Check out our in-depth interview with our Challenger Coach Morïarty here!
Climbing the League of Legends ranked tiers, or in any competitive video game, is tough. Not least of all because it’s hard to know what you should be focusing on to improve your game at that level, and you’re missing to get out of it. This article is for you if you wonder what keeps you in your current division.
Obviously, in LoL, it’s all your terrible teammate’s fault. But I mean apart from that…
As a new League player, I’ve only recently decided which champion to main and will soon start hitting the ranked games. I’ve been wondering a lot about the difference between the tiers. What should I practice and when to climb through each one quickly?
What better way to find out than to speak with someone who’s been there, and now coaches people at all League of Legends ranked tiers. Prohibit is a Challenger player who started playing League of Legends before Season 1, so he knows LoL inside and out, too.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rules here. For example, Mobalytics’ designer, Ling, was a 250APM StarCraft player who came over to League, stomped 8/10 of her placement matches to start in Gold V and a few weeks later was in Diamond. It’s not a typical progression by any means. Very strong mechanics and years of competitive gaming experience can brute force you through a lot of laddering.
But broadly speaking, here are the things that commonly hold back League players in the different ranked tiers.26
Mechanics is an interesting point to start. Prohibit believes that even in the lower tiers that most people’s are sufficient. Anyone who plays video games in the past knows how to hit skill shots, even if orb walking and some other more advanced techniques require practice.
But overall, the main thing that holds people back from different skill brackets is the amount of game knowledge they have and their ability to apply that knowledge to their own game. Naturally, as new players, Bronze tier struggle with this the most: As Prohibit told me:
“It’s very noticeable that the more people learn about the game and understand the variables, such as what their teammates are likely to do with their particular champions at different stages of the game, different divisions start opening up.”
The problem is that learning lots about a complex game like League of Legends takes either:
- A: A lot of time spent reading guides, which can be kind of tedious compared to queueing another game
- B: Spamming a huge number of games until things eventually sink in on their own
If you want to climb, there’s no magic bullet; you need to learn stuff. You either play a ton of games and learn the more-fun-but-probably-slower way or start reading guides and learn the quicker-but-probably-more-tedious way.
For example, Rengar and LeBlanc are champions with many different skill combos. New players don’t know the optimum combos based on the situation and matchup at hand. When the player learns more about what these champions can do and what their enemies are likely to do, it becomes easier to apply their game knowledge of their own champion, make more informed decisions and start snowballing more often.
For this reason, bronze players typically benefit the most from learning the basics of the game. For example,
- Learn all the champions, what they do and how they work
- Learn all the items and buffs (from neutral minions, too)
- How much damage can be given and taken by your champ and those you commonly face
- Start practicing more advanced mechanics such as orb walking
- Improve basic decision-making such as when to retreat from lane instead of brawling it out to the end no matter what
To free up the mental space to get these fundamentals down, Prohibit recommends sticking to a maximum of three mechanically simple champions in the lower levels. By focusing on less mechanically intense champions, new players can more easily concentrate on aspects of the game such as those above.
Champions such as Soraka or Vollibear or other champions that are just “a big ball of stats” are more forgiving. Mechanical champions such as Zed just take up more mental space to play well than simple champs do.
If you’re a low elo Zed player, no one’s saying that you can’t learn this champion. It’s just that it’s much easier to learn and focus on broader game concepts when you have a simpler champion that’s easier to play.
League players ranked in Silver tier typically reached the level where they’re comfortable with the game. Mechanics a decent, they know roughly how to play their champions, the fundamentals of their skill combos and can kite sufficiently, for example.
But, although Silver players can use their champion’s toolkits more effectively, the combos, positioning, and other aspects are yet second nature to the extent where it frees up mental resources to consider more macro strategies. The biggest things often holding Silvers back are:
- How to apply their champion knowledge in all situations (for example, a better knowledge of enemy match ups)
- More advanced aspects of minion wave control (we linked some videos on this at the end of last week’s article)
- How to make correct macro strategy decisions
For this reason, Silver players often benefit most from concepts such as basic minion wave management and the effect it has on the lane. Like when practicing CS drills in custom games, taking the time to study such concepts in an isolated way means they become second nature more easily
Another example of principles is positioning based on the effective zone of champions. Higher-ranked League players envision a circle around each champion to represent their effective zone for auto attacks and skill shots, like when you press A in game and it shows a circle around your champion. Prohibit showed me a tool called Map Rift that’s used to play around with this kind of idea. Here’s a screenshot:
If you’re playing support, then yours and your ADC’s effective zones should be overlapping as often as possible. That way, if your laning opponents step too far from each other, then you can trade 2 vs. 1 easily. For example, If you’re playing a Leona support with a Lucian ADC, you can E to close the gap, Q to stun, and because Lucian was standing right next to you, he can easily follow up with a couple of skill shots and chase to secure the kill if necessary.
Prohibit teaches Silver players concepts like this and finds that this tier generally benefits most from learning:
- Trading effectively
- Avoiding early minion aggro
- Positioning in team fights
- Keeping up CS throughout the game and maintaining a lead (which we’ll get to an example for soon)
When people hit Silver and start getting a little better, the blame game is still a big problem. In our chat, Prohibit used the analogy of playing Street Fighter. In these 1 vs. 1 fighting games, it’s painfully clear that the only way you can possibly win more games is if you assess and improve your own individual performance.
The problem in League of Legends is that there are so many variables (with 4 the biggest bring on the same team as you) it’s much easier to blame everything else. There’s always going to be blame thrown around League of Legends ranked tiers, and sometimes if we make a really dumb mistake, maybe some of it’s even justified.
But around high Silver is when more players start realizing it’s on them to concentrate on their own game. Like we mentioned in our article on How to Learn League of Legends from a Martial Arts & Chess Champion, you can’t expect circumstances to always be perfect. It’s much better to focus on yourself.
When that happens, it’s only a matter of time before Silver players climb to Gold.
High Silver to low Gold is when players start getting comfortable with their champions, positioning and trading better to focus on more macro aspects of the game, such as how to keep your team’s lead.
Often times, players at these levels know some strategies, but they’re not great at executing them in the heat of a game without losing a ton of XP and farm along the way. There are just so many things to weigh up in the moment.
Here’s an example of a macro concept on what to do after you take the first tower that Prohibit teachers to Silver through Platinum, with Gold players being the level that really start to get it down. He calls it “completing the wave”.
- When the first turret’s down, push your minion wave right into the t2 turret, provided the enemy jungle isn’t close by and lots of kills up
- This forces the enemy ADC to make a decision. They can either farm the wave stacked at their turret, or deal with you while you invade their jungle, go Dragon or gank mid and lose all that farm from the wave you just pushed under their turret
- Don’t stick around in lane pushing for a second turret, as you’re susceptible to backstab ganks from both their jungle and the river
- If they def’ and farm that lane CS, that gives you free reign of the map and you have the man advantage because their ADC is stuck defending their tower
- Either way, you’re going to win a fight or take another objective, thus pressing the advantage you gained after taking the first turret
- Once the enemy ADC has cleared the minion wave hammering down their t2 turret, the lane eventually gets pushed back down to your turret. Once you’ve taking the Dragon, an easy team fight, or invaded their jungle for resources, head back down to your turret and collect all the farm there, too
This is an example of a more macro decision-making process you that’s easier to focus on once you’re out the lower elos where people just tend to brawl everything out to the bitter end at every opportunity.
As we get into higher Gold and working towards platinum, improving at League becomes a lot about making such decisions second nature and then honing in on specifics based on the matchup and game situation at the time. For example, this concept often benefits Silver players and many Gold players. But the level of detail to which Gold and Platinum players can implement the strategy will be greater. It becomes not just about what you learn, but also the depth and degree of specificity to which you learn it.
It’s a lot like those CS drills again. When you practice regularly in custom games, you don’t need to think about last hitting because you’ve got it dialed. Playing your champ all the time means you don’t have to think about that, because you’ve got it dialed, too.
Instead, you think about concepts like the above, or free up mental space for things like the fact that Dragon is spawning in 5 minutes so you’ll ward 2 minutes in advance and make sure you’re pushing bot lane instead of top. Any gank opportunities or easy CS that come your way in between those times are taken care of on autopilot.
As players climb towards Platinum, they begin focusing more on how actions such as these affect the future of the game. They know what to do situationally, and that frees up mental space to think about how actions will affect the game in the future. Prohibit uses the example of fencing, a sport he’s done for some many years.
In the beginning, people learn to fence just learn how to move properly. Once they learn how to move properly, they learn how to attack. Once they learn that, they move on to mind games and how to get inside their opponent’s head. One layer at a time, more and more is committed to muscle memory, freeing up mental space for broader concepts.
Typically, by the time players reach Platinum, this is the process they’ve gone through with League of Legends. And, because they have a better understanding of the game, it also allows for more balanced team play.
For example, a lot of people want to a hero and carry the game. But the difficult truth is that there’s not enough farm to go round, so in an absolute best case scenario, only three champions are going to get super fed. And if that happens on a team with 4 very farm-dependent champs, someone’s going to get screwed, be easy to pick off and then get all salty about the fact they’re having a bad game. If you have an Ekko top, Jinx bot, Zed mid and Master Yi in the jungle, they can’t all be OP by late game.
Yes, just by chance, you’ll probably always gets super greedy pick games like this in all the League divisions at least some of the time. But, by the time players get to Platinum, enough of them have typically developed a better appreciation for team composition aim to have more balanced games.
Getting really good at playing carry roles is, by all accounts, an effective way to climb the ladder. There will always be League of Legends players in ranked and otherwise that focus hard on this role. But, as players reach Plat’, those in more support-oriented roles can spot these super focused players that know their champions inside and out and will play as a team to help them snowball out of control and support them accordingly.
As players climb to high Platinum, they’ve typically also developed the skill of how to work on their own problems. They’re good at spotting mistakes when watching their own replays, take notes of their downfalls and always (or at least most of the time…) approach their own game with a good mentality. When they do that, with all of the fundamentals of the micro and macro game in place, and a better appreciation for team play, they eventually reach Diamond.
When I asked Prohibit what was the biggest thing holding people back in Diamond, he said it’s often their own mentality. Getting to Diamond feels good, and players he’s worked with are worried about falling back down the ranks which ultimately results in ladder anxiety.
This is a problem, because you’re essentially playing in the top 2% of League and winning games means you need to be in a good mindset, not freaking out about dropping your rank.
The advice he gives is not to focus on winning, but to focus on getting better. Worrying about losing means that when you do (which would you inevitably will approximately 50% of the time) you’re much more likely to go on tilt.
But, if you keep breaking down your mistakes, and put a huge focus on improvement, you’ll get through it.
Regarding tools and strategies for the job, many Diamond players will already do this. And really, it applies to all elos, too. But Prohibit believes that strategies that involve looking for mistakes pays the highest dividends in and around Diamond elo. Because, after all, when in Bronze and Silver, there are champions and items and buffs to learn, and you’re never going to climb to Diamond without such basic game knowledge.
Here’s a checklist for higher level players.
- Do warm-ups before ranked games
- Drill CS until hitting 100+ in the first 10 minutes can be done with your eyes closed
- Use Plays.tv to pick apart your deaths, kills, assists and other aspects of the game
- Make a Google doc with tabs for early, late and mid games, taking notes of your mistakes at this stage
- Focus on one of your game flaws each week until you’ve shored it up.
Diligently and systematically seek out mistakes and weak points in this way, take notes, isolate the practice techniques, keep a good mentality that doesn’t involve blaming teammates and you too can one day hit Challenger.