CC = crowd control
NPC = non-player (controlled) character
PC = player (controlled) character
carry = a damage dealer that is capable of providing offensive options for the team
tank = a damage soak that is capable of protecting the team whilst the team is completing objectives
AD = attack damage type (countered by armor)
AP = ability power type (countered by magic resistance)
HP% = champions capable of dealing damage as a percentage of the enemy's health (eg the item, Madred's Bloodrazor; Jarvan's passive; Malzahar's null zone; Amumu's despair; Mordekaiser's children of the grave)
jungler = a character that dedicates his/her time during the laning phase towards killing camps in either jungle section rather than laning, in order to maximise gold/exp potential for his/her team.
laning phase = the period between the first minion wave and the absence of sustained farming efforts accross all lanes
counter-jungling = the act of restricting or eliminating an enemy jungler's gold and/or experience gaining capacity
denying = restricting or eliminating an enemy's gold and/or experience gaining capacity
ganking = the act of co-ordinating an attack usually from the jungle or another lane on a player of the other team
mia = missing in action (also dubbed miss, SS)
re = return of a mia to their lane of originality
juking = misleading an enemy into believing something alterior to your intention (usually associated with movement)
ace = total elimination of enemy team within one teamfight
double ace = simultaneous total elimination of both participating teams at once
My guide is built up through my own experience and research and my opinions formed from this. I fully expect not to have covered everything, especially given the broad topic I am covering. If nothing else I aim to bring a lot of useful details to one place for the benefit of others, but ideally it will help give a broad overview of a successful gameplan.
Additionally, the links used include work by other users, I am in no way responsible for their opinions or content used.
PS: Everyone who has played it has just lost the game. :P
For lazy bums who can't stand walls of text, the section you want is #7 where most if not all my points are summarised. If you read the rest you might learn something useful though.
Sun Tzu has already got there first but I thought I would give a hand at trying to improve people's gaming experience.
Most guides begin with the basics and thats what I am going to do, but first I want to explain them and underline them - if I could I would several times just so they become engrained.
The key to winning is to achieve the objective that is required to win, and there are certain events which must proceed this (some are mandatory, other are compulsory) in order for this objective to be satisfied.
In LoL, the objective is to defeat the enemy nexus. To attack the nexus, you need to have defeated the (two) nexus towers; for attack access you require the elimination of at least one enemy inhibitor; which cannot be accessed until all the towers in that lane have also been defeated prior. Additionally, to do this you need to not succumb to the enemy team before-hand, but the objective is still clear:
To win you must attack.
To attack you need to have certain criteria in place; namely a sufficiently confident and/or organised team (or if the attack is split, a collection of players within that team), and a planned location for the attack to take place.
Sometimes only one player is necessary with which to attack with, some champions are better to do this than others, but there are several tactics that are employable in special circumstances that I won't cover till later in this guide.
So how best to prepare for an attack?
Some people are prepared to attack only when there is no material opposition opposing them, (some aren't even prepared to then...) which is not necessarily a problem, but it can lead to an over-defensive attitude, which may cause inevitable defeat if persisting for too much of the game. As mentioned in the build-up to the guide, there is no possible way of winning if the team your playing with never launches a single successful attack!
Attacking without success is as bad (if not worse than)/as not attacking at all, and to succeed in an attack, certain criteria needs to be met...
To plan for an attack there needs to be communication, or an general understanding (sometimes instinct works sufficiently on its own), of where, when and how the attack is going to commence, who is going to take part, and what needs to be done in order to manage the situation.
In order to communicate in a match with players you know, a voice-communication program is highly recommended (skype, teamspeak, ventrilo, and others), but in cases where you must play with random strangers, this isn't feasible or even recommended, as the common form of communication will come through the use of the chat system within-game and through the use of mini-map "pings".
Some team-mates have preferences in how to communicate, either through pings or through chat. Some prefer to use the chat system, in which case some signals can be slow to get through, but are much more easily understood; and some prefer pings, which can lead to quicker responses, but not necessarily intended responses.
To succeed at communication, it is highly recommended to take advantage of the time prior to the beginning of the laning phase (during selection and pre-minion wave build-up) ascertaining who prefers which method of communication. Additionally, those who prefer to use pings, should at least make a simple rule as to what kind of pinging results in what response.
usually a single ping can mean "look, theres an enemy here, take care" and rapid pinging can mean "oh *%&£, need urgent help at this location, please!", but sometimes the intentions can be alterior to these, so talk to the other players and set a rule of thumb:
1 ping for attention (but no committal of engagement)
2 pings for engagement
"spamming" pings is most likely to irritate the hell out of your teammates and this is not recommended.
With communication covered, it is time to cover the nature in which attacks can be successfully constructed.
The use of wards* can significantly aid your intelligence gathering of enemy player movement and can help you play aggressively (in a controlled manner) with more chance of success. They can also make the guarding against incoming ganks far easier to avoid, particularly during laning phases with enemy junglers, stealthers or roaming champions; during dragon and baron nashor kill attempts; as well as assisting the careful selection of good target lanes for pushing, amongst other uses.
*note that there are further additional things to be said on the topic of warding, and I do not completely agree with the positionings of wards (particularly the one at the dragon); prioritisations of wards used in the linked guide; and certains things such as the use of vision wards over sight wards is not covered in depth, but it is a starting point. The second guide's #5 ward - is my highest priority ward, as it counter's the #6 ward particularly well (especially if a vision ward is used), whilst giving sight of the dragon, if placed as far to the bottom-right of the brush as possible. Against good teams using wards also, this is my highest priority and I will always keep it warded whenever possible.
Attacking an enemy tower (particularly nexus towers) will likely result in counter-engagements from the opposing champions on the enemy team. Eliminating the enemy champion(s) defending the tower will make pushing significantly easier, but is not a requirement for successfully removing a tower.
Many of these considerations also apply to the attacking of the inhibitors and nexus, but the differential is the risk of meeting a superior force. Risk of attacking will be covered later in the guide.
Sometimes towers take several attacks to remove from the game, sometimes they require only one. Skirmishing (repeated minor engagements) on a tower can be a preferable game plan, particularly for attacking champions with mitigation or healing spells, and particularly those with a ranged damage-type focus. Other aids to skirmishing include the availability of escape mechanisms, good map awareness, and sufficient awareness of how much incoming damage is likely to be received in the process of each skirmish engagement.
Clearing a tower in one engagement typically requires either a co-ordinated team-effort; in which case there needs to be a clear engagement focus if the enemy team is defending the tower: either focus the enemy champions, or focus their tower, in terms of damage; an absence of enemy champions (through enemy champion elimination; diversionary tactics; or the enemy team's lack of ability to cover the map).
I am not going in-depth into how to beat specific team combos or specific champions here, or even how to utilise specific champions, I don't have the time or space to cover what is already covered in multiple guides; neither am I going to cover things like jungling or counter-jungling - though I highly recommend watching all the available guides written by stonewall regarding these things, because in understanding how each champion can jungle, you can make the greatest advantage out of your warding; trapping; gank-awareness; gank-organisation and buff kills. In fact, I highly recommend playing as many champions as possible to get the best understanding of each champion's capabilities - because in defeating these champions with your champion of choice, understanding the enemy's capabilities is essential.
For more general guides and champion specifics, Try shatterX's work.
I will however provide some guidance on how to best guage scenarios for successful returns on an engagement.
A) Damage (and Counter-damage: Mitgation/Healing) types: Recognise the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent as well as your own.
All champions have their individual quirks but many of them do damage from a primary source. If you struggle with the burst damage being sustained from an enemy champion, then you can counter this through the use of defensive items against their primary damage type. Sometimes this isn't necessary, or sometimes you simply can't afford to take the defensive items. I would typically recommend taking the offensive items first, as outgoing damage potential for most champions (including some tanks and support champs) can greatly assist ganking potential, which can turn a game in your favour early on. To aid this you need gold and for attaining gold, there are numerous sources; enemy minions, jungle npcs, enemy champions, enemy towers, in addition to last-hitting an enemy inhibitor or nexus (each provide 50 gold that isn't global). Gold will be explained later, but the crucial element of beating an evenly matched opponent is recognising the patterns in their gameplay. If a champion is bursty, then efforts perhaps should be made to mitigate the occurrence of crowd control (CC); CC+burst = easy kills. If a champion does sustained damage, look to find ways of doing your burst, and exiting safely, so as to avoid succumbing to damage. Some if not all champions have elements of both burst and sustained damage, so knowing when the burst is likely to arrive is a key element; knowing the rough timers on your enemy cooldowns is invaluable, particularly their ultimates - if this can be communicated throughout the team, particularly at times at which the game is reaching its climax, and you are not in the heat of battle, can assist other team-members. An enemy low on available cooldowns is significantly less risky as a target, for the period in which those cooldowns remain unavailable to them.
Acquiring a target:
Communication is key here; you either agree before-hand in anticipation of a fight to set a priority in terms of which enemy champions to fight - this is a common tactic, yet flawed by the real-time nature of the game and the adapation of enemy players as necessary in order to survive your attempts; agree as you engage, which is more likely to succeed but may waste time in which your chance to initiate remains, dwindles; or you do it on the fly, in which case you need to send STRONG signals as to who your target is and hope your teammates take notice and join you.
Sometimes split-targetting is required, or preferable, but usually a solid focus works best (though there are countless teams who are often seen using high aoe focused champions, such as katarina, kennen, amumu, and so on. Nevertheless, an element of focus is useful even in these scenarios, if nothing else, for the use of CC. Nothing is worse than ending up attacking everyone and defeating nothing.
Avoid targetting champions (when there is a choice) that are very durable (high mitigation: armor/magic resist or damage reductions - such as Alistair's ultimate) or have multiple (and/or strong) escape mechanics. Check the summoner spells of the enemy before engaging, make sure that you can stick to your target.
Evaluate the greatest threat(s) from the enemy team, isolate them, whether temporarily (to dispatch other members of the enemy team) or permanently (through eliminating them).
Trap vulnerable members of the enemy team through the use of disables, whilst avoiding those of the enemy where possible.
Know your damage - if you are a cooldown based champion, particularly at low levels where your cooldown timers are higher, dont over-extend yourself to finish a target that you cant eliminate in your initial burst.
Avoid over-extending, which occurs if you pursue a target into dangerous territory (into enemy-tower range) or the enemy jungle, particularly without the support of your allies (this is particularly common in lower level games where communication is poor).
Time your attacks - you cant afford to waste too many opportunities in a balanced game; being clinical is a lot to do with timing your assault on the enemy. This can be enhanced with the use of baiting.
By Baiting your enemy into dangerous territory (guarded brush or tower range) with the use of a low level health or squishy player, you can lul the enemy into a false state of security. This can lead to a successful trap, but should always be backed up with a superior force or it can be devastating.
Make full use of your abilities; champions with disables are particularly effective against champions that have channelled or timed buffs/debuffs, as they can eliminate either a potential threat to themself or ally, or maximise the effectiveness of the disable by wasting the enemy's cooldowns for the maximum period of time or eliminating the potential use of complimenting damage utilities; champions with complimenting damage utilities (such as brand's aflame, anivia's frozen state combo, akali's mark, annie's stunning passive, and so on.
B) Gold & Equipment
Last-hitting minions is a solid way of acquiring the necessary gold for later on in the game.
Maximising global gold opportunities is a good way of ensuring that the items you need will be acquirable, in addition to those of your teammates.
League of Legends is a team game, and boosting your companion's performances is as useful as boosting your own, granted they are capable of wielding it to the same capacity of skill as your own. Even if they are not, making sure your tank is sufficiently capable of mitigating, or your support has enough aura items, or ensuring your carry has sufficient damage output or survival options is crucial to winning engagements.
A large part of the game is centred around farming, but many don't take into consideration the fact that whilst you need to maximise your gold output, so does the members of the enemy team.
Denying enemy gold opportunities is a tried and tested method of enhancing your gold use. If you can get even half an item ahead early game, it can pay huge dividends later as the effects of out-gearing your opponent begins to snowball into effect.
Methods of denying include:
i) "zoning" an enemy laning opponent (either through denying their last-hitting, or even by keeping them completely out of exp-gaining range), by sustaining a minion balance and keeping them out of attack range through the use of engagement fear; which can multiply in effect if they take bigger and bigger gambles in order to stay within "zone" range to acquire their gold/exp.
In order to zone you need an advantage over your opponent; it can be something as simple as exploiting a negative attitude towards engagement (if the enemy wants just to farm and not to attack the enemy player - the opponent can utilise this by repetitively harassing the negative-attitude player until they back away from the farming region, and then sustaining this by keeping their enemy at a level of harassment that they cannot stand - and need to recover by recalling; must succumb to death if they attempt to counter the zoning attempt; or remain in a position where they are denied the exp/gold.
To zone succesfully, your own team's minions, must die when the enemy is unable to stand safely in exp-attaining range. To do this safely without too much risk involves allowing the minions to push as far into your lane as possible, without them being under your own tower, whilst still remaining (yourself) in exp-range (and preferably still in range of being able to last-hit the enemy minions).
see this video (whilst slightly out-dated, is a great guide that still remains applicable to date)
ii) "counter-jungling" an enemy jungle (or even your own, in the absence of a jungler on your team) can lead to deprived exp or gold for the enemy jungler. good targets include buffs (particularly against enemy junglers that rely on a given buff), ie ancient golem (blue) and lizard (red) (usually in that order of preference). in addition, advanced counter-jungling can include the removal of multiple enemy jungle camps, with the sole exception of the least-exp/gold granting mob of that group; jungle camps do not replenish until fully killed, so in order for the respawn the jungler must run through the camp and kill every remaining mob, and then wait for their respawn before continuing.
counter-jungling can happen at any time and be useful, but the best uses are either 1) well in advance of the arrival of the enemy jungler (you don't want to get caught whilst finishing!), or 2) as the enemy jungler is in the process of finishing at a camp (when they are likeliest at their most vulnerable state): either through a buff steal and/or a gank attempt (best if the enemy is vulnerable hp/mp-wise).
iii) "over-pushing" minions in a lane can also drain gold from opponents; by allowing the enemy tower to last hit your own minions instead of the opponent champions, you deny them gold.
This is one of the most common forms of denial seen in low elo matches, but it is applicable everywhere granted that map awareness is good.
It is commonly applied after the successful elimination of enemy champion(s) from the lane, in order to limit their exp/gold gain as effectively as possible (though if already in tower range - pushing the tower is also a good (and possibly superior tactic - especially after the laning phase) alternative tactic to employ (though it is totally possible to combine the two - the recommendation).
iv) "Global-gold targets" such as Baron Nashor and the Dragon are just as key in providing gold as turrets are; Nashor provides 300 global gold (1500 to the team), Dragons 190pp/950pt and Turrets 150pp/750pt. These are all sizeable amounts and add up, especially when you consider that in taking a jungle global gold source, you also deny the enemy team that amount, so the amount gained strategically speaking is doubled.
see Monster Spawn Times for timings.
When you kill baron or the dragon then take a note of the time and add the appropriate amount of time so that you know when the next one is. Put the time of the next spawn in the chat box for your team to see, so they will additionally be prepared for the next time it spawns! (Dragon: add 6 minutes, Baron: add 7 minutes!)
Note that some junglers are faster than others, and they may take more or less time to move from camp to camp. Getting a feel for how fast the enemy jungler is moving, and the good-timing of the use of the summoner spell "Clairvoyance" (reveals map at location of spell for 6 to 10 seconds) or wards can help in finding out the speed at which the enemy jungler moves through their jungle.
4) The risks involved with poor co-ordinated (communicated) attacking efforts
A potential failure to kill any number of enemy targets (both npcs and pcs)
A potential death on your team
A potential loss of a defensive structure (towers/inhibitors/nexus) in the enemy team's resulting push
Or any of these
5) How to avoid these risks
Try to avoid teamfighting when your team is low on available cooldowns - particularly if the enemy team hasn't used their longer cooldowns for a while - in contrast, try and take advantage of times where the enemy team is low on cooldowns (eg Tryndamere's ultimate not being active)
Do not engage the enemy out of choice in poor locations (do not face-check brush with enemy MIA; use vision spells (clairvoyance; lux's light bomb; nidalee's traps; corki's seeker) or damage skillshots - preferably those with some recall that show whether or not a target has been hit (morganna's dark binding; mundo's cleaver both show heal effects when a target has been hit - through lifesteal/spellvamp)); make sure that if your ranged players are fighting behind a wall, they are not kited out of range (if they cant fight you are essentially undermanned - make efforts to make sure they can fight as much as possible); avoid initiating from multiple locations at once (this essentially isolates your team members straight away without the enemy team having to do anything on their part) - some champions escape spells thrive on attacks from multiple locations (eg Akali's ultimate.
Do not engage the enemy out of choice when outgunned or outmanned (factor in turrets to the equation - though if five enemies assault you under your tower you probably want to get out of there)
Anticipate player movements (both friendly and enemy), through the tracking of spell use, general movement, positioning; so as to better make use of your own movement, spells and positioning.
Be alert to game-breaking (or fight-breaking) spells (including summoner spells) and prepare for their use, so that you can counter them (or dodge them). Pay particular attention to "skill-shots" such as Nidalee's Spear or Lux/Morganna's binding spells; "Area/Location damage effects" such as Pantheon's heartseeker strike, Amumu & Galio's ultimate, Cassiopeia's Miasma; and "bouncing/jumping spell effects" such as Ryze's spell flux, Brand's ultimate, Fiddlesticks's dark wind, Malzahar's dark visions.
Successful antipations can lead you to "juking" enemy player's travel or skillshot uses which can lead to saving yourself from harm. When travelling through brush with enemies on your tail, particularly when suffering a movement disadvantage, try not to travel continually in straight lines.
When scouting, particularly in an enemy jungle, or against a team with stealthers, make use of an Oracle's Elixir - which should preferably be buffed on durable champions or champions with good escape techniques (for prolong the longevity of the buff), that can also trap enemy targets (or in proximity of another player that can) to allow others to assist with the killing of an enemy champion; Strength in numbers - do not put yourself in a dangerous position which can be easily avoided - scouting enemy jungles with MIA enemy players and low levels of support, even with high evasion options, is more often than not an act more risky than its worth; Warded parts of the battlefield are generally safer than shadowed parts of the map - stick to them unless you can back up your movement with support from allies or some other advantage.
6) What are the rewards of a successful engagement?
Denying an enemy of experience, gold or both
Eliminating an enemy champion
Eliminating an enemy defensive structure
Denying the enemy a successful gank or tower kill
Or combinations of the above
7) How to judge whether an engagement is worth it or not (a summary)
Generally speaking, global gold events are easily worth the death of a player or two, exluding killing sprees 190x5=950 - (3x300=900) = 50+ !!!. That said, being underhanded at a critical point in the game, or taking a jungle buff whilst the enemy pummels your nexus, is probably not the best course of action.
Being aced is extremely dangerous, especially late game; Even when winning comprehensively, it is possible to lose a game in one fell swoop by getting aced - even when the enemy has to move the entire distance of the map to defeat you. I have played one such game when almost utterly defeated (no towers remaining; inhibitors all down but respawning; significant kill counter disadvantage (about 1:3 at almost an hour in)) and yet managed to ace the opposition, before clearing all towers on the middle lane, including the nexus turrets, before raising the enemy nexus to the ground before they could stop the surviving members of my team (lich bane works wonders when pushing towers hard!); It is one of the reasons why surrendering is almost never the best way out of a losing game, considering that a single ace can change a game utterly. A good way of getting your own team aced is by engaging on a one-by-one basis. Its very nice to support someone in trouble, but it can lead to more people dying fruitlessly. If your team has experienced a teamfight previously and you are short-handed, by engaging, even when claiming more lives of the opposition in the process of the teamfight, its usually going to be worse, given that (for eg) even playing 1v3 under a tower is often better than 1 player pushing without opposition: sometimes its better to be selfish.
That said, one of the worst crimes you can commit is not engaging when you are able to support promptly - especially when your tank is the one who is engaged - especially when they forced the engagement. I have seen many times the result of cowardly carrys watching their tanks slowly die without even making an attack.
Even when the tank you are playing with is in your mind, an idiot; if he is doing his job (holding the attention of the enemy (players/towers or a combination of the two) and allowing you to do your job (damage deal - whether at a turret or enemy champion) as a carry, then it is your responsibility to do that job. Trust your tank, they usually end up playing that role because either they are a masochist and need help (in which case they don't need you making it worse for them); are filling a position no-one wants to fill (in which case they deserve some respect for doing it when you didn't); or not an idiot (in which case you should probably trust what they do - if the tank engages, follow him; its not exactly like you have another tank - and if you do then fighting 4v5 is worse than 5v5!).
To win, you must attack at some point within the game. Defending has its place in bolstering your power for an attack. If you cannot attack you cannot win, it is that simple.
Make sure your team makes the most out of every opportunity to make gold; killstealing means very little unless it continues to rack up - but again only if it results in the killstealer gifting the enemy team a chance at a comeback later if they take his killspree away from him!
Use the advantages whilst they exist: isolated enemy players; undefended enemy defensive structures; over-confident counter-junglers; enemy players arriving too early or too late for a teamfight; isolated enemy players in warded territory; capitalising on mistakes is one of the surest ways of leading to victory!
Every team makes mistakes, take yours with a pinch of salt - recognise the errors and learn from them; if they continue to happen - adapt your gameplay to minimise losses; and/or help the person making them stop doing them - don't harass them, it won't do you any favours!
Be aware of the entire map (though don't lose sight of what is going on in front of you!); including players of both the enemy team and your own! If someone has just left the bulk of the engagement in order to safeguard a tower that minions are killing; or to push a tower that has been left undefended - play conservatively! dont engage in a teamfight underhanded/outgunned for no reason! By all means keep the enemy team occupied or distracted from picking up on the fact your run-away teammate is pushing - but dont over-extend and let your teammate know when they need to pay attention to attacks that are incoming - either at your location, or leaving your location - theres no need to harass them about it, just make sure they know so they can plan accordingly!
Ward, Ward, and Counter-Ward!!!: the closer the game, the more important it is to ward, any information advantage is critical, particularly when it leads to the successful gank (or evade of a gank) of any number of players on a team. Clairvoyance is a supplement to wards, not a replacement!
Use your strength in numbers to the best possible advantage; if your dual-laning and have a jungler who would like to gank - don't push it so far that he/she can't do anything, its extremely uncool; make use of scenarios where you outman/outgun the opposition - if you are all in one lane and the enemy is split up, get that push on immediately - unless you can spare teleports to the locations of the enemy to foil their progress; likewise, avoid scenarios where you are outmanned/outgunned - especially late-game when the most damage can possibly be inflicted by losing a fight!
Always focus target - especially when fighting under the range of a tower.
Don't give up because your losing - games turn often and very fast. Think about how you can take down their team better and start doing something about it!
The middle lane is the most direct route to victory - Taking down the middle tower of any tier means it weakens the enemy presence in that lane and the surrounding jungle area on BOTH sides of the tower; whereas eliminating a tower at top or bottom results in only half that area weakening! Making full use of a good pusher (ranged) champion at mid that is capable of pushing the middle tower can make the midgame far easier for your team! Additionally, by taking down the middle turret, the carry at mid is far more likely to be capable of roaming the map looking for ganking opportunities.
Make sure to take advantage of every safe opportunity to last-hit the minions as they are your source of gold if you are low on kills. Well-farmed players hold a significant advantage over poor-farmed players come the first teamfight - even if the player with more gold has less level experience (or vice versa).
Communicate with your team! Proactively informing them of any MIAs during the laning phase in a way that suits them will make it far less likely that feeding occurs in another lane (of course it doesn't stop it from happening if they plain out suck, but it helps).
Build a balanced team; AD, AP & HP% types all covered; a damage soak and an initiator. A jungler and/or a support champion are not required but provide their own advantages.
That concludes the guide, please share your opinions and help me update it as necessary!
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
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