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The Summoner's Guidebook: Punishing common LoL laning mistakes

Patrick Mackey

This week in the Summoner's Guidebook, we're getting back to the basics of League of Legends. Laning tactics are an incredibly broad topic, and they're also a springboard to developing good teamfighting skills. When you can take your narrow laning focus into a teamfight and think broadly about a situation, you'll know that you've really made a big leap in skill.

Although the header suggests we're talking about mistakes, this week's column is largely on the topic of counting cooldowns. We've already talked a bit about positioning mistakes, so the only option left on the agenda is timing mistakes. By the time you're finished reading today, you should have a good grasp on how to make an opponent waste a useful skill and take advantage of that skill's cooldown to punish him.

The basics

When we first started playing League of Legends, we picked whichever character looked cool and we didn't think that much about it. When we came up against an enemy, we just kind of did our own thing.

Eventually, we grew up. We ran into Annie, and she made us explode in under a second. We started to learn that Annie could blow us up if she had her stun ready and worked to avoid her when it was active. Soon we started learning other characters, and we started developing matchup strategies.

Now we're going to take that a bit further. When we talked about Annie, we talked about how important her ultimate is to her burst. If Tibbers is down, Annie's combos hurt, but they don't bring us from full to dead without any reaction possible. If both Tibbers and one of her spells are down, we can actually take advantage of that. You can use the fact that your spells are still readied to bully her back, especially if you're a deadly burst mage yourself.

It's possible to draw Annie into that situation without waiting for her to give it to you. More importantly, it's possible to draw any character into that kind of situation, especially characters with skillshots. Annie's Disintegrate is guaranteed to hit you unless you've got some kind of spell shield, but there are numerous spells that can miss completely if you can bait them.

The Summoner's Guidebook Punishing common LoL laning mistakes
Don't grab me, Blitzcrank!

Once you've got an idea for what your opponent can do, you can start identifying patterns. In lane, everyone wants to last-hit. The simplest way to get some free damage is look for your opponent's last-hit opportunities and shoot him.

But there's more than one way to skin a cat.

In every matchup, there's usually a specific threat or two that you have to watch out for. For Ryze, it's his Rune Prison. Against Morgana, it's Dark Binding. Blitzcrank has his Rocket Grab; Taric has his Dazzle. Know these abilities! Each of them leads to followup spells and frequently additional damage from teammates. It's good to know the cooldowns, but it's unlikely that we will actually count them. If it's been more than a few seconds, assume Grasping Roots is off cooldown and don't try to attack. Eventually you get an idea for how long 12 seconds feels.

If you're trying to bait a skillshot, try to identify the same kinds of situations where it would be good to throw a skillshot. One good, if basic, baiting attempt is simply to walk at your opponent. Keep your mouse to the side to move laterally as soon as you see the skillshot fire. It is probably good to queue an attack just in case your opponent doesn't go for your bait. You can also simply stop moving, too.

Any sort of deliberate movement can bait a skillshot, so the trick is to move so that your opponent thinks you're not thinking about dodging while you are thinking about dodging. Baiting and dodging are 90% mental.

Mouse positioning is really important when you're baiting. The only difference between a bait and a reckless attack is the location of your mouse cursor and the thoughts going through your head. Have your mouse cursor positioned laterally away, at as close to a perpendicular angle as possible, and mentally be ready to react to the shot and right click to dodge. It's actually really easy if you only have one thing to think about, so try not to do it when you need to last-hit. If you do, you should make the conscious decision to lose the last hit to deny your opponent as well and/or deal damage and/or kill him.

You can also use this technique to bait non-skillshot attacks if you have a spell shield. I've had a lot of success baiting Taric stuns as Sivir and Twisted Fate stun cards as Morgana. For Morgana, remember that because her shield is targeted, you should use your self-smartcast hotkey bind (default alt+E for Black Shield) to cast on yourself quickly. I once had a game where the enemy TF called Morgana "no skill" because I kept blocking his stuns. After I went 3-0 in lane against him (he didn't bother to notice when Dark Binding was ready), he ragequit and my team steamrolled the rest of the game.

If your opponent is not visible, you can still bait skillshots, but it is much more risky. Remember how I said to position your mouse at a perpendicular angle? If your opponent is hiding in the bottom lane brush, she could be anywhere in the brush, so her effective zone of control is much wider. It may be best to position yourself far enough away that you can minimize this geometrical problem (most clicks will move you in a mostly perpendicular direction) while still being close enough to be a lucrative target.

If your opponent doesn't take the bait, that probably means she is a more cautious player. This can be good news for you in the long-term lane situation but it also means that your opponent will be an effective threat more of the time. A cautious opponent doesn't mean that your opponent is timid. Many cautious players (myself included) will pounce on the first sign of actual weakness.

The Summoner's Guidebook Punishing common LoL laning mistakesTaking the reins

If your opponent throws away his big threat, you can get away with a lot of stuff. The simplest thing you can do is be a bully. If my opponent shoots his big harassment tool, I can get closer and try to be aggressive. If mine is still ready, I'm at a big advantage. If he tries to pretend he still has control, he will probably eat a lot of damage.

It's really important that you understand that even if you get hit, don't be afraid. Consider the Gangplank matchup for a moment. If he ever shoots you with Parrrley, it hurts a lot! However, it's down for a little bit, so you can actually be a bully for a few seconds. If you're laning, say, Riven against Gangplank, you can bait the Parrley and dash in with Valor to block it. However, even if you get hit with Parrley, you still have Valor, a stun, and a triple dash that does damage. He has no way to hurt you without his autoattacks, so don't let him zone you out when he's got no zoning tools ready. Dash in and get some hits in! Make him pay for shooting you! When I was a lot worse, I would get shot and be afraid to get hit again, so I would play passively. Don't do that. His best zoning tool is down!

If you are ever in a situation where your opponent gives away his big threatening attack, use that time to get in and be scary. You don't necessarily have to deal damage or kill your opponent, but you should definitely exert your presence. Deny him last hits. Get some last hits of your own. Force him out of lane and deny him XP. Just be careful not to over-extend unless you have your jungle approaches covered.

I think it's a recurring theme in the Guidebook, but I always feel like I'm barely touching on a subject by the time I run low on space. Still, this is just the first step. Get in games and practice and develop your own tricks. Come back and post those tricks in the comments!

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.

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