The Summoner's Guidebook: Get back, get back!

Last week, I said I would avoid doing articles on the situational "soft skills" in League of Legends. Well, this week kind of ruins that already. Today we're going to talk about lane positioning, zoning, and harassment. These things are not something I can just give you blanket tips on. There are a lot of nuances involved in good positioning, and every single matchup is completely different. You do not stand in the same places laning against Cassiopeia as you do against Kennen, and those positions change depending on which character you're playing, too.

Even though there is a lot of matchup-specific knowledge involved in lane positioning, there are some general tips I can provide. This week I'm going to only teach you about the basics of lane safety but give you some dirty mindgame tricks that will absolutely ruin your opponents. Interested? Read on!

Some good, old-fashioned news

Before we get started, I feel obligated to talk about some of the events that have come up in the last week. First off, LoL's Korean launch has been nothing short of explosive. The game has become a runaway hit, peaking at nearly 200,000 concurrent users, and it's currently the #3 most played game in Korean net cafes, after Sudden Attack and Aion. Yes, that means more Koreans are playing League in net cafes right now than are playing either Starcraft: Brood War or Starcraft II. If that isn't freaking awesome, I don't know what is.

In other news, the Curse Gaming Invitational semifinals also came to an end with a victory for Team Dignitas, whose members will go on to San Francisco to face Team Curse in the grand finals for a chance to win $20,000 US. The VODs of the semifinals are available for free at LoLPro.com, and I highly recommend watching at least the final game, as it has one of the most epic moments of any LoL tournament ever. Good luck to Team Dignitas in the final series!

Now on to our regularly scheduled program

While we covered last-hitting last week, laning is a complex beast. Safety is the most paramount element of laning, and there are places in the lane that are more dangerous than others. Below, I've used my expert image editing skills to show potential risky areas and jungle access on Summoner's Rift.

The red arrows on this highly detailed, expert-quality map show potential areas where an enemy who is MIA or jungling might approach from. Additionally, the red circles on the map also show brush areas where there may be more foes than you expect. If the enemy team clears minions out of the lane, there is a brief moment when a ganker can run up and get in the bushes without your realizing it. All of these red entrance points are potentially dangerous unless you know where everybody on the enemy team is!

It's also worth noting that it may be possible to be ganked from other directions, depending on your opponents. Twitch, Evelynn, and Shaco ganks can come from anywhere, as these characters can use stealth to approach. If you're facing one of these champions and he goes MIA for any reason, it may be a wise decision to either use vision wards to spot foes in the river area or allow the enemy to push the lane to your turret. Both turrets and vision wards can see stealthed enemies, which helps to reduce the threat of a surprise ambush. Oracle's Elixir can also help, but it is an expensive consumable, and the enemy may try to focus on ganking you so that you lose it.

Kassadin can also be a problem as he can Riftwalk over almost any wall, so it is vitally important that his lane opponent notify the team if Kassadin goes missing. Other characters with Flash-like abilities can also be dangerous. Never assume you're safe unless you know where everyone is, ever!

Additionally, the blue and purple areas bracketed off on the map show areas of relative safety for each side (blue and purple teams respectively). If you engage the enemy in his safe area, you are very vulnerable to ganks! Even if you ward the river so you have extra warning, you will probably not escape from a red-buffed Rammus charging at you while you are overextended. This is even more critical if you are facing a lane composition with high burst damage or any sort of snare, stun, or slow. If you push Urgot to his turret and he ults you into it, you are almost certainly dead. Avoid pushing into the enemy safe zone unless you know no enemies are nearby!

Push and counterpush

Last week, I told you to never autoattack the lane needlessly. If you understand about the safe zones above, you understand why! It's simply too easy to kill the enemy if you are pushed back -- he has a long way to run to be safe, and your allies have a lot of places to attack from. Never autoattack to push the lane unless you're ready to take the enemy's turret. Once you've reached the midgame (content for yet another future article), you can start thinking about taking turrets, but in the early game, don't.

I do realize that there are good times to push the lane, depending on enemy position and your team's ward coverage. However, you will learn these times with practice. When you push the lane with autoattacks, it is a bad decision 90% of the time. If you want to push to take down a turret, you should do so with your team or when the enemy is dead.

As I stated last week, you should avoid push at all costs and try to avoid hitting enemies with abilities except when you will last-hit. This can mean hitting the only part of the enemy minion wave with your AoE attacks rather than hitting the whole wave.

However, there is a time when pushing is OK, and that is when your opponent is pushing at you. At the lower levels of play (and against bots), your enemies will frequently fire off autoattacks without regard for last-hits. If this happens, you should carefully use your attacks and abilities to freeze the lane in your safe zone or in the center of the lane. You want to use your autoattacks so that either they get a last-hit or you are not forced to choose between last-hitting one of two foes. If you lower enemy health equally, the only thing that will let you get all the last-hits is an AoE ability. If you have this available to you, by all means, use it to assist in last-hitting as long as you have the mana.

Even though you are counterpushing, you still want to focus on last-hits. If your opponent is mindlessly autoattacking and you are getting last-hits while you counterpush, you may get pushed back a bit but you will get way ahead on gold. If you are getting lots of CS, but you are occasionally taking a bit of damage to your turret, you are probably winning.

There is a bit of an exception to all of these pushing rules, and that is the middle lane in Summoner's Rift. Mid lane is generally where both teams send their strong AP caster heroes, and these characters generally excel at pushing with abilities. It is very likely that in mid lane, you will have to use your AoE abilities to push quite frequently in order to keep up with your enemy who is doing the same.

Thank you Shurelia, you saved me two thousand words


Shurelia is awesome. She's a former Riot Games dev, and she has a lot of insight into how League of Legends works. Also, before anyone asks: Yes, her voice really does sound like that. The item Shurelia's Reverie was given its huge movespeed buff because her co-workers claimed that her voice is the result of the Doppler effect (she moves so fast that it makes her voice high-pitched).

Either way, the video above explains a lot about zoning, even though it's quite old. When I was a noob, I got a lot out of it, and I'm sure you guys will too.

Some cool fun with harassment

Now that you understand about lane safe zones and zoning, I can talk a bit about some tricks I use when laning.

One of the most important things you can know about in any matchup is what your opponent's maximum threatening range is. Once you know that distance, you should hover about 150-250 range outside of it (less than 1 second of walking distance). This is almost close enough to attack you, but not quite, and that makes most harassment attempts very obvious. If you are watching your opponent closely, he will walk toward you in a rather deliberate manner every time he wants to poke you. Once you know he is going to do so, you can either walk backward (and potentially get him to waste last-hits), use a skillshot to hit him for free, or commit to an engagement. At the lower levels of play, this tends to result in early lane kills. At the higher levels of play, it keeps you safe.

The next dirty trick is more aggressive. When you are pacing, move laterally toward your opponent but not directly toward him. Often, people will confuse this movement for "random" movement, especially if you pace frequently. However, your goal is to get close enough that you can poke him before he can react. Some enemies will get aggressive if you try this, so be prepared to walk backward, counterpoke, or commit to a fight. In most cases, you want to be defensive, though.

As above, moving toward the enemy may be a tell that you're going to attack. But if you want your enemy to back off, you can walk toward your opponent like you're going to attack but back off as soon as he does. This can be used to deny the enemy last-hits even if you're not threatening; often foes don't count cooldown seconds exactly, so they don't know your Boomerang Blade isn't ready to fire.

That's it for this week! As always, there's a lot of stuff here, so practice it one thing at a time. Don't be worried about "DPS" when you're laning! The most important thing in the early game is gold, whether it comes from kills, minions, or neutral creeps. You're just killing your biggest goal in the early game by trying to push before it's time. Until next time, good luck and have fun!

We understand what it's like to climb the skill ladder in League of Legends. The Summoner's Guidebook teaches you the tools you need to get a competitive edge. Whether you're climbing the ranked ladder, playing Draft Dominion, or getting crushed by intermediate bots, every enemy has a weakness. And every Thursday, Patrick Mackey shows how you can improve improve on yours.
This article was originally published on Massively.