Ganking 102: When to GankMon 2nd Jul 2012 - 9:11pm Category: League of Legends
Ganking 102: When to Gank
The art of ganking is one that can be difficult to master for some, but is supremely rewarding. There are a lot of times when ganks go wrong, or an easy kill escapes. We’ve all seen it; a teammate taking wraiths while on their way to gank a weak enemy champion, and as a result the enemy champion just pushes their wave and goes back to base. Or a 2v1 situation in the top lane that ends in a kill for the enemy, sometimes a double kill.
The variable here that has an underestimated impact on success of the gank is timing. This timing I speak of is not limited to whether or not the engage on the enemy champion should have happened sooner/later; it is more about the timing relative to other important factors I will talk about. Paying attention to these factors can not only net you more kills, but it also promotes more team awareness as well as detailed map awareness. A way to look at ganks is one teammate assisting another. Learning to become synchronized with other players is a necessary step to improving.
The Minion Wave
There are a handful of junglers that can pull off devastating level 2 ganks. The power lies in that the enemy champion is usually still level 1, and therefore has no escape besides their summoner spells, and are also deliciously squishy. This is the most favorable 2 v 1 situation because there is no way the enemy can come out on top, right? Wrong. Timing is everything here.
Before you come in for any gank on a lane, especially early level ganks, check the minion wave. At an early level if the enemy has the wave pushing toward your tower, they are in a bad position, but chances are that the enemy minion wave has gotten big, as shown above. In fact, it’s gotten so big that this wave has the potential to bring down any level 1 or 2 champion. There is good news, though; you don’t have to fight in this wave. This is where mistiming makes a great situation become very risky. In this situation, waiting to engage the enemy until they are far enough from the wave so that an attack will not trigger a response from the minion wave is key.
One option is to run directly at the enemy, avoiding the minion wave so as not to get path blocked by them. The enemy has one of two responses to choose from, fight or flight. Most will choose flight which will move them far enough away for you to safely engage on them. Few will choose to fight in the wave. If this is their choice, wait until you are both in melee range to actually start attacking the enemy. This allows you to bring down the champion as quickly as possible, allowing you to spend the least amount of time in the hostile wave. This leads me to my next point, which is that in this specific situation, the ally that is laning against the target should seldom start the fight, as it will involve directly charging through the dangerous wave. A way around this for the laner is to attack from the brush, so that minions will switch targets once they disappear into it.
Another thing to watch out for is when the next minion wave is coming. It is actually very easy to see if you have an enemy wave incoming, look at your own. They follow the same path, and have the same timing, so when your minion wave is at your second tower, theirs is at their second tower, etc. If the wave is at the edge of the Fog of War, wait before you engage, as the minion wave will block your path as you chase your enemy and damage your champion. When the risk of the minion wave is involved, clearly communicating with your teammate your method of attack is the best way to make sure your timing is synchronized.
Patterns of Pushing
The second factor also focuses on the timing of minion waves. It is important to note that there is some sort of pattern to minions when left alone. One minion wave will overtake another, pushing towards a tower. This minion wave meets up with reinforcements and charges a tower and an oncoming enemy wave. The tower will eliminate the remnants of the prior waves as well as the current wave, giving the tower’s allied wave an advantage. What this means is that the lane is pushing towards the opposite tower. Or look at the images below.
It gets more complicated when champions are involved. They can push out waves, some faster than others, and they can also stop a wave from pushing in, sometimes indefinitely. Let’s work with the simplest scenario, in which both champions are last hitting minions. This is much like the situation in which there are no champions, because the effects that champions have on the minion wave while last hitting cancel each other out.
This is what usually occurs early game, as there are few champions at early levels that can effectively push out a wave without wasting mana. As a jungler, you should be watching all the lanes, seeing which lanes are pushing toward your tower, and which are pushing away. Many junglers will see a wave at the enemy’s tower and consider the lane un-gankable. However, with closer inspection and the assumption that both opponents are last hitting, we know that within the next couple waves, there will be an opening when the enemy’s wave pushes toward your tower.
The same goes the other way around; if your opponent is pushing their lane, you only have a minute or so to gank the lane before they will be safe under their own tower. Realizing this, will help a jungler know when it is optimal to farm jungle creeps, and when it is better to leave the wraiths behind and immediately move to gank a lane. There is a huge benefit of ganking a lane right before your allies' minion waves push to the enemy tower. If you are able to force the enemy to recall, this will deny them the exp, and the gold of several minion waves. This is an excellent strategy and can actually snowball a lane if done early in the game.
Sidenote: If you see a weak enemy in lane, HP.
If by some chance, via Clairvoyance or a well-placed ward, an enemy is spotted making moves to gank, the opportunity to counter-gank arises. When going in for a counter-gank, you must decide whether you are going in to save an ally, or are going in for the kill. With the former you will want to appear earlier, letting the enemies know their advantage is gone, possibly forcing them to retreat. With the latter, you will want to appear much later, probably letting the enemy commit to your ally/tower dive them, and then go in for the clean up. With this choice, communication must be clear between you and your teammate. Let them know the plan; that you’re not going to be coming to their rescue immediately.
Another opportunity to counter-gank, is to wait for a predictable jungler to gank a lane, and ambush them with your teammate(s). A very common example of this is a level 2 Lee Sin gank. Many Lee Sins, and other junglers who start at the Elder Lizard, will immediately gank either top or bottom lane, whichever is adjacent to their red buff. Communicate to your teammate that you want them to push their lane. Three possible benefits arise from this. First, if top lane, your teammate will be level 2 if they push fast enough. Second, the fact that they are pushing will assuredly lure the jungler to that lane. And third, you will have the bigger minion wave, giving you another slight edge.
The red circle represents the area that a jungler starting at red will likely come from to gank top. The white circle represents the ideal spot to set up a counter-gank.
On the flip side of the coin, you want to perform your ganks with immunity to being counter-ganked. Whatever you can do to their team, they can do to yours. Keeping this in mind, when you spot an enemy jungler top lane, you know that ganking bot lane is in your immediate advantage. Knowing the start points and pathing of the enemy jungler will allow you to time your ganks to be more effective and safe.
There are many champions that have skills that make them hard, or impossible to gank. These include Morgana with her Black Shield, Kassadin with his Rift Walk, Riven with Broken Wings and Valor, Vladimir with his Sanguine Pool, and many more. Some of these spells have short cooldowns while others have much longer cooldowns. It is best to time your ganks right after any escape spell is blown, especially if they use it offensively. If a Kassadin Rift Walks to Q>E combo his enemy, go in; he will not be able to escape for another 6 seconds. Sometimes your teammate can bait out certain spells, such as Morgana’s Black Shield, by engaging her and forcing her to use it to nullify some magic damage.
There are also other spells that any summoner has the chance to utilize, summoner spells. The #1 reason, that I can think of, anyone escapes any gank is because of summoner spells, namely Flash. Many allies will call out when their opponents flash, ghost, or even exhaust is gone. Although it isn’t explicitly stated, your ally is calling for a gank. The lack of utility that comes from having Flash, or other spells, on cooldown is not to be understated.
This situation is the same as when an enemy champion blows an escape spell, except that in this case, they blew a spell that has a cooldown of about 4 minutes! For 4 minutes they will be at the mercy of any gank, any slight overextension has too much punishing potential. I’ve also seen many junglers gank a lane, have the enemy blow their flash and never again touch that lane. They are doing it wrong. The enemy blew their flash because they knew or were scared that they were going to die. More often than not, the enemy will return to farm minions within a couple of seconds. Since you’re already in the neighborhood, circle around and prepare for another gank once they appear.
Early Game and Mid Game
Early Game is the time when ganks have the most potential to snowball a lane. And mid game is the time when ganks have the most potential to snowball a game. This isn’t to say focus on mid game ganks more than early game ganks. Both are important. It means that ganks must be focused on throughout most of the game. A successful gank mid game immediately gives the coveted 5v4 or 5v3 advantage, allowing your team to take objectives freely. Early game ganks give your team the advantage in mid game.
Stay away from ganks late game. More bad than good can happen from an attempted gank. If it’s a one or two person gank, and the enemy was baiting, it means you will be one or two teammates down, and therefore a lost baron, lost towers, or even a lost game. If it’s a full team gank on one person, especially if the person is far away from baron/you have an open inhibitor, it will mean the enemy team can focus on objectives while you pick up a measly kill, or in a worst case scenario, chased the enemy and they got away.
I’m not saying never try to catch the enemy off guard late game, because whoever catches the other team off guard first will most likely win. I’m saying looking to gank shouldn’t be a high priority objective anymore. Catching enemies out of position will be easiest when objectives are forced, and through jungle control.
In conclusion, ganking requires precise timing. The precise timing is best achieved through more game knowledge, but mostly through awareness of your team and map, and clear communication.