be able to carry, but I wasn’t even carrying a lot of games that I was supposed to.

If you aren’t capable of significantly outplaying your opponents on a consistent basis, you can’t rise in Elo.  There are no shortcuts.  You can specialize in one role/champ, buy 30 wards a game, and be the most positive person this side of Mr. Rogers, and it will all help, but the only true shortcut to a higher rating is consistently outplaying your opponents.

My Elo had plateaued at around 2200 because, simply put, I was (overall) a 2200 player.  At that point I had tried to do too much.  I was playing every role and not achieving the same success or consistency with all of them.

For example, my ad carry and support ability was (and still is) significantly worse than my other roles.  I had always tried to gain Elo by playing the different roles relatively equally (though I would rarely support unless given no other choice), and this method worked up to a point.

But once I reached 2200, I was not able to consistently outplay people anymore (at certain roles) because they simply had better mechanics and understanding of said roles, champions and match-ups.  Once I realized that I was doing something wrong (by playing too many roles and not having a “main role” at a point where I really should have), I decided to focus mainly on jungling (as I was already doing a lot of it previously), and that prompted my almost overnight rise in solo queue.

It always frustrates me whenever people ask me questions like, “what champion do you think is best to carry with for X role?”  Unless you’re above a certain rating (probably around mid-gold to platinum), it literally does not matter what champion you play as long as your understanding of your role and your mechanics with that champion are superior to your opponents.  It doesn’t matter if you play only under-powered champions, only 1 champion,  only 1 role, or every champion, overpowered champions and every role.  If you can consistently outplay your opponents for a majority of your games, you will gain rating.

I had forgotten the golden rule of carrying solo queue games, and struggled in vain for a while before finally learning from my mistake.  I hope this lesson can provide some motivation, hope or insight to others who are trying to improve their own game.

Good luck in achieving your end of season goal/s.

September 8, 2012 / realelohell

Article 19: Being a Leader: Making the Calls and Big Plays

Back in the day when a large percentage of people still believed in the idea of an “elo hell”, the one piece of advice often given to every player hoping to claw his or her way out of the abyss (condensed into two words) was this:

“Carry harder.”

Sure, League of Legends is a team game, but there always seem to be heroes willing to put the team on their shoulders.  In fact, there are often far too many people trying to “carry” games through their own Herculean effort.  This idea of having to carry games through your own solo performance has had some peculiar side effects.  Combined with the advent of the bottom lane support and ranged carry meta, it has created a grudging disdain for the support role in solo queue.  But what does the act of carrying a game actually entail?

Too many people at lower elos think carrying is all about having a good score.  This is only partially correct.  If you played a game where you obtained a far better score in terms of kills, deaths, assists, and cs than anyone else in the game (remember, score is relative), then you probably did carry.  However, while these kinds of games are possible, it is unlikely (unless you’re playing at an elo far lower than your “true skill”) that you will be carrying games in this fashion on a regular basis.  Though they may be trying as hard as possible, it is almost inconceivable that someone averaging an overall 1-1-5 ratio in kills-deaths-assists would overnight be magically able to average 10-1-15 kills-deaths-assists on a day to day basis.

Fortunately, there is another way to carry games: you can lead your team to victory by making good calls and plays.  While being a Gregg Popovich for your team might not be as glamorous as being a LeBron James, it is an easier and far more stable way to earn wins in ranked games.

How do you lead teams though?  Remember, while League of Legends is a team game, it is also a team game taking place on the internet.  If you plan on taking a leading role in your team, there are many things you have to keep in mind:

1) This is the most important point: don’t fall into the habit of making highly risky plays (as a default).  The problem with high risk/reward plays is that the margin for error is too low.  Always try to make plays while allowing for a large margin of error; the play’s success should not hinge on your or your teammates’ ability to play perfectly.  Instead of going for plays that have the best reward, try to initiate plays that have the highest possibility of success with the lowest possibility of failure.  These plays will still yield a decent reward with less risk.  This way you can establish a good track record (within your team) for making calls, which subsequently makes your team  much more likely to listen to you in the future.

There are numerous benefits to this approach.  A snowballed victory is gradual but more certain.  Your team is less likely to throw the game because the advantage is steadily gained.  Another by-product of a snowballed victory is that your team’s morale will be more stable and resistant to setbacks.  Also when people have to function in a high stress environment (say a game where you’re behind), some people are less adept at handling pressure and may start panicking.  The back and forth boom-bust cycle of teams throwing their advantages away may exacerbate the pressure.  These people may start making bigger mistakes and as a result, lose hope in victory.  A snowballed win prevents your teammates from heading into this “emo” mode (IE: gg we lose ff at 20) as people are more likely to be calm and logical when things are going well.

2) Know your place: if you’re last pick in champ select (IE: the lowest elo player on the team), your teammates often won’t take too kindly to you trying to pick the most influential roles and trying to lead the team.  If however, you manage to snag the mid or jungle role, you will need to step up and make calls and plays – your team is counting on you to do this!  Don’t be too direct in making calls if it’s not your place, but on the other hand, don’t be too timid to make calls when it is your place.  Also, if someone has already stepped up and is trying to make calls, at least give him or her a chance.  While you may  not agree with the calls made, dissention in the ranks can often create even more havoc.  Having too many people trying to lead the team can be worse than having no leader at all.  If however, the person trying to lead is making far too many mistakes and bad calls (which have resulted in some bad results), move on and give others a chance to make some calls.

Generally, the roles most involved in making plays (from most important to least important) are: Jungle, Mid, Top/Support, AD.  The onus for shot calling is usually on the jungler.  He or she is the one that can initiate the most gank attempts and safest dragon/baron attempts.  Next in line is the person playing mid, as they often join with the jungler in ganks or objectives.  Following the mid player in making plays are the top and support players; these players will often roam for a gank or objective.  Last is the person playing ranged carry.  Until the initial laning phase is over, the ranged carry generally only participates in ganks that occur at the bottom lane and dragon attempts.

3) In the end you have to remember that this is the internet: home of easily bruised egos and easily raised tempers.  If you plan on taking a leading role in your team, you may have to act as a father, mother, uncle, teacher, priest, or marriage counselor to your team.  You may have to (in any order): cajole, console, motivate, upbraid, focus, coordinate, or resolve conflicts.  Learn to be commanding without being overbearing, persistent without being annoying, and helpful without being patronizing.  More on this in the next point.

4) People won’t follow your calls if they don’t respect you as a player or as a person.  But how do you gain this respect?  It’s simple: just play well and make good calls.  People will follow a winner, and if you show yourself to be a skilled player making knowledgeable calls (based on sound logic and analysis of risk/reward), people will be more inclined to give you respect and listen to your calls.  A good way to demonstrate your skill (as well as your reliability)  as a player is to always be prepared for a game.  The Boy Scouts definitely had it right in this area, as first impressions are always important.  Selecting your champion with care, planning and executing your setup in a timely fashion, and having a good game plan (as well as having contingency plans in case things don’t go well) are all indicators of a good player who wants to win.  By doing these things, you’ll be more likely to do well (especially early on) and thus prove your worth to your team.

But what if you aren’t doing well, and you can’t prove that you’re a skilled player that can make good calls?  This becomes a catch-22: you need to have people listen to your calls (to prove you have skill and knowledge), but your team won’t listen to your calls because you haven’t demonstrated your skill or knowledge of the game.

That’s where the respect of the person comes in.  I know that treating people with a modicum of decency is foreign and rare on the internet, but remember that you’re not doing it solely out of the goodness of your heart, but that you (as well as your team) stand to gain something from it (a potential win).  You will find that people are more willing to help or humor you as long as you treat them with a basic level of human decency.  Since this is such a rare and foreign action, it will really affect people more and you’ll often get more cooperation (in the same situation) than the usual internet asshole behavior.  The cardinal rule (for gaining respect and cooperation from teammates) is this:

                Essentially, don’t be an asshole.  (simple, I know.)

A few examples:

- Cut people some slack if they mess up.

- Be sympathetic of other people’s issues.

- Don’t let your rage get through to people.  Think what you want about people or even say it out loud, but once you actually type it out you cross into asshole territory.

However, keep in mind that people are very fickle.  If you start making bad plays or risky calls (and they backfire), no matter how much your teammates like you as a person, they will quickly lose respect for you as a player.  And respect in LoL (or DOTA2, or HoN or any internet-based team game) is hard to gain and quick to lose.  However, as long as you aren’t a huge ass and make reasonable and safe calls (thus keeping the chance of failure low), you should have no problem gaining or retaining the respect of your team.

I would like to make an extra point regarding this topic.  Don’t go too far to the other extreme and act like an overly patronizing brown-noser.  That would be going too far in the other direction and also tends to rub people the wrong way.  Keep it to a happy medium and try to be more neutral – like Tom Hagen in The Godfather said: “This is business not personal.”

5) Communicate effectively and simply.  Don’t waste too much time explaining everything in excruciating detail, but don’t be so vague (IE: a single ping during a complex situation) that people won’t immediately understand what to do.  Try to give your team some sort of warning for plays (this of course relates back to the idea of creating a large margin of error).  Don’t expect people to read your mind and instantly react to your plays (in the best possible manner); the more complex a play is, the more preparation it requires.

As a rule of thumb, I generally use some sort of shorthand to explain my plays in advance.  An example of this would be something like, “ganking mid after red buff”.  Make sure your team knows how hard you want to commit to an objective (especially for things like kills).  If you think you need to use everything (summoner spells as well as your full combo) to secure a kill in a gank, make sure your teammate knows to use everything as well.

I also want to add a personal pet peeve here.  Try not to go too off topic during a game as this tends to clutter the message area.  It is solo queue after all: this is your sole method of communication and keeping this area free of clutter and easily readable allows for a far better time communicating with your team.

6) Opportunities come and go.  Circumstances can rapidly change; a good call (say with a 70% possibility of success) can, in a span of 10 seconds, turn into a bad call (with a 70% possibility of failure).  Safer plays thus have another added benefit; your team won’t balk at obeying a safe, “no-brainer” call and will complete it quickly with little to no fuss (increasing the chance of success).  If your team has just aced the opposing team, why not get a tower, inhibitor, dragon or baron?

If your team is not willing to commit to an objective during the most optimal time and circumstances, just abandon it and move on to the next opportunity.  Don’t try to complete objectives with bad timing or in bad circumstances, as it will only lead (with high probability) to a spectacular failure. 

In any well oiled machine (or team) there has to be someone initiating and managing its actions.   Stepping up by making good calls or plays (for your team) may not result in flashy wins where it is clear that you personally put the team onto your back and personally carried them up Mt. Everest.  However, having someone making calls, rather than just trying to do everything themselves, does fit in more with the team-based nature of League of Legends.  Just make sure that these calls are based on simple, safe and solid logic.  Without a clear shot caller, it is difficult for five strangers on a team (all with their own thoughts and ideas) to act in concert.  On the other hand, when hesitation, doubt and confusion can be avoided, a cohesive, highly functional team can often achieve more than the sum of its parts.

TLDR/Cliffs:

- Someone (usually Junglers/Mids) has to make calls for the best result.

- Favor safe plays with high chance of success over high risk/reward plays.

- You’re not General G.S. Patton Jr. and this isn’t Operation Husky; you’ll get more cooperation from your team and more people willing to listen to your calls if you’re not being an asshole.

- Communicate simply but effectively and remember that plays are extremely time sensitive.

 

February 11, 2012 / realelohell

Article 18: The Level 1 Fight / Jungle Invasion

One of the easiest ways to win is to establish an advantage on the opposition as soon as possible and snowball your advantage into further advantages and eventually into victory.  Level 1 fighting, while risky, is one of the best ways to snowball early; your team can potentially pick up first blood gold while disrupting the enemy jungler. 

Level 1 fighting has become a staple of the current metagame in League of Legends.  Gone are the days where players run directly to their lanes and turrets at the start of the game.  The advantages accrued through a proper invasion are too significant to ignore at any level of play.  Before going into the next section, I want to clarify that level 1 fighting through a jungle invasion has several distinct results; they are:

1. Disruption – Exactly what it sounds like, disrupting the enemy jungler (stealing camps, buffs).  This kind of invasion can be successful even if the enemy team knows you are coming.  If your team is significantly stronger at level 1 or if the enemy jungler is very slow and reliant on a certain buff, the enemy team will have no choice but to secede their buffs to your team.  This kind of invasion can be disruptive towards the enemy jungler but often does not affect the rest of the team.  Also note that depending on which team you’re on (blue/purple) and which jungle camp you’re invading, your top/bottom lane may choose to go back to base before creeps spawn; this can leave you open to a counter lvl 1 fight initiated by the opposite team (rarely happens in solo queue though).

2. Catch – This type of invasion is meant to surprise a member of the enemy team in order to pick up a first blood.  Your team often takes a roundabout path to a certain bush in order to wait for someone to “face-check” and give up first blood.  It can lead to a moderate advantage, as the invading team can subsequently disrupt their enemies’ jungle (taking buffs) after picking up the first blood.

3. WAR – This type of invasion happens if both teams are keen to attack/defend at level 1.  Since both teams are willing to fight and are grouped up, what ends up happening is an all out battle at level 1 where both teams want to pick up first blood and subsequently attempt escape.  It can lead to multikills at level 1 and a significant advantage or disadvantage to either team, depending on the outcome of the fight.

4. Stalemate – Both teams end up invading each other’s jungles.  This may occur if one team realizes it is at a disadvantage at level 1, and opts to counter-invade knowing that the enemy team will be invading their own jungle.  It can lead to a small advantage or disadvantage to either team depending on the speed of their respective junglers as well as the time it takes for their laners to get back to their lanes.

Any invasion runs the risk of any of the above results.  What you need to remember about invasions is to always press your advantage when you’re stronger, and always minimize your disadvantage if you’re weaker.  If you’re invading and you manage to catch the enemy team’s jungler and get first blood, stay in their jungle for as long as possible and take his camps.  On the other hand, if you’re being invaded and you can’t defend, it may also be necessary for you to give up your jungle to the enemy team and risk counterjungling in order to stay even.

Benefits of invading

- Psychological advantage (any advantages gained during the invasion will make your opponents more apprehensive about losing)

- If you suggest an invasion and it goes well, you get the credit for making the calls (makes leading teams in solo queue easier)

- Burns enemy summoner spells

- Can get your team first blood or even multiple kills at level 1

- Builds team coordination

- Stealing enemy buffs or getting first blood on the enemy jungler gives your own jungler a further advantage (sets the enemy jungler far behind)

- A successful invasion makes your lanes easier (better items earlier, more jungle ganks)

Disadvantages of invading

- Psychological disadvantage (your own team will be apprehensive that the enemy might snowball a victory from the failed invasion)

- If you make a bad invasion call (which leads to your team giving first blood or getting multi-killed) you lose credibility and your team will be less inclined to follow you

- Burns your own team’s summoner spells

- Can give the enemy team first blood or multiple kills at level 1

- If your team stays for too long or too short a period of time (without picking up a kill), it may throw off your own lanes and jungler

- Your own jungler may get counterjungled and thrown off his game (the enemy team may just end up invading your own jungle in response)

- If your top or bottom lane stays too long during an invasion, it may give them a huge disadvantage when they inevitably go back to their own lanes

There are numerous disadvantages to invading the enemy jungle and level 1 fighting as well.  However, these disadvantages are mitigated by the one major advantage that all invading teams havethe ability to group up as a team.  A jungle invasion above all requires cohesiveness from your team.  There will be times where a group of 3 manage to catch someone off-guard and pick up a first blood, but the best results come with a grouped up team.  An invading team will almost always be grouped as 5 players; defending teams on the other hand, will often split up to try to cover more chokepoints and provide more vision.  Because invading teams are grouped while defending teams are often split, not only will the invading team often have the element of surprise, but will also be in a far superior position during the duration of the fight.  There will also be times where your team is strong enough to defend your jungle, but not strong enough to initiate an invasion.  In these circumstances your team should also be grouped up as 5 in order to pick off the first person who seeks to initiate the invasion on the invading team.

Acting or Reacting

Make no mistake, invading the enemy is not going to be the correct choice 100% of the time.  There will be times when your team is definitely weaker at level 1 and you don’t want to fight.  The key is to identify these situations and adapt your team’s plans to reality.  You should know when to invade, when to defend your jungle, and when to counterjungle.

Invasions and level 1 fights are best won through the use of hard crowd control and high level 1 damage/stats.  Hard cc  in the form of snares, stuns, knock-ups, taunts are excellent for level 1 fighting.  Often times the decision to invade or not rests on the number of stuns/snares/knockups your team has at level 1.  A strong team that has two or more hard ccs at level one can often invade successfully.  Repositioning skills can be even better (IE: Singed/Volibear flips, Blitzcrank pulls), but are much rarer to come by.  Slows can also be useful, especially if your target does not carry Flash (an actually likely occurrence as many junglers now carry an offensive summoner spell like Exhaust/Ignite over Flash, while many support players similarly carry Heal/Exhaust/Ignite over Flash).

High level 1 damage/stats are important if your team wishes to go all out in an invasion attempt, or your team is seeking to defend (as 5) an invasion.  In these cases there will often be a prolonged level 1 fight where both teams end up going all out and many people die.  In this specific situation having champions that can output more damage at level 1 will ensure that your team ends up killing more of the opposing team.  Also, while Doran’s items provide inferior sustain in lane compared to opening boots or cloth armor, the extra health and armor/ad is useful in a level 1 fight.

Summoner spells are also extremely important for level 1 fights.  Having spells like Flash/Exhaust/Ignite are extremely important if your team wishes to secure a first blood.  Players that run Ghost instead of Flash should be ready to react fast as soon as invasion comes (as they cannot simply flash over a wall).  Having the summoner spell Heal is also extremely useful if your team wishes to defend versus an invasion or if both teams want to enter into a prolonged level 1 fight.

Finally, while making the decision to invade the enemy is relatively simple (yes/no?), defending an enemy invasion can be more tricky.  Is your team strong enough to offer battle should the other team face-check?  If so your team should be grouped up bush near a likely invasion path and immediately fight if/when the other team comes close or initiates.  If your team is too weak to fight but your jungler can clear quickly (IE: Rammus, Skarner, Udyr, etc) you can often take the enemy’s buffs instead (with the help of 1 or 2 other members of your team).  Finally, if your jungler is weak/slow and your team is weak at level 1, you may have to sacrifice your jungle camps and take the disadvantage rather than risk fighting or counterjungling.

Paths to invade

Purple team:

Original map of SR thanks to Eagleshadow on the EU server. (http://eu.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=50306)

Path A1: The “standard” invasion path for purple team to invade golem buff.  Comes through lane/bush (and NOT THE RAMP) in case someone on the blue team is sitting in the vertical bush.  Can sometimes catch someone sitting at the top of the bush if they’re slow to react, but generally goes down that bush to try to fight at the one below, at the golem bush, or at wolves.

Path B1: Comes through the top tribush and down river, straight to the golem buff or to the golem buff bush.  This path can sometimes catch a lookout at the golem buff bush, or the team can loop around to path A1 or wolves.

Path C1: Follows a similar path to B1 except loops to the left and up to the top bush, then down and around the left side to golem buff bush (cuts off easy escape route if someone is in the bush).

Path D1: Comes through lane, into the middle right river bush, then up the ramp towards wraiths.  This path leads straight to the wraiths bush (often someone is there – especially jungle Maokais) and can loop around to lizard buff bush (for junglers that start at red) or even golems (bot lane ad/support).

Path E1: A sneakier path that ultimately tries to ambush someone at lizard buff bush.  Alternatively if noone is there, taking this path allows you to ambush the bot lane ad/support at 1:38 if they decide to do small golems.  This path can also loop around to F1 and surprise someone at the wraiths bush.

Path F1: Taking this path is meant to ambush the bot lane ranged carry/support on the blue team if they’re hiding in the small golems bush.  If they aren’t, taking this path allows you to either loop around to the wraiths bush (flanking someone’s escape) or ambushing lizard buff bush from an unexpected angle.

Blue team:

Path A2: The “standard” path for blue team to invade purple team’s lizard buff.  This path can loop around the left hand bush to surprise someone at the upper lizard buff bush, or can head straight to the wraiths bush (if someone is there).  Alternatively, using this path can let you ambush someone doing small golems.  (though that is a pretty rare jungle path now)

Path B2: This path also invades lizard buff, but does so at an unexpected angle (from the top), cutting off an easy escape path for anyone sitting in the lizard buff bush.  This path can also surprise someone waiting at the top small golem bush.

Path C2: This invasion path is an extension of path B2; after using B2 to check lizard buff bush for someone, you can use this path to ambush someone waiting at the wraiths bush, cutting them off from an easy escape.  Likewise you can often catch a Lee Sin or Maokai sitting in the wraiths camp (if it’s just about to spawn) if no one is in the bush.

Path D2: This is the standard path for blue team to invade purple team’s golem buff.  When using this path, remember to ALWAYS COME FROM LANE – NEVER FROM THE RAMP.  This is because someone sitting in the right hand bush will see you much earlier if you come from the ramp.  If you don’t manage to surprise someone in the right hand bush, it can mean that they are sitting in the bush directly above it.  Using this path also lets you flank the enemy jungler at wolves (ideally your team should split and come from both directions if no one sees you).

Path E2: This path is the more roundabout path to invade golem buff.  It’s a useful path if you feel like the enemy team is going to defend their jungler at blue buff.  This way you can come in from an unexpected angle (usually teams take path D2 to invade blue), and it cuts off anyone who is standing in the golem bush from an easy escape.

Before deciding to take a path to invade, you need to know where the enemy jungler starts.  Udyr, Nocturne, Gangplank, Sejuani, Skarner, Jarvan, Amumu, Warwick, Fiddlesticks and Rammus most often start at wolves, then go to blue buff when it spawns.  Shaco, Lee Sin, Shyvana can start at either red or blue (depending on which team the player is on and which lane the jungler wishes to gank first).  Lee Sin/Shyvana can also start in the enemy’s jungle (chance of counterjungling/invading strong).  Maokai almost always starts wraiths and goes directly to blue.  One thing to note is that when invading versus a fast jungler (Skarner, Udyr, Shyvana, etc), remember that if you get spotted early on, the enemy jungler can easily and safely counterjungle your team instead of starting in their own jungle.

Execution

Deciding (convincing your team) to level 1 fight is often far more challenging than the act of invading itself.  The few things to remember when executing an invasion are:

- Have the champion with the best or longest range stun lead (often times this means an Alistar/Taric support)

- Go through the same path at the same time (don’t run ahead or through a dumb path and alert the enemy team)

- When stacked up in bushes, make sure your character does not get squeezed out of the bush when moving.

- Have your team on the same page about what you hope to accomplish.  This is probably the most important part.  Do you want to simply catch someone for a first blood and leave with that advantage?  Do you want to try to pick up first blood as well as disrupt the enemy jungle?  Do you want all out war at level 1?  Are you going to burn flash to initiate a first blood?  Make sure your team understands what is happening.

Invading with a stronger level 1 team composition is natural.  If your team has 3 stuns at level 1 and the enemy team has none, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t invade the enemy team.  With a team composition that consists of multiple heavy CCs at level 1, you’re risking practically nothing for a huge reward.

Example champions (with cc) that are amazing at level 1:

- Ahri (taunt or AOE true damage)

- Alistar (knockup – may have to flash to initiate)

- Blitzcrank (pull)

- Janna (AOE Knockup)

- Leona (ranged stun)

- Lux (long range root – can hit multiple targets)

- Morgana (long range root)

- Pantheon (ranged stun)

- Renekton (melee stun – use to chain stun someone who is already CC’d or flash stun)

- Riven (semi-melee stun, can chain stun or flash)

- Ryze (root)

- Singed (flip)

- Sion (ranged stun)

- Swain (AOE root – can be used to check a likely bush)

- Taric (ranged stun)

- Twisted Fate (ranged stun, short cd)

- Udyr (multiple stun, move speed boost)

- Volibear (move speed boost, flip)

On the other hand, if both teams have only 1 good stun (or none), it may be a more difficult proposition to make.  Just remember that invading teams have two things going for them – surprise and initiative.  It’s always better to have the enemy team reacting to your plans than it is to be playing catch-up.  Often times if you don’t want to make too much of a commitment, you can try to catch someone quickly for the first blood and simply leave (if you feel like the enemy team is willing to commit to a defense after the person you catch respawns).

Defense

Defending versus invasions can be tricky.  This is because if your team is terrible at level 1, there is nothing you can really do to make it any better.  A team comp of Wukong (top), Kassadin (mid), Amumu (jungle), and Ashe/Soraka (bottom) is simply not going to be able to defend at level 1 versus a team comp of Udyr (top), Morgana (mid), Riven (jungle), Taric/Sivir (bottom).  When one team is significantly stronger than the other at level 1 to the point where an invasion by the stronger team is extremely likely, it may be a better option to initiate a counter invasion and take the requisite buff for your jungler from the enemy team’s jungle.

However, there are situations where defending versus an invading team may be an excellent option.  One such example is if the enemy team has multiple hard CCs at level 1 but your team has heavy AOE damage at level 1.  In this case, grouping your team up at a likely invasion path and initiating as soon as the first enemy player appears may be the best option.  Likewise if your team has heavy single target damage at level 1, it may be possible to instantly focus down the first enemy player, and subsequently fight a 5v4.

Conclusion

As a final note I want to stress the following point: invading the enemy jungle may not always be the best option.  Think of it as an extra tool in your arsenal, but don’t rely on it for every single game.  Some games your team will simply be unwilling to invade; executing a poorly coordinated and slow invasion can be worse than doing nothing at all.  Other times your team may be afk at the start of the game.  If your team is unready or unwilling to invade almost immediately upon starting the game, it will be difficult for your team to get into position before the enemy team posts “lookouts”.  The best time to decide upon an invasion is after everyone has picked in champion select; if you make sure that everyone is ready and willing to invade in champion select, you will have much better success.

Cliffs/TLDR:

- Properly executed level 1 fights/jungle invasions can lead to a sizeable advantage.

- Hard CC and good damage at level 1 are key to winning level 1 fights.

- Make sure your team is on the same page regarding invading and what path to take.

- Always have a purpose in mind when invading.

January 4, 2012 / realelohell

Elo Hell Battle Report #3 – A Diamond in the Rough

*Read before requesting a battle report!

If you want me to write a battle report for one of your games, follow these steps:

1. Go to http://leaguereplays.com and download LoL Replay.

2. Use LoL Replay and save a solo queue ranked game loss.

4. Send your replay to my email: real.elo.hell@gmail.com, along with a transcript of the champion selection dialog (the chat with your team before the game started – copy paste it into a text document to save it) and a screenshot of the end game scoreboard (Print Screen and paste onto MSPaint, save as jpg). – *Note: NOT a screenshot of the end game scoreboard from LoL Replay, but from your ACTUAL game (showing your elo)

Onto Battle Report #3…

This game was submitted by pelgr0, playing jungle Gangplank.  pelagr0 was 1276 elo when he played this game.  You can view this replay here: http://www.leaguereplays.com/replays/match/110167/.

Battle at 1276 elo.

Blue team (Team 1) consists of Skarner (jungle), Soraka (support), Nidalee (top), Annie (mid), and Kog’Maw (ad bot).

Purple team (Team 2) consists of Lee Sin (top), Gangplank (jungle), Caitlyn (ad bot), Gragas (mid), and Alistar (support).

All summoners are fairly standard (except maybe Lee Sin’s choice of double offensive summoners, but it’s not unheard of and works fine for some people’s play-styles).

Item Choices.

Again, initial items bought are also pretty typical except Gragas and Alistar.  Doran’s Ring or even Boots/3HP works as a better opener for Gragas, while the standard support opening of Faerie Charm/3 wards/2HP works better for Alistar support.

Right off the bat the first thing that Team 2 did wrong was the leash on blue golem for Gangplank.  No one was there to leash for him until Gragas wandered back from mid lane and eventually leashed (several seconds late).

After securing blue buff + level 2, Gangplank headed to mid where he attempted a gank on Annie.  Unfortunately, though he ended up wasting flash, he was unable to secure an easy first blood kill on Annie due to a (not-so) smart cast Q.

So close.

However, soon after clearing wraiths and small golems, pelgr0 redeemed himself with a gank on Nidalee that secured first blood for Team 2.

Redemption.

After killing red lizard + going back + clearing wolf camp again, Gangplank headed to mid to try another gank on Annie.  However, the enemy Annie player was playing pretty passively, and instead pelgr0 went to bottom lane and got a kill on Kog.

Several unnecessary (and in the case of Kog, a missed flash) flashes were used here.

Pelgr0 then decided to get blue for his teammate Gragas, but Gragas had another idea.  He waited at the enemy’s blue (Gangplank came soon after) and when Skarner came by to collect the buff, he collected a death instead.

Unfortunately, they were unable to take the enemy blue (Annie already had it).

Next came another gank attempt up top.  This time it was Team 1 who came top (Skarner/Annie) to gank  Lee Sin.  Gangplank and Gragas were also involved in the fight, but came a bit late (Lee had to run from the fight before his team got there).  The end result was a successful kill on Lee as well as a free tower.

Not a good thing.

And even worse.

The next skirmish that occurred happened between Lee Sin, Gangplank and Gragas on Team 2, and Nidalee and Annie on Team 1.  In this fight, Nidalee and Annie were fighting Gragas/Lee Sin and had the upper hand (Gragas died to Annie).  However, when pelgr0 came into the fight to help (initially Gragas, but soon after switching to help Lee), the tables were immediately turned and it ended up being a 2 for 1 trade for Team 2.

Pelgr0 deciding (correctly) where his priorities lay.

2 for 1. Advantage Team 2. *Note* Gragas' items as well.

The minor skirmishes ended and everyone headed back to their lanes.  However, Nidalee ended up pushing top lane too hard and overextended, resulting in yet another successful gank for Team 2.

Overextended Nidalee, and...dead Nidalee.

The next fight occurred when Team 1 headed to bottom to pressure/gank or get dragon.  At any rate, Alistar got caught and Gangplank was a bit slow (csing at mid) heading down.  Gragas looped around Team 1’s jungle to try to flank but ended up being alone versus the entire enemy team.  The result was pretty bad for Team 2 and evened up the game a lot.

Alistar gets picked off while Gragas flanks (and tries to hide)....

Not a good position to be in for Team 2...

Gangplank gives up his kill spree while Caitlyn is being chased...

...and gets picked off, leaving the final tally as 3 for 0 (team 1).

Nidalee stayed around Team 2’s mid tower, and was getting ganked by Gangplank and Lee Sin.  Unfortunately for them, Gragas decided to “help” and use his ult on Nidalee….

"I'm Gragas. I'm HELPING!" (note the 17 dmg..that's where Nidalee got propelled off to.)

Gragas ends up helping...the wrong team.

After this there was some more minor skirmishing at mid, where Annie killed Alistar but ended up dying herself.

Inconsequential fight.

These minor skirmishes led to Team 2 converging at baron, while Kog/Soraka on Team 1 were pushing hard on bottom lane.  Team 2 managed to catch Skarner and Annie at baron, but Nidalee escaped and Team 1 (more like Kog’maw single-handedly) got an inhibitor + 2 towers  (not a good trade).

Nidalee manages to escape the carnage yet again.

Just ignore the Kog'maw killing inhibs...

GP teleported back to base but since he didn’t spend the 2k gold he had, he was unable to beat Kog/Soraka or save the inhibitor.

Wriggles lantern + phage < Bloodthirster + zeal

Not a good turn of events for our intrepid hero.

Team 1 also regrouped around dragon + picked up the free global gold (maybe for the first time this game?).  Team 2 tried to stop them but were unable to regroup there in time.

26 minute dragon....but might as well pick up some free gold.

The positioning of both teams around mid led to an actual team fight.  However, Skarner was able to grab Caitlyn right off the bat and drag her into his team, who promptly blew her up instantly.

Not the best positioning for the (longest range) ranged carry.

Team 1 was then able to chase Team 2 away from their towers, picking up another 2 free tower kills as well as another inhibitor kill.

*Note Gragas' items again...(26 minutes <60 AP)

The rest of the team takes note of Gragas' impact (or lack thereof) on the team.

After picking up 2 inhibitors, Team 1 gathered around baron, but the prompt arrival of Team 2 made them give up the objective.  Unfortunately, they were still in the area, so although Team 2 wanted to pick up the objective, the two teams ended up fighting for it.

Not a good position to be in for Gangplank. Team 1 is closer to baron than most of GP's team here.

However, due to some good positioning + AOE from Team 2, the engagement of the teamfight was done well.  GP ulted, and Alistar was initiating too.  Team 1 had to retreat quickly and were out of position for the fight.

Good initiation by Team 2.

A somewhat good result...but note Team 2's base...

After picking up two kills and losing 1 member of the team, Team 2 ended up chasing  Nidalee (who was building extremely tanky – Warmogs/Atmas) to her top tower.  Unable to dive her or to get baron, Team 2 finally noticed that their base was being overrun by super minions from losing 2 inhibitors.

Dive Nidalee! No, do baron! NO THE BASE!!!

Too late :(

Hilariously enough not everyone was even able to go back in time (Alistar and Lee Sin ended up getting chased by Nidalee/Soraka as they were trying to teleport back).  At any rate, it was too late for Team 2 as there were far too many super minions and no towers to defend.  Their base got overrun and they lost, despite being slightly ahead in kills.

The end result.

This game is interesting because while the protagonist did very well indeed, the initial lack of team coordination and leadership (on the part of pelgr0) ended up costing Team 2 the game.  First I’ll outline the basic mistakes made by Pelgr0 and his team:

1) The initial gank on Annie – if pelgr0 was able to Q and get first blood on Annie, it could have made a difference in the final outcome of the game.  Gragas wasn’t doing too badly at first but after Annie picked up several kills, he just fell further and further behind.  Not a big deal, but who knows what could have happened.

2) There was another gank up top from pelgr0 that failed because he didn’t see the Nidalee trap.  However this gank made Nidalee waste flash so it wasn’t a waste of time.  Again, a rather minor mistake.

3) The one fight near dragon where Gragas tried flanking and Alistar died immediately.  Pelgr0 was too late in coming to help his team, which ended up in a crushing defeat in the fight that followed (everyone on Team 2 gradually coming in one by one, everyone in Team 1 grouped up).  This fight was definitely a huge blow to Team 2 because they were ahead by quite a bit before the fight, but ended up even after the fight (8-8).

4) Item builds – Yes, Gragas had basically no damage, but more interesting is pelgr0’s choice of item (Frozen Mallet).  Frozen Mallet is far from the most efficient item and I think pelgr0 would have done better had he just went Wriggles -> Phage -> Warmogs -> Triforce instead.  Gangplank already has an excellent slow in his passive, and Warmogs/Triforce ends up giving far more damage + health than Frozen Mallet.

5) The biggest mistake made in the game: letting Kog/Soraka push an inhibitor for free.  At that point in the game, Team 1 could probably have done baron.  Losing an inhibitor for a free baron + 2 kills isn’t that bad, but losing an inhibitor + dragon for 2 kills + a tower is a pretty bad trade.  Also, since Team 2 never really pushed out their lanes (in all fairness to them, they never got a chance to really push their lanes), their loss came at them very quickly in the form of super minions.

Overall pelgr0 (though he played the best overall) made a few minor mistakes but his biggest mistake was not really leading his team after he got fed.  Instead of taking charge and coordinating his team’s movements, the team was reacting only to Team 1’s actions.  There were also several points early on where pelgr0 could have gotten dragon/baron for his team and set them ahead by an even bigger margin.  Pelgr0 not leading the team (in itself) is not a big enough mistake for the game to end up as a loss; he played well and probably thought at the time that he did as much as he could possibly do (not true but fairly close).  Unfortunately, because of the Gragas who had essentially no damage and the free inhibitor pick up by Team 1, all of pelgr0’s good plays weren’t enough to secure the win.

Team 1 was far more coordinated in attempting to do objectives (towers, dragon, inhibitors, baron), though they did  screw up a bit in a few team fights.  Team 2 on the other hand, lacked coordination but had a decent advantage for most of the game.  In this game, I think it was mainly complacency by team 2 that lost them the game.  Everyone on the team was complacent in letting pelgr0 carry them early on with ganks and pelgr0 was too complacent in just picking up kills (without coordinating his team to do objectives afterwards).

December 20, 2011 / realelohell

Elo Hell Battle Report #2: Learn2Lose.

*Read before requesting a battle report!

If you want me to write a battle report for one of your games, follow these steps:

1. Go to http://leaguereplays.com and download LoL Replay.

2. Use LoL Replay and save a solo queue ranked game loss.

4. Send your replay to my email: real.elo.hell@gmail.com, along with a transcript of the champion selection dialog (the chat with your team before the game started – copy paste it into a text document to save it) and a screenshot of the end game scoreboard (Print Screen and paste onto MSPaint, save as jpg). – *Note: NOT a screenshot of the end game scoreboard from LoL Replay, but from your ACTUAL game (showing your elo)

Onto Battle Report #2…

This game was sent in by Eddie Elric playing Ashe.  Update: Game was played at 1140 elo (I can’t read apparently).

Still this game stands as an example of what not to do when trying to win games.

Battle at 1140 Elo.

Again, Team 1 refers to blue team, Team 2 refers to purple team.

Team compositions/summoners are fairly normal except for the support Teemo/Poppy bottom lane.

Starting items (also normal).

Lane matchups were:

Team 2 / Team 1

Nasus vs Noone (Alistar disconnected)

Fizz vs Swain

Ashe/Soraka vs Teemo/Poppy

Shaco (Jungle) vs Nocturne (Jungle)

The first major mistake made by Team 2 was that no one guarded Shaco in their jungle.  Instead, everyone headed towards their lane (except Swain who was within exp leeching range of blue wraith).

Ashe + Soraka sitting in the bush...

For some reason Eddie Elric thought that it would be a good idea to sit in the bush and miss some cs to try to kill Poppy (with Soraka…).  This didn’t turn out so well as Ashe/Soraka ended up taking more damage than Poppy.

Additionally, due to the constant pushing of the lane, the creep wave was under Team 2’s bottom tower for a while, setting up a perfect ganking opportunity for Shaco.  Unfortunately, Ashe got her E (Hawk shot) instead of Q (Frost arrow/slow), and was also out of position for the gank, which almost led to Shaco giving first blood (Poppy hid in the bush and knocked him into the wall)

How not to gank.

Shaco ended up staying in lane (in the bottom brush) hoping to catch the enemy team offguard.  They did do so but continued to target Teemo despite Poppy Heroic charging into 3 people.  Note that Ashe still doesn’t have slow:

Teemo's hidden passive at work (attract rage of everyone on enemy team).

The game was pretty uneventful until this little incident.  And by “little incident” I mean to say “major catastrophe”:

Pushing bottom tower with no wards while Fizz is mia.....

Inconceivable!

After this happened, the next major mistake came up as Teemo and Poppy were trying to dive Ashe/Soraka, almost picking up a kill on Soraka.  However, Soraka managed to live, while Teemo died to Soraka’s silence + tower hits + Ashe auto attacks (unfortunately, Fizz picked up the kill on Soraka through his ult).  Meanwhile, Poppy also took a lot of damage and got chased by Ashe, who neglected the fact that Fizz was in the area..

So....Close....

Yet so far.

Next mistake, a mistimed Enchanted Crystal Arrow by Ashe (waited far too long after seeing Fizz/Poppy/Teemo  go for Soraka) led to an easy kill on Soraka.

Too little, too late.

Which is compounded by the fact that soon after, Team 1 attempted to do dragon, and were in a position where (if Ashe had her ultimate up) several of their team could have been picked off:

If only I had my ult up..

At this point, tempers were flaring and people started talking shit, particularly our protagonist, Eddie Elric.  However, if you note the team’s score, you’ll see that Eddie’s insults were not exactly true.

One thing that does boggle the mind: how does Alistar (lvl 9) even manage to stay in lane vs Nasus (lvl 12 + better items)?

Most of the Team 2’s deaths happened at bottom (Soraka/Ashe).  The problem with having bad coordination bottom lane is that it’s so easy to give double kills.  Though at this point it’s Team 1 that gave up a double kill.  At this point, though Team 2 is behind by 5 kills, they can easily do dragon if Swain comes down (4v2 – Ashe/Soraka/Shaco/Swain vs Nocturne/Fizz).  Had they managed to do dragon here it would have given them a lot better chance of coming back and winning the game.

Unfortunately, Team 2 didn’t do dragon and their mistakes compounded.  Mid lane got pushed hard, but a huge mistake occurred when Ashe/Soraka stayed far too long at bottom lane (while their team were at base), knowing that the enemy team were all in the vicinity.  This led to the following…

Not where you want to be when playing a ranged carry.

After this, nothing substantial occurred until the first real teamfight.  In this case, both teams were near middle.  However, Team 1 was divided with 2 players in front + 3 flanking from behind, while Team 2 were all together.  While this flank could have worked, Team 1 managed to screw it up by targeting the wrong people and being far too spread out in general.

Bad engage by Team 1 leads to...

A game that gets evened up a bit.

At this point Team 2 seizes its advantage and pushes down mid, taking the first tower down.  Nasus for some reason decided to stay though, which led to him getting picked off by Teemo and Alistar.

A day late and a dollar short.

What followed was more posturing until at one point the enemy Fizz decided to camp out in Team 2’s red buff bush.  Unfortunately, it was warded, so instead of catching one member offguard, Team 2 was preparing a gank on said Fizz.

Chasing Fizz...

However, while Team 2 had a ward placed strategically at one of the entrances to their side of the map, they had no other vision of the middle of the map, which led to…

Not good.

…All of Team 1 who counter-ganked from the bottom brush.

Following the counter-gank where Team 1 came out solidly ahead, they went to do baron.  Shaco attempted to steal it with smite but only ended up suiciding after the opposing team got baron.  At this point both teams were posturing around Team 2’s jungle near blue, until Team 1 decided it might be a good idea to push a lane.

Not where you want to be as Ashe..

…Which led to one of the biggest /facepalm moments of the game, where Ashe decided it would be a good idea to defend (alone) one of the outer towers versus FOUR MEMBERS OF THE OPPOSITE TEAM + BARON BUFF.

The result.

Leading to Ashe getting picked off quickly by a flash/pulverize by Alistar (along with Shaco and the tower).

Again neither side did anything for a while until Team 1, while posturing outside the edges of Team 2’s base, somehow gets caught in another bad engage.  In this one, Fizz was separated slightly from his team, and just outside of the base walls.  He got caught by a Swain snare along with Ashe’s ult and had to run, leaving the fight with basically no hp.  His team decided to engage in a fragmented manner, leading to another terrible teamfight (for them).

Team 1 doing its best to throw the game.

After this teamfight, both the game cooled off somewhat until baron respawned.  At this point, with 2 inhibitors open, Eddie Elric decided to go to baron and start attacking it by himself with the rest of his team holding back.  Unfortunately for him, Team 1 was somewhat ready to go for baron, which led to him getting picked off…

"bad idea"

…and another free baron.  At this point the game was basically decided, with Team 1 killing both free inhibitors and waiting for creeps to push before engaging and finishing the game.

The end.

This game basically defines what you shouldn’t do when trying to win in solo queue ranked games.  First I’ll outline the major in-game mistakes that Ashe made throughout the game:

1. Wrong skill order (WEW…1 level of Q at lvl 8 or 9?) – without Q, Ashe’s W has no slow component.  There were several situations early on where a level or two of Q would have made a huge difference in picking up kills or avoiding deaths.

2. Inappropriate ult usage.  Ashe’s ECA is an amazing initiator, but there were several spots where Ashe just threw away the ability to pick up a sure kill or deny a kill on his own team.

3. Item order.  Ashe’s main items went -> Zeal, Bf sword -> Bloodthirster, Phantom Dancer, Bf sword.

The “normal” build for Ashe usually goes -> Bf sword, Infinity Edge, Zeal -> Phantom Dancer (or Zeal -> Last Whisper), Last Whisper.

As you can see from the last screenshot, by the end of the game, four members of Team 1 were stacking armor.  Fizz had roughly 100 armor, Nocturne had near 180, Poppy had around 140, and Alistar had around 150 (not even taking into account Aegis of the Legion aura).  The only person on the team who didn’t stack armor also happened to have around 140~ more AD than Ashe.  At this point in the game, with effectively no armor penetration, Ashe’s damage is effectively neutralized, letting the other team basically ignore her.

4. Bad positioning.  There were several points in the game where Eddie Elric attempted to lead his team to some objective.  Unfortunately, this only led to him getting caught out of position and killed, due mainly to his last mistake…

5. Berating and insulting team members mercilessly for the entire game.  You do not want to be doing this if you want to win, especially if you’re not doing well in game yourself.  No one is going to appreciate getting berated by an Ashe that is 0-2 or 4-8, especially if they’re doing better than you.  What this led to was several members of Eddie’s team muting him in game, which further disintegrated the team’s coordination.

Now of course there were definitely many mistakes made by the rest of the team.  Soraka getting caught numerous times early on did not help.  Nasus laned versus  no one early on (and Nocturne a little later) and somehow still let an under-farmed and under-leveled Alistar push him around in lane.  Swain also had several moments of tunnel vision which led to disaster, and Shaco threw away his most important attribute late game (split pushing) by always sticking with the team and trying to team fight.  However, there were a couple absolutely pivotal points in the game where Eddie Elric’s decisions were inexplicably bad.  One was defending the 2nd bottom tower 1v4 against a team with baron.  Another was heading to baron (right past a ward and team 1) without getting the team on the same page beforehand (getting picked off + giving free baron).

This game goes to show you exactly what you shouldn’t be doing in solo queue.  First of all, unless you can clearly show that you’re capable of making sound decisions, you shouldn’t be trying so hard to lead your team.  There were multiple spots where Eddie Elric could have picked up kills or avoided dying with better decision making, which would have endeared the team to him.  However, Eddie instead opted to continue to try to lead the team (while simultaneously insulting them), despite most of his team mates ignoring or throwing insults back.

On the other hand, Team 1 seemed to be much more coordinated in all of their actions (despite a few members going into derp-mode and trying to throw the game).  They were coordinated in setting up ganks and going for objectives and were able to pick up the win because of that (despite their rather strange team composition).

In the end, this game shows that coordination is still a fundamental aspect in solo queue games.  The incredible lack of coordination by team 2, combined with the general feelings of apathy and disgust they felt for each other prevented them from winning a game that team 1, despite their overall better coordination, tried very hard to throw.

December 20, 2011 / realelohell

Article 17: Theory of Ganking

People often forget that the role of the jungler (and mid lane) involves something other than getting a high creep score.  There is, of course, a separate component that defines the role of the jungler (and, to a lesser extent, mid lane) – ganking.  This is the part that people have trouble understanding.  Anyone can kill jungle monsters or minions, but successfully ganking seems to be more elusive to understand.  This article examines the concept of ganking in depth.

Purpose

The purpose of ganking can be summed up by one thing only: to apply pressure onto a lane.  To successfully implement this pressure, you must provide (and follow up with) a credible threat to a  member (or members) of the opposing team.  In other words, when ganking you are trying to go for kills on the enemy lane.  Walking past a ward and just showing up in lane to leech some exp while the enemy player hides under their tower won’t cut it.  Providing a credible threat to the enemy team (through ganking) means that the enemy players become fearful of getting out of line (IE: playing overly aggressive).  The threat of a successful gank thus provides an additional benefit: not only are you putting pressure onto an enemy lane, but you’re also relieving pressure from your own team’s lane.  As a final addition I’m going to note that a successful gank is one in which you and your teammate(s) get a kill, without dying yourselves (trading a 1-1 kill in a 2v1 or 3v2 situation is not ideal).

Function

What makes up a successful gank?

Let’s look at the variables involved in ganking (later on we’ll look at the variables involved in escaping a gank).

The variables that affect a successful gank are: surprise, positioning, timing, coordination, crowd control (cc), and vital statistics.

Surprise is the primary factor that determines a successful gank.  Without the element of surprise, you can still pull off kills, but with the element of surprise, you will get kills in an easier and more effective manner.

Positioning is another important factor when determining whether or not a gank will succeed.  The positioning of the enemy player is of course the primary consideration (the positioning of the actors on your team involved in the gank are secondary).  The chances of a successful gank increases the closer your lane opponent is to your tower, and decreases the closer he is to his tower.  Also note here that just because a player is currently overextended, does not mean they will stay dumb forever.  Your enemy top lane might be overextending and playing aggressively towards your ally precisely because he sees you (as the jungler) at bottom lane.  This is why it is often better to go for a gank when the creeps are roughly around the middle of the lane (before anyone overextends).  In said example, if the enemy up top does overextend and you were already heading up top before he was overextended, by the time you get there you may be able to catch the enemy champion in the act, giving you the best opportunity to score a kill.

Timing is yet another factor in judging whether a gank will succeed or fail.  An enemy may be overextended in lane and positioned close to your tower, but if your teammates are too far away to attempt a gank, your opponent can’t be punished for overextending.  This concept applies far more to the jungler than the person in lane, as the jungler needs to be mobile enough to respond to opportunities as they come.  Say that your mid lane ally just fought with the enemy mid lane and burned the enemy’s summoners.  As the jungler, you have a short window of opportunity where you could potentially gank the enemy while they have no escape.  If you don’t take advantage of that opportunity then you’ll only make your own life tougher if you try to gank after a couple minutes and the enemy mid has Flash back up.

Coordination is also important in successfully ganking.  Everyone involved in the gank has to be on the same page in order for a gank to work out in the best possible case.  If your jungler comes in to help you gank and you’re unprepared to commit, you may inadvertently save your opponent from a gank.  Always make sure beforehand that both you and your jungler (or whoever else is ganking for you) are both ready and willing to commit to the same action.

Crowd control is obviously important in ensuring successful ganks.  Without any sort of disabling ability (stuns, snares, fears, slows, taunts, etc), it is going to be difficult to get a kill on your target as the person being ganked can easily escape (possibly without even using any escape ability or summoner spells).

Your own vital statistics are clearly an important factor for a successful gank.  If you’re asking for a gank and you do not have sufficient health, mana, summoner spells or abilities to commit to the gank, you are essentially denying yourself the chance of a successful gank.  This is such an extremely important factor that I feel the need to repeat myself.  Too often do I see the following situation play out in low elo ranked games:

Player A: “I NEED A GANK UP TOP!”

Player B (Jungling): “Ok, give me a sec gotta get red.”

By the time Player B can get up top, Player A has to go back to base to heal as he gets too low to stay in lane.  The gank subsequently fails before it even starts since the enemy top lane also goes back to base when Player A leaves.

If you want someone to help gank your lane, make sure you are fully prepared to help in said gank.  Likewise, if you are preparing to gank a lane, do all that you can to execute that gank at the best moment.  Using the above example, Player B could have skipped getting red buff (if he saw both players up top fighting and getting low in health), instead racing up top and trying to secure a kill.

The Other Shoe

Escaping a gank is just as simple as executing a gank.  The variables that affect escaping ganks are also similar: expectation, positioning, wards, summoner spells, escape abilities, and vital stats.

Expectation is the opposite of surprise.  If you’re overextending in lane, playing aggressively versus your opponent, and basically pushing your opponent around and getting out of line…expect your opponent to call for a gank (expect that gank to come too).  Likewise, if you’re being pushed around by your enemy and you’re getting low in hp, you can expect some sort of tower diving play to come – don’t stick around under a turret (especially if you’re outnumbered, low in hp, or if the turret is low in hp) if you see people heading towards you.  Giving a free turret is infinitely better than dying, then subsequently giving more objectives away.  This is really situational as well, sometimes you may be able to defend or sometimes your team will help you countergank if you stay, but in general, it’s not the greatest idea to stick around and defend your turret if you’re getting completely demolished in lane.

Positioning versus ganks is likewise the exact opposite of positioning for ganks.  You want to position yourself in order to make yourself hard to gank.  This means that you have to realize when you are overextending in lane, and pull back a bit to leave yourself space to retreat.

Wards negate a lot of the surprise factor – assuming you actually look at your mini-map.  Having all the entrances to your lane warded is useless unless you actually pay attention to the mini-map and react accordingly (run) to any gank attempts.

Summoner spells and escape abilities are obviously useful in evading gank attempts.  With Flash/Ghost/Cleanse/Heal/Exhaust up, you have greater latitude for overextending and playing aggressively.  Likewise, if your champion has an escape ability (some sort of blink) or some good crowd control, you also have greater latitude for adjusting your play to the situation.  However, be prepared to adjust again if your summoners/abilities are down.

Vital stats are again important in escaping ganks.  The biggest factor here is health.  If you’re constantly at or near full health in lane, you make yourself a much more difficult target to gank.  If you stay in lane with no summoners and low health, you’re just creating an extremely inviting target for the enemy team.  For top lane, magic resist/armor also plays an important role in surviving ganks.  In either case, having more health/mana/resists/etc means that the enemy team will have to commit more (summoners, auto-attacks, abilities, etc) to successfully gank you.

Unorthodox Champion Roles

I feel the need to talk about another issue in regards to ganking.  Picking unorthodox choices for certain roles (like jungle/mid) can severely reduce your team’s chances of executing successful ganks.  Having a jungler like Mordekaiser might sound good on paper (“He clears the jungle so fast!”), but has many practical issues.  How do you gank successfully with no cc?  Likewise, having someone like Soraka going mid can be a problem for your team (will you even be able to gank other lanes that are in trouble?).  Picking “FOTM” champions might seem boring and dull, but if you think about it, they’re popular for a reason: they deliver results.  They are simply better (quite often in almost every way) than the alternatives.  Why pick a champion like Eve or Twitch to jungle when you can pick Shaco?  Why pick jungle Mordekaiser when Udyr clears fast, is tankier and has better CC?  Again this is just a generality (feel free to play whatever you want), but keep in mind that you could potentially be winning more games with a more orthodox champion pick.

Putting it all together

Junglers get an especially bad rap when it comes to ganking.  Whenever a gank fails, it’s easy to simply blame the jungler.  Funnily enough, few people blame their mid lane teammate for not ganking and just sitting in lane.  In any case, the question remains: how do we increase our chances of ganking successfully?  Choosing a jungler or mid champ that has good mobility, CC and damage is a start.  Picking the right lane to gank, and more importantly, the right timing to gank is also important.  Before attempting to gank, try to get as much information as you can: does your target have summoners up?  What about wards?  Escape abilities/ults, etc?  Always think about the chances of a ganking successfully – and better yet, ask your teammates what they think.  If they don’t want or need your ganks, focus your attention elsewhere.  Make sure your teammates are all on the same page when going in for a gank.  Save yourself some stress and coordinate as best you can before you go in for a gank.  Sometimes this may not be possible (in very time sensitive situations), but in those cases the likelihood of a successful gank is high regardless of coordination or not.  For a final note, make sure you have some sort of backup plan ready.  Know what the “point of no return” is when executing plays so you don’t over-commit to an objective.  Ganking and tower diving top lane repeatedly may not be the best option if you end up trading kills – especially if the enemy team decides to take advantage of your focus and get other objectives (IE: dragon).  Likewise, ganking a lane and over-committing to your target may lead to a situation where you get counter-ganked and end up losing far more than you gained.  Ganking is a deceptively simple concept.  The basics are simple enough to understand, but putting it all together and executing it properly relies on each person’s individual judgments, and that can only come through personal experience.

Cliffs/TLDR:

- You are ganking in order to pressure the other team (while relieving pressure from your own).  If the enemy team is able to ignore your presence you are failing your job.

- Think about the variables involved in ganking (and escaping ganks), and apply them to your own in-game analysis.

- Unorthodox choices for certain roles like the jungler/mid lane can have a detrimental impact on your game.

- Knowledge of the fundamentals is one thing, but you have to be able to apply theory into practice for it to be effective.

December 5, 2011 / realelohell

Article 16: Adapting your Playstyle

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.  You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.

- Bruce Lee

This amazingly perceptive quote by Bruce Lee can be directly applied to playing League of Legends – or any multiplayer game.  Especially in a game of incomplete information, you need to adapt your play.  Adapt to changing circumstances, the actions of your opponents, the actions of your team, anything!  You have to be dynamic, not static.  Dynamic, adaptive play means you that no matter what stage of the game you’re in, you will take full advantage of opportunities that come your way.

Aggressive (Proactive) Play (Stage 1: Determination)

“When you’re ahead, get more ahead.” -Artosis (StarCraft2 commentator)

Consider the following two examples:

Example 1: You’re playing a game where both your team and the enemy team are evenly matched in all objectives throughout the game.  The game culminates in a final teamfight that can go either way – luckily for you, the enemy team screws up and your team aces them and pushes for the win.

Example 2: You get first blood at mid lane.  You press your advantage on your lane by forcing your lane opponent to go back repeatedly and miss cs when in lane; you gank the other lanes, putting constant pressure on the enemy team.  You manage to get ganks off and initiate other objectives.  Your team snowballs from the repeated kills and the global gold advantage to the point where the enemy is unable to contest any further objectives – your team becomes unstoppable and pushes easily to the enemy nexus.

Which of the two games was the easier win?  More importantly, of the two games, which was the result of player determination and which was the result of luck?

Ideally, this is the stage of the game that you always want to be in.  If you could determine the results of your game solely through your own actions, you have the power to control your own fate.  When in Stage 1, you have the ability to carry games effectively.  Power rests in your hands – the responsibility of any actions you take, good or bad, rests on your shoulders.

You are in this stage of the game when the game is even or if your team is ahead.  In these two situations any aggressive plays or risks that you take are far more worthwhile than at other points in the game.  The reason is threefold:

Reason 1

If the game is even and you try a risky play and it pays off, you gain an advantage; you can then push the envelope a little further and try to expand on this advantage, trying more and more objectives.  This is how you can snowball into those easy wins.

Reason 2

If you’re already ahead, that advantage can be used as a buffer to try riskier plays – again you are trying to snowball into a bigger advantage.

Reason 3

Finally, if you’re ahead and your plays fail, you have a buffer zone of advantage that you can lose so the relative losses in end are less keenly felt.  If you’re even with the enemy team and your risks fail, you move into stage 2, but you can always adapt to the changed circumstances (assuming you didn’t fail too hard) and come back into stage 1.

A good metaphor for this is investing.  Say you invest $1000 in stocks.  It is a somewhat risky investment, but you do well and end up selling your stocks for a profit of $500 (reason 1).  Now you have $1500, and decide to reinvest in other stocks, using your new experience and knowledge to further increase your profits.  Since you’re starting off with $1500 now, you can invest in either more expensive stocks, or a higher quantity of stocks, further increasing your potential profits.  Maybe this time you end up doubling your investment, and you end up with $3000 now (reason 2).  Finally, you decide on an extremely risky investment and it ends up going badly; you lose $1800 of that $3000 and end up with $1200.  The buffer that you gained initially even allowed you to stay a bit ahead overall, and you can re-adapt your investing method to something safer (reason 3).

Passive (Reactive) Play (Stage 2: Hope)

At this stage of the game, your team is behind, but the possibility of moving back to stage 1 remains.  You may be behind (for whatever reason), but you’re not out of the game, you still have some hope of winning.  During this stage you need to play selectively aggressive.  This means that you may have to end up playing more passively, while at the same time, maintaining the will and decisiveness to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.  This means that you’re doing all that you can within reason to close the gap and gain on your advantaged opponent.  At this point of the game, your opponent has the momentum and dictates the pace of the game, but you must always be ready to react and adapt to any mistakes that the other side makes.  You can even seize opportunities and take minor risks at this stage, though keep in mind that every failed play that you make at this stage will mean that the enemy snowballs into an even greater lead.  Taking risks at this stage is extremely dangerous, but sometimes necessary.  If those risks pay off you may be able to move back into stage 1, and if they fail, you move into stage 3.

Example of passive/reactive play:

You’re playing a ranged ad champion and die once in bottom lane.  The enemy bottom lane now has the ability to harass at will, preventing you from getting cs.  As a result, your tower is being continuously pushed and chipped down.  Your jungler is unable to gank successfully, and instead of trying to defend the tower to the death, you abandon it.  While this situation is hardly favorable, you will be able to take advantage of even this negative scenario; once the enemy takes down your tower early on, they will be unable to continue pushing the lane deep into your side of the map, allowing you (relatively) free farm.  You will be able to farm without help from your support, allowing that player to roam freely and put pressure on other lanes.  Even though you’re behind in cs/towers, you can aggressively push bottom by yourself (with proper warding) if you see that the enemy neglects it to put pressure on other lanes/towers.

REAL AGGRESSIVE PLAYSTYLE BRO! (Stage 3: Desperation)

This is the stage of the game where you throw caution to the wind.  When your team is extremely far behind, losing massively in kills/towers/objectives, you cannot hope to capitalize on your opponent’s minor mistakes to get back into the game.  You need to adapt to the dire circumstances, and adopt an extremely high risk/high reward playstyle in order to close the huge gap in advantage.  This means you will be overextending extremely far into a lane in order to take a tower or divert attention from another objective.  This means you will be going for those desperation “zerg rushes” on baron when the enemy goes back to heal.  This means trying to catch or bait the 10-0 Vayne on the opposite team to end her kill spree.  At this point of the game, if your chances of winning are extremely small – you should not rely on the enemy team screwing up massively by committing suicide and giving your carry a pentakill, you should be taking risks that would normally seem incredibly stupid.

Example of a desperation play:

The enemy team has just gotten baron buff.  They go back to base to heal before pushing a lane.  You’re playing Irelia and your teleport is up.  The enemy team decides to push mid lane.  Instead of sitting under your inhibitor tower with the rest of your team, you decide to push bottom lane and try to backdoor, but you are prepared to teleport back right before the enemy team engages your team.  In this case, if you push far enough and the enemy team is hesitant to engage and tower dive the remaining four members of your team, you may be able to divert the enemy team’s attention back to their own base (wasting time on baron buff and saving your own base).  And if, by pushing bottom, you bait the enemy team into tower diving your team, those extra tower hits and your teleport back may give your team the advantage it needs to win that fight.

Conclusion

Adapting your playstyle to fit the changing circumstances in the game is an extremely important concept.  Adopting passive play as a default and waiting for the enemy team to make mistakes is not how you carry solo queue.  If the enemy team takes risks and it pays off, you can easily get snowballed on by your opponent’s continuously building advantages.  Games are always changing, and you need to adapt your play.  You do this by realizing what stage of the game you’re in and acting or reacting accordinglyaggressively in [Stage 1], selectively aggressive/passively in [Stage 2], and hyper-aggressively in [Stage 3].

Cliffs/TLDR:

- Always adapt your play

- Whenever possible, be proactive (push the envelope)

- Get ahead and stay ahead

- Know when to play aggressive and when to tone it down

- Desperate times calls for desperate measures