1. The Bubblegum Reaction
1. The Bubblegum Reaction
In the past few weeks we’ve established that most of the time in League of Legends you simply want to farm, because that’s the most reliable and safe way to increase your power levels. While this is all fine and dandy, at some point in the game you’ll actually want to do something other than farming. However, it’s unwise to go about this Duke Nukem style. What I’m referring to is of course the infamous quote “It’s time to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.” While Mister Nukem lets the amount of bubblegum in his pockets decide when to take action, I can tell you with absolute certainty that this is not the way to do it in League of Legends. Forced plays almost always end in disaster.
So how does one decide when the time is right for making plays? Let’s do a quick retake on some game theory from Playing to Win 2 that will help explain:
This leads to two typical situations that allow for making plays. The first one is an information advantage over your enemy. This can be any number of things, for example a sneaky ward that shows people trying to brushtrap, having approximate timings for the enemy jungler’s clearing time, but also simply knowing when an enemy is ripe for quelling. These situations typically don’t require fast thinking or fast fingers, just good map awareness and game sense and some foresight. Multiple people can be involved, for example invading an enemy blue buff when it first respawns, with the toplane, jungle and midlane champions. For the sake of this article, we’ll call those plays Macroplays.
The second type of situation is one that calls for reacting. This is typically brought forth by a sudden change in available information, or to put it more simply, when something unexpected happens. A good example is an enemy jungler ganking at weird times, or at times in the game where you don’t have wards (yet). Timing is crucial here, as this youtube clip of Ocelote’s Cassiopeia will clearly demonstrate. Only the players with amazing gamesense and mechanical control are typically able to make such fantastic plays. It's like Joey said in Friends: “One of the most important things in acting is reacting.” Even though he was talking about soap opera acting, his words hold true for playing League of Legends as well. How fast and how well you can react decides how good of a player you can ultimately be. These types of plays will be referred to as Microplays from now on.
First up we have something that can't ever be repeated often enough. Buy, and use wards. Seeing every single player carry at least one ward is a very common picture in competitive play nowadays.
Do you think professionals are weird and like little green eyes on sticks? Of course not! Wards are the most cost effective items for winning the game. They're three minute clairvoyances on demand, for only 75 gold coins a piece. Wards are basically portable maphacks. Use them. Information. Advantage. Win.
Next in line are few macroplays that abuse the way fog of war works in League of Legends. There’s quite a few places on the map were you’re effectively blindsighted from at least one angle. This allows for some fantastic suprises, traps and invading routes. Behold:
It’s worthy of note that almost all of these spots have a twin in corresponding places on the map. They are amazing for juking, confusing enemies, setting up traps and pretty much every way that you can come up with for abusing the optical illusion or visual advantage. The spot in the first image (the narrow path leading from base to blue buff) can completely hide five champions from sight, even a Chogath with six Consume stacks! It has been used in tournament play to effectively end games by trapping one or more enemies in a late game situation.
The last two images show spots that are amazing for surprising enemies, and lend themselves very well to popular level one invades. The map of Summoners Rift below shows two invading routes with a high success rate for each team. The red dots are typical "sucker spots" where you will often find happy first blood victims.
There's a few requirements for pulling these invasions off. It's imperative that everyone buys and starts moving as quickly as possible, stays packed, and that the iniator/disabler is always in front. The very key to executing these invade routes is moving through areas that are covered by fog of war. You do this to go unnoticed until it's far too late for your victim(s). It's also extremely important to fight as a single unit when multiple enemies are encountered. Calling out one target to focus when you run into multiple enemies greatly facilitates this.
Now, from time to time you make visual contact with an enemy but no direct engagement is achieved. In this case, one can attempt to mindread how the enemy will react to the visual contact. Concrete example: Blue team is invading the top part of Purple team's jungle. The Purple team spots the Blue team at the toplane tribrush, and instantly deduces that Blue team is going to steal their Red buff. They decide to counter by sending their jungler and bottom laners to Blue team's lower jungle. Blue team in turn realizes that they've been spotted and gamble on Purple team countering with a Red buff steal of their own. Blue team sends all five champions towards their own Red buff, and gets a double first blood on Purple team's jungler and support.
While the example makes this sort of mindreading seem attractive, it's important to realize that it ultimately is a gambit once you're spotted. So keep to the shadows.
Another great play is something that I'll liberally coin "The Shark". Hehehehe, that's my name. Back in Season One I mained Malzahar, and in doing so I found out about one particular situation that often occurs. Since then, Sharking people has given me a huge amount of absolutely free kills. The map below shows the three steps.
Step 1. Push the lane into the enemy tower
Step 2. Disappear in a way that suggests you're rushing towards your teammates
Step 3. Profit.
There's a few conditions that need to be fulfilled in order for this play to work. The most important thing is that the enemy team cannot see you at all during step two. So you have to make sure that the brush you're going to spring your trap from isn't warded. The outer tower for the lane you're pushing needs to be destroyed. The maximum number of enemies attempted to trap like this should never exceed two. A maximum of one target is recommended (unless unless you have an ability that deals more damage when more targets are nearby, like Brand or Galio), because the urgency created in a single enemy will be greater.
This play works best when one enemy is isolated from their team. If this is the case, start pushing the lane they're in like a madman. While you're doing that, make sure your team starts or is already visibly going for an objective or gathering up. Now, the enemy team will react to this by gathering up and getting in a good position. One slight problem, your prey is stuck at his or her tower, and can't leave it without first pushing at least one minionwave out. While (s)he is doing this, leave in a way that makes your prey think you're rushing towards your teammates to bolster their numbers. When your prey finishes pushing out the lane, they're already the last person to make their way towards the action zone. They will also have to make a choice. Take the safer and longer path towards their team or cut through the jungle and risk it. We already know which path your prey is going to take, because he or she is a greedy farmer.
You know how this ends.. Sharks are natures greatest predators. The result of Sharking someone is almost always a free kill for you, and an easy objective for your team due to the 5v4 advantage you created. The blue buff brush is generally safer to pull this off than the wraith camp brush. In the rare event of someone actually taking the safe longer route towards their team, it's always possible to try and catch your prey on their alternate route.
The last play I'll describe here is called the "Bait and Switch". The concept is fairly simple, but like Sharking, it requires a specific set of circumstances to pull off. First and foremost, both Baron Nashor and the Dragon have to be alive or respawn very soon. Both teams must be capable of comfortably taking down both objectives. Lastly, you have to be sure that your team will win a direct engagement, and that the enemy team is scared of engaging your team. When all of these conditions are met, you can pull the Bait and Switch.
The execution is as follows:
Have your entire team move towards the Dragon, and make sure to pass by enemy wards if you know where they are. The team has to position in a way that allows the enemy jungler to come close and smite. Now, if the bait works and the enemy jungler comes in to smite, let him. Everyone stays on dragon, and lets him spend his smite. The trick here is to have your jungler save his smite. When the Dragon is slain, dissappear into the fog of war and instantly rush Baron.
At this point the enemy team is, pardon my french, thouroughly fucked. They can't steal the Baron buff without engaging, since their jungler doesn't have his smite up. But at the same time, they are reluctant to engage your team.
Stuck between a rock and hard place. At this point the outcome is win/win for your team. Either the enemy team doesn't risk it and you get a free Baron buff, or they engage and you get the teamfight that you want. The concept of smitebaiting a smaller objective obviously also works with Red/Blue buff and Dragon. Early game, an invading jungler can even smitebait with the big creep of one of the lesser creep camps in order to steal a red or a blue buff.
These are just a few plays that can be made by correctly predicting your enemy's next move. The possibilities are endless, so be creative and try and come up with your own unique plays, or add great things you see other players do to your own bag of tricks.
The easiest way to make microplays is rather blunt. You do it simply by pushing your buttons better than your enemy. But how to push buttons better than your enemy? Simple, by using your head. I'll explain by using an examples:
Say you're laning top against a Tiger Udyr as Riven, you're both level three. One of your caster minions is low health, so you know that Udyr is going in for the last hit. How are you going to react? Simple, you look at all the information that you have.
If Udyr is in Tiger Stance, he can prime the active at any time. In this case you have to go in using Valor to absorb incoming damage. Follow up with a Ki Burst to keep Udyr stuck in Tiger Stance, weave in one autoattack, and spend one charge of Broken Wings. By this time, Ki Burst's stun will have worn off and Udyr will likely switch to Turtle Stance to absorb the next two strikes of your Broken Wings. So you counter by using the last two charges of Broken Wings to create a distance between yourself and Udyr. In doing so, you win the trade.
If Udyr is in Turtle Stance, you can bait him into using the active by feinting an attack. Expend one charge of Broken Wings to make Udyr think you're attacking him, but don't follow up with anything else. If he uses the Turtle Stance active, simply wait outside of his range until it wears off. At this point he's vulnerable to taking damage. Expend the second charge of your Broken Wings to move closer towards Udyr when his shield is about to expire. Use the third charge to deal damage, and follow up with Ki Strike to prevent him from switching stances or reactivating Turtle shield. Follow up with one or two auto attacks and use Valor to disengage and absorb any exit damage. Trade won.
This is the basic stuff, keeping track of how your abilities interact with those of the enemy player, and working out every possible combination to discover which ones will give you an advantage. Another concrete example, a little bit more tricksy this time:
You're playing as Akali in the middle lane versus Ryze. You're both very close to hitting level six but Ryze has lower health than you, and is scared of getting too close. Activate Twilight Shroud right before you level up. Because you're sitting in your shroud, Ryze can't see you get the level up, leaving him open to getting murdered by your Shadow Dance. Winning by outthinking and predicting the enemy, and quickly reacting to the situation at hand.
If you keep practising at working these kinds of things out in your head and being creative with them, you'll get better and better at it, until you can do it so quickly that you can do stuff like this youtube clip of William 'scarra' Li's insane Karthus moves against Team Solomid. I won't even pretend to understand half of what was going on in his head at the time.
The amount of possible Microplays is nearly endless, because of the number of different combinations of interactions that exist in League of Legends. As such, it's quite futile trying to describe every Microplay. My advice here is keeping replays or local recordings of your games, and studying them later, so that you can see the good and the bad, and learn from it. If you can increase the consistency of your play, you will improve very quickly. Watching streams or VODs from tournaments can provide insights aswell.
That's it for this week, hope you enjoyed and keep Playing to Win!
Special thanks go out to Vanillacore and Chsn for helping me with the screenshots, and to goX and UNTILICOLLAPSE for help with the invasion routes.
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