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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.

 

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6 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Joe / Nov 5 2012 1:42 pm

    Great article! So much agreement! But I have to ask, why don’t you suggest that the tank make the calls, at least when it comes to initiating team fights? I suppose a lot of the best junglers are tanky themselves these days, but it’s not always the case. (I most often play top-lane Singed, which is why I’m curious.)

    • realelohell / Nov 5 2012 4:15 pm

      The problem with having “the initiator” make calls is that this only really occurs during teamfights, and by then it can depend a lot on what kind of initiator you have. Having the jungler/mid make calls especially when they’ve been the catalyst for action all game creates a more stable situation (at least in solo queue).

  2. Kevin Lee / Nov 5 2012 6:40 pm

    I am still not level 30 yet (29), but I have done a ton of research and watch a ton of streams on LOL, so I think I am pretty experienced with higher level play (though I guess that’s what everyone says right?), but my main role is ADC, and I almost always win lane right now, and when I’m playing a champion I am comfortable on, I tend to make a lot of calls (i.e. tank initiate fight, [insert champ] focus enemy adc, etc…) and I find that as long as I am confident in my champion, I can make safe calls. Although you place ADC last on the list to make calls, if I feel like I have a lot of knowledge about the game and can afford the attention to the rest of the map, should I be making calls? And does attitude change once you start playing ranked? Since I have heard that in your first few ranked games, people rarely listen to you and you might even get trolls if you start trying to make too many calls. In my games right now, people tend to listen to me, and things usually work out, although of course I make a lot of mistakes since I’m still not very experienced.

    • Kevin Lee / Nov 5 2012 6:42 pm

      Also, if you get trolls in your game, how do you recommend to win those games? Sorry for the long comment haha

      • realelohell / Nov 5 2012 11:24 pm

        There are probably a million answers to this question but long story short: you usually don’t.

    • realelohell / Nov 5 2012 11:22 pm

      Well my article mainly applies to ranked games…don’t worry about it in normal games, lol. ADC has enough to worry about (CSing while trading/harassing) and 99% of the time won’t be able to make calls (or good ones). Honestly I wouldn’t worry too much about it for now.

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