Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Play your lane in LoL on Easy Mode: Kill those caster minions!

TL/DR: If it is practical to do so, and you don't have a good reason to keep the wave in the middle, kill the enemy caster minions at every opportunity.

A lot of lower elo laners sure seem to enjoy making it harder on themselves, having to spin in circles waiting for their minions to get an enemy minion low before right clicking, ensuring that they have to compete with their own minions for every CS. By putting so much value on not missing CS and being very obvious about it, one of three things happens:
  • They get the CS and nothing bad happens.
  • They miss the CS due to poor timing.
  • The opponent(s) will land free harass because they see the opportunity for it.
You can go pretty far without that last one happening at the lower levels. But once you meet someone who actually is smart enough to bash your skull in when you stick it out like that, you're gonna have a bad time.

Your laning phase will go a lot more smoothly if you work smarter, not harder. Let's go over a few things, and you'll see how to make laning so much easier on yourself.

You have to do damage to the wave to get your gold.

The more damage comes from your minions, the less damage you have to do to it.

Duh, right? Just had to lay these out first.

The biggest source of damage the minions produce is from the caster minions or the tank.

The three caster minions will outdamage one tank minion, but with two minions, the tank will do more.

The caster minions have fewer hit points, and are typically not attacked until all of the melees are dead.

You'll often get that one melee minion of yours who will break off and chase the casters once melee minion #1 dies, but he does next to no damage. Otherwise, the caster minions will be sitting there, killing your minions, unmolested. What this means is that if you attack them first, you'll get all three can you not? Nothing else is damaging them, so there's no way anything can take it from you.

The caster minions are the main deterrent for landing auto attacks on your opponent.

I've played a lot of Nasus top, and it always slays me how often I'll get players who select Ryze or Teemo, tag me with an auto right in front of my casters, and wonder why they lost the trade as I lifesteal it back, my caster minions blast him, and he then pulls back to take a CS. If he bothered to take out my casters first, or even just one of them (and I have no hope of preventing him from doing so), I'm now in huge trouble. I'm at his mercy as I can't retaliate on his trades. I IMMEDIATELY have to retreat. A good Ryze then stops pushing and sits in the middle of the wave, knowing I can do nothing but watch as Q stacks disappear in front of me. Eventually, he pushes a big wave to my tower, and now I have to let him pound on me as I try my best to get all I can as my tower eats even more of my precious Q stacks.

To illustrate it even more, watch this Leaguecraft video, 35 minutes in. PhRoXzOn explains how to get by as a melee v. ranged. When you watch the video, Swain is CSing passively as Riven tries to scratch out all she god is Swain @#$%ing this up. He's letting the caster minions live. If he takes them out immediately, Riven has no hope of getting any early CS. How will the melees get any of Swain's minions low? They won't. With the casters down, he can then auto + E instead of just E, and actually do damage to Riven past her shield. He can also auto attack kite forward if he can get in range, taking minimal melee minion damage as he lights Riven up. When the minion wave pushes, he can then choose to either harass under tower or lay off due to gank risk. And, if he and his team bothered to identify where the enemy jungler started at level 1, he will have all the information he needs to decide this question correctly: If the enemy started top, he will soon be going bottom and the gank risk is minimal.

With fewer caster minions, an opponent will have a deficit of damage to the wave. He will have to provide that damage himself to get his gold. With more caster minions, you will have a surplus of damage to the wave. You can spend more resources on attacking the opponent.

Some of you are saying “duh” again, but you should be saying “EUREKA!” This is the most important part of this post, and the point I'm trying to make.

If you've built a wave, the other guy now has to choose to spend his resources (autoattacks, cooldown timers, and mana) on either the minions, or you. He can only do both if you're dumb, such as standing next to minions for Ziggs to bomb or behind a minion for Lucian to Q. So, if you're not dumb, he'll have to shoot your minions. This means he can't spend those resources on you. Now, if you've got a bigger wave, you can then do all sorts of things. You can spend mana and cooldown timers on shooting your opponent, because you have much less to do to get your gold.

Getting your gold is easier, and you'll have so much less pressure on yourself. The other guy has to; he can only get any gold from you by killing you, and you're not dumb enough to let that happen. So, he has to concentrate on the wave, and he has to live with your freedom to harass. There's no two ways about it, you're now at a huge advantage in this lane.

“But the lane will push!” some people will say.


All sorts of good things happen when the lane pushes. I've already described the pressure to CS that the opponent will have when you do. Also, having less pressure to CS means you have free time...which you can then use to your advantage. Are other lanes pushed against and does a roam have a chance to work? Boy, I bet you're glad you'll lose no CS while you do roam! How about using this time to take a quick pit stop, and bring an item back to lane? It's just going to get easier the sooner you get that chalice or pickaxe, and you won't fall behind because the lane is pushed. You can also take this time to deploy good, deep wards, which will allow you to throw a harass party for your opponent for quite a while, or bottle them up as you can see any roams coming immediately. And, if you can actually land that harass...even more good things can happen. If the jungler does gank, one of his laners will be crippled and he himself will be underleveled (unless he's 2 and you're 1). You can win. If the enemy laner is crippled, you have a chance to complete the most devastating play in solo queue: the pre-6 dive. Nothing will break the enemy laner's spirits faster than seeing even their turrets won't stop you. And finally, you can take this time to raid a jungle camp if you've got nothing better to do. Pad that CS total, and get some more gold to boot.

In other words, pushing the wave is great. All sorts of good things happen. Precidely one bad thing can happen, getting ganked. But, for that to happen, you need to do all of the following: push, not ward, not watch the minimap to see it coming, not harass well, and not use your escape and flash correctly when the gank does happen. So, if you do get ganked, don't delude yourself and say that it was because you were pushed. A lot of other fails had to happen too.

Even then, there are a few good reasons to not push a lane when you can. Say you're Renekton, a lane bully with no ranged abilities. You're a poor scaler, so just getting the CS isn't enough, you want kills. You won't get them if the lane is permanently pushed; all you can do really to harass under tower is clip them with a lucky Q. So, when you run the other guy off the wave out of fear of dying to you, you then want to zone them off creeps and not push. It'll push eventually, but you can cost them some CS first, and get an XP advantage. I wanted to make sure to mention that in the TL/DR.

“But what if I can't get to the caster minions?”

This is a much better question. Sometimes it's just not possible. Nasus, for example, has next to no hope of getting to the enemy caster minions safely. He'd have to E, which does little damage and eats through mana like candy, or the other guy would need to be an even MORE passive laner and let Nasus auto attack minions freely. If that's the case, you don't need my advice to beat him. So, you can't risk your safety to take the casters first. Trading HP for CS by itself is almost never worth it, and exposing yourself to an all-in like that is even worse; he'll have casters to help while Nasus' casters are too far back to participate. So, don't prioritize the casters if you can't get to them safely. That's why I included the words “If it is practical to do so” in the TL/DR at the top.

I'll also touch on not conceding freezes here. If it's "practical" to get to the casters safely, it's for one of two reasons:
  • You have the range to do it.
  • You and your opponent agree than you'll win in a trade or all-in, so he'll back off when you step forward.
In both of these situations, you should be able to prevent a freeze. If you see your opponent trying to freeze, you should just kill the rest of his remaining minions to break it. In other words, make sure to take the time to push your minions into their tower. A good player will still get the CS, but he'll then have to lane with you in the middle again.

1 comment:

  1. It's crazy how much leverage a tiny thing like consciously trimming caster minions has.

    It's more crazy that it's taken 4 years for me to find someone who generously explains such a valuable concept.

    I'm loving all your posts, I intend to go out an apply during my next league session, and I already feel more confident.

    Much respect.