Friday, January 25, 2013

Five questions to ask before engaging

1.  What advantage do we stand to gain from this engage succeeding?

There are a couple types of advantages.  Gold and experience gain/denial are the most common ones that are considered.  But you also need to consider map control and objective control in the short term and the long term.  Short-term would be "Do we dive them now to get this tower?" and long-term could be something like "Dragon spawns in 90 seconds.  If we cause them to burn all of their summoners now but don't burn any of ours, we'll have an advantage in the dragon fight."  If you push them out of a bush that they had pink warded so that you can pink over theirs, you gain map control.  All of these can be sufficient reason to force an engage.

2.  What are the chances of success?

Diving the 10 hp support with no cooldowns when you're at full hp is relatively risk-free.  Diving the 100 hp support with all his cooldowns when you're at 25% hp is usually pretty risky.

3.  What advantage do we stand to lose from this engage failing?

When you're engaging, you're almost always denying yourself some sort of resource.  Lee Sin could be taking double golems instead of ganking botlane.  Miss Fortune could be farming the creeps at tower instead of fighting in the gank.  If the engage is successful, it's probably worth it.  But if  the engage fails, remember that in addition to giving up whatever kills/gold/experience you might give up to the enemy team by failing, you're also giving up the resources that you could have been collecting had you decided not to fight.  This is especially important to consider when you out-scale the enemy into late game.  Doing nothing, you're gaining strength faster than they are because they don't scale as well with resources.  Consider also any vulnerable objectives that the enemy might be able to take as a result of your failed engage.

4.  What are the chances of failure?

Consider the chances of different levels of failure:  Failure to kill the Janna you're chasing is one thing, but having the Vayne turn the fight around and get a double kill when you try to dive her is another.  Maybe it's unlikely that it fails, but if it fails it will fail spectacularly.  Or maybe it's likely that nothing happens as a result, and there's a very tiny chance that it goes extremely poorly.

5.  Is the engage worth it?

Consider the other four questions and their answers and then use that information to answer this one.  If it's worth it, go for the engage!  If not, maybe you should wait for a better opportunity.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Carry your Carry 6: Teamfighting

The way you teamfight varies with many more factors than the way you lane does, and there is little correlation between the way a support lanes and the way they teamfight---even for the same support but in different teamcomps.  This makes it somewhat harder to describe how to teamfight as a support, whereas for an ADC it's relatively easy to say "attack the most valuable champion that you are able to target without putting yourself at too much risk relative to the reward from getting that particular autoattack in."  However, for nearly every support and nearly every teamcomp, either your first or second goal in a teamfight is to get your carry to kill their bruisers without dying himself.  The way you accomplish this goal is what varies.

Before I continue, I want to make an important point about CC that's in fact so important that I'll probably give it its own post sometime soon.  CROWD CONTROL CAN ACCOMPLISH TWO THINGS.  IT CAN STOP YOUR OPPONENTS FROM DEALING DAMAGE, AND IT CAN ALLOW YOUR TEAMMATES TO DEAL DAMAGE.  IT IS THEREFORE MOST EFFECTIVE WHEN IT'S DOING BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.  It's not always necessary to use your CC to do both at the same time: for example, it's 100% worth it to stun their Shen before he can get his taunt off on you so that you can flash over the wall to safety when you're running away through their jungle.  Similarly, if you catch their support out while he's warding dragon, then you should use your CC to keep him there while your team quickly closes in for the kill.  But in some sense these are the exceptions that prove the rule, because in both cases you're trying to swing a death in the favor of your team and it's not an option to have damage being dealt in both directions.  That beautiful Sona flash-ult on 4 of the enemy team means nothing if you have no follow-up damage, and the Taric stun on the exhausted Jax whose jump is down anyway could have been used on the Riven who's currently autoattacking your carry, even if Riven is somewhat weaker than Jax.


Here's a quick breakdown of what your default goal should be unless you have a specific reason to do something different for most common supports.  For each champion I list two common sets of things you might want to do; the trend to notice is that one of them is almost always "keep your ADC alive," which is your goal when the rest of your peelers can't handle all of the enemy's divers.  This might happen because you don't have any other peelers or it might happen because the enemy has two strong divers and your carry's other peeler can't handle both of them without a significant amount of help from you.  In soloqueue, you're usually going to want to go with the "Keep your ADC alive" path because people don't tend to peel enough.

What does it mean to peel for your carry?  A brief definition is that peeling for your carry means stopping the enemy bruisers/divers from being able to kill your carry, not by doing damage yourself, but by letting your carry survive for long enough without being disabled to deal damage.  Basically every form of CC can be used as peel: Blitzcrank or Nautilus can grab an enemy away from his carry; Nunu can slow someone like Udyr who just wants to run at his carry; Soraka can silence a Singed before he can fling her carry; snares and stuns can completely stop gapclosing briefly; and blinds can stop any autoattack damage from being dealt.  Knockups and knockbacks are especially important because they interrupt dashes like a Leona E or a Jarvan E-Q combo.  This makes Janna one of the best champions in the game at peeling and a very good pick against hard-initiate comps.

Alistar:  (1) Peel bruisers off your ADC by pulverizing and/or headbutting away.  Use your ult to break CC or if you get focused.  (2) Use your W-Q combo on the (majority of the) enemy team while ulting to mitigate damage taken.

Blitzcrank: (1) Pull someone squishy and use all of your CC on them to get the kill before they can deal any damage.  (2) Use all of your CC to peel for your ADC.

Janna: (1) Use everything to peel for your ADC.  (2) Flash-ult their out-of-position squishy into the middle of your team and use your other skills to stay alive.  But actually, just use everything to peel for your ADC.

Leona:  (1) Use your ult on enemy squishies and your other skills to peel for your ADC or maybe even use all your skills to peel for your ADC.  (2) Dive the enemy ADC.

Lulu:  (1) Ult a diver and use your other skills to peel for your ADC.  If anyone on the enemy team has stealth, drop an early E on them!!!!  Even if someone has an oracle!!!!  (2) Use everything to peel for your ADC.  Note that putting a W on your ADC is akin to peel because it makes your carry able to kite better.

Lux:  (1) Shield your entire team, use your Q and E to help your ADC kite, and ult for damage across their carries.  (2) Shield as many people as possible, and use your Q and E to CC the enemy squishies.  It's unlikely that you want to use your E for damage; usually the slowing field is better, but if you somehow got fed early then you can just act like an AP carry.

Nami:  (1) Use your ult to knock up as much of the enemy team as possible and your Q to CC divers.  Use your E and W to help your carry kite and survive.  Try to get your carry to have the extra 30 MS for as long as possible (i.e. use your E and then wait 1.5 seconds to W, unless he needs to be healed NOW).  (2) Use all of your CC on the entire enemy team.

Nunu:  (1) Make sure your ADC is going to be blood-boiled for the next 3 seconds and channel your ult in the middle of the enemy team when they are unable to CC you immediately to interrupt it.  Preferably ice blast an autoattacker first.  (2) Do the same, but channel your ult underneath your ADC as a form of peel.  If you're too low to channel your ult safely like this then stay back and make sure you are able to continue blood-boiling your ADC.

Sona:  (1) Ult the enemy team and get a W chord off on a damage dealer.  Use an E chord to help your ADC kite and maintain an appropriate aura (more on this in my post "How to play Sona!").  (2) Use everything to peel for your carry.

Soraka:  (1) Use your silence to stop important damage from an enemy mage (this could be interrupting a channel), heal your carry soon as you can heal for the full amount and ult as soon as you can heal for the full amount on a couple important people or when you need to heal someone particularly important.  (2) Use everything to keep your ADC alive.

Taric:  (1) Use your stun on someone who's diving your ADC and ult and shatter them.  Heal your carry as soon as you can heal for the full amount.  (2) Use your stun to catch someone out of position or perhaps even dive the enemy carries.

Zyra:  (1) Hit an E on as many people as possible and then drop an ult below it.  Make slowing plants unless you have a lot of damage or a Rylai's, in which case you can make Q plants.  This path is pretty much the same as what you would do if you built AP.  (2) Use your E to help peel for your ADC, but you probably still want to try to drop your ult on as much of the enemy team as possible, especially if you have an AoE comp; if you need to drop your ult to peel for your ADC then Zyra probably wasn't a great pick (but still drop your ult to peel!!).


For the most part, your summoners will be flash-exhaust.  If you have heal, then heal your carry as soon as you can heal him for the full amount and he's going to continue taking damage OR when he's about to die and needs the heal immediately despite being ignited or having grievous wounds applied for some other reason.  If you have clairvoyance, then use your CV somewhere that your team needs vision, although you're unlikely to have your CV up during a teamfight---you probably engaged on them as the result of a good CV or got engaged on by them as a result of not having your CV up.

So we'll assume you have exhaust.  Usually, it's best to just exhaust the biggest threat RIGHT NOW to your carry, so that he can survive for longer.  This means the Irelia or the Jax that just jumped on top of him.  Try not to use CC at the same time as an exhaust: ideally, you will CC first and then exhaust as the CC is ending.  If your CC wasn't available at the time that you exhausted, then wait to use your CC until the exhaust is over, unless either (a) you yourself can't survive that long or (b) their bruiser is so scary that he can kill your carry through an exhaust (this could be because your carry is almost dead or it could be because their bruiser is really fed).

Exceptions to this are when their bruisers are significantly weaker than your carry and/or other peelers.  If your carry isn't having any problem dealing with the 0-7 Nocturne who just dove him, but their 5-0 Vayne is ripping through your frontline, then it's acceptable to flash towards Vayne to get in range for an exhaust and then exhaust her.  If you're doing this, MAKE SURE that either (a) her cleanse is already down or (b) if she cleanses your exhaust then you have other CC that you can throw on her now that her cleanse is down, and that this CC is sufficient to get past the 65% tenacity that she has from having just used cleanse.

Finally, you need to be very aware of cooldowns on gap closers when using your exhaust.  If Irelia's Q is up and she's close to within 650 range of your carry but not any closer, it might seem like you shouldn't exhaust her just when considering the positioning.  After all, she can't do damage to your carry nor can your carry do damage to her.  However, if you aren't close enough to your carry that you will be able to exhaust her after she jumps to him, you need to exhaust her now.  On the other hand, if her Q is down, exhausting her now would be a waste, as you can walk towards your ADC at the same time as she does and thus be able to exhaust when the full duration is useful.  You should know the cooldowns of all bruisers' gap closers at max rank and try to time them so that you can use your peeling skills appropriately.


Sometimes this is irrelevant because you get engaged on without warning, but hopefully your team has enough wards out that this doesn't happen, and you should always be aware of your positioning and actively try to optimize it anyway.  There are three major things that you can be doing at the beginning of fights/when you expect a fight to happen.

YOU ARE AN INITIATOR.  Sona wants to lead with her ult.  Zyra can lead with a snare.  Blitz leans with a hook (attempt).  In these cases you will want to be near the front of your team so that you can Shurelyas-engage or perhaps flash-engage with the Shurelyas on your jungler happening secondarily so that there's even less notice for the enemy team.  After the initiate, find your carry and stick to him (probably; again, there are many variables that affect what you do).

YOU ARE A PEELER.  Stand very close to your carry.  Not directly on top of, but close.  Make sure that you're not blocking your carry from kiting away, and instead try to be stopping their bruisers from reaching your carry in the first place.  This is extremely important.  If your carry doesn't have a phantom dancer, make sure that you're not blocking his movement path.

YOUR MOST IMPORTANT JOB IS TO BREAK AOE CC.  This can be silencing a Galio ult, or it can be using a Crucible on your carry after an Amumu ult.  In this case, you actually want to stand far from your carry.  This way, it's difficult to catch both you and your carry and another important member of your team in the CC.  If this isn't an option for some reason, then buy merc treads so that you can give at least one other member of your team the "tenacity" that your skill provides.

Next time I'll talk about ways to learn effectively from spectating games and watching streams, which will mostly be non-specific to support, but I'll put it in this series anyway.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Carry your Carry 5: Where to Stand in Lane

This is more advice for AD carries than it is for supports, but the support should be positioning similarly to the AD, so I'm including it in this series.

The question is, if you're not actively last-hitting a creep, where should you be standing in lane?

What I notice a lot of people do, especially in replays that I watch in the 1100-1300 Elo range, is, when they're not actively taking a last-hit, to back off completely.  This doesn't seem like a problem until the enemy starts to take advantage of it.  When you back off, you're letting them walk up without forcing them to deal damage to you and thus draw minion aggro  (you would be damaging them too, but since they're the ones aggressing, they would be taking the bulk of the minion damage).  In other words, you're letting yourselves get zoned.

Why is this such a big problem?  Because it's much easier to hold a dominant lane position than it is to gain one.  If you're trying to walk forward up to someone who's actively zoning you, they know exactly where you're about to walk.  This lets them better aim their own skillshots and dodge yours.  If he has a pink (which he should), their support can gain control of a bush that's usually out of their influence range had you started out near your creeps.  And if you can't win a trade that might turn into an all-in, you can't walk back up to them at all.

The advantages that superior positioning give pile up, and you find yourself falling behind in experience.  Once you're a lower level than your opponents, it's even harder to gain on them because you can't trade autoattacks evenly.  This isn't so much of a problem if you're playing a hypercarry and just want to farm for lategame with it being ok to be 30-40 cs behind at the end of laning, and sometimes it's unavoidable if you're unable to exchange and they can force you to back off from the creep line---remember, being dead gets you the same amount of experience as being in base or being zoned, and being in base or zoned doesn't give the enemy carry 300 gold.

That brings me to the other point, which is that if you're behind already, there's no reason to fight for the ability to stand within experience range of creeps that aren't dying.  Don't give up your positioning for free, but if you are unable to maintain your positioning for some reason, there's no reason to fight their zoning until you actually need a lasthit or just the experience of a creep dying.

It takes a lot of practice and experience to learn when you need to back off, but if you start to position more aggressively when there's no pressure on you, you'll find that a lot of the time you're able to force your opponents to back off when they don't have creeps to farm and then keep them pushed away even when they do.

Next time will actually be the post about teamfighting; I just wanted to do this one because it's something that comes up in a lot of the replays that I watch.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Carry your Carry 4: Leaving Lane

There are a lot of different situations that call for leaving lane.  You want to catch their jungler at your red/blue.  You want to invade their red/blue.  You want to take a dragon.  You need to go back to base and heal.  You're losing lane so hard that staying is worthless.  Laning phase is over and it's worth it to give up your tower so that you can get objectives as a team.  How do you recognize these situations, and what's the best way to respond to them?


This is the most straightforward reason to leave lane.  You want to go to base when the extra power you have from spending your gold on items and refreshing your resources is worth losing the amount of experience/cs that you will lose by leaving.  There are two factors here: the amount of money you can spend/resources you can gain and the amount of creeps/objectives you will lose.  Try to leave when you are able to buy something significant and won't miss out on too many creeps or any objectives.  Generally, it's more important that the ADC have a particular amount of gold (e.g. enough for a BF sword, enough for two DBlades, enough for a vamp scepter and boots, etc.), but if you're 50 gold from a Chalice or a Sightstone, and both of you are high resources, then you can stay a bit longer.  Try to leave when your creeps are pushed to their tower or when the lane is reset in the middle and their botlane is gone; generally you will miss out on at most a single wave of experience and gold if you leave at a time like this, and frequently you won't even miss out on that.

Bad times to leave are when you have a wave on your tower or the wave is about to push towards your tower; generally, if this is the case then it's safe for you to stay and get the experience and gold that would otherwise go to waste.  Sometimes you have to leave even at bad times (as far as creep positioning goes), though.  This happens when you don't have enough resources to stay safely---you can be out of wards or not have enough hp and mana to fight the number of enemies near bot.  If their jungler and midlane are closing in for a gank and your midlane and jungler are both going top, consider just basing and potentially giving up the tower to avoid both dying 2v4 and giving up the tower.

Occasionally, you will want to leave lane separately from your ADC.  In general this is not ideal because neither one of you will be able to pick up very much exp or cs while alone in lane, so you may as well have gone back at the same time.  However, this is not always the case.  If you're winning lane really hard and your ADC doesn't want to go back any time soon, but you need to leave so that you can either pick up an item or more wards, then you can go back while he stays and continues to CS.  Just after killing one of them is a very good time for you to base, again unless your ADC is planning on leaving soon too.  If you're so low that their jungler can one-shot you and you don't know where their jungler is, then you should go back to base.  If you're completely out of resources, consider going back, especially if their support isn't one that can zone very effectively.  Once you're level 6, gaining experience isn't nearly as important as it is before 6, and so it's ok for you to lose an entire wave or two worth of exp to go back to base while your carry is farming safely under tower.


Dragon is definitely worth more than the botlane farm.  If you need to be at dragon in order for the dragon to be safe, then you go to dragon.  If the enemy mid, jungle, and ADC are all dead and your jungler has 80% HP and your ADC has enough damage that he and the jungler can quickly and safely take dragon, then take the botlane CS and exp while your jungler and ADC take dragon.  Or go with your jungler to take dragon while your ADC takes the botlane farm.  If the dragon isn't safe even with you and your ADC there, then maybe don't attempt it if there are two waves at your tower, but dragon will help your entire team win, and it's worth it to sacrifice your own resources for it.


There are several reasons that you might want to fight in the jungle during laning.  As always, you should make a quick cost/benefit analysis when deciding whether to go as a team.  Do you really need that buff?  Do they?  How risky is the fight---what cooldowns do they have?  What cooldowns do we have?  What does our ward placement look like?  How easily can they get away from us if we chase?  How easily can we get away from them if the fight is starting to go poorly?  What's the creep positioning in midlane/botlane?  How much experience/farm will we lose out on relative to the enemy if everyone rotates?

If your team decides to go, usually it's worth it for you to rotate and help your team, even if your carry stays in lane to get CS.  This is especially true after level 6; pre-6, if you fall too far behind in exp, it can be very bad for your lane, but once you have level 6 it doesn't matter nearly as much.  When you're going to save a teammate, try to communicate about which way he's going to run: it's frequently not efficient for you to take the quickest route to where he is now; you should be taking the quickest route to where he will be when you meet up.  When you're trying to catch someone out, try to go to a place where you'll be able to cut him off, and if you pass a choke point you should drop a ward if possible, especially if you already have your Sightstone.


Any support can roam and help another lane.  If your carry is doing so well that he can 1v2 for a minute while you're gone, and toplane is losing really hard, go help toplane.  Most supports are able to be useful by ganking, especially after hitting level 6, and those that are not can still help another laner by providing sustain---don't underestimate the strength of midlane getting free mana and a heal followed by toplane getting a free heal from a level 7 Soraka.  And if your toplane is behind, saving him 75 gold and the time it takes to go back to base by giving him a ward can also be huge.

Be careful about losing too much experience if you leave a lot before level 6; generally, you need to be very certain that you will secure a large advantage for your laner if you leave that early.  This is even more important for supports like Soraka or Sona whose ultimates can be game-changing than for supports like Taric or Blitzcrank, whose ults are certainly powerful but not quite as influential.


If you're going to lane and immediately dying to the enemy botlane, stop going to lane.  Do something else.  It's not worth it to keep feeding them kills.  You can go lanegank toplane or even just sit mid and put pressure on the enemy's mid turret.  If the enemy botlane stays bot, your team temporarily has an advantage; and if they leave bot then either your carry or both of you can go down and catch up on much-needed experience and levels.  Hopefully your jungler is able to make plays happen in toplane, and if this is the case then you and your carry can take his jungle for safe experience and gold.


Once in a while you'll have a game where you and your carry are winning so hard that you can push the first tower, continue laning at the second tower, push the second tower, continue laning at the third tower, and eventually push that too, winning the game without ever needing to leave botlane.  However, in the vast majority of games you need to leave your lane at some point and group with the rest of the team.  A good rule of thumb is leave lane when one of the turrets gets pushed, but don't be afraid to leave before that if your team's teamfight is significantly superior to your laning.

Even following this rule of thumb, you frequently need to decide when you want to push the enemy's first turret down.  There are several factors to consider here:  How much will their carry benefit from freezing lane?  Will it be safe for you to lane past their destroyed first tower?  How easily can they defend their middle turret?  Their top turret?  What objectives are available---if we push bot turret can we then take dragon?  Or even baron?  How strong is our ability to teamfight?  To towerdive?  How is laning going?  How easily can we get ganked right now?  How much does our team want to be able to keep ganking our lane?

Reasons to leave the tower up would be the following answers:  Their carry will benefit a lot from freezing lane (e.g. Vayne).  It's not safe for us to lane past their destroyed first tower because their Lee Sin jungle is pretty fed and their midlane has a global ult.  They can easily defend their middle turret because Anivia has such good wave clear.  They can also defend their top turret because Jayce has really good wave clear.  Dragon is down, and we don't have the damage to be a credible baron threat yet.  Our team isn't great at teamfighting; we're more about small skirmishes, and we're not tanky enough to towerdive.  Laning is going well---We're zoning their Kog'Maw very effectively, top is even and Irelia scales better than Lee Sin, and both midlanes are just farming.  We're not too scared of ganks from jungle/mid because we're well warded, and we have a global ult so counterganks are very doable.  Evelynn and Lee Sin both want to keep ganking botlane, and they're being very effective, so we'd like their botlane to be forced to be out as far as their outer turret.

Reasons to push tower would be the following answers (for the most part they're just the opposite of the above):  Their carry won't benefit much from freezing because his lategame isn't that great (e.g. Graves).  We have no problems laning past their destroyed first tower because their jungler and midlane are both fairly shut down, so we can just ward up and not worry too much.  They can't defend their middle turret that well because Evelynn has very little wave-clear and doesn't have any kills yet, so we easily push turret down.  They can't defend top turret because Singed is destroying Jax right now.  Dragon is up, so we can push tower then take dragon then rotate mid.  Baron is up, and we actually have enough damage to take it if their carry stays bot, so we can force him to push lane out and lose the freeze even if we don't necessarily actually take Baron.  Our teamfight is really good---we have Zyra mid, Amumu jungle, and Sona support, so we'd really like to group and have 5v5 fights.  We can easily dive 5v4 and get tower plus a couple kills if their carry stays bot when we group mid.  Laning isn't going that well for us---Varus is out-trading our Miss Fortune, and Nunu can't sustain any of Sona's poke, so we'd like to stop laning ASAP.  Their Nocturne and Katarina are ganking us over and over, and we can't stay this far out because it's not safe anymore.

The tl;dr of all of this is, "Can I be more useful to my team by leaving than I can to my carry by staying?"  If the answer is yes, then go; if no, then stay.

Next time I'll talk about teamfighting as a support; that update should take less time than this one did because I'm already about halfway done writing it.

Why Curse beat Gambit Gaming (IEM Katowice)

The pick-offs at baron were bad, but Gambit was already trying to come back from a lost game at that point.  Gambit lost the game because of their lane swap vs a Cait-Nunu lane.  Cait-Nunu can be played as a poke lane or a trading lane depending on the matchup, and it can preform well in both ways.  But there is one thing that Cait-Nunu excels at, and that is quickly pushing towers.  With Caitlyn's range and Nunu's bloodboil, they can hit tower for a huge amount of damage at a safe distance, and Caitlyn's netshot provides her with a valuable escape.  In a 2 vs 1 situation, Caitlyn can safely attack only from the side bushes to gain stacks of her passive more quickly, and her Q also provides excellent waveclear.

This pushing power isn't so much of an issue in a 2v2 lane, and the reason is that the support can help counterpush the lane; Lulu and Sona are good choices against Cait-Nunu in part because they are both fairly good at pushing, and both of them can punish Nunu if he tries to help Caitlyn push the lane too much.  But there's no way Miss Fortune and Lulu are going to push tower nearly as quickly as Nunu/Cait can, and so by laneswaping their ADC/support to mid, Gambit basically gave up a free turret (and then didn't freeze lane to continue shutting out Ryze).

Here is a link to the beginning of the game in the VOD.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A quick note on screen positioning during laning

When you're laning on blue side, you want to have your champion on the very bottom of your screen and be looking at the center of the screen so that you can see as much of the lane as possible.  This feels natural to most people, which is one of the reasons blue side is preferred.

On purple side, you need to do the opposite: Have your champion at the very top part of your screen, with your eyes focused on the middle of the screen.  If you started out using a centered camera, this can take a long time to get used to, but it allows you to see everything that's important in your lane so that you can dodge skillshots and be aware of the enemy's positioning so that you know when you can be more aggressive or when you need to back off.

When you're actively engaging, you can move the camera so that you're closer to the center of that if it helps you micro, but for the most part try to keep your champion at the very top of your screen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Carry your Carry 3: A Laning Mindset

The questions that should be going through your mind during all points of laning are, "Can we win an allin right now if they engage on us?" and "Can we win an allin right now if we engage on them?"  If the answer to the first question is no, then you need to play defensively.  Your ADC should let the farthest ranged creeps go instead of trying to farm them.  If you and your ADC are relatively high health, you should ask for a jungle/midlane gank.  If you're low health, consider just going back to base instead of staying in lane.  Just make sure you don't allow them to allin on you.

If the answer to the second question is yes, then you should attempt to allin on your opponent immediately.  Make sure that you're well warded so that you don't get surprised by your 2v2 turning into a 2v3 or even a 2v4, and be aware of any global ults that the enemy might have, but if you are able to kill your opponents then you should.

Go into lane knowing what it means for you to "win" your lane.  Corki against Vayne?  You need to be extremely far ahead in gold and exp by the end of laning in order to have won.  Sona against Soraka?  You're going to be a lot stronger in teamfights assuming the carries are even, so it's ok that you might end laning a bit behind because Soraka can sustain through Sona's poke so effectively.  Use this knowledge to decide how risky of plays you should attempt.  Yes, if you can easily get an early kill on Kog'Maw, you should go for it, but if it's a risky play then maybe be content to just be even on CS.

This is what happens when you walk into lane and they don't/can't autoattack you back.  I placed my pink ward in their bush because I saw that Nunu hadn't opened with a pink, so now my carry can CS safely while I zone and Tristana can't get any CS or exp until the wave pushes.


Think of your lane and the enemy's lane as having sets of different resources.  These resources include gold (to be spent on items later), experience, HP, mana, cooldowns, map vision, and lane positioning.  Ultimately you're trying to exchange the latter resources for the first two---you want to sacrifice some of your mana so that you can force them into a lane position that doesn't allow them to get gold or experience, or you want to sacrifice some of your HP for all of their HP, killing them so that you can get gold for items later and they don't get experience, etc.

Most people already think of HP, mana, and cooldowns as resources to be managed, but it's important to remember that map vision and lane positioning are also resources.  You trade gold for map vision (by buying wards) or for HP and mana (by buying potions).  When you decide where and when to use your wards, you're trading between map vision and lane positioning: having a pink ward in the enemy lane bush may mean that you can zone from there, but it also means that you have less map vision and so can't afford to be as risky in your play as you otherwise could with an extra ward on the map that reveals the jungler.

The most common trade is probably between HP, mana, and lane positioning.  You trade away some of your mana for some of their HP, and you trade away some of your HP for superior lane positioning.  Your goal as a support is to balance the trade between these three resources so that your carry can gain enough gold and experience relative to the enemy ADC that you achieve your previously-decided condition for "winning the lane."


Having lane presence is being a threat.  What's stopping them from running past their minions and your minions and pushing your ADC all the way to tower?  You are.  What's stopping their support from getting free damage onto your ADC while he gets a lasthit?  You are.  You need to be a threat.  And if their support isn't a threat for some reason, then you need to take advantage of that fact.  Communicate with your carry about how the enemy is not a threat and then go fight them.

Note that it is always better to run GP10 yellows and GP10 quints with CDR blues and scaling armor reds if your opponent never takes advantage of your weakness early on.  Nidalee wins really hard by running all flat AP or MPen as long as you never engage on her.  Don't let the lane go the way the enemy support wants it to go based on their champion, rune, and mastery choices.  If the enemy doesn't have presence for some reason, you need to take advantage of that.  Remember that you become more of a threat not just by getting stronger but also by making them get weaker.


These lanes will be characterized by lots of trading, with pushing your opponents out of lane being more common than killing them.  Landing crucial skillshots can result in early (pre-6) kills, but only if you have poked the enemy down enough prior to landing these skillshots.  The key is that for the most part you can't autoattack the enemy support without getting autoattacked back, but neither can they attack you without getting attacked back.  Thus it will be hard for you to position significantly far past your carry until you have gained an advantage in the lane either by hitting skillshots, taking advantage of wasted cooldowns, full-on engaging together with your ADC when you know you can win the allin, or receiving a gank.  Once you hit 6, for the vast majority of ranged supports, both sides' kill potentials increase significantly, and if you hit 6 first then you should try to take advantage of this immediately.

Both before and after hitting 6, you need to be very aware of cooldowns and ranges.  Don't waste mana or you'll end up losing the lane just because the enemy support has superior mana sustain, and don't waste cooldowns because then the enemy will be able to run up to you together and either kill you or start to zone you and your carry.  Try to position so that you'll always be able to move perpendicularly to the enemy support's skillshots where applicable.  If you can get damage onto the enemy ADC, then try to do that, but settling for damage on the support is fine because the support is very squishy and if you can outtrade two or three times in a row then you and your carry can probably allin and kill the support.

When the lane is fairly even, it's important to keep pink wards in the side bushes.  The power of being able to walk out of the bush, autoattack once, and then immediately walk back in is enormous, as is the power of a skillshot coming from an unwarded bush.  (Make sure you don't autoattack from inside an unwarded bush or you'll lose your advantage of being unseen for a couple crucial seconds.)  If one side starts dominating, it's less important to hold a bush that way since the winning side doesn't need to deny vision to be able to zone and the ability to deny vision doesn't snowball the lane very much harder, so you can start to save money on pink wards at that point.

Generally speaking, Soraka, Nami, and Janna want their ADCs to trade while they help their ADCs trade better; Sona and Lulu want to trade themselves; and Zyra and Lux both want to poke with skillshots from a distance, adding a single autoattack to their trade but otherwise not coming within autoattack range.  This of course varies a lot with matchup and changes as the balance of power in the lane changes, but Sona and Lulu both deal very good damage from close range (Sona's Q and Lulu's autoattack); Zyra and Lux both have strong long-range poke that they can significantly improve with just a single autoattack; and Soraka, Nami, and Janna don't necessarily trade well themselves (all three have fairly weak autoattack animations) but are able to make their ADCs win trades.  These are not hard rules, and if you notice your opponent running such runes so that you have significantly better base stats then you should force more autoattack trades with their support.  Other ranged champions that can be played as support like Nidalee, Orianna, and Morgana tend to fall in the category of longrange poke.


At level 1, you are stronger because you can autoattack at range and they don't have enough damaging skills/CC to kill you yet (unless Blitz pulls you).  Take advantage of this.  There are very few melee supports that can beat a ranged support at level 1.  Starting level 2, you're going to have to play a lot more passive unless the melee support wastes a cooldown, which usually happens by missing a skillshot.  In the case that the enemy support does miss a cooldown, play as aggressively as possible until that cooldown comes up (you should know roughly what the timer is).  Save your cooldowns to disengage a fight in the event that you or your carry gets jumped on.

Bush control is not important for you in this matchup; bush vision, however, is crucial.  Don't be the first one to place a pink ward inside a bush unless the enemy support has no pinks.  The most important thing for you to avoid is having your own bush pinked by the enemy support with the wave frozen so that your carry needs to walk up to within engage range of your bush in order to lasthit.  If this happens, two things need to happen: You need to go back and get a pink ward if you don't have one on you already, and if you don't have sufficient disengage to be able to walk up close enough to the bush to ward it then your jungler or midlane needs to come bot so that you can get the backup you need to be able to push out past this brush.  (One thing you can do as Janna in particular is to throw a Q into the bush and then walk up to ward it as the Q is hitting the bush, so that the enemy support is knocked up as you get within warding range.)

Your goals in this lane are to survive and to bait an engage at a bad time (e.g. when your jungler is waiting in the river bush for a gank).  In theory, you're only playing this matchup either because you have really good disengage and so your pick of a ranged support was appropriate (Lulu, Janna), because your pick is better for overall teamcomp (you wanted Zyra because you have an Amumu and Galio also), or because you gave another lane the chance to counterpick their matchup, in which case they should be snowballing their lane.  In the first case, you should be able to stop their engages and then poke with autoattacks, so you can come out ahead in the lane; and in the second two cases, not coming out behind is basically a victory condition, so just try to meet the first goal of survival.

The way that you typically try to come out ahead in this matchup (after level 1) requires help from the rest of your team.  Having a global ult like Twisted Fate, Nocturne, Pantheon, or Shen is huge, as it allows you to play somewhat aggressively when you know that their jungler and midlane aren't near bot, because if they engage on you then their winning 2v2 can easily be turned into a losing 2v3.  If you don't have a global ult, see if your toplane can run teleport; the threat alone of having a toplaner teleport to bot can be enough to protect you from enemy engages, even if he doesn't actually use the spell a single time during laning.  If you have no global skills, then at the very least try to have your jungler come bot and gank when you bait an engage; hopefully your carry can get a kill or two from this happening and then you can lane much more safely.  Note that it's your responsibility to buy pink wards so that your jungler can gank and not the jungler's to know where their wards are and avoid them without your help.


For the most part, at level 1, you don't want to fight the enemy support since you'll take too much damage before you can apply your CC/gapcloser to be able to win the fight after using your skill.  You do have superior base stats, and so if the ranged support didn't spec defensive enough runes, you can absolutely start fighting at level 1, but assuming a reasonable amount of armor and MR on the ranged support, you should wait for level 2 to engage---and then engage the instant you hit 2.

Take doubles if you can; interrupt doubles if you can't, and in either case have your ADC push the lane slightly so that your creeps are dying after theirs.  This will ensure you hit 2 first and also keep the creep damage advantage on your side.  If it's possible that a jungler will show up, then ward tri/river before engaging.  You need to win an exchange before you get poked down too much.  Usually winning an exchange will mean killing your opponent, but it can also just result in sending the enemy back to base while you push to tower and then go buy yourselves.

Your first goal as the melee support is to not waste a single cooldown.  When you don't have cooldowns, you don't have presence, and when you don't have presence, your carry loses.  Your second goal as the melee support is to use your cooldowns.  If you don't engage, you will eventually get poked down to the point of being unable to engage.  And when you're unable to engage, your carry loses.  (If you're fighting a Janna or a Lulu or are post-6, engage only if you are able to get past their disengage.)

When are good times to use your cooldowns, then?  Generally, if there's not a specific reason to not engage, you should engage.  Reasons to not engage include having a massive creep disadvantage, so that you and your carry will be taking a lot more minion aggro than your opponents will if you engage now; being about to hit another level that your opponents already have (but you should avoid this happening in the first place by not letting the wave to push to you too hard); and the enemy having a global cooldown up so that they can turn your 2vs2 into a 2vs3 or even a 2vs4.  You would ideally not engage when your ADC is about to get a lasthit, but if you see a good angle on a skillshot that you can definitely hit, then engage anyway.

Bush control is fairly important in this matchup, and as soon as you're a substantial threat to the enemy support, you can get bush control pretty much for free; only ward the bushes if you start to fall behind or if you're pink-warding to deny their vision.  A good lane position for you is the one I described above as being bad in the opposite matchup, and if a freeze isn't possible then try to keep the lane at a place where the enemy ranged support can't sit in a bush that you don't have warded and walk out only to autoattack you.  Try also to not be at their tower until you're sufficiently tanky that you can turret dive, but anywhere else is fine.  Just be careful about engaging into a bush that you haven't had vision of for a while if the jungler hasn't shown recently, unless you think you can actually win a 2v3.


Do not engage on the enemy support.  If you burn your cooldowns on the enemy support, then a few things can happen.  First, your carry can ignore you in which case you've wasted a cooldown and are now unable to protect your carry---or even worse, you are now dead because you're Leona.  Second, your carry can engage on the enemy support with you, in which case he will be able to be engaged on by the enemy support, and then the enemy will together be able to kill your carry while the two of you are focusing the enemy support.  Your carry can take advantage of the fact that you engaged at all and then focus the enemy carry; however, this will result in a lack of focus overall and the enemy support (if previously positioned correctly) will now be able to engage on your carry.  The theme here is that it's bad for you.

Engaging on the enemy ADC can sometimes work out in your favor in these matchups.  If you can engage on their carry while their support is out of position so that you can burst the carry down for most of their health, then go for it.  If you can't, maybe don't.  Crowd control is most effective when both you are stopping their ADC from attacking your ADC and also your ADC is attacking their ADC.  This means that if you use your CC when your carry can't attack theirs yet because he still needs to run up, and then their support uses their CC afterwards, when their carry can attack yours and yours can't attack back, then they're going to win the exchange.

Creep advantage is huge in these matchups: if you're a melee support fighting someone with very weak base stats, you only have to be not at a large creep disadvantage to be able to engage safely.  However, when your base stats are comparable to theirs, you should have a creep advantage in order to engage safely---while at the same time not being pushed all the way to tower.  This means that there's a fairly narrow time during which you want to engage, which is as your lane is pushing out from your tower but before it's gotten significantly past the halfway point in the lane.  This of course means that you should be extra careful when the lane is around the halfway point and pushing towards your tower.

Your positioning in these matchups will generally be just within engage range of the enemy support, just outside of autoattack range of the enemy carry, always ready to react to a move from the enemy but not engaging yourself.

Next time I'll talk about roaming during the laning phase.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Replay Review: A 1500 Elo Draven Game

This replay focuses on the ADC as opposed to the support, but there is some support commentary.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sightstone: Why I hated it, why I love it now, and why it's still not a laning item (mostly)

I believe strongly in snowballing botlane very hard, very early. I set up my runes and masteries around this goal, and I choose my champion pool around it too---and encourage my ADC to pick in order to do this as well. If I can beat you in an allin right now, I'm going to allin you right now. And most of the time, I can allin beat you in an allin right now.  Why?  Because you didn't set up for the early game.  You're running gp10 quints as opposed to my flat HP or armor or MR.  And then, when laning started, I was willing to drop myself to 50% HP and then immediately burn a pot while I got you to 75% HP so that once my pot brings me up to 90% I can kill you.

You beat me in lane by having your jungler come bot early, but I warded early to make sure that I wouldn't die, and if your jungler stays bot then the rest of my team can snowball early---that's fine with me, I'll just start playing passive now.

I keep beating you after the first return to base, too, even if my carry and I were unable to get a kill.  Why?  Because you bought a philostone or a sightstone, and I got a red crystal and cloth armor or a chalice.  I used my money as efficiently as possible, and you didn't, so now I'm going to force a fight and my carry and I will kill you.  Now your GP10 cost you a kill and an assist's worth of gold.

That's why I hated sightstone on release.  I thought it was just another trap for supports to sink their gold into early, instead of buying to win.  I bought one in my first handful of games on the new patch and then stopped building it for a few weeks.

Then about a week ago, I decided to start building it the instant laning was over.  My first complaints about it as a post-laning item was that it takes up too many item slots, since 3 wards isn't enough on the map at a time, so I need additional green wards and a pink ward or two, and three slots for wards is too many.  But after several games with a sightstone, I've just started making my team buy pink wards for objectives while I use two slots on wards---one for sightstone and one for a stack of 2-3 green wards.  With this setup, I place wards constantly.  If it's an important ward that I won't be able to replace any time soon, it gets a "permanent" (non-sightstone) ward; otherwise I just place a sightstone ward, knowing that I'll likely end up replacing it within a minute or two.  I go back to base very fequently to refresh the sightstone stacks and just don't worry about using them up quickly.  This changing vision is even more useful than a smaller total set of permanent vision that's more spread out around the map.

What makes sightstone so strong is not just that it's a gp10 that saves you from buying three wards every three minutes.  It's that it lets you ward constantly as your team moves and old wards become unnecessary.  If you sort of wanted to place a ward before, you can definitely place one now.

But sightstone is not a laning item.  Its massive advantage comes from the fact that you can place a number of wards with it that would be considered 'overwarding' if you didn't have it.  In lane, this advantage isn't all that helpful; it's actually only giving you the two wards at a time, since during laning your map position is fairly static.  So your choices are:

Sightstone --- 700 gold, 2 wards, 100 HP

Ruby Crystal and two wards and two potions --- 695 gold, 2 wards, 180 HP, 300 Sustain HP

The first time you go back to base, if you even have 700 gold, you're sacrificing 80  HP and two potions in order to save 150 gold later.  Consider whether this is worth it when you're playing a ranged support vs a ranged support and the extra sustain and HP can allow you to win the 2v2 to the point of getting a kill.  Or if you're playing against a kill lane and the extra HP can actually save your life.  A death makes your sightstone cost effectively 1000 gold instead of 700---or even more if the enemy got an assist off it.

Furthermore, you frequently don't have 700 gold a single time you go back to base as support during laning, and so you actually have to save gold and not make a purchase of stats one time that you're returning from well.  This loss makes you even more vulnerable to being killed early.

When do you get a sightstone when you're laning?  If you have no kill potential and are playing against a lane that has no kill potential, or if your lane is so far ahead that  it doesn't matter what items you have, you're still going to be able to win.  This could be because you're Leona fighting a Sona or it could be because you're a Sona fighting a Nami but your ADC is four kills up on theirs.  Just remember that you are an extremely relevant member of the team and a viable target for focus during laning when you account for 50% of your team, and if you give up too many stats to save gold for later, you can easily allow the enemy to snowball past you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Replay Reviews: Two 900 Elo Leona games

Game 1

I stumbled over my words when I was describing the problem with Caitlyn getting caught out while Leona was warding, and I want to clarify: If Cait wants to be CSing and the lane is pushed far up to your turret, they're going to be able to push her away from the creeps very easily. So she can get away with not getting killed (by hiding under tower), but if she's not doing that then they can kill her while you're gone. If the lane is pushed out somewhat, then (a) the creeps will be more spread out, so she'll be able to take some CS more safely with her support gone and (b) you can return to her more quickly without being unsafe (by walking directly down river).  In either case, the ward at dragon does not have to be quite so far out because Jax's gapcloser is fairly shortrange.

This does NOT mean that it's okay to engage on them without a river ward at all; you still need to see him coming from river, and if the enemy jungler were a Rammus or Hecarim or someone who can close long distances quickly, then you need a deep river ward to be safe.  It just means that you should make sure your carry is actually safe when you go to ward (ping him back as you leave lane, even if you're a premade) and then drop your ward quickly and  return to lane.  While you're warding, your eyes should be divided between the minimap and your lane, so that you can figure out if you need to turn around early and rescue your carry.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Game 2:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Support Recommended Items

Here is a link to a pastebin of the file, or you can copy the text below.  You want to put this text in the directory "....Riot Games\League of Legends\Config\Champions\SUPPORTNAME\Recommended" in a file called "EnigmaItem_1_CLASSIC-0.json" and edit "Sona" to say instead "SUPPORTNAME".

For more information, visit this page, and here is a link to Enigma's item changer, which has an amazing GUI.  I generated this file using his item changer, and then I used the Python script that I posted earlier to clone it for all of my supports.  If you want a list of supports, you can use (and modify, if desired) this line

SUPPORT = ["Alistar", "Blitzcrank", "Fiddlesticks", "Janna", "Leona", "Lulu",
            "Lux", "Nami", "Nidalee", "Nunu", "Sona", "Soraka", "Taric",
            "Zilean", "Zyra"]

to define the variable 'SUPPORT' so that you can easily edit your support builds all at the same time.

And here is my Sona recommended items file (copy the pastebin file if any indentation problems arise):

{"champion":"Sona","title":"Support","priority":true,"map":"1","blocks":[{"items":[{"id":"2041","count":1},{"id":"2044","count":1},{"id":"2043","count":1},{"id":"2003","count":1},{"id":"2004","count":1},{"id":"2042","count":1}],"type":"Consumables"},{"items":[{"id":"1001","count":1},{"id":"1004","count":1},{"id":"1006","count":1},{"id":"1028","count":1},{"id":"1029","count":1},{"id":"1033","count":1}],"type":"Base Items"},{"items":[{"id":"3096","count":1},{"id":"3098","count":1},{"id":"3097","count":1},{"id":"3037","count":1},{"id":"3067","count":1},{"id":"3028","count":1}],"type":"Intermediate Items"},{"items":[{"id":"3107","count":1},{"id":"3069","count":1},{"id":"3092","count":1},{"id":"3222","count":1},{"id":"3023","count":1},{"id":"2045","count":1}],"type":"Final Items"},{"items":[{"id":"1031","count":1},{"id":"1057","count":1},{"id":"1011","count":1},{"id":"1026","count":1},{"id":"1058","count":1},{"id":"1038","count":1}],"type":"Big Items"},{"items":[{"id":"3078","count":1},{"id":"3089","count":1},{"id":"3110","count":1},{"id":"3001","count":1},{"id":"3022","count":1},{"id":"3025","count":1}],"type":"New Group"}],"_notes":"","type":"custom","mode":"CLASSIC","_author":"Rheingold"}