You’ve gotta play with the hand you’re dealt!
When you think about it, League isn’t too different from a PvP card game like Magic the Gathering, Hearthstone, or Shadowverse. In both types of games, you have certain factors that are fully under your control and factors that have an element of uncertainty that you may have little to zero influence in changing.
For example, you have full control over the cards that you put into your deck (if you can afford to get them) before you look for a match. You have an idea of what cards are out there and you can try to optimize your deck for the popular decks you’re expecting…but until you actually play your opponent, anything is possible. In League, your “deck” would be similar to your ability to choose your main role, your champion pool, and your rune pages. At Champ Select, outside of getting auto-filled or having your pool banned, you’re generally able to get a champion that you want. However, outside of making suggestions or requests, the champions that your allies choose are out of your control.
When the game begins, whether it’s League or a card game, you have to play to the best of your ability in relation to the game state presented to you. Sometimes, everything goes well and you get all the cards that you want – the Jungler ganks your lane for the First Blood and the game is in your hands. Other times, you won’t get the draws that you want while your opponent seemingly hits every card they need – sort of like when you start the game losing every lane but have to find a way to win.
So how can you consistently succeed when there is so much variability between games? The key is to understand how to play to your win conditions according to the conditions presented to you. In this article, we’ll teach you how to identify your win conditions before and during a game to help give yourself the best chance to seal (or steal!) a victory.
What is a win condition?
A win condition represents a strategic goal or a set of goals that you are trying to achieve because they represent the best path to attain victory. Your win condition guides your thought process and can change as time goes on. Think of it as your Plan A, which can lead to a Plan B and C, and so on.
Achieving win conditions does not always guarantee victory because your opponents will also be trying to fulfill their own win conditions and because some win conditions counter others, but in general, if you follow your win condition, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting the W.
In a card game like Hearthstone, you have hundreds of cards to choose from to build a deck of thirty cards. With so many possibilities, you have to build around certain themes and archetypes in order to make a competitive deck.
For example, some aggressive decks excel at rushing your opponent down and overwhelming them with many low-cost creatures. If your opponent isn’t ready for it and can’t stabilize in time, they can be beaten only after a few turns.
Other decks aim to stall the game out and try to assemble certain cards in order to execute a combo that can end in the game in one turn. These combo decks are built around surviving and using cards to find the combo pieces that you need.
Without a clear identity and direction, a deck is likely to be weak and inconsistent because it doesn’t really have a win condition that it’s playing towards. Winning isn’t impossible but over the long run, it’ll be suboptimal for climbing the ranked ladder.
So how does this apply in League of Legends? It’s probably obvious to some of you, but nearly every champion in the game is designed to be good at something and to be particularly good at it at certain phases in the game.
Champions like Draven are incredibly powerful during the laning phase (usually around first 10-15 minutes) and tend to have more kill pressure than their peers early on. Draven’s win condition is to be aggressive early on in order to get kills that allow him to snowball the rest of the game to a victory.
On the other end of the spectrum are champions like Vayne, who’d rather play safer early on and try to farm as much and as fast as they can. She’s much weaker in comparison to her fellow ADC Draven in the early game, but if she’s able to get enough gold to build the items she needs, she is much stronger in the late game (usually after 30 minutes) than Draven could ever be.
Outside of the one champion you pick, you also have to account for the four other champions on your team and the five champions on the enemy team. If you choose wisely, you can combine your individual win conditions into a team identity that you can collectively play toward.
Between your champ, your team, and the enemy team, you probably know how hectic League of Legends can get. Sometimes weird stuff happens and a champion that is supposed to be weak early on can get fed during lane phase, or a champion that is supposed to be strong early fails miserably. In these situations, you’ll need to adapt to play around a different win condition based on the state of the game.
Step 1. Know your role
This is probably the most important step toward recognizing your win condition because it’s the one you have the most control of. Before the match begins, you have the luxury of being able to pick your preferred two roles. Outside of the occasional autofill, you have a very good chance of knowing what you’ll likely be playing.
If you don’t have a main and secondary role decided, we recommend revisiting our article, How to Choose your Main Role for Ranked League of Legends. If you do, great! You should probably have a good idea of what your role wants to do in order to succeed. If you have a role but don’t know its typical win conditions or are still deciding on your main and secondary, here’s a quick TL;DR:
- Win 1v1 by taking enemy turret
- Protect top turret
- Maximize your use of Teleport (depends on summoner spell meta)
- Engage/peel if playing a tanky champ
- Creating split push pressure and winning duels if playing a carry
- Control the flow of the early to mid game
- Contribute to vision control in key areas
- Help to enable laners to win their lanes
- Secure objectives with Smite
- Track the enemy Jungler to either steal camps or look to kill
- Win 1v1 by taking enemy turret
- Protect mid turret
- Roam to gank other lanes or help Jungler
- Look to make plays with burst or engage
- DPS in team fights
- Work with Support to win lane by take enemy turret
- Protect bot turret
- Farm, farm, farm, farm (but safely!)
- Snowball or scale depending on champ
- DPS in team fights
- Work with ADC to win lane to win lane by taking enemy turret
- Protect bot turret
- Facilitate vision control (more than the other roles)
- Engage/peel if playing tanky champ, DPS if mage, utility if Enchanter
- Make plays with utility items (Locket of the Solari, Redemption, etc)
Keep in mind that these are all general reference points and are very situational depending on your champion (playing a Gangplank Top is quite different than a Maokai), but for the most part, they will tend to hold true as general guidelines.
Step 2. Know your champion
Although your role is very helpful in guiding your win condition, your champion is what ends up defining the nitty gritty details of what you want to do. We kind of teased this idea earlier on with the comparison between Draven and Vayne, but you can learn a lot about your by studying your champion’s stats and abilities.
You can do this through the client but we recommend the LoL wiki as one of the best resources. Let’s go through a couple examples to help you learn how to identify champion win conditions.
Malphite is one of the most clearcut examples of an engage tank. His passive, Granite Shield, tells us that we’ll want to build toward max health and his W, Brutal Strikes, lets us know that he’ll be gaining a ton of bonus armor.
The rest of his kit is filled with potent crowd control options such as the slow from his Seismic Shard (Q), the AoE crippling effect from his Ground Slam (E), and of course, his ultimate, Unstoppable Force which is a fast and reliable AoE knockup. His defensive traits tell us that he’s great into attack damage champions due to his armor and attack speed reduction, and his offensive traits tell us that he wants to be in the thick of the enemy team to maximize his AoE abilities in skirmishes and team fights.
Overall, we can assume that Malphite’s win condition is to build tanky and play around his powerful ultimate. Since the ultimate is literally unstoppable, he can’t be peeled by the other team’s defensive crowd control. This allows him to excel in setting up AoE wombo combos in team fights, create picks on enemies that are out of position, and wreak havoc on opposing backlines.
Tristana exemplifies the hypercarry ADC – her kit hints toward scaling to the late game so you can be an unstoppable monster that can wipe teams when played correctly. She also has some nice self-peel/mobility that can help her get in and out or escape from assassins and burst mages.
Her passive, Draw a Bead, is really straightforward. The longer the game goes (up until level 18), the more range Tristana has – this means that after level 15, she’s able to shoot over the Baron pit wall on red side with her auto-attacks. The kit is already telling us that she’ll have more potential as the match goes on.Tristana’s Rapid Fire (Q), is a simple attack speed steroid. It’s not too bad at rank 1, giving a 50% increase but things get insane when it’s maxed out as she’ll be getting a 110% increase. It’s no surprise that her optimal builds lean towards crit items. Getting these items can be a breeze since farming is much easier due to the splash from Explosive Charge (E).
Overall, Tristana’s win conditions are to farm safely throughout the match to hit her item spikes by mid to late game. She should use her Rocket Jump (W) defensively until she becomes the monster that can dive in for guaranteed resets. Her ultimate can keep divers at bay and allow her to stay at a far and safe distance so she can put out huge amounts of damage.
Some Supports, like Brand and Zyra, want to win the game by dishing out tons of damage. Others, like Soraka and Lulu, win the game by enabling their team with heals and shields – Blitzcrank is part of the playmaking breed.
Blitz’s win condition is all about landing his signature grab (Q) on the right target at the right time. If he succeeds in doing so, he can singlehandedly win the lane phase, a team fight, or the game. The grab is so strong because the rest of his abilities are built around it. If Blitz has his ultimate, the grab’s victim is going to be pulled away from their team, silenced, and knocked up. The downside is that if he misses it, he can have a very minimal impact since he will only be able to use his abilities to peel. If he grabs the wrong target, such as an Amumu with ult, it can even be catastrophic because it will mean an easy engage for the enemy team.
Champion Power Spikes
If you read our blog regularly you’re probably already knowledgeable on the subject of power spikes! Power spikes go hand in hand with your abilities in helping you understand your win conditions because they help you understand when your champ’s window of opportunity to perform at its potential is presented.
From our the examples we’ve discussed, Draven and Blitzcrank are champs that are known to spike in the early game. Their win conditions encourage them to make things happen in the early game because they have the most influence in those conditions.
Champions like Tristana and Vayne lack power in the early game in relation to other champs but they are feared when their late-game power spike arrives. If champs that spike earlier haven’t snowballed the game by this time, they have a huge disadvantage against these late spikers.
We know that it takes a lot of time to do the research on champs, but don’t worry. The Mobalytics Pre Game tool makes it very easy to understand when your champion hits their power spikes. Our analysts, coaches, and Challenger players keep these constantly updated and make sure they’re as accurate as possible. The tool uses the stoplight system: Green represents when you spike (you’re good to go!), yellow represents when you’re at average strength (be cautious), and red means you’re at your weakest (stop!).
In this example, we can see that Leblanc has the typical strong mid game of an assassin, she has the edge in the early game and especially the mid game against Veigar. Veigar, who can scale infinitely, has a weak early game and has to be pretty careful against the LeBlanc for 2/3rds of the game. However, if he makes it to late game, he has the edge over his trickster enemy.
Step 3. Know your team
So you know how we mentioned earlier that in Hearthstone, you have the ability to choose thirty cards to build the deck you hit the ranked ladder with? Well…in League, since you’re part of a team of five players, it’s more like you only get control of six cards (perhaps twelve if you’re duoing) that go into your deck.
This means that you not only have to understand your champion and their win conditions, but you must also understand the big picture of how your champion fits in with the champions of your allies. For the most part, unless champ select goes horribly wrong, your five choices should be able to form team win conditions as its own single entity.
In pro play, teams go through strategic pick and bans to try to make the most effective team possible. If a team is good, the team comp they create will have built-in synergies between the champions to create powerful win conditions.
A great recent example of a team comp with a well-crafted win condition was Cloud 9’s draft against TSM in the Summer LCS gaulent (video shown below). With a team composition of Hecarim (Top), Nocturne (Jungle), Galio (Mid), Kai’Sa (Bot carry), and Alistar (Support), can you guess what their win condition was?
If you know what these five champs do, you can probably tell that this team has insane engage potential. They’re all champs that have tools that allow them to dive in from long distances. Even one of these champs would be a challenge to peel, but as five, it’s nearly impossible to handle as they can come in from multiple angles, disrupt your team’s positioning, and take out your team’s carries.
Solo queue is, of course, more hectic and disorganized than pro-play, so sometimes you have to work with what you got. If you have an earlier pick, you’ll want to pick your best champ and hope that your team knows to pick champs that work well with them.
If you have a later pick, you’ll still want to prioritize a champion in your pool because it’s better to have proficiency than trying to play champs that would fit better in a team comp but you’re not comfortable with. However, if you have three mid laners that you’re good with, definitely try to pick according to what your team needs and play towards the win condition of the champs that have been chosen thus far.
For example, if you see that your Jungler selected Amumu, if you have Orianna in your pool, you might want to consider choosing her since their ultimates have strong AoE synergy. If your team adds on selections such as Malphite and Miss Fortune, your team would have incredible 5v5 teamfighting and wombo combos as your win conditions. As a general guide, here’s an infographic that shows examples of different team compositions in League: In game, try to understand your role within your team and how you can best contribute to your team’s success. Is it your job to split-push? Be the engage? Peel for your squishy carries? Never forget that League of Legends is a team game, and the team that works together is usually the one that comes out on top.
Step 4. Know the game state
Your role, champion, and team win conditions are all defined before the game is happening, but it’s crucial to be adaptable to the game’s state. The game state is defined by factors such as gold and item differential, team scaling, and objective control.Gold, experience, and items help to indicate whether you’re winning or losing. For example, if you die twice in lane and fall behind by an item or more, your win condition changes from trying to win your lane 1v1 (or 2v2), and instead, try to farm and survive as best you can until your teammates can send help or win in other areas of the map.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you find yourself ahead in lane and take the enemy turret, your win condition changes to looking to translate your gains to snowballing the game. At the end of the day, if you win your lane but can’t use it to attain victory, it’s sort of meaningless in the big picture.
Being ahead or behind can sometimes be misleading, however, because they don’t keep in mind team power spikes and scaling. For example, if you’re a Vayne player against a Draven, you can expect to have a rough laning phase since you don’t hit your item spike until later in the game. If you fall a little behind, it’s okay, it’s expected.
However, if you manage an awesome outplay and find yourself ahead as the Vayne, you may be able to change your mentality to play a little more aggressively to push your advantage and get your spike earlier.
This concept applies to your whole team, and similar to the champion power spikes, we also provide team power spikes in the Pre Game. If your team is stronger in a phase, you may want to consider looking to play more aggressively. If your team is weaker, you probably guessed it, you’ll want to play a bit more cautiously. Objective control is also important in defining your win conditions. For example, if your team is ahead in a relatively close game, your win condition may be to do everything you can to secure a Baron because it can secure a big enough lead to close out the game. If your team is slightly behind, you’ll want to do everything you can to secure vision and prevent the other team from getting Baron (or perhaps steal it yourself).
Overall, be sure to press tab often and evaluate all the information at your disposal. Keep in mind the win conditions that you knew before the game and combine them with what you know from the game’s present state. This is a skill that takes time and experience to learn, but once you get it down, it can really help you win more over the long run!
Thanks for reading, we hope you found this article helpful. Let us know in the comments below if we missed any win conditions! We’d love to pass along more tips to our readers. As always, you can find us in our Discord if you have any questions.