Making the Plays #3: Keeping and Using an AdvantageWed 13th Jun 2012 - 6:54pm Category: League of Legends
When it comes to winning a game of league, perhaps the only thing more important than gaining an advantage is being able to keep it once you have gained it. So often players will have a lead going into the mid-late game and not understand how to properly use it and then watch as the game stales back to 50/50. Even worse, a team might have a huge lead consisting of 5-10k gold over the opponent and/or map control and then misplay horribly in some way or just not do anything with it and proceed to lose.
You've all been in those games; you're 8-0 at the 25 minute mark and everyone is scared, but through a series of unfortunate events you find your team losing 15 minutes later. Whether you sit and wonder how it happened or you are pounding yourself over the mistakes you made, we're here to talk about what you can do to prevent those losses from happening in the future.
1. The Timing of Death
Let’s get this out of the way, dying is one of the worst things you can do in League of Legends, if not the worst. In addition to giving them gold and experience, you're unable to earn either of those for quite some time. This is not including the fact that the enemy team can now play without you being a factor for the next 30 seconds to 1 minute, which allows for a multitude of things to happen for the enemy team.
What is most important to realize with death however is that dying later in the game matters a LOT more than early in the game. While dying in the laning phase can result in the enemy having a significant edge in lane, this can be easily overcome through a number of variables such as jungle ganks and just out-playing the opponent. Deaths past the laning phase however can result in much bigger swings, ranging from dragons and towers to Baron's, Ace's, Inhibiters, and depending on how late in the game, wins.
Let’s look at an example:
You are playing jungle Lee Sin. It's 17 minutes in and you are 4-0-3. You've killed the enemy jungler, Nautilus, twice already in addition to taking a few of his camps and the rest of your kills and assists are from lane ganks. You are the threat on the map and you have given strong map control to your team.
You decide to continue to put Nautilus behind by taking his red that just popped recently. You can see everyone in their lanes, but you have no idea where Nautilus. Regardless you have been able to kill him pretty easily so you wander towards his red in hopes to take out him and his buff.
Nautilus however got smart and finally put some wards down since you've been beating him so badly. He pings for his top and mid to rush to red to intercept. You engage on the Nautilus and expect to take him out when you find yourself being 3v1'd a few seconds later as his mid and top come to help. Your mid and top follow their respective lane opponents to the fight but by the time they get there you have died. The enemy team then engages on your team mates who are now in a terrible position with you being dead and they die too.
The enemy team then rushes dragon since your bottom lane can't contest 2v5 and then shortly after taking dragon they drop your mid tower. All of this happened simply because you died at a point of the game where the enemy team could finally take advantage of it. While your death was still in the 'laning' phase, it ended up being the moment in the game that ended the laning phase.
From all of this, the enemy gained the gold from your death (which ends up being a little more because you gave up a killing spree bonus), another 600g from your mid and top dying, the gold from the 6 assists given, the 1000g from dragon, and the 750g from mid tower. At this point you have basically given them back a lot of the gold advantage you had obtained, not to mention the map control they have just gained from getting your mid tower and dragon.
This was all the result of you taking a risk that resulted in your death, which then snowballed into several kills and two map objectives. The worst part about this example is that it is actually quite common; you more than likely have been on the receiving or giving end of this type of exchange many times if you play a lot of League.
The point I want to get across from this is that dying is one of the easiest ways to lose an advantage, so once you have obtained a lead you really need to assess your risks vs. rewards so you don't end up in a sticky situation that gives the enemy a large gain. Ideally, the lesson to learn here is to just never die, but if there’s any time that you are extra cautious about dying, it is the mid game and late game. This leads us into our next common mistake that will lose your advantage:
2. Getting Cocky
I believe the largest determining factor in people losing an advantage is simply letting their own psychology get the best of them. Greed takes over very easily and players will lose their ability to balance risk vs. reward, which results in them dying or losing an objective.
Let's take the previous example. You decided to go for the red buff because you had already done so a few times in the game. Your thought process may have been along the lines of "I have already been successful with this many times, so I will be again!" You forget about the new dangers of entering the jungle this late in the game such as more wards and you being less powerful in comparison to the lanes that now have a lot more money.
More than likely, you going for this red buff is the result of highly outweighing risk vs. reward. At four minutes into the game, you as the dominant Lee Sin can quite easily kill Nautilus and/or take his red buff and get away without much penalty, and given how powerful Lee is at early levels the risk of failing this wouldn't completely cripple you either. Now, at the 17 minute mark, the risk is greatly increased due to wards being placed a lot more (especially at the wraith camp entrance that leads to red) and the fact that top and mid lane could quite easily kill you should you actually get caught.
The reward isn't too much higher unless you actually kill Nautilus AND make it out safely, and when you consider the dangers of allowing the enemy team to snowball into all those kills and map objectives, it probably isn't worth it.
The problem is that it is very common to want to go for that red though; people naturally want to take the extra mile and get all of the advantage that they can get and win in a completely crushing manner. The truth is this is the wrong way to play. The key to holding your advantage is to deny your enemies any chance of taking it back.
Thus, the best way to play when you are in the lead is to play very conservatively; you still need to press the advantage you have, but there is no reason to go for crazy big plays that risk deaths and losing map objectives. Simply continue to gain small incremental advantages (such as zoning them, denying them creep, taking jungle camps when safe, maintaining map control, etc.) and that will accumulate into a large enough advantage on its own.
Often getting cocky, greedy, or overly excited will make you want to make these decisions so it's important that you realize this and stop yourself before it becomes a problem. You have to separate your emotions completely from the game and just play.
3. Using Your Advantage
The most important thing you can do when you have an advantage is use it; as the saying goes, "Use it or lose it." By having a gear/level/map control advantage, you will be stronger than your opponent in some way, so naturally you can do things they can't. This means now is the time for your team to take objectives; aggressively push down towers (split or grouped up), take buffs and control the vision of the jungle via wards and oracles, take dragon, or maybe even take baron.
What you do depends on your team’s strengths and what advantages you have, but regardless of what you do it is crucial that you actually USE this advantage or you will give them time to recover and you will lose what you just gained.
For example, a very common mistake, made especially in lower ELO's is using Baron buff. After taking baron, players will run off, go farm some creep, take wraiths, split up when they shouldn't, etc. You're probably aware that Baron buff is incredibly powerful and that it only lasts a short time, so realize then that you should exploit every second of that time period to take objectives.
For the next 4 minutes you will be substantially stronger than the enemy team, and only for the next 4 minutes; after that, there’s a minimum of three minutes down time, and then Baron has to be taken again. Unless the wraiths or minions you were going for after baron earned you enough to finish a crucial item, there is no way that amount of gold is going to be worth more than the time given to you by Baron to push down towers and inhibitors.
Simply put, it is crucial you act intelligently when you have any sort of edge over your opponent. Don't waste time doing things like taking your own jungle creep when you have the opportunity to kill players, take towers, or take dragons and Barons. Those will be there when you get back and just aren't worth more than what those other things can offer. It also is worth it to just leave a camp if you were in the middle of it when something awesome happened on the map. I know that I personally as a jungler have that problem where I feel compelled to finish the camp, but when you look at the big picture, making SURE your team gets dragon is going to be a lot more worth it than the 70 gold you'd get from that wraith camp a minute from now.
That's all for today! I hope you enjoyed this installment of Making the Plays.