5 Tips to Have a Strong Early Game in League of Legends

5 Tips to Have a Strong Early Game in League of Legends

How to Start off Strong from Level 1

Level one can be one of the most impactful stages in the League of Legends early game. Without a clear and decisive level 1, you may find it difficult to survive the laning phase. In a snowball heavy meta, making sure you have a good set up early, is highly beneficial for not only you but your whole team.

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In this Mobalytics Guide by PicklePants, we will discuss the different ways you can have a direct impact on the early game through your positioning, awareness, and in-game movements.

Minions have spawned

1. Position Properly at Level 1

Positioning is incredibly important at level 1 and throughout the game. Without good positioning, your team may be vulnerable against a cheesy ambush or getting a buff stolen. It is important that the whole team positions around the river to prevent the enemy from invading and stealing away buffs.

Unfortunately, this is something that is overlooked by a huge portion of the player base and it’s easy to see why. I recommend that you try to always be on the lookout for your team, even if your allies are not doing anything. With this good habit, you can save your own life and many others.

As soon as the game starts, you want to run to one of these allocated positions as quickly as you can. This means that you need to purchase your items, get your running shoes on and be out of the gate at 0:15. Making the most of the map’s architecture, you should be able to get into these positions before the enemy does.

Position appropriately at level 1

Example of a level 1 set up. Use this as a basis to improve your level 1 positioning.

Depending on the situation, you should either go into the middle of the river or stay in a more defensive position on the river’s edge. For example, if the enemy has a Blitzcrank, you should avoid being in an aggressive position in case you get hooked. However, standing on the outskirts of the river will grant your team vision if the enemy Blitzcrank looks to invade.

Another level 1 set up

Another example level 1 set up.

Each role has a dedicated area where they will generally go, and I would recommend that you don’t go too far off the suggested image. As a general rule of thumb, try to stick close to the river rather than being in your lane. This will allow you to gain any vision of the enemy if they were to invade.

2. Don’t Ward Immediately

If you have read our previous warding guide, we touched upon level 1 warding and where you can ward during the first few levels. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t ward early (pre 1:25) unless you have.

There are not many bushes that will provide you with information which makes them not good enough to ward at level 1. This is because the likelihood of the enemy going through them is rather low. However, there are some areas of the map where you can ward, such as in the river.

potential warding spotsPotential warding spots.

The areas that are most valuable are the river bushes that in each side of the map. Depending on which side of the jungle your Jungler is starting on, you should ward the opposite side for them. For example, if your Jungler starts in the bottom side, your Top or Mid laner should ward the top side river bush at roughly 1:25.

This is the ideal time to ward because it gives the laners enough time to get back to their lane. It will also stay alive long enough to see if the enemy takes the rivers Scuttle Crab. This ward can be used to your advantage by potentially spotting the enemy Jungler early. The information can be used by your whole team which is why warding here is so valuable.

Unless you are forced to, you should never ward earlier than 1:25 as it may not provide your team with much information. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

For the blue team, if the bottom lane is playing against somebody who has a strong level 1 and likes to cheese, such as Bard or Brand, you may find it better to ward the bot lane tri-brush before 1:25.

Spotting the enemy hiding and waiting in this bush will prevent you from being killed or forced to back before the laning phase has even begun. Falling into this trap can be deadly, and it will definitely put you behind. If you were to ward, I recommend warding this bush at around 1:10-1:15.

The second exception is if you know that the enemy is going to invade. Making use of the level 1 positioning will allow you to spot the enemy and back off in time. Before you depart the premises, you should drop a ward nearby, and then fall back to a safer position.

3. Make Use of Smart Jungle Leash Timings

When you need to leash for your Jungler, it is important that you have a strong set up prior to assisting them. What I mean by this is, until the buff is about to spawn, you will want to stand in a position such as suggested earlier.

At around 15 seconds before the buff spawns, you should start to make your way towards them and help them kill the buff. This gives you the longest amount of time to spot the enemy while also giving your Jungler the most efficient clear.

Ideally, you will be able to deal enough damage to the buff so your Jungler can have a nice and healthy clear. Unfortunately, this may not be the case if you do not have much damage early. For example, if you are playing a tank.

There is a lot of discussion about what is the ideal health to leave the buff at. Realistically, there are no limits to how much damage you should do except for executing the buff. Instead, you need to deal damage as much damage as you can and continue to auto-attack the buff up until it’s time to leave.

Blue buff image

The latest that you have to leave is 1:38. Leaving anytime after this may result of you missing farm and experience. This is why I recommend that you always leave at 1:38 to guarantee the execution of the first 3 minions.

For other laners, specifically the side lane that isn’t leashing, you have three main options on what you can do. The first is to “fake leash” which is where you stay around the buff, and then leave at 1:38 and go to lane. Alternatively, you can delay getting to lane, this can sometimes confuse the enemy and make them think you’ve leashed when in reality, you haven’t.

This false information can be quite useful as the enemy may not know where your Jungler has started. The third option is to go straight to lane with your minions and just start laning.

This option you take is rather situational in some aspects, so use your own judgment to what you do. Just remember that you need to leave by 1:38 to ensure you get the first 3 minions.

4. Don’t Level up an Ability Immediately

You can learn a lot from watching professional events like Worlds and LEC. While the differences between these games and solo queue is way different, there are some things that pros do that should be incorporated into our own gameplay. One major thing that pros do is not level up any ability until the game has started to progress and they absolutely need their ability.

Don't level up

This can come in handy as you can often level up a different ability to save your life. For example, If you’re being invaded, you could level up your dash instead of your damaging ability. This may allow you to dodge and escape if the enemy decides to 5 man engage on you. Doing this will also prevent you from blowing one of your Summoner Spells.

This may put you slightly behind however and you may be unable to go for a trade until level 2 or 3. But, this is a better trade in the long run because you will have Summoner Spells to defend yourself. It is not uncommon for Junglers to repeat gank a lane during the early game if they’re defenseless. I’ve witnessed and experienced first hand, many level 2 ganks because either me or the enemy were missing our Flash at level 1. A good Jungler will always abuse the fact that you’re defenseless to put you behind and gain gold.

5. Always Hit 2 First!

If you haven’t noticed, the experience range in League of Legends is quite large, however, it never seems to work in your favor when you need it most! You need to make sure that you’re in lane and in range of the minion wave to pick up the experience. If you are not in range for a minion because you arrive late, you will have a delayed level up. This could mean that you may be on the back foot throughout the early laning phase.

In a solo lane like top and mid, it takes 7 minions to hit level 2. This consists of the first wave of 6 minions followed by 1 melee minion on the second wave. In the bottom lane where there are two champions, to hit level 2, there needs to be 9 minions killed. This consists of the first wave once again as well as the next 3 melee minions on the second wave.

There is an exception to this which is when Mordekaiser is in the bottom lane. As he doesn’t share XP, he will get the level up on 7 minions while the Support will not get theirs until 9.

Hitting level 2 before the enemy gives you a lot of lane pressure. It may allow you to zone the enemy from farm and delay their level up. This can be difficult though and relies heavily on the matchup. For example, Lucian and Blitzcrank can zone an Ashe and Janna lane quite heavily if they hit level 2 first.

Another suggestion would be to go for a trade or skirmish. Champions with auto-attack resets like Fiora, Lucian, Talon, Wukong, and Jax all have notorious level 2 trades which is why it is crucial to hit level 2 first.

Closing Thoughts

The level one is more impactful than many players think. This is why it is so important to be active during level 1 and not just tab out and stay under your tower. In a game like League of Legends, you should always try to get as much information about your enemies as possible and one way of doing that is by positioning correctly at level 1.