Our focus with the column will be on the beginner to intermediate players and improving key elements of lower-level play. While I do recognize and admire the pro League scene, websites like SoloMid.net and Curse Gaming's new LoLPro.com have tons of advice to push your gameplay from the expert levels of play to the master and professional levels.
This week, we're going to start with the basics of laning well. While there are dozens of guides on how to do this, I want to cover them in the Guidebook because their importance can't be stressed enough. Laning fundamentals are something you should practice in every game, even as you learn new strategies or tactics. If you can commit yourself to constantly improving in this area, you'll see dramatic leaps in your ability to play. These tricks are the hardest skills in the game to improve on, so getting better at them gives you a significant edge over most opponents. If you want to take the first steps to improve your LoL game, you'll have to read on.
The basics of last-hitting are simple. While you will get experience from minions as long as they die near you, you will not get gold from minions unless your champion (or one of your champion's pets) was the one who struck the killing blow. Last-hitting is the art of consistently getting killing blows on minions in the lane.
Often novice players underestimate the value of last-hitting. Most players think that a lane in which they score the most kills is a lane they have won. This is generally true, but consider this: A champion kill in lane is worth 13-15 Creep Score (depending on which minions you kill). This means that each minion wave gives about half as much gold as a champion kill if you last-hit every creep in the wave. That's a huge deal!
In Dominion, a lot of people think that last-hitting isn't important because of the gold you get over time. This couldn't be further from the truth! A single wave of three minions gives 120 gold, which is more gold than a champion kill. While you shouldn't avoid teamfighting to kill creeps, squeezing in last-hits whenever you can will lead to a significant gold advantage. If you're in bottom lane, last-hitting is just as important as it is on Summoner's Rift; master it, and you'll get far ahead on gold. The trick in Dominion is that you must also push at the same time. I'll definitely talk more about bottom laning in Dominion in a future article.
Avoiding lane push
The first rule of last-hitting is that you should use your autoattacks and abilities very sparingly on minions unless these efforts will score last-hits. Simply autoattacking creeps until they die will reward you with meager last-hits and poor gold. You want to focus on creeps that are very close to death and avoid using your autoattacks at other times. If you need to use your autoattacks to counter-push (we'll talk about that next week), be sure to use them only when there are no enemy minions close to death. If there's a minion that might drop to last-hit range in the next second or so, you want to stop autoattacking until you can last-hit him.
This also applies to abilities. Don't use them recklessly; the damage you do to your lane by firing off abilities is worse than just losing gold. While your abilities are down, your opponent can bully you if you need abilities to defend yourself. It also spends mana (if your hero has mana) and pushes the lane much harder than a simple autoattack. Only use abilities for last-hitting or for attacking enemy champions, and try to avoid using them on higher health minions most of the time.
The easiest way to avoid using your autoattack on minions except to last-hit is to simply use the Stop command, which is mapped to the S key by default. Pressing S will stop your hero in place and cancel any movement, ability, or attack commands. Your hero will also refrain from using his or her autoattack even if enemies are in range.
The danger of using the Stop command is that your character is completely stationary until you issue a command. Many enemy champions can throw skillshots or AoE attacks on your character while you stand there, since a stationary target is an easy target. The upside to this is that with strategic movement, you can use this to bait attacks (which you then avoid). If your opponent is good at leading his skillshots, you can also use Stop to confuse him, causing him to overshoot you.
While strategic use of Stop can be helpful, I prefer to pace while in lane. To do this, simply issue move commands randomly (inside safer areas, such as behind your minions) to your character by right-clicking. Before you get to your destination, issue another move command to send your character somewhere else in the lane. If you've done it properly, you will move around in a tight area, and since your hero was issued a move command, she will not attempt to attack creeps. This makes your movements harder to predict, and skillshots aimed at you will tend to miss. You will still need to react to AoE attacks placed in the area where you are moving, but this is often as simple as letting your hero walk for a bit longer in the direction you've already told her to move.
The main problem with pacing is that it is hard to do. It takes mental energy to concentrate on moving randomly, and it is hard to do this while paying attention to creep health and the position of your opponents. Just as with scoring last-hits, this means you will need to practice pacing in order to get good at it. The other problem with pacing is that once you get good at it, it becomes predictable because you're not thinking very much about how you're moving. Dividing your focus between all these things (and your opponents) is really important, but it's something you'll get better at with time. Combining both pacing and stopping is important to throw off your opponents and avoid taking damage.
While you're practicing the magical art of not attacking (I know; it's weird), you also need to practice the fine art of watching creep health. Whenever a creep wave rolls into the lane, creeps start to lose HP at an uneven rate depending on how well each side focuses its fire. Simply observing which creeps lose health sooner lets you know where you'll need to be in order to fire the killing shot. As the target creep gets lower and lower in health, you'll want to move closer so that when the window to last-hit arrives, you're as close as possible. This is essential for melee champions, but it is also valuable for ranged champions too. Because ranged autoattacks and most skills have travel time, being closer to your target minimizes this time and ensures that your attacks hit right when you want them to. If you have an instant-hitting spell, it makes for easy last-hitting as long as you're in range of the spell.
If you can't get too close because the enemy is pressuring you, you'll have to time your last-hit slightly early depending on your autoattack's travel time. Some characters have autoattacks that travel very slowly or have a lot of startup. If you want to last-hit with Soraka's bananas, you need to "lead" your autoattack to hit after allied minions have lowered the target to the right amount of health but before the minions kill your target. This is in stark contrast to Tristana, whose cannonballs fly very quickly to the target even at the edge of her extreme range. No matter what character you are using, you want to be closer if possible as it reduces the likelihood of errors.
Watching allied minions to see which enemy minion they are attacking is another important skill. If you know how many minions are attacking each enemy minion, you will know which enemy you need to attack first and also have a good idea when you need to start getting into position to score the last-hit. Like most of the above skills, this is a tough skill to learn, so it is important to practice. Once you get good at it, you should be able to quickly identify minion targets at a glance without spending too much time thinking about it. Like pacing, this skill takes concentration and is hard to do when you're being harassed. Practice makes perfect!
Last-hitting under a turret is hard. Virtually every pro guide I've ever read on the subject states that you will lose CS to your turret if you are forced to kill creeps in its range. The rough guideline for turret shots is that you autoattack once, then let the turret attack, then fire your autoattack again to finish the target off. If you have abilities that deal lots of single-target damage, save them for when your turret opens fire so you can use your abilities to clean up. Lastly, abilities that reset the autoattack timer can be used to help you get the final blow. Once the turret shoots, attack, then use your ability and attack again quickly before the turret can fire a second shot.
Don't do everything at once
You'll probably hear this a lot in future editions in the Guidebook, but I'll end with this: Don't try to practice everything here at the same time. Practice last-hitting with Stop (beginner bots are a great choice) first, and when you feel pretty comfortable with that, try to focus on learning these techniques one at a time. There's a lot of things here to work on, and it's easy to get overwhelmed if this stuff is new to you. Focus on getting better at one thing and you'll get better at it very quickly. 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.