The Summoner's Guidebook: It's time to get serious!

One of the things that was baffling for me as a League of Legends noob was the overall tempo of PvP games. In bot matches, I got used to staying in my lane, and I was never sure when it was a good time to meet up with my team or go for objectives. I actually didn't really understand what "mid game" and "late game" actually meant.

However, on Summoner's Rift, those terms actually have real meaning. You have different goals in the early, mid, and late game, and if you try to continue laning when you're in the midgame, you're going to run into huge problems, as the entire enemy team is probably ganging up to come and kill you. This week, we're going to talk about the flow of the game on Summoner's Rift, and when you should be switching up your game to accomplish different things.

Opening shenanigans

At the start of the game, everyone begins at his respective summoner platform with a bit of gold and one skill point. Right at the start, there are a fair number of tricks you can pull off.

The first thing you can do before you even encounter an enemy is to use Clairvoyance (or CV) on the enemy platform. If you time it right (about 5 seconds after the game starts), you can see what each player is buying. This can show you whether someone is trying an unorthodox build. You may also get to see whether the enemy team members are grouping up as they leave the platform or are separating to head to their lanes.

The next thing that can happen is an early game gank. In high-level play, players often group up into four- or five-man teams right at the start and attempt to invade the enemy jungle. If the enemy jungler is alone or supported by only one player as he moves to his first camp, this can draw first blood before the game has really even begun. In order to prevent this, you may want to deploy wards right away at a likely jungle entrance or group up for the first 45 seconds or so. Another great way to prevent this situation is Clairvoyance. If you drop a CV near your jungle and you see the enemy team, back off or group up.

There's farming, so it must be an MMO

The early game on Summoner's Rift begins when minions spawn. I'm including a map of all the jungle creep spawns here (from Riot) that shows where they are. Many of the early game dynamics revolve around the jungle.

One trick is exclusive to the blue team in the current two-man bottom metagame. The carry and support for the blue team can take the double golems for free without affecting their jungler at all. If you are the purple team, this means that you should consider being aggressive to deny them the bonus XP and gold. In my experience, almost nobody ever takes the golems in low-level play, but it's something you should watch out for. If you're on the blue team, take those golems every game.

If you're in a game with no jungler on your team, you should take any and all neutral creeps near your lane. If you're in a duo top lane on purple team, you should take the double golems as above. If you're in mid lane, you should take the wraith camp. Additionally, if the enemy team does not have a jungler either and you pushed your lane, you can head to the jungle and clear a few camps to get some free experience and gold. One person from your lane should also consider leaving to clear jungle mobs anytime you force one of your opponents out of the lane. If you're midlane and your lane is pushed or the enemy is forced out, go steal his wraith camp. You should do this even when there is a jungler as it denies the enemy jungler XP.

If you are in a team with a jungler, he may ask for a leash. This means that he wants someone (preferably the midlane champion) to come with him to either the blue or red buff camps (usually blue) and attack the camp once. This deals a bit of damage and aggros the mobs, and the jungler attacks them while they chase. The midlane champion returns to lane immediately, ideally taking minimal damage if any, while the jungler gets some extra damage from both the midlane champion's initial spell and a bunch of free damage while the creeps chase his fleeing ally. This helps the jungler tremendously. If the jungler calls for a leash and your midlane champion has no idea what that means, you should do the leash yourself if your lane is close.

The rest of the early game is mostly about last-hitting and lane positioning, which I have already covered in previous articles.

One thing that is very important is ganks. At any time, a player may leave his lane. On the NA servers, we call this "MIA," while on the EU server it's called "miss." If you think the enemy has left his lane for a non-basing reason, he may be clearing jungle camps, but he may also be ganking. If the enemy team has a jungler, the person on your team with CV should periodically use CV on the jungler's route. If he is not where he should be, he is probably moving to gank someone. Make sure to deploy wards in the river to spot him coming near your lane. The side lanes may also want to ward their lane bushes. Check my previous article for common lane entry points and ward those areas.

The most important objective in the early game is the dragon. The dragon spawns at 2:30, and most teams consider killing it around the five- or six-minute mark. It is rare, though possible, for a team to contest the dragon as he spawns. Killing the dragon gives 190 gold to everyone on your team. This gives the team that kills the dragon first gets a sizable early lead.

Because he requires most of the team to defeat early on, the team that contests the dragon must be confident that its members can win a big teamfight. The team with the weaker teamfight presence should do everything in its power to stall the stronger team and poke so that the dragon cannot be slain. Your jungler may also want to try getting the last hit on the dragon with Smite in order to steal the reward. This is often a death sentence, but one player's death is worth far less than a dragon kill.

If you feel that your team is especially weak and cannot fight the enemy team even while its members are attempting the dragon, you should strongly consider pushing down the mid turrets to force the enemy team to respond. An early mid turret is not worth quite as much gold as a dragon, but it gives your midlane player a better harassment game as the enemy midlaner cannot play very aggressively.

Finally we're out of the farming phase

Midgame begins when a few turrets get pushed down and occurs because normal laning is no longer safe. In bot matches, it occurs immediately if any of the bot turrets are destroyed. During the midgame, players will want to group up and siege turrets, steal jungle buffs and contest the dragon.

During the midgame, very little XP or gold is gained unless your team is smashing the enemy team in teamfights. This means that you will need to take the time to split and kill jungle mobs or lane creeps. You should only do this when a lane is pushed so you can fight closer to your surviving turrets.

Baron Nashor can also be contested after 15 minutes, although it is not common for teams to engage him prior to 20 minutes as he can ruin a whole team at once. The same general rule applies to Baron as it does to the dragon; you should attempt Baron if your team is stronger than the enemy in order to provoke a teamfight. Killing Baron often results in a game-winning push with his powerful team-wide buff, so the weaker team must be present or risk losing the game.

Some objectives, like buffs and the dragon, can easily be soloed in the midgame. You should only do this if you have cleared enemy wards from the area so they cannot know what you are doing. Intermediate bots will converge on the dragon if anyone begins attacking it (they are psychic), so you should probably not attempt it without your team.

Endgame doesn't always happen

High-level players aren't entirely in agreement with what constitutes the endgame. However, I consider the endgame to start when damage dealers are beginning to purchase defensive items. Other players consider endgame to begin when an inhibitor is pushed down, but defensive items are more relevant to the overall game flow.

The endgame has a bit of falloff as defensive items make characters much harder to burst down. Characters with higher DPS last better into the late game, while single-target burst champions lose most of their might. Also, the lategame reduces the value of the dragon, as gold is no longer a real concern. This can result in some wild comebacks, as a team that is 10,000 gold behind can still win if it scales better in the late game.

If your team is an early/midgame team, you should do everything in your power to win the game before the endgame occurs. Controlling the neutral buffs (including Baron) is paramount at this stage, as they are game-changing.

I know that this week didn't have as much skill-building or practice, but if you're a beginner and you don't know this stuff, it can be very helpful in knowing when to leave your lane. Knowing what objectives are important and when is also really crucial. Until next week, 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.