All right. Season 6 starts in a week. Excited? Good.
Are you ready?
Hope so. Hopefully, you spent the downtime between the ranked seasons to plug the holes in your game, and to try to add more tools to your toolbox, be it more champs to your pool, a new position to play, or a new concept to take advantage of.
If not, well, time to play catch-up, huh?
This one’s going to be a more basic guide. Higher end players will know all this stuff already. But, if you don’t know how to do this, you either must be a jungler or you must be low on the ladder.
That’s right, here, we talk about how to lane.
THE OXFORD RUNETERRAN DICTIONARY
There’s a lot of players who understand how to play this game well. Unfortunately, just because they can do it doesn’t mean that they can explain it. Performing a skill and teaching a skill are two different tasks, and it’s very possible to be good at one and not the other. After all, those who can do, those who can’t teach, right?
So to start off, I’m going to make up a few terms. As far as I know, there aren’t any official words for any of these concepts, like there is for a jungler attacking a laner (“gank”). But, we need to understand these for any of what I say later to make sense. Maybe someone’s come up with better or more popular names for these, and if so, feel free to post a link in the comments. The key words are in bold.
- If your champion has a longer auto attack range than your opponent’s champion, you are tall. If the opposite is true, you are short. Jinx is the tallest champion in the game at level 1 (with Q splash), followed by Caitlyn.
- It doesn’t matter if the difference is small, such as 550 v. 525. The shorter champ can cross the gap while the taller champ is in his attack animation (which he can’t cancel, or he loses the attack damage). But, if the gap is large enough, (75 or more) it matters. The gap itself is called the bubble.
- If one of your opponent’s creeps is about to die, you must do something, or you’ll lose its gold value. You cannot use your auto attack now and still get the creep for free (no mana no cooldown), because the creep will die before it is available again. This means you are at risk.
- If no creeps are dying within the time frame of an auto attack, no one is at risk. The lane is idle.
- If both you and your opponent are at risk at the same time, you have a faceoff. Playing the faceoff correctly will get you very far by itself.
- In a faceoff, you creeps may not be dying at the same time, one may be dying before the other. If your enemy’s creep will be dying sooner, you are first. If your creep’s dying sooner and your opponent’s auto will be up after taking it before yours will, you are last.
- In a faceoff, you can choose to take the creep, or attack the opponent while he takes his. Preferring to take the creep is eating grass. A higher priority on hitting the enemy champion is eating meat.
- There’s a lot of ways to eat meat. Maybe you just land one auto and back off, that’s a single. Feel free to play for the double or triple if you think you can land more autos. If you want the big damage though, you’ll use abilities and autos too, this is a trade. If you get a trade off for free, you’re in great shape.
- Some are abilities are can only hit one target (Morgana Q), but most can hit more. They can hit the champion, or hit the minions. If they hit both, great! This is an extra.
- If an ability hits nothing, wasting the cooldown and mana, that’s an airball.
- Almost every champion maxes one ability over the others. This is their key ability. Also, many champions have an ability to protect themselves; a shield, a dash to dodge skillshots, or some sort of CC. This is their defense.
- If you have killed all of the enemy minions and yours are advancing unopposed, you don’t have to stay; there’s no gold or xp to be had until more minions arrive. For now, you’re free.
- If the enemy wave is big and you’re pushed to your own tower, you’re pinned. You have to either stay to get the creeps and hope your opponent doesn’t get too much done, and or leave and lose the gold and experience from the creeps. It’s a bad spot to be in.
- There is a fixed amount of damage that you can do if you are willing to use everything; all abilities, autos, and even summoners. You can put a number on it. That number is your red line.
- Similarly, if you’ve got a mana bar, there’s a minimum amount of mana you need to have to use your abilities. The cost of using every ability once in mana is your blue line. Some champions don’t have this though. Katarina, for example, has no mana bar and hence no blue line. All she loses is cooldowns.
- If you are ever inside the enemy’s red line, or past your own blue line, you’re not able to function; you might as well be playing with your arm tied around your back. You are crippled, and you need to get out of there!
- In a pairs lane, you have a partner. Imagine a line running between the two of you, as if Kalista’s spear is in play. If this line points towards the opponents, one of you is in front of the other, you’re line astern. If it’s perpendicular you your opponents, you’re side-by-side, line abreast.
- Also included are the UNSWLOLSOC terms: standing behind your own caster minions is the farming stance. Standing in front of them to be a threat is the trading stance. I’d like to add the zoning stance, when you’re actually ahead of all of your minions. Don’t expect this to happen much unless your opponent is afraid of you.
You might want to alt+d, alt+enter now, to keep this list up in another tab if you’re having trouble remembering them. Hopefully though, they all make enough sense by themselves.
Fortunately, this isn’t going to read like most of my other guides; each section is going to be a lot shorter. As a result, they’ll have one sentence in italics as a TL/DR, and a short explanation after it. As long as you understand these terms though, you can quickly skim the guide and get on with your life.
I’m not going to touch on jungler interaction much, as that’s kind of off topic. This guide will be about beating the man in front of you. Also, some “macro” decisions we’ll skip over, such as when to freeze or when exactly to leave lane. You can search elsewhere on this sub for that easily enough. This one’s about getting down and dirty with your opposite number; not necessarily with mechanics or strategy, we’ve talked about those elsewhere. This will be about micro decisionmaking.
Ready? Here we go.
Remember: at all times, you are playing a human being. He is who you have to beat.
No one cares if this champion or that champion is OP or not. No one cares what build is broken and which one sucks. You’ve got to beat the player in front of you, and that means playing against him. Not his champion, not his runes, and not even your champion. Him.
Avoid airballs at all costs. If you’re going to press a button, it needs to be likely to hit.
Mana aint cheap. You can’t afford to spend it and not get anything in return, unless you literally don’t have any. Even more so, putting that ability on cooldown just shows your opponent that you’re weak until it’s back. As a challenger player at a tournament I organized once said, “this game is so harder when the other guy is actually going to attack me!” Don’t give them the opportunity.
If your opponent gives a cooldown away, especially if it’s his defense, be ready to trade. If you intend to give a cooldown away, do it from safety.
This game is about picking your spots. If the odds are in your favor, get in there. If they’re not, you need to protect yourself. So, when you see your opponent use an ability, trade. For example, Take Ahri who’s maxing Q. Make her miss that key ability with a dodge in the open if you can, or push hard so she uses it on the wave. Once she does, walk forward. Even if she does charm and hit all 3 Ws...the level 1 abilities just won’t hurt that much. But, if you can hit your own key ability along with some other stuff, you’re now ahead.
On the other hand, if you need to start using abilities to prevent yourself from getting pinned, back off and do it Archer-style: just the tip. It’s fine to turn that mana into gold, but it’s not fine to lose HP too. Think ahead, and move to safety if you’re going to use an ability on the wave.
I mentioned some abilities are “defense”, ones that are designed for keeping a champion alive. For example, say Ezreal uses his dash. He’ll have to flash now to make you miss...fire away! Oh, Yasuo took some incidental damage and now his shield’s up? As soon as that thing goes down, let’s give him some heat!
Try to stay away from your own minions, unless you’re both melee champions.
Airballs are bad, but extras are great. And, if you let your opponent get extras, he’s going to crush you...he’ll have you low and he didn’t miss any gold to get you there! So, keep your distance and be in the open. This way, if he shoots at you, he’s risking a lot more. Maybe you can get him to airball and you can punish him with a trade, or he won’t shoot at you...and you’ll appreciate less pressure.
Even then though, some opponents can’t help themselves. As written here, keep your cursor close to your own feet and use a fast clicking action. you’ll be more prepared to dodge this way, which you can then get in there and trade.
The general rule for pushing is to push just as much as your opponent, then a little more.
Again, we need to beat the *man*. If he’s at 6, you’re at 7. If he’s at 2, you’re at 3. The reason for this is threefold. First, we’ll have more minions than him if it comes to a fight. Second, if we clear the wave out, we’re free and can try to score elsewhere on the map by roaming. But thirdly, we’ll be first if it comes to a faceoff.
In an idle situation, you might want to auto to push, but you should probably not use abilities unless you will get outpushed if you don’t.
I’m seeing many lanes, as high as platinum, where players are butting heads way more often than they should be. They may be up in CS, but it’s 45-35 at 10 mins instead of 80-70, like it should be. Remember, the reason to lane is because there’s gold and experience here, and that’s what we’re here for. I’m not saying to never fight the other guy...in fact, I’m about to tell you about how often you should fight the other guy. But, there’s a lot of takeable CS that’s dropped just because laners are trying to harass when the minions aren’t dying and the enemy is far away.
Another great way to miss a lot of gold is to get pushed to tower. The damn thing is expensive; even if you’ve got the mechanics to take all that CS just fine, your opponent’s free to do all sorts of things while you’re not. He may go win another lane with a roam right now, and if it’s enough to tilt a teammate, you’re gonna have a bad time. So, don’t get into that situation...don’t get pinned unless the champion matchup says you have no other option. (Nasus early, Ezreal against a Jinx, etc.)
When you are at risk, see if your opponent can hurt you. If he can’t, take the creep normally. If he can, either play for the extra, back off and use an ability, or let it go.
If you watch pro games, at least the ones where you get to see an extended laning session, you’ll notice that both players usually give each other some distance, and harassing is uncommon. This is because they’ve got an incentive to not take any risks, no one wants to bet the game on a fistfight with someone who’s about as good as they are. They shouldn’t ever fight fair if they don’t have to. So, they play nice, easily hit their 10+cs/min numbers, and will be equipped well for the first real fight.
In solo queue though, many, *many* more CS will be actively contested. Your opponent will try to hit you as you take yours, and you should do the same to him. The question now is whether you actually *can*.
If you’ve got a creep to take, but your opponent is too far back to do anything, we don’t have a problem. But, say you’ve got a creep that needs taking, but your opponent knows this and is there to shoot at you when you do. He’s in the trading stance. You’re not getting this for free.
Well, the best case scenario would be to shoot the minion with an ability, hoping to hit an extra. If you have to pay mana or a cooldown, at least you got some opponent HP as well as the gold. Can’t get much more than that. You still get the gold if you miss the champion. Or, say you can trade, but will get the CS anyway. For example, Renekton can go in for a trade with a dash, and his E or Q should collect the dying creep no problem. You get the extra without even really thinking about it.
But, what if you can’t get extras? Ezreal’s W doesn’t hurt minions. Nasus’ E does laughable damage and is too expensive anyway, both with its mana cost and the push he probably doesn’t want. Mundo’s W isn’t taking any creeps cleanly early, and his cleaver only hits one thing.
At this point, you don’t have any good options. The least bad is to just use an ability and suck up the mana/cooldown cost. After all, abilities are usually longer range than autos, and are safer to use. But, if you go in there and auto the creep, you’re going to get smashed. After all, you have to sit still in your attack animation, meaning your opponent WILL hit a skillshot if they’re competent. You might break even or even win if you just trade and ignore the creep, but if you used anything both the creep and not your opponent, even just an auto...bam, you’ve lost this exchange.
And if you can’t win the trade even if you use everything...let it go. Some matchups just aren’t winnable, and you are a fool to try. You are much better off with your 100+ HP than the 20 gold you’ll get.
If your opponent is at risk, step forward and be a threat, but stay away from the dying creep.
Don’t give any extras away. If you let the other guy get both you HP and the creep’s gold at the same time, you’ve lost a lot. So, get in the trading stance, but don’t be next to minions for Ziggs to bomb, or behind one for Lucian to Q. Or, one of Ezreal’s gimmick, where he autos the creep and Qs right through where it died to hit you.
If you see him auto the creep, blast him. If he’s going to trade with you, keep your head and hit all your stuff. If he lets it go, great, you just won 20 gold.
If he can win a fight and he doesn’t care about creeps, all this advice is meaningless.
Losing a lane is fine. You can still win the game. But, if you go straight back to that lane where you know you will lose, only to lose it further, I have little sympathy for you. Make yourself into a second jungler, or directly lane gank another lane, but if your opponent is both willing and able to kill you and you can’t stop him...what the fuck are you thinking by going straight back?
You need to see the faceoff coming. Pay attention and be prepared for it.
The faceoff is the situation where both sides have a creep about to die. This situation, by itself, is how plats and diamonds squash bronzes and silvers. Each one is different, because of both the champion matchups and the timing. We’ll discuss more details in the moment, but the first step is to realize that it’s there and that you’re about to take your opponent on in a double-blind guessing game. Winning this guessing game will win you lanes. Guessing wrong will make you lose, and the easiest way to guess wrong is to be oblivious and not guess at all. Don’t do that!
Grass eating only works against other grass eaters.
You will come across many opponents in your career that are perfectly content to sit, wait, and auto a creep when it’s about to die. Most of these people play Vayne. And hey, if you’re on a good scaler, this is a perfectly good result. But, be aware that trading HP for gold is almost never worth it. If you keep getting shot every time you take a CS, that means you’re gonna get shot 38 times before the clock strikes 5:00. You’ll be dead well before then.
So, take the time to feel your opponent out. If he’s willing to eat grass with you nearby, light his ass up. If he’s defending himself and won’t let you beat on him for free, sit back a bit and look for an opportunity before you blow your wad.
If you’re short, don’t try to get more than the single. Use an ability or an ability+auto if they let you get close enough, but that’s it.
This is obvious...being shorter means that your auto is by default worse than his. So, don’t get into an auto attack fight.
You’ll have to see if your opponent will let you cross the bubble. You may do it with just movespeed as they shoot a creep, or they may dilly-dally near a dying creep, unwilling to use their auto attack for fear of losing it, where you can then bore in and hit them. Still though, you are not allowed to get stuck in their bubble. And, the best way for that to happen would be when you stand still while you autoattack.
If you’re tall, always try to get more than the single. Doubles, triples, all you can.
One auto alone is a loss if the minions do enough damage to you, more so if you miss a creep for it. But, the second turns that into a win, and if the other guy’s nice enough to stay in your autoattack bubble, keep tagging him until he leaves. They may even dash out, and you can then fire a skillshot now that they must click well to dodge it.
Notice if you will be first or last in the faceoff. If you’re first, get ready to give him all you’ve got.
Specifically, this means that you can’t auto yet, or you’ll lose the dying creep. Also, your dying creep will die before his, meaning he’s going to have to act after you. This is your chance to get some good damage in. Newer players will be crossed up by having to deal with both your attack and the creep at the same time, and most of them will falter.
Your first instinct might be to auto to take the creep, and fire an ability, then take the single when your auto comes back. There’s a better way if you’ve got an ability that goes through creeps: take the single directly, use your ability on both the creep to take it and hit the opponent (get the extra), then take the double and fire more abilities if able. You’ve got an extra auto’s worth of damage.
If you’re last, be aware of it. Then, decide if you’re willing to fight, willing to take the creep from afar, or going to let it go.
Being last means you’re an auto attack down; your opponent’s second auto will be there before yours is. You might have the matchup to overcome that, but if you don’t, your only way to come out ahead is opponent incompetence (he misses a skillshot or otherwise mechanically does something wrong) or your own brilliance (a great Fiora parry or dash to dodge, etc.) Don’t get yourself into tight spots if you can help it. Realize that, and don’t gamble when you’re an underdog.
If you see you’ll be last, and have the time to do something about it, do it!
“Be first Mac! I need you to be first! Beat Aran Ryan to the punch!” - Doc Louis
If you’ve been laning long enough, you’ll notice that it’s a while before the next creep goes down (tanks, etc.). You may be idle now, but you can turn the tables if you can hit that creep, kill it faster, and be first. Or, even better, just take it immediately and have your opponent be the one at risk. It’s not threesight, it’s not fivesight, but *foresight* that you need.
You can always opt out of this bullshit and blow your mana bar on the wave, and leave.
Don’t muddle on and hope for the best if you’re struggling. You can just fire away and press B. If you’ve got teleport, you won’t miss anything, although you’ll put pressure on your other lanes to win since you can’t save them with your D key. Even in the mid game, you cal lane as a mage against that Akali just by firing away at range, and leaving. Nothing’s making you stay in your lane.
You may or may not get freedom, but if you do, never waste it.
If you push past the 50-yard-line and can’t get the wave to stop without bouncing it off the tower, think of what you’ll do with this. You sure as hell shouldn’t sit here holding up a “gank me” sign. Instead, get the ward down, get the roam off, take a quick jungle camp, or press B to get down pit lane. The only reason to stay is if you can get off easy poke without jungler danger (did you see him?), or if he’s low enough and you have all the tools for a dive (abilites, or a teammate). Whatever you choose to do, it had better not be sitting there and waiting.
If you’re playing support, you’re never at risk. Always be considering how you can hit them without getting hit.
Even if you have a relic shield, you don’t have to take a single creep if you don’t want to. If you know auto attack ranges and general champion knowledge, you shouldn’t give free damage away, ever. Realize that you’re there to threaten the enemy ADC as much as protect your own...no one likes a wallflower who sits behind their ADC and thinks their job is to look pretty.
In a paired lane, being line astern is only okay if they are, AND you can win a 1v1 trade.
Don’t EVER get into a 1v2. This will happen if one of you is too far forward of the other, and both of the other champions are able to hit you. This means they’re side by side, while you’re one in front of the other. Very bad.
Even then, if you’re ahead of your partner and so is an opponent, you’ll just get a 1v1, and what good is that if you can’t win it?
Know your blue line, and plan to leave before you get there.
If you overstay your mana bar, you’re headed straight for a trap. You won’t have the waveclear to keep up with autos only, so you’ll get pinned to your tower. The next wave will arrive before you’re done with this one, and you’re stuck. If you refuse to let one wave go, you’ll end up staying for three or more as you desperately try to waveclear to get your gold.
And when you’re waveclearing, you’re not fighting. The other guy can beat you easily with no abilities to defend yourself, or he can go try to win elsewhere knowing you can’t respond. It’s never okay to be sitting there farming while your team is losing the game elsewhere, so don’t get into that situation: be prepared for when you need to back off for more mana, and get out sooner rather than later. It’s much better to lose one wave then two or three.
You can move in at any time if your red line is bigger than his.
This isn’t exactly obvious, but you don’t need to have your opponent low enough for you to hit everything to kill him. You just need to have more left when all abilities are used and it’s down to autos than he does. He will then be facing flash or die, and the former’s no good if you’ve got yours and you’re far enough from his tower.
This requires a lot of champion knowledge, and with that website it may even be worth making a spreadsheet for every champion’s max damage on demand. If only I had the time...or the desire to touch Excel away from my day job…
If your defense is a dodge and your opponent’s key ability is a skillshot, abuse it as long as you will not be ganked.
When I was five years old, I played Contra on the NES. A LOT. Some sections where there was so much going on were hard, and I’d be glad I had used the Konami code. But, against one enemy or one bullet, I couldn’t possibly lose. I had enough reflexes and awareness that all I had to do was press the A button to jump or the down button to go prone, and I couldn’t possibly die.
You’ll need your defense ability to survive a gank, but if you see the jungler elsewhere or you’re far enough back to be ungankable, abuse that shit. Hooks aren’t instantaneous. Blitzcrank has no hope of hitting you with that hook if you’re Lucian or Graves, and you have the reflexes and awareness that I had when I was five. Even Sivir’s spellshield works for this...she laughs at hook supports. Either they stand there and don’t use their skillshot, so you can shoot them. Or, they use it and you dodge...and you still shoot them.
THE OVER/UNDER FOR TL/DR REQUESTS IN THE COMMENTS IS 3.5
This guide’s more skimmable than the others, and I hope having to make up some terms wasn’t too much of a problem. But, hopefully you’ll see that laning is a game of choices, more so than a game of champion selection or mechanics. Before you leave, I do have one last bit of advice for you:
Don’t overcommit to a decision. Be ready to change up at the drop of a hat.
One autoattack from the opponent can change the next faceoff from first into a last. Your opponent can change his disposition suddenly, and you’ve got to react to this. If you see that superpassive opponent finally walk forward for no reason, it’s your own damn fault if his jungler’s gank succeeds.
Things change, things aren’t set in stone, and be willing to adapt with the situation. Unfortunately, it’s fast paced and it’s hard, and it might not be for everyone. If it’s not for you, well, you could always take up jungling.