League of Legends: IEM Grand Finals

So, I actually ended up taking a day off work and woke up early enough to watch the IEM Grand Final match between Team Solomid (TSM) and Counter-Logic Gaming (CLG).  I have to admit right off the bat that I am a CLG fan.  A friend of mine that I met in-game (thanks Daggrosh)  introduced me to General Wiser‘s youtube channel, and I would like to say I’ve learned quite a bit from watching HotshotGG play (even though I certainly wouldn’t be able to say that I’ve been able to put that learning into practice).

Before the games started, I was worried that CLG would repeat their performance from Dreamhack even though they completely dominated Group B.  I was also afraid that Reginald would end up with yet another reason to be the stout dickweed he’s proven himself to be.  I wish I could find a quote, but I read on the forums that, when asked about the outcome of the IEM tournament, he actually had the gall to say “Anyone can win, except CLG”.  Like what kind of douchebag would say that kind of thing publicly?

Anyway, this is not a blog about Reginald McHomotron.

After the first match, I was disappointed.  TSM came out strong (they always do, I will give them that) and showed why they were able to sweep Group A.  TheRainMan’s Irelia was especially strong and made an amazing initiation on HotshotGG at the dragon late in the game that (I believe) clutched the match for them.  The push that followed would not be repelled.  Chaox’s Kog’maw had blue and was spamming his ulti all day long.

The second match left me in higher spirits, however.  CLG baited TSM into a fight at baron and I believe the match really turned around with HotshotGG’s clutch flash/ult combo with Galio.  As a some-time Galio player myself, it was especially fun to see him in high-ELO action, at his very finest.

During the break between the second and final match, I had a chance to sit on my porcelaine throne and consider what kind of bans I would like to see CLG make.  My reasoning was as follows:  XSpecial with Alistar is just too silly to think about, so he had to get banned.  I also wanted to see Janna get banned, because Reginald was just scary with her in the first match.  And TheOddOne was particularly vicious with Nocturne, so I wanted to see him get banned as well.  But these bans would make Zilean available (which is also something I don’t want to think about, the vulgarity of it causes me to wretch — Reginald is just that good wtih him).  When it finally came time to see the bans/picks, I have to admit, I laughed out loud at HotshotGG’s Eve troll.  I was also relieved to see Nocturne get picked up for SaintVicious, forcing TheOddOne to jungle with Gangplank.

At the start of the match, I was concerned for Salce.  Vlad had no way to whittle down Udyr.  I was also relieved to see Reginald take top with Nidalee vs. HotshotGG’s Cho’Gath.  Sure, Nid is a tough top lane, but Reginald belongs in mid and TheRainMan belongs up top.  The position switch (I honestly believe) is part of what caused TSM’s eventual loss.  It’s clear to anyone that watches that Reginald is the team captain.  From his vantage point in mid, he can organize and rally the team.  Being in top lane, tied up by Cho’Gath’s inexorable push was a detriment to the team’s perforamance in general.

The game went on without first blood for the first 15 minutes, and the first team fight (and subsequent push up mid by TSM) caused my heart to sink in my chest.  Even though the gold and CS was fairly even, the 3-0 score and huge turret advantage put (in my eyes) CLG in a bad place.  But just as quickly, CLG made a great comeback and evened out the score at 4-3 and their own push up the mid-lane.  And that was it.  From that point on, CLG had firm control of the map, lanes and buffs.  As far as I’m concerned, TSM was in a bad place, and it was all but over.  And then the stand-off that caused stopped the hearts of nearly 100,000 fans on the stream.  Bot inhib was down, mid turret and inhib were just taken out and then…  Nothing.  Silence.

Would they give the match to CLG?  Would they remake after a 45-minute nail-biter?  No one knew, and everyone was furious.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Or rather, not seeing.  CLG, so close to winning the IEM Grand Final, was in position to be stymied by a hiccup in the interwebs.   During those moments I think I started gnawing on my finger flesh, since the nails had already been chewed off.  What was going to happen?  Would CLG be stripped of a clear and undeniable victory?

And then, just as quickly, the stream was live again.  All had been saved and the game was in a similar state (not exactly, but definitely better than the alternative) than it had been when the stream died.  A quick teamfight near baron ensued and a clutch ultimate from Urgot saved the day for CLG.

Well, after all that, I’m happy for CLG and the outcome of the IEM Grand Finals.  A well-deserved and hard-won victory for HotshotGG and his teammates.

Thanks for a great show, to both TSM and the rest of the teams that competed.

-V.

League of Legends: A guide for new players

A few things before I get to the good stuff.  First of all, if you don’t have patience enough to read this guide in its entirety, just stop now.  Go away.  You won’t learn anything here.  Otherwise, read on.  Second, I understand that most of these tips are common sense.  However, most of these things are not immediately apparent to players new to the game.  In fact, I would even wager that there are some long-time players out there that could benefit from what I have to say in this guide.

So, on that note, let the guide begin!

Character Selection/Team Composition

There are a number of things to be aware of when you select your character, and most of these are related to the rest of your team.  In a 5v5 match, each team should have a good balance of offensive and defensive champions; having a tank, an off-tank, a support champion, and both AD and AP carries is considered optimal.  I highly recommend reading this guide (or any guide on MOBAFIRE, really).  It not only provides excellent suggestions on how to play each role, but also offers the reasoning behind why each role is important.  Being able to adapt to any role based on the choices of the rest of your team offers the best chances for success in any game you play.  But for most new players like me, this is really just a moot point.  To use myself as an example, I only know how to use one champion effectively — Vladimir.  Attempts to use any other champion almost always results in dismal failure.  In time, that will change.  But for now, as I grow and learn as a player and adapt new playstyles and archetypes, it will have to be as it is.

That being said, I believe finding your own prefered playstyle is key.  Selecting one champion to serve as an anchor for you to be free to learn the mechanics and nuances of the game, in my opinion, is a preferable start on the road to being an accomplished League of Legends player.  Becoming mired in a large selection of poorly played champions can only serve to hamper your mastery of the game as a whole.

Zone and Map Awareness

To start, I think that you should watch the following video several times.  Once is not enough.  If you have never seen it before, this video will instantly improve your game at least two-fold.  I guarantee it.

Learn to lane like a pro. Watch this video NOW!

As each game progresses it is important to be mindful of your own creep waves.  A quick glance at the minimap can allow you to assess potential opportunities to destroy unattended turrets.  At the same time, doing so can also allow you to defend turrets being pushed by the enemy team.  Turrets are the true objective of the game, not your K/D ratio, nor your team-kill score.  Destroying enemy turrets while defending your own is an effort toward certain victory.  Being aware of creep waves will allow you to do so — they peel back the fog of war as they march.

The minimap also offers information on the position of enemy players who are not obfuscated by the fog of war.  This is important throughout the game, but I believe it is most important during the start of the game, which is commonly referred to as the “laning phase”.  At this early stage, having an eye on enemy champions can save your life and allow you to stay in lane gaining experience and gold.  Pressure can be applied to an entire team simply by stepping out of view.  If one of your teammates calls “mia” (which is short for “missing in action”) watching the map for those champions to reappear can relieve the map pressure caused by the fog of war.  Similarly, you can assess the awareness of your opponents simply by stepping into the enemy’s fog of war for a moment or two and watching how the other lanes react.  If they immediately go on the defensive and pull away from the xp-line or move toward their turret, then you know your lane opponent has called out a warning that you are missing.  You can use this to your advantage as well, if you notice that one of the other lanes isn’t responding to the threat.  You can probably take this that they are unaware that you’ve gone missing, and are probably a good target for ganking.

To reiterate: calling “mia” can give your teammates a chance to defend themselves against possible threat and stay in-lane.  At the same time, using enemy fog of war can provide an opportunity to assess the awareness and responsiveness of your opponents.  Watching the movements of enemy players can improve your game drastically.  As much as you can, glance at the minimap.  I promise that you will not only improve your own game, but you will assist your team in improving their game as well.

Overconfidence & Aggression

There is a point in a player’s development when a breakthrough occurs.  They “click” with their chosen champion, and notice an immediate improvement in their own overall performance.  As I mentioned above, this happened to me with Vladimir.  As far as I know, there is a champion out there for everyone, as I’ve read threads on the official forum about this phenomenon, and it seems as though everyone has a different “go-to” character.  But when this happens for you, a hard lesson will soon follow.  A lesson on overconfidence and undue aggression.  Becoming overconfident is a pitfall I’ve fallen into far too many times to recount, and I’m sure is the same for many other players out there.  Heed this warning: don’t assume you can walk into any fight and win simply by virtue of your champion mastery.  There’s an old saying that goes, “No matter what, someone, somewhere is bigger, badder, tougher, stronger or better than you.”  If you’re religious, this is universally true.  Otherwise, you can count on probability to back it up.  Even those guys that are at the very top of the game ladders lose sometimes.  Even they are not infallible.  And I’ll guarantee that they have learned this lesson at least once, if not a number of times over for each champion they have mastered.  The point is simple.  Playing defensively, especially in the early game, is the best way to increase your chances of success and victory.

That’s not to say that aggression should be avoided.  In fact, the nature of the game makes that assumption wholy untrue.  At some point, you will have to aggress.  And when that time comes, I suggest taking a cautious approach, rather than diving in head-first and hoping for the best.  Testing the waters of your opponent’s skill is much safer.  Poke your opponent and step back.  Take a few jabs if you have to.  But each time you do, be sure to absorb your enemy’s reaction.  Do they overextend?  Do they retreat?  Observing these things can allow you to better position yourself offensively, or set traps for your opponent to walk into.

Kill Stealing

Finally, I want to make a quick note about the concept of “kill stealing” or “KS” as it is commonly called.  There is no such thing.  League of Legends was built from the ground up to be a team-based player-vs-player game.  As eSports go, keeping this in mind is crucial to being an effective and respected teammate.  I don’t recall ever hearing a professional sportsman complaining that his teammates are stealing his touch-downs or home-runs or slam-dunks.  Your own personal stats are important, yes, but not to the detriment of team cohesion.  In this game, it is never good to assume that you are a solo-god and can easily destroy your enemies without help from your own team.  Any player that does so is surely a feeder waiting to happen.  Either that or they are nowhere to be found when a critical team-fight occurs.  So, for the sake of your team, the game’s community at large, and your own experience, please, for goodness sake, don’t take “kill-stealing” to heart.  I’m certain that your teammates had no intention of taking your thunder, but instead, were simply trying to help.

If you enjoyed this guide, please leave a comment.