Chapter XX: A Guide to Self-Preservation
Warning: this guide contains hyperbole. It also contains some detailed concepts and suggestions for keeping yourself alive throughout the game.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ONE CAN DO IS AVOID DEATH.
See end for definitions. Key points and summaries are bold and italic.
At first I thought maybe I just sucked and I started playing a lot of intermediate bot games, but I realized it's not my fault at all. I'm getting quite aggravated because it seems like everyone I am matched with is taking all of the fun out of this game. How are they doing this? They recklessly charge in and then get killed, literally, meaning without any exaggeration. There have not been many cases where the other team genuinely had more skill; they just get fed lots of kills and then their advantage is too large to combat. You'll hear this over and over in every guide to play this game that you read, but that's because it is important:
It is vital to you and your team's success to not die. Things happen when you die that are not beneficial to you or your team, and it does not really matter if you do get a kill in the process.
Things that happen when you die:
-The killer gets a hefty sum of gold, especially if they ended a killing spree.
-If someone assisted them they will also get a lot of gold.
-If you have a laning partner then they now have to deal with both enemies alone.
-If you do not have a laning partner then your lane is easy to push.
-Especially because you will have to wait a set amount of time before you respawn.
-You will fall behind in gold and experience earned every moment that you are not in your lane.
If I finish them off doesn't that mean I get gold for me and my laning partner?
You'll get gold, but you won't make headway against your opponent. You both just gained about the same amount and there is one person missing from both your lane and the enemy's lane. If you happen to leave your partner with low health or someone who counters them well you are probably giving them another kill too.
If I kill them both then won't I have come out on top anyway?
While you may come out with more gold than they did you are still dead for X amount of seconds, leaving your laning partner alone and open to ganks. If you're past the laning phase and you're the only strong player on your team because you kamikaze charged in to get most of your kills then you've basically deprived your team of their best asset and despite the numbers difference four against three is not any easier if the three have been fed a lot of kills.
How are we supposed to get any kills then?
You bide your time and wait for an opportunity. As soon as they make a mistake (even one as small as underestimating you) you need to work together with your laning partner to capitalize on it (or just by yourself if you're solo I suppose). You should only be doing this as long as you have an advantage over them in some way though, preferably in health during the laning phase. Of course the enemy may or may not be waiting for you the same way, but that's all the more reason for you to not make mistakes that could give them the upper hand.
Not dying is too hard though...
There's no rule that you have to stay in your lane for the entirety of the game, or even the laning phase. If you are up against an enemy (or enemies) that counter you well then request a lane swap. If swapping lanes does not help then you have to adapt: How are they getting their kills? Doing something as simple as staying behind minions or sidestepping out of the way can save you from many of the harassing skill shots from enemies like Nidalee, Morgana, Lux, Blitzcrank or Dr. Mundo. It can be difficult to do things like this, but if you can pull it off then they will have wasted time and resources trying to harass or kill you.
In Summary: Dying is bad.
Strategies for self preservation:
Staying behind your minions:
The minions are as much a part of the game as you are. The enemy's minions are a source of gold and experience as well as a hindrance, and your minions are meat shields. A lot of skill shots can be blocked by minions (Obviously not Lux's Final Spark which all of her opponents loathe, but her root can be minion blocked) and the only real consequence to you is that one of your minions may be dead. Most enemies also have to deal with unit collision (Hecarim and Alistar are exceptions I know of aside from enemies using the ghost spell) meaning that they can't just walk over your minions, or theirs, to get to you. That does not mean you are a hundred percent safe of course since there are champions with abilities that allow them to leap around (Jax, Pantheon, and Rengar are prime examples).
Stay behind your minions to block incoming attacks.
Be mindful of enemy minions:
Later in the game you can ignore this because their damage is often too trivial to notice, but in the early laning phase if you jump into a group of minions to start attacking an enemy champion then suddenly you could be taking steady and quickly building damage from the horde that has suddenly turned all of their lances, wands, and cannon towards you. Even late in the game a large horde of minions can spell trouble, primarily in the line of base defense. If more than one of your inhibitors is down then there will be a fairly large influx of enemy minions as their super minions push the lanes and they help their own group grow. Such a large group can manage to take out quite a bit of your health if you are not built in a tanky way.
Enemy minions can block your path and do damage too. Do not underestimate them. Being executed by minions is embarrassing.
Every champion has their dream build, but the dream build is not always the best build. If your dream build does not come with any defense then you will quickly find your dream trampled upon. If there was a situation where all of the opponents happened to be AP casters would building your armor value help? Of course not. Unfortunately things are almost always never this simple. You have to take into consideration what you need the most and build accordingly. Are they strong in AP? Maybe Hexdrinker is a good option for you. Do they have a lot of CC? Maybe Mercury's Treads are a good choice. Is there a really strong AD character? Thornmail and Ninja Tabi counter this very effectively. If you're not sure what you should be building then hold tab and look at the enemy's last known item configuration. Focusing on offense? Throw a little defense into your load out. Focusing on defense? That means their damage will probably be a little lower and you can focus more on offense, especially penetration values that benefit your character (Last Whisper vs Void Staff if they have stacked it up high enough).
Look at what the enemies are doing with their characters and build your items towards being effective against them.
Don't turret dive so early on:
There's a right way and a wrong way to turret dive, and a lot of times people do it the wrong way. The conditions to check for early on are: they are nearly dead, you have a decent amount of health, they can be finished in a short amount of time, and the chance that they will snare, stun, root, or taunt you is low. I will explain why each part is important below.
They are nearly dead:
Making a turret dive when their health is full is just plain stupid. If you can't cause a large amount of damage in the time span of about a second and a half then diving while they have half or even a quarter bar of health is equally foolish.
You have a decent amount of health:
This pretty much explains itself. As soon as the turret detects that you are attacking anything other than a minion it will target you. If there aren't any minions in range and you're the only one that steps in it's going to target you immediately. A turret does about 150 damage, and turret damage increases by 22.5% of its normal damage for each hit after the first against a single target. Turrets also have 45% armor penetration. There's also most likely an angry horde of minions that is chasing or shooting at you. If you cannot survive a couple of major hits then you might as well not dive because you will either give them a free kill if they have hit you in the moments leading up to your death or you will be executed, and that's just embarrassing.
For more information on turrets see:
They can be finished in a short amount of time:
If you can burst away half of their health bar than good for you. If that is the case and you know it then you can ignore the first piece of advice, but otherwise you shouldn't dive. During the time that they are still alive they can turn around and start attacking you, adding to the big chunks of damage that the turret is already going to be dealing, or even worse what is in the next section below.
There is a low chance that they will prevent you from leaving the turret's range:
I cannot emphasize this section enough... Shen has to be one of the nastiest opponents to face this problem with early on. Singed is equally threatening. Shen can taunt you and then for a moment you will be forced to follow and attack him. During this time he can lead you into the turret's field of fire or drag you far enough into it that you will not walk out alive. Singed is even more menacing, and he can ruin you with two simple skills: Fling and Mega Adhesive. If you get too close then one of two things will happen: Smart Singed will fling you into the turret's field of fire and then throw Mega Adhesive on the most obvious escape route. In this case even if you are smart enough to escape through the route that doesn't have an uncleansable snare you'll be alone in their jungle. One could say that chances of escaping alive are equally low in most cases. The more cunning Singed that has noticed you have over extended into the turret's range will throw Mega Adhesive in the path you are escaping on, catch up to you as you are walking out of it, and then fling you back onto it again. If you're not dead from the number of times the turret has hit you with increasing damage and Singed's nuke then you'll be pretty close to it. The bottom line is that you have to play with caution and know the skill set of the enemy you are up against. If you have no idea what they can do then watch and learn, and if you die then remember what happened for the next time.
TLDR: If your enemy can prevent you from leaving the turret's range then you are pretty screwed.
Stop feeding them easy kills by tanking the turret. Being executed by a turret is better, but still pretty much announces to everyone that you were dumb enough to get killed by one.
Do not wander around outside of your turret's range by yourself unless you know that it is safe:
The turret is your safe haven early on in the game, except from a skilled Tryndamere that is level six or higher or enemies with nasty skill shots that they've leveled up, and you should stay near one in case there are enemies about. Your ally vision allows you to see everything that other players can see, what your turrets can see, and what your minions can see. Use this to your advantage in knowing where your enemies are. It is often quite easy to tell when someone is leaving their lane for both you and your opponent if you or them happen to be near minions or an opposing turret. If you're having trouble knowing when the enemy is coming then invest in some sight wards. They will cost you, but you can prevent the enemy team from amassing more kills and make sure that you stay out in your lane rather than spend time dead. Just get a few minion kills and you will have made that up easily. On a side note here just because this caused more than one game to go completely awry: DO NOT LET THEM SEE YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATES MAKING ANY TREND THAT SUGGESTS YOU ARE GOING TO KILL BARON NASHOR. Anyone with a brain who so much as glances at the map will pick up on this immediately and unless they are all dead, too far away, or they cannot compete with you they will do everything they can do gank and/or kill steal. Even if they cannot compete with you they may just drop in and steal the kill at the last second, earning the exalted buff for their entire team. The safest way to approach Nashor is through the jungle. Someone scouting ahead for wards with Oracle's Elixir in a non-conspicuous way could ensure that you will secure Nashor's buff.
TLDR: Don't wander off by yourself and get ganked, and use the fog of war to your advantage.
You are much safer around your turret than you are when you're not around it. Use the Fog of War to hide your movements. See Information Warfare.
Avoid face checking:
This really doesn't apply to bot games, but in the PVP matches I have played people still do it. What's usually waiting in the top and bot bushes of some cunning enemy laners? Them of course, waiting to dish out a large amount of crowd control and burst damage to rip you to shreds. Doing what seems like basically giving them a kill can be frustrating, and that's why avoiding face checks will thwart their efforts, or at least make them waste time sitting in the bush. There are certain champions with abilities (like Ashe) that allow them to see into bushes without sticking their champ in harm's way. Champions with skill shots can also check the bushes by shooting it long ways through the patch and listening for a sound denoting a successful hit. If you cannot do either of these things then purchase some wards or have someone who can check for you do so.
Shoving your champion in the bushes to check for enemies is dangerous and can often result in death. There are safer ways to check the bushes and you should use them.
Don't join a fight in progress unless you're very close or it looks like your team is winning:
I'm not saying that you should abandon your teammates, in fact if you can you should throw some crowd control out there to impede their pursuers, but it's a group fight. You need to enter the fray as a group, because after they kill those who arrived early they will kill anyone who arrives late. There is a countless number of times that I've seen this: a fight starts where the enemy has an advantage in numbers and possibly power and those poor souls who happened to be there for the counterattack are all slaughtered. I swear I can hear "LEEEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOY JENKINS!" as the nearby teammate(s) rush in and feed them more kills rather than retreating to a place where they have the home field advantage.
If most of your team is already dead do not charge in and give the enemy team another kill. Group fights should start as group fights and end with one team dying and or fleeing.
There is power in numbers:
Is there some undeniable desire to prove one's self by running off alone and getting kills? "Oh yeah, I can take on the other people like a real boss with my mad skills. I'm the man (or woman). Bow down before me and worship my awesomeness. You noobs are no match for my swag." Summoner's Rift and Twisted Treeline are NOT games for that sort of thing. No matter how many kills you amass there is no reason to take pride in defeat, there is only shame. Accepting defeat with dignity is important, but when the number of times I've died is divisible into the second lowest number of deaths by more than one it makes me feel like I'm the only person who is not a kamikaze pilot (this has actually happened). The reason that there are four other people on your team is because you are supposed to work together for victory. As I previously mentioned if you're really strong but you've fed them enough to give them an advantage over all of your other teammates then where does that leave them as soon as they finish ganking you?
It doesn't matter how many kills you got if you still lost the game. Does the sentence "hey, I got twenty-five kills in my last game, but we lost" seem appealing to you? How could you lose the game if you were that fed? Work with your teammates or stop playing team games.
Use your home field advantage:
I mentioned before that you're safer near your turrets right? In the late game enemies may have more health and not pay much heed to turrets, but if you can force them to fight in the turret's range then they will continuously take turret damage on top of what you're doing. Also recall that turrets do more damage with every hit, their attacks ignore 45% of the target's armor, and they attack about once per second. If you can last more than a few seconds in a duel then the turret's added damage will have tacked on quite a bit to your own, and there's also a chance they will take the extra time to try to retreat from the turret. This means more time while you are damaging them while they are not damaging you (in some cases) assuming their only option is to walk out of range.
Make your enemies tank your turrets and minions for added damage.
Use Flash or Ghost:
While the enemy can flash just the same as you can if they don't have it while you do then they are just out of luck unless they have a gap-closing move with a pretty decent range on it. There are a lot of places on the map that can be used for escapes with flash because they force the enemy to walk around an area rather than going through it like you did. The same principle applies with Ghost except that you will want to use the added movement speed and collision ignore to escape through a horde of minions or just increase the distance between you to the point that they cannot reach you anymore.
You can use Flash or Ghost offensively, but you should not be afraid to use them for escaping.
Your role in the team and how these strategies should be taken:
The key words to remember after you've read this guide are within reason. If you want to do your best to avoid being killed that does not mean you should hide next to the Nexus for the whole game. There are times when you do need to play aggressively, but you must quickly learn to be a good judge of when those times are. Even if a section does not pertain to your role you should read it anyway.
You're the ones who should get into the fight first. In your case you do need to be aggressive because not only are you trying to get their attention, but you have to be the guinea pig. Since your build will emphasize having lots of health, armor, and magic resist your teammates can get a heads up that they should probably start running away if a few seconds later they see your name in the kill announcements. While this may simply be because the enemies spammed all of their abilities and popped their ults to kill you (in which case your team probably has the upper hand now) it can still serve as a clue about how the rest of the team should be playing. If they can gank the tank in a matter of less than five seconds with one to three champions then it's going to take even less time to kill the softer characters. If the situation looks too dangerous and you have the ability to do so then escape, but keep in mind that you may have to sacrifice yourself to save the rest of your teammates. You should definitely do what you can to hinder the enemy team's movement during a retreat, and if you can get away alive then that's even better.
You should be a little sturdier than the casters, but obviously you're not tanks. You should be the second ones to enter the fray if thinks seem to go well during the initiation (keep in mind that this should all be happening in a matter of a few seconds) and you should use your abilities to wreak havoc upon their group. It is essential that you all assist each other on the same target and that your kill order starts with the most damaging character in the line up. The tank (or you) can use the alert ping to put a flashing, red cross hair over the enemy that you should be targeting, and you should all do your best to interrupt their damage output and take them down. The priority targets are often the ranged characters that have been building items to do more damage rather than have more defense. If you do need to jump towards the back of their group then the tank needs to move with you and continue with their harassment while you take out their squishy characters. This is not an excuse to abandon the squishy rangers behind you though. If a good assassin character slips past the tank and fighters then the rangers could have some trouble dealing with him if he has not been weakened in the fight.
Rangers should not be on the front lines of the fight. The whole reason that they can attack from a distance is to not be in the middle of the fight. You don't need to stand way, way back, but you need to be back far enough that the enemies will have to venture into the middle of your group to get to you. If the enemy team scatters then it is safer to go up on the front, assuming that you have some health left. When they scatter you have the numbers advantage over any enemy that you pursue as long as you don't do it alone. If you're the only one that can pursue, the enemy's health is low, and to the best of your knowledge you think that they are alone or with someone equally weakened, then it should be okay to do so. Since you're at the back of the group it is also important to call any unexpected surprises to the rest of the group's attention. It's quite likely that a character that can leap around, or is quite sneaky, will ignore the tank and go for you instead. If this is the case then the tank should try his best to help you get some distance between you and your enemy. Since they have also stepped right into the middle of your group this is an opportune time for your team to simply engulf them.
It's likely that you will also be in one of the above categories, but if you are support then it is important that you focus on your role rather than getting kills. The task set to you is to do what your abilities allow to give your team an advantage in the fight. If you can heal then you need to do that. If you can give your ally a protective shield then you should give it to the one that looks like they are taking the most heat. If you can severely hinder the enemies with a debuff then you should focus on landing that. If you take up the support role then it is likely that your team expects you to play that way and is counting on you to help them succeed, just as taking any other role comes with expectations. If there's only one tanky character then they should be really tanky, and so on.
When you pick a champion you are expected to carry out that champion's role(s). If you do not do this it will probably hurt your team.
Risk Assessment: How dangerous are your opponents?
It can be hard to tell who is the most dangerous member of the enemy team. Skills, knowledge, and teamwork can make all of the difference. This game may be about smacking the life out of each other with big blades, giant anchors, lamp posts, magics, and sharp sticks, but on other levels information warfare will help you greatly. Looking at the scoreboard can tell you some of the basic things about your opponents that you can use to your advantage.
Things you can see on the scoreboard:
-The champion that each summoner is playing and their current level
-The summoner spells that they have selected
-The last known item configuration (updates each time they are spotted)
-Kills, deaths, and assists tally
-Number of minions killed
Generally you can tell how dangerous the opponents you are facing are from all of these things. This is also a good place to find out who you should be pinging first with that flashing cross hair. The champions with a lot of minion kills, a lot of champion kills, and advanced items built offensively are the ones you should be looking into targeting first.
Use the scoreboard to check out your enemies and figure out a kill order to effectively neutralize their team.
Wards and You: The Information Warfare Game
How does information warfare work anyway? Let's look at the definition of the word:
The use of information or information technology during a time of crisis or conflict to achieve or promote specific objectives over a specific adversary or adversaries.
How does this apply to League of Legends games? The area that I'm trying to spread it to in this section is map awareness. Knowing where your enemies are can thwart their ganking efforts or help you to set up a gank. Your turrets, minions, and allies are all sources of information, but what about the areas that are generally covered by the fog of war? These are the areas where opposing players often gather to prepare for their offensives. It's a good place too because unless someone has taken the time to ward the four critical brush areas on the map nobody is going to know about it. There are also some places along your lane that you can ward if your opponents are playing around in your jungle. For the purposes of this guide I will only cover the four vital areas, but any brush in your lane that your team does not have territorial control over should be warded. The four areas that need to have wards in them are shown in this map. The lower the number is the more important it is that the area be warded (unfortunately this map's maker was kind of sloppy). The areas I am referring to are north and south of the dragon and Baron Nashor. If a lane is being pushed then the places that enemies are likely to creep out of are the jungle entrances to the river. There is another side to this lesson however: destroying your enemy's wards will waste their resources and deprive them of information. You can purchase the oracle's elixir from the item store to grant you vision of invisible units until you die, and this will allow you to see, target, and destroy wards. Another thing that you should know is that there are two types of wards: Sight wards and Vision wards. Sight wards will simply allow you to see the area. Vision wards are more expensive because not only do they provide sight, but they will reveal invisible enemies in their range. If you're laning against a stealthing opponent then you'll be better off buying Vision wards over Sight wards.
Sight wards and Vision wards will make the game much easier for you because you will have the upper hand on information. You can use them to avoid ganks, monitor brush, and counter champions with stealth.
The bottom line: TLDR
Killing is not any fun if you die. Dying is not fun for you and it's not fun for your team. It is fun for the enemy because they had the pleasure of killing you and now have an advantage. Do everything in your power within reason to prevent your death and the deaths of your teammates. If you cannot escape death then learn from the experience and try to come out ahead next time. When you form your team you need to strive for some balance for more effectiveness. Always build your items based off of your current situation.