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Introduction to: the middle lane

By Linas 'Leethal' Markulevicius
Apr 7, 2012 00:24


ImageAn overview of the home of your AP carries, the middle lane. In this article I will cover warding, last hitting, runes and masteries, some general champion countering tactics and overall gameplay in the middle lane.

I believe majority of you definitely noticed that if you play solo q, one of the first three picks is an AP carry most of the time. Some of you might wonder why? There’s an easy answer to that. It’s because middle lane is one of the two solo lanes in League of Legends. People don’t like to depend on other players when playing online games, for that reason most of the players you meet in solo queue prefer to pick mid or top over jungle and bottom lane.

Another reason for preferring mid lane over other lanes is because middle has the highest kill potential. Why is that? Well, it’s pretty simple, mid is the home of AP carries, who are the squishiest champions in League of Legends alongside AD carries. Not only being the squishiest, but also having the highest burst, all AP carries have very high lane kill potential which makes middle lane very exciting. Assuming I’ve already convinced you to pick an AP carry and go into the middle lane, I should tell you the most important things you’ll need on your journey of carrying the team!

Picking the right champion

So many times I’ve seen the better player lose his lane just because he counter picked himself. Below I’ll provide few counters to popular champions and explain how the philosophy behind countering a champion works.

So how do I know who counters who? When playing mid you need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your champion really well, when trying to counter an enemy mid champion you need to think about his weaknesses and strengths. Champions with really high burst also have very long cooldowns and not that much pushing capability. If you pick someone naturally tanky like Gragas, Galio, Cho Gath or even Morgana, you will be able to successfully survive high burst and strike back when enemy has nothing more to throw at you. Since champions with high burst want to keep their abilities always ready, they can’t waste many spells to last hit, use this to your advantage. Push whenever you can and roam after you push the minions to enemy tower or make them waste their skills on last hitting and then strike when their skills are on cooldown, when they’re most vulnerable.

Melee casters like Gragas, Kassadin or Akali have to get into melee range to last hit creeps, use this to your advantage and whenever they go for a last hit, harass them a little and back off before they can throw anything back at you. Be vary though, most melee casters have gap closer abilities like Body Slam, Rift Walk and Shadow Dance.

AP mid champions with main purpose of harassing don't really have large bursts so most of them can be countered by higher range or really tanky champions who receive really small damage from their harass. Champions with high harass capabilities are naturally really squishy like Cassiopeia or Karthus, use champions with higher range or a gap closer to really shut them down. Great examples of champions with long range or gap closers would be Lux (very high range on all 3 of damaging abilities), Akali (gap closer), Kassadin (gap closer).

Tanky AP champions are really good laners, there are close to no counters to them. However, you can safely sleep on the thought that in late game these champions won’t have enough burst damage to burst anyone down. If their top lane isn’t running another AP champion, the enemy team will surely lack AP damage late game.
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Below I’ll provide few counters to really popular AP mid champions you get to see every day in solo queue. I will also explain why one champion counters another.

Cassiopeia < Galio, Kassadin. Kassadin after lvl 6 is a big threat to any AP carry, he can just jump onto you, Null Sphere, Force Pulse and back away without taking any damage because you’re silenced. Not only that, Kassadin has great mobility, he can be top before you even realize he’s ganking and type “SS”. As for Galio, he’s just a strong champion against other AP champions because of his passive and Bulwark ability. Galio is really tanky without the need of many items, his damage also scales from magic resist. Cassiopeia can’t really burst him down, while Galio can definitely burst down Cassiopeia if she’s at 70% health points or below.

Morgana < Galio, Heimerdinger. Galio is here for really similar reasons as he was for Cassiopeia, only thing I’d add is that Morgana’s abilities only tickle Galio if he uses Bulwark, she has no chance of bursting him down. Heimerdinger is here because he can push far harder than Morgana, if you outpush Morgana she’s way less of a threat to your side lanes because she can’t gank that way. She also has hard time landing her Q on Heimerdinger that's because Heimerdinger just places his turrets and backs off to be safe.

Kassadin < Talon, Zilean, Galio. Galio yet again for same reasons as it was for Cassiopeia, he’s just an amazing laner. Talon is the hardest counter to Kassadin, why? Talon has a silence that works even better than Kassadin’s does in this situation. Talon doesn’t require lvl 6 to have a gapcloser, his gapcloser is “Cutthroat” which not only closes the gap between you and the enemy champion, but also silences him. Since Talon is an AD champion Kassadin’s silence isn’t that effective as it would be against an AP caster.You can literally destroy Kassadin in lane, you are everything he is, but better.

Zilean is another great pick, one of the reasons would be that you can return the same amount of damage when Kassadin does R->Q->E combo. Whenever Kassadin uses his ultimate to close the gap between you, use your Time bomb on him. If you do your Q->W->Q combo as Zilean, it’ll do just as much damage as Kassadin’s combo does but for less mana.

Ryze < Anyone who can push (Brand, Cassiopeia, Galio). There aren’t any “real counters” to Ryze. All you can do against him is push your lane to the tower and roam, roam, roam. Ryze has really weak auto attacks and no real AOE damage without using his ultimate, making him unable to last hit under his tower.

Galio < Yet another champion with no real counters, he has a downfall though – low AP damage late game. All you have to do is survive the laning stage against this guy, their team will lack AP damage later on.

Warding

Warding is a really big thing when you play in the middle lane, which many players sadly forget. It’s not only the support’s job to ward, every person in the team should be warding. You died to an enemy jungler gank? Instead of typing “/all OMG NOOB CAN’T 1v1”, buy a ward and protect yourself from even more enemy jungler ganks. In the picture below I marked some common places which you can ward when playing middle. Keep in mind that all these wards are placed assuming you’re on the blue team.
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1. The ward at enemy wraiths, I just love this ward overall. What this ward does is it gives a lot of control over the enemy jungler, gives you the respawn timer of enemy wraiths and protects you from getting ganked from the red side of enemy jungle. This is a ward you should have most of the time, it’s just useful.

2. Ward at enemy river-blue bush, this is pretty good for contesting enemy blue as well as defending yourself from ganks. Another ward you should have up most of the time, you can ask your jungler to place this one sometimes.

3. This is really situation. You shouldn’t need this ward if enemy is playing with a passive jungler, this ward is mainly used to keep your enemy from invading, and defending yourself. If enemy jungler is behind and you’re not losing mid you shouldn’t bother yourself with placing this ward.

Last hitting

People tend to underestimate the power of getting more last hits than your enemy, this mostly happens in low lvl/low elo games. Always keep in mind that 12 minion kills are equal to a champion kill gold wise. I see many people shout “I dominated my lane because I killed him twice.” Yeah, you might have killed him twice, but look at that, he has 60CS more than you which equals to far more gold than those 2 champion kills.

The mechanics behind last hitting really aren’t that complicated. When last hitting under your tower, most of the time melee creeps will be able to take two hits from the tower before you can finish them off with an auto attack to get the last hit. However there are some champions with fairly low base attack damage stat which causes your attacks to leave minions at very small amount of HP even after they’ve taken two tower hits.

Many champions with low base attack damage have abilities which you can use to last hit the minions, good examples of these abilities would be Karthus’s Lay Waste and Cassiopeia’s Noxious Blast. There are some AP champion with both low base attack damage and without any spell you can use for last hitting, like Ryze, when you’re playing these champions you should do whatever you can to not get pushed to the tower if you don’t want to miss a bunch of last hits.

As for last hitting caster minions, it’s a bit more complicated. To successfully last hit a caster minion you should attack it once before the tower hits it and then attack it again after the tower has dealt its blow. The previous last hitting technique will work with pretty much every AP caster. Another thing I’ve noticed new players being afraid to do is using mana to finish off minions. Yes, you shouldn’t spend your entire mana bar on killing minions, but if you see a minion with low hp that you can’t get with an auto attack, just use a spell on it. Your mana bar won’t drop to 0 just because you used 60 mana on one minion.
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Roaming

Since middle lane is in the middle of the map, you can quickly get to both bottom and top lanes without losing many creeps in middle. Roaming is the most complicated mechanic of the middle lane for new players. It’s not roaming itself that is complicated, but knowing when you should do it. You should never ever try to gank another lane if your lane is pushed to your tower, this way you lose at least 3 waves of creeps. Even if your gank succeeds, you usually lose far more gold than you gain from killing one champion.

Instead when you should gank is when you push your lane to the ENEMY turret, this way the enemy doesn’t have much vision on you, making him unable to tell what you are currently doing. You should also follow the enemy mid champion if he tries to gank so it doesn’t turn into a 3v2 or 2v1 situation in top or bottom lanes. Just make sure you don’t face check the brush into which your enemy walked in two seconds ago, he might be there creating evil plans on how to kill you.

Sometimes it's good to roam if you are losing the lane horribly and just can’t do anything about it. It’s much more efficient to try and get a kill here and there instead of staying in the lane while being unable to even last hit because you get killed every time you try to do so.

Masteries and runes

Yet another important aspect when you’re playing mid. You’d be surprised by how much runes and masteries affect your early game performance, it’s a completely different game when you have the right set of runes and masteries. Below I’ll provide a few popular rune and mastery pages with some explanations on why you should choose one over another.

First of all, the most popular 21/0/9 mastery page. Why is this mastery page good for AP casters? This mastery page is all about offense, it provides damage for both late game and early game. There are a few masteries which provide percentage damage, all percentage damage scales amazing into late game, the more AP you will get, the more effective the mastery will be. The 9 points in Utility tree will provide you shorter flash duration, higher movement speed, more mana and mana regeneration, but most importantly it provides increased buff duration. Increased buff duration is great on AP carries because they’re the ones who usually get blue buffs. Who wouldn’t want an increased duration of a blue buff?

Secondly, the 21/9/0 page. The 9 points in defense tree instead of utility provides you some additional health points, health regen, magic resist and armor. Personally I believe this page is really situational, would only pick this when I don’t need any mana that utility tree would provide or when I know I got counter picked and I will have hard time surviving in my lane.

As for runes, there are also few mainstream paths that everyone prefer to follow. 9x Greater Mark of Insight, 9x Greater Seal of Clarity, 9x Greater Glyph of Force and 3x Greater Quintessence of Potency. This is the simplest rune page of them all, people have been using this for years. Insight marks will provide you some nice early game damage, clarity seals will keep you supplied with mana, force glyphs are kind of late game runes, they’ll give you some AP each level, potency quintessences will give you handy amount of ability power for early game damage. This page is well rounded overall, it will provide you power both early game and late game.

9x Greater Mark of Insight, 9x Greater Seal of Force, 9x Greater Glyph of Force and 3x Greater Quintessence of Potency. Aimed toward more damage than utility, use it only if you know how to manage your mana really well! It gives some more ability power late game, but takes away your mana regeneration. You should also use this page if you’re playing someone who isn’t mana hungry like Malzahar or Vladimir.

9x Greater Mark of Insight, 9x Great Seal of Vitality, 9x Greater Glyph of Warding and 3x Greater Quintessence of Potency. This is the most defensive rune page out of the three. The only situation you should use this rune page is when you’re sure the lane will be extremely hard for you and you will need this rune page to just survive the laning stage. Good examples for when to use this rune page would be, when playing as Kassadin against Galio, Cassiopeia against Kassadin et cetera.
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Tips and tricks

This is the last chapter of the introduction to the middle lane. I’ll present you with few tips that will help you to lane. Most of these tips come from my own experience. Exchanging damage, yes, something as simple as exchanging damage is apparently pretty complicated for new players. Again and again I see new players in mid run away after taking entire enemy champion skillset to their face. Never run away after your enemy blows all his spells on you, if he just wasted everything he has, what are you running from? Just throw all your skills back at him as well, he can’t damage you further as he already used all of his skills.

Try to always keep enough mana for a jungler gank. You never know when your jungler is going to decide to gank your lane in solo q, just in case, always keep enough mana for at least two or three spells.

Don’t make it obvious that your jungler is ganking your lane. It pains the jungler to watch you playing passive the entire time, but when he comes to wait for an opportunity to gank, you start being super aggressive and make it obvious that your jungler is nearby.

When enemy has an aggressive early game ganker like Shaco or Lee Sin, try to stay on the enemy blue buff side of the lane, this way you will protect yourself from level 2 ganks.

All you need is time and determination to become a successful player in any lane you desire, never forget that!

Image courtesy of Leagueoflegends.wikia and fanpop.


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