Wednesday, 5 September 2012

GUIDE: Basic League of Legends Strategy

So, you’ve been playing League of Legends for quite some time now. You’ve hit level thirty, and decided it’s time to start hitting up those ranked matches so your 17/0/20 facerolls as Master Yi will actually mean something.

Before you rush headlong into the solo ranked queue, there are a few things you should know. While this guide is mainly geared towards strategies for max level ranked play, it is also a useful tool for players to use while levelling up, or those who choose to continue to play unranked games at 30, as it covers a lot of basic strategy that every serious LoL player should know.

Our first lesson starts before the game even begins. Consider your team composition. Should you really play Miss Fortune when your team has an AD carry? Do you really want to play Sona when a Janna has already said she will build support? Does your team have someone who can build tanky? A perfect team composition would consist of:

-1 Jungler
-1 Support
-1 Mid (usually a mage)
-1 Carry (Usually a ranged AD)
-1 Solo top (Usually a tanky DPS)
(The jungler is usually a tank, mage or melee DPS)

Try to keep it in mind when picking your champion. If you plan on playing a jungler, ensure that you:
a.) Pick a champion suited for jungling. Warwick is the best for those who are just starting out jungling. Other potential junglers include: Udyr, Shen, Fiddlesticks, Rammus and Nocture. The list goes on but these are good starters.
b.) Have the appropriate jungling masteries/runes. Generally, these should include defensive runes, as well as defensive/support masteries.
c.) Have done the jungling circuit in a practice game with that champion at least once.

There are hundreds of jungling guides out there for all the potential junglers, so I won’t go into this any further and urge you to seek them out.

The next rule is easily the most important one. It is my golden rule of playing League of Legends, and if you only take one thing away from this guide, it should be this. Staying alive is more important than getting a kill. You tried to gank Ashe at mid and she’s escaping with less than a quarter of her health? Bad luck. Let her go. Do not chase her into enemy territory, or worse, her turret range. You might kill her, but if you get killed it’ll just be trading a kill for a kill and if your lanemate gets ganked because you are overextended, then it puts your team at a disadvantage.

Know the lanes. The lanes are usually abbreviated to top, mid and bot.

This may seem like the most basic and obvious thing, but I have seen players not know it, even in level 30 games. Mid is always solo. The sidelanes are usually 2v2, however, if you have a jungler, then top lane becomes 1v2 (or 1v1 if they also have a jungler). The reason this is so is so the bot lane can help the jungler with dragon, if need be. If you are playing support in bot lane, do NOT steal minion kills from your carry! Buy gold-per-ten items and let them take all the kills. If your jungler is starting at the blue golem, it is customary for top/bot lane and mid to cover him from an early gank, as well as leash the camp for him. Leashing refers to a non-jungling champion hitting a creep and then running away, making the creep chase him while the jungler gets some free hits on it.

Know your calls. The most common call is ‘b’. B simply means, go back, as in, either return to base or back away from enemy territory. When an ally tells you to b, you should heed his call, even if you think otherwise, as he will most certainly b shortly afterwards which will skew the odds in the enemy’s favour.
The second most common call is ‘MIA’. MIA means ‘missing in action,’ and is used during the laning phase when a champion is missing from his lane, as a warning to other lanes that said champion may be preparing to gank. You should call champions from your lane as MIA if you haven’t seen them for a good 15 seconds. Be very wary of overextending when any champions are MIA.

Ult, or ulting is a more obvious call, that means that a player is about to use their ultimate. It can be applied to both friendly and hostile ultimates (IE: ‘I will go in there and ult on Teemo,’ or, ‘Watch out! Ashe is ulting!’). Ultimates are sometimes abbreviated to ‘R’ or ‘6’ (IE: ‘My 6 is ready for the next team fight!’)

Overextending refers to when you have extended too far into enemy territory and are in danger of being ganked.

In the laning phase, the most common gank location is this bush
Thus, if you are pushed any further than the red line, you are have overextended. If the enemy team has a jungler, it is strongly advised that you buy a sight ward during your first trip back to base and place it in this bush.

Always remember that overextending does not just apply to the laning phase. When you are pushing as a team through a lane into an enemy’s base (known as sieging) it is still possible to overextend! 

A popular gank location when seiging an enemy base

The only time when it is completely safe to overextend is when you have acquired good map awareness through wards or similar abilities (Shaco puppets, Teemo mushrooms, Hiemerdinger turrets). This brings us to our next point:

Know your wards! Warding refers to the act of placing sight wards in tactical locations in order to be able to keep an eye on enemy champions and their movements. There is no better explanation on the best ways to ward than the following image. Bear in mind that the image is quite large, and may be hard to view on smaller screens:

Know your pings. When someone pings you and then a location, they want you to move there. When someone pings you multiple times, you are in danger. A whole series of pings down the length of the river means that an enemy is possibly coming up the river to gank a lane. Pinging objectives (such as the dragon or a tower) means they wish to attack it as a team. Pinging an enemy champion means that they should be focused in a team fight.

Know when the laning phase is over! Generally, the laning phase lasts from the beginning of the game up until the first tower in that lane is destroyed. Once your lane’s tower is destroyed, you are free to roam the map to either kill neutral creeps in the jungle or help gank/push other lanes. Of course, if the enemy is pushing your lane, you should still try and defend it!

When the laning phase is over, MIA calls become a lot less important. They are usually still used before engaging teamfights, in order to let your teammates know that one or more of the enemy’s team is missing (EG: We shouldn’t engage them, there are 2 MIA).

Know when to get Baron/dragon. These two epic monsters provide benefits to your entire team when killed, so it is imperative that your team kills them as often as possible. If you have a jungler, it is usually his responsibility to kill dragon. He will usually go for it around level 6. If you are in the bottom lane and he needs help, do not make it obvious to your enemy that you are going to help him. Circle around to the dragon from the back. If you don’t have a jungler, it is usually not a good idea to go for dragon unless every enemy is accounted for, or you have just scored a couple of kills. Baron should not be attempted until your whole team is at least level 15, and even then, only when your team has a considerable advantage (such as just after scoring an ace) and only if your whole team participates.

Killing dragon gives enough global gold to equal about 2 champion kills.

Know when to engage. The general rule of thumb is that the tank should engage teamfights, but there are exceptions if you happen to have a great engaging spell (such as Ashe or Pantheon’s ultimate). The trick to engaging is to either wait for an advantage to present itself (such as when one of their players is away from the team or dead), or wait for them to overextend into your turret range. This is more of a general feel that you will acquire as you play games, rather than something that is an exact science. Be sure to clearly let your team know that you are engaging before you do it.

Ashe's crystal arrow has a long range and will stun the champion it hits as well as slow those  in the impact radius.
Know your positioning. This is another one that is a bit hard to teach. It can be very crudely generalized as ‘don’t stand so close together,’ but is much more subtle than that. Be wary of where some champions need to be to best utilize their abilities. Ranged characters should try and stand behind the rest of the team. Assassins should try and flank from the sides or behind. This leads to our next two points.

Know your champion... and every other one. 10% of this game is knowing exactly what your champion is capable of. Do not go into ranked with a champion you have never played in unranked. Get the feel of the champion, and know the boundaries of its abilities. Can I effectively dive a tower as Pantheon? What’s the general range of my ult as Janna? Is it a good idea to harass early game as Shen? The other 90% is knowing your matchups – IE: exactly what all enemy champions are capable of. There are two fantastic resources that can help you with this; the League of Legends wiki will give you a general overview of most champions, while team solomid will give you a plethora of in-depth champion guides.

Team Solomid are a professional League of Legends team
A couple more things to know include the concepts of last hitting, starving and zoning. Last hitting simply refers to getting the last hit on an enemy minion, so you receive the gold from the kill. Some champions (such as those with a very fast attack speed) are better at last hitting than others. This relates back to knowing your champion – you must know exactly how much damage an ability or auto-attack does as well as how quick the animation is in order to last hit effectively. Starving refers to keeping enemy champions from gaining gold or experience, by only last hitting enemy minions to keep the minion wave near your tower, as well as utilizing zoning. Zoning is best explained by this fabulous youtube video by Riot game designer Shurelia:

These basics should give you a good grasp on basic League of Legends play, but the only true way to learn is to take these concepts and practice, practice, practice! I’ll see you all out in the fields of justice!

If you are interested in playing League of Legends, making a free account via my referral link would really help me out a lot!

Liked this article? Check out my basic pub TF2 strategy guide