Do you like platitudes? You know, hearing people say things to sound smart when they really don’t know what they’re talking about?
- “We have late game.”
- “Just play passive.”
- “WTF are you building?”
- “Play efficiently.”
- “It depends.”
- “They know how to trade.”
I’ve learned to like them. Because, they never stop...it’s Christmas every day!
It’s the mark of a wise man to admit when one doesn’t know something. Unfortunately, most League of Legends players aren’t wise. Oh well. Fortunately though, we can actually learn about these things, if we put our minds to it. And here, we’re going to address that last one.
I am going to teach you how to trade.
*Note: We’re going to define a “trade” as “any attempt to hurt the other champion, without the intent to kill them”. If you try to kill them, you’re all-in. If you have no expectation of a kill, it’s a trade.*
2 + 2 = 4. REALLY.
There are four, and only four, parts to a successful trade:
- Get from a point of safety to a point where you can attack.
- Do your damage.
- Somehow avoid their damage.
- Get out to safety.
That’s it. It isn’t any more complicated than that. There’s no magic formula, there’s no “god mechanics”, just this. Get in, hit ‘em, don’t get hit, get out.
Next time you watch your favorite stream of a laner, watch with those four steps in mind. If he executes a successful trade, did he do all four steps? (PROTIP: He did.). If he lost, which of the four steps did he fail at? Where’d he break down?
Well, that’s it. You’re free to go if you like. Then again...you know me. I don’t do short guides. Let’s see what else we can learn about this.
POSITIONING KILLS CHAMPIONS
The first thing, bar none, is range. Accomplishing steps 1 and 4 are all about where to stand and where the other guy stands.
At the start of the game, you’re way too far from your opponent, and you’ll have to get closer to do anything to him, or to get the gold from minions that you want anyway. So, we’re going to divide “range” into four categories:
- Short: This is in range for a melee auto attack, and closer.
- Medium: This is the range for a ranged auto attack, and closer until you get to Short.
- Long: This is the range for a far skillshot, and closer until you get to Medium.
- Safe: This is out of range of every ability, except extremely long range abilities like Xerath, Lux, and Caitlyn’s ult.
Not every champion has the same AA range, and we’ll get to that later. This will do for now.
From here, we can then solve the puzzle at each range increment. Let’s take Renekton, for example. You’ll notice that he’s quite prepared for this:
- Hey, I’m already here!
- Auto, W with rage, Q, maybe one more auto.
- He’s stunned, W is OP!
- E dash out.
- E Dash in
- Auto, W with rage, Q, maybe one more auto
- He’s stunned, W is OP!
- E Dash out
- I can E dash twice, but that leaves me without step 4, so screw it, I’ll walk up.
- If I can get to Medium, I can dash in and do my thing.
- I <3 Stuns.
- I can just run. I can use the E I saved to dodge a skillshot or get to a bush.
- Not happening.
- Still don’t care.
- I can dash whatever he throws at me.
- Still don’t care.
Quite frankly, Renekton has the tools in his kit to accomplish all four tasks easily. This, by itself, is why he’s considered a “lane bully”; his abilities literally do his work for him.
Now, then again, he’s not invincible either. If Garen gets the silence off before Renekton stuns, his trade is destroyed. He can’t accomplish step 3, and Garen will punish him. Say Wukong clone blocks Renekton’s W….now the gator didn’t succeed at step 2 or step 3, and Wukong can plaster him while the cooldowns are down.
That’s for someone who’s a good trader. How about a bad one? Take Karthus:
- I love farm lanes! Why get closer?
- Farmville is fun…
- Do I want to ult? Nah.
- I wonder if Zynga’s gonna give me a discount?
- I hope he doesn’t get any closer, I can hit him from here.
- TASTE THE RAINBOW! Q Q Q Q Q.
- Please don’t hit me with skillshots.
- I still hope he doesn’t get close to me.
- I could hit him at long! Why is he so close?
- DAMMIT! My Qs stop me to cast them! And E costs too much mana!
- OH SHIT HE DASHED THROUGH MY WALL!
- FLASH! FLASH! FLASH!
- SOMEONE MAKE THE BAD MAN STOP!
- THIS IS NO FAIR MY Q TAKES TOO LONG TO FIRE HE JUST DODGES
- OH SHIT I BURNED FLASH ALREADY
- Fucking jungler, doesn’t gank. Reported.
Obviously, Karthus loves long range, and is very uncomfortable with an opponent closing in. He’s got to keep his opponent at bay with Qs and discourage him from walking forward, or Karthus will spend his entire laning time, fleeing, towerhugging, and of the enemy is good, dying. HIs kit isn’t well suited to accomplishing the four tasks at all.
The long and the short of it is to decide what range you want to be at, relative to your opponent. If you don’t want to be close, you’ve got to keep him at bay, if you don’t want to be long, you have to walk forward.
HEARTHSTONE’S FOR NOOBS. WWE WITH AUTHORITY’S WHERE IT’S AT!
Here’s where we apply champion knowledge to our situation. With the champ you play, how can you accomplish those four tasks? How can you opponent stop you? Conversely, how can your opponent succeed, and how can you stop them?
Interestingly, this part of the game is similar to a collectible card game. Even easier, as you’ve got precisely eight cards in your entire deck: QWER, your auto, your passive, and your two summoners. So does the other guy.
From here, you can work out how to accomplish the four tasks while preventing the other guy from accomplishing them yourself. Specifically, work out which of your abilities will accomplish those tasks, and which you won’t have. For example, let’s say I’m Nami and want to trade with a Caitlyn:
- I can E myself to proc my passive, and get the run speed to cross from her auto attack range into mine.
- I can auto and W, as long as she autos me before I W.
- The W heal will cover one auto. It will cover nothing if I use it early. I’ll have to dodge her E+Q manually though.
- She should still be slowed from the E, and my W proccing my passive should give me the speed to get out.
1-2-3-4. Got it.
BESIDES, IT JUST COMES DOWN TO WHO DRAWS RAGNAROS FIRST ANYWAY
Interestingly enough, the CCG analogy holds up pretty well. Say there’s a card in their deck that can stop you. You’ve got to respect that. But...what if it’s not in their hand? Then, you don’t have to respect anything.
Ability cooldowns are the simplest. If you see them use it, you’ve got some time to put 1-2-3-4 together while it’s down. But, what if you don’t know the cooldown?
Why the hell not?
The google search bar’s over there. Stop taking a bathroom break in the loading screen, and alt-tab to lol wiki and get this information, and read it before the game. You need it.
Furthermore, what abilities do they take at which level? Riven’s got her Q spam at level 1...but no dash and no stun. You clicked Thresh and see that he has his flay buff at level 1...great, your first level will be hook free!
Lastly, there’s a few other concerns. Do you need to avoid a skillshot? Use a dash or gapcloser. (BTW, Ekko’s E is amazing. He’s gonna go far.) How about the enemy’s abilities being stopped by minions (hooks, Ezreal Qs, Mundo cleavers). Well, hide behind minions and make them impossible to hit you.
To paraphrase Sun Tzu, if you know your deck and know your opponents, you need not fear the results of a hundred RNG screwjobs.
YOU WANT LOGISTICS? JOIN THE ARMY. MARINES MAKE DO.
Every few days around here we have one of those “what’s the difference” threads...bronzies and silvers, silvers and golds, golds and plats...etc. Personally I’m not interested in in anyone other than the nine on the field with me (or ten if i’m coaching). But, I’ll give you a free piece here:
Good players can find a way to accomplish these steps. Bad players just give them away.
Caitlyns and Jinxes who can’t take free autos. Melee champs that keep getting tagged as they obviously are going for a minion. Firing panicked, hoping skillshots instead of measured, well-timed shots that are likely to hit.
All in all, you’re going to need to be able to get the four tasks done when you don’t have an ability to save you. Well, how do we do that?
First, realize that if you’re in a bad matchup, you do need your opponent’s help. Nasus will not win against a Gnar when:
- He walks into Gnar’s space himself to take a CS.
- He doesn’t get close enough to actually attack Gnar.
- Gnar hits everything, including his slow
- He can’t get away, slowed, as Gnar attack kites forward, and is nowhere near a bush or tower.
Four tasks...four failures. This Nasus deserves to get his face smashed in. Against a Gnar who lets him go...Nasus has a chance. He won’t notice his blundering against an opponent who never capitalizes on it.
Yeah, that’s the bad news. If you’re in a bad matchup and the other guy plays perfectly, you’ll lose. Sorry.
The good news? Almost no one plays perfectly.
Is the other guy willing to let you get into your preferred range easily? If not, how can you get in? If you’re already at it, how can you keep him out? Is your opponent wasteful with abilities, giving you cooldown to exploit? Or is he the opposite, not waveclearing enough, giving you a minion advantage? Is he jumpy...do you think you can get a cooldown advantage by making him fire and miss? Is he too deliberate with CS, meaning he’s willing to let you blast him as he gets his gold? Is he playing too far back, giving you too much respect? Well, you’ll know when the jungler’s near...he’ll walk forward.
On the field, you are going to need to see what the opponent does, take what’s given, and come up with a way to win. I can give you the framework for that (4 steps), but it’s up to you to put it together. Get in, hit ‘em, don’t get hit, get out. And, prevent him from doing the same. Can you do that?
If so...you will win every trade. Ever. Literally.
Hopefully you’re not too preoccupied with getting 35 CS by 5 mins than 30...
Well, that’s it...except it isn’t. Since I’m all about being thorough, here’s a few smattered tips that fit in with the theme, just not in the main narrative.
SUMMONER’S RIFT, THE HOCKEY RINK
If you want to practice getting kills in lane, you should play Cho’Gath or Darius. They both have unmissable ults that do true damage. Mouse over to see how much it is, look at the vertical lines on their health bar...easy peasy. You’ll know exactly where their health needs to be to score a kill.
Okay, but why stop there? On any champion, if you flash and hit everything, what’s the damage you do? What is your max burst? Do you know?
Why the hell not?
I can forgive you if you’re messing around in a normal on a champion you don’t know. On your main in ranked; I won’t. The fine line between 300g (and your opponent’s teammates hating him) and nothing is right there, and you need to know that information. This is your champion’s “*Red Line*”, the maximum amount of damage you can deliver immediately without any counterplay.
Go to LoL wiki, count your base damages, your likely extras from runes, masteries and items, compensate for armor or MR, and come up with a number. Now you’ll know exactly where you need to trade your way towards.
On the other hand, what about mana? How much does it cost to cast every spell once? This is the “*Blue Line*”, the amount of mana you need to cast everything.
You mana bar is public information, and your opponent will know if you don’t have the mana to continue to play. If you’re approaching the blue line, you need to consider backing, or otherwise find a way to get some mana back without leaving. You’ll be fine if you stay above it, but once you cross the blue line, you enter a downward spiral: minions to clear, no abilities to clear them with,w exposure to damage while you auto, stuck clearing while the opponent roams, all sorts of bad things. *Avoid this before it happens*. Know your blue line, and be aware when you’re about to cross it.
HOW TO BEAT MICHAEL JORDAN, STEP ONE: DON”T PLAY HIM IN BASKETBALL
Have you noticed that way always max one skill first, before the others? Maybe it’s Q, W, or E, but one of them always gets the skill points before the others.
So what? Well, the one they’re maxing is their most important skill. So, if you can make them miss (or even if they hit you), you can probably win the trade from there.
For example, Ahri players typically max Q, her yo-yo. If she throws it at the wave, you can then go in if you can beat the charm. She’ll hit her fox fire, but it’s going to be level 1. Even the charm won’t hurt too much; it’ll just end your trade early. Either way, you should still be able to play after losing this exchange. After all, the only things she hit you with were the skills she’s not levelling.
THE REDDIT HUG OF DEATH
This next part is a comment I use as copypasta all the time. It describes Caitlyn v. anybody, but this will work with any champ that has a longer AA range than the opponent. Just change the champ names and it works.
Here it is.
Anyway, remember the distinction we made about some champs having longer AA ranges than others? Well, follow the link, it it explains how to get multiple autos on the shorter-ranged opponent by catching him in the sweet spot, copying his movements, and hitting him multiple times. It works on any champ with range, so unless you play melees not named Wukong or Jarvan exclusively, add “the clinch” to your skill set. You won’t regret it.