The Summoner's Guidebook: The game without a meta

It should be no shocker that the Crystal Scar is my favorite League of Legends map. Dominion is a more frantic and dynamic gametype, and it rewards tactical, free-thinking play more than the Classic game mode. The Classic maps reward technical skill and strategic thinking, but they aren't my preferred battlefield. I know a lot of you dear readers feel the same way.

Dominion is weird because it doesn't have a real, established metagame. Although cries of "4 top, 1 bottom" can be heard in virtually every match, they rarely hold up for more than a few minutes, and the four top players can be seen running backdoors, ganking bottom, or solo jungle roaming as the game progresses.

This is my first attempt at a Dominion overview, but the honest truth is that even the hardcore analyst-types like yours truly struggle to define exactly what wins Dominion games. There's a lot of room for discussion on this one, so let's get started.

Who gets mid?

The basic opening strategy for virtually every Dominion game is for one player to rush to his or her team's bottom point and capture it, then push against the enemy who has done the same. The rest of the team rushes to the top capture point, with one person staying back to capture the team's mid capture point before heading top. There are some "wildcat" openings, but this one is the most common and stable.

The question of "who gets mid" is a good one, and it is a difficult question. Slow teammates should not capture it, as the team that gets its reinforcements first is generally at an advantage. Characters with strong crowd controls, support abilities or pokes are also poor choices, as they dominate the early stages of the top teamfight. The best choice is someone who has to commit to a fight in order to contribute, such as a fast-moving melee champion like Riven or Master Yi. Characters with a weak poking game like Twitch or Vayne are also decent picks. Often the most teamplay-oriented players end up taking mid, but this is a mistake.

The champion who takes bottom is another can of worms (fodder for future articles). The strongest bottom laners are those with strong poking games, excellent pushing power, and high sustainability. Characters like Sivir, Cassiopeia, Yorick, Heimerdinger, Soraka, and many others do well in this role. Another option, if you have a good idea who will go bottom on the enemy team, is to use a counterpick. If the enemy lanes Cassiopeia and you have Talon on your team, you can send Talon there and he will eat her alive. In Draft Pick, identifying the enemy bottom laner early can allow you to draft a counter and easily win the lane.

The top teams meet at the top capture point and engage in a pokefest to take the point. As I mentioned above, characters with strong poking power like Ahri, Nidalee, or Ziggs are extremely strong in this battle. If your team is not very good at poking, you may just have to engage, but this is generally not recommended. Characters like Ahri and Blitzcrank can brutally punish a full engagement, and anyone with a crowd control can halt one of your team right in the line of fire. The top teamfight is generally won by the more patient team, and barring that, by the team with better pokes.

They're all dead;, now what?

The top poke battle can extend into an actual teamfight if dead people reinforce before the point is fully captured, but otherwise the battle will transition into the midgame. At this point, each team will have different objectives based on its composition. Although the ultimate goal is to have more control points than the enemy, each team has areas where it is stronger.

Pushing the top capture point (or defending it) is the most common strategy, but it is not usually the best. The best way to go about pushing top (if you do not have the point) is to have one person push the lane a bit so that it snowballs and then gain control over the jungle first. You want your team of four to be close to each other so they can all group up if they make contact with the enemy at a moment's notice. Getting the center buff is also a good strategy, as long as you only reveal one of your team (the one getting the buff) while the others wait in the fog of war. This can lead to some brutal ganks.

If you've cleared away most of the enemy players in the jungle, you can just go capture the point, but otherwise you'll need to push the minion wave. Unless the defenders are clearing your wave quickly, you don't want to actually engage until the turret gets neutralized, and if they are, you'll have to use Garrison and dive the point. You should only try doing this if your team is better in teamfights than the other team is. If your team is weaker, don't bother with grouping as four as you will still lose unless you outnumber them.

If you're weaker in teamfights, you have to consider your other strengths. Some characters are really good at holding a turret, like Anivia or Morgana, and can be used to make indirect pushes at enemy turrets while staying defensive. Some characters, like Shaco, are terrible in teamfights but provide great map awareness and can single out enemies for ganks. If you are weaker in a teamfight, you need to single out individual enemies, gank them, and then use your numbers advantage to take a point.

Living in the lane down under

The four champions in the "top team" may be obscured in the fog of war much of the time, making their plans ambiguous. However, unless routed by your bottom laner, the enemy team has one champion whose position is more or less always known: the bottom lane champion. If you are losing the bottom fight, you will want to aggressively gank the lane in order to gain an advantage. If you are winning, you still need to have map awareness down there and may want to gank anyway; it is likely the enemy will send extra allies to help bottom if they are losing it.

It is very common for the bottom lane to switch to a permanent two-man bottom later in the game. This often happens when the dominant bottom laning champion gets ganked repeatedly; the dominant bottom team then needs to send another player to maintain dominance in the long term. If your team is a weak teamfight team, sending an ally to help bottom win is an effective strategy because it helps weaken the powerful teamfighting advantage of the enemy.

Here I'd like to emphasize the importance of a dominant bottom laner. If your team has a strong bottom lane presence, you can force the enemy to send reinforcements. The solo bottom lane player contributes more to the overall team score than other players, even if his individual score and K/D ratio are almost always terrible (the price of getting ganked all game). If you are losing the fight in bottom, you must address this problem or you will bleed nexus health all game. This can be as simple as ganking, switching people out or sending someone else to help. If you are not losing but getting pushed, this is OK as long as your bottom lane champion can hold the lane for a long time. In fact, this makes it ideal for ganks as the enemy has a long route to escape (just as on Summoner's Rift).

All of my backdoor jokes are NSFW

Taking a capture point behind enemy lines is seen as a last-ditch effort in order to get points, but it is much more than that. Backdooring is a real strategy, and when done right, it can seize victory from almost certain defeat.

In order to understand why backdooring works, you have to understand player psychology. When you go to back-cap a turret, some enemies will probably notice and one of two things will happen: Either they will send someone to get you or you will neut/cap the turret. Getting a neuted turret is an automatic win, as your backdooring time was automatically worth it. If they send someone after you, it is usually a win -- as long as you live.

The best characters to send backdooring are those who are bad in teamfights. It's even better if they're good at 1v1 or have strong escape mechanisms. A character like Shaco can force the enemy to eat a face full of jack-in-the-boxes and escape without injury, while a character like Jax can just kill whoever comes to fight him. A character with both advantages (like Talon) is a monster of a problem. Champions who are excellent in team support should not backdoor. This includes Rammus, who is better using his speed to gank or join teamfights.

If your backdoor gets two foes to chase you, you've won another fight for your team somewhere else. If you see two enemies, run away and stay alive as long as possible! Try to pull them away from any teamfights. Obviously, paying one second of your time for two of theirs is win-win; however, if you die, you have to add the death penalty to that. Don't die when backdooring or you are costing your team greatly!

Of course, backdooring is also an excellent way to bait ambushes. If your team can't win in a straight engagement, positioning allies near your backdoor attempt to ambush can net you the numbers advantage and probably a captured turret. On the other hand, doing this puts your team down two or more people so it has to pay off or you are probably behind. If you are the one backdooring, don't expect your teammates to understand what you're doing -- bait enemies into their face or ping them (G-click) to let them know what you're planning.

I feel like I've hardly scratched the surface of Dominion strategy in this article. Let me know what you think in the comments! And as always, 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.