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.