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The Summoner's Guidebook: Learning how to not lose from the League of Legends pros

Patrick Mackey

The League of Legends World Championship semifinals are over, and unfortunately the two teams I was hoping would advance ended up losing. The matches were good, especially the SKT1 versus NJBS matches. Definitely watch them!

However, this week I'm going to get back to basics, and by that I mean guides on improving your game. I've been talking about Worlds for weeks and I'll be at the finals in LA around the time you're reading this, which would make for four weeks of straight coverage about the LoL World Championships. That feels lazy to me.

I have been watching a lot of pro matches lately, both the tournament matches and just random streams and casual matches. One thing that came to mind for me was improving our losing games. We all have them, and of all the games that we should improve upon, those are the games that are the most important. Pro players take bad lanes or feeding teammates and make wins instead. How do they do it?

Don't try too hard to win a lost lane

We could also call this "knowing your limits." I was watching a game of imaqtpie's where he lost the lane entirely due to the fault of his support getting grabbed by Blitzcrank twice. Unfortunately, the enemy ADC was quite good and would not let qtpie get back into the game. A Vayne with even +1 kill in lane is terrifying, and he simply could not enter the lane to farm.

Similarly, during the group stage of the World Championships, Dyrus was outlaned badly, partially due to heavy jungler presence. Dyrus could not safely enter the lane, and the enemy jungler tried very hard to get into a position to dive him.

In this situation, both pro players played very safely. They hugged the turret, and when the lane got pushed out, they did not go into the lane and put themselves at risk. Instead, they took what they could from the nearby jungle and joined roams with their teams. In the end, while they were behind, these actions helped keep them relevant and avoided feeding more gold to the enemy.

If your lane is behind, don't try to go for risky plays that will put you even further behind if they fail. Likewise, if a lane is totally lost, it is not worth ganking for the jungler. It is worth practicing last-hitting under a turret in order to get better at it, so that you will be more prepared for these kinds of bad situations. Don't expect the jungler to bail you out of a bad lane, because it won't happen.

The Summoner's Guidebook Learning how to not lose from the League of Legends pros

Respect the enemy

One thing I noticed from watching top player streams (and even a lot of mid-level streams) is that players will consciously know exactly how big a given character's burst is at a given level. These players would know that if they ate a full combo from the enemy, they would live. On the flip side, these players would avoid situations where the enemy could kill them. If you're at half life in the middle of the lane and Ahri has her ultimate, you're only waiting to feed her a 300 gold dinner. Do yourself a favor and go home instead.

I actually didn't even think about this, but it seems so obvious in hindsight. I counted cooldowns, but not really the actual damage behind those cooldowns. For instance, it's obvious if Blitzcrank's grab or Nami's bubble is down, and if those abilities are on cooldown then I can be hyper aggressive for a few seconds. However, I didn't really think about things like Graves' buckshot; if it's down, Graves can't combo me for big damage, so I can be more aggressive against him. The same goes for Sivir's boomerang blade or Ezreal's mystic shot. If I see those skills being thrown out, I can often go in and use my own skills to (hopefully) get a favorable damage exchange.

Another thing is knowing when people are going to level. It's really important to know when the enemy will hit level 2 or level 3 in your lane, and it's also nice to know when your lane opponents will hit level 6. If you are keeping an eye on those things, you'll be aware of the possibility of a Sona flash-ult from the brush when she was only level five just a moment ago.

The Summoner's Guidebook Learning how to not lose from the League of Legends pros
Ward, just ward

One of these days I'll give in and write a guide on warding. However, that time hasn't come yet. Instead, just do it. Remember last year's World Championships where we were cheering for ward kills? It's because vision is a big deal. Close your eyes and try to read this article. Oh yeah, you can't!

If you don't have wards, you can't exert pressure on the map without putting yourself at risk. Wards make dumb moves safe (like pushing a minion wave on the enemy's side of the river). Wards make coming back from a deficit possible. If you have wards everywhere and an enemy pushes out to take a buff camp or push a lane, you can see it ahead of time and compress your team onto that person. If you can get vision, you can win games.

Literally all pro games of LoL have been won by wards. Most pro games of LoL have at least one crucial game-winning play that would have been impossible without the help of a ward. If you're trying to crawl out of bronze or silver league, just ward. It's probably more important even than lane mechanics.

Where should you ward? To be honest, it isn't that important at the lower levels. There are good places to ward, and there are less good places to ward. However, as long as your ward reveals some fog of war, it's probably okay. If you're laning, ward somewhere that someone can enter your lane. If you're jungling, ward somewhere the enemy jungler might pass through. If you have even a vague idea where those places might be, you're well on your way to placing effective wards.

Always walk into lane with wards, regardless of your role. On your first return to base, pick up at least one. If you can afford to, you should try getting a ward in your starting item build.

Although we can learn a lot from watching pros, there are things we can emulate and there are things we can't. We're not going to get pro level mechanics without serious practice, and we're not going to have pro level mindgames or prediction without thousands of games. However, we can steal some of their behaviors in order to improve our games in small ways. The game sense and the mechanics are things that we can build with practice.

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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