League of LegendsMobalytics

How The Art of War relates to League of Legends and Mobalytics

It’s all about the timeless fundamentals

The 8 Skills of our GPI were forged as sort of the Infinity Stones for becoming a League of Legends player with strong core fundamentals. On our blog, although we do write articles that are tied to specific points in time such as the tier lists, the majority of our work is intended to be timeless in the realm of an ever-transforming game. We do this by focusing on the fundamentals of League’s gameplay that will always be relevant so players will still be able to learn from them many months, or even years after they are published.

The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, was written thousands of years ago (around 500 B.C.) and has truly stood the test of time – honestly, it will probably still be read long after our lifespans.  At its core, the book covers the fundamental strategic concepts of warfare, ranging from how to manage your troops, when and where to fight, and even gives tips on how to use fire and spies. However, the book is written in a format in which the concepts are expressed in very philosophical, short segments, almost like poetry.Art of war book Despite his focus on war, Sun Tzu’s writings hold truths that can be (and are applied) across many diverse fields such as business, politics, and of course, competition. For example, the quote from the book, “He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain,” can be useful to a basketball coach, a politician running for office, or even a shot-caller in League of Legends.

The Art of War is often recommended and even required for reading at schools so it’s no surprise that others have related its teachings to League of Legends in the past (we’ll link some of our favorites at the end), but we believe that we can provide our own unique spin to bring insight to the discussion. In this article, we’ll demonstrate how Sun Tzu’s teachings in the Art of War can help you become a League of Legends player by looking through the lens of our Mobalytics GPI and platform. We’ll be examining quotes from the book and relating them to each of our 8 Skill.

Aggression: The art of making the first strikeArt of War Aggression

It’s no surprise that a book about war would include portions on how to execute aggressive actions. Whether it’s making the first strike, planning out the nature of your attacks, or exploiting the weaknesses of your foe’s defenses, offensive prowess is key to success in war.

In this quote, “rapidity” relates to quickness and being swift – Sun Tzu tells us that is an essential component of war. When you’re quick to act, you can often benefit from your enemy’s lack of preparation by finding blind spots and weak points in their defenses. Being the first strike also gives you the ability to dictate the flow of a battle, rather than having to be the one who must react and counter.

Taking initiative, making the most of your advantages, and being smart with the time and place of your attacks are gameplay aspects that are also expressed in our GPI’s Aggression Skill.Art of War Aggression scores

Rapidity, as Sun Tzu describes, is crucial for seizing opportunities and building advantages in League of Legends. When an opening presents itself, you cannot hesitate or you may risk letting a good shot slip away. Our Initiative score aims to capture this by showing your tendency to take the First Tower or contribute to First Blood. It’s an important facet of the game because the players who have good Initiative dictate the early pace of the game and even Snowball it to a victory.

Sun Tzu’s quote alludes to the conditions surrounding a battle and encourages that you attack in favorable situations. The same can be applied when you look to make a 1v1 all-in (Solo Play) or make a Tower Dive (Kill Risk). The less ready your opponent in these situations, such as when they don’t have their summoner spells or health/mana resources, the better chance you’ll have in coming out alive with the kill.

Consistency: The art of repeating successArt of War Consistency

The Art of War is timeless because it preaches tactics and strategies that work time and time again. Likewise in League, you’ll need stability and structure in order to efficiently climb and improve. In the quoted segment, Sun Tzu tells us that if you know yourself and know your enemy, you won’t have to fear, even in a hundred battles. If you lack knowledge on either side of the equation, your victories will be cut in half due to a lack of consistency. If you know neither side, we’ll – you’re doomed to defeat in EVERY battle.

In League, we can expect similar trends to affect your performance. If you’re a laner who knows the matchup between your champ and your enemy’s champ, you can the nuances of how to trade, when to engage, and how to maximize your CS, you probably have a pretty good fighting chance. If you face a champion you never faced before, even if you know your champion inside and out, you will likely make sub-optimal decisions that hurt your chances. If you queue into a game where you don’t know what your champion does nor what the enemy champion does, well you know what happens…Art of War Consistency scores

In regards to our GPI’s Consistency Skill, our scores focus on evaluating whether or not your level of play remains steady, and if it changes depending on if you’re ahead or behind. The scores help to fulfill Sun Tzu’s recommendation of knowing yourself because they reveal the true nature of your play despite any blindspots from internal biases you may have. For example, your Comeback score will help you evaluate if you tend to play well from behind, or shrivel up in the face of adversity.

Similarly, your Throw score will help you understand if you tend to get reckless with your lead or if you run away with a lead once you have it. Tilt helps you understand if you tend to start playing poorly after a loss – it may be beneficial to start taking longer breaks between games if this happens to you. At the end of your day however, Consistency is all about helping you to know yourself.

Farming: The art of maximizing your resourcesFarming Art of War

Throughout history, battles have been decided by armies being able to manipulate supply lines to create surplus and starvation. Resources are the lifeblood of a battle, they represent how long you can fight and the quality of the fight that you can present.

In the quote above, Sun Tzu’s describes the art of husbanding one’s strength – husbanding in this context, means to maintain or conserve. In a nutshell, the longer you maintain an upper hand in staying well-fed while your enemy is famished, you can build a power advantage that grows.Art of War Farming scores

Ring a bell? These concepts draw parallels to League’s arms race for gold, experience, and items. If you lack any combination of the three in relation to your opponent, you’ll often face an uphill battle and adjust to a safer play style. Wave control techniques of League of Legends, such as denial and freezing – all ways to increase your income while starving your opponent’s. To be “near the goal while the enemy is still far from it” is very similar to hitting your item-spikes before your lane counterpart does so.

Our GPI Farming scores help you analyze your income and where it comes from. If you’re an awesome Early Game farmer but forget to in the Late Game, we want you to know that. If you get the majority of your income from kills and assists but miss out on objectives, you’ll know that too! Find the holes in your income and figure out ways to improve those aspects to make the rest of your game much easier.

Fighting: The art of excelling in combatArt of War Farming quote

Like Aggression, Fighting’s involvement in the Art of War is self-explanatory – in League and in war, you simply can’t avoid it. A great general can command their armies to victory even against bigger forces if they fight under the right conditions. Similarly, a good fighter on Summoner’s Rift can get the best of their foes, even with fewer resources and when outnumbered. The best armies and fighters, however, never put themselves in a bad spot before engaging in combat, and we can see that in the Art of War quote above.

Sun Tzu stresses the importance of advantage, gain potential, and positioning for guidelines on where to take a fight and they can definitely apply to League. If you don’t see an advantage, don’t move that direction. If you don’t have something to gain, don’t commit numbers there. If you don’t have proper positioning, avoid the fight.
Art of War FightingOur GPI Fighting scores evaluate your ability in every possible type of fight, ranging from 1v1s to 5v5s, and describe your overall Stat Contribution related to combat. We recommend using these metrics to understand where you fight at your best, and the situations in which you struggle in. If you tend to fight well in a particular area, keep forcing your advantage there, especially if you have a high win rate in those types of engagements. Meanwhile, watch your replays to see how you can do better in the fights you have a low win rate in.

Objectives: The art of coordinationArt of War Objectives quote

Throughout the Art of War, Sun Tzu talks about the importance of your armies becoming and acting as one. He stresses the benefits, even to the point of saying that commanding a large army is no different than using a small one as long as your communication and coordination are good enough.

In the cited quote above, Sun Tzu recommends using instruments and tools such as “gongs, drums, banners, and flags” to unite the attention of your host (referring to an army or in your case, a team). Doing so will allow your entity consisting to all focus on a particular point or area, which is very critical in the hecticness of battle.

League is a team game, so no matter how good you are, you’ll often have a tough time against a team that works together if your team is in disarray. The tools that Sun Tzu describes should immediately make you think of the communication tools in League such as visual and audio pings. Imagine the game without pings, it would be near impossible to do things like sneak an early Baron or set up a synchronized tower dive.Art of War Objectives scores

The goal of our Objective Skill is to help you understand your contribution in team-related endeavors. Securing Dragons, Rift Heralds, Barons, and towers, may require multiple team members to commit their time, but it’s often worthwhile because you can take control of the flow of the game and the map. The scores here will help you understand the type of objectives you tend to prioritize as well as the gains that your team makes once it has secured the objectives. Don’t forget to ping to coordinate!

Survivability: The art of extending your lifeArt of War Survivability quote

In battle, it’s as important or even more important to know how to take a hit than give one. Casualties are a reality in war and you have to do your best to minimize yours to maintain your numbers and morale.

Sun Tzu explains that the keys to preparing for enemy aggression are readiness and making your position unassailable (meaning unable to be attacked). Readiness ties into knowing your enemy – if you know the nature of how, when, and where they want to make their strike, it becomes much easier for you to assess the situation and react accordingly. To prepare for receiving your enemy you should position yourself in a way that is safe and near impossible to breach.

In relation to League, you shouldn’t assume that any of your enemies will not come to you. If you can’t see them, assume that they may be on their way. For example, if you’re in the bot lane and you can’t see the enemy Top laner, be ready for a Teleport flank. If you’re a Mid laner and see that the enemy ADC is alone bot, you may want to consider that the Support is roaming to you by river. Positioning is of course, crucial to surviving in these situations. The best players know how to position themselves in battle and have an escape plan in mind if things go awry.Art of War Survivability scores

Sun Tzu’s teachings are incredibly relevant to what we analyze in our Survivability Skill scores. We aim to help you understand the nature of your deaths so you can isolate the reasons why you die. Do you tend to die alone? Do you get lost and die in teamfights? Do you tend to die getting tower-dived or while tower-diving? Are you susceptible to being ambushed by other laners? If so, you can even find out which role tends to gank you the most. These are all answers that our GPI provides – use them wisely to help you make your position unassailable and improve your readiness.

Versatility: The art of adaptingArt of War Versatility quote

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu compares warfare to water, which is shapeless and dynamic. Due to the number of maneuvers, strategies, and tactics involved, the conditions in war are ever-changing and transforming. If you’re unable to adapt to the inherent chess match, you’ll be outperformed by a competent opponent.

In League, change is constant because the game effectively reforms every 2 weeks with new patches. With each new update, you have buffs and nerfs to existing champions, new champs added, old champs reworked, items added and subtracted…the list goes on and on. If you can’t keep up with how the ebb and flow of the game’s climate is changing, you may be swept away by conditions you aren’t prepared for.

A similar trend follows when you’re actually on Summoners Rift during a match. What you want to do can change from minute to minute as phases change according to the conditions around the map. If you’re unable to adapt your play style and understand what you need to do each moment, you can find yourself lost and unaware of what you should be doing.Art of War Versatility scores

Our Versatility Skill aims to help players evaluate their aptitude in regards to the ever-transforming landscape of a League of Legends match. We focus on whether a player is able to maintain a high level throughout ALL of the game and whether they play well despite being in winning or losing situations. For example, if a player is able to play well during lane phase, in mid game skirmishes, and then in big 5v5 teamfights late game, the GPI will smile upon them. If they tend to only play well when they’re ahead but seem unable to perform when the odds are against them, the GPI will point out their inability.

Vision: The art of controlling informationArt of War Vision quote

Imagine playing a version of chess where you could only see portions of the board at a time – it’d be hard to make the optimal play when you don’t know what your opponent is doing right? In war, so much of the battle happens without blood being spilled. Commanders are constantly taking in information from their scouts and advisors to make the best possible decisions based on the factors they are able to gather. At the same time, they are also doing what they can to keep their plans hidden from their enemies.

Sun Tzu stresses the importance of controlling the flow of intel in order to deceive your enemy and establish yourself in the best positions throughout Art of War. In the cited quote above, he advises the reader to keep the areas from which you operate unknown. If your opponent doesn’t know where you are and where you may attack from, they have to spread their attention and efforts in multiple directions. The end effect is a much easier battle in which you can isolate enemies that are unprepared.Art of War Vision scores

If you read our blog regularly, you know how often we stress the importance of warding and denying vision. If you aren’t doing your part in the battle for information in your matches, you are hurting your team (so start doing your part already damn it). The scores of our Vision Skill aim to help you understand your overall contribution in terms of how much and where you’re warding, how much vision you’re denying, how well you use your trinket, and the impact your wards make.

Use these scores to help you illuminate the map for your team while keeping your enemies in the darkness of fog of war. It really does make the game easier if you do a good job in this area – the fights you take will be smarter, you’ll die less, you’ll be able to take more objectives, and much more. It isn’t the flashiest or glorious part of winning in League, but it truly is one of the best and easiest ways to get you closer to a win.

Closing Thoughts

Well, this one was a doozy, props if you made it this far in one read!  I can’t stress how insightful this book is, it packs an insane punch for how short it is. The quotes I included only scratch the surface of the wisdom that can be applied in League and other aspects of life, there were many others I could have used in the place of the ones I chose. Again, here’s a link to get it for a cheap $2, and as promised, I’ve linked more perspectives on the topic below.

Additional perspectives:

As always, thanks again for reading! We welcome all discussion and feedback. Let us know in the comments if you’d like more content inspired by books like Art of War and be sure to join us on Discord!