League of Legends: A Lack of Urgency

Lately, I’ve been playing ranked games almost exclusively.  During the course of my experience I’ve learned a few things about the game and what it takes to win.  Even though I believe my Only Strategy still applies to a good percentage of games, I have witnessed a few occasions where a team has recovered from a very serious early deficit.  Those games which last long enough offer both sides a better chance of success, and stronger team compositions and cohesion will win by gold advantage alone; regardless of the number of turrets which still stand.  I’ve even seen games won after a break-out ace in a team-fight at the nexus by a team whose nexus turrets had been destroyed .  The enemy team was incapable of defending their own nexus and still had 10-15 seconds on their respawn timers when the battle was ended.

But this is not a discussion about the Only Strategy.  Although it is somewhat related.

In my time playing in ranked games, I’ve noticed an important shift in my early-game paradigm.  Before now, I had always felt rushed to a certain extent.  The urgency to score kills in my lane and push the turret was a desperate priority for me.  I would often see what I perceived as opportunities to fell an opponent that had retreated under their own turret, only to find myself dead and ultimately feeding those very enemies  which I had assumed were weak and vulnerable.  The same goes for undefended turrets.  I used to see a mobbed turret (one being swarmed by minions) as an excuse to leave myself out in the open without map vision or egress.  I’m dismayed to recount the number of times I was caught in those situations with my proverbial pants around my ankles, scrambling for brush cover as I was set upon by far more enemies than I could possibly handle.

I suppose I’ve matured in some sense with regard to the way I percieve those early game “opportunities”, insofar as I now take them with a seriously tangy grain of salt.  What’s more important is my perception of the early-game as a whole.  Although, in the back of my mind, I always knew that last-hitting and turret defense were priority, I never really took it to heart.  Granted, on some champions (especially Kassadin, who is notoriously difficult to last-hit with for me, espcially if I’m laning against a ranged opponent) I still don’t fully embrace the proper pace I should be playing at.

So what am I trying to say here?  Well, I’ve noticed that the early game has only one real consequence.  Whether the lane is won or lost.  The time that it takes to win that lane is usually pretty fixed depending on the lane opposition.  In normal play, lanes can be won or lost in a matter of minutes — the skill disparity is outrageous sometimes.  In ranked play, on the other hand, a trend I’ve observed is that lanes will stand in contention for at least 10-15 minutes.  It is very, very rare for a turret to fall before then.  Teams tend to work better together when ELO is on the line and well-defended lanes will often quickly move to defend a turret that has been exposed.

And what does that all mean exactly?  It means that lately, I’ve started my laning phase with a little more of a disconnected approach.  Falling into the twin traps of greed and anxiousness is something I’ve started to try to avoid.  Patience is key.  With a steady approach to the early-game, and keeping a strong, determined perspective with patience and a lack of urgency, I’m better equipped to distinguish false or misleading opportunities from the real clutch gameplay that often makes or breaks my ability to sustain throughout the mid- to late-game.  This also often works to my advantage, especially when solo-mid, because my nonchalance often incites impatience and irritation in my foes.  That aggrevation is a method of harassment all in it’s own.  Eliciting careless mistakes due to the very same urgency and greed that I actively avoid has often been an important factor in my lane victories.

Naturally, I still struggle with these issues from time to time.  Early game failures to adhere to the tenets of patience and determination commonly result in a measure of frustration and desperation.  Also pitfalls to avoid, to be sure.

If there’s anything I can pass on from these hard-won lessons, it is this: Bide your time and watch your opponent carefully.  When the time comes that a mistake is made, it is your perogative to capitalize and punish those failures.

Good luck and have fun.  See you in game.

-V.

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League of Legends: Mastery before adaptability

In the game League of Legends, there are more than 75 different champions to choose from and each fills a role typical of the traditional archetypical trinity of role-playing games.  There are healers, tanks, dps’ers, rogues, warriors and wizards of all sorts.  The common belief that all players should learn and be able to use any of those types of champs effectively is widely accepted as the norm.  And for ranked play, this is certainly very true.  Focusing specifically on a single champ can leave you high and dry in ranked play if your favorite happens to get banned.  The most popular way to avoid this, of course, is to learn many different champs filling all the different roles.  This helps players not only adapt to their team’s needs in any given circumstance, but also broadens a players understanding of the game as a whole.

With that said, however, normal (unranked) play is a whole different ballgame.  Normal play is determined by what is called a “Blind pick” (as opposed to the Ban/Open Pick one experiences in matches where ELO is on the line).  What that means, in essence, is that every player on a particular team is free to choose whichever champ they feel like playing.  Only occasionally do players actually have any real concern for team composition or necessary roles.  For example, I’ve found myself in countless games without a tank, or even in the worst cases, without any real team-fight initiators at all.  But this discussion is not about team composition.

This discussion is about champion mastery versus player adaptability in normal, unranked games and why I believe champion mastery far outweighs the importance of being able to play several different champions and/or roles in those situations.

I believe the school of thought that states that players should learn a number of champions does not apply here.

In my own experience, I can say with confidence that I have mastered one champion.  Out of all the characters available, I’ve learned as much as I possibly can with Sona in the confines of unranked play.  I say this, because I’ve played hundreds of games with her and have faced nearly every possible matchup.  I’ve played Sona against a Sona.  I’ve played Sona against Xin Zhao.  I’ve played Sona against every other champion out there, with the exception of Vayne (who was only just released earlier this week).  I know how Sona stacks up in terms of range, durability and mobility.  I feel confident that I can approach any game with Sona and win with very few deaths (0-2) and a very high number of assists (often more than 20).

So what does that say about me as a player?  Nothing, other than the fact that I am consistent with Sona.  Otherwise, I know nothing, and that’s why I only play unranked games.

The reason I say this is because of my recent experience with Vayne.  When I enter the fields of justice with Vayne, I feel as though I have started from scratch, and must re-learn the game anew.  With Sona, I feel confident being aggressive against a champion like Irelia because I know that I will not only be able to outmaneouver her, but I have a very distinct range advantage and a superior form of healing.   Alternatively, with Sona, I know to maintain safe distance from champions like Taric or Sion.  The ranged stun those champions have can put Sona in a very bad situation.

With Vayne, on the other hand, there is definite danger aggressing Irelia.  Irelia’s Bladesurge has approximately the same range as Vayne’s auto-attack.  Moving into that range puts Vayne in jeopardy due to her fragile nature and Irelia’s high burst damage.  Add to that Irelia’s ability to heal with Hiten Style, and Vayne is simply out-matched.  For me, this lesson was hard-won.

But that just brings the point home all the more dramatically.  In order to be as consistent with Vayne as I am with Sona, I’ll need to relearn all the possible match-ups against her.  Not only that, but Vayne has an entirely different style of play.  As a support champion, Sona requires very little gold and needs to be close to the action in order to be effective.  Her healing, speed boost and even her ultimate all have a range that requires her to be on the heels of her carries and tanks (albiet at a slight distance and safely behind those she supports).  Vayne, however, is an assassin type.  She requires a great amount of gold and a strong initiator ahead of her.  Sona can initiate team fights with her ultimate.  Vayne is effectively useless until someone else has committed to a fight.  Only at that time can Vayne truly bring her weapons to bear, behind the scenes, and seek and destroy that enemy support or ranged carry.

Sure, I’ll be able to fill a few different roles by playing with Sona, Nasus, Vayne and Galio, but will I be consistent?

I believe taking the time and making the effort to master a single champion at a time is the best foot forward in the direction of success in League of Legends.  Yes, being able to play several different champions and roles makes a player more versatile, but focusing on a single champion at a time allows a player to become consistent.

If one were to become serious about competitive play (or “going pro”) one should very seriously consider spending the time it takes to learn several different champs, certainly.  But I highly recommend doing so one character at a time while maintaining good practice with those champions who are already mastered.